The Man, Myth and Magic Interview
In 1968, Chalky White was interviewed for the ‘Frontiers of Belief’ section of Man, Myth and Magic, the famous encyclopedia edited by Richard Cavendish which was published in weekly instalments between 1970 and 1972. I learned of the existence of this interview from the article by Ken Rees on the Regency which was published earlier this summer.
Three weeks ago I wrote to Mr Rees taking issue with a number of inaccurate and in some cases highly defamatory statements that he has made about Ron White in his talks and articles about the Regency. He emailed me soon afterwards to promise a reply within two weeks. That reply has not been received.
Although Rees gives a brief quotation from the Man, Myth and Magic interview, he does not supply a proper citation for it and I was initially unable to find it. But now, through the kindness of friends, I have been able to read the complete interview. (It is on the back page of issue no. 43.)
‘We decided to invent a religion’
It starts by describing the beginnings of the Regency in a pub conversation between Ronald ‘Chalky’ White and George Winter at Hallowe’en in 1966. As Chalky is reported as saying, ‘We decided to invent a religion.’ This is one of the respects in which Chalky and George were ahead of their time: they never pretended that the Regency had existed secretly from time immemorial.
No mention is made of the fact that Chalky and George had been members of Robert Cochrane’s Royal Windsor Cuveen. Either they decided to keep quiet about this or the interviewer suppressed it on the grounds that it would mean nothing to the general public. They are said to have previously had an interest in ‘Gardnerian witchcraft, Druidism and Nature worship’. It is true that Chalky had dabbled briefly in Wicca before joining Cochrane’s group.
The reporter states that in 1968 the Regency had 100 members, of whom about 40 regularly turned up to meetings. Chalky saw the Regency as a tribe in the making; he states: ‘I believe in a tribal idea, not in a family unit … The tribal notion worked in the old days.’
‘a religion to which any honourable … person may accede’
Out of this very informative interview, Ken Rees quotes part of a sentence, selected in isolation to support his claim (a complete calumny) that Ron was a racist: ‘I doubt if an African would find much to benefit him at our meetings’.
The following is the paragraph from which that quotation was extracted:
‘As the roots of this belief are ancient, we hold that much of pagan belief, custom and ceremonial has permanent relevance to humanity, and that this can be seen in the persistence of these traditions throughout the world. But the beliefs are regional and national. As we follow the old British practices, I doubt whether an African, for instance, would find much to benefit him at our meetings. But basically, we feel that the Regency is a religion to which any honourable and honest person may accede.’
It will be noticed that Ken Rees has suppressed the final sentence of the paragraph, which makes it clear that anyone at all was welcome to take part in the Regency rituals, so long as their intentions and behaviour were honourable.
Nor has he drawn attention to the context of the statement he quotes. In the 60s and 70s many Pagans were prepared to argue that one of the merits of their tradition was that it had deep roots in the land and the culture, in contrast to ‘imported’ religions such as Christianity.
Ken Rees has left out the words ‘for instance’ from his quotation. (He has also failed to mark the omission with the customary ellipsis.) Chalky is using this hypothetical African as an example.
Why an African in particular? The answer isn’t difficult to see: it is because Africa as a continent is associated with strong indigenous traditions of Paganism and tribalism.
In Chalky’s way of thinking, an African person wouldn’t need the Regency: he or she would almost certainly have inherited a well-developed Pagan tradition that was distinctively African. This isn’t racism; it is something much more like modern multi-culturalism.
Moreover, as Chalky makes it clear in the interview, there is no question of turning away any ‘honourable and honest’ person who is drawn to the teachings of the Regency.
‘Chalky … tends towards the Left in politics’
In addition to calling Chalky a racist, Rees describes the Regency as ‘right-wing’, and he even tries to associate it with fascism. This is offensive nonsense, as anyone who knew Chalky is keenly aware.
The 1968 interview gives an accurate sketch of his real political beliefs and the way they shaped the Regency. Stating that ‘Chalky, who tends toward the Left in politics, … distrusted the idea of High Priests and Chief Druids’, the interviewer quotes him as saying: ‘The idea was that we would have no dogma, no creed and no leaders.’
Ken Rees must have seen this passage.
‘stress on honour and truthfulness’
Speaking of the teachings of the Regency, Chalky says: ‘We lay stress on honour and truthfulness – the ancients used to say “do not dishonour yourself and the gods”.’
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