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Ramsey Dukes

From Thelemapedia

Ramsey Dukes is a writer on magick and the occult.

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Ramsey Dukes is the main pseudonym used by Lionel Snell when writing books and articles and giving talks on magick and the occult. He has also used other names including Lemuel Johnstone, Liz Angerford, Ambrose Lea, Adamai Philotunus and the Hon. Hugo C. StJ l’Estrange.


Lionel Snell was born in England in 1945 and brought up in the ‘arts and crafts’ milieu of the Gloucestershire countryside but won scholarships and County financial backing for formal education at Clifton College, Bristol, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge (1964-68), where he officially studied pure mathematics but also studied the works of Aleister Crowley in the university library and held his first “ritual happening” in the mid 1960s.

Being brought up in a culture of alternative lifestyles and radical thought formed a contrast with his subsequent traditional education with its later emphasis on science. This lead to a lifelong interest in building bridges between the scientific/materialist worldview and alternative spirituality/paranormal—an approach very different from those New Age philosophies that seek to reconcile or equate science and spirit. This is strongly reflected in Ramsey Dukes’ writings where he addresses Science, Magic, Art and Religion as four ‘cultures’ as an extension of CP Snow’s popular ‘two culture’ concept.

Dukes and Thelema

His importance to Thelema stems partly from his being a member of that relatively small group bridging Crowley’s original disciples and the post 1960s Thelemites. He was friend of, and frequently visited both Gerald Yorke and Ted Bryant to borrow original books and discuss ideas. Ted Bryant later mentored him during his 1977 Abramelin operation, and Gerald Yorke encouraged him in 1971 to write a polemical novel Johnstone’s Twentieth Century Occult Philosopher and Skepticall Politick Theorist followed by Uncle Ramsey’s Bumper Book of Magick Spells. The latter included an appendix "Spare Parts" which was first published in 1973 in the occult magazine Agape issue 4 which also included a facsimile of Snell’s copy of "The Anathema of Zos."

"Spare Parts" was the first exposition of Austin Osman Spare’s theory and practice of magick, following a brief chapter in Francis King’s 1970 book Ritual Magic In England. As such it attracted the attention of Peter Carroll, Ray Sherwin and other future founders of the Chaos school of magic. The group were also strongly influenced by Ramsey Dukes’ first published work "SSOTBME—an essay on magic" (The Mouse That Spins, 1974) described by Gerald Suster as “the book that put the magic back in magic” insofar as it went beyond the then current psychological (Dion Fortune-inspired) view of magick as "changes in consciousness" to argue that our whole experience of reality is subjective and therefore open to change—an approach later taken up by New Age writers.

A second book Thundersqueak by "Angerford and Lea" (The Mouse That Spins, 1979) had an even stronger influence on the nascent Chaos movement, which was later reinforced by Words Made Flesh (The Mouse That Spins, 1987) proposing his information model of reality that was adopted by the cybermagic movement.

Although a small selection of his satirical writings appeared regularly during the 1990s in Soror Chen’s Bhalasti Papers under the pseudonym Hugo l’Estrange, Snell’s main Thelemic articles are found in the collection of essays What I Did In My Holidays (Mandrake of Oxford, 1998). They were written following initiation into the OTO in London in the mid-1980s when Snell became one of the three re-founder members of the movement in the United Kingdom. As an able communicator and Hermetic go-between, he was chosen to be a stand-in media spokesman for the movement in the UK in the event of journalistic harassment. Fortunately his only roles were 1) defending the movement and Gerald Suster on television following attacks by The News Of The World; 2) acting as Press Agent for the exhibition of Crowley’s art in London April 1998.



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