William G. Gray

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William G. Gray
William G Gray.jpg
Gray at the Rollright Stones. Photograph by Geoff Dearn.
BornWilliam Gordon Gray
(1913-03-25)25 March 1913
Harrow, Middlesex, England
Died1992 (aged 78–79)
OccupationCeremonial magician,
and author.
ParentsChristine Ash Gray and
John McCammon Trew Gray
 
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William G. Gray
William G Gray.jpg
Gray at the Rollright Stones. Photograph by Geoff Dearn.
BornWilliam Gordon Gray
(1913-03-25)25 March 1913
Harrow, Middlesex, England
Died1992 (aged 78–79)
OccupationCeremonial magician,
and author.
ParentsChristine Ash Gray and
John McCammon Trew Gray

William G. Gray (1913–1992), better known to many as Bill Gray, was an English ceremonial magician who published widely on the subject of western esotericism and the occult. Gray is the founder of a magical order known as the Sangreal Sodality.

Born to a working-class family in Harrow, Middlesex, Gray moved around a lot as a child, living in various locations across England, and also in Montreal, Canada, where he took a particular interest in the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church. Developing an early interest in western esotericism from his mother, who was a professional fortune teller, he met a number of famous occultists in his youth, including Victor Neuburg, Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune. Eventually taking an Austrian named Emile Napoleon Hauenstein to be his magical teacher, he joined the British Army and served for several years, fighting in the Second World War.

Returning to Britain, he befriended and performed rituals with members of many different occult currents in Britain at the time, including Robert Cochrane, and published a number of books on the subject of the esoteric. 1975 saw the publication of The Rollright Ritual, a book about the rituals and alleged spiritual interactions which he had experienced at the Rollright Stones, a Neolithic stone circle in the Cotswolds.

The life and work of Gray is referenced in the works of various occultists and academics studying western esotericism, while in 2003 the authors Alan Richardson and Marcus Claridge published a biography of him, entitled The Old Sod.

Biography[edit]

Childhood: 1913–1925[edit]

Gray was born on 25 March 1913 in Harrow, Middlesex, at 2:10PM.[1] His mother, Christine Ash Gray (née Christine Chester Logie) was an American, and came from a Roman Catholic background, but took a great practical interest in the Western Esoteric Tradition, associating with other occultists and believing herself to be the reincarnation of Marie-Noémi Cadiot (1832–1888), the wife of the influential French occultist Eliphas Lévi (1810–1875).[2] William's father on the other hand, John McCammon Trew Gray, was from a "Low Church" background and took little interest in the esoteric.[3] The couple had married on 26 August 1910 in Philadelphia, where John had been managing a theatrical touring company and Christine had been working as an actress; both of them had been previously married, with John being a 44-year-old divorcee and Christine a 27-year-old widow at the time.[4]

When the First World War broke out in 1914, the United Kingdom allied itself with France to fight Germany, leading John Gray to lie about his age to enlist in the British Army, believing it to be his patriotic duty; joining the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, he served in France and then India, where he took charge of a prisoner of war camp at Elephanta Island near Bombay.[5] With her husband away at war, Christine Gray took up employment with the British War Office, eventually being posted to the London American Headquarters. As a result of this, her young son was sent to live with his elderly grandmother and Aunt Lella in Ramsgate, where, he would later relate, he was "badly behaved, disobedient, [and] untidy".[6] Eventually, Aunt Lella fell ill, and so William was sent to live with his Aunt Will and Aunt Florence, a couple who were active in the Theosophical Society, an esoteric organisation that followed the teachings of Theosophy. It was through them that William first learned about the esoteric, although he would always associate Theosophy somewhat derogatorily with "elderly ladies of both sexes and genteel behaviour whose ideas of Nirvana centred around mysterious Oriental Masters who directed the destiny of all mankind from a secret spot in Tibet."[7]

Aged 8, he began his education at primary school, something which he despised, and soon after was sent back to live with his parents, who had settled in to Forest Hill, London following the culmination of the war.[8] His mother began to take him to Mass at a local Roman Catholic Church, something which he enjoyed very much, developing a lifelong appreciation of ritual and deciding then that he would one day like to be ordained as a Catholic priest.[9] In 1922, he and his mother moved to Montreal in Canada, where she was hospitalised for a serious chest infection and he was brought up by his Aunt Leslie and her husband Bruce, a wealthy stockbroker. In Montreal, he continued to attend Mass, but lost his desire to become a priest after finding the rituals at the Canadian church to be less impressive than those which he had experienced in England.[10]

Early involvement in the occult: 1926–1935[edit]

"All I remember Crowley saying to me was something like: 'So this is your Great Magician is it? He doesn’t look very dangerous to me. Wouldn't you like to be as wicked as I am?' Not quite knowing what to make of this I muttered something about my uncertainty and my mother turned it to a joke by saying 'Oh he can be wicked enough when he wants to be.' Whereupon Crowley stared at me very solemnly and almost intoned his famous phrase: DO WHAT THOU WILT SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW, making this his exit line. I never met him again, nor did I ever discover what he and mother said to each other."

William G. Gray.[11]

Returning to Britain following his mother's recovery, William and his parents moved into a flat in East Park Terrace in Southampton. Here, there were problems in the couple's relationship, with Christine and John sleeping in different bedrooms, and William was forced to share one with his father, with whom he had a strained relationship.[12] As the family struggled with monetary difficulties, Christine began working as a professional fortune teller, and William shared his mother's interest in western esotericism, obtaining books on the subjects of metaphysics and psychology from the local library to learn more.[13] Later relating that he experienced several visions at this time, he began devising several ceremonial magical rituals, using the kitchen flat as a temple, and based upon a mix of what he had read in books and his own innovation.[14]

He attended lectures given by the Theosophical Society and also met a number of famous occultists who were friends of his mother; these included Arthur Wilson, who would go on to try and found a commune in Canada, and Victor Neuburg (1883–1940), whom Gray would always remember as "one of the gentlest men I ever met".[15] "Once of twice" he also briefly met the infamous ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), who had been the founder of the religion of Thelema and a pariah figure in the British press. An old friend and magical partner of Neuburg's, Crowley made Christine feel uneasy, and she would later tell her son that he was "not a very nice man" and burning the signed copy of his book 777 that he gave to her.[16]

By the age of 14, Gray was intent on finding a magical teacher from whom he could learn more about western esotericism and the practice of ceremonial magic. On one of his visits to an uncle in London, Gray travelled to the home of Dion Fortune (1890–1946), the noted ceremonial magician and leader of the Fraternity of the Inner Light. She briefly agreed to speak to him, but informed him that no one under the age of 21 would be admitted to the Fraternity, and simply wished him well before sending him away empty handed.[17] An eager reader of the Occult Review, Gray also wrote a letter in to the paper discussing his views on Rosicrucianism, which was subsequently published, leading another occultist to get in touch with him. This man would be Emile Napoleon Hauenstein (1877–?), an Austrian esotericist who ran a newspaper shop in Piccadilly where he lived with his daughter. Hauenstein, whom Gray would usually refer to as ENH, had formerly been a Martinist and an associate of the French occultist Gérard Encausse, the founder of the Qabalistic Order of the Rosy Cross.[18] The two struck up a correspondence and then a friendship, with Hauenstein becoming Gray's magical mentor, teaching him various exercises designed to develop his concentration and ability to perform ceremonial magic rituals.[19]

Armed Forces: 1936–[edit]

Gray had gone through a series of temporary jobs since leaving school, and eventually decided to join the British armed forces. After receiving the blessing of Hauenstein, who informed him that he could continue his magical training while in the army, he duly did so, being admitted into the Royal Corps of Signals.[20]

Personal life[edit]

In their biography of Gray, Richardson and Claridge noted that he held to "many of the prejudices of his class, age and locale". He was openly racialist, and Richardson and Claridge claimed that he was also racist, because he used the word "Nigerian" as a euphemism for the derogatory term "nigger". Despite these views, they related that he was neither sexist nor homophobic, getting along well with women and taking no issue with several homosexual occultists that he knew.[21]

Magical beliefs[edit]

"Real esotericism was not just dressing up in handsome robes and manipulating symbols for the sake of so doing. It was knowing how to apply the meaning of such symbols to Life itself, for the purpose of altering or directing its energy in accordance with intention. For example, a Magical Sword was not the physical symbol handles in Temple practice, but its qualities as applied to the human being. Flexibility, sharpness, keenness, brightness, pointedness of action, and everything else to be thought of in connection with a well-balanced blade."

William G. Gray.[22]

Sangreal Sodality[edit]

The Sangreal Sodality is an internationally trademarked spiritual brotherhood of the Western Inner Tradition founded by William G. Gray and Jacobus G. Swart, and was officially launched by the said founders on 19 November 1980 on the occasion of the official inauguration of the first Sangreal Sodality Temple named "Domine Dirige Nos" in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the induction of the first initiated member of this brotherhood.[23] Chapters and Temples of the Sangreal Sodality have been established in South Africa, Latin America, North America, Britain and Europe.[24]

The designation “Sangreal Sodality” speaks of spiritual principles and ideals which prompted the foundation of this brotherhood. The term "Sangreal" is understood in this brotherhood to be "Sang" = "blood" and "Real" = "authentic." The basic premise being the "True Identity" and "Inner Values" within each single human individual. The term sodality derives from a Latin root referring to a "Comradeship."[25][26]

Since the Sangreal concept means bringing out the very best in everyone which their own “Inner Identities” can offer, the “Sangreal Sodality” is open to all those intent on a process of personal spiritual development, here considered the most ideal path to Self-discovery and service to our fellow humankind.[27][28]

Members of the “Sangreal Sodality” gather in Temples, Lodges or Chapters. These are operated independently of one another. Individuals who agree with, or feel inspired by, the teachings and practices expounded in the basic textbooks of the “Sangreal Sodality,” may set up a Temple, Lodge or Chapter. Such a working circle is deemed an autonomous grouping, which may link with other such groups, or remain independent in accordance with preference. As such, each group is responsible for its personal self-government, financing, and organised being.[29]

The Sangreal Sodality is not a religion, nor does it contra-indicate any valid religion of any denomination whatsoever. The Sangreal Sodality allows a focus for willing individuals to articulate their approach to divinity — without external dictates or interference of hierarchical structures.[30][31]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. p. 13.
  2. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 16–17, 36.
  3. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 14–15.
  4. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. p. 14.
  5. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. p. 18.
  6. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 18–19.
  7. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 22–23.
  8. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. p. 24.
  9. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. p. 25.
  10. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 26–29.
  11. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. p. 47.
  12. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 33–34.
  13. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 35–38.
  14. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 39–42.
  15. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 44–46.
  16. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. p. 47.
  17. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 48–50.
  18. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 51–52.
  19. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 54–57.
  20. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 58–61.
  21. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. p. 10.
  22. ^ Richardson and Claridge 2003. pp. 58–59.
  23. ^ William Gray's unpublished autobiography excerpted on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sangreal-sodality
  24. ^ An Introduction to the Foundation, Development and Teachings of the Sangreal Sodality by Jacobus G. Swart available online at http://www.sangrealsodality.com/
  25. ^ Sangreal Sodality – Code of Conduct available online at http://www.sangrealsodality.com/
  26. ^ An Introduction to the Foundation, Development and Teachings of the Sangreal Sodality by Jacobus G. Swart available online at http://www.sangrealsodality.com/
  27. ^ Sangreal Sodality – Code of Conduct
  28. ^ An Introduction to the Foundation, Development and Teachings of the Sangreal Sodality by Jacobus G. Swart
  29. ^ Sangreal Sodality – Code of Conduct
  30. ^ Sangreal Sodality – Code of Conduct
  31. ^ An Introduction to the Foundation, Development and Teachings of the Sangreal Sodality by Jacobus G. Swart

Bibliography[edit]

  • Hutton, Ronald (1999). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820744-3. 
  • Richardson, Alan; Claridge, Marcus (2003). The Old Sod: The Odd Life and Inner Work of William G. Gray. Ignotus Press. ISBN 978-1-903768-14-3. 

External links[edit]