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Robert William Felkin

c. 1858-1922

by Ithel Colquhoun

From external link Ithel ColquhounThe Sword of Wisdom MacGregor Mathers & the Golden Dawn G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1975, pp.148-9

Like Algernon Blackwood, Felkin studied medicine at Edinburgh University; when partly qualified he travelled to Africa as a medical missionary but returned after a year or two and finished his studies.

He practised medicine in Edinburgh where he and his first wife, Mary, joined Brodie-Innes's Amen-Ra Temple. In the mid-'Nineties they moved to London, Felkin carried on his medical work and both continued their magical career in Isis-Urania. Mary's choice of motto, the drearily-hackneyed Per Aspera Ad Astra, suggests that she was one of Nature's masochists. Felkin's membership of Florence Farr's secret group, The Sphere, developed in him the type of clairvoyance,  trance-mediumship and automatic writing which was to become characteristic of the Order of the Stella Matutina which he later developed.

After the Schism, the 'rump' of Isis-Urania subsisted under confused and varying leadership for a couple of years.. In 1902, with the title of The Mystic Rose, it was governed by a triad from which Percy Bullock soon retired; Felkin stepped into his place.  A year later when A. E. Waite led off his disciples as the 'Holy Order of the Golden Dawn', Felkin rallied the remainder into a nucleus for the mother-lodge of the Stella Matutina, Amoun. This at one time met, strangely enough, in Bassett Road, W. 10., though not, I think, in the house where the Garstins lived later. Felkin, Brodie-Innes and Hugh Elliott constituted its first triad; and if Felkin had not salvaged something of value he could scarcely have retained the support of so adroit a manipulator of magical current as W. B. Yeats.

Felkin's second wife, Ethel (Quaero Lucem), was strongly mediumistic and her occult partnership with him was close and enduring.  Felkin himself was no mean clairvoyant and together with his wife and daughter - sitting as a family 'circle', it seems - he made in 1908 contact with an entity calling himself Ara ben Shemesh. This was a discarnate Arab who claimed affiliation with the desert-temple visited by Father Christian Rosenkreutz on his Middle Eastern pilgrimage. Felkin, realising a magical sodality's need for contact with the inner planes, accepted Ara ben Shemesh as his teacher and the latter's 'Sun-Masters' as his Secret Chiefs. Yeats, not to be outdone, contacted an Arab teacher of his own, Leo Africanus.

Both before and after the advent of Ara ben Shemesh, Felkin sought to re-establish the link with the Rosicrucian Adepts in Germany who had been indicated (however vaguely) in Wynn Westcott's Cypher MSS and consequent correspondence. He and his wife undertook several journeys on the Continent with this end in view and their contacts with Rudolf Steiner there coloured henceforward the égégore of all Ste/la Matutina Lodges in varying degrees. A cognate quest also undertaken by them was the search for Christian Rosenkreutz's tomb described in the Fama Fraternitatis; but this proved a wild goose chase. A German girl I met at one of the Yeats Summer Schools in Sligo told me that students seeking a Baroque theme for a thesis still from time to time engage in this quest. Some have taken even the scanty data in the Fama to be a blind and have sought the tomb in the Leipzig region - not surprisingly, without success, since only those of the right grade could hope to find it.

Felkin had been made a Mason in 1907 which facilitated his relations with Continental Masonic bodies. In 1912 he and his family paid a prolonged visit to New Zealand which may have been Masonically motivated: it is certain that when he finally settled in that country it was as Inspector of the Soc. Ros. Colleges there. It was on this first time round that he founded the eldest SM daughter-lodge, the Smaragdum Thalasses.

On returning to Britain Felkin with tireless zeal founded three more daughter-Lodges, a side-Order and the Guild of St. Raphael before settling finally with his wife and family in New Zealand. One wonders how they managed the journey since the German U-boat activity of the 1914-18 War was then at its height and civilian travel, particularly by sea, was discouraged. Evidently the Doctor had 'friends at Court'.

After a few years he found it impossible to govern Amoun Temple from a distance, as Mathers before him had discovered in the case of Isis-Urania, and severed his connection with it; thereafter it soon fell into disintegration. He continued to govern Smaragdum Thalasses until his death in the 1920's, when his wife took over.


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Dissident Orders Deriving from Isis Urania no.3

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page uploaded 9 March 2000