Ireland’s books: Magic, White and Black

One of the books on Ireland’s shelves was Franz Hartmann’s Magic, White and Black. Published in its English translation in 1914, this gives us an interesting connection between the composer and theosophy. In his introduction to the book, Hartmann states that the (fairly hefty) tome was originally written ‘for the purpose of disenchanting certain credulous inquirers, who fancied that the exercise of spiritual powers could be taught by teaching them certain incantations and formulas. It was to prove that spiritual powers must be developed before they can be exercised, and to explain the conditions necessary for their development’.

While Ireland was never part of twentieth-century theosophical circles, he did maintain an interest in the occult and mystical thought, in part through his associations with Peter Warlock in the 1920s, subsequently through his friendship with Arthur Machen. Hartmann (1838–1912) was a German theosophist and Rosicrucian whose work also had an impact on Aleister Crowley and his followers.

Delving deeper into this book, which is available complete HERE, its attraction to Ireland becomes clearer. Hartmann recounts many stories of mysterious visions, akin to that experienced by Ireland himself on Harrow Hill. For example, this account would have resonated with the composer:

Mr Whitworth, a clairvoyant, describes how in his youth, while seeing a German professor perform on an organ, he noticed a host of appearances moving about the keyboard – veritable Lilliputian sprites, fairies, and gnomes, astonishingly minute in size, yet as perfect in form and features as any of the larger people in the room. He described them as being divided into sexes and clothed in a most fantastic manner; in form, appearance, and movement they were in perfect accord with the theme.

There is also an entire chapter on harmony, discord and the music of the spheres.

Glancing across the list of Ireland’s books, this work is one of a number of texts on similar matters, to be pursued further, among them a signed copy of Cyril Scott’s An Outline of Modern Occultism.

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