On Robert Cochrane and the encounter with Fate

The bane that Cochrane chose for himself, and the ally he went away with can speak to us about the influence of Saturn and Moon in Cochranes life. He chose to go away tempered by Saturn and use the road of the Moon in the ally Belladonna. Maybe in the choice of ally to take him away to the Hidden Company we can understand more about Cochranes approach to the heart of the matter. The Circle of Tubal Cain and thus understand the magical polarities in his pellar craft, that he demonstrated in ways that seem to be odd as far as his ritual suicide is concerned. The polarities I have in mind are those between Chance or Fate and Wisdom (both in its female octave as well as its demanding form of the Horned Lord) as can be seen in the mysteries held within the realms of Tubal Cain and Lady Fortuna. 

There is a sixteenth-century French engraving that is striking in the case of Cochranes understanding of Fate as Goddess. In this engraving, depicted in Paul Husons book, we see Lady Fortuna sitting across Lady Wisdom (MOT: 37). Lady Fortuna is blindfolded, holding the wheel of humanity in her left hand. Lady Wisdom on the other hand carefully monitors the cosmos and make sure that her image is reflected within creation. Here symbolized by the proper symbol, the mirror, which she hold in her right hand. The Wheel of Fortune is under the dominion of Lady Fortuna and it need to be mirrored by wisdom, since Fate is conceived of as blind – or should one say, that her blindness forces humanity to open their eyes to the influence of Fate? It is my belief that Cochrane realized some profound teachings during the time of difficulty with Jane, which was used by Lady Fortuna and Lady Wisdom to tamper his soul and aspiration, to rejuvenate his soul if you will into a greater level of perfection and humbleness. This, I believe is how one should better view misfortune, as the lesson who tampers our soul into a better condition. One can get the impression that he simply gave up in the face of misfortune (or Miss Fortuna if you will) and searched for a way out with dignity. By searching in Cochranes own words there is perhaps possible to find a clue to this riddle and also extract a lesson.

The premises for Cochranes vision of the Craft are quite simple. He says in one of his few essays: “All mystical thought is based upon one major premise: the realization of truth as opposed to illusion” (RT: 49) And this truth is: ”in essence, means by which man may perceive his own inherent divinity” (ibid. 51). He is using the disputes over witchcraft in the 50s and 60s as the mirror of this fact when he comments that in witchcraft or rather the ideas people is holding about witchcraft in his time there where as much superstition and illusion there as in the outside world. “The Faith is finally concerned with Truth…bringing as it does man into contact with Gods, and man into contact with Self”. (ibid. 56). Cochrane objected to such extents against the dogmatic ways and superstitions that he saw grow up in relation to Wicca simply because here he saw that truth were replaced by illusion. One can of course see this in two ways, either as an attempt of placing him self in the spotlight of the growing interest for witchcraft in the 60s, but also as a man honest in his repulsion of they way the growing wiccan community stepped more and more away from the basic tenants of the Craft, from the Horned Master the Dark Lady and into a reverence of the cycles of nature with a more than motherly Goddess in focus.  As he said: “The inherent philosophy of the Craft was always fluid, and fluid it must become again before it gasps its last under a heap of musty nonsense, half-baked theology and philosophy” (ibid. 51). This he demonstrate greatly in the essay The Faith of the Wise from 1965 where he emphasizes the importance of Experience, Devotion and Vision as the tools toward embracing the truth. This because the faith has no secrets in the sense that there are certain formulas which can bee readily understood and taught. On the contrary he says that the truth can only be grasped by “hard devotional work”, this leads to the vision where one has a direct experience of truth. It is evident to see here the emphasis on the lunar qualities in Cochranes vision of the Craft. Both the techniques and goals, the dangers warned against are all subject to the moon. The peril involved in the Craft is something Cochrane was very much aware of, and his ritual suicide might indicate that we who is left with his legacy in writing - and feel drawn to his spirit should take notice of. 

He says: “First and foremost the Roebuck in the Thicket represents the sprit of sacrifice and leadership It can also represent the idea of fate or destiny in the form of the old Anglo-Saxon “Shapers” who create the future we have to live out” (ibid. 85). He understands very well the peril and dangers and taking up the heritage of the Craft and as his fascination for Graves The White Goddess and his insight into this mystery demonstrated, he also knew how Mother Moon can both feed and eat her offspring. In a way we can see in Cochrane the difficulties of balancing Lady Fortuna and Lady Wisdom in ones life. Understanding by vision and inspiration is different than being challenged by Tubal Cain and have our ferocity tempered, the challenge given in what Cochrane refers to as “overcoming Fate”. This challenge can also be seen in Cochranes idea of initiation. He says: “when the initiate takes the full coven oath they are submitting themselves to the will of Hecate. In a sense by doing this, they then become the Roebuck in the Thicket because they have chosen to follow the path she has selected for them” (ibid. 92/93).

To embrace ones destiny in order to overcome it can in terms of allegory be seen as embracing the Moon while being armed with Saturn. It all is related to Time, Cronos - and by subduing Father Time and catch the connectedness with all things within Time we can establish a foundation for understanding and then a deep overcoming of all challenges, even Fate her self. Cochrane was clear in how he understood the importance of Death, another domain deeply related to the Saturnian sphere. Saturn without understanding easily turns into depression and harboring of malefic elements in ones life, negative outlook on life and fatalism. As Luna can give the visionary experience of profound truth, she can also give the painful stroke that leads to a fall into delusion – into the pit where Saturn and Moon engage in an uncanny union. Cochrane knew this, but apparently he was unable to raise from this pit of uncanny and malefic union of the powerful forces in his life. Lady Wisdom gave him a clear mind, but he chose to enter by Mother Moons ally into the Castle of the never dying rose. As far as death is concerned his ideas and considerations were beautiful and to the point. He says: “Nothing is got by doing nothing and whatever we do now creates the world in which we exist tomorrow. The same applies to death, what we have created in thought we create in that other reality. We should also remember that Desire was the first of all created things” (ibid. 70). And alas, still he escaped from the path Fate laid before him by passing on to the Castle in the way he did rather than overcome Her. 

It is almost as he went against his better insight in inviting Belladonna to take him away, as he said: “the Three Sisters were also considered to be the keepers of the Cauldron of Creation, which is one place where past, present and future are as one yet still in a state of flux, movement and promised potential” (ibid. 88/89). Which again leads to the final challenge: “So, in a sense, when we start to seek out the Goddess and her magic, we are in effect becoming the hunter. Yet when we have found her we then become the hunted, because the Goddess pins us down and makes us hers forever” (ibid. 90). It is in this challenge, when the table turn we need to stand strong and focus on the overcoming by understanding and then the practical application of ones experiences – this is growth. Without Saturn there would be little progress, without Moon there would be little vision. The joining of these forces in a higher unity of acceptance, as ones destiny as unique and grandiose, no matter how insignificant in the great scheme it might be, it is still the greatest force in the life of each and every one. Fate is not related to misfortune, actually, we should perhaps think better about this term misfortune in light of the power Fate present us with in terms of the challenges from which the lessons of growth can be extracted. Armed in the likeness of Tubal Cain we can participate in the forging of our destiny, we embark with courage on the ordeal of overcoming and it is in this light the element of sacrifice related to Roebuck is better understood. As the late magister of Cultus Sabbati, Andrew D. Chumbley said: “The Way of Sacrifice makes Man Whole”. In other words, when Fate present the challenges and we see them as misfortune, this is to miss the whole concept, we reject Lady Wisdom and we focus solely on the blindness of Lady Fortuna and curse her wheel of fortune. With the curse we fall to the lower strands of Father Saturn’s being and we engage into a process of disintegration and pity that makes us blind for the tools willingly offered by Tubal Cain in our battle in the silent castle where we meet not only Her – but  all atrocity and all beauty we know as Self.   

One last and significant point to make here is related to Fate or fatalism in a more philosophical context. There seem to be a gap between Fate and Fatalism. It is like she can inspire the embrace of destiny in ways understood as good and/or bad. In the past when fatalism were a philosophical doctrine, there were nothing significant different between Fate and Fatalism, simply fatalism referred to a submission to Fate, akin to Cochranes ideas. It carried nothing necessarily evil or bad as in terms of a sole focus on misfortune. In cases of fatalistic thought centered around some catastrophic misfortune, something glorious always came in its wake. However, today, fatalism usually refers to some unavoidable misfortune that is about to strike ones life or refers to a negative outlook on life. We can also mention the Stoic ideal where suicide could be turned into an act of dignity in front of Fate, as one could be given the option of ingesting the Poisoned Chalice, like in the case of Socrates and Seneca. An important point to mark here is that the suicide of these philosophers were demanded by the Emperor. It was not a choice by Fate, but an acceptance of Fate, an honorable way out of a situation that could not be turned to ones favor. Maybe Cochrane saw his ritual suicide in this way, as a reflection of Mother Moon or rather Hecates will, the unavoidable way out of a situation that could not be turned to the better. 

There is an interesting passage in one of the letters to Joe Wilson that might indicate such attitude. Cochrane says in regard to “witch laws” the following: “ Do not do what you desire – do what is necessary. Take all you are given – give all of your self. What I have…I hold! When all else is lost, and not until then, prepare to die with dignity” (RCL: 50). Maybe he saw the ritual suicide, by ingesting willingly the poison Fate gave him, as a dignified way of leaving the terrestrial body behind in favor of the Hidden Company. Another quotation of him can be understood in such way. We read the following: “Seeing the Lady is just not enough…because in Fate, and the overcoming of Fate, is the key to inspiration and death itself is gained stayed. There is no fate so terrible that cannot be outfaced and overcome, whether by a concrete victory gained by action or the deeper victory of the spirit engaged in the solitary battle of self. Fate, destiny and doom is the trial, the Castle Perilous, in which we all must meet to win or die” (RT. 161). And it can look like Cochrane saw him self defeated by Fate. His meeting in the Castle and his battle granted him death, or thumbs down to continue our earlier roman allegory related to his ritual suicide. Cochrane defined the Craft to be about Truth, Experience and Devotion. All of these elements he placed under the mercy of Hecate, Mother Moon, Lady Fortuna or Fate. It seems that he might have forgotten something in his identification with the Roebuck as the symbol of sacrifice and leadership, namely ferocity and courage. Still, his legacy lives on and his spark of spirit continues to inspire. What to make of his early death and its un-timeliness or timeliness is still subject to a multitude of opinions and in the end it probably does not matter, since the visions and teachings he shared to those who continued his legacy are still there to take nutrition from. By seeing the growing interest in his legacy alone we can see that he gained after all eternal life. Both the lessons he learned and mastered and those lessons that defeated him are there and can serve as a compass on the path of pilgrim and seeker.

Cochrane, Robert & Jones, Evan John (Ed. Mike Howard). 2001.The Roebuck in the Thicket. Cappall Bann. Abr. in text RT
Cochrane, Robert & Jones, Evan John (Ed. Mike Howard). 2002. The Robert Cochrane Letters. Cappall Bann. Abr. in text RCL.
Huson, Paul. 2004. Mystical Origins of the Tarot. Destiny Books.