Nick Farrell

by Michael Szul on 2004-06-19 19:31:49 tags: nick farrell

Nick Farrell has spent nearly twenty years in the study of occultism, amassing a knowledgeable background in one of the most harrowing subjects of all: magickal groups. After flying under the radar for several years, despite his published material, he is finally getting the recognition he deserves thanks to his recent written work for Immanion Press.


What is your background: in life and in magick?

My spiritual life started out in New Zealand when I was 10 in a particularly narrow form of Christianity. It lasted until I was 17 when I asked the Christian god if it was ok to find him in another way. Since he didn’t mind, I went out and bought Tarot cards, because I always wanted a set but they were supposed to have been drawn by Satan. I bought the Builders of the Adytum deck because being black and white it was the cheapest. The bloke behind the counter asked me what I knew about esoteric groups and that BOTA had a working temple. Reading about this occultism stuff activated my imagination in a way I didn’t get from religion.

I was incredibly naive and soon found myself in trouble with the leadership, who was paranoid about the fact I was starting out life as a journalist and asked too many questions.

Eventually I moved to Hawkes Bay. The Whare Ra temple of the Golden Dawn had closed a few years earlier. It was the last temple that had a direct connection to the original Golden Dawn. It was from the surviving members that I started to learn about Magic, as opposed to ‘occultism’ which was how BOTA was focused.

I also joined a Dion Fortune spin off called Servants of the Light and moved to the UK to work with Marian Green, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and David Goddard. It was from these people that I would learn some ideas, some good and some bad, that would become my path. I also clocked in a lot of hours doing rituals.

That ended when David Goddard was thrown out of SOL and I went with him and helped him set up his Priesthood of the Light School, which became Pharos. When we fell out, I was a bit lost. I started to experiment with my own ideas. It was then I met up with Chic and Tabatha Cicero and got involved in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. A group of us set up a temple in Nottingham, in the UK and started work. I also started writing books to get some of my ideas out of my head. The last few years, it has all been working out what my message is and how my own ideas relate to my path. Three years ago I had another adventure and moved to Bulgaria, more or less on a whim. I met my wife Didi, and stayed here. I leave the country to go to teach at workshops or attend the Nottingham group. I write for an online technical magazine at www.theinquirer.net, where I try to wind up the world’s techies and I also teach journalism and PR to Bulgarians.

Your first book was Making Talismans. Looking at the trend towards sigil work that has developed over the last decade or so, is talismanic magick dead/dying? Or are current occultists simply glossing over an effective discipline for one that requires less work? How would you compare/contrast talismans with sigils?

I include sigils in talismans mostly as a method of breaking down a signature into a symbolic form. Making something symbolic is a useful tool and if it is part of your magical path then it could be helpful. Practically, I don’t think that sigils are as flexible as a properly made talisman. They are pointed to achieve a specific result, but they fall flat if any intelligence is required to bring it about. Talismans are living energy, the material substance is only the earth plane tip of the iceberg, and can act much more intelligently over a longer period of time. Not much has been written about talismans because making a good one requires a wide range of magical skills. I think if they are replaced in modern magic it will be because of the general dumbing down of magical techniques by people who don’t really know what they are doing but have read too much for their own good.

Magical Pathworking deals with “guided meditations.” There are some occultists who believe that true pathworking is accomplished through astral projection and not just guided visualizations. Do you agree/disagree? Do you see guided meditations in this area as a natural bridge towards a more complete astral pathworking, or are these guided meditations enough on their own?

One of my early teachers once said that pathworking was the training for astral projection. I would agree with that but add that it is a valid spiritual technique long after astral projection is mastered. The universe is made from mind and “guided meditations” are journeys through that mental stuff. Everyone experiences these at different levels of awareness. To some they are like listening to a story, to others they will disconnect from reality enough for them to be considered an astral projection. Both experiences are important and valid. The ‘listening to a story’ level will ultimately lead to astral projection, but both experiences are valid while they bring about change in the personality.

People pathwork the Tree of Life, the Tarot, and many other symbolic maps. What are some of your favorite maps/ideas to work with? Why?

I started out using Tarot symbolism with Builders of the Adytum and it has stuck with me. Later I moved into the Cabbalistic symbolism. The Servants of the Light course taught me that you can move between these different Inner Kingdoms according to what you are doing at the time. Your own internal symbolic language is carried from one inner reality to the next and helps you build it. My next book is about Ancient Egypt and I have built an Inner Kingdom for readers based around that symbolism.

In an era that seems more focused on individual attainment, especially with the Chaos magick influence, you wrote a book on esoteric groups. Why?

I tend to think that Chaos magick’s influence in this regard is a bit overstated. Modern esoteric groups are doing quite well, although the really big ones such as BOTA, AMORC and the various flavours of freemasonry are suffering because of their traditional structures.

Francis King used to say that a magician needs a group like a politician needs a party. Magicians can do a lot on their own, but to do big stuff they need to call in a few friends.

While I think the days of the big magical orders are numbered, smaller groups will be the way forward if people have the courage to sit down and run them. There is a belief that you have to have a grade from some long dead pooh-bah, or have a huge amount of experience to do this. With this book, I wanted to say was that anyone can do it if they are shown how.

How many esoteric groups have you been involved with? Can you name a few?

Builders of the Adytum, Order of the Table Round, Servants of the Light, Glade Moonhart, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and three or four loose organizations that we never got around to naming.

What has been one of your worst experiences with an esoteric group?

The end of the Servants of the Light lodge I was in was traumatic. We had been running a highly successful lodge, which was torn apart by one person who thought she should be queen and another who harbored a grudge against the group leader. As the group imploded it was involved in some internal politics within SOL and it all destroyed itself leaving everyone completely miserable.

One of your best?

My current temple, which is part of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The people in it are wonderful and hard working. We get to play and be anarchic but at the same time we have done some terrific work. I have learnt a lot working with these people and the fact that I share the leadership means that I can concentrate on the things that interest me.

What do you believe are the three most important keys to creating a successful esoteric group?

You need to set up a consensus rather than autocratic leadership. You should acknowledgment that people in an esoteric group are developing as individuals and that process can be unpleasant. Lastly, not taking everything too seriously. One of my biggest beefs with esoteric groups is that some members take things far too literally.

Are the current groups today, that have existed for several decades or beyond, useful to the everyday practitioner, or are they simply too wrapped up in their own politics?

Yes, they are, but I think they are slowly fading into the twilight. They have much to teach, particularly when it comes to producing good symbolic systems for people to work with. However even in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, temples have considerable leeway to do their own thing and specialize in their own areas. This is the way that such groups must move towards if they are to survive.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to an occultist looking to join an existing esoteric group?

Look at it very carefully. Do not assume that you should join it because it is there and you do not think you will find another. Look at the people. Are they the sorts who you can get on with? Look at the leaders. Do they laugh? Do they try to make themselves more important? Do they encourage others to see them as important? If they are running a traditional school, such as the GD, have they tinkered significantly with it and do they know why.

What does the future hold for Nick Farrell?

The universe still looks like a big place and I will continue to blink at infinity. I turned 40 this year so I am trying to be a bit more responsible about applying more of my philosophical ideas. I have worked out that everything boils down to a system. You chose a system and then you run with it. You do not mix systems too much. What I am missing is the link between the system and the spiritual experience. It is not that I don’t have them, it is that I don’t know why I have them.

I would like to do some more writing, perhaps some fiction. Didi and I have just finished fixing up a house on the foot of a mountain in Sofia and it is good to write here. However I do not want to just write about occultism. I am extremely critical of people who try to become full time occultists and will probably carry on writing the sort of journalism that sails up the nasal passages of authority.