Embarking on a full biography of Alice A. Bailey!

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.

 

The Unlikely Occultist Book Tour Wrap Up

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.

” I think if you like history and finding out more about iconic figures, then this is definitely one you should try.” https://bytheletterbookreviews.com/2019/08/20/the-unlikely-occultist-by-isobel-blackthorn-rararesources-iblackthorn/

“She is truly an inspiring lady who fought back against adversity time and again to remain true to her beliefs” https://maitaylor567291325.wordpress.com/2019/08/20/the-unlikely-occultist-isobel-blackthorn/

“An interesting and enjoyable read about a very charismatic woman who wrote more than twenty-four books on theosophical subjects.” https://eclecticreview.com/2019/08/21/the-unlikely-occultist-a-biographical-novel-of-alice-a-bailey-by-isobel-blackthorn-iblackthorn-rararesources-nonfiction-biography-isobelblackthorn/

“The combination of fact and fiction brings her name and influence to the table and perhaps even a 21st century view on the woman and her legacy.” https://cherylmmbookblog.blogspot.com/2019/08/blogtour-unlikely-occultist.html?spref=tw

“Isobel Blackthorn’s use of fiction cleverly achieves this; Alice Bailey’s name and work is brought into the mainstream rather than hidden in the shadows.” https://fromundertheduvet.co.uk/2019/08/22/book-review-the-unlikely-occultist-a-biographical-novel-of-alice-a-bailey/

“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/

“I enjoy Isobel Blackthorn’s writing, so while this might not have been a book I’d normally read, the writing is beautiful and I’m glad I took a leap.” https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/2019/08/22/blogtour-the-unlikely-occultist-isobel-blackthorn-iblackthorn-rararesources-gilbster1000-amreading-bookblogger-bookreview/

“I found myself flying through the pages and intrigued by the whole plot, so much so that I went on to learn about Alice Bailey and her real life. She was a fascinating woman and you should look her up.” Stacey https://whisperingstories.com/the-unlikely-occultist-isobel-blackthorn-book-review/

“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/

” The author supplements the facts of Ms. Bailey’s life with well-written fictional accounts of Alice’s day-to-day life, which brings this enigmatic person to life.” https://www.jenabooks.com/sharing-a-new-book-15/

“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/

“drew me in from the beginning and I instantly became connected to Alice’s world. It was such a wonderful read that I just couldn’t out it down.”https://babydollsandrazorblades.wordpress.com/2019/08/24/book-review-the-unlikely-occultist-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“this book was definite learning experience for me!” https://ktrobson.home.blog/2019/08/25/the-unlikely-occultist-by-isobel-blackthorn-review/

“I really did enjoy this and am looking forward to doing some investigating into Alice” https://curledupwithagoodbook.co.uk/blog-tour-review-the-unlikely-occultist-by-isobel-blackthorn/

” I had not heard of Alice Bailey but boy was she an interesting character! I loved finding out about her and I even found myself on online after I’d finished the book to find out more – that for me is the sign of excellent characterisation – she certainly piqued my interest!” https://donnasbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/25/blogtour-bookreview-for-the-unlikely-occultist-by-isobel-blackthorn-rararesources/

“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/

“The Unlikely Occultist is a book for someone who loves history or when you want to be fascinated by a wonderful and stubborn lady who just wants to make the world a better place.” https://indeboekenkast.com/english-books/romans/the-unlikely-occultist/

“I really enjoyed this book, I had never heard of Alice Bailey but Isobel Blackthorn really brings her to life here.” https://thedivinewrite.wordpress.com/2019/08/26/the-unlikely-occultist/

Visit The Unlikely Occultist here

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.’

Podcast: Books That Make You Reconsider Your Perceptions On #Spirituality, The #Occult, And #NewAge Thinking

#16 Books That Make You Reconsider Your Perceptions On Spirituality, The Occult, And New Age Thinking

https://www.booksthatmakeyou.com/16-books-that-make-you-reconsider-your-perceptions-on-spirituality-the-occult-and-new-age-thinking-isobel-blackthorn/

“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?”

In this episode of Books That Make You, I chat with Desiree Duffy about  The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey 

Have a listen!

The Unlikely Occultist

The Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019

 

Reaching the shortlist of the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize!

It is every author’s much coveted dream. When I opened the email from the Williamstown Festival committee and saw the first word, ‘Congratulations!’, I nearly fell off my seat. Me, who never wins a thing, well, truth be told rarely enters a competition, finding my story, ‘Nothing to Declare’, selected out of countless hundreds in a statewide competition was momentous. Especially since the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize for biographical fiction is one of Australia’s prestigious literary prizes.

Here I am on stage with the other shortlisted entrants. I was so nervous! I don’t mind being on stage when I am performing or launching a book, but lined up like that with the others with nothing to do but listen and stare at the audience was not a fun experience.

I didn’t win the Adas. Congratulations to David Francis, who did. All of us lined up on stage hoped to win, but in hindsight winning doesn’t matter. Never mind the cherry. The cake is enough. Best of all I spent the occasion with a new and delightful friend. Karen Crombie of Exact Editing cast her sharp eye over my story prior to submission so it was very special for me to have her beside me during the event. She took these smashing photos too!  I must also thank author Clare Rhoden for encouraging me to apply (read my author interview on her website) and Philip Wallis, for reading and commenting on my story and for just being a terrific literary friend.

Reaching the shortlist for this story is special for another reason. ‘Nothing to Declare’ is a version of the first chapter of my forthcoming historical novel based on my great grandmother’s life.

Alice Bailey, World Goodwill and the United Nations

Alice Bailey

I am delighted to share my piece on Alice Bailey, World Goodwill and the United Nations, featured in the March issue of Live Encounters Magazine.

Alice Bailey, World Goodwill and the United Nations

“Esotericism is concerned with explanations and manipulations of the inner planes of existence. Alice Bailey’s writings belong to the variant of Western Esotericism known as Theosophy. While the term can be traced back to Neoplatonist Porphyry to describe a combination of the capacities of the philosopher, the artist and the priest, it was Russian aristocrat and Spiritualist Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky who harnessed theosophy when she founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. British aristocrat and former devout Christian, Alice A. Bailey (born in 1880 Alice La Trobe-Bateman) was a second-generation Theosophist in communication with the same Master of the Wisdom as Blavatsky: The Tibetan or Djwhal Khul.

Drawing on Eastern mysticism and Western occult formulations, Bailey wrote twenty-four volumes, most as The Tibetan’s amanuensis, dedicated to informing future generations of seekers of the coming new age of spiritual enlightenment. Written between 1919 and 1949, Bailey’s opus includes works on meditation, esoteric healing, astrology, initiation, the chakras, yoga, education and psychology, along with an abstruse treatise on cosmology, A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. She also provides detailed explanations of the Plan of the Spiritual Hierarchy of Masters for the forthcoming era and instructions to her disciples to make that plan a reality. Much of the writing is impenetrable and alien to non-esotericists. The tone is instructional and dry. There is nothing exotic and enticing in the style and yet many will mention a strange almost magnetic pull once the mind starts to grapple with the meaning held within.

Of all the spiritual and occult teachers of her day, Alice Bailey was one of the most prolific and determined. Her legacy, whilst hidden, runs deep. She is regarded in scholarly circles to be the main theorist of the New Age movement, her teachings informing an early vanguard of writers and practitioners who went on to influence future generations of seekers. Many leading New Age proponents champion or acknowledge her influence. She is also a pet hate among conspiracy theorists, mostly due to her belief in the need for a ‘new world order’ based on ‘a plan’ devised by spiritual masters.

Alice Bailey’s main goal was to purify esotericism and make esoteric practice serve good not evil purposes. She imbued Theosophy with the basic Christian principle of goodwill and believed in the Second Coming of Christ. She exercised her formidable missionary zeal to establish all the foundations necessary to fulfil her vision for a better world…”  To continue reading the article:

Live Encounters Magazine March 2019 – https://liveencounters.net/2019/02/28/live-encounters-magazine-march-2019/

To download PDF click on this link – https://liveencounters.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Live-Encounters-Magazine-February-2019.pdf

To read the digital mag on your phone click on this link – https://issuu.com/liveencounters/docs/live_encounters_magazine_february_2_4eeba753253cf2?e=0

Alice A. Bailey

To read more about Alice Bailey in my biographical novel, click this link.

How I came to write a doctoral thesis on Alice A. Bailey

It was 2001 and the twin towers had fallen the month before. 9/11 marked an event in my own personal story as my mother chose that day to migrate back to Australia, leaving me alone with my twin daughters in the UK. I was a high school teacher at the time, and that year I was teaching a small group of students A level Religious Studies. For the coursework component, they all chose to write an essay on the New Age, or alternative spirituality, as it is now known. They had no idea the woman teaching them was an esoteric thinker with a profound interest in Theosophy and the occult, and one figure in particular: Alice Bailey.

New Age

A Turning Point

I was dedicated as ever to being the best teacher I could be, but while I worked hard at my job something nagged at me, some part of me that remained unfulfilled. I wanted to strive for higher things, maybe teach at tertiary level. I thought I would undertake a PhD. I could study part time and somehow fit it in to my already overloaded life.

I searched for universities with a progressive religious studies department offering distance education and ended up emailing my old university, The Open University, where I gained a First-class Honours degree many years before. I received no reply. Then I was told there was a fault in the system and would I re-send. I did. Still nothing. I sent another email. Silence. I waited. Months passed. I had just about given up on the idea. Then, one day in February 2002, I took my students to Warwick University to research their coursework essays. We visited the library and then browsed the bookstore.

On a bottom shelf, looking a bit battered, was a book on alternative spiritualities, co-edited by a Dr Marion Bowman, based at the University of Bath. Realising its value to my students, I bought the book (scoring a discount because of its poor condition) and we all went home.

Marion Bowman

I still have the receipt!

 

That afternoon, in my inbox was an email from the same Dr Marion Bowman. To my astonishment she now worked at the OU! She said she had received my email but she couldn’t open it and would I re-send it. I did, going into a ramble about how I wanted to research something on the nature of god, throwing in Alice Bailey as an afterthought. She emailed me back within the half hour. Then came the phone call. Alice Bailey, she said, you must do a PhD on Alice Bailey. She urged me to study full time. Apply for a scholarship. I could scarcely believe it. I gazed at the row of Blue Books on my shelf. It felt like fate.

A Crisis

But the workings of fate are mysterious and not always straightforward. I did apply for that scholarship, but before I could tell my school what was happening, the OU contacted them for a reference. Ouch. By now it was March. The headmaster was understanding but my head of department was not. It was Mother’s Day when she phoned me and gave me a piece of her mind. She was so angry I had to hold the phone away from my ear. As she ranted, something in me snapped. I had been putting up with her shenanigans for years.

I went on stress leave. I contacted my union. I was about to put in a grievance. I wanted to quit and study but the scholarship was a pittance and I would never have survived. I was in a real quandary. Then life started intervening and everything went wrong. My whole back fence fell down in a storm. I had problems with tax. My daughters missed their grandmother and one was especially unhappy. Everything was pointing to me returning to Australia.

A life-changing decision

I arrived in Australia in May 2002. An old friend put me onto the School of Social Ecology at the University of Western Sydney who offered distance education. I contacted them, found a marvellous supervisor in Dr Lesley Kuhn, applied, and secured a handsome scholarship, far in excess of what I had been offered in the UK. It almost made up for the sadness I felt at leaving my home, my career, my friends, my life – all of it, especially my A level students. I still have the farewell card they gave me (the school kept the true story quiet and word went around that I was ill).

I have never been sure if I made the right choice leaving England, but that first university residential school in Sydney I was walking on air. Everything about it was surreal. The people I met, the friendships formed, the chance encounters on the long journey there and back – the entire experience had a definite charge to it. I felt endorsed, sanctioned and somewhat revered as those who knew of Alice Bailey also knew what an enormous undertaking I was embracing. (My thesis, The Texts of Alice A. Bailey: An Inquiry into the Role of Esotericism in Transforming Consciousness, is available online)

In 2007, a year after I received my doctorate, I secured a job working for a high-profile literary agent. It was Mary Cunnane who urged me to write a biography of Alice Bailey. Instead, years later and after much hesitation I wrote The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey. The novel is a labour of love and service, in honour of a truly remarkable woman who deserves to be far better known and appreciated.

Alice A. Bailey

 

How Alice Bailey entered my life

I have been told many a time that when a seeker draws near to Alice Bailey, strange things happen and life seems to have a charge to it that it didn’t have before. Here is my story…

Alice Bailey

Finding Astrology

In 1990 I moved to Perth, Western Australia, and within a few weeks of my arrival I stumbled on astrology. I was staying in a cockroach-infested flat and one morning I decided to rid the place of the infestation by setting off an insecticide bomb. Only it meant I had to leave the flat for eight hours. It was summer, I had no money, so where would I go? I walked to the nearest library, and as I entered the air-conditioned cool, my eyes were drawn to some shelves containing the reference section – dictionaries and the like. In amongst the other ordinary books was an astrological ephemeris, a book detailing the daily positions of the planets in our solar system in relation to the zodiac for a period of a hundred years. I took the book and sat down to peruse the pages.

I found I had no trouble understanding the information. I knew all the glyphs and what each meant. It didn’t even occur to me that this in itself was a bit weird. How did I know all this? In the front of that particular edition were instructions on how to cast your own horoscope. I went to the front desk and acquired some scrap paper. A couple of hours later I had my chart, bar the rising sign. It turned out I needed another book to calculate that, so I headed to the state library in the city centre, found said book, and did the calculation. Then, I went home. I thought nothing of it.

Three days later, I was invited by a friend – who had the lease on the cockroach-infested flat – for coffee in town. He introduced me to another friend, a lecturer at a nearby university. This lecturer offered to drive me home and on the way he asked me about my interests. I told him, tentatively, that I had just discovered astrology and told him the story. He swung by his office and directed me to a bottom shelf behind the door. There, hidden away was a row of astrology books! He told me to take what I wanted. I selected twelve books. That night, I didn’t sleep. I was up, with the cockroaches. I didn’t know it then, but those cockroaches were the catalyst for a protracted phase of self-discovery and New Age exploring.

An Alice Bailey Book

Three years passed and I was studying for a diploma in transpersonal counselling. On the course I made a friend, enigmatic Claudio. Our friendship was intense and laced with romance although we both knew it wouldn’t last. He invited me back to his house one evening and while I stood in the hall he disappeared, returning a few moments later with a book proffered on upturned palms. It was dark blue and carried the title “Esoteric Astrology”. I gazed in wonder. ‘A gift,’ he said. He went on to explain how he had packed up his possessions in Adelaide some months before, as he prepared to drive across the desert to Perth, and he could only take with him what he could fit in his car. He saw the book, which he had bought in a second-hand book store, and hesitated. What on earth did he want to keep that book for? It weighed a fair bit, he had no interest in astrology and had never heard of Alice Bailey. But it seemed important and he felt compelled to keep it. When he met me, he realised why. ‘This book is meant for you,’ he said.

Esoteric Astrology

I had not heard of Alice Bailey either, but I took the book home and devoured it. There was something so intriguing and compelling about the writing, even as I scarcely understood a word of what was written. I wanted to know. And that desire, that need to know propelled me forwards.

Alice Bailey marked the end of that part of my journey. My life became very, very hard after that. I endured a decade of struggle and testing. A period of darkness in which I was forced to prove my worth as a human being. At the end of the decade, Alice Bailey unexpectedly re-entered my life. That story is even stranger than this.

Over the years I have bought the whole collection of Alice Bailey’s writings. I have read most. Something changed when I first encountered the Blue Books. I changed. The way I understood reality shifted. I will try to explain that shift another time.

I have always held the Alice Bailey teachings lightly and have never considered myself an adherent, but there is no need to be. All esoteric knowledge  is charged with a certain energy. Only, the knowledge exists behind a veil and to pass through that veil and enter into the realm, you need to have an esoteric disposition. What is that? Well, unbeknownst to me until I met the cockroaches, I had no idea I had one.

Twenty-five years later, and that early interest has culminated in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey