Shirley, Ralph (1865–1946)
Leading British pioneer in the publication of occult and
mystical literature. Ralph Shirley was born at 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.
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. He died December 29, 1946.
Sources
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.