Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Dion Fortune's Legacy

“Religion must be re-stated in the new age, not because truth has changed, but because the manner of its expression has become atavistic and in consequence is not only incomprehensible but definitely leads astray a new age with a new destiny.”

Dion Fortune, War Letter No 67, 30th March 1941

Dion Fortune died in January 1946 after a relatively short life. During her time on earth she was a highly productive hothouse, both in terms of written output and general contribution to the emerging spiritual life of Britain. 

She wrote a number of fictional and non-fictional books. Some of these works are now more than a little dated, such as the “Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage” and the “Problem of Purity”, although there are still some gems to be found within these works. Other books such as the groundbreaking “The Mystical Qabalah” and her two greatest novels, “Sea Priestess” and “Moon Magic,” retain their wisdom, deep magic and powers of illumination for 21st Century seekers on a wide range of paths.

Thankfully her life and works are well chronicled in three biographies which are all well worth reading. The first of these is Charles Fielding and Carr P Collins Junior's "The Story of Dion Fortune." This account, while containing some factual inaccuracies (added by Collins without the knowledge of Fielding), includes practical workings from The Guild of the Master Jesus. The Guild material was co-produced by Dion Fortune and Charles Loveday (no relation to Raul Loveday of Crowley fame). Loveday's gravestone is shown below. 

Additionally, "The Story of Dion Fortune" includes a short collection of Celtic Workings penned by Colonel Seymour and celebrated many years ago by the then Fraternity of the Inner Light. The second edition is the version worth reading. This important work was only made available by the huge generosity (and wealth) of Carr P Collins Junior - a man who kindly funded some of Israel Regardie's, Bill Gray's, Gareth Knight's enterprises some thirty / forty or more years ago. 

The next account I would recommend is the late Janine Chapman's "Quest for Dion Fortune". While the content rambles at times, it does contain some interesting interviews with those who knew Fortune as well as the text of a letter sourced from the Warburg Institute in London. The letter is from Fortune to Crowley in 1942. Intriguingly she writes to Crowley:

"I am afraid my Biblical knowledge has grown rusty and I cannot follow the reference to Daniel and the Apocalypse with regard to Mr Churchill, so you will have to dot the I's if you want to convey anything to my intelligence......Is Mr Churchill to be conceived of as crowned with the stars, or does his tail draw the twelfth part of them after him?" 

Fantastic! Against the material of her magical workings during the Second World War, now re-published by Skylight Press, this stuff makes an interesting companion read. 

The final account is the most recent "Dion Fortune and the Inner Light" compiled by Gareth Knight.  The most accurate of available accounts, this also makes available for the first time publically the beautiful and powerful "Chant of the Elements."  Try reading it out loud on Glastonbury Tor or your own local high wild places. 


A very short taster of the text included in Knight's book is shown below:

"....Greeting in the Name and Power of the hill
Greeting and Welcome within the Gates
The Gates are open – Pass ye through.
Let those who can see, see the vision of the opening of the mountain.

The place is guarded.
A ring of fire is about you,
And the freedom of the hill is yours...."

Fortune left behind her a legacy of working groups celebrating and exploring the Western Mystery Tradition – The Society of the Inner Light, The London Group, Star and Cross, Servants of the Light, the Gareth Knight Group and the Avalon Group to name a few. Each of these have in their own ways contributed to the spiritual life and well-being of Britain, or, in the case of The Star and Cross, the United States. 

I doubt that many people today are truly aware of the depth and sheer extent to which Dion Fortune has influenced and continues to influence the development of the Western Mystery Tradition, Qabalah, Wicca and Paganism. Maybe that's how she would have liked it.

Much of what is out in the public domain now in terms of esoteric philosophy and practice has been made available through the determination and enterprise of a very small number of trail blazers who have included amongst their ranks Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune, Melita Denning, Osborne Philips, Charles Fielding, Gareth Knight, Dolores Ashcroft Norwicki and Marian Green.

Their opening up of the accessibility of the esoteric has not always been supported by many greedy and acquisitive initiates on the inside who have failed to realise that "no man is an island"!

However, without exception, all the authors listed appear to have very carefully thought through what they were sharing and how. I suspect each were following inner plane impulses and, in their own way, knew they had to stick their heads above the proverbial parapet and duck arrows from a number of different sources. After all, there was the serious matter of a New Age being born which required more openness and honesty.

Interestingly many readers nowadays express a view that Dion Fortune did not really share practical teaching, but for anyone with the patience, insight and eyes to see will appreciate a very different reality through her writing.

In the first edition of “The Occult Observer” in May 1949, Michael Houghton, the then owner of the Atlantis Bookshop on London’s Museum Street, published a biographical note about Dion Fortune. The note was written by the late Arthur Chichester, the Society of the Inner Light’s Warden. To illustrate the "head above the parapet" metaphor, a very brief excerpt from this piece is included below:

“It was inevitable that a courageous and outspoken woman should have trodden on sundry corns in the course of a lifetime spent in working for a sane understanding of the great way of life and vital truths behind what was, when she started her career, largely a tawdry and bombastic screen of pretence. Her preface to the Mystical Qabalah and references therein and in others of her works leave no doubt of her point of view, or of the hostility of some interests she had damaged by giving out publicly what it was right and just should be known generally."

He continues in a somewhat stern manner:

"Esoteric practice and training is rightly kept secret and imparted only to those considered worthy to receive it for it can do damage otherwise; but the lofty philosophy and metaphysics of the Ancient Wisdom (which is also the Modern Wisdom) should be available for all; and indeed to help in making them available is a privilege and consecrated task—and not a task for simpletons, however well-meaning.”

Life has moved on since Arthur Chichester’s day and will continue to do so. Many elements of esoteric practice are clearly now out in the bright light of day. However, despite this, most of these practices remain essentially as good as secret for one key reason. They require persistent and dedicated work over often long periods of time before their efficacy can be fully realised. It seems that few seekers nowadays have either the discipline or constitution to stay the distance in the way that Fortune exemplified and expected of others. Of course, some things remain unchanged from Chichester's time. We still have to endure the perennial challenge of well-meaning simpletons, heading down the road to hell while paving it with good intent!
Dion Fortune (1890 to 1946)

"Hers is the Light of the Heavens, 

and the brightest of the planets of the Holy Seven"

- Anna Kingsford


  1. Great post on Dion - thank you :)

  2. A few years ago my little group went up to the top of Glastonbury Tor by moonlight and performed the Chant of the Elements up there. It was a fantastic experience, despite the constant hazard of stepping on stoned hippies who were lying around on the grass in unexpected places. On the way down afterwards I stopped and looked back at the tower and was astonished to see a fierce bright white light hovering in front of the tower. I called to my companions but they'd all gone on ahead and so I was the only one who saw it! I'm not used to encountering physical phenomena after a ritual, but I certainly didn't imagine it. Afterwards I found out that there have been numerous reports of similar sightings. Whatever caused it, it remains a ritual experience I won't ever forget.

  3. Thanks Rebsie, an interesting anecdote - one which I trust your group didn't give you too much of a Cassandra complex over!I've had some memorable experiences myself around the Glastonbury landscape...

  4. I would be fascinated in finding out more about the Guild of the Master Jesus - beyond what is available in 'Charles Fielding's' biography of Dion Fortune. Is anyone still working it; what other written materials survive? It's poignant that so many take so much from Dion yet downplay the Master...

    1. One of the best ways of finding out more is perhaps simply to celebrate the Rite. Then you - and the other participants - can experience it first hand.

    2. Hello NorthStar, Christian Gilson has been running some fascinating articles and commentary on the Guild in the Inner Light Journal. You can purchase these directly via the Society in London. I'm also toying with the idea of blogging about some post DF/Inner Light extrapolations of the Guild work in a later posting.

  5. Thank you for that NorthStar. I guess that is probably a question you would need to direct to the Society of the Inner Light. As far as I'm aware there is nothing else out there in the public domain about the Guild. However, if my memory serves me well, Gareth Knight did publish a series of articles by Dion Fortune in his little New Dimensions magazine in the 1970s entitled "Occult Christian Working".

  6. Where can one get that Magical Teaching of Dion Fortune? Is that the original course she gave her students? How can I acquire that? Thanks!

  7. Hello Acujer! In response to your question, I'm afraid you won't be able to find this anywhere to buy. It was a collection of her writing put together by Carr P Collins Jr of Alan Adams' Star and Cross / Dallas Group some thirty plus years ago.


The Springtime of Dion Fortune

There she is staring out at you...or maybe that should be "in to you"! Whether writing as Violet Firth, Violet M Steele...