OT Charles Williams

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Oct 29 06:36:52 EST 2003

Charlie wrote:

>OT, and just thinking about Uncle A again - I  have a vague memory that
>Charles Williams, CS Lewis's great chum, was a member of the Golden Dawn
>or at least on friendly terms with magicians like A.E. Waite - anyone know
>if that's right?

Williams was a magical dabbler, certainly, from an early age, and got into
the less respectable side via the Rosicrucians; he was initiated into the
Golden Dawn in 1917 as a disciple of Waite's, and into Waite's schismatic
"temple" rather than the bit infested at the time by Alasteir Crowley, who
went off and did his own thing.  Yeats was also involved (now there's an

It seems to have been at least in part because of his strange religious
beliefs (though he always tried to make it clear that he was a christian of
*some* sort) that Tolkien mistrusted him to the point of his being the
cause of a rift between Tolkien and Lewis.  Williams was very charismatic,
and for a long time Lewis thought he was the gnat's spats, a view with
which Tolkien disagreed very strongly.

Maybe Tolkien didn't hold with William's admiration for the work of Crowley
(Williams thought *Moonchild* was wonderful stuff, and if you've read it
you may form your own opinion of whether thinking it great says a lot about
a person...)  And Williams did write poems like "Witchcraft" and
"Antichrist", which if I were a devout Roman Catholic like Tolkien would
certainly make me decidedly edgy about him and his religious beliefs  It
surprises me slightly, always has, that Williams' work didn't equally make
the muscularly Christian Lewis edgy about him, but it seems not to have
done for ages.

I don't know when Williams left the Golden Dawn; he was probably purged at
some point, it seems to have been the usual way to leave.

Oh, and T.S. Eliot thought his novels were wonderful -- which coloured my
thinking about the novels until I had read them, and about Eliot

If Uncle A is a snipe at Williams, it's a posthumous one, becase Williams
died in 1945.

And that will be enough of *that* on a Wednesday.


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