Over the years, I’ve been influenced by many writers, artists, and thinkers. Aesthetically, I was influenced early on by Japanese designers Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo, as well as Japanese author Yukio Mishima. In regard to art, I have long had an interest in Ukiyo-e, the paintings of Gerhard Richter, and American painters Richard Diebenkorn, Fritz Scholder, and Wayne Tiebaud, among others.
Spiritually, there are probably too many influences to name. Some of the authors on spirituality that I came across early on include Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, and Mircea Eliade. I was always impressed by the ability of Crowley to explore religion, the occult (“Magick”), poetry, mountaineering, boxing, and painting, though I do not consider myself to be a follower of his in any way, shape, or form. I do, however, believe that we should all develop different interests (physical, spiritual, and intellectual) and different aspects of ourselves. I was also impressed by Eliade’s ability to explore and write about shamanism, yoga, and initiation with great seriousness. More recently, I’ve been exploring the much misunderstood and misrepresented tradition of “positive thinking,” mainly through the writing and lectures of Mitch Horowitz.
I began to be interested in spirituality at around 15 years of age when I bought my first book on esotericism and meditation. I tried meditating but, without guidance, I understood little. At the age of 17, however, I came across an esoteric bookstore a few miles from where I lived and was soon reading about everything from shamanism and pre-Christian religion to alchemy, mysticism, Tarot, and ceremonial magic. At the same time, I began practicing Kundalini (Chakra) meditation, which I still practice today (though it has changed and developed over the years).
From about 17 to 20 years of age, I had a strong interest in what is somewhat clumsily referred to as the occult. It inspired me artistically, and it opened me up to the idea of a spiritual reality. But many of the people I encountered were cult-like, morbid, and shallow (though I have met stable, normal, intelligent people in that world since then), and so I began to search in other areas. I immersed myself in the study of Zen Buddhism and Taoism, began staying at a Benedictine monastery each year, and, a little later, took up the practice of Kung fu. (It was around this time that I came across Yukio Mishima and Japanese aesthetics.)
In early 2013, I began to regard myself as a follower of the dharma — a term associated with Buddhism and “Hinduism.” (The term “Hinduism” was first used by the British colonial powers to describe the colonized people of India — some Hindus prefer the term Sanatana Dharma to describe Hinduism). Today, however, while I continue to practice various forms of Buddhist- or Hindu-influenced meditation (including Kundalini), I feel it important to explore wherever my studies take me and to integrate my spirituality into my ordinary life as much as possible. My current interests include positive thinking, self-development (including physical training), Western esotericism, and — from an intellectual standpoint — Islam.
I practiced Shaolin Nam Pai Chuan Kung fu in London for a couple of years in my twenties, but let my practice lapse (with occasional classes in Kung fu and Tai Chi). However, having moved to the USA, some years ago I also took up the practice of traditional Chinese Kung fu. This involves both developing the physical body and physical skills, as well as developing the character, and practicing meditation and Chi Gong. I have found this to be an incredible path for self-development and recommend that anyone serious about spirituality take up a martial art. And I encourage everyone (especially women) to learn some self-defense.
My paintings have been exhibited in London, New York, and California. One painting from an early show at the Red Dot gallery was published in The Passion magazine, launched by Debbie Harry and others. Details of some of my esoteric paintings were reproduced in Robert Lomas’s The Secret Power of Masonic Symbols (2011). A detail of one of my paintings (oil on canvas) was also used for the cover of my book Freemasonry: Foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition (Salamander and Sons, 2014). Also in 2014, a number of my paintings were shown at the Henry W. Coil – Library & Museum, California.
Although I have painted several Masonic and esoteric works, thematically I am probably mostly influenced by Ukiyo-e (“the floating world”) with its depiction of the ordinary world and ordinary pleasures as both fleeting and yet representative of the spiritual (i.e., the notion of “Samsara is Nirvana”).
As you might have guessed, when it comes to writing, my main interest is in the history of spiritual thought and practice, and contemporary spirituality and self-development practices. My articles and papers have been published in New Dawn magazine, The Journal of Indo-European Studies and Philalethes, and at Disinfo dot com, among others.
I wrote my first book, Freemasonry: A History (75,000 words, over 150 images), in 2004-2005, after being approached by Greenwich Editions, London. The book required not only extensive research, reading obscure publications and even obscurer rituals from the last few hundred years, but also examining and photographing artifacts from the Chancellor Robert R Livingston Library and Museum, New York.
In 2014, Freemasonry: Foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition (45,000 words, plus illustrations) was published by Salamander and Sons. This work explores the development of the symbolism and ritualism of the fraternity/movement and its influence on the modern occult tradition.
My third book, The Crescent and the Compass: Islam, Freemasonry, Esotericism and Revolution in the Modern Age breaks new ground in the relationship between Islam and the West over the last 150 years, especially within the world of esotericism.