Stuart Littlejohn is a British painter and esotericist that I came across on Facebook not too long ago. His magical paintings are mostly portraits but they’re incredibly rich with fantastical detail and esoteric mystique—all supported by his amazingly unique artistic talent. This is what prompted me to interview this amazingly talented artist and writer. You can find his work along with his wife, Josephine McCarthy, at The Inner Library. On to the interview!
When did your interest in painting and sculpting esoteric, magical and occult concepts begin?
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by art, magic and mythology, I wanted to paint from a very early age and my father used to regularly take me around the art galleries and museums in London, the British Museum almost became a second home! It was a wonderful education for me to see these treasures! My family was also non-religious, so I was free to explore my spirituality without an imposed dogma… as my interest and awareness grew it seemed very natural to bring these strands together.
On your website, you claim to be the Co-founder of the Order of Minverva Occidentalis in the United Kingdom. Could you describe more about your organization?
O.M.O (Ordo Minervae Occidentalis) was formed in 2001, by myself and two other close friends, to explore the continuing manifestation of the Classical Mysteries. All three of us had long experience of magical and ritual practice of one form or another and we had all been members of an Egyptian magical group that had become moribund. The impulse to trace the thread of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition seemed to arise between us spontaneously. We drew our inspiration from the Ancient world through the Renaissance and onward to the present day, exploring Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism and Gnosticism. OMO is still functioning, although I have withdrawn from active participation.
Are there any specific practices (ceremonial or otherwise) you engage in? How would you describe your own personal religion (if you have one)?
At present there are no specific ceremonial practices that I follow at all. One reason that I withdrew from OMO was that I felt that I needed to get back to basics with my practice, for close on two decades I had followed what was effectively an exoteric reconstructualist path and it became obvious that I needed to revisit and relearn a more esoteric and visionary way of doing things. Meeting and marrying Josephine has given me that insight that I was missing previously. My inner vision expressed itself through my artwork but there was an element missing, a sense of direction if you will, Josephine’s long and distinguished experience in visionary magic was the key that I needed to turn to unlock even deeper levels of insight.. As for my personal religion, I would classify myself as something of a Neo-Platonic Neo-Pagan, but that that is a very loose label!
Are there any specific occult texts that have influenced your work as an artist? Do you have any particular favorite texts from the Bible and the Nag Hammadi Codices?
It’s very difficult trying to think what has influenced me over the years! They all seem to merge into one after a time!! But in no particular order: Nag Hammadi is well up there, the Greek Myths, the musings of Plotinus, Sallustus, Proclus, Symmachus and the Emperor Julian, the Egyptian Pyramid texts, the writings of Rumi, Shakespeare, John Dee, the School of Night, William Blake, Byron, Shelley, Bram Stoker, Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley, Gore Vidal and The Wind in the Willows to name a few off the top of my head…
Not only are you a professional painter but you’re also a novelist. Could you tell us more about your fiction life and even your creative process involved in fiction writing?
Not sure of what you are thinking about here, Josephine is the writer of both fiction and non-fiction, the only things I’ve written that have been published, are a couple of ‘How-to’ books on art techniques!
You and your wife are something of a power couple when it comes to bringing gnosis to the public at large. Do you think there are differences between how you process creativity, mysticism, psychology, etc with your wife (Josephine McCarthy) who is also involved in esotericism?
I think we are two sides of the same coin, to begin with I was very much into the exoteric and outward forms of ritual and magic, I spent many years as a hardened reconstructualist, recreating the forms and practices of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as I mentioned in response to your earlier question, the inner visionary side of this work manifested through my art. Josephine’s experience is the inverse of mine, she is highly experienced and adept in the visionary arts and has opened my eyes to the underlying patterns of all exoteric religious and mystical systems. We compliment each other very well! She is also a kick-ass magician generally, who can eat several grimoire-toting wannabes at a single sitting!
What is your opinion on the idea or concept of the Platonic daimon? Do you think it’s somehow involved in your artwork and fiction writing?
This is a very interesting question. Looking back, it has seemed as if there was a certain pattern that I have always been ‘fated’ to follow, situations that have arisen which have pushed me in a particular direction, people I’ve met who have been incredibly influential on my art or my esoteric understanding. These patterns were often indiscernible at the time but with hindsight the way these experiences mesh together becomes more apparent. It would certainly seem that there has been some kind of guiding influence, and lessons given, which, if not taken on board, come around again and again! On the purely artistic side of things, particular works have had an incredible inner push to be done, something needed to manifest and be out in the world. I find in these cases that there is a very dynamic conversation between the inner and the outer as to how a work should appear, what details to include etc, often when complete, a painting will sit around, sometimes for years, but eventually will find its true home.
Do you have any specific painters, artists, and writers (etc.) that have influenced your work?
This could be a very long list! Again, in no particular order… van Eyck, van der Veyden, the Limbourg Brothers, Hans Holbein, Albrect Durer, Giotto, Ghirlandao, Caravaggio, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Boucher, David, Ingres, Rossetti, Waterhouse, Burne-Jones, Sargent, Klimt, von Stuck, de Lempika, Kahlo… this is a mere smattering!
Are there any future projects and events to keep on the lookout?
We have several things in the pipeline, at the moment Josephine and I are concentrating on getting the Goblyn Market up and running, a place for the magical, beautiful and downright strange, so for the moment we are finding that there are not enough hours in the day!