Some while ago, whilst listening to The Mystic Menagerie Podcast, co-presenter Dan Baines mentioned an article he had discovered in the May 1921 edition of The Occult Review, which made mention of a very curious book. This issue of The Occult Review may be read here, but the pertinent passage is quoted below:
“On April 3 last, at Kingston-on-Thames, there passed away Mr. John Herbert Slater, a writer better known to the book collector than either to the occultist or the man-in-the-street. He was, however, the author of an interesting work entitled Problems of the Borderland, which certainly deserves a greater popularity than it has ever obtained. Probably most of those who knew Mr. Slater as the author of Book Prices Current and Engravings and Their Value, little suspected that this kindly and genial gentleman was deeply interested in occult research, and in especial a keen student of the philosophical side of occultism. Problems of the Borderland claims to be “a summary of some of the elementary teachings of a very ancient faith, which, though not generally known, have nevertheless been preserved to us, to some extent at least, by the writings of mediaeval and later adepts, and also by tradition.” A perusal of the book, which still remains at the original price of 3s. 6d. net, is well worth the while of every serious student of the occult.”
Dan, whose blog may be read here and is always a treasure trove of material on fairy lore, the supernatural, and all things weird and wonderful, had managed to get hold of a copy of this old book and had discovered that it seemed to exhibit strange properties, such as completely vanishing for a while, only to later reappear in a room where it had never been.
Intrigued, I determined to hunt down a copy myself. It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t cheap. I could find only two copies for sale online worldwide, and at prices close to three figures. I ordered the one which promised to be in best condition and sat back to await its arrival.
When I received it, the book was indeed in good condition for its age. Nevertheless, the paper was so old and brittle that the pages literally cracked as I turned them, no matter how carefully. This rare book could so easily become rarer still. So the question became, was it worth preserving?
The answer is a definite Yes! The book is not quite what I expected it to be upon ordering, but it has a quaint, antique charm all its own in its use of language and its notions. But it certainly deserves to survive and to be read by a new generation of readers.
To get the negatives out of the way first, it is most definitely old-fashioned in both its language and its attitudes. Some of the sentences are so tortuous, lasting entire paragraphs. But this is a feature of its time and those occult readers who have read the writings of many of the Golden Dawn or Theosophical luminaries will have struggled through much, much worse. The book also contains a strongly ascetic tone which is at odds with my own conception, but this too comes with the territory.
What this book has to offer are some insights into the fourth dimension, its nature and its influence, and the ways in which we humans interact with it, which are quite unique in their thought and nuance in my experience. The author’s speculation upon spirits and the means by which they may influence and manifest, through to actual materialisation, is also one of the most thorough and rational discussions I have read on the subject.
So there is plenty of gold to be mined from this source, and it is a damn shame that so few people have ever read it and that it looked as though it would in all likelihood vanish altogether. For this reason, I decided to republish Problems of the Borderland, and it is now available on Amazon and Lulu for considerably less than Dan and I paid for it.
There is no ebook version, as this simply felt completely inappropriate for this title to me.
The Lulu edition is obtainable here.