Dennis Wheatley – The Devil Rides Out

The mysterious world of Dennis Wheatley…

David Fox explores

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‘Should any of my readers incline to a serious study of the subject (Occult) and thus come into contact with a man or woman of Power, I feel that is is only right to urge them, most strongly, to refrain from being drawn into any practice of the Secret Art in any way.’

Dennis Wheatley (1897 – 1977) was one of the most prolific, widely-read, and successful authors of the twentieth century. Throughout his colourful career, Wheatley penned over 50 novels, a multitude of short stories, and produced a variety of non-fiction texts. His association with the British military is well documented, and he contributed to the war effort during the 1940s. Indeed, his involvement with the War Office, and the planning of the Allied invasion of northern France, would provided the basis for much of his future fictional work.

Wheatley’s character: Gregory Sallust (the protagonist of several of his best-selling thriller novels) is now regarded as a fore-runner to Ian Flemming’s James Bond. Both authors came from a similar background and naturally shared both the dominant values and world-view of their generation. These are evidently reflected within their works of fiction. However, despite only producing several novels of an Occult orientation, Dennis Wheatley has become synonymous with the supernatural and Black Magic. Why has a man who sold over 50 million books in his lifetime gained such a mysterious reputation?

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‘In every age there have been secret societies, and the greater part of them have been brotherhoods concerned, to a greater or lesser degree, with magic.’

It could be said that Wheatley’s association with matters of a preternatural nature began during his time at prep-school in the early 1900s when he was convinced that he had seen a ghost. As he states in one of his works of non-fiction ‘The Devil and All His Works’ (Hutchinson 1971): ‘It has long been maintained by many thinkers of many nations that Homo Sapiens is endowed with a sixth sense.’ Clearly Wheatley appreciated that such matters resonate strongly within the collective consciousness of mankind, and in the 1930s he had the opportunity to draw upon this fascination to cement his reputation as a highly engaging and readable author.

‘The Devil Rides Out’ was published in 1934 and became an instant success. Wheatley’s inter-war readership were evidently mesmerised by the exotic themes of black magic, ritual, sacrifice and secret malevolent societies. Indeed, he always researched the background of every novel meticulously prior to producing a first draft. Notable occultists of this era such as Aleister Crowley, Rollo Ahmed and Montague Summers were all consulted by Wheatley on matters of the ‘Old Wisdom’.

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‘None of us can hope to lead perfect lives. But, if we follow the Right-hand Path, we shall be armoured against the temptation to do evil.’

Wheatley’s detailed descriptions of occult ceremony, practice and philosophy within his novels have lead many to speculate whether or not he was a practitioner of the ancient arts himself. Although he denied ever having been involved with a secret society during his life-time, it is patently obvious that he possessed a profound understanding, appreciation and respect for the Occult. For example, ‘Strange Conflict’ (published in 1941) describes the curious ability of adepts to wage combat upon the astral plane against the backdrop of the Second World War.

Sceptics would of course scoff at Wheatley’s suggestions, but it must be borne in mind that many of the leading Nazis were deeply influenced by the dark arts. The so-called ‘Magical Battle of Britain’ has been discussed in Dion Fortune’s fascinating work of the same name. It should also be remembered that governments old and new (from King Saul’s dealings with the Witch of Endor in the Book of Samuel, to Queen Elizabeth’s reliance on the magick of John Dee, and Margaret Thatcher’s government’s consultation with astrologers prior to the Falklands Conflict) have called upon the powers of the unseen during times of national crisis.

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‘Today the world is threatened with a new age of Darkness.’ 

A fitting testimony to the enduring appeal of Dennis Wheatley’s work is his perennially increasing cult following. His novels remain very popular, and the Hammer Horror productions of his Occult stories are much revered by Horror fanatics. Wheatley’s geo-political stance and seemingly unswerving loyalty to Queen and country may be antiquated and somewhat ridiculous to some, but there is much within his works of great value to contemporary readers and those who approach them with an open mind.

To find out more about the author David Fox, visit his website: David Fox Magician.

Aleister Crowley – The Beast 666 – MI6 Agent?

Title: ‘Secret Agent 666’  Author: Richard B. Spence  Year of Publication: 2008

The name Aleister Crowley is always certain to exacerbate an intriguing myriad of reactions from both dedicated Occultists and those with merely a casual acquaintance with the arcane alike. The self-styled ‘Great Beast 666’ continues to cast his influence over the contemporary New Age movement, as well as the artistic world, many years after his death in 1947. Mysterious, eccentric and with talent in abundance, Crowley is both revered and detested in equal measure. Indeed, such a complex personality always makes for ‘good copy’ and it is small wonder that numerous texts have been produced over the past sixty years focusing primarily on Crowley’s colourful lifestyle and his profound interest in Occultism (or Magick as he preferred to call it: ‘the Art and Science of causing Change to occur in conformity with the Will’).

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I have been fortunate to have read several biographies of this mythical figure, as well as Crowley’s ‘Confessions’. All these offerings have been most illuminating, but in my opinion Lawrence Sutin’s ‘Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley’ offers the most objective, balanced and well researched piece of investigative work to date. The purpose of this article is certainly not for me to expound a character reference of Crowley (there is ample opportunity for those interested to formulate their own opinion in the local library or bookshop) but to draw attention to a refreshing and insightful piece of investigative work by Richard B Spence.

Several years ago Channel Four ran a series of documentaries entitled ‘Masters of Darkness’. These focused upon the familiar rogues gallery of historical ‘villains’ one is likely to encounter in any compendium of the weird and the wonderful: the Marquis de Sade, Dr John Dee and, of course, Aleister Crowley all featured. I was amazed that Crowley was branded a ‘traitor to the British people’ by the narrator having been made aware of his involvement within the secret services of Her Majesty’s realm during a conversation with a prominent occultist many years ago. Thus, I was most intrigued to learn of the publication of a text dedicated entirely to his activities within the world of espionage and counter-espionage.

Meticulously researched and engaging, Spence sets out his intentions from the onset: ‘this book is not intended as a general biography of Crowley nor in any way a treatise on his writings and thought, and it takes no position on the reality of magic and the supernatural’. Furthermore, Spence very correctly deduces that ‘the same magical retreat may be both essential to the health of the spirit and useful as a cover for spying’. This was most certainly the case for Dr John Dee during Elizabethan times and Crowley who, as a student of Cambridge University and as a member of the Golden Dawn, had access to many of the most influential artistic and political figures of his generation. In essence, it would have been extremely foolish for the British secret services not to have utilised someone of Crowley’s pedigree and caliber during the turbulent times of World War One, the uncertain inter war years, and the calamity of the Second World War.

Spence’s research into Crowley’s activities in New York during the First World War is captivating, and he invites us to appreciate how instrumental Crowley was in influencing the emerging super power to support the British war effort against the Kaiser. American sympathies very much hung in the balance between British and anti-imperialist (primarily Irish and German interests against Britannia) during this critical period. Spence also sheds light upon Crowley’s involvement with the Lusitania disaster, which will be of great interest to conspiracy theorists; the sinking of which ultimately drew the Americans into the conflict on the side of the British Empire.

The reasons for Crowley’s seemingly bizarre decision to establish an occult commune on the island of Sicily are also addressed. Spence puts forward strong evidence to suggest that he was in fact spying for the British government on both the French military and the Italian fascists. Indeed, such a strategic position in the Mediterranean would have rendered Crowley an excellent accessory for the British security services. This section of Spence’s work also compliments the account provided to me by the gentleman I spoke to several years ago. Mussolini’s decision to expel Crowley may have not been solely for his much publicised occult practices and more so on account of his involvement with the shadowy embryonic machinations of MI6.

Crowley’s influence and involvement within various German occult groups during WWII would most certainly have been appreciated by MI5 and MI6 alike. Indeed, Spence notes that on the outbreak of hostilities, Crowley ‘completed form for NID’ (British Naval Intelligence Division) and raises questions on his involvement with the Rudolf Hess affair. This episode has been previously visited by Amado Crowley in his work ‘The Riddles of Aleister Crowley’ and once again parallels the account I was provided with by a prominent occultist. Whatever the truth, we can rest assured that Crowley would most certainly have been considered a useful appurtenance in the fight against Nazism by the British security services. Indeed, Crowley himself did take credit in suggesting the famous ‘V for victory’ sign which was famously used by Churchill during the early 1940s.

Spence deserves a considerable amount of credit for producing such a well-researched and captivating text. One might say that it is a thankless task to paint a figure of notoriety such as Crowley in a more positive light, but this is an essential piece of academic study which will doubtless draw much more critical acclaim. The author has clearly spent a substantial amount of time researching British and French governmental archives, as well as a diverse range of extraneous sources, to provide an incredible profile of Aleister Crowley which has, until now, remained hidden from the public gaze.

For anyone with an interest in Aleister Crowley, ‘Secret Agent 666’ is essential reading and will not only expand one’s awareness of this extraordinary colossus of occultism, but greatly extend the reader’s appreciation of history and the shadowy political underworld during the tumultuous period of the early twentieth century.

The author of the article is David Fox, a professional magician and freelance writer based in Nottingham, England. Visit his website at: http://www.davidfoxmagician.co.uk