Sep 14, 1996 06:02 PM
by Dr. A.M.Bain
Watkins Bookshop, London, England in 1960. This was THE place to go
for occult, esoteric and theosophical books at the beginning of the
Hippie era. At this period there was just the one shop front as shown,
and a basement link via the shop next door to another closed shop in
which much stock was kept.
In 1960 the shop was run by just two people, Geoffrey Watkins, son of
John M. Watkins (the founder) and a Mr. Miller, who sat at the desk by
the door to take your money. Mr. Miller "smoked" a dummy cigarette all
day called "Apal" which was supposed to stop you smoking. It did -
after puffing on the thing cigarettes tasted so foul you *couldn't*
smoke them. So you gave up Apal - only Mr. Miller didn't!
Modern visitors to the site will still find a much larger "Watkins"
Bookshop, taking up the space of all three shops involved, but the
"magic" has gone.
Before and after 1960 Geoffrey Watkins was usually on hand to offer
the benefit of his experience and advice on most occult literature.
Sometimes his opinion was subtly visible by the way in which the books
were stacked on the shelves. You could *buy* AMORC literature by
H.Spencer Lewis, but you could not *browse* AMORC writings without
troubling Mr. Miller to arise from his seat and reach into a difficult
to reach corner behind him. It seemed an unkind thing to ask ...
Geoffrey Watkins was a true seeker, and also a true finder. More than
once he was known to suggest to a well-known customer that they might
be better off *not* buying the book they had in mind, without
trying to sell them an alternative.
Once inside the door there was a solitary chair in the far left corner
where one could sit and sample a prospective purchase. It was here
that I sat and skipped wondrously through L. Smithett-Lewis's
"Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury" which, amazingly, had been
'remaindered' at only three shillings and sixpence. I still have it,
along with happy memories of a more leisurely way of life, in which
the kindness of the late Geoffrey Watkins, who endorsed my first
application for a Reader's Ticket for the Reading Room of the British
Museum, features large. And I can still see Mr. Miller sucking on his
"Apal" surrounded by the yet to be finished "Collected Works of
C.J.Jung, books of Qabalah, Kabbalah, Alchemy, and the various
exponents of the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky teachings before Rodney Collin
had jumped to his death from the top of an Aztec Temple.
(The 1960 photo which inspired this item is on my homepage under
"Changing Images" along with this article.
Alan, 15 September 1996.
THEOSOPHY INTERNATIONAL: Ancient Wisdom for a New Age
http://WWW1.Minn.Net/~vlg/TI.html (Figure "one" after WWW)
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