a mystical tradition within a strong religious context rather unlike the
other "Craft" or neo-pagan traditions you may have encountered. It's focus
is on bringing about a change within the participant through work with
certain elements that may be vaguely similar to the Zen Koan -- but which
are certainly different from that. This is sort of an accumulation of,
or a creation of, a "personal power" which comes about not from what you
know, but from what you are. Sean called the way of developing it, learning
to think in "poetic logic". Roy referred to it in his letters to Bill Gray
as "abstract thinking" and related it to the alchemical process of turning
dross into gold. It's a means of strengthening oneself and in the process
of opening oneself up in a manner that allows communication with spirit
and spirits without delusion while maintaining control. In a nutshell it
is the skill of understanding and communicating in the language of poetic
metaphor, the true language of the spirits. A few people can do this naturally,
some have some talent at it that can be awakened and used, and some will
have to work very hard to even get a glimmer. This is what Roy was referring
to when he wrote that: "A Crafter is born not made, or if one is to be
made, then tears are spilt before the Moon can be Drawn."
The mysticism of 1734 isn't something that one can gain any value from simply by reading about it. All reading about it does is allow you to accumulate information, not gain knowledge or wisdom. Instead the techniques must be practiced, and in putting them into practice we go through the internal change that Roy compared with the alchemist's work of changing dross into gold. It's a long, slow process, and often a painful one, yet to those of us who are addicted to it, it's the only one that holds us with the compulsion that is only understood by few.
Both Sean and Roy used Robert Graves' The White Goddess as an aid to illustrate their points, and as a tool to help to teach a person to develop that "poetic way of thinking" that is the key to this type of Craft. I took a cue from them and used it myself, insisting that those who wanted to learn 1734 obtain and read that book -- not in order to learn the mythology of different peoples (there are many better sources for mythological information that Graves' works), but rather to begin to learn to look at things with the eyes of a poet.
Like Sean and Roy I used poetry and riddles to help people on their path to awakening this special something that is within. Both warned against turning things into dogma, and I passed those warnings on -- but human nature being what it is the warnings were ignored as often as not.
Unfortunately very few of the people who came to my circles wanting to be taught had much inclination to wade through Graves' very difficult writing, yet I felt an understanding of the process of "poetic grammar" that he was illustrating was extremely important. In order to give them some incentive I told them about how the clues to some of the riddles in Roy's letters to me were found in The White Goddess , and that by studying it they could find the answers to them. That helped, but it often was not enough.
When Roy was writing to me and telling me about things he was using that language of poetic metaphor. I already understood a lot of it because of my background with the Wichita group. He actually only gave me three puzzles to work out, and in each case provided all of the necessary clues to arrive at a poetic understanding of their meaning in the letter in which he presented those puzzles.
The first question had to do with the symbol that I later adopted to represent the 1734 tradition. The symbol consists of three lines \|/ atop an equal armed cross + and the question was phrased: "This breaks down into 7. Work out what it means." That was a fairly easy one for me. I responded to Roy that what I saw was that it was 1 symbol, made up of 7 parts, of which 3 were the slanted lines above and 4 were the four short lines that met together and made a cross below. So the answer was that the symbol means "1734". I also pointed out that separately the symbols rather graphically depicted the female \|/ and male + (another form of .|.) genitals, and that when symbol was combined rather than separated it showed the union of male and female forces -- God the Totality. In commenting upon my correct understanding of that meaning Roy gave more information about the mysticism he associated with that grouping of numerals.
While studying numerology and the numbers associated with the English alphabet, the Hebrew Alphabet, and the Greek alphabet, it occurred to me that it would be clever to disguise a pronounceable word as a number. I played around with the numerals 1734 in each of those languages, associating the numbers with the different letters, and didn't come up with anything that appealed to me. I mean, 1734 = AGCD in English, and is hardly pronounceable. I ran into similar difficulties in Greek, and didn't really want to use Hebrew, but tried it anyway with the same results.
I had similar disappointments when I tried to use the numerological system that Robert Graves discussed in Chapter 16 of his The White Goddess . Here I had some encouragement though. I didn't care for the association of 1=A 7=P 3=I 4=O because somehow "Apio" just didn't sound pretty to my ears. And so I arbitrarily decided that the first two numbers "17" must be considered a unit not separate digits, and must therefore be associated with the letter H to which Graves did not assign a number. And of course the letter H isn't pronounced, so by extension 1734 would be HIO, and pronounced IO. That appealed to me. It also amused me that Io is the name of a Hellenic White Cow Goddess also identified with the moon.
In order to encourage people to study The White Goddess more thoroughly I told them that among the mysteries of the number 1734 was also hidden "a secret name of The Goddess" and that it could be found in that book. Thus a new riddle was born, though in some circles it came to be accepted as a dogma rather than as a means to understanding the poetic language.
The next question Roy asked me was "What two words were not spoken from the cauldron." And that one, in my rush to get a reply to him, I got totally wrong. His answer and the explanation for it are, in his letters to me.
The third and final question Roy asked me was to interpret a symbol. That again is found at the end of one of his letters to me. I never answered that; it got set-aside in the flurry of other activity that was going on in my life at the time.
In his first letter to me Roy introduced himself by saying "I know the right and left hand language, the story of the flood, and of the child that survived, I have seen One become Seven, and Seven One, "Whirled without motion between three Elements", as Gwion said and am still learning how many beans make five, and the number of steps in a ladder."
That quote is classical Robert Cochrane -- a mixture of quotes from literature and common colloquialisms used in a poetic manner. Two "riddles" have been extracted from that introductory paragraph, misunderstood, and turned into dogma by some groups. I must accept some of the blame for that error.
I found it amusing to ask people, "How many beans make five?" and "How many steps in a ladder?" as two of the riddles used to help them to open up and attain that understanding of the language of poetic metaphor. Both were never intended by Roy to be questions, but were simply the use of common British colloquialisms that roughly translate to "…am still being educated and haven't reached the end of my journey yet." Those questions would mean nothing special to an English person who heard them many times throughout their lives, and therefore would be useless as "mystical questions" in England. However in the United States the differences in the languages and the customs made them fun choices for me to use.
At one point, I was teaching people that many answers to the old ways, (folkways, folk magic and beliefs, "traditional witchcraft") can be found in surviving fairy tales. I suggested that people could find the answer to "How many beans make five?" by reading Jack in the Beanstalk since beans play a prominent role in the little thief's adventures. In fact, in at least one version of the story the person who buys the cow says to Jack, "You look like a bright lad. Tell me, how many beans make five?" And Jack replies brightly, "Oh, that's easy! Two in each hand, and one in the mouth!" Suitably impressed the stranger exchanges his five beans for Jack's cow. Since then some Americans have decided not only that "How many beans make five?" is a "traditional witch question" but also that the one and only correct answer is "Two in each hand and one in the mouth." So much for warnings about dogma!
"Let those who have ears to hear, hear, and those who have eyes to see, see."