Saturday, November 04, 2006

Talk given at Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, London, October 2006

Dion Fortune and the Masonic Tradition
Talk by Gareth Knight at Canonbury Masonic Research Centre
18th October 2006

I take it that I do not have to say too much about Dion Fortune, as she will be quite familiar to those of you who follow my usual lines of thought and practice. However, as there may be some of you who come from a more strictly Masonic line perhaps I should say briefly that she is a leading figure in esoteric circles, who founded a school of initiation in 1927, although she had been active on the esoteric scene for some years before that, in the Golden Dawn and the Theosophical Society amongst others, learning her trade so to speak. And that she is perhaps best known by her written work, which ranges from a user-friendly work on the Qabalah, and through many of its aspects in fact and fiction. Her school, still exists as The Society of the Inner Light, and I, amongst a number of other teachers and writers of my generation, have passed through its doors and owe our apprenticeship to it, before becoming in our various ways either journeymen or mastercraftsmen in our chosen field.
Even amongst her aficionados I think the Masonic foundation of her own esoteric apprenticeship is not generally realised. The teacher who had a major effect upon her early esoteric work was a Mason of considerable erudition, remarkable occult abilities, and wide ranging freedom of thought. Indeed she made a fictional character of him in a series of short stories, “The Secrets of Dr Taverner”, casting him as a doctor who ran a strange nursing home that catered for unusual psycho-physical problems in a highly unorthodox manner.
She later wrote, “if there had been no Dr Taverner, there would have been no Dion Fortune.”
Well Dr Taverner was known in real life Dr Theodore Moriarty who seems to have been only slightly less larger than life than the fictional character based upon him. An Irishman, born on July 27th 1873 in Dublin, he was the son of a captain in the Royal Navy, the Republic of Ireland still being under the British crown at that time.
According to scraps of biographical reminiscence recalled by his students, he ran away to sea and joined the merchant service. Then after one of the ship`s officers had interested him in philosophy, he returned to Dublin to study, and from thence went on to Heidelberg, where it is assumed he obtained a doctorate, although if he did it was not in medicine. University records in Dublin and Heidelberg throw no light upon his possible academic attainments.
Anyhow, at the age of twenty four he contracted tuberculosis, a not uncommon disease in those days, and on being advised to seek a dryer climate, emigrated, in 1897, to South Africa. There he worked on surveying roads before enlisting in the Customs service. He married, had two children and developed an interest in anthropology, particularly of local tribes of primitive Bushmen.
He also became a freemason. He was initiated into the St. Blaize Lodge, No. 1938 of the United Grand Lodge of England at Mossel Bay, but later transferred, in 1906, to the Edward H. Corgland Lodge, No. 247 of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, in Johannesberg. Then in 1911 he was back under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England, in the Unanimity Lodge No. 3126, at Walmer, near Port Elizabeth.
During this time he became co-author of two books on the subject, “The Freemason’s Vade Mecum” and “Notes on Masonic Etiquette and Jurisprudence”, his co-author being another mason of some distinction, Thomas N. Cranstoun-Day.
In documents he signed himself as being of the 18th degree, which signifies the Rosicrucian initiations that are open within Freemasonry. For all this information, and much that follows, we are indebted to the painstaking research of Alan Richardson, Dion Fortune’s other biographer, a new edition of whose work “Priestess” is, I am pleased to say, shortly forthcoming.
He must also have studied esoteric subjects in considerable depth for by the time Dion Fortune met him, soon after he had returned to England, in 1916, he had gained a reputation as a teacher of a system that he called “Universal Theosophy”. This had attracted a body of students that included three loyal and dedicated sisters who provided him, each in their way, with facilities for his classes. They were daughters of Francis Allen JP, of Swaffham in Norfolk.
The first was Elsie Reeves, the widow of a surgeon. She provided residential accommodation for courses at her home in Eversley, a village in Hampshire. These were attended on several occasions by Dion Fortune as she records in her semi-autobiography, “Psychic Self-Defence”. The second sister was Ursula Allen-Williams, the wife of an army officer, who provided Moriarty with a large shed for lectures at the bottom of her garden at Inverness Terrace, Bayswater, barely a stone`s throw away from Dion Fortune`s later London headquarters in Queensborough Terrace. And the third sister was Gwen Stafford-Allen, who allowed Moriarty to run his Science, Arts and Craft Society from her home, the Grange, in Bishops Stortford, where she ran a home for unwanted babies with the help of two doctors and nursing staff under the auspices of the County Council. Dion Fortune it seems was also acquainted with this location, for the district provides the locale for one of her novels, “The Goat-foot God”.
Dion Fortune thus seems to have availed herself of all three centres of his activity and it is an amalgam of these that forms the fictional nursing home described in “The Secrets of Dr. Taverner”, which ran as a series of stories in “The Royal Magazine” between February and July 1922, and which was the first published work of Violet Mary Firth to appear under the pen name Dion Fortune, by which she is now more generally known.
Her first meeting with Moriarty, at the age of 26, had a climactic effect upon the rest of her life. Until then she had been something of a misfit, unable to find a true direction in life, looking for some kind of career at a time when little was open to young women. After dabbling with horticulture and aspirations to free lance journalism, she had however begun to settle into the newly burgeoning field of psychology at the Medico-Psychological Clinic in Brunswick Square. Here she had become a leading student employed as a psychotherapeutic counsellor as back-up to the qualified medical staff. She had even had published a little book on elementary psychology, entitled “The Machinery of the Mind” graced with a foreword by a distinguished scientist, A.G.Tansley F.R.S., author of a major psychological textbook of the day.
She had however begun to become a little disillusioned by the lack of success that she discerned in current psychotherapeutic methods. Until, on a particularly unusual and difficult case, involving what might be called modern vampirism allied to psychic phenomena and necrophilia, Dr. Moriarty was called in, who apparently cleared it all up in spectacular fashion.
She was sufficiently impressed to write up the incident as the first of the Dr. Taverner stories, under the title “Blood Lust”, and to throw up her intentions of a career in psychotherapy. From henceforth she dedicated herself to investigating the psychic side of things.
She was quite eclectic in her approach, dividing her time between the Theosophical Society, the Golden Dawn tradition, and Theodore Moriarty’s activities.
The latter included a co-masonic lodge that he had set up at Sinclair Road in Hammersmith, and a record survives of ritual officers in the year 1919/20. Theodore Moriarty is registered as Adeptus with most, if not all, of the other officers being female, the office of Junior Warden being filled by V.M.Firth – the future Dion Fortune.
She does not appear in the list of officers for the following year, possibly because she had transferred her allegiance to the Golden Dawn system. However, her great friend Netta Fornario, is named as Outer Guardian, and the group seems to have made excellent strides for there had been thirteen initiations and an affiliation during the year.
The Golden Dawn of course had its origins in 1888 with three members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia but by 1919 had changed its name and divided into a number of temples. The one that Dion Fortune joined was the Alpha and Omega, that had been founded in Edinburgh in 1913 by the Scottish novelist Brodie Innes, but which had a London branch in which Maiya Curtis-Webb (an old friend of the Firth family) played a leading role. Dion Fortune seems to have thrived under Maiya Curtis-Webb’s tutelage but after Moina Macgregor Mathers, following the death of her husband, returned to England and took over the London branch of the Alpha et Omega, the stage seemed set for some kind of eventual confrontation. The newly initiated Soror Deo Non Fortuna apparently had something of an independent streak that did not go down too well with those whom she later described as the “widows and grey beards” who now ran the society.
As one who in later life was to demonstrate her natural flair in powers of leadership those about her no doubt found her rather than a trifle too pushy. This included the Allen sisters, when following Moriarty`s death from a heart attack in 1923, she put herself forward as a natural candidate to take over his group. This received a somewhat dusty response from the Allen girls for it was Gwen Stafford-Allen who seemed the natural heir-apparent.
Accordingly, Dion Fortune went her own way and formed and developed her own group, which went from strength to strength over the years. Establishing herself in Glastonbury she set about developing powers of trance mediumship, apparently after the manner that she had observed practised by Theodore Moriarty. This was not the type of mediumship usually practised by spiritualists, concerning family messages from the recently departed, but attempts to contact superior intelligences of one kind and another for metaphysical teaching and practice.
There was a great deal of this about at the time. It was the period when Alice Bailey made her first contacts with the Tibetan, when Olive Pixley developed her system of the Armour of Light under inner instruction, when W.B.Yeats received the complex teaching, through the automatic writing of his wife Georgie, that he later published as “A Vision”. And indeed if truth were told it was the modus operandi of pioneers of the previous generation, including the Secret Chiefs of the Golden Dawn, and the remarkable visions of Anna Kingsford that developed into the Hermetic Society, which was an immediate predecessor to the Golden Dawn and inspiration to Macgregor Mathers as he acknowledges in his dedication to her in “The Kaballah Unveiled”. Dion Fortune`s involvement in communications of this nature resulted in a body of teaching known as “The Cosmic Doctrine”.
An interesting factor in this body of teaching lies in some of its terminology, which shows a considerable subconscious influence from the writings of Moriarty. Although there is a difference of outlook and approach that distances it from any possible accusation of plagiarism. Some of the same terms may be being used, but they are used in a completely different way. And a way, it should be said, that is quite demanding on the intuitive powers of anyone who seeks to comes to grips with it. Indeed it has been designated as being designed “to train the mind rather than to inform it”. And indeed much the same could be said of much cosmic mediumship of this type. It stretches the intellect into intuitive modes of speculation, even possible spiritual revelation, somewhat after the manner of the writings of Jacob Boehme or William Blake.
Dion Fortune came to rely a great deal on what came to her through her mediumistic work, although not exclusively, for she threw her net wide. But there is one session in particular that I would like to concentrate upon, which is very revealing of the pattern of ritual work and the Masonic influence as it impacted upon her Fraternity.
This session occurred on March 29th 1925 and is evidently a response, given in deep trance, to a recent recruit to her group who is worried about whether he has received quittance from his obligation to his original Masonic, or possibly Golden Dawn, affiliations. It is worth examining in some detail, for a good deal can be gleaned I think, fairly accurately, from reading between the lines.
The immediate response to the neophyte`s question is unequivocal. “There is no question of quittance, my son, it is one and the same thing. There are the same Inner Chiefs. You have not changed your allegiance, you have merely changed your lodge. There is but one keystone to the arch, though there are two pillars.”
There follows a potted history of the history of Freemasonry as understood by the communicator, or by the subconscious mind of Dion Fortune, however you like to interpret these matters.
“The Lesser Mysteries were given in their present form in the year 1717, but you are also no doubt aware that they existed long prior to that date. The tradition of their origin in Solomon’s Temple is mainly symbolical, though it has a substratum of historical fact, as have all allegorical histories. The facts of the matter I will briefly explain.
“The Temples were the repositories of the Secret Wisdom, which was derived from the Manus and added to by the Illuminati as evolution permitted a wider consciousness. There were employed in the service of the Temple, craftsmen and artificers. These of necessity had to have conveyed to them certain knowledge, because it was their province to work the symbols which were used in the rituals. It thus came about that there grew up around each Temple groups of lay brethren, and in order to bind these to secrecy, oaths were administered. They thus formed a Lesser Fraternity, which was possessed of the secret symbols, but not of their interpretations.
“In ancient days promotion never took place from the Lesser Fraternity to the Greater, for the men of the Greater Fraternity were specially bred for the purpose, and derived their blood from the Sacred Clan, whereas the men of the Lesser Fraternity came from the populace. A soul that aspired to pass from the Lesser to the Greater had to disincarnate.”
I should perhaps interject at this point that the ancient days being spoken of are far beyond those of the Temple of Solomon and refer to the legendary lost continent of Atlantis. This was a subject that was the topic of hot speculation in the 1920`s, although subsequent scientific investigation seems to throw some doubt upon the matter. Nonetheless it is keeps cropping up with great persistence in many manners of ways, including Tolkien’s Numenor, so that I think it can be legitimately be regarded as a valid element of what we might call psycho-geography or psycho-historiography. Like the square root of minus one in mathematics, it may not exist, but nonetheless allows us to explain much!
However, Dion Fortune`s communicator does not labour the point but leapfrogs quite quickly to the more familiar territory of the building of the Temple of Solomon in early Judaic times.
“When King Solomon desired to reorganise the Jewish or Melchisedechian mysteries, he sent to the Tyrian School for an Initiator, and this Initiator brought with him certain artificers who were familiar with the art of working in stone which, in its more refined aspects, was unknown to the Jews. There were then at Jerusalem the Clan of the Craftsmen and the Sacred College. Into the Clan of the Craftsmen were admitted numerous Jewish subordinates, and these, with the enterprise of their race, desired opportunity for admission to the Greater Mysteries.
“This was refused, and there was an insurrection, which was quelled but not before serious developments had followed. But the building had progressed sufficiently far to be capable of completion without further need of Tyrian science, and so arrangements were made for the Tyrian artificers to return to their homes, and the work was completed by the Jewish craftsmen, and the services of the Temple were duly inaugurated and conducted by the Levites.
“There remained, however, a considerable body of men, who by means of the experiences they had undergone, and the symbols they had handled, had attained a degree of enlightenment, but these were neither priests nor populace. Many of the labourers and workmen, having profited nothing by their opportunities, but remaining hewers of wood and drawers of water, were reabsorbed by the populace on the completion of that Great Work.
“Others, however, having learnt the exoteric or technical arts of applied geometry, were capable of constructing edifices. They therefore banded themselves together into the first Building Guilds, and wandered as nomads wherever their work was required; the head man of the clan driving a bargain for the service of his people, who, with their wives and families, tools and implements, borne on the backs of asses, and driving herds of goats, wandered all over the known world, leaving the mark of their training on the edifices they erected, and conserving their knowledge of the building arts as tribal secrets. These were the forerunners and ancestors of the medieval Building Guilds.
“Now it was the custom of these patriarchal Fraternities to employ solemn worship, whose ritual they derived from the days of the Temple building, and each edifice was consecrated at its commencement and dedicated at its completion by the rituals known only to the Builders.
“In the dedication they aimed at the propitiation of the Earth Spirits of the site, that they might withhold accidents from the workmen. And at the completion they rendered thanks lest resentful spirits should revenge themselves in the future. It is to the Earth Spirits of the site that the coins of dedication are tendered. For, as you doubtless know, coins of the realm are placed beneath the Corner Stone. This is the remote relic of the Great Invocations with which the Tyrian Adept consecrated each corner of his Temple.
“The medieval Building Guilds, substituting the Saints for the Elementals, continued the Tradition, using the symbolism, of which they had no interpretation, and employing an art of whose esoteric significance they were ignorant.
“The line of the Greater Mysteries, however, had never died out neither had its flame been quenched, for each new Illuminatus rekindled the Light from the hidden fire; and the tradition stretched down the ages, despite the persecutions of the Church.
“During the earlier years of the 18th century and the concluding years of the 17th the Secret Science had received a great impetus owing to the activities of certain men of outstanding character, and many students pursued these arts.
“It was desired by the Adepti to organise the training of the aspirants and it was decided that for this purpose the rituals of the Lesser Mysteries were required. These, however, had become extinct. For though the Greater Mysteries could relume the torch at the Light of the Inner Fire, the Lesser Mysteries were dependent on the Greater; and when the Light went out it was not relit. Therefore it was that there was no School of the Lesser Mysteries to act as a bridge whereby the populace could reach the Temple.
“Now the Adepti, seeking to construct rituals suitable for the Initiation of Candidates of the grades of the Lesser Mysteries, cast about for such relics of the old rituals as might still be extant. They had no more affinity with the Building Guilds than they had with the Scribes or Papermaking Guilds who also were descendants of the Temple servants. But in the superstitious practices of the Building Guilds they found the relics of the ancient Craft Mysteries and on these relics they based their work.
“Therefore it is that the Lesser Mysteries of the Western races express abstract truths in the formulae of masons` technicalities. The principles are those common to all the Lesser Mystery Schools. The form is peculiar to the particular trade which happened to be selected for the purpose of picking up the contacts.”
It will be gathered from this that the largely unspoken assumption is that what we are concerned with is a secret tradition of means of communicating with various inner powers, that is the motivating and indeed the driving engine behind Masonic symbolism. And moreover that there is a division between the members of such guilds as might be privy to the symbolism, even if they did not understand it, and the general populace. But moreover there is a division within, between what might be called the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries, which the communicator goes on to define as Rosicrucian. And in the original script such words do not appear printed out, but only by a row of dots, indicating not so much a requirement for secrecy, for the meaning is perfectly obvious, but a certain reverence in the hearts and minds of those who are receiving this material. The importance and glory of which of course, they may well hope, rubs off a little on themselves, as being entrusted to be in the know.
But back to the script, which may possibly cause the hackles of some more down to earth Masonic brothers to rise. But don`t blame me, I am only quoting what the man said!
“You will see from this that the validity of the Lesser Mystery ritual depends entirely on its being operated by Initiates of the Greater Mysteries, and mark you this – no Mason can initiate. It is only a Rosicrucian that can initiate, and the Rosicrucians are the masters of the Masons, and they know it, my brother.
“ And if you take your initiation from the hand of the Rosicrucian you have no occasion to question its validity, rather you may question the validity of Initiations received from other hands.
“Now mark this well – it was only the three Craft Degrees that were instituted by the Adepts, and these are the only degrees of the Lesser Mysteries. The higher Masonic Degrees are but attempts on the part of the populace to enter the Mysteries which were reserved for the Sacred Clan; and now, as then, it is necessary to be twice-born – born of the Spirit as well as of the flesh in order to enter the Greater Mysteries.
“Of recent years evolution, having advanced, and the development of the feminine aspect of the race having reached a degree which enabled the average woman to benefit by the Masonic Initiations, those who ruled the Order from within desired that the gates should be open, but those who ruled the Order from without held the gates shut in England. Among the French Masons, however, were a larger proportion of occultists, and these, acting under instructions, opened the gates and gave the Charter to three noble women that they might initiate their sex.
“This Charter is valid: By their works ye shall know them.”.
Now I am no scholar of Masonic history and tradition, and so am in no position to be able to put names and faces to what is generally implied here. But in that which follows, which comes closer to home, I can certainly hazard an informed guess as to who is being referred to. Let us continue.
“A difficulty arose however; Masonry is designed to act as an introductory school to the Rosicrucian Mysteries. Women’s Masonry was used under Eastern contacts, for which it was unsuited…” Here, I think we have the writing off, in the script, of any Theosophical Society initiatives in this direction under Annie Besant and C.W.Leadbeater.
“… and therefore another attempt was made at founding a mixed Lodge, and, the Anglo-saxon race being too unreceptive and hidebound by prejudice, the task was given before to a Celt.”
Is this a reference to Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers I ask myself?
“Later a Celt was used again, and this time an Irishman received and acted upon the mandate.”
Would this be Theodore Moriarty?
“He worked for a time and then the mandate was withdrawn and the Lodge closed – for the force had broken bounds.”
That is, he too had died, and his successors did not seem able to pick up the torch, at any rate in Dion Fortune`s estimation.
“Again the attempt was made, but this time, the Celtic stock being deemed too unstable, the Nordic stock was used. That briefly is the history of your Fraternity.”
The Nordic stock is of course that of Violet Mary Firth, or Dion Fortune, who was greatly proud of her Yorkshire origins, part of which she indirectly celebrates in the character to Tim Murchison in her novel “The Winged Bull”.
“Now the Irishman who founded the Neo-Essenes sought a contact, just as the Adepts of 1717 sought a contact, but he, being able to function on the inner planes, established his contact by touching the planetary memories and linked up with the ancient Essenes of Palestine, who were the residuum of the builders settled among the mountains of Lebanon – men too old for the task of building who retired to end their lives in peaceful meditation upon the mysteries of God and Nature. It is from these that this Fraternity first derived its contacts, though these contacts are enshrined in the form of the Masonic symbolism as being most appropriate thereto and likewise the lineal descendants thereof.”
This reference to an Irishman who founded the Neo-Essenes I think must also refer to Moriarty, although I am not aware of his connection with any such organisation. Neo-Essenes tend to call to my mind the later successors of Anna Kingsford, who embraced their own kind of mystical Christianity. However, Moriarty was certainly well enough informed in the esoteric elements of Christian religion to have been involved in such an enterprise, and I cite as evidence a series of lectures he gave called “Metaphysical Aspects, (or Concepts), of Religion” with particular reference to the Gospel of St John.
In one of these particularly, and it appears to be the first, is evidence of his pervading influence on Dion Fortune`s conceptions.
As an initiate of her school, albeit having entered it rather more than fifty years ago, I do not think I am giving away any esoteric secrets in saying that much of the ritual symbolism she used is broadly Masonic. Indeed pillars and such appear in the introductory study course, but I recall the sense of shock I received when in later years I found much that I had thought to be secret symbolism of the innermost inner plainly laid out in a Masonic handbook! However, there can be considerable differences between one lodge or tradition and another, in detail and addition to the general symbolic scenario, as well as various perceptual developments and shifts of emphasis from one generation to another.
Some of these have been publicly revealed already by the amusing and occasionally iconoclastic writer Francis King, in “Ritual Magic in England”, who does not pull his punches, even if they sometimes swing somewhat wide of the mark. He found cause for risibility in an Inner Light ritual that he attended on the close association of such symbolic elements as wheat, honey and asbestos.
Now just such a bizarre sounding triad is to be found in one of the Moriarty lectures I have mentioned, given God knows when, but which by coincidence has come my way, and with annotations that I am part persuaded are in Dion Fortune`s hand.
In this, along with the assumption of the existence of Atlantis, is a dissertation upon the sun hero, representing the divine aspect in man, that is paralleled by the passage of the sun through the signs of the zodiac, which sinks to relative impotence in the winter to rise again gloriously in the spring. And as the sun begins its descent in the sign Leo, so the lion is found in all sun myths, and from whose carcase proceed bees.
The bee he sees as an important symbol within the Mysteries, with allusions in many Bible passages – in Genesis, Ezra, the Psalms and the Pauline Epistles – and also as an especial mark of the Order of Melchizedek, bees being creatures capable of creating a perfect figure, the hexagon, within their cells.
Another aspect of the sun hero is as god of agriculture, and as god of the corn the sun hero is said to scatter the seed. From earliest times the ear of corn has been the symbol of fertility, of “the bread of life”, and with the essential quality inherent in all seeds, the abstract being only waiting for fertilisation to spring into activity and growth.
And then we come upon asbestos as the third member of a symbolic trinity, which according to Moriarty has been a symbol in the Mysteries from earliest days. And the reason for the connection between these three things he says – the bee, the corn and asbestos – is because they all came to earth from other evolutions. That is, they have no archetypes on this planet, but have been brought over to us to teach definite lessons, and for this reason are called Manu manifestations.
And he goes on to explain that although at first sight there does not appear to be any mention of asbestos in the Bible, the Toltec word pettri, though meaning primarily a stone, also stands for asbestos, and equally the Greek word petros, used so much in the gospels, is the same word as pitheros, which also stands for asbestos, which stands for the indestructibility of the spirit principle even by fire.
In these old Mysteries, asbestos is described as “the unaffected yet bound”.
The wheat is described as “the living yet dead”.
And the bee as “the free yet enslaved.”
All three of which, I suggest, are profound definitions as to what being an initiate in the world entails.
“The unaffected yet bound.”
“The living yet dead.”
“The free yet enslaved.”
Think on these things. For whatever our outward differences or perceived paths may seem, be they Rosicrucian, Masonic, Neo-Essene, Golden Dawn or Inner Light, these definitions are symbolic pointers to essential and universal truth. They were good enough for Theodore Moriarty. They were good enough for Dion Fortune. And they are certainly good enough for me!

Talk given at Leaping Hare Conference, Colchester, April 2006

Talk given by Gareth Knight at Leaping Hare Annual Conference,
High Woods, Colchester, 1st April 2006

I have been asked to talk to you today about my magical life, although I am not sure that it is very much more magical than anyone else`s. It certainly seems to have been going on for rather a long time, which means I cannot include too much of it in one afternoon. And it could well keep us going well into the night, simply trying to define what magic is, let alone what my particular involvement in it may have been, in public or private.
However, I can say that anyone who has an inclination toward the magical life is rather prone to look for omens, portents and the inner significance of things. Therefore it intrigues me somewhat to have been invited to speak at this particular location, in High Woods, Colchester. For you have unwittingly brought me back close to where I started off in life - seventy six years ago, come the day after tomorrow.
On April 3rd 1930 I was born at Mile End, just across the fields from here, over what used to be called the Candy Meadows, but which I imagine is now a housing estate. And I recall High Woods as a magical kind of place, an extent of woodland where, in the spring, the ground was covered in a veritable mist of bluebells.
Not that the scene was always entirely idyllic, for I also recall my mother and I being ordered out by a gamekeeper halfway through a family picnic, for being on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence. Thus do two kinds of reality tend to butt up against one another, in the nineteen thirties as well as today.
So whether you have pulled me back full circle this afternoon, to set me going on the next ring of some spiral of magical life experience remains to be seen. I think there unlikely to be much picnicking in the woods. Although there seems to be no shortage of parking at Tescos.
And I have to say that of late I have become increasingly aware of the magical dynamics of the woods, and fields, and the Earth itself. Indeed of the contours of the land, such as this high wooded point, overlooking across the Colne valley, the corresponding height of England`s most ancient recorded town, as Camulodunum, with its temple of Claudius, and before that home to Old King Cole the merry old soul overlooking the river Sheepen. The ups and downs of all of which I remember well, through pushing my bike unwillingly to school, in the shadow of the Roman wall, up Balkern Hill. To say nothing of tearing back down it, at risk to life and limb, in the afternoon.
But it was not until I had said farewell to Colchester as a young man that I found the magical direction to my life. When, at the age of twentythree, I came across a couple of books by Dion Fortune. One was called “The Esoteric Orders and Their Work” and the other “The Training and Work of an Initiate”. They struck me with tremendous force. I devoured them avidly, and determined that wherever this stuff was coming from, that was where I had to be. If there were such things as initiates I wanted to become one, and if there were such things as esoteric orders at work then I wanted to join.
Accordingly, I enrolled on the preparatory correspondence course with the Society of the Inner Light, became a member, and as soon as I could arrange it, took up residence in London as close as I could to its headquarters, and subsequently worked my way up the grades.
The Society had been founded by Dion Fortune some thirty years previously. I have been told on good authority from at least two sources recently that no-one under the age of 30 seems to have heard of Dion Fortune, in which case my sympathy goes out to a somewhat deprived generation. She may have died sixty years ago this January but most of her books are still in print, including a clutch of occult novels, upon some of which a couple of film companies currently hold options.
My own magical life, such as it is, has consisted largely of following and then promoting and researching the magical ways that Dion Fortune pioneered.
Magic has become quite respectable in academic circles these days, and in his history of modern pagan belief, “The Triumph of the Moon”, Professor Ronald Hutton cites Dion Fortune as being one of four modern figures, active between 1900 and 1950, who, he considers have had a direct and obvious influence upon it, and who has been acknowledged by many of its practitioners as a source of inspiration.
Well that is as may be, although I have to say that Dion Fortune cast her magical net rather more widely. In her youth she joined just about every major esoteric organisation in sight, from the Theosophical Society to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She assisted Bligh Bond in psychic endeavours to contact medieval monks at Glastonbury Abbey. She developed a clinic with her doctor husband that combined esoteric healing along with conventional medicine. She wrote and performed Rites of Isis and of Pan for public performance in central London. She organised public worship in a private chapel known as the Church of the Grail. And founded an esoteric school that still exists today, through the doors of which many well known writers and teachers have passed. And in her latter days she was researching kundalini yoga and the Arthurian tradition and speaking on spiritualist platforms.
So any label placed upon her, be it pagan, Christian or magical is likely to be somewhat short of comprehensive in terms of an esoteric trade descriptions act. But just as there is a movement today to get supermarkets to label their produce red, yellow or green according to the amount of salt or fat or whatever else may be in their products, so Dion Fortune tended to brand her magical goodies with different labels according to occasion. Her particular colours being Green Ray, Orange Ray or Purple. The Green of elemental energy and the nature contacts, the Orange of hermetic philosophy and ceremonial magic, and the Purple of spiritual and religious mysticism.
I have to say my own approach to things is similarly eclectic. However, this being an occasion which above all celebrates the Green Ray side of things, let us concentrate upon that particular aspect of the three-fold way. For it also happens to be, in my belief, currently the most important and one that we ignore at our peril.
I was talking to the Quest conference in Bristol just a month ago, on Dion Fortune and her work, and particularly the legacy of her novels, which she used as a means to present the more practical aspects of magic. She was always keenly aware of the importance of the land, which often features in her novels. And of particular interest to my west country audience was therefore her novel “The Sea Priestess” which features a promontory of land that juts out into the Atlantic some way south of Bristol, near Weston super Mare. It is known as Brean Down, and there her magical heroine, who goes by the evocative name of Vivienne Le Fay Morgan, builds a temple dedicated to the powers of the sea and the moon, and performs her Rite of Isis under the aegis of an inner Merlin like figure known as the Priest of the Moon.
Much of her inspiration for this came from an academic work published in 1903, written by a remarkable woman called Jane Harrison, who at a time when classical studies were an exclusive preserve of fuddy duddies of the male sex, not only stormed their Olympean ramparts, but chose to upstage most of the Olympean gods by concentrating on more ancient primitive Greek religion from which they had sprung. Her major work, somewhat formidably entitled “Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion”, had great influence on Dion Fortune when writing her novels some thirty years later.
It was an examination of the primal dynamics of the cults of Orpheus and Dionysus – and indeed part of Dion Fortune`s Rite of Isis clearly derives from the inscription on an ancient funerary and initiatory gold tablet that is quoted and described by Jane Harrison. In Dion Fortune`s modern rendering of these dynamics we find the Sea Priestess, evoking an approach to the goddess of the inner Earth for the questing priest.
Sink down, sink down, sink deeper and more deep
Into eternal and primordial sleep,
Sink down, be still, forget and draw apart,
Sink into the inner earth`s most secret heart.
Drink of the waters of Persephone,
The secret well beside the sacred tree.
Waters of life and strength and inner light –
Eternal joy drawn from the deeps of night.
Then rise, made strong, with life and hope renewed,
Reborn from darkness and from solitude.
Blessed with the blessing of Persephone,
And secret strength of Rhea, Binah, Ge.
Now what is particularly significant about this approach is that she is directing the aspirant downwards into the UnderWorld rather than upwards onto cosmic Cloud Nine. In this she is a forerunner of such latter day teachers as R.J.Stewart and his book “The UnderWorld Initiation”, which has been the subject of many a powerful esoteric workshop. The UnderWorld in question, I hasten to add, has nothing to do with medieval conceptions of Hell, but is the inner side of the Earth upon which we live and move and have our being. The traditions of which, as R.J.Stewart discovered from his early experience as a folk musician, are enshrined in ancient ballad lore.
Not, I furthermore hasten to add, that Cloud Nine should be excluded from our vision of the inner side of things. For there is a place for angels in the cosmos as well as elemental beings. And here again in the last analysis we have to seek a just balance in the three fold way of things. But to deny the powers of the inner Earth is arguably responsible for many excesses of asceticism in medieval sanctity, considerable hypocrisy and an ineffectual prissiness in some avenues of esoteric studies.
Now although my friends in Bristol were particularly interested in her work as a priestess of the Rite of Isis, because the site of the temple of the Sea Priestess was upon their doorstep, Dion Fortune also celebrated another side of the polarity of the inner Earth. That is to say, through her Rite of Pan, which was featured in her earlier novel “The Goat-foot God” and is of particular interest to us, in that the location of her fictional inspiration seems to have been closer to our neck of the woods. Certainly her heroes turn east rather than west when they drive out of London and find themselves in wooded areas, which could well be Epping Forest, or Hatfield Forest, if not quite so far east as High Woods.
The site of Monk`s Farm, built upon the ruins of an ancient abbey that had turned heretical, has been conjecturally located somewhere along the Essex and Hertfordshire border, and rightly or wrongly, driving through the countryside around Takeley and Hatfield Heath always puts me in mind of it. Be that as it may, it was here that Hugh Paston, a wealthy socialite dumped by his wife and disenchanted with his former friends turns to investigate the inner worlds and his own psyche.
We are never quite sure which is which – and this is what makes it in some ways her most accurate and complex occult novel. Is he having memories of a past incarnation, or is he developing a schizophrenic secondary personality, or is he being overshadowed by the ghost of a medieval monk, who was walled up by the authorities in an oubliette for dabbling with pagan rites instead of studying his breviary?
Again, I detect the influence of Jane Harrison when Dion Fortune`s characters speculate upon the past history of the place:
“You think what it must have meant to these monks, shut up in their monasteries, when they got to work on the Greek manuscripts that the Renaissance brought to Europe. They were careful what Latin ones they let come into the libraries, because the old abbots could read those. But they couldn`t read the Greek ones, and the smart young fellows in the scriptorium got to work on them – and they must have had an eye-opener. Supposing they got hold of the “Bacchae” for instance, with the invocations to Dionysos? That must have livened up the cloister a bit.”
To cut a long story short, it appears that the prior must have experimented with some of this, fallen foul of the authorities and been walled up.
So it is thought that the spirit of the prior Ambrosius may still walk the place. Hugo Paston, begins to feel overshadowed by him, even to feel that it may have been his own former incarnation, and all this on top of being emotionally repressed in this life in the present. Whatever the facts of the matter, for better or for worse, the pathetic and ascetic Hugh, and Mona Freeman, the raunchy young lady who has befriended him set about reviving the spirit of Pan within the grounds of the old abbey.
One of the most evocative preliminaries is a curious song that Mona sings as she lays out their morning meal, prior to performing the rite:
Bowl of oak and earthen jar,
Honey of the honey-bee;
Milk of kine and Grecian wine,
Golden corn from neighbouring lea –
These our offerings, Pan, to thee,
Goat-foot god of Arcady.

Horned head and cloven hoof –
Fawns who seek and nymphs that flee –
Piping clear and draweth near
Through the vales of Arcady –
These the gifts we have of thee,
God of joyous ecstasy.

Come, great Pan, and bless us all:
Bless the corn and honey-bee.
Bless the kine and bless the vine,
Bless the vales of Arcady.
Bless the nymphs that laugh and flee,
God of all fertility.

Dion Fortune was good at describing the dynamics of magical experience. What it felt like. Of course she had the advantage of considerable direct personal experience, allied to a gift with the pen. And as they begin to get into the evocation of Pan, so they sense a change in the atmosphere within the woodland clearing in which they work:
“ Then the place began to fill with light, overpowering the oppressive heat so that they thought only of the light and forgot the heat. It was a curious light, neither of the sun, nor of the moon, nor of the stars; more silvery than the golden band that still shone amid it; less silvery than the pale moon-glow and the stars. And in this light all things were reflected. The earth spread away into space in a great curve, with their grove upon it. It swung through the heavens in a yet greater curve, the planets circling around it, and it was ringed like Saturn with luminous bands. This was the earth-aura, and within it was lived their life. Their psychic selves breathed in those bands of light as their physical selves breathed in the atmosphere. And within the earth was the earth-soul, all alive and sentient, and from it they drew their vitality.”
Hugh thinks that all this has come about through their invocation, but Mona knows that these things are there all the time, though in our normal state of everyday consciousness we are unaware of them. That magical invocation is a process of expansion of awareness. An opening the doors and cleansing the windows of perception.
And the polar connection between the Rites of Isis and the Rite of Pan is revealed at the end of the book, in a magical invocation chanted by Mona as priestess of these powers.
I am She who ere the earth was formed
Rose from the sea.
O First-begotten Love, come unto me,
And let the worlds be formed of me and thee.

Giver of vine and wine and ecstasy,
God of the garden, shepherd of the lea –
Bringer of fear, who maketh men to flee,
I am thy priestess, answer unto me!

Lo, I receive the gifts thou bringest me –
Life, and more life, in fullest ecstasy.
I am the moon, the moon that draweth thee.
I am the waiting earth that needeth thee.
Come unto me, Great Pan, come unto me!

And in the coming of the god, Hugh realises that the Pan that is being evoked is not the goat-god, crude and earthy, it is the Sun. Not the sun of the sophisticated Greek Apollo, but an older, earlier, primordial sun, the sun of Helios, the Titan.
And he remembers a favourite phrase of his occult teacher “All the gods are one god, and all the goddesses are one goddess…” The All-Father is celestial Zeus - and woodland Pan – and Helios the Life-giver. He is all these things, and having known Pan, a man might pass on to the heavenly gate where Helios waits beside the rosy fingered Dawn – of Aphrodite, the Awakener, arising from the sea.
And so it is with invocations, that seek to rouse the Pan within, who is by no means just a cosmic billy-goat.
So much for Dion Fortune as a pioneer, as Professor Hutton has hailed her. But if she has fulfilled her function as a pioneer what does it behove us to do? The function of a pioneer is to blaize a trail that can be followed and developed by those who come after. She has done her job. What are we going to do about ours?
Well I think that to a large degree this consolidation has been achieved by the modern neo-pagan movement. I also dare to believe that it is also beginning to impinge upon a wider front of public awareness. There is certainly of late a greater realisation of the importance of the being of the earth itself.
To some extent this insight that came to the environmental scientist James Lovelock some thirty years ago, when he began to see the planet as a great super-organism that regulates itself chemically and atmospherically to keep itself fit to bear life. That is to say, that to all intents and purposes, is a living being itself.
Being a scientist he put it in jaw breaking and mind crunching terms of “a biocybernetic universal system tendency” and it was left to the novelist William Golding to come up with a more appropriate name – of Gaia – after the Greek goddess of the Earth. She whom, in another of her aspects, Mona Freeman was evoking in the Rite of Pan.
So if we conceive of the Earth as being a great elemental being providing the means for the generation of life within and upon herself, what of the forms of life that she so nurtures and nourishes? This includes ourselves, as members of the human race. It also includes the animal kingdom in all its forms. And for those who have a certain degree of psychical and elemental awareness, along with breadth of vision to take in the fact, it includes the faery realm.
According to folk lore and myth and occasional sightings, this is as wide and diverse a kingdom as the whole of the animal species and the ethnic variations of the human race. It may include the little flower faeries that have crept into Victorian nursery tales and some of Shakespeare, but also the great “lordly ones of the hollow hills” – the Tuatha de Danaan and their like, - the children of the goddess Dana.
Time was when Irish mystics of a hundred years ago, such as George Russell and W.B.Yeats were scorned for believing in faeries. But despite the brash materialist and hedonistic tenor or our times there has become a general awareness of the possibility of the existence of such a range of beings, if only let in through the back door of fantasy fiction.
Thus we see, against all commercial odds, the massive success of works of the mythopeoic imagination such as J.R.R.Tolkien in “The Silmarillion” and “The Lord of the Rings”, not only in terms of books, but latterly of their film production world wide.
One even finds evidence of the general acceptability of the tradition in the comic novels of Terry Pratchett, which have broken into the mass market despite the somewhat esoteric subject matter of witches of various grades and indeed of elemental beings. As for instance in the hilarious “Lords and Ladies”.
Here traditional witches in the form of Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax do their best to cope with the rash invocations of teenage wannabe`s who have conjured a somewhat stroppy elf queen out of a stone circle. There is sound wisdom too behind much of the laughter. For the inner worlds are very reflective. And in esoteric evocation we tend to get a mirror image of our own state of being. This is an elementary tenet of esoteric psychology and the reason why sound esoteric schools set great store by purity of motive and spiritual and emotional maturity.
I have spoken of the influence of Dion Fortune upon my magical life, who flourished half a generation before my time, so it is also appropriate that I speak of one or two teachers who come half a generation or so after my time, and who carry on the broad tradition I believe in.
To R.J.Stewart, whom I have already mentioned, we owe the concept of what is known as the Triune or the Three-fold Alliance. That is, mutual recognition and cooperation between the human, the animal and the faery kingdoms. This is no new age fad nor fancy for he supports it with an 18th century esoteric document in his possession, which he quotes in two of his books “The Living World of Faery” and “Power Within the Land”. And more recently he develops the concept in “The Well of Light”, in a form of spiritual healing based on folkloric tradition involving a working relationship between humans and the inner forces of the land or region in which they live.
Or, if you should want things straight from the horse`s mouth there is the record of an apparent confrontation between John Matthews and what appears to have been one of the Lordly Ones at a Neolithic site in Ireland, which he has revealed in a book called “The Sidhe – Wisdom from the Celtic Otherworld”.
I quote a key passage of this message from one of these lordly ones, who is plainly not best pleased with the way that the human race has been shaping:
“You would be better to see yourselves as allies of creation rather than its rulers. By choosing to work in harmony with the natural world – as once all living things did – you could still redress the balance.
“If your life brushes against that of another creature you feel something. If you take the life of another creature you feel something. It is no great step to extend this to feeling something when you touch a rock or a tree, when you feel the energy of a river or the sea.
“Many feel these things, yet your race continually shut out these feelings. Just as you attach devices to your horses so that they can see only ahead, so you have done to yourselves, limiting your vision until you can see nothing save that which is before you. Only when you learn to remove the guards will you experience true vision. You must seek to become reconnected to everything, end the separation you have created for yourselves.
“There are many things you can do to bring about a re-connection. Begin by noticing the world around you. By truly looking. By seeing past the surface of things to the level of Spirit.
“At the moment when you go out into nature you see only the surface of things. Trees, grass, water, plants. Yet the reality of these things is far greater. Once you knew this. You can discover it again if you truly wish. Next time you are outside look around you. Try to see beyond the surface into the true nature of things you see. Though you may find it difficult to do so at first, in time you will begin to see more.
“If you continue far enough and deeply enough you will even begin to communicate with the spirit within the things you are observing. In truth you will cease to be observers at all and become part of the thing you are looking at.
“This is what the ancient bards of this land meant when they spoke of having `been` a thing. This was more than a poetic image, but a very real truth. To truly know a thing is to become one with it. Just as to become one with it is to truly know it.
“When you do this you will begin to understand the true nature of things, and of your own relationship to them. Perhaps then, when plants and rocks and animals are no longer soulless things, you will cease to treat them as such, cease to take them and use them as you have now for so many of your ages. If you are truly ready to enter a new era then you must discover how to make such changes to the way you view things. Only when you have done so will you be truly liberated from the narrow place in which you have put yourselves.
“At present you are just as much prisoners as if you were truly locked up within stone walls. The walls of your prison are not ones that you can see with your eyes, but they can still be recognised.”
It seems to me that this may well be true of the great majority of the human race, although I venture to think that it may be less true of those of us who are assembled here. The very fact that we are present here demonstrates that we realise that there is something more to life than the surface illusion – hard, brash and self-sufficient though that surface illusion might appear.
This is something that challenges us in many different ways. It is not enough to confine our interest in such matters to a safe and purely intellectual level. We not only have to “believe in” faeries and other forms of elemental consciousness, but to understand who and what they are, where they come from, where they are going, and what our mutual relationship with them may be.
The Three-fold Alliance makes similar demands on us to think about how we relate to the animal kingdom, for the patience and suffering of the animal kingdom needs to come through to our awareness loud and clear.
So we should arouse ourselves and reach out to our companions on this planetary globe. Make ourselves known to these beings who are part of the evolution of the inner Earth in high and low degree. Seek out what lies within these parallel worlds behind appearances. And in particular the hidden evolutionary expression of the faery world that is often concealed behind the veil of literary fancy.
This is all part of that which is embraced in Dion Fortune`s Rite of Isis and Rite of Pan, and it is all perhaps a matter of taking fiction seriously, whether it be that of Dion Fortune, Tolkien, or even C.S.Lewis`s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, for whether or not you choose to accept any element of Christian allegory within his work, it nonetheless depicts a joint communication and cooperation between human, animal and faery against devolutionary forces. And who knows if something of the angelic may not be also somewhere in there.
So all you have to do is to go out into the woods, into the High Woods, and beyond, into the wider world, with all your senses and your imaginative faculties open. And as you develop your own magical lives, so will you help and heal your fellow creatures, and the Earth itself. All it requires is the courage to be amazed.

List of books cited
Dion Fortune: The Esoteric Orders and their Work
Dion Fortune: The Training and Work of an Initiate
Ronald Hutton: The Triumph of the Moon
Jane Harrison: Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion
R.J.Stewart: The UnderWorld Initiation
Dion Fortune: The Sea Priestess
Dion Fortune: The Goat-foot God
J.R.R.Tolkien: The Silmarillion
J.R.R.Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings
R.J.Stewart: The Living World of Faery
R.J.Stewart: Power Within the Land
R.J.Stewart: The Well of Light
John Matthews: The Sidhe –Wisdom from the Celtic Otherworld
Terry Pratchet: Lords and Ladies
C.S.Lewis: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Talk at Quest Conference Bristol - March 2006

Talk given by Gareth Knight at Quest Conference 4th March 2006
I am not sure that Bristol is entirely the most appropriate place to celebrate Dion Fortune, as she tended to express a certain antipathy to the city. This was based in part, I think, on an assumed reincarnationary memory of once having been hanged here as a pirate!
However she did have happier associations in her most recent incarnation when affiliated to a temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, that operated here under the control of her friend Hope Hughes. She was very grateful for this at the time, having been drummed out of her original temple through falling out with Moina Macgregor Mathers. The formidable widow of the founder of the Golden Dawn, it seems, considered her something of an upstart. And perhaps what is more unforgiveable, a highly successful upstart - with her own group, establishments in Glastonbury and London, and her own direct access to the Secret Chiefs, under whose aegis she published a raft of teachings which Moina felt ought to be reserved for the elect of the innermost inner.
Unfortunately, her reinstatement to the Order, albeit by another branch, did not last for long. For Dion Fortune and her husband were instrumental in introducing the young Israel Regardie to the Bristol temple. In fact they were present at his initiation – coyly referred to in correspondence as his vaccination. It turned out to be however a vaccination with a violent and painful reaction. For Regardie found the kind of magic dispensed by Hope Hughes and her friends at the Hermes Temple of the Stella Matutina to be far beneath his expectations.
This is perhaps not surprising given the fact that, despite his youth, he had already written two books on the subject, and had just spent three years in Paris as an acolyte of Aleister Crowley. The upshot was that he denounced the Golden Dawn adepti, root and branch, and published all their secret papers, on the grounds that they ought to be out in the public domain rather than kept under close concealment by those whom he considered to be incompetent.
Whilst it is arguable that this may be have been a good thing in the long run, it shattered Dion Fortune`s relationship with Hope Hughes and she was once more cast upon her own resources. Again no great harm was done in the long run, for she proved quite capable of establishing her own school which became, and still remains, a force to be reckoned with upon the esoteric scene, through the portals of which many well known occult writers and teachers have passed.
Nonetheless, whether or not she did end a former life swinging from a yard arm on the Bristol waterfront, there was arguably something of the buccaneer in Dion Fortune. Indeed such an element might well have been deemed essential in the character of one destined to prove such a pioneer and adventurer. One who, so to speak, built, vitalled and captained her own ship, and made up her own rules of engagement on the esoteric scene.
We could well ask how much of a transition there might be from plying the trade of Captain Morgan, to following in the footsteps of Morgan le Fay? She was not afraid to cut loose from any organisation which seemed to her to be falling short of her expectations, and then set to, to do things better herself.
Her interest in the inner side of things started with psycho-analysis, which in her early twenties, before the 1st World War, she hoped to make her living as well as her life`s work. However, despite achieving some standing among her fellow practitioners she became increasingly aware that none of them seem to be having much success in alleviating human misery, and that because a whole dimension was missing from orthodox psychological theory. Thus she moved on to para-psychology, having been greatly impressed by the case work of Dr. Theodore Moriarty, a maverick anthropologist, freemason and practical occultist, who became her exemplar and first teacher. She later eulogised him in a series of short stories entitled The Secrets of Dr. Taverner and went so far as to claim that if there had been no Dr. Taverner there would have been no Dion Fortune.
She also joined almost everything esoteric in sight, including the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. But spurred on by the example of Moriarty, she was not content with taking other people`s theories or psychic impressions for granted, but deliberately set out to develop mediumistic powers of her own. Which took her some years to achieve, her method being intense concentration in identifying herself with an inner communicator to the point of losing awareness of the physical vehicle. She could keep this up for several hours. This technique was the secret weapon in her armoury, the source of most of her own teaching, and, she maintained, the source of spiritual power to inspire others and make things happen.
The first written evidence we have of her seership was in collaboration with Frederick Bligh Bond, at Glastonbury, in the autumn of 1921. Bligh Bond was an architect and antiquary who many years before, in 1907, had been appointed by the Somerset Archeological Society to direct excavations at the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.
He achieved remarkable success, but provoked a storm of controversy when, in a book called The Gate of Remembrance, published some years later in 1918, he revealed that he had been guided where to dig by recourse to a psychic skilled in automatic writing. The Church of England authorities, who had subsequently come into ownership of the ruins, were horrified rather than enthused by these disclosures from beyond the grave, and took firm steps to distance themselves from Mr Bligh Bond and Mr Bligh Bond from their hallowed ruins.
Somewhat frustrated and sidelined, and shortly to emigrate for most of his life to the United States, Bligh Bond, who had become editor of a journal of the College of Psychic Science, was apparently interested to try out the burgeoning talents of Miss Violet Firth, as Dion Fortune was then more generally known.
The result was an interesting document, generally referred to as the Glastonbury Script, which formed an important plank in Dion Fortune`s platform of belief. It proclaimed the uniqueness of Glastonbury as a gate between the Seen and the Unseen, and one that had been open from long before Christian times. And one where, in accord with the legend of Joseph of Arimathea founding the first Christian church in England, a link was established between the ancient Druid faith and the incoming religion for the new age, at a time when no antagonism was felt between Christian and pagan. Indeed where both Christian and pagan felt the best way was to hedge their bets and have a foot in each spiritual camp.
This meant that there was an unbroken line of descent of mystic power, from past to present, connecting directly with the elemental powers of the soil, in which are the roots of the soul of the race. That is to say, of those who inhabit the land, who are its children. It is this heritage that is the power behind the wide field of esoteric lore surrounding Glastonbury, not least of which is the Arthurian legend.
Much of this heritage is celebrated in Dion Fortune`s little book Avalon of the Heart, which began as articles in her monthly magazine, and was published as a book for the general reader in 1934. It is still in print, albeit published in America, and remains a moving evocation of the place and its varied traditions.
Growth of the work she had so tentatively begun with Bligh Bond at Glastonbury was rapid, when she found herself linking up with a wider spectrum of inner plane contacts than the medieval monks. Some years before she had been much impressed by Annie Besant`s book The Ancient Wisdom, whose teaching about hidden Masters in the Himalayas induced in the young Violet Firth a profound early visionary experience, in which she felt herself to be confronted by two of such beings.
Those with whom she now found herself in touch were not, however, the largely oriental contacts promulgated by the Theosophical Society, but a group of individuals with strong connections to the west. Of ancient Greece at the time of Pericles, Plato and Socrates; of Georgian England, via a former Lord Chancellor, animal rights pioneer and defender of human rights; and a representative of the recently fallen in the 1st World War. Later too, with a 19th century pioneer of modern medicine.
This inner group had a specific end in view, which was to found an esoteric school, and moreover seemed to have the ability to operate the levers of power by which to do it. The small group of like minded friends and psychical experimenters, who first met up in 1922, thus became a formal group by 1927, with sanctuary and guest house at the foot of Glastonbury Tor and headquarters in the west end of London, who published a monthly magazine, followed shortly by a series of textbooks and works of occult fiction. The Society thus founded continues its work to this day.
Times pass, and priorities change, and it no longer owns a nest of chalets at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. The last material link with Glastonbury are perhaps the physical remains of Dion Fortune herself, which lie within the municipal cemetery, with that of her close friend, colleague and general factotum, Thomas Loveday, close by. A steady flow of visitors still goes there to pay their respects, although, as was said in another context, there may be better places to seek for the living than amongst the dead. The spirit of Dion Fortune, and the spirit of what she stood for, is closely associated not only with Glastonbury at large, but with the country surrounding it.
And so as we are all met today in Bristol, which is not a million miles away from any of these places, it would seem appropriate to pay attention to this particular tract of land, the wider Avalon, which embraces most of the county of Somerset. And hopefully, some of you may feel inspired to take a trip to this fascinating territory, this doorway to the Unseen, that lies upon your doorstep.
As Dion Fortune says of it, in the opening pages of Avalon of the Heart, “Legend and history and the vision of the heart blend in the building of the Mystical Avalon. It is to this Avalon of the heart the pilgrims still go. Some in bands, knowing what they seek. Some alone, with the staff of vision in their hands, awaiting what may come to meet them on this holy ground. None go away as they came. Here the veil that hides the Unseen is thin. Here the invisible tides flow strongly; here indeed rests the foot of Jacob`s Ladder whereby the souls of men may come and go between the inner and outer planes. Glastonbury is a gateway to the Unseen.”
Nor is this confined to the more obvious historical and religious human associations. She was also aware of another level of the powers behind the Veil of outer appearances.
An opening up to her of this level was at the Glastonbury Festival of 1920 – which, I hasten to add, was a rather more decorous affair than the pop music raves of our own day. She attended a performance of The Immortal Hour at the Glastonbury assembly rooms – with lyrics by Fiona McLeod, the Celtic secondary personality, if you will, of the journalist William Sharp, and haunting music by the local composer Rutland Boughton - which apart from its literary or musical merits is a powerful evocation of the realm of faery.
As she wrote more than a dozen years later, “I had the unique privilege of seeing a performance of The Immortal Hour, which, timed to fit in with the exigencies of the local buses and trains, began at sunset. The first scene started with broad daylight shining in through the uncurtained windows of the Assembly Rooms. But as it progressed the dusk grew on, till only phantom figures could be seen moving on the stage and the hooting laughter of the shadowy horrors in the magic wood rang out in complete darkness, lit only by the stars that shone strangely brilliant through the skylights of the hall. It was a thing never to be forgotten.”
Indeed, one can believe so, simply by contemplating the lyrics of the voices from beyond the Veil, as King Eochaidh`s faery lover is drawn back to her own people:
How beautiful they are,/The lordly ones/Who dwell in the hills,/The hollow hills.
They have faces like flowers/And their breath is a wind/That blows through summer meadows/Filled with dewy clover.
Their limbs are more white/Than shafts of moonshine, They are more fleet/Than the March wind.
They laugh and are glad,/And are terrible./When their lances shake and glitter/Every green reed quivers.
I am pleased to say that it is now possible to savour, in some degree, something of what Dion Fortune experienced all those years ago, as an excellent recording has been released in two CD`s on the Hyperion label. (CDD22040). Two hours of sheer magic.
But as in all things Dion Fortune was not content to experience things at second hand. And in the Pentecost of 1926, walking with some friends on Glastonbury Tor, shortly after performing an invocation of the Element of Air apparently, they were all overtaken by a feeling of ecstasy - which set then whirling spontaneously in an impromptu dance. Then they saw a friend rushing across the fields below, who raced up the hill to join in their revelry. In the whirling dance a repetitive chant seemed to beat through into consciousness, which they rendered into words, a kind of affirmative ritual, often used in later years as a means of stimulating Elemental contact and vitality.
The wind and the fire work on the hill –
The wind and the fire work on the hill -
The wind and the fire work on the hill -
Evoke ye the wind and the fire.
The wind and the fire work on the hill -
The wind and the fire work on the hill -
The wind and the fire work on the hill -
Trust ye the wind and the fire.
And as they later sat in their newly erected hut at the foot of the Tor one of the Masters under whom they worked explained that they had met a messenger from the Elemental kingdoms, and that this was no chance contact, but part of their development and training as a group.
He went on to say: “In the Elements is power if you dare to use it. And that is a thing we have always tried to teach you, that you must have Elemental power if you are going to do anything. Many people have the best of intentions but they have not got the Elemental power, and therefore their intentions are fruitless. That is why you have been given this house at the very centre of these forces. It is not for nothing that you came to the Tor and have built on the Tor. Not for nothing believe me. You will have your devotional aspect in the city. You will have your nature contacts here, but you will have your deeper wisdom contacts where earth and water meet.”
I find these latter sentiments quite intriguing. It is true that at their headquarters in London, together with their hermetic ritual working, they did have a focus for devotional mysticism open to the public on a Sunday morning that eventually became known as the Church of the Graal. Here they endeavoured to bring a direct mystical experience to those who attended, by evoking the presence of the Holy Graal, which was built up in the form of a chalice over the heads of the congregation by a band of acolytes trained in the techniques of magical visualisation and the descent of power. These meetings continued until the outbreak of war in 1939 when hostilities and restrictions on travel and public meetings made them impracticable.
However, what is this we hear about this other place, and the “deeper wisdom contacts where earth and water meet”? My feeling is that here we have an indication of the line of work that blossomed into her foray into occult fiction and the most evocative of all her novels, The Sea Priestess.
This takes us beyond Glastonbury to the surrounding countryside of the Somerset levels, and a ridge of land that forms the southern arm of the bay that contains Weston-super-Mare.
It was at the end of this promontory, called Bell Head in the novel, that the Sea Priestess built her Temple.
It is an evocative countryside both in fact and fiction. Bell Head exists in real life as Brean Down, a limestone peninsular one and a half miles long and a quarter of a mile wide, that juts from the coast of Somerset off the small stretch of shoreline that faces due west onto the deep Atlantic, without Ireland or the coasts of Wales or Devon and Cornwall getting in the way. It forms part of a ridge that makes up the local group of hills, knolls and tors that once were islands in an archipelago of which the Mendip Hills, Glastonbury Tor, and the islands of Steep Holme and Flat Holme in the Bristol channel form a part.
Brean Down was owned by Glastonbury Abbey in medieval times, but is now in the care of the National Trust not least as a nature reserve. It contains traces of civilisation and worship that go back through Romano-Celtic to Bronze Age and Neolithic times. The ruined fort at its end, dating from the 1860`s as a defence against the French, was abandoned in 1900 although pressed into service again during the second world war, the buildings of which still stand.
Dion Fortune spent much of her schooldays at Weston and took the land into her consciousness to form the esoteric topography of the novel. Of the surrounding country described in the book, Bell Knowle may well be the very prominent Brent Knoll just off the modern M5 motorway, whilst Dickmouth compares closely with the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare. And Dickford equates with the village of Axbridge, which sits on the River Axe, a river which Dion Fortune chose to call the Dick, as a play on the name Naradek – which is traditionally the river which ran by the City of the Golden Gates in ancient Atlantis.
It is in the context of this physical and legendary topography that the sea priestess and her acolyte weave their psychic visions which in turn form the channel for their magical work.
One lesson the novel teaches is the importance of creative fantasy. Whether such fantasy is objectively correct in all its historical or legendary details is less important than the pooled intention of the pair of them to believe in it. If faith can move mountains it should also be efficacious in the context of the green hills of Somerset.
This is the rationale behind the importance of a group being of one mind and in one place. And a group can be as little as two. This is the basis of magical polarity work, which is not a form of exotic sexual foreplay that prurient outsiders or naïve and lonely esoteric wannabes often assume it to be. Or wish that it was.
The imaginative pictures that most people spin in various circumstances of daily life are generally kaleidoscopic and evanescent, and so remain for the most part subjective. However, if others can be induced to share a steadily held vision, then mutual suggestion is added to autosuggestion, and a kind of oscillatory circuit may be set up, a form of psychic feed-back.
Then subjective imagery can take a quantum leap into a state of inner objectivity. In conventional esoteric terms, a form will have been built upon the astral ethers that can become the channel for occult or spiritual forces. The level and type of force depending upon the moral, ethical, and spiritual status of the participants, both inner and outer.
In the case of the sea priestess, Vivien Le Fay Morgan, and her assistant and trainee, Wilfred Maxwell, their shared vision, buttressed by some weeks of hard and demanding dedication and work, mental, imaginative, and physical, in building a fitting temple in a remote location, results in their increasing awareness of an inner plane presence, who is simply called in the book the Priest of the Moon.
Of this being, one of the characters says: “The Priest of the Moon had personality in a very marked degree, and if he was a product of my subconscious, I am proud of it. There were times, not infrequent, when I used to wonder what he was, and whether I was deluding myself, or whether I was loopy; but each time I met him afresh I knew what he was, beyond all doubting, and he left his mark on me.”
All this is in much the same fashion that Dion Fortune and Thomas Loveday and their small circle of friends at Glastonbury made contact with their own inner priesthood, or masters of wisdom, and embarked upon the work that still goes on today, a couple of generations after its inception.
The intention behind the magic of the sea priestess and her inner plane contact, the Priest of the Moon, was nothing less than to tap, as a source of power, the inner tides of moon and the sea. This is why they were out there establishing a gateway between the planes upon this deserted headland. Nor is it for nothing that she went by the name of Vivien Le Fay Morgan, with its legendary and magical overtones.
Within the artistic licence of a popular novel, this apparent exhibitionism is an outward demonstration of the archetypal role playing and image making of an adept, rather than the superficial trappings of an esoteric poseur.
Although alas, she has perhaps provided a somewhat distorted role model for a number of misguided aspirants who may think that all that is necessary is to camp up and down in a long cloak and floppy hat. Terry Pratchett has described the type well in his novel Lords and Ladies.
If you would like to view the physical launch pad of Dion Fortune`s fictional and magical imagination, then a trek along the back of Brean Down is well worth the effort. Whether along the rough track of its spine, which was transformed into a sacred way in the novel, or via the old single track military road that leads along the northern side out to the fort.
Beyond the fort, with its moat and underground rooms, a rough pathway runs out to a little cabin, covered with sea weed, that once housed a searchlight. It retains an evocative resonance of the temple envisaged by the Sea Priestess, as it overlooks the dark line of rocks that extends into the sea where Wilfred Maxwell, one moonlit night, saw to his wonder and alarm the sea priestess, treading their shining and slippery surfaces, as the Atlantic rollers broke at her feet. There she raised her arms to the sky in the form of the horns of a crescent moon, to chant her evocation to Isis:
O Isis, veiled on earth, but shining clear
In the high heaven now the full moon draws near,
Hear the invoking words, hear and appear
Shaddai el Chai, and Ea, Binah, Ge.
I will say, that even now, viewed in broad daylight, that location has an ambience sufficient to bring you out in goose bumps! It still holds a certain magical ambience.
At least it did, the last time that I was there. Hopefully it has not been improved into a cafeteria or other tourist amenities by now. There is, however more to magic than going in search of atmospheres for a bit of otherworldly frisson. What was it that the Sea Priestess was about?
In the book, Wilfred Maxwell is matured and empowered by the experience to throw off his previous emotional shackles of being an ineffectual wimp, hen pecked by his mother and elder sister. He marries one of the office girls, despite her being of a lower social class than his immediate female relations would like, and embarks upon a happy married life, in which he and Molly form and continue a contact with the Priest of the Moon. Thus their home, besides being a perfectly natural expression of human domesticity becomes also a hallowed place where the goddess is recognised and revered. No bad achievement in the nineteen thirties – even if we are still in the realms of fiction.
For her part, the dedicated sea priestess moves her sphere of operations to London, where she sets up a temple in a disused church overlooking the south bank of the Thames - another place where earth and water meet, and embarks upon another magical operation, described at length in the ensuing novel Moon Magic.
Here again her mode of working consists of polarity magic, this time with a very different neophyte of her choosing, who once again benefits personally from the experience by coming to terms with his repressed emotional nature.
Once more there is a certain connection between fictional and factual life, in that at about this time Dion Fortune was herself operating from an old former Presbyterian church, known as the Belfry. Although it was not actually located on the water front, but anyway within a mile of it, to south and east, as the Thames curves around Westminster and Belgravia.
Here she celebrated semi-public performances of the Rite of Isis, parts of which are quoted in both Moon Magic and The Sea Priestess. And also, it would seem, to keep the balance right, the Rite of Pan that features in her earlier novel The Goat-foot God.
Much of this work she had developed intuitionally but at about this time she began to formulate an intellectual background for it after meeting up with Bernard Bromage, a University of London academic who was running a course of extension lectures on occultism in literature. She became one of his best students and together they set up a series of public meetings with literary celebrities of the day discussing the merits of occultism in general. At the same time Bromage had been researching elements of eastern religion and mysticism, and through him she was able to borrow translations of texts on tantrik yoga which enabled her to formulate a series of articles entitled The Circuit of Force. She just had time to publish these in her magazine before war broke out and brought an end to all that had gone before.
One of the first tasks I embarked upon when invited to go through Dion Fortune`s papers with a view to rescuing anything that was worth publishing, was indeed to issue The Circuit of Force, through Thoth Publications. Again, I have heard this work described, most bizarrely, and by those who ought to know better, as “a most dangerous book”. Danger, like evil, or beauty, or any other emotive power source, is often in the eye of the beholder. But as far as Dion Fortune was concerned, the principle of polarity, or the Circuit of Force, was “one of the lost secrets of western occultism.”
Therefore it much pleased me when two former students of mine, Wendy Berg and Mike Harris, recently published a book of their own, precisely with the title Polarity Magic.
It moves things along considerably from Dion Fortune`s early The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage, in the 1920`s, which so upset Moina Macgregor Mathers for its explicitness, although which now, it must be said, seems rather quaint. But is an example of how the torch is passed along from one generation to another, and how the esoteric tradition is an evolving entity with insights that move in step with the realisations and attitudes of society at large.
It is to a larger and wider context that I would however now seek to draw your attention. Beyond the personal, or microcosmic view of magical dynamics, to the general, or macrocosmic view of human life in the world. For we are all bound up in this together. No one is on a magic island divorced from general human problems or general human responsibility. So although there is an important element in the personal approach to Isis, it is also important to realise just what is implied in the wider vision of the goddess Isis.
As Dion Fortune saw her, she is a power that is veiled on Earth by the luminous garment of nature, but who can be imagined, unveiled, in the heavens, in the radiance of the moon`s reflected light. Thus is Isis appropriately evoked by the sea priestess at the time of the full moon. Yet she is not specifically identified with the moon, but with the entire divine feminine principle, which can be evoked under a variety of names, associated with the heavens, with the earth itself, or with the sea.
Isis Veiled is Our Lady of Nature. Isis Unveiled is the Heavenly Isis. Ea is the soul of space and parent of time. Ge, or Gaia, is the magnetic earth that forms an aura about the physical planet. Binah is the Great Sea of the Qabalah from whence all spiritual life arose. And beyond that the Limitless Light of the Uncreate Realities from whence all creation springs.
So it is more than personal polarity magic that is being evoked.
Let us go back to the early days of Dion Fortune`s work, at Glastonbury. Before she had even set up her chalets on the Tor, and was staying either at Alice Buckton`s guest house at Chalice Well or else renting an old farmhouse in Chilkwell Street. This was a series of metaphysical teachings that came to be known as The Cosmic Doctrine.
This was quite demanding stuff, not at all easy to understand. So much so that it was generally referred to as being “designed to train the mind rather than to inform it”. However, it contained a number of insights that proved to be of considerable importance once their significance was realised. And perhaps the one of most immediate importance is the concept of the Planetary Being – although it was called Planetary Spirit in the original script – a term later changed because the being involved is not so much spirit, in the sense of living up there on Cloud Nine, but very much closer to our business and bosoms, being the physical and etheric globe upon which we all currently live, and move and have our being.
It came to be realised that we owe a considerable debt to this Being, and indeed have a responsibility towards it – which if ignored might very well hold karmic consequences, to use an eastern metaphysical concept, that would be dire indeed.
This has but comparatively lately been taken at all seriously by the world at large. And that thanks largely to a scientist, an environmentalist by the name of James Lovelock, who thirty years ago, conceived the idea that the planet is special in a way no-one has hitherto realised. That it is indeed a great super-organism that regulates itself chemically and atmospherically to keep itself fit to bear life. That it is, to all intents and purposes, a living being itself.
He did not call it the Planetary Being, but being a scientist, preferred the term, “biocybernetic universal system tendency.” It was left to a literary neighbour, the novelist William Golding, to come up with a more preferable name – Gaia – after the Greek goddess of the Earth. She whom Dion Fortune`s sea priestess sung of as Ge.
Well I am sure we are all aware of the resultant controversy that blows about our heads in the increasing concern about global warming and all the rest of it – but this is simply the most materialist outlook and concern with it, looking entirely on the outside of things. What is the outlook and concern of the esoteric world? Which includes you and me. Surely we should be able to contribute something, not only in perception but in some form of action – with our knowledge and belief in the inside of things?
Not least of which is that we are not the only inhabitants of the globe, but that we share it. Not only with the animal kingdom, but with many and various elemental beings, from the lordly ones in the hollow hills to the lesser beings who are intimately concerned with the organic functioning of mineral, plant, animal and indeed human life.
The need for this is not new. And we owe it to a contemporary and fellow student of ours, R.J.Stewart, who used to live in these parts, and was particularly well known for his researches into the inner side of the ancient waters of Bath. Indeed some of us remember well a series of workshops and various workings in a temple above his flat, just across the road from the baths, that are now a neo-Regency tourist attraction, but once a temple of Sulis-Minerva and of more ancient mysteries beyond that, going back to the mysterious King Bladud.
The concept he proposes is known as the Triune or Three-fold Alliance – which is between the human, the animal and the faery kingdoms.
This is no mere contemporary fad dreamed up out of his own head. This crisis has been seen coming for some time now, and he quotes extensively from an 18th century document in his possession, which you can read for yourselves in two of his books The Living World of Faery, and Power Within the Land, which, along with both his earlier and more recent work, seek a working relationship between humans and the spiritual forces of the land or region in which they live. Within these spiritual forces are included the animal as well as the elemental.
This is why I have felt it important to draw your attention to the land round about us here, and particularly in relation to Dion Fortune who did a great deal of practical import here within your own backyard.
For all this challenges us in many different ways. It is not enough to confine our interest in these matters to a safe and purely intellectual level. It calls upon us not only to “believe in” faeries, but to understand who and what they are, where they come from, where they are going, and what our mutual relationship with them may be.
It makes similar demands on us to think about how we relate to the animal kingdom, for the patience and suffering of the animal kingdom needs to come through to our awareness loud and clear. It requires us to open our minds to areas we are not accustomed to explore; to open doors of consciousness which have remained shut for a very long time.
The faery and elemental forces are the only true inner expression of the natural world, since much of scientific thinking remains detached, mechanical and Newtonian. The human majority are conditioned by the familiarity of everyday perception and see nothing to be wondered at in the constant sustaining of the entire universe second by second and day by day, from the stars down to the tiniest atomic infrastructure.
So we should rouse ourselves and reach out to our companions on this planetary globe. Make ourselves known to these beings who are part of the evolution of the inner Earth in high or low degree. Seek out what lies within these parallel worlds behind appearances. And in particular the hidden evolutionary expression of the faery world that is often concealed behind the curtains of myth and fantasy.
This challenging relationship to the world of faery is real enough to those who may have experienced it, but has been sadly misrepresented. Despite the witness of seers from Thomas the Rhymer, and Robert Kirk, to Evans-Wentz, W.B.Yeats and George Russell, it remains a fragmented and misunderstood corpus of legend and folklore. Even condemned as demonic by religious authority.
And in some respects this may be understandable. Even Terry Pratchett`s young witches discovered it was possible to get the wrong side of a stroppy elf queen. Although the hidden lesson here is that they made that kind of contact because it was a reflection of their own stroppy adolescent hubris. The inner worlds can be very reflective of our own attitudes. Which is why dedication and pure motive are all important.
There are many types of faeries. Just as there are many types of animal species, and ethnic variations of the human race. And there may well be some who have little love for human beings – and not without just cause.
However, the general concensus from a more cooperative part of the faery host is that time is running short for this kind of work; that they are affected by our neglect of them, and that we emasculate them with our notions of prettiness and “airy fairy”. That element of human whimsy and sentimentality that sees them all gossamer wings and frilly knickers.
However, there is a general resurgence of awareness of the existence of this kingdom, in various forms. We see it evident in the imaginative response to the works of Tolkien, a somewhat cantankerous Oxford don who decided to sit down and write his own mythology, just for his own satisfaction, and ended up, albeit posthumously, stirring the imagination of a new generation with his tales of elven kingdoms. Not that all Tolkien wrote should be taken as literal truth, but he dug deep in mining his fantasy, and has presented a painted curtain behind which breathes a true elven reality. As may be apparent by close reading of his essay On Faery Stories or his short faery tale Smith of Wooton Major.
The theme of a threefold alliance of human, animal and faery seems also evident in the filming and popular reception of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by his friend C.S.Lewis. Whether or not you choose to accept any element of Christian allegory within his work, it nonetheless depicts a joint communication and cooperation between human, animal and faery against devolutionary forces.
There are also more specialist works available for those who seek to pursue these lines. One, recently published, that comes to mind is by John Matthews, entitled The Sidhe – Wisdom from the Celtic Otherworld. It is an account of a contact with what would appear to be a representative of one of the Lordly Ones at an Irish archeological site, a Neolithic barrow, on a trip which turned out to be the most exciting journey of his life.
It may be that John has psychic gifts a little beyond the ordinary, but the gist of the message he received was that work of this nature does not require any especial psychic gifts, or the organisational requirements of formal ritual, but is simply a matter of attitude, or what William Blake might have called “cleansing the doors of perception.”
I quote from a key passage of what he received, in relation to a view of the sidhe as to how the human race were falling short.
“You would be better to see yourselves as allies of creation rather than its rulers. By choosing to work in harmony with the natural world – as once all living things did – you could still redress the balance.
“If your life brushes against that of another creature you feel something. If you take the life of another creature you feel something. It is no great step to extend this to feeling something when you touch a rock or a tree, when you feel the energy of a river or the sea.
“Many feel these things, yet your race continually shut out these feelings. Just as you attach devices to your horses so that they can see only ahead, so you have done to yourselves, limiting your vision until you can see nothing save that which is before you. Only when you learn to remove the guards will you experience true vision. You must seek to become reconnected to everything, end the separation you have created for yourselves.
“There are many things you can do to bring about a re-connection. Begin by noticing the world around you. By truly looking. By seeing past the surface of things to the level of Spirit.
“At the moment when you go out into nature you see only the surface of things. Trees, grass, water, plants. Yet the reality of these things is far greater. Once you knew this. You can discover it again if you truly wish. Next time you are outside look around you. Try to see beyond the surface into the true nature of things you see. Though you may find it difficult to do so at first, in time you will begin to see more. If you continue far enough and deeply enough you will even begin to communicate with the spirit within the things you are observing. In truth you will cease to be observers at all and become part of the thing you are looking at.
“This is what the ancient bards of this land meant when they spoke of having `been` a thing. This was more than a poetic image, but a very real truth. To truly know a thing is to become one with it. Just as to become one with it is to truly know it.
“When you do this you will begin to understand the true nature of things, and of your own relationship to them. Perhaps then, when plants and rocks and animals are no longer soulless things, you will cease to treat them as such, cease to take them and use them as you have now for so many of your ages. If you are truly ready to enter a new era then you must discover how to make such changes to the way you view things. Only when you have done so will you be truly liberated from the narrow place in which you have put yourselves.
“At present you are just as much prisoners as if you were truly locked up within stone walls. The walls of your prison are not ones that you can see with your eyes, but they can still be recognised.”
It seems to me that this may well be true of the great majority of the human race, although I venture to think that it may be less true of those of us who are assembled here. The very fact that we are present here demonstrates that we realise that there is something more to life than the surface illusion – hard, brash and self-sufficient though that surface illusion might appear.
Thus it is with a certain degree of puzzlement, mixed with sympathy, that I read within the pages of Quest sometimes, the plight of those who feel they follow a path alone. Believe me, you are never less alone than when you think you are alone. You simply have to reach out. Have faith and be aware. And prepare to be surprised.
So I suggest you could do yourselves and others a favour by going forth to tread the land that Dion Fortune trod with your senses open to what you may discover. And I conclude with the comments that David Carstairs, one of her contacts, made to her in 1923.
“You should make a practice, when the occasion offers, of getting into touch with the elements and the Nature Spirits, you`ll find it a very enjoyable process. They quicken the vitality and the perceptions and the sense of enjoyment. They quicken the `animal` in you of course, but as long as it`s a healthy animal and properly broken in you`ll be none the worse for that.
“You do it by going to the appointed place at the appointed time and sympathising with them – that is to say, feeling with them. You want to practice in getting the feel of a place and analysing it.
“You`ll find it consists of several layers. There will be a layer of human associations on the surface, then below that you will get the animal or the natural life that lived there, and below that the trees and the sub-tones of the plants – herbaceous stuff that dies to the roots each year – and below that again you`ll get the elements themselves, and you want to train your ear so that you can hear the different themes and pick them out and listen to them.”
And so these words I leave you to ponder, in the hope that they inspire you, as they did Dion Fortune, with the urge for diligent travelling, imaginative courage, and fruitful listening.

Works cited:
Dion Fortune: The Secrets of Dr Taverner
Frederick Bligh Bond: The Gate of Remembrance
Dion Fortune: Avalon of the Heart
Annie Besant: The Ancient Wisdom
Rutland Boughton & Fiona McLeod: The Immortal Hour
Dion Fortune: The Sea Priestess
Terry Pratchett: Lords and Ladies
Dion Fortune: Moon Magic
Dion Fortune: The Goat-foot God
Dion Fortune & Gareth Knight: The Circuit of Force
Wendy Berg & Mike Harris: Polarity Magic
Dion Fortune: The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage
Dion Fortune: The Cosmic Doctrine
R.J.Stewart: The Living World of Faery
R.J.Stewart: Power within the Land
C.S.Lewis: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
J.R.R.Tolkien: On Faery Stories
J.R.R.Tolkien: Smith of Wooton Major
John Matthews: The Sidhe