I was once approached by a respected academic asking for my take on the life and work of Dion Fortune. He found it difficult to account for what he perceived as her first being a kind of ‘wishy washy’ Christian mystic and then turning to the Qabalah and coming up with some pretty hot pagan stuff in her Rites of Isis and of Pan.
Well first of all we need to disabuse ourselves of the thought that Dion Fortune was ‘wishy washy’ about anything, along with the assumption that there is anything ‘wishy washy’ in Christian mysticism. Although there is indeed plenty of quite ‘wishy washy’ pagan stuff about these days, including soft porn fairy fantasies, although I don’t suppose that bothers Old Horny too much!
I have been quite intrigued by this problem over the past year or so, in making a study of the life and work of the occultist Paul Sédir, who, after distinguishing himself as one of the leading lights in French occultism, was brought up short by the life and work of a gentleman called Nizier Philippe who just went around healing people.
Monsieur Philippe seems to have been a down to earth Christian mystic of a far from ‘wishy washy’ kind. Not that he was particularly welcomed by the church, which may have felt a bit upstaged by him, for even when he was a child the local curé was worried that his unusual powers might come from the devil.
Nor did the adult Monsieur Philippe enjoy a very good reception from the medical profession, who felt their livelihood threatened and tried to close him down by taking him to law on several occasions. And when as a young man he sought medical qualifications as an intern at the local hospital he was slung out for curing people unofficially on the side. The crunch point came when he cured the leg of a patient who was due to have it amputated next day. Whatever the feelings of the patient might have been, the surgeon was far from grateful!
The shock of Monsieur Philippe was no less to members of the contemporary occult establishment in France, including Papus, author of The Tarot of the Bohemians and various textbooks on magic – who was also a qualified doctor and specialist on hypnosis, but who virtually became a Christian mystic in the face of Monsieur Philippe’s powers, regarding him as his ‘spiritual master’.
Paul Sédir was another occultist considerably impressed, and in trying to come to terms with it all, wrote an intriguing book called Initiations, which I translated last year. It is an intriguing work because it hovers between traditional occult theory and practice (both Eastern and Western) and the brute fact of Christian mysticism at its most direct – not only in the matter of instant cures, or resuscitation of the recently departed, but bizarre shifts in time and space.
Such things cannot be produced to order of course, “the Spirit bloweth where it listeth” but there seem to be some for whom it blows in a favourable direction; whom Sédir came to call ‘Friends of God’. And in particular one known as ‘Theophane’ in his book, leading Sédir to speculate whether there are such ‘divine incarnations’ in the modern world in light of the one who said he would be “with us until the end of the world!”
A key question for many in the esoteric world who may regard themselves as Christian is whether such an Incarnation of ‘the Word’ was a once and still on- going personal event rather than some remote ‘Christ Force’ blowing our way if we happen to tap into it in meditation. Or, at the other extreme, may see the gospel story simply the fate of an idealistic, ‘highly evolved’ young man who got the wrong side of the religious and political establishment of his day.
According to Monsieur Philippe not taking the New Testament at face value is a bad mistake. Paul Sédir came to agree with him, to the point of almost regarding the four Gospels as a magical document if taken literally. He records in Initiations the surprise of some Eastern adepti at Westerners not realising that fact. And I believe the Dalai Lama may recently have hinted as much.
But when it comes to the Divine, then the field of operation becomes somewhat beyond astral visualisation or mental callisthenics; spiritual qualities are required. Indeed the theory is laid out in the Qabalah in the doctrine of the Four Worlds, in which the Tree of Life is regarded as operative at four levels. The Material, the Formative, the Creative, and the Spiritual. Assiah, Yetzirah, Briah, Atziluth. Or Physical, Elemental, Angelic, Divine.
The closest that spiritual qualities can be described is in somewhat hackneyed two thousand year old terms – Faith, Hope and Charity. And all three are very much positive virtues, rather than passive or ‘wishy washy’ ones. And although St Paul plumped for the last when trying to deal with the stroppy and argumentative Corinthians, the first was the one that Jesus kept reminding his followers that they lacked. Presumably because those of little faith may well be on the way to becoming hopeless and loveless too! Let alone being able to move mountains. Even the mountains of our own unbelief.