Oddcast episode

Sørina Higgins on Modernist Drama and Ceremonial Magic

Sørina Higgins has looked deeply into the Modernist stage, with a view to understanding the interrelations between the triad of Modernism – drama – the esoteric. Sørina’s research set out to answer several questions: How many modernist playwrights (English and Irish, between 1890 and 1945) were initiates in Occultist societies? How many of these were involved in ceremonial magic? Did that magic influence their plays, and, if so, how?

The answers make for a fascinating interview. We set out a few terms of discourse (‘Modernism’, ‘Occultism’, and ‘the Esoteric’) and then dive into a number of case-studies of ceremonial magic on the stage, including the works of William Butler Yeats, Arthur Edward Waite, Charles Williams, and Aleister Crowley, and featuring a host of supporting characters from the Occultist demi-monde. We also discuss the problem of ‘revealing the secrets’ in the context of initiatory drama, and where, precisely, the difference between initiatory, Occultist drama and ceremonial magic might lie.

Interview Bio:

Sørina Higgins is an editor, writer, English teacher, and scholar of British modernist literature. She Higgins earned her PhD in 2021 at Baylor University in Waco, TX, where she studied the role of ceremonial magic in modernist theatre. In 2022, she founded the Signum University Press and worked as its first Editor-in-Chief. She has taught courses in literature, creative writing, and academic writing for over two decades in a variety of settings. She is currently writing The Oddest Inkling: An Introduction to Charles Williams, due out in 2024 from Apocryphile Press, and From Thaumaturgy to Dramaturgy: Staging Occult Modernism. She previously edited an academic essay collection entitled The Inklings and King Arthur. She is the author of the blog The Oddest Inkling, devoted to a systematic study of Charles Williams’ works.

Works Cited in this Episode:


Aristotle on the mystic initiation as something experienced: Ἀριστοτέλης ἀξιοῖ τοὺς τετελεσμένους οὐ μαθεῖν τι δεῖν, ἀλλὰ παθεῖν καὶ διατέθηναι δηλονότι γινομένους ἐπιτηδείους. ap. Synesius of Cyrene, Dio, sive de suo ipsius instituto 10 = PG 46, 1133 = fr. 15 Rose.

Aleister Crowley. The God-Eater: a Tragedy of Satire. Watts & Co., London, 1903.

Aleister Crowley. Ali Sloper; or, The Forty Liars: A Christmas Diversion. In The Equinox, volume Konx Om Pax. Essays in Light, pages 19-26. Walter Scott Publishing Company / Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth (S.P.R.T.), London, 1907.

Aleister Crowley. The Rites of Eleusis, volume I,6 of The Equinox: The Review of Scientic Illuminism. Ordo Templi Orientis, Thelema Publications, New York, 1986.

Ezra Pound. Guide to Kulchur. New Directions, New York, NY, 1968, p. 145: ‘The mysteries self-defended, the mysteries that can not be revealed. The dull can neither penetrate the secretum nor divulge it to others.’

Israel Regardie. The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN, 7th edition, revised and corrected by John Michael Greer, 2015.

Arthur Edward Waite. The Book of the King’s Dole. In Strange Houses of Sleep, pages 255-322. Philip Sinclair Wellby, London, 1906.

Arthur Edward Waite. The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal. Rebman Limited, 1909. Internet Archive.


Charles Williams. Charles Williams: Collected Plays. Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, BC, 2006.

William Butler Yeats. The Words Upon the Window-Pane. In The Collected Plays of W. B. Yeats, pages 374-88. Macmillan, New York, 1934.

William Butler Yeats. The Countess Cathleen. In Russell K. Alspach and Catharine C. Alspach, editors, The Variorum Edition of the Plays of W. B. Yeats, pages 11-79. Macmillan, New York, NY, 1961.

William Butler Yeats. A Vision: The Original 1925 Version, volume XIII of The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats. Scribner, New York, 2008.


There is a cool write-up about Sullivan’s/Matthews’ Rosicrucian Theatre in Christchurch here; sadly, the building no longer exists.

Grevel Lindop. Charles Williams: The Third Inkling. The University Press, Oxford, 2015.

Mark Morrisson. Modern Alchemy: Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory. The University Press, Oxford, 2007.

Barbara Newman. Charles Williams and the Companions of the Co-inherence. Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, 9(1):1 26, 2009.

Recommended Reading:

SHWEP Occult Modernist Drama Recommended Reading


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