Rita Tremain lives in Minehead, Somerset, and practices as a homeopath. I first got in contact with her in 2015, when Rod Thorn and I were trying to trace her husband Peter Tremain, who was mentioned in several accounts of the early Cabbala groups. Unfortunately, we were too late to meet Peter, who died in 2014, but I have since met with Rita several times. One of the advantages of researching the roots of these groups is that, rather like family history, you can discover people in the present as well as in the past! And so the connections continue…
Setting Foot on the Path
How we come across any esoteric teaching for the first time may seem accidental but there is often an element of serendipity or synchronicity involved. When we are aware of these 'coincidences' it is well to take note, because they often herald something momentous; they are numinous. This was certainly the case when I first came across Kabbalah.
As a teenager I did everything at the last minute and always tumbled out of the sixth form common room at my girls' school just in time for classes. I can't imagine therefore why I was sitting perched on the front desk of an empty classroom waiting for the first lesson of the afternoon to begin. It happened to be French and for some reason I have a clear memory of how it felt, casting around for something to occupy myself for a few minutes, and picking up a copy of the Times, which should never have left the library, and since I was not interested in current affairs, I naturally turned to the back page for the personal ads. 'Philosophical group welcomes new members.' with a box number. In 1967 we were living in a heady mix of flower power and new age thinking and I was vaguely interested in Buddhism, so I wrote a naive letter to the anonymous advertiser in which I cringe to remember that I mentioned being 'tired of the wheel.'
Peter Tremain had taken over the North London Group, (known to its members simply as The Group), when Tony Potter moved to Cornwall and had decided to spread the net wider to attract fresh interest. Needless to say, he was not expecting a schoolgirl from Bishops Stortford and binned the letter, though something prompted him to fish it out of the waste basket and phone me. I went up to London to meet him, he picked me up from Liverpool Street and we spent several hours deep in conversation at a branch of the Baker and Oven pub. I went up to his home in Muswell Hill for a few early evening meetings, along with perhaps 8 potential new members, but it clashed with choir practice and it was quite a journey.
I was still intrigued, but it wasn't until some months later when I started university in London that I decided to see if the local library had anything on Kabbalah. There was one book available, a bit of a potboiler, but I opened it on the Tube on my way to college. Within minutes, a man sitting in the seat opposite asked, 'Are you enjoying that?' and ended by giving me his card with an invitation to meetings of the International Order of Kabbalists which met in Ealing. Considering we were on a train heading out of Wembley Park into town, I have no idea why this individual was so far out of his patch that morning. I had kept in touch with Peter and started going to the Red Lion and Sun in Highgate which was The Group's watering hole, and became more involved with the Work, as well as attending meetings for a while with the International Order of Kabbalists, which was not connected with the Group.
Peter later told me how he became interested in Kabbalah and involved with the Group. In the early 1960's he used to be friendly with some of the masters from Highgate School opposite the Red Lion and drank with them in the saloon bar. He had to pass through the public bar to go to the Gents however and there always seemed to be a huddle of odd individuals in earnest conversation round a large table, presided over by a small man with a straggling ginger beard and a penetrating gaze. Peter began to linger at the bar behind them to buy his pint, and noting his interest, one evening Tony Potter addressed him in typical style, saying, 'Ah, there you are, I've been expecting you.' He never frequented the Saloon bar again.
Those incidents, where events coincide to lead us in a particular direction, happen all the time of course, but sometimes they change the course of our lives; in our case personally too, since in 1977 Peter and I moved to Exmoor, our home until his death in 2014. Peter influenced many people's thinking, sometimes by means of Kabbalah, often just by encouraging a wider viewpoint than the purely subjective.
In the 1980's Tony Potter moved West to join us and ran an informal group from a succession of local pubs. Some of the members of that group became committed to the Work in various guises, others were waifs and strays whom Tony taught and supported along the way.
Tony, like Peter, is buried in Minehead Cemetery with an inscription Rev. A. J. Potter, Teacher and Philosopher.
Peter's tombstone simply bears his name, dates and A Seeker After Truth.
Rita Tremain, May 2021
Rod Thorn and I first met up with Rita in April 2016, along with two of her colleagues following a similar path: Michael Grevis, author of Unlocking Reality, and David Cronin (now deceased). One of the pleasures of delving into the past of these Cabbala groups is encountering new contacts in the present day. (C.G.)
You may also be interested to read two memoirs by John Pearce, another participant in the Tony Potter groups. They can be found at Historical Sketches in Esoteric Britain and on John's own website .
Left to right: Michael Grevis, Rod Thorn, David Cronin, Rita Tremain.
22/5/2021 09:12:46 am
Delightful article, Rita, and what excellent photos - particularly the one of Peter. Though this piece is admirably concise. Perhaps some time you could write a bit more about what the path itself was like, once you'd found it, and your views on how Peter and Potter helped those waifs and strays who had lost their way.
24/5/2021 07:27:25 pm
Peter was unusual in The Group in that he seemed friendly and down to earth, avoiding some of the complications.
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