Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, & Dandies (Occult Yorkshire 6)


“From an evolutionary perspective, schools are the indoctrination phase of a gigantic breeding experiment. Working-class fantasies of ‘self-improvement’ were dismissed from the start as sentimentality that evolutionary theory had no place for.”
— John Taylor Gatto, Underground History of American Education

This work began as an attempt to better understand my older brother’s self-destructive path and uncover the poison-roots beneath it. Ironically—or perhaps not—Sebastian Horsley was as far from a hippy or a liberal as it’s possible to get (though he did once call Jesus a dandy). He mocked granola-crunching hippies, political correctness, and New Age/neo-liberal values, and was infinitely more likely to speak fondly of Hitler than praise Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Does this imply that the Fabian indoctrination didn’t take, or that he rebelled against paternal influences by adopting the very inverse values (as so many of us do)? Or does it imply something subtler and more obscure, namely, that the value-set apparently promoted by Fabians, Quakers, Grith Fyrdians, and progressive leftists concealed a very different set of values, and that there was a wolf lurking under the liberal fleece? In fact, Dandyism is far more compatible with the “back to nature” aesthetics of the Order of Woodcraft and Grith Fyrd—and with fascism—than might at first seem possible.

The Men’s Dress Reform Party was an outgrowth of the eugenics movement that, like the camping movement and progressive schools, began in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Its purported aim was to encourage men to dress in “more beautiful, flowing clothing reminiscent of what they wore during the Elizabethan era.”  By dressing up, it was reasoned, middle class men would become more desirable to women as mates, and “thus reverse the perceived evolutionary decline of the middle classes.”  Summer rallies of the MDRP were regular events during the 1930s, and an event of 1931, staged at the Suffolk Street Galleries, was attended by about a thousand people, including H. G. Wells. The pinecone-worshipping Dion Byngham even wrote about it for the New Health Journal, in 1932: “a renaissance of beauty for men—true masculine beauty of the body and mind, the bloom of a joyful spirit—might mean happier marriages, well-born and beautiful children, a healthier and more beautiful race.”

One of the prime influences on this mini-movement was Edward Carpenter, an early Fabian whom George Bernard Shaw called “a noble savage,” and who The Guardian called one of “the founding fathers of socialism.” Carpenter hung out at Millthorpe, a Derbyshire village not far from Sheffield and about forty miles from Abbotsholme School. There he was visited by Shaw, Bertrand Russell, D. H. Lawrence, and Cecil Reddie (founder of Abbotsholme). He corresponded with Walt Whitman, Annie Besant, Isadora Duncan, Havelock Ellis, Roger Fry, Mahatma Gandhi, J. K. Kinney, Jack London, George Merrill (his lover), William Morris, and John Ruskin, and he probably knew the pedophile-artist Eric Gill too (they were both of what was called “the Bloomsbury set”). As The Guardian recalled it: “Millthorpe emerged as a countercultural hub in the face of Victorian materialism, becoming an essential stopping-off point for all sorts of confused humanists. . . . Millthorpe was also renowned for its air of sexual liberation.”

A question occurred to me while discovering all of this, regarding those royal bloodlines that fell on hard times: was part of the reason they lost their wealth and social standing that they became lazy and spoiled, as aristocrats tend to, and so their kingdom slipped away? If so, perhaps one way to address this problem might be to send your kids to “natural schools” where they would have to learn to live in nature and develop a “wild” edge—turning them not so much into noble savages as savage noblemen?

My brother might well have enjoyed such a description. He could have cared less about eugenics or creating a more beautiful race (he would have insisted that ugly and poorly-dressed people were necessary so he would stand out from the crowd). Nor did he have any time for camping or nature movements. And while he was certainly hell-bent on his own sexual “liberation” and self-beautification, using fine clothes as a way of standing out had nothing to do with attracting a mate, because according to his credo, “dandies do not breed.” His interest in clothes was sourced in a particular blend of hedonism, narcissism, and materialism, yet it was not entirely uncoupled from a philosophy of living, far from it. Without wishing to over-simplify his choices, my brother’s daily preoccupations were threefold: clothing, sex, and drugs. Art and self-expression (or self-worship) were equally essential, but it was as if the three “vices” were the means to this end, the paints on his easel. If we switch clothes for rock and roll (i.e., pop music, which my brother claimed to love more than all the other arts combined), then the chosen value set of the counterculture (and the imagined means of their social and spiritual liberation) is more or less intact.

Rock and roll (as well as dandyism) also overlapped with the “back to the roots” Fabian schooling movement (“a mixture of Freud and Red Indians,” remember). An important member of the Braziers Park community, for example, was Glynn Faithfull, who met Glaister through the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry. Faithfull had been an academic at the University of Liverpool, studied the Italian renaissance, and worked for MI6 during World War II. He was married to Baroness Eva Erisso, a former ballerina, and their daughter was the singer and actress Marianne Faithfull. According to Marianne’s second memoir (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, curiously the same title as Jung’s autobiography), Glynn Faithfull was the person called in to interrogate Heinrich Himmler after Himmler surrendered himself to the US government, on realizing that the Nazis would soon be defeated. Faithfull allegedly failed to search Himmler well enough to find a cyanide capsule on his person, thereby allowing Himmler to allegedly take his own life, allegedly to be buried in an unmarked grave somewhere. This is a curious enough little tale even before noting that all this happened during the same period in which, via Operation Paperclip, leading Nazis were being incorporated into the OSS, soon to become the CIA. But anyway.

Marianne was born the following year, and by her own account she moved to Braziers Park when it first began, in 1950 (she was four), and lived there until she was seven. In her first memoir (Marianne: An Autobiography), she describes recurring nightmares of “frightening entities” who were “just like my father,” strange men with moustaches who would tickle her and pour hot tea over her. “Every year” she writes, “we took deprived children on an annual camping holiday to the New Forest”—there to participate in “quasi-mystical” rituals.[1]

Faithfull reminisces in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

“Things were madder, wilder, more eccentric, more randy, in the early years—some of the things that went on there were quite peculiar. . . . They appeared to be studying Dante and the Destiny of Man, but what they were also doing was fucking like rabbits—with what were technically the wrong people. . . . There was sex going on everywhere at Braziers. Not exactly an entirely happy and positive experience for a kid, I guess. . . . The mixture of high utopian thought and randy sex might seem incongruous but it was very much of its time—the 1950s—and an uncanny harbinger of the heady free-love, let’s change the world vibe of the sixties. It was the fifties, the intellectual, Bertrand Russell-ish fifties, when Braziers began and there were all these ideas—grand, world-mending ideas, small groups of people isolating themselves from the big bad world to study Big Ideas, ideas about the Nature of Man, the foundations of civilization, the complexities of communicating ideas. Along with the metaphysical deliberations came experiments in group consciousness. This combo—shagging and Schopenhauer—was as rampant at Braziers as it is in the novels of Iris Murdoch. [My father] was a philosopher of the group mind, almost a technician of group dynamics—how to deal with ego within the group.”[2]

Further along, in a chapter titled “The Girl Factory,” Faithfull describes meeting the Italian writer and publisher Roberto Calasso, whom she describes as “an archeologist of myths.” When Faithfull told Calasso about her childhood at Braziers, she recounts, Calasso compared it to a story by the playwright Frank Wedekind, called Mine-Haha: the Bodily Education of Young Girls. Mine-Haha is about a vast girls’ school located inside a castle where unwanted females are raised from infancy to the age of sixteen, “a sort of geisha finishing school where they are brought up to please others.” At the age of sixteen, these girls are either placed into show business or prostitution. Faithfull responds to Calasso by insisting, “nobody forced me to go to London and become a pop singer. Tempted me, definitely, seduced me into it, but I wasn’t actually compelled to become a pop singer, whereas the girls in the castle are made to become performers with whips and torture.” Calasso’s response is to note how Faithfull “grew up in a similarly cloistered place . . . and at the age of seventeen . . . burst out into the world, trained, in a strange way, for all sorts of things—group politics, sex, books, dance, acting, singing—that were useful to you in your career.” Faithfull agrees that the “group mind concept my father taught at Braziers must have helped me a lot in fitting in. Probably why I fitted in so easily with the Stones.”

“Before the girls are sent out into the world,” Faithfull writes, “they’re examined head to toe, internally, externally, the whole thing. It’s really perverse. Anyway, none of that happened to me, obviously.” Why obviously, I wonder? Faithfull winds up the chapter by mentioning an Italian dance troupe (Gruppo Polline) who created a performance piece based on Mine-Haha, the themes of which were, “The persistence of memory, isolation, the hesitation about the future, alternating static and frenetic, and the negation of the body as a result of an education based on theories and exploitation of the young” (emphasis added). She then adds that she wrote the song “In the Factory” with Polly (P. J.) Harvey, inspired by one of Calasso’s essays. She had wanted to call it “The Girl Factory,” she says, but Harvey talked her out of it. Faithfull regretted the change, adding by way of explanation that Polly was “quite intimidating.”[3]

Marianne Faithfull met Mick Jagger sometime at the start of her music career in 1964-5, and he wrote her first hit, “As Tears Goes By” (though they didn’t become a couple until 1966). Jagger was just fresh out of the London School of Economics, having got a grant to study there in late 1961 and staying on through to 1963. This two-year period was the same period in which the Stones were first formed and grew into a known act, soon after to become “the vanguard of British rock and roll.” Before this, Jagger had been working in a psychiatric institution called Bexley Hospital, in the summer of 1961, where, by his own account, he learned invaluable lessons about human psychology, as well as losing his virginity to a nurse![4]

According to one story, Jagger ran into old schoolmate Keith Richards “coincidentally” on a train platform in 1961, on his way to LSE, and the rest is history. There’s a well-known anecdote—I remember hearing it from my sister as a teenager—about how Jagger kept on studying to be an accountant even while the Stones were taking off just in case it should turn out to be a flash in the pan. What’s considerably less well-known (in fact it’s hard to corroborate, my only source so far is the singer Sally Stevens) is that, besides giving Jagger a grant, LSE also bankrolled the Stones in 1963. Stevens reports a conversation from that year with Derek Bell, Gertrude Stein’s nephew:

“From what I recall of the ensuing conversation, during their first year, students at LSE were allowed to write a grant proposal for project funding from LSE.  According to Derek, Mick had written a good grant proposal, using the Rolling Stones as his business model, and asking for financial aid to buy equipment so they could improve their stage sound.   Of course, not one member of the Board, including Derek, had much of an idea about the financial soundness of rock music, though obviously it was becoming an economic powerhouse, and they’d sort of heard of the Beatles, but when it came to the niceities[sic] of the business, LSE needed an expert opinion, in this case, me.  The Board wanted to know if the Stones had any future, and I was able to say I thought so, based on what I was seeing.  Would they be a good risk?  ‘Er – yes,’ quoth the expert. So, Mick got some grant money from LSE which he bought gear with, after which he gave LSE the salute, and took off for the sky.”

Apocrypha or not, the Stones became the biggest band in the world, after the Beatles, and Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull became one of the most famous couples in rock and roll. Jagger also came to stay with Faithfull at Braziers Park, after his release from prison in 1967.

If more evidence is required of the implicate order of popular culture, intelligence operations, and politics, Mick Jagger was associated for a period with the Labor MP and alleged MI5 (and possibly KGB, and even Church of Scientology) informant, Tom Driberg. Driberg was impressed with Jagger, having been introduced to him in 1965, and tried unsuccessfully over a number of years to persuade him to take up active Labor politics. Driberg belonged to one or more of the same groups my grandfather belonged to, fraternized with Richard Acland, and was even briefly earmarked by Aleister Crowley as his natural successor for world teacher![5] Even more ominously, Driberg (who fully embraced the social and cultural freedoms of the ’60s) enjoyed a lengthy friendship with the Kray twins, and in July 1964, both he and Lord Boothby (a well-known Conservative peer) were alleged to have been importuning males at a dog track and to be involved with a criminal underworld scene. Driberg and Boothby attended parties at the Krays’ flat where “rough but compliant East End lads were served like so many canapés,” according to Driberg’s biographer Francis Wheen.[6] While Driberg avoided publicity, Boothby was hounded by the press and forced to issue a series of denials. After the twins had been convicted of murder in 1969, Driberg frequently lobbied the Home Office about their prison conditions, requesting that they be given more visits and allowed regular reunions.

Tom Driberg and Lord Boothby

Boothby & Reggie Kray, with Leslie Holt

Driberg belonged to the afore-mentioned 1941 Committee, which besides Acland and Astor also recruited Julian Huxley (Aldous’ older brother, a eugenicist and social engineer), and probable MI5-asset Christopher Mayhew. In 1955, Mayhew took part in an experiment that was intended to be a part of a Panorama special for the BBC, but was never broadcast. Under the guidance of his friend Dr. Humphry Osmond, Mayhew ingested 400 mg of mescaline hydrochloride and allowed himself to be filmed for the duration of the trip. Part of the footage was included in the BBC documentary “LSD—The Beyond Within,” released in 1986. Dr. Humphrey Osmond gave Aldous Huxley mescaline the following year (1952), which lead to Huxley’s countercultural Bible, The Doors of Perception.

Since my grandfather was also on the 1941 Committee (according to LSE Marxist historian, John Saville—no known relation to Jimmy), was he also ingesting mescaline on the front line of the psychedelic revolution? If so, I had no clue about any of this while growing up. Yet hallucinogen-ingestion apparently was a central element in the Fabian experience: over fifty years before Huxley would make mescaline famous, Havelock Ellis wrote an article called “Mescal: A New Artificial Paradise,” for The Contemporary Review, January 1898, making him one of the very first western experimenters with “entheogens.”

Once again, my brother continued this tradition in both exact and inverse ways: he wrote an article for The Observer (formerly edited by MI6-asset David Astor, please note) about his Ibogaine experience, called “Trip of a Lifetime” (I was even mentioned in it, though not by name). More famously, he wrote lovingly of his heroin addiction in many different places, and included syringes (as well as skulls) in his self-designed coat of arms. Beneath it were the words “HOOKERS, DEALERS, TAILORS.”

Wittingly or not, my brother was revealing the methods of cultural engineering. Sex, drugs, and fine clothes: a credo to die by.


[1] Faithfull: An Autobiography, by Marianne Faithfull, Cooper Square Press, 2000, p. 6-7.

[2] Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Marianne Faithfull, HarperCollins, 2007, p. 135-6, 141-2.

[3] Ibid, this series of quotes from “The Girl Factory,” p. 218-222.

[4] Mick Jagger, Philip Norman, Doubleday Canada, 2012, p. 44.

[5] Driberg accepted an invitation to lunch with Crowley for the first of several meetings between them, at one of which Crowley nominated Driberg as his successor as World Teacher. Nothing came of the proposal, though the two continued to meet.

[6] Wheen, Driberg: His Life and Indiscretions, Pan Books, 1992, p. 350.





4 thoughts on “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, & Dandies (Occult Yorkshire 6)

  1. Jasun;

    So happy to have stumbled on your work; as pleased as when I found Dave McGowan years ago.


    Eric in Comfort

  2. Pingback: Le Yorkshire occulte (1) | systèmophobe

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