Friday, 25 October 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Unlikely Occultist by Isobel Blackthorn

"While this book is interesting, it’s not for everyone. Like its subject it is erudite and deep. But it did something for me few other books have done."


 Biographical Fiction/ Family drama
modern/early-mid twentieth century

Alice Bailey was an aristocrat and an evangelical Christian. As a young woman she did missionary work in soldiers’ homes in Ireland and India. Marriage to a violent man produced three daughters. When he abandoned them, Alice was destitute. She worked for several years packing sardines in a canning factory in order to feed herself and her children. But she was a purposeful and ambitious woman determined to rise above these appalling conditions. Seeking some intellectual stimulation, she attended a meeting of theosophists and found her calling. 

Heather is an archivist, who has a hundred boxes of a late professor’s work on Bailey dumped on her, including many of Bailey’s books. Heather is soon engaged, and we see Bailey’s life and work through her sensitive and sympathetic eyes. She has her own issues: a recently dead and beloved aunt and a domineering mother.

This was not an easy read and I found myself having to read parts again. Bailey was not only an occultist and an esoteric, but her teachings also encompassed metaphysics, spirituality, and cosmology among other arcane subjects, all of which are on the very periphery of my core of knowledge. She was called by some the Mother of the Aquarian New Age, and she was certainly an important influencer. Others denigrated her as a disciple of the Antichrist. 

As Heather digs deeper, she embarks on a quest to discover why Bailey was loved and revered by some, reviled by others and largely ignored by eminent historians and academics. The answer may surprise. Despite all, Bailey’s teachings and the organisations she founded have endured.

Not all of Bailey’s writings are her own. She transcribed telepathic messages from an entity she called the Tibetan whose purpose was to found a new world order, with one government, one people, peace and harmony. The nearest we have come is the United Nations.

While this book is interesting, it’s not for everyone. Like its subject it is erudite and deep. But it did something for me few other books have done by opening a whole world of new thoughts and ideas.

© Susan Appleyard

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