Not As Sharp As Occam’s Razor

As previously documented here, The Black Alchemist was Andrew Collins’ self-published sleeper hit which kicked off a flurry of interest in psychic questing. His followup would actually get issued via Arrow, a mainstream publisher, and would be his magnum opus: whilst he had written accounts of psychic quests before and after, none would be as massive, wide-ranging, or take in such a broad picture of his questing career from its inception in 1979 to the book’s emergence in 1991. That book would be The Seventh Sword, perhaps the deepest dive you could take into psychic questing without getting up and actually dabbling in it yourself.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part constitutes Collins’ definitive account of the finding of the Green Stone and the associated Meonia Sword – as he’d previously recounted in his self-published pamphlet The Sword and the Stone, and as Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman detailed in The Green Stone. Far from redundant, this involves Collins going into the subject in substantially greater depth than any previous recounting of the story, and delving into subjects that Phillips and Keatman had only glancingly addressed.

The second part picks up a few years later and takes in a span of some six years; after Collins learns that the Meonia Sword was not a unique artifact, but part of a set of seven, bit by bit the other swords are uncovered. It turns out that the occultists who’d hidden them in past centuries had intended that they be used in a ritual known as the Form of the Lamb, to unfold at a location known as the Heart of the Rose, in order to herald the coming of the Messiah and other such high spiritual and utopian goals. Eventually six swords are discovered, leaving only the titular Seventh Sword – which, due to its association with the powers of darkness, was known as the Black Sword. The book concludes with Collins still searching for it and encouraging readers to help out in the quest.

Over both parts, Collins and his allies must tangle not only with the difficulties of searching out the artifacts but also believe that they are opposed by a grand occult conspiracy – one which the Black Alchemist and his Friends of Hecate were only a local franchise of. With an Illuminati-esque level of power (and the appropriate tangled Masonic heritage), this conspiracy is never too far away. Can Collins and his questers avoid being ground down by… the Wheel???

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Phillips & Keatman, Questers Extraordinaire

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

“Psychic questing” was a short-lived fad, primarily originating in British New Age and paranormal circles. It largely ran its course in the 1980s and 1990s before largely dying down, largely as a result of the prime instigators behind the concept – Andrew Collins and Graham Phillips – largely moving on from it. Both of them shifted gear into pseudo-academic “alternative history”-type books in a Graham Hancock sort of vein; though apparently they occasionally refer to using psychic sources in their material (and Collins himself has made at least one return to the genre – Twenty-First Century Grail – even after primarily shifting into fringe archaeology), they no longer put it front and centre, and tend to play it down when dealing with audiences they know it won’t fly with.

The idea is simple: rather than just deploying psychic talents in a mediumistic manner, sat around a table interviewing any spirits who happen to float by, psychic questing involves going out and about – seeing where your intuition takes you, psychically attuning to the lay of the land (or the ley of the lines), and discovering what there is to discover out there. Psychic questing expeditions tended to involve a lot in the way of uncovering lost artifacts, unravelling the hidden histories of sacred sites, befriending benign spiritual presences and getting spooked by malign ones – in short, all the ingredients of a fun story.

Maybe the participants in the fad were all making shit up, but if they were, everyone seemed to be willing to be mutually taken in. The objective reality of what they were getting up to has, of course, severe question marks over it. (For one thing, as much as participants in the scene were convinced that they had moments of genuine spiritual and psychic danger, I’m not aware of any instance where a quest went wrong to an extent that this danger actually came to its full fruition.) Nonetheless, it’s a field of paranormal research where, even if it’s all nonsense, at least the participants are telling an interesting story that’s a bit different from the usual table-rapping seances or channellings of New Agey platitudes.

To my knowledge, the first authors whose psychic questing chronicles became published via a major publisher (as opposed to releasing their results in self-published pamphlets) were Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman, who collaborated on two books that got published through Spearman and Grafton and paved the way for later offerings in the same microgenre.

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