Monday 4 May 2015

In Search of the Miraculous #3: Murry Hope

The author picture from the back of my copy of  Ancient Egypt: The Sirius Connection, the only picture I could find of Murry Hope.
 In the 1970s and 1980s, long before the internet became what it is now, specialist magazines were absolutely the only place you could go for information on the news and controversies of your field. Prediction, of which my dad was a regular reader (and by extension, I was too, although he didn't know that) was the only important news source for the occult scene in the UK. In its pages I first learned about the Green Children of Woolpit, Mother Shipton, Rasputin, the Golem, the Philadelphia Experiment, the Necronomicon (long before I ever heard of Call of Cthulhu) and how you could sharpen razors in pyramids.

It was the fuel for my childhood dreams and a bunch of my nightmares, a treasury of forbidden knowledge, and I used to become quite adept at finding the places where dad hid them. Mum threw a load of them away after Dad died, but I managed to rescue a good thirty or so, and have on occasion found more on Ebay (if you have any from 1979 to 1985 lying around, by the way, let me know. I'm looking to fill those gaps).

On the letters page of the April 1985 edition is the following missive:

I don't have a single doubt that MH was Murry Hope. She was an astrologer, a Wicca priestess, a ritual magician, and an occult entrepreneur. And "interpreting... in the light of her own prejudices" was pretty much what she was all about. 

Murry Hope was hugely prolific, and all over the pages of Prediction. She died in 2012, aged 82.

In that same issue MH gives a glowing review of a book called The Evidence for UFOs and a damning review of The Traveller's Guide to the Astral Plane. "Mr Richards," MH writes, "has apparently also written masterpieces on how to levitate and become invisible so perhaps it is too much to expect anything better from his pen. What next? How to walk on water in seven easy lessons perhaps."


Meanwhile, on the page facing Ward Rutherford's letter is this ad:
I would also like some Cartouche cards, but unopened packs now go for £150 a shot, so maybe not.
Cartouche cards were a thing back in the 1980s, certainly enough that my friends at Swansea Egypt Centre were aware of them, one of those things that got mentioned with a groan in the same breath as Graham Hancock and Erik von Däniken.

Aside from a bunch of articles, reviews and ads in Prediction I have two books by her on Atlantis (which repeat a lot of material word for word, admittedly), and one on Egypt.
Murry Hope: more stuff in my Atlantis collection than any other writer.
In all of those, the author is front and centre. No pretence of objectivity is there - no, that's not quite true. What is there is the unshakeable belief that her experience is objective truth.

She knew without any doubt what she had felt and seen, and all other facts had to be shaped around her experience. She was as solid in her beliefs, in her private dogma, as the most fanatical Elim Pentecostal.

She believed in an unbroken tradition of "Celtic" druidic magic from the Roman occupation to the present day. She believed that Egypt's civilisation was a benefice of the Paschats, the Lion People from Sirius. And Murry Hope believed without any doubt at all that she had, in a previous life, lived in Atlantis.

Her articles and books on Egypt mention the lion people and Atlantis. Her books on Atlantis mention the lion people and Egypt. It's clear that the three things are intertwined in her head.

It's also pretty obvious she was an autodidact. In her books she makes assumptions about science and archaeology that are, I think, in good faith but which reveal a lack of basic knowledge of how research actually works, so for example, quoting Nazi rocket scientist Otto Muck's book The Secret of Atlantis she observes that he has to be trustworthy as an archaeologist and geologist, because he was a top flight (Nazi) rocket scientist:
"Muck himself was well qualified to comment on such matters, having worked on the Peenemunde Rocket Research Team in World War II."
Hope, Atlantis: Myth or Reality? Arkana 1991, pp99-100
Of course this is in the most literal possible sense not rocket science.

I have Muck's book too. It isn't that good (I know I said he was a Nazi twice, but you can't understate that).

Another sign of the autodidact is that Hope had no real clue as to what to leave out of a book. In Ancient Egypt: the Sirius Connection, for example, she includes (in a book that is, granted, a work of fringe archaeology that heavily features cat people from outer space) magical rituals you can try at home. I mean it's all New Age and mystical and stuff, but from a writer's perspective, it's a crazy change of tone. It's a matter of editing, really. The book doesn't, as a work, require it.

She read other, earlier mystical authorities in the light of her own beliefs. So for instance, she didn't rate the idea that Atlantis was a slave taking culture because she didn't see any slaves herself. There's a whole raft of objections to that, even if you take her experiences as true. Just because you didn't see any doesn't mean they weren't there. 

It's really easy to laugh at Murry Hope. Richard Ellis, in his otherwise excellent book Imagining Atlantis (Knopf 1998, pp.64-71), takes nearly a whole chapter to demolish and ridicule Hope's work, and he clearly resents even having to. Not one thing he says is wrong, but it's really uncharitable in tone. Even vicious. But then Ellis had to deal with a lot of stupid stuff in his research and if he comes over a bit Dawkins sometimes, he can be forgiven.

Don't laugh. In Hope's writing there's a sense also that you're reading the work of someone whose prejudices are both harmful and the result of being harmed in the past. I personally think she was pretty damaged, although that's my reading between the lines conjecture. 

The main thing for me is that she had, I think, endured a hell of a lot of grief at the hands of Christians (and bear in mind that "spiritual warfare" charismatic Christianity was in its first ascendance in the UK at about the time she was writing, so at the time militant Christians really were going out of their way to be right up in pagan and New Age faces). No mention of anything even remotely Christian or Biblical in Hope's work is left without a swipe at Christians, or an expression of the assumption that Christianity is basically shitty from the get go.

On Edgar Cayce, who placed the Garden of Eden in Atlantis, she writes:
"One of the problems with the Cayce readings would appear to be the subtle intrusion of his own religious upbringing and social conditioning... His psychic gift is unquestionable, though, and a little logical application and empirical research soon serves to sort the wheat from the Biblical chaff."
Hope, The Ancient Wisdom of Atlantis (published in 1991 as Practical Atlantean Magic), Thorsons edition 1995, p.74
Rudolf Steiner, likewise, she discounts as rubbish, giving as the main reason that "his doctrines do carry a distinctly Christian bias" (The Ancient Wisdom of Atlantis, p.171).

On race she's more muted than many of her predecessors but mentions that while she doesn't necessarily agree with the racial hierarchy in the Theosophical view, "she would not dare to pass judgement" on it (Atlantis: Myth or Reality? p.289).

Whyever not? If she was able to discount whole bodies of work from other psychics on the basis of her prejudices and opinions (and remember, in her world view, her experiences and those of her friends were authoritative and the lens through which others' experiences were interpreted) why couldn't she simply say, this is wrong?

I mean I'm pretty sure that it's all myth, and as such fair game for revision, but she was not afraid to revise other psychic experiences.

On Blavatsky and Scott-Elliot, she writes:
"The Theosophical material on Atlantis is lengthy and detailed, and a little too Mu-an (the Indian influence, no doubt. Not that this is a bad thing in itself, but since Atlantis and Mu were vastly different cultures I do feel that a clear distinction should be effected."
Hope, The Ancient Wisdom of Atlantis, p.169
Or, because it's been influenced by Hinduism, it's not her thing and not her Atlantis. Or, to put it another way, their Atlantis is not white enough (their Lemuria is fine though). Which is weird because Scott-Elliot's Atlantis and Lemuria are really very distinct indeed. His Lemuria is basically a mashup of The Lost World and The Coming Race with cooler cavemen; his Atlantis is a magical and romantic steam-age utopia.

I don't think Hope was actively racist, and I reckon she'd have been horrified that the thought was even directed at her. But the passive racism of her (my parents') generation runs through her work.

Murry Hope, although she was prolific, lived too late to be one of the formative writers of the New Age, and as far as I can tell had little influence outside of the UK. Less than three years after her death, she's barely a footnote in some circles. But in the Atlantis cycle, she's absolutely vital and deserves reading, if only to see where certainty gets you in the world of the mystic.