It is important to emphasize the influence of the composer and critic Philip Heseltine (1894-1930) on Sorabji around in the 1920s. Heseltine's positive reaction to Sorabji's early attempts at composing undoubtedly spurred Sorabji to soldier on through a succession of original piano concerti and other works. It seems that during these formative years, Sorabji looked up to Heseltine as a musical mentor, confidant, and friend. It is then no coincidence that Sorabji would be at least mildly interested in the occult/paranormal phenomenon of London in the early 1920s through Heseltine's insistence that they attend sessions at the London School for Psychical Research, where such subjects of telepathy and automatic writing were discussed and explored.

Indeed, automatic writing may have been an influence on Sorabji’s methods of composition. The idea of writing material that does not come from the conscious thoughts of the writer is not unlike composing in general, which depends on subconscious associations and abstractions that do not necessarily need conventional or literal logic to be validated. The speed at which Sorabji composed at, always away from the piano, and the complex and diverse associations his music triggered seems to have a direct connection to the techniques applied in automatic writing.

During the composition of the Third Sonata, Sorabji was interested in meeting the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley, nicknamed “The Beast,” a magician, entrepreneur and sexual sadist, his current claim-to-fame arising chiefly from his groundbreaking novels about drug-addiction, his idolization by the British glam-rock scene in the 1970s, and his adoption of the biblically attributed 'number of the beast' - 666. Sorabji's desire to play for Crowley seems to stem again from Heseltine's urging, and the young composer attempted to track Crowley down when on vacation in Italy with his mother, venturing south to Cefalu, Sicily to Crowley's infamous Abbey of Thelema. Sorabji’s interest in Crowley was satiated after Sorabji eventually heard him speak in London, subsequently arranging to see him. Unfortunately Sorabji's letters to Heseltine stop short of describing this unusual encounter, leading us to wonder which piece or pieces he played for Crowley. Sorabji wrote later about Crowley being “largely a figure of fun,” and perhaps not the towering character the ambitious and idealistic young composer might have hoped him to be.

From a letter to Philip Heseltine:

“[Crowley] is the dullest of dull dogs… he wants however to hear me play and when I’m finished with my Solstitial Fast which started last night Sunday at 6 and ends next Sunday at 6 PM, he is coming to hear some of my demons. He had on a red poplin silk waistcoat with gold buttons and his face is sunburnt up to the hat-line, above it’s lighter, making him look like a mask in a Chinese play. His face is that of a prosperous overfed fox-hunting tory-squire – the unteachable in full pursuit of the unwearable.”

Sorabji’s direct use of occult elements as programmatic themes in his music reveals itself in the unfinished Black Mass, for chorus, orchestra and organ and the Fifth Piano Sonata: Opus Archimagicum, with its references to tarot lore and the mystical Dies Irae plainchaint. It can also be seen in the two programmatic M.R. James-influenced short works Quaere and St. Bertrand de Comminges: He was laughing in the tower, and explicitly so in the Fourth Toccata movement titled Of a neophyte and how the black art was revealed to him.

Throughout the rest of his life, Sorabji held a fascination for numerology, astrology, and ghost stories, retaining a healthy interest in various off-shoots of the mystical concerns that encouraged his initial creative spirit as a young man.