By: Kelly J. Starkey
Adrian College photography professor Garin Horner has written a new book that features conversations with a fourth-generation alchemist, exploring the relationship between alchemy and photography and the mysteries of “the Great Work”.
Though the book has yet to be published, Vincent Martin, President of the International Alchemy Guild, received a sneak peak. Martin has bestowed high praise upon Horner, hailing him as the “pioneer of where photography intersects with mainstream alchemy”.
Martin marvels at Horner’s ability to “offer a rare glimpse into the shadowy world of a modern alchemist where most serious alchemists shield their journey from the public eye.”
Martin eagerly anticipates adding Horner’s book to his archives, and encourages all avid readers to include it in
their own personal libraries as well.
Recently, I sat down with Professor Horner to ask him about his fascinating project. As a fine art photographer with over forty years of experience and author of four books on teaching and learning photography, Horner brought his expertise to the project. “I’ve always been drawn to photographing each culture’s unique spiritual altars. I became fascinated with the way people compose their altars as an act of devotion, in order to connect with ethereal beings or higher powers.”
In 2017, Horner began traveling globally connecting with anyone who would let him photograph them with their altar; including Christians, Druids, Santeros, Pagans, Wiccans, Satanists and many more who are part of religions Horner had never heard of. With a goal to capture the unseen communication between people and their sacred spaces, he believes that people create altars to establish a connection with a supernatural force.
“My subjects have metaphysical connections with their sacred objects and I want to understand it,” Horner said, “Imagine if Carlos Castaneda was a photography professor and Don Juan was an alchemist… then put them in Cuthbert Binns’ History of Magic class at Hogwarts… and there you have it.”
He admits that some people won’t be able to make sense of the description but reiterates the book to be about one person’s spiritual odyssey with alchemy. Through conversations via “snail mail”, Horner learned about George Kingswood’s lineage of alchemy that dates back to the high priests of ancient Egypt. In the book, Kingswood talks about how the sun god Ra, appeared to his great-grandfather Abraham Kingswood, taught him about transformational alchemy, and how the use of magic could help him along the path of the Great Work.
“Three generations later George Kingswood was born, less than 50 years after photography had been invented. At some point in his early life Kingswood became spellbound with the new art and realized that it could be used as an
important tool for his great grandfather’s path of spiritual transformation. Kingswood believed that the knowledge learned by photography’s inventors was delivered by Ra and he feltcompelled to learn how to use a camera to take photos so he could apply image making to his alchemical practice,” Horner noted.
Horner credits Kingswood for the idea of a book on alchemy and its relationship with photography. Despite having no prior knowledge of alchemy nor its connection to photography, Horner’s interest was piqued once the mental, physical, and spiritual connections between the two fields were explained. Horner first contacted Kingswood after photographing someone who recommended the alchemist for his altar project. The two corresponded for months before Horner was invited to meet him in person.
Upon their initial meeting, Horner was struck by Kingswood’s formal, charismatic, intelligent, and mysterious demeanor, which commanded respect. Over the last six years, Kingswood told Horner a lot about his life, but he feels that there is still an enormous amount of depth to his personality that he has yet to see.
“Kingswood stays on topic and I am always aware that he tells me exactly what he wants me to know. And nothing beyond that,” Horner said.
Horner has plans for a second book, a kind of grimoire picture book, filled with around 50 incantations to connect with Ra, given to him by GK, which he would like to pair with images of the sun god.
“George also gave me Abraham Kingswood’s detailed instructions for an oracle deck of cards which I would like to make. He tells me thatnAbraham’s decks once existed within the Order of the Silver Sun, a Victorian secretnsociety, but have all been lost.”
Overall, A Feather on the Breath of Ra: Conversations with an Alchemist on Photography, Light, and Magic is a thought-provoking and engaging read for anyone interested in the connections between art, spirituality, and alchemy. Horner’s storytelling and Kingswood’s wisdom make for an enlightening journey that encourages readers to think beyond the surface of things and delve deeper into the mysteries of life.