When I completed my biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey The Unlikely Occultist I thought my service to a woman I have long admired had reached an end. I had a similar feeling when I completed my doctoral thesis back in 2006, having spent three years working on a ground-breaking study of the Bailey books, for which I received my PhD from the University of Western Sydney. Both times, I was wrong. This time, a door has been flung wide open and I find myself immersed in yet more research on my beloved subject for a full biography of her life and works.
I was first urged to write a full biography of Alice Bailey in 2007 by my then employer Mary Cunnane, former vice president and senior editor at WW Norton & Company in New York, who had established a literary agency and was keen to represent me should I chose to take on the project. Back then, my literary skills were not up to the task. My mind was still attuned to the formal academic style and I needed to unlearn a lot of habits.
I made a solid attempt at producing a non fiction biography in late 2016, when Mary once again urged me to set to work. My concern was primarily to salvage Alice Bailey’s reputation and tackle her detractors, who can be found among conspiracy theorists, Christians, Jews, scholars, and Theosophists. I rose up in defence, sympathetic as I’ve always been toward a woman who led a difficult life dedicated to world peace and goodwill. I produced a whole draft of the biography and then began to doubt the content was enough. I lacked access to vital material. I did not have the full story. In a moment of inspiration, I decided to fictionalise what I did know, based on my extensive research into the known story. The result was The Unlikely Occultist and the material that did not make the cut forms the content of https://alicebaileyconspiracy.com/
Three years have passed and I am happy to announce that I have begun work on a full biography of the life and works of Alice Bailey. This time, my focus is different and the content will be much richer now that I am unravelling portions of the unknown story of Alice and her books and pursuing a number of lines of inquiry. With the wholehearted support of key members of the Alice Bailey community, my aim is to produce a sympathetic, fair and balanced account of this underrated and most remarkable historical figure and her books, written in telepathic rapport with the Tibetan. I have forty-one fully referenced chapters planned. The book proposal is currently with a New York literary agent. And I am champing at the bit to see this project come to fruition.
Watch this space!
Dr Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, historical and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney for The Texts of Alice A Bailey: An Inquiry into the role of Esotericism in Transforming Consciousness, She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.
When I booked a review tour for my biographical novel of Alice Bailey, it was with considerable unease. I knew few if any reviewers would have heard of the mysterious esoteric figure, which perhaps renders my novel of special interest only. That was my thinking. I was wrong. The Unlikely Occultist was very well received by all bar one reviewer, who signed up not realising what my book was about. She was very kind in saying so without hating on my offering.
As for the others, well, my hat is off to them all, not only for their considered words of praise, but for making a solid effort to read a rather dense story steeped in historical detail. I also commend Rachel’s Random Resources for yet again putting together an excellent tour.
Here are the highlights of The Unlikely Occultist book tour.
“Even if you’re someone who might be tempted to dismiss spiritualism in all its various guises as ‘bunkum’, do at least give this book a chance. It’s so intelligently written that I’m sure you’ll at least see if not understand why so many people give it credence. In summary, this is a persuasively written novel that cleverly combines fact with a little fiction in order to thoroughly entertain as well as enlighten.” http://www.booksarecool.com/2019/blackthorn-fascinating-persuasive/
“Bailey’s life was fascinating no matter what you do or don’t believe. A writer and teacher, she was one of the first people to coin terms like ‘New Age’ and ‘The Age of Aquarius’, Bailey also claimed to have had her books dictated to her by a Tibetan Master of Wisdom – a human-like divinity steeped in Eastern esoteric religion.” http://www.jameshartleybooks.com/a-life-of-alice-bailey/
“Blackthorn has a story to tell, and she’s going to take her time with it. It’s as relaxed as it can be, and sort of moseys through the plot, allowing the reader to soak in all the information at hand. That should also be mentioned. This is a lore and information heavy novel, in its own way. If you have no idea who Bailey is, you’ll learn something, and that’s exactly the type of novel I’ve been loving of late. If that’s something you’re attracted to as well, check this out.” http://www.vainradical.co.uk/blogs/the-unlikely-occultist-book-tour-review/
“As the story proceeds, Alice’s contribution to the theosophical society is explained in detail. Her life was nothing short of a ship in a storm. It was heart-wrenching to read the hardships she went through” https://thebookdecoder.com/2019/08/26/the-unlikely-occulist-by-isobel-blackthorn/
Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019, for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’
About Living on the Inner Edge: A Practical Esoteric Tale
A mystical story, breaking traditional boundaries, new thought, practices, insights, and a way of knowledge. Everyone walks their own path but in the New Age of Spirituality the idea of Group Work was born from the works of the Tibetan Master D.K., where he introduced the idea of group work on the physical plane and in the higher spheres of the Soul, and the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky Work which was accomplished through intense group meetings and personal interaction. Living on the Inner Edge is a foray into the world of experimental Group Work which lasted for over 30 years, constantly evolving and synthesizing the essence of different Esoteric Traditions into a new body of discipline that achieved extraordinary results.
The gnostic or esoteric way of knowing relies on the development of the esoteric sense, a way of perceiving into and through words and experiences to arrive at their deeper meanings, to grasp the essence in terms of inner truth and spiritual purpose. The development of the esoteric sense requires an innate disposition or some sort of pre-existing esoteric hardwiring, along with training in meditation to cultivate the ability to indwell for sustained periods, and guidance in the form of esoteric knowledge. To begin with, the esoteric way of knowing forges a connection between the personality and the soul or Essential Nature and starts the long process of aligning the will of the personality with that of the soul. This process of discriminating between personality and soul natures is the first major step on the path of spiritual evolution and takes immense effort, discipline and perseverance, all of which occur both inside and beyond meditation experience and should become central to daily life.
Living on the Inner Edge portrays this journey and makes it a lived reality for the reader. Many books detail the hows and whys of meditation, few explore the experiential side. Ryan’s testimony sounds a clear note in our current age of confusion. Importantly, Ryan cautions against blind adherence to any spiritual teachings, repeating them, parrot like, as if that were an indication of spiritual progress.
The memoir opens in Toronto in 1975 when a spiritual group is formed around a teacher, RN, and goes on to depict the evolution of the group, the highs and lows, the tests and the successes and failures. Above all, Living on the Inner Edge describes not a search for meaning but the laying bare of an authentic unfoldment of the soul within, the Essential Nature, of the author. Ryan makes several journeys to India, visits various sacred sites, and has extraordinary experiences along the way that make for an entertaining read. His depiction of the dangers, the struggles and the challenges that face the dedicated seeker are portrayed with insightful explanations. The strange manifestations of the astral, the latching on of Elementals, the confrontation with the consuming Dwelling on the Threshold, are all described in rich detail. The path is long, enlightenment is far away, and the journey begins when the seeker strips away the delusion that they have already arrived at some point of high achievement.
Ryan has a gift for explaining the complex and abstruse in the most lucid and accessible fashion without losing the true essence of meaning. There is an awakening, stimulating, attuning charge to the writing, the memoir told by someone with decades of practical experience and a sincere heart.
This memoir will appeal to readers with at least a passing knowledge of Theosophy and the esotericism of the East, as found in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, and a healthy dose of esoteric empathy. Living on the Edge is a journey on the inner planes, where unfoldment occurs at that interface of exoteric and esoteric realities. At the end, Ryan provides appendices containing further explanations and meditation techniques, in what amounts to a very sound and useful guide.
Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’ She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.
“What is new age thinking, or spirituality, or the occult for that matter? Some religions consider the occult to be quite bad, demonic and evil. They have even taken drastic measures to paint it in a negative light.
If we look back in history, a fascinating figure stands out. Considered by some to be the mother of the new age, Alice A. Bailey is an occultist who managed to get on Hitler’s black list. She also irritates some conspiracy theorists and those that travel in fundamentalists circles. Who was she really and what is the underlying message and influence of this intriguing woman?”
When I wrote The Unlikely Occultist I was more than a little apprehensive. How would a biographical novel of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey be received, both by those in the esoteric community and others unfamiliar with the terrain? Would my book be rejected and me along with it? Would general readers pass over this book in favour of another?
Relief washed through me as first one, then another reader let me know how much they loved the story I wove out of Alice Bailey’s life.
Then two reviews arrived in my inbox on two consecutive days. The first, by Swedish scholar Hakan Blomqvist is especially prized.
“It is fascinating to follow how Isobel portrays the mindset and moral attitude of Alice Bailey. Not an easy undertaking as the scenes and anecdotes presented may create new myths around a woman already a favourite among conspiracy advocates. Reality and fiction becomes blurred…Although The Unlikely Occultist can be considered as a defense or apology for Alice Bailey and esotericism, Isobel Blackthorn is no naive devotee…I highly recommend The Unlikely Occultist. I found it intensely captivating and enchanting. This work can actually function as an introduction to studies in the Esoteric Tradition and may even inspire a minor renaissance for Alice Bailey. Esotericists will be delighted by this biographical novel and if you are a librarian or archivist you will just love it.” Hakan Blomqvist
The second review is from the Historical Novels Society and appears in the May 2019 issue of their magazine.
“Blackthorn’s book offers a fascinating portrait of a woman dismissed by mainstream thinkers and religions, a woman whose current obscurity is all the more poignant considering the grandeur of her ambitions and her hopes for a healed world.” –Misty Urban
And that is exactly what I set out to achieve. I wanted to usher Alice Bailey back into the mainstream and afford her some dignity.
Theosophist and Mother of the New Age movement, Alice Ann Bailey (1880-1949) was born into the aristocratic La Trobe-Bateman family. She was born on June 16th, 1880, in Manchester, to Frederick Foster La Trobe-Bateman and Alice Harriet Bateman (nee Holinshed).
When Alice was still a baby, her family moved to Montreal, where her father worked on an engineering project. F. Foster Bateman (1853-1889) wrote an engineer’s report for a bridge across the St Lawrence River from South Shore to St Helen’s Island to extend from and complement Victoria Bridge (mentioned in the Unfinished Autobiography). The report, dated January 18th, 1882, concerns the St Lawrence Bridge. The Jacques Cartier Bridge stands in its stead. Where the family resided while in Montreal is unknown. Alice’s sister, Lydia was born in Canada ab. 1882. The family returned to England in 1885 as Alice’s mother became ill with tuberculosis. They spent some time in Davos, Switzerland hoping her health might improve. It didn’t. Upon her mother’s death in 1886, her father became ill with the same disease. The little family lived with Alice’s grandparents at Moor Park, a mansion in Farnham, Surrey.
Alice’s paternal grandfather, John Frederick La Trobe-Bateman (1810-1889), purchased Moor Park in 1858 and established a hydrotherapy centre on the premises. Charles Darwin is known to have visited Moor Park for treatment in 1859 and became a frequent visitor. He worked on The Origin of the Species there. Moor Park comprises 60 acres of riverside gardens. The walled garden was created by Sir William Temple.
In 1888, Alice’s father’s condition deteriorated, and it was decided the English climate was hampering his health. In a desperate attempt to improve his symptoms, the family arranged for him and the girls to move to Pau in the French Pyrenees, a location heralded by well-known Dr Alexander Taylor as having a curative climate and waters. Shortly after their arrival, in a final bid for survival, the girls were returned to England while their father embarked on a voyage to New Zealand in the company of a nurse. He died en route near Hobart, Tasmania on 5th February 1889.
After Pau, Alice and her sister returned to Moor Park. Sadly, Alice’s grandfather passed away about six months later. Alice and Lydia were then cared for in part by their grandmother, Anne Bateman (nee Fairbairn, 1817-1894), and by their father’s sisters – Dorothy, Margaret and Agnes.
Aunt Dorothy, who married Sir Brian Barttelot, lived in Townstal Manor, in the small village of Townstal, near Dartmouth, Devon. The house appears to be that of Norton Dauney. Alas, no photos.
Agnes married civil engineer Richard Clere Parsons, who was brother of Lord Rosse. In 1881, the Parsons lived in the village of Chapel Allerton on the outskirts of Leeds, Yorkshire. There were many large houses in the village.
Alice’s favourite home was Castramont, near Gatehouse of Fleet in Scotland’s southwest. Margaret was the widow of David Maxwell, whose father, Sir William Maxwell, lived at nearby Cardoness Castle.
From there, the newly adult Alice La Trobe-Bateman spent time with her sister in a rented house – I am sure it was not small – in St Albans, from which they attended the various social engagements of the London season. They each then went their separate ways, Lydia north to Edinburgh to study medicine and Alice to Ireland to work for Elise Sandes’ soldiers homes, and then on to India. Her aristocratic existence was over.
The Elise Sandes’ mission continues to this day.
While in India, Alice met and fell in love with Walter Evans. They married in 1908 and moved to the United States to Cincinnati, where her Walter attended the Lane Theological Seminary. The Evans’s lived first in a boarding house near the seminary and in 1910, after their daughter, Dorothy, was born, they lived in an apartment nearby.
Once Walter was qualified, they moved to the small town of Reedley, in California’s fruit growing region. Alice and Walter were in Reedley between 1911-13. They left around the time of an influx of European migrants, including a colony of German Mennonites, whose strong traditions and values went on to give shape to Reedley’s culture. In her Unfinished Autobiography, Alice Bailey makes it plain she did not like Reedley, and while there were a number of larger middle-class residences, a lot of the town would have looked like this – a screenshot of the Episcopal church and adjoining house, which is presumably where Alice and Walter lived and their second daughter, Mildred, was born. The house is exactly as I imagined it. Visit this site for more info
Alice and Walter then moved to Fowler, another small town in California about fourteen miles west of Reedley. Fowler is still a very small town, much smaller now than Reedley. Here is the church where Walter was presumably Reverend. The little house on the right is most likely where Alice and Walter lived and Ellison was born.
Are these the steps Alice is referring to when she says Walter ‘threw her down the stairs’? For I can find not one two-storey home in Fowler!
The family then moved to Pacific Grove, and after finally ridding herself of Walter, whose family violence was extreme, Alice worked for about 2 1/2 years packing sardines in one of Monterey’s canneries. We don’t know where she lived, but we do know where she worked.
Pacific Grove was not all sardines. There was a thriving arts/alternative scene, and in that milieu, people had all sorts of interests. It was here that Alice discovered Theosophy.
Towards the end of 1917, Alice moved to Krotona in Beachwood Canyon, Hollywood. The site was arranged around a central Inn and set in splendid gardens. Alice and her three daughters did not live on site. Alice rented a house in nearby North Beachwood Drive.
It was here that Alice met her second husband, Foster Bailey. In 1920, the Baileys moved to New York. At first they lived in Ridgefield Park, NJ, before being gifted a long spell at Graham Phelps Stokes house on Caritas Island. Thanks to a feature by Nora Naughton published in 2016 in the Stamford Advocate, I was able to sources these photos. Alice had the upstairs room in the wing featured in the top centre photo with the two small windows looking out over the glass conservatory.
From there, around 1930 the Baileys moved to Soundview Avenue, Stamford. It is unclear who owned the house and for how long the Baileys lived there. After discovering the address on a passenger list, I took these screenshots on Google maps.
In England during this time, they spent months at Ospringe, near Faversham, Kent, in the home of Henry and Hilda Percy-Griffiths. It was here that Ellison and Dorothy met their husbands and wed.
This is Salmon Tower on West 42nd Street, Manhattan, the building which housed the original offices of the Lucis Trust which were on the top floor. This floor, along with the one below, were much smaller than the other floors.
In England in the late 1930s, the Baileys took up residence in a house in Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, a street lined with leafy lime trees. Unfortunately, their base of operations was soon commandeered by the British Army for the duration of the war. The street address is unknown (to me), but the 12th corps of the British Army, led by General Montgomery, acquired a number or residences on Broadwater Down during WWII. No. 2 – the original headquarters – and No. 32 – the signals HQ – were both acquired in 1940. General Montgomery took up residence at No. 10 for a period of 1941. The other houses were acquired at later dates. The area is known especially for the establishment of a top-secret series of tunnels leading to an underground war bunker that were created nearby, and only discovered in 1969.
No. 32 is my pick.
Back in New York, there may be a gap in the trail between the Soundview Avenue house in Stamford and Alice’s last residence in New York, where Alice and Foster lived until Alice’s death in 1949. Alice’s daughter, Mildred, lived there too, along with a nurse. The 11th floor of the Castle village apartment complex, 140 Cabrini Boulevard, Hudson Heights. The living room overlooked the Hudson River.
This post is a work in progress and I will keep digging…If you have anything to contribute, please DM me on Twitter. @IBlackthorn
When I contacted New Dawn magazine requesting they review The Unlikely Occultist, my biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, I was anticipating the usual rejection or no-reply. Instead, I received a pleasing email from the editors inviting me to compose a feature piece on Alice Bailey. I embraced the opportunity.
Thanks to the talented team at New Dawn, the result is a beautifully laid out and presented feature piece on a woman who rarely gets an airing beyond her own followers. It is a joy to see my brief overview of Alice Bailey treated in this fashion, but I have received no special treatment. The whole magazine is just lovely!
For too long Alice Bailey has been either maligned or ignored and I think it is time the world knew just how important her body of work and her life’s mission are, influencing healing modalities, psychology, education, the ongoing campaign for world peace and the spiritual ethos at the United Nations. Through New Dawn, more will hear about her, or perhaps reconsider who she was and what she was about. For anyone wanting to know more about The Unlikely Occultist, check some reviews https://isobelblackthorn.com/the-unlikely-occultist-reviews/or click this link viewbook.at/Occultist