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April 6, 2004
Arthur Edward WaiteBy Lee Prosser
Arthur Edward Waite was one of the most influencial English occultists of his time. His prolific literary output included over seventy books. Born on October 2, 1857, he was educated at St. Charles College in England and edited a magazine titled "The Unknown World." He died on May 19, 1942.
Waite was known by many names including Christian mystic, scholar, poet, occultist, and Golden Dawn Adept. His interests and scholarship covered many areas such as the Tarot, The Golden Dawn, Rosicrucianism, Qabalah, and Magick.
One of his most famous books is The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. Waite designed an intricate deck for tarot use; and he made popular the spread known as the Celtic Cross, which is taught in the First Order of the Golden Dawn.
An early member of The Golden Dawn, he would later found the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross during 1916. Waite's direct connection, involvement, and writings for The Golden Dawn are among his most important contributions.
Waite emphasized mysticism over magick. Waite was also highly gifted in the use of magick.
Much has been written about Waite since his death, and a large portion of his books are in print. For further information into the thoughts of this remarkable man, here are some of his published books: Book of Ceremonial Magic, Book of the Holy Grail, Quest of the Golden Stairs, Belle and the Dragon, Unknown World, Works of Thomas Vaughan, Understanding the Tarot Deck, The Way of Divine Union, Strange Houses of Sleep, Azoth or the Star in the East, Book of Spells, Collected Poems of Arthur Edward Waite, The Golden Dawn Tarot, Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus, Hidden Church of the Holy Grail, New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Raymond Lully: Illuminated Doctor, Alchemist and Christian Mystic, Secret Doctrine in Israel, Three Famous Mystics, Turba Philosophorum, Understanding the Tarot Deck, and The Way of Divine Union.
As a personal note, I wrote about Waite in my published collection, Night Tigers, and in my published memoir, Isherwood, Bowles, Vedanta, Wicca, and Me. My late Uncle, Willard David Firestone (1909 - 1979) was a gifted composer-pianist who was deeply engaged in the study of the occult and mysticism. He corresponded with Waite. I recall seeing a tarot card with a few short hand-written verses on it written by Waite titled "Look Within," among Firestone's papers.
Waite remains one of the most interesting occult scholars, most of his writings are still in print and available to the reading public. Waite was a dedicated scholar and his writings reflect his research, beliefs, and searches.
Lee Prosser is Ghostvillage.com's book reviewer and a regular contributor.