Uncanny Interviews: A Conversation with Machen via Peter Bebergal

The Latest in Our Series of Interviews with the Dead and Departed

The following interview occurred in the Welsh countryside on a full moon night. Peter Bebergal, who volunteered his services the week before, called me to meet him by an abandoned depot just off a country road outside the town of Bargoed. When my taxi dropped me off, he already awaited me, holding a thick leather-bound book in the crook of his arm. “Did you bring it?” he asked me. I nodded and held up my copy of The Secret Glory, Arthur Machen’s novel about a schoolboy preoccupied with the Grail legend and its connection to the Celtic Church. “Good,” he said, taking it and tucking it in under the other arm. He turned and walked down the country road toward Cefn Gelligaer.

Along our walk to our destination, Bebergal explained to me why we had to take this particular route. “You could call it psychogeography, but that’s not quite it. Ever read that story of Machen’s, ‘N’?” I had to confess I hadn’t. “Like the character in that story – a fictional stand-in for Machen himself – we are stalking a unique passage, at a unique time of night, at a unique time of year. A once in a lifetime convergence. And instead of finding paradise, we will find Machen.” After a pause, he added, “Or Machen will find us.”

After a long time walking, we reached our destination on the slopes of Cefn Galligaer: a standing stone, shaped like the stray leg of a compass, stuck in the ground at an acute angle. There was an inscription in the side I thought I could read, some kind of ancient language, but on further examination the letters had mainly rubbed away.

Bebergal knelt on the ground in the crook of the stone, sheltering himself under it. He took both books and opened them, one on either side of him. I now saw the other book was The House of the Hidden Light, which Arthur Machen co-wrote with A.E. Waite while they both belonged to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Only three copies of that edition exist.

While Bebergal chanted some inaudible prayer there, the moonlight somehow both brightened and focused on that stone, casting his face in darkness, his hands planted in the center of each open book. And then, a deep, resonant voice not belonging to Bebergal said, “Ask your questions, now.”

Weirdfictionreview.com: Did you ever imagine it would be “weird” fiction that brought you out of poverty?

Bebergal (Channeling Machen): You call my work weird, yet there is nothing weird about an attempt to reveal to others as to the truth of illusory trappings they surround themselves with. Let me tell you a tale so astonishing as to make you understand. A friend of mine met a fellow from York who had been traveling in the country side when he came upon a farmhouse. The owner invited him in and told him a story of a man, a solicitor I recall, who came into possession of strange diary that related the last days of a young medical student who had discovered a previously unknown substance of such horrible properties that he began an investigation into its origins. Of these inexplicable happenings that came as a result I dare not say another word.

Weirdfictionreview.com: A recent volume of your stories has been released, but does not include “The Great God Pan.” How do you feel about this omission?

Bebergal: While I am fond of that tale, I must say it is for the best. Stories can function as conjurations, and this modern world of yours is not ready for a visit by spirits of the old gods, whose power has not left this world, but waits for that time when we have again performed the ancient and terrible rites in which the very stones under our feet begin to take on the likeness of faces and the flowers themselves sing as a chorus of unholy voices, when men and women perform their awful ceremonies under the shade of an oak whose leaves are like crystals that reflect the light of a black sun.

Weirdfictionreview.com: Do you regret your involvement with the Golden Dawn?

Bebergal: Little did I know that inflamed egos and scandalous behaviour would drive that noble quest for a glimpse of the true divine will. Our world is but a shadow, for beyond is the great supernal realm. They sought access for their own pretty glorification. It was my dear friend Arthur Waite who introduced me to the Order in the hopes that we might together bring to it a spirit of Christian fellowship, but instead he was subject to the most ludicrous of lies and insults and so together we left to seek other more noble mysteries. The fraternity wasted their time on useless incantations, when one need only conjure forth the seed of the Rosie Croix… ah, but I have said too much.

Weirdfictionreview.com: Yet you continued your magical pursuits after you left the Order?

Bebergal: Not magic, that most corruptible of arts, but the true path of the mystic, where the goal is nothing less than they very holy chalice, the Grail! The secret heart of the… no please, I have said too much.

Weirdfictionreview.com: The themes of your stories really changed during WWI.

Bebergal: It wasn’t the stories that changed, but the world. And I changed as well. I more fully came to understand that we were all in need of a return of a holy spirit to guide us, but that the Church itself was also in dire need of a fusion of the mystical and the heroic. Our great nation was being consumed by a beast and only through the strength of our legendary inheritance of the ancient Isles could we muster the courage to see it through.

Weirdfictionreview.com: You left a lasting influence on many who have come after you from writers to occultists to mystics. Is this what you had hoped for?

Bebergal: Sadly, my work has been misconstrued by so many. The fiend Aleister Crowley, who defiled the Golden Dawn, sensed a great magical purpose in my work, but he missed the glory of the truer path of the mystic. Others see me as weaver of horrors, when what I wanted was merely to open those secret doors so that once the hidden truths are revealed, fright should turn to awe and awe to an epiphany that we spend our lives in shadows when we should be seeking out the greater Light!

Weirdfictionreview.com: What do you miss most about the phenomenal world?

Bebergal: In life, the only person I held dear was my wife Amy, but she is here with me now, and my friend Arthur Waite whose soul I fear is lost in some strange purgatory where he forever reads his beloved Tarot deck in search of the key to those unfathomable correspondences between heaven and earth. As for that precious orb where man strives towards desire after desire, always looking just past the true light, there is only thing I miss above all else: tobacco in all it’s wonderful and perfectly burnable forms. Tobacco, my dear sire, tobacco is what I miss most of all.


Don’t know who Machen is? Google it.


Peter Bebergal is the author of Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood (Soft Skull Press), which you can find at Amazon and other book vendors. He writes frequently on the speculative and slightly fringe. He blogs at mysterytheater.blogspot.com.

3 replies to “Uncanny Interviews: A Conversation with Machen via Peter Bebergal

  1. Fascinating read, and all happening just down the road from me. It would have been nice to know the name of the writer.

    Also, it was quite disturbing to read about Waite‘s obsession with his Tarot cards, even after death, and even more so for Machen‘s desire for tobacco !

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