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Shirley, Ralph

Category: Ordinary person


Ralph Shirley (1865-1946) was a leading British pioneer in the publication of occult and mystical literature.

Born in Oxford, England, December 30, 1865, of aristocratic stock, brother of the eleventh Earl Ferrers and a direct descendant of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, he was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford University.

For more than three decades (1892-1925) he was director of William Rider & Son, the foremost British publishers of literature dealing with occultism, mysticism, New Thought, astrology, psychical research, and related subjects.

Rider's authors included Éliphas Lévi, Arthur Edward Waite, Hereward Carrington, and Franz Hartmann in addition to many others who became legendary in the field.


Shirley, Ralph (1865-1946) - Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology
In 1905, Shirley founded the Occult Review, which he edited for 21 years. It included contributions from the leading occultists of the time and set a high standard of both popular and scholarly occultism. Shirley also became vice president of the International Institute for Psychic Investigation, for whom he edited Ernesto Bozzano 's important study Discarnate Influence in Human Life (1938).


It was in the pages of the Occult Review that Shirley published the important firsthand experiences of Oliver Fox (pseudonym of Hugh G. Callaway ) on astral projection and out-of-the-body travel from April to May 1920.

Shirley also published other pioneer writings on the subject, including his own book The Mystery of the Human Double: The Case for Astral Projection (1938; reprinted University Books, 1965).

Shirley had a special interest in astrology and had edited The Horoscope (under the pseudonym Rollo Ireton).

From 1943 to 1944 he was chairman of the Spiritualist journal Light, but suffered from failing health and was obliged to retire. He also published a pamphlet The Angel Warriors at Mons (1915) reviewing the legends that accumulated around Arthur Machen 's famous short story The Bowmen.


There are some rather intriguing conspiracy theories that have appeared after his death, one of which is based on an actual quote. 

It involves the belief in a set of very powerful people, who control the world, more powerful than politicians or business men.  The German philosopher Oswald Spengler, for example, warned of a “mighty contest” between groups of men of “immense intellect” who the “simple citizen neither observes nor comprehends.”  

Back in 1930 Ralph Shirley, then editor of the London Occult Review, and at the time Britain’s leading journal of esoteric sciences, appeared to endorse this view when he was quoted as supporting
the suspicion that the ranks of occultism are secretly working for disintegration and revolution. Positive proof in the shape of a group of occultists working with this objective in view recently came under the notice of the present writer.”

And he said no more.  Fear of the spiritually gifted has always existed and often resulted in their persecution, but this must be one of the strangest quotes as it implies the power lies in the hands of those with occult powers.  Set against the actions of Houdini or Harry Price, it sends a slight chill down the back as these were not the forces of Light, but the forces of Darkness.

He died December 29, 1946.



Shirley, Ralph. The Mystery of the Human Double: The Case for Astral Projection. 1938. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1965.

——. The New God, and Other Essays. N.p., 1911.

——. Occultists and Mystics of All Ages. London: W. Rider & Son, 1920.

——. The Problem of Rebirth. N.p., 1936.

——. A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Funk & Wagnalls; London: W. Rider & Son, 1919.







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