Francis Israel Regardie


Israel Regardie was born in 1907 to an Orthodox Jewish family in the East End of London, an impovershed area (Crowley referred to it as a "vile slum") that twenty years previously had been the stalking ground of Jack the Ripper. When he was still a teenager, he emigrated along with his family to the United States, settling in Washington, D.C.

Regardie was early on attracted to the writings of Madame Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society, in addition to Qabalistic and Rosicrucian studies. While living in D.C., at the age of 20, Regardie became an Initiate of a Rosicrucian group there.

Regardie came across a book of Aleister Crowley's and was immediately awestruck by the elder magician's talent and evident genius. He began a correspondence with Crowley, who was then (1928) living in Paris, and was eventually offerred a job as Crowley's personal secretary. Regardie, not without personal sacrifice, went to join him. While there he served as Crowley's lackey for a brief period, also providing the British magician with some much-needed finanical infusions to help the latter maintain his chosen hedonistic lifestyle. The scene may have been idyllic for Crowley, who utilized Regardie's services as secretary and errand-boy, while pursuing women and drugs to his heart's content. It was less than idyllic for Regardie, who became disillusioned by Crowley's failure to truly teach him the higher secrets of magic, which he had to get from extensive reading instead. The whole episode came to and end less than a year later, when Crowley was deported from France, accused of being a German spy. Regardie attempted to return to the land of his birth, but England would not have him due to his known association with the already-infamous Crowley, whose patriotism was in question due to his having worked for a pro-German newspaper in New York during the Great War.

Despite his association with, and admiration for, Aleister Crowley, Regardie never considered himself a Thelemite. It is telling that he joined an offshoot of the Golden Dawn in 1933, over thirty years after Crowley himself terminated his association with the G.D. In fact, Crowley was actively involved with the Ordo Templi Orientis during the 1920s and later, yet it appears that Regardie either had no interest, or Crowley did not invite him to participate therein. Regardie's resonance with the Golden Dawn derived in part from the intuitive knowledge that he demonstrated in his 1932 book, The Tree of Life. With the sponsorship of Dion Fortune, he joined the Stella Matutina in 1933 but quickly became disillusioned with its egotistical leadership and departed less than two years later after attaining the grade of Adeptus Minor. Three years after that, he published his landmark collection The Golden Dawn, making the "secret" rites and teachings of the on-again, off-again Order available to a wider public for the first time, and making possible today's resurgence of interest in the Order.

Several years later, Regardie and Crowley parted company after an acrimonious public clash of personalities. Regardie returned to the United States. He studied chiropracty in New York, served in the Army during World War II, and afterward moved to Los Angeles to open a chiropractic clinic and also work as a Reichian therapist. He had studied psychology and psychiatry with several notable teachers and was a strong proponent of Jungian analysis all his life, as well as the more controversial work of Wilhelm Reich. Both writers are known among the 20th century's most unique and controversial psychological theorists, whose writings straddled the border between science, religion and myth, and incorporated a strong element of sexuality. It is easy to see how this emphasis blended well with Regardie's magical and esoteric studies.

It was in Los Angeles in the early 1970s that Regardie met Dr. Christopher Hyatt and served as a mentor to the younger man by introducing him to the Golden Dawn tradition of magic. It is hoped that Regardie served as a better mentor to Hyatt than Crowley had to Regardie; in any case, Regardie's and Hyatt's similar backgrounds (both were Jewish and inclined to psychotherapeutic methodologies) helped them mesh and eventually led to a branch lineage of the Golden Dawn formed by Dr. Hyatt. In Phoenix, Arizona, in the early 1980s, Regardie also met Michael J. Crowley, future director of Mountain Temple Center.

In a sense, Regardie went beyond his erstwhile mentor Crowley in terms of bringing the practice of medieval mysticism into the modern world by tying it to the new science of psychology. Regardie's most well-known works, The Middle Pillar, A Garden of Pomegranates, The Tree of Life, and of course his Complete Golden Dawn System of Magick are some of the most widely read books on the art of magick today, and have introduced the Golden Dawn system to a far wider audience than it had ever had before. Unlike Crowley, whose works are infamous for being "difficult" even for readers familiar with magic in general, Regardie's books were always written for a broader audience and made a point of explaining esoteric concepts in a rationalistic fashion that mid-20th century readers, already exposed to the discoveries of psychology, could accept.

Regardie died, in retirement, in 1985, in the magically powerful area of Sedona, Arizona.