When Aleister Crowley’s personal secretary, Israel Regardie, died in 1985, his passing marked the end of an important era in English occultism.
The impact that Regardie had when he rather contentiously brought the secret teachings of the Golden Dawn Society to a wider audience has ensured the survival of the tradition, even up to today.
However, Regardie was born into a quite different spiritual environment and his style and philosophy, even back then, was becoming something of an anachronism with ritual magick fading from popularity only to be superseded by an explosion of interest in Witchcraft and other Pagan traditions throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
As the occult terrain has shifted, it seems that Regardie’s immense contribution to the psycho-spiritual sciences is largely unrecognised today and that Regardie is now left only to be a name in a history book. This is rather unfortunate as he wrote some of the all-time classic works on Kabbalistic magick in titles such as ‘A Garden of Pomegranates’, ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘The Middle Pillar’.
To the immense surprise of many of us in the occult world, a new publication from the pen of Regardie has been published. This document, written by Regardie sometime between 1938 and 1941, was meant to be a follow up to his book ‘The Philosophers Stone’ but was never actually published during his lifetime.
At the point of its writing, Regardie was of the personal opinion that the science of alchemy was a coded allegory for the psychco-spiritual process of inner transformation. He felt that the chemical symbolism used by the alchemists was little more than a smoke-screen to hide their real, more heretical, spiritual work.
However, as it turned out, following a lecture that he attended by Albert Riedel—an expert on the subject who held practical courses on alchemy, Regardie was to completely change his opinion. As a result, he could no longer publish his previously-held opinions in the book which he had titled Gold.
The original manuscript for the book then lay, for several decades, and in a somewhat degenerating condition, in the hands of one of his friends before its guardian felt that, despite the author’s deep reservations regarding its release, it actually remains a work of some merit and it aught to be available to a wider audience.
Gold: Israel Regardie’s Lost Book of Alchemy has been restored, re-edited and annotated by the widely respected writers of the Western Mystery Tradition, Chic and Sandra Cicero. In addition to including Regardie’s original work, they have also included an original version of Regardie’s diminutive but seminal work: ‘The Art of True Healing”.
Gold is divided up into eight chapters, these are as follows:
Chapter one is a effectively a continuation of the ideas put forward in his book ‘The Philosophers Stone’ in which he states that spirituality, philosophy and psychology lie at the heart of alchemical philosophy.
In chapter two, Regardie investigates the ‘anima mundi’ or Universal Agent along with its twin dynamics, generally symbolised by the pairings of Sun and Moon, red and white, and silver and gold.
Here, Regardie—and it should be remembered that Regardie was writing this way back in the late 1930s—bemoans the deepening impact of the rapidly expanding industrial revolution upon the human spirit. He observes that
…we are become a people which has violated itself and frustrated its own nature. and that
…we have lost contact with the vital processes and dynamic cycles of nature.
Chapter three features the authors ideas on the process characterized by the mystical experience. Here, he looks at prayer and devotional exercises designed to draw out the religious experience from within us.
He refers to the Zen experience, known as ‘satori’, which the author directly equates to the alchemical operation of turning base metals into gold.
Chapter four, ‘The Great Work’, focusses on the process of transmutation as it emerges from out of the unresolved depths of the unconscious and which he exemplified by the blackness of matter.
Chapter five, ‘The Secret Fire’, examines the process of alchemical change that takes place in the psyche as a result of harnessing and directing the spiritual forces of the libido. This, Regardie states, requires the release of these powerful forces which are ordinarily held deep within the unconscious through rigorous training and conscious effort.
In chapter six, Regardie looks at hypnotism, or mesmerism as it was called back in the day. Here, Regardie proposes that a close similarity can be found between what he describes as the
…willed transmission of mesmeric power and the Oriental breathing techniques of Pranayama.
Chapter seven of Gold reveals the alchemical symbolism that is found within the aura. In particular, Regardie explores the significance of both mundane and mythical beasts, those such as the dragon and unicorn as well as more orthodox alchemical mammals such as the lion, the snake, the eagle and the pelican.
Chapter eight is given over to the author’s summerization of his previously proposed ideas and thoughts but written in what he refers to as ordinary and non-alchemical language.
The book concludes with the afore-mentioned reproduction of Regardie’s book ‘The Art of True Healing’, correspondences for healing rituals, a glossary of terms used throughout the book, a bibliography and an index.
It is extremely difficult to remain dispassionate about a new book by an author that has had such a deep impact upon one’s personal philosophy. Gold is a case in point.
I will concede, however, that while Regardie’s previous works on magick are absolute classics of their type, their language can sound archaic and the information appear to be dated.
Is Gold, any different in this regard? No. Not really, nor would one really expect it to be.
Within its pages, the same old themes pervade that once dogged magickal society over eighty years ago. The sense of Freudian psycho-analytical drama still pervades and the backdrop of a world under-going deep change underpins a great deal of the writing.
And yet, despite all this grey background material, the same old Regardie wisdom, insight and deep revelation shines through in Gold as it does in all his other works.
Despite the ageing process, ‘Gold’ demonstrates that, in many ways, Regardie’s work remains more relevant to our contemporary transformative society than that popularized by most of his contemporaries—including the likes of Crowley, Waite and Mathers—all of whom produced works that are all but indecipherable today.
Regardie is different from his peers for there is an inherent sense of groundedness about his teachings that makes them particularly relevant in today’s increasingly diverse spiritual world. You only has to look at his ‘The Art of True Healing’ to see how its fundamentals underpin a great deal of todays alternative health thinking.
Whether Regardie was correct about his assessment regarding the roots of alchemy is somewhat immaterial here for this is a book that meanders in and out of a wide range of esoteric thoughts. In many places, it wanders into Jungian territory and it is here, for me, that Gold contains its real gems of spiritual insight.
In addition, it should be noted that, despite the fact that Regardie’s original manuscript was in a less than perfect condition, the editors have done an excellent job in crafting this publication and forming it into a book that is immensely readable and thoroughly engaging. It will delight all Regardie fans!
So, here is a book, written some eighty years ago, that is as alive, if not more so, than many of todays so-called psycho-spiritual treatises on magick and mysticism. It was written by one of the true occult giants in esoteric thinking and helps to ensure the man’s stature as one of the greatest occultists of our age.
Gold will delight those who recognise Israel Regardie as a true pillar of magickal and alchemical philosophy.