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Evans
07-02-2009, 07:36 PM
Ok I can't resist making this thread any longer. I know a little about the (annoyingly) obscure volume's contents but it rather intrigues me. Would anyone be able to clarify the circumstance surrounding its "original" printing.

The New Nonsense
07-03-2009, 08:40 AM
As it happens, I'm in the process of reading this book right now. From what I understand, the book's obscure content is the result of an odd game between Arthur Machen, A.E. Waite. Some feel the book describes Machen and Waite's nocturnal adventures around London.

Obviously, both were members of the Golden Dawn, therefore much of the content is written in code, assuming the reader is intimately familiar with the Golden Dawn's rites and the order's degree structure. Much of the book is told through mythological allusions and references to ceremonies and initiations.

Some feel The House of Hidden Light is just a fanciful fiction; however, others feel there are occult secrets locked in its pages. I'm familiar with Golden Dawn rituals/philosophy. So far I haven't made up my mind whether THoHL is fiction or something more.

Evans
07-03-2009, 09:45 AM
As it happens, I'm in the process of reading this book right now. From what I understand, the book's obscure content is the result of an odd game between Arthur Machen, A.E. Waite. Some feel the book describes Machen and Waite's nocturnal adventures around London.

Obviously, both were members of the Golden Dawn, therefore much of the content is written in code, assuming the reader is intimately familiar with the Golden Dawn's rites and the order's degree structure. Much of the book is told through mythological allusions and references to ceremonies and initiations.

Some feel The House of Hidden Light is just a fanciful fiction; however, others feel there are occult secrets locked in its pages. I'm familiar with Golden Dawn rituals/philosophy. So far I haven't made up my mind whether THoHL is fiction or something more.

Yes, I do seem to recall your Librarything profile came up when I googled THOTHL.

I only I asked about it because it came up I was searching for Machen's none fiction/autobiographical writings. I was mostly interested; I confess, due to its obscurity.

Given what you've said I'm surprised it hasn't been reprinted more often due to the Waite conection. Thanks for the info Nonsense.

Soukesian
07-03-2009, 05:37 PM
I've read a little about this, and it seems like an intriguing literary curiosity, but I find it hard to get a clear idea of what the text might actually be like. Care to give us a flavor of it?

Evans
07-03-2009, 08:24 PM
I've read a little about this, and it seems like an intriguing literary curiosity, but I find it hard to get a clear idea of what the text might actually be like. Care to give us a flavor of it?

I'd love to but I don't have a copy. I don't know if its any interest to you but this website (http://www.cafes.net/ditch/OTS.htm) gives a small but interesting look at Machen and the Golden Dawn

The New Nonsense
07-04-2009, 11:13 AM
I've read a little about this, and it seems like an intriguing literary curiosity, but I find it hard to get a clear idea of what the text might actually be like. Care to give us a flavor of it?

Both Waite and Machen were very familiar with Latin, and they peppered their letters with Latin phrases (part of their code); in fact, so much so, that I've found I require a Latin dictionary at hand while reading the THOTHL. They address each other by their Golden Dawn magical mottos: Waite was known as Eilias Artista [Elias the Artist], Machen as Filius Aquarum [Son of the Waters]. One's magical motto in the Golden Dawn often changes as one ascends to higher degrees. Machen also went by the name, Avallaunius. Waite was also known as Sacramentum Regis.

Here is an example from the beginning of Chapter 10:

Ad Illuminatum Fratrem Filium Aquarum, Calicis Sempiterni Ordinis Imperatorem, Fratris Eliae Atrisae Epistola [This letter to the illuminated Frater Filus Aquarum, of the everlasting Cup by order of the Imperator, Frater Elias Arista]

With great joy have I received your letter written from the Terra Nuptiarum A et Ω. But I abide within the Circles of Light. Being yesterday in one of our outward gardens, I derived a certain consolation amidst aridity by repeating incessantly: Lux oriens, Lux alba, Lux candida, Lux exaltata, Lux increata [Light of the East, White light, Shining light, Exhalted light, Uncreated Light]. And these words of consolation wove at length about me five circles of splendour, which were full of sweetness and music.

We shall do well, dilectissme, to ponder from time to time upon the distinction between the concealed light and the exhibited light, and after what manner each passes continually into each, in which distinction and reintegration, I find many causes of wonder, and am brought to see that there must be in truth a very strange, secret, and withdrawn bond between them, whereby, beyond doubt, in the fulness of time, many mysteries of the visible and invisible worlds will be made known to us.

-- From Arthur Machen's The House of the Hidden Light (1904), Chapter X.

The New Nonsense
07-04-2009, 12:02 PM
Another little tidbit of history: the 35 letters between Waite and Machen that make up the text of The House of the Hidden Light were privately printed and lavishly bound in an incredibly small edition of only three copies (at great cost to Waite). Waite and Machen each had a copy. The third was given to the bookbinder, Philip Wellby. Only two copies survive. In 2003 Tartarus Press reprinted THOTHL, along with editor's notes, in an edition of 350 copies.

THOTHL is a difficult read, even for one somewhat familiar with Golden Dawn symbolism. It's like reading one long in-joke where the reader is not privy to the details or back-story. The editor of the Tartarus edition, R.A. Gilbert, tries to figure out many of the actual locations or circumstances alluded to in code. In some instances he succeeds in breaking the code, while in other passages he doesn't have a clue.

Others, such as Ithell Colquhoun (a surrealist painter, writer and occultist), believed THOHL is actually a written ritual relating to "sexual magic", and is concerned specifically with "sexual congress with preternatural beings". Personally, I haven't decided what THOTHL really is yet. Is it simply an elaborate goof between friends, or is it a magical text describing an occult process of conjunction with supernatural beings? In any case, one could still interpret it as the latter, whether it was the true intent or not. Presumably, it was written in code to keep its secrets veiled from the uninitiated. If it was just a joke, one wonders why Waite would spend a small fortune having copies printed for only three people?

Evans
07-04-2009, 12:33 PM
Another little tidbit of history: the 35 letters between Waite and Machen, that make up the text of The House of the Hidden Light, were privately printed and lavishly bound in an incredibly small edition of only three copies (at great cost to Waite). Waite and Machen each had a copy. The third was given to the bookbinder, Philip Wellby. Only two copies survive. In 2003 Tartarus Press reprinted THOTHL, along with editor's notes, in an edition of 350 copies.

THOTHL is a difficult read, even for one somewhat familiar with Golden Dawn symbolism. It's like reading one long in-joke where the reader is not privy to the details or back-story. The editor of the Tartarus edition, R.A. Gilbert, tries to figure out many of the actual locations or circumstances alluded to in code. In some instances he succeeds in breaking the code, while in other passages he doesn't have a clue.

Others, such as Ithell Colquhoun (a surrealist painter, writer and occultist), believed THOHL is actually a written ritual relating to "sexual magic", and is concerned specifically with "sexual congress with preternatural beings". Personally, I haven't decided what THOTHL really is yet. Is it simply an elaborate goof between friends, or is it a magical text describing an occult process of conjunction with supernatural beings? In any case, one could still interpret it as the latter, whether it was the true intent or not. Presumably, it was written in code to keep its secrets veiled from the uninitiated. If it was just a joke, one wonders why Waite would spend a small fortune having copies printed for only three people?

Thank you for the details regarding the original printing Nonsense. I wonder whether remaining original copies are held? I think I tried to have a look if any of the English university copies were from the original run a while ago (they were not). A little casual Worldcatery turns up a few rather interesting (from a historical rather than scholarly point of view) facts about a copy held at one of the Texan universities.

Sadly even the Tartarus Press copy of THOTHL proves incredibly hard to tract down. Anyone who is interested and has suitably deep pockets may want to look at the expensive few lurking about on ebay at the moment.

Given the Waite connection I'm really surprised there isn't more about it. These are just idle musings on my part but shouldn't the text technically be in the public domain by now?

MorganScorpion
07-04-2009, 12:53 PM
I believe that both Machen and Waite were deadly serious about this.

Soukesian
07-05-2009, 10:18 AM
Many thanks for the info, samples and links. The OTS site looks to have some fascinating reading.

Nice to see the name of Ithell Colquhoun invoked. I have a small collection of her books, and took "The Living Stones" to Cornwall last year as a guidebook.

MadsPLP
07-06-2009, 07:24 AM
There is a review of the Tartarus edition of The House of the Hidden Light here:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/incomingFeeds/article753078.ece (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/incomingFeeds/article753078.ece)

According to the review, the foreword suggests that it is more like a coded drinking diary.

I believe that both Machen and Waite were deadly serious about this.

I am not sure that that necessarily would exclude that it could also be an elaborate hoax.

Evans
07-06-2009, 07:54 AM
I am not sure that that necessarily would exclude that it could also be an elaborate hoax.

While that may very well be true I'm loath to take anything a mainstream newspaper says about this kind of thing with any degree of seriousness. Probably just me being cynical but I have in confidence on their ability to deal with matters like this. (Thanks for the link though)

I must say I would be rather surprised if it had been a one hundred percent serious venture on Machen's part. I allways thought he didn't think to highly of magical orders.

MadsPLP
07-06-2009, 08:45 AM
I am not sure that that necessarily would exclude that it could also be an elaborate hoax.

While that may very well be true I'm loath to take anything a mainstream newspaper says about this kind of thing with any degree of seriousness. Probably just me being cynical but I have in confidence on their ability to deal with matters like this. (Thanks for the link though)

I must say I would be rather surprised if it had been a one hundred percent serious venture on Machen's part. I allways thought he didn't think to highly of magical orders.


While I agree with you in general, I think the newspaper is merely referring to the foreword of the Tartarus edition.

I remember reading somewhere - though I can't remember where - that Machen was never that much involved with The Golden Dawn, and lost interest in it rather quickly, though he remained friends with A.E. Waite.

Steve Dekorte
07-10-2009, 05:54 AM
I must say I would be rather surprised if it had been a one hundred percent serious venture on Machen's part. I allways thought he didn't think to highly of magical orders.

I thought I read that he was devoted to the some sort of ancient death/rebirth magical order - I think it may have been called christianity(?)

mark_samuels
07-10-2009, 08:30 AM
Steve, that very witty remark is pretty much on the ball.

Machen was annoyed at the way Christianity had been turned into a school for "moral" conduct, rather than what he saw it as: namely the great Mystery religion.

Mark S.

Evans
07-10-2009, 08:47 AM
Steve, that very witty remark is pretty much on the ball.

Machen was annoyed at the way Christianity had been turned into a school for "moral" conduct, rather than what he saw it as: namely the great Mystery religion.

Mark S.

Correct me if I'm wrong here but wasn't Machen's form of Christianity pretty indvidualistic towards the latter part of his life?

mark_samuels
07-10-2009, 05:10 PM
I believe Machen was a regular High Anglican (or Anglo-Catholic) churchgoer as he got older (by regular, I mean each Sunday). Though he pushed off if the sermon contained too much of what he called "twopenny-morality", and hit the nearest pub. The sacraments were what it was all about, for him.

Mark S.

paeng
01-02-2010, 11:43 AM
I just found out that I've a copy of The Great God Pan in a 1944 edition of Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. It's a well-written tale.

I've A Machen Omnibus in my wish list but it costs $50 and besides the work just mentioned includes only two others works. (I think the price is higher because it's a large print edition.) Should I wait for another hardcover anthology to come out?

Evans
01-02-2010, 12:47 PM
Oww I forget to mention I managed to get hold of a copy of The House of The Hidden Light over Christmas, I've just finished it a few days ago.

Its a rather tragic book when you think what fate had in store for some of the participants. I never knew A.E. Waite's early life was so hard - I may read Gilbert's biography of him if I can get hold of it.

@paeng: The two Tartarus collections of Machen's short stories are a great place to start. If you have a little money to spend and want to get a good compendium of his novellas try and look for a second hand copy of The Collected Arthur Machen by Christopher Palmer - it has some very interesting non fiction stuff as well. I hope one day his autobiographical writings will be bound together in one volume.

The New Nonsense
01-02-2010, 02:52 PM
Oww I forget to mention I managed to get hold of a copy of The House of The Hidden Light over Christmas, I've just finished it a few days ago.

Now that you've read it, do you think it is a whimsy game between friends or a coded occult manuscript? I'm of the mind that it could be both. I'm not sure what the original intention was (perhaps we'll never know), but it certainly could be interpreted as either.

Evans
01-02-2010, 04:36 PM
I'll probably go with the later though how whimsically it was intended is up to debate. The personal interior strangeness the complex phraseology mask are probably ment in earnest.

From a purely practical perspective the narrative seems to follow little set out ritual pattern or formula. To my eye the exchanges seem far to random to be a coded rites. If the whole thing was ment as a magical text it certainly wasn't intended to be an instructional one. (though the themes and general aim remain similar the same the only thing set down with any great goal seems the Three forms of Light notion)

It is interesting to note that towards the end Waite refers to the narrative as possibly being their journey through the White Stage of the Alchemical Process* For Machen's life at least the years proceeding the Annus mirabilis fill the role of the Nigredo very well.**

*Presumably the three stage process since he previously mentions the black state of the stone and anticipates a “glow and redness”.

** Chapters IX & X of Things Near and Far gives an interesting look at the strange times that immediately followed Machen “blackest point”

tartarusrussell
01-05-2010, 07:14 AM
I’m quite convinced that The House of the Hidden Light was an elaborate game played by Machen and Waite. It records their meetings and relationships with various women, some of them requiring discretion. A number of people have tried finding an occult significance in the text (including Crowley) but have failed, and this seems no more than wishful thinking in the light of Bob Gilbert’s extensive research. That is not to say that it isn’t of some significance….

I don’t think The House of the Hidden Light can be considered a hoax or a spoof because it doesn’t seem to have been intended for general circulation. A great deal of trouble was taken to print just three copies (there was also at least one set of proofs.) The man who paid for the printing and who put in all of the effort on behalf of the authors was Wellby, Waite’s publisher at the time. In return he received one of the three copies. It would be interesting to know whether he had hopes of publishing it properly, or was simply content to create a bibliographical rarity. (He apparently guessed the identity of some of the hidden characters in the book.)

Here is the key (as far as I am concerned), from Bob Gilbert’s Introduction to the Tartarus edition:

Both men knew the extreme difficulty of conveying through the written word the true nature and content of mystical experience, indeed of any type of experience associated with exalted psycho-spiritual states. Machen addressed the problem through the lyrical prose of his fiction, and Waite approached it by way of ritual texts for the ceremonies of his various esoteric Orders. Transforming the mock-serious letters of their Annus Mirabilis, so that adventures in this world could be made to represent a spiritual quest, provided another avenue.

As Machen entrusted Waite with the final revisions (and allowed him to “forge” at least one letter) to make it artistically and ritually coherent, it seems to have been more Waite’s project than Machen’s. I think Bob Gilbert is right to say that it was an attempt to represent a spiritual quest by way of a ritual text. That is far more interesting to me than the idea of it being an occult text.

Evans
01-05-2010, 08:49 AM
I’m quite convinced that The House of the Hidden Light was an elaborate game played by Machen and Waite. It records their meetings and relationships with various women, some of them requiring discretion. A number of people have tried finding an occult significance in the text (including Crowley) but have failed, and this seems no more than wishful thinking in the light of Bob Gilbert’s extensive research. That is not to say that it isn’t of some significance….

Didn't he think some of the entries were actual letters or journal entries (afterwards changed into the esoteric jargon of The House) Waite speaks about editing out some of the "more intimate" parts. I wonder if any of the original letters it was based on survive.

Out of interest what was Edith Rosse's last name before she married in 1902? (not sure about the date). In most things about Machen I've read she is refered to as Vivienne Pierpont, presumably her stage name.


I don’t think The House of the Hidden Light can be considered a hoax or a spoof because it doesn’t seem to have been intended for general circulation. A great deal of trouble was taken to print just three copies (there was also at least one set of proofs.) The man who paid for the printing and who put in all of the effort on behalf of the authors was Wellby, Waite’s publisher at the time. In return he received one of the three copies. It would be interesting to know whether he had hopes of publishing it properly, or was simply content to create a bibliographical rarity. (He apparently guessed the identity of some of the hidden characters in the book.)

Yes, it was Welby's copy that went walk about about wasn't it? I think we turned one of the site news posts into a discussion about Crowley & Machen a few months back. A site member; MorganScropion, exaimined it and Crowley's copy of The House of Souls years ago.

tartarusrussell
01-05-2010, 09:33 AM
Hi Evans,

The book is apparently based upon the original letters exchanged by the two “Fraters”, which Waite then edited. Waite’s own side of the correspondence doesn’t appear to have survived (which raises the question of him keeping copies, or Machen sending them back for publication.) Bob Gilbert says that Machen’s letters were dispersed in the 1970s, and so may be available for comparison with the book at some time in the future?

Edith Rosse is a fascinating character. (I don’t believe that anyone has tracked down her maiden name?) Machen and Rosse (The Shepherdess because she had been married to Harry Sheppard, who died tragically at sea), Waite and Dora Stuart-Menteath presumably had a fine old time gadding-about in turn-of-the-century London. Arthur and Edith were presumably drawn to each other following the recent deaths of their spouses.

Yes, Pierpont was her stage-name. Godfrey Brangham wrote an interesting article about her in Faunus (the journal of the Friends of Arthur Machen) She met the dodgy Maundy Gregory who may well have murdered the poor woman for money (which she may well have obtained through blackmail in the first place.) Hers is a fascinating but rather sad story.

Yes, Wellby’s copy of The House of the Hidden Light is the one that resurfaced, through Gerald Yorke. Newport Reference Library have a photocopy, with the annotations apparently by poor old baffled Crowley. I have a photocopy (a couple of generations old by this time) of this version but it doesn’t offer any insights.

Evans
01-05-2010, 10:40 AM
Hello Ray, thanks for the info. Sorry to bombard you with questions.



Bob Gilbert says that Machen’s letters were dispersed in the 1970s, and so may be available for comparison with the book at some time in the future?

Doesn't he quote one in a footnote? About an incident were they had been drinking in Menteath's rooms and the parlour maid had tripped over the recumbent (and generously inebriated) Machen in the dark.


Edith Rosse is a fascinating character. (I don’t believe that anyone has tracked down her maiden name?) Machen and Rosse (The Shepherdess because she had been married to Harry Sheppard, who died tragically at sea), Waite and Dora Stuart-Menteath presumably had a fine old time gadding-about in turn-of-the-century London. Arthur and Edith were presumably drawn to each other following the recent deaths of their spouses.

Yes, Pierpont was her stage-name. Godfrey Brangham wrote an interesting article about her in Faunus (the journal of the Friends of Arthur Machen) She met the dodgy Maundy Gregory who may well have murdered the poor woman for money (which she may well have obtained through blackmail in the first place.) Hers is a fascinating but rather sad story.

Yes I knew about Gregory thing. He was another very strange fellow.



Yes, Wellby’s copy of The House of the Hidden Light is the one that resurfaced, through Gerald Yorke. Newport Reference Library have a photocopy, with the annotations apparently by poor old baffled Crowley. I have a photocopy (a couple of generations old by this time) of this version but it doesn’t offer any insights.

Ahhh I think Morgan saw the Yorke copy at the Courthauld Institute library. Strangely enough the British Library itself doesn't appear to have a copy (By that I mean a text copy or the Tartarus Press printing)

tartarusrussell
01-05-2010, 10:53 AM
I'll have to look up that footnote. I don't recall it, but it sounds very likley :D

If the BL don't have a copy of our edition I'm not sure I have a spare to send them. Maybe it will add to the enigma . . .

The New Nonsense
01-20-2010, 06:48 PM
Last night I read a fantastic essay on Arthur Machen in the new issue of ABRAXAS: An International Journal of Esoteric Studies (Autumn Equinox 2009) titled, "Transmutations of Good and Evil: Alchemy, Witchcraft and the Graal in the Works of Arthur Machen" by Edward Gauntlet. It's quite long, in-depth, and full of great info. It was packed full of stuff I didn't know about Machen and some fantastic analysis of his work, primarily "The Great God Pan" and "The White People".

It really gets into why Machen had such a strong connection/inspiration with place and Welsh psychogeography. It also mentions why he and the Golden Dawn weren't such a great fit (which he later admitted), as his innate mystical leanings leaned more towards Welsh witchcraft and sabbatic contact with pagan forces/intelligences rather than the precise operations employed in hermeticism. It contains a lot of food for thought. It also discusses how latter day occultists, like Kenneth Grant and Ithell Colquhoun have found deep & powerful esoteric content in his stories, of which, perhaps, even Machen wasn't aware; possibly included unconsciously.

It appears Machen had a lot more occult knowledge than I gave him credit. According to Edward Gauntlet, Machen worked for years in a private library sorting and cataloging arcane texts. This library contained one of the largest collections of rare occult texts in Britain. Gauntlet claims Machen read these rare tomes voraciously. Further, the author believes Machen had more occult insight (both instinctive and learned) than even Aleister Crowley -- quite a statement. It's a wonderful read. In fact, ABRAXAS is a very high quality journal in general. Highly recommended.

tartarusrussell
01-21-2010, 05:22 AM
The ABRAXAS article sounds fascinating - I'll have to get hold of a copy.

I'm not sure it is quite correct to suggest, though, that Machen worked for years in a private library sorting and cataloguing arcane texts. The instance referred to is presumably the job he had in 1885 cataloguing occult literature for George Redway. He seems to have gained a very wide knowledge of all manner of occult matters through this, and presumably continued his own personal researches down avenues that he found most interesting. (The history of the Holy Graal being something of an obsession.) The Redway period is a very interesting one in Machen's life and obviously had far-reaching effects on his development as a writer (although the effects would often be quite subtle and, yes, perhaps unconscious.)

Whether or not Machen had more occult insight than Crowley depends, perhaps, not just on one's feelings towards Crowley, but the occult in general. I assume that, as with the Golden Dawn, Machen would have dismissed any organised occultism as a sham, but with roots in the past that couldn't (and shouldn't) be dismissed?

Evans
01-25-2010, 01:17 PM
Regardless of any real relevance for the stories I adore some of the wonderful terms occult and particuarly alchemic texts contain. I don't know why but I find them so fascinating and beautiful. (I don't have much occult knoweldge but this area delights me. And I speak no more for I have been burnt by the Fire of the Wise...)


It appears Machen had a lot more occult knowledge than I gave him credit. According to Edward Gauntlet, Machen worked for years in a private library sorting and cataloging arcane texts. This library contained one of the largest collections of rare occult texts in Britain. Gauntlet claims Machen read these rare tomes voraciously. Further, the author believes Machen had more occult insight (both instinctive and learned) than even Aleister Crowley -- quite a statement. It's a wonderful read. In fact, ABRAXAS is a very high quality journal in general. Highly recommended.

Yes there is a bit about the cataloguing business (and Machen's views on occult texts in general) in the first chapters of Things Near And Far. There used to be a short but very splendid article on The White People on Jessica Amanda Salmson's website but I think the link is dead now. (Though if we are in the business of throwing Male and Female Principle names at statues I say Lilith and Samael are so much more appropriate than Gog and Magog.)

Andrea Bonazzi
01-28-2010, 04:26 AM
There used to be a short but very splendid article on The White People on Jessica Amanda Salmson's website but I think the link is dead now.

Maybe, this?
The Shock of the Numinous: Arthur Machen's "The White People"
commentary by rbadac (http://www.violetbooks.com/REVIEWS/rbadac-numinous.html)

Evans
01-28-2010, 06:01 AM
There used to be a short but very splendid article on The White People on Jessica Amanda Salmson's website but I think the link is dead now.

Maybe, this?
The Shock of the Numinous: Arthur Machen's "The White People"
commentary by rbadac (http://www.violetbooks.com/REVIEWS/rbadac-numinous.html)

Yes, that's it. Thanks Andrea. I think it may have appeared on alt.ghost-fiction* but it's too full of arguements to trawl through.

*Possibley under the title "Warn your children from idols"