Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dion Fortune and Glastonbury Tor

If Joseph of Arimathea set his sights on Glastonbury Tor to identify the final goal of his long journey from Jerusalem, for Dion Fortune it was above all a focus of elemental power and inspiration. Upon its slopes she built her home, a guest house, and a sanctuary.

As she saw it, it was a Hill of Vision for anyone whose eyes have the least inclination to open upon another world. And she describes, in Glastonbury, Avalon of the Heart, how, on many occasions, the tower is reported to have been seen rimmed in light. And she tells how a warm glow, as of a furnace, may beat up from the ground on wild winter knights; or the sound of chanting be heard from the depths of the hill; or towering forms of shadow and light seen to be moving among the ancient thorn-trees that clothe the lower slopes.

            But wonderful though the view from the Tor might be by day for the many pilgrims and tourists who climb it, far more wonderful, she says, is the sight by night for those who dare to climb it in the dark. Or most wonderful of all, perhaps, to climb the Tor at sunset and watch the sun go down over the far Atlantic, when from the Tor one may see two sunsets – the sun himself in its glory in the west, and its reflection upon the clouds in the eastern sky.

Whilst to see the moon rising through the rose-pink glow of low clouds over the darkening marshes is a thing she found never to be forgotten. As the lights came on in the town at the foot of the hill, at any rate in her day, they were seen to form a five-pointed star, for there are five roads out of Avalon – to Wells, Meare, Street, Butleigh, and Shepton Mallet – and the houses, following along these roads form a perfect star of light about the Tor with its tower.

            But there is one time above all others when it is well to ascend the Tor at nightfall, and that is at the full moon of the autumnal equinox, round about the Mass of St Michael. The nights are coming cold then, but the days are still warm with the afterglow of summer, and the cold of the darkness, chilling the warm breath of the meadows, causes a thick but shallow mist to form over the levels.

Through this the cattle wade knee-deep as in water, and trees cast shadows in the moonlight, black upon silver. As the night closes in, the mist deepens. Like a rising tide in an estuary it fills the hollows. Trees and barns slowly drown. Only the few scattered knolls like St Bride`s Beckary remain as islands in the white gloom. Gradually they too fade as the mist thickens, and Avalon is an island again.

            Local folk call this shallow mist that lies upon the levels “the Lake of Wonder”. And then perhaps to the eyes of vision may be seen coming slowly, a black barge, rowed by a dumb man, bearing the three weeping queens who bring Arthur, wounded unto death at Lyonesse, that he may heal him of his grievous wound in the green coombs among the apple trees.

            Into this Lake of Wonder Sir Bedivere flung the magic sword Excalibur, graven with strange runes in an unknown tongue. And the white arm of a Lady of the Lake, rising from the rushes, seized it to draw it under. And we may recall that Excalibur, was a gift to the human Arthur from the world of Faery, and to the world of Faery it was in due time returned.

But what of the other hallows of the Graal, the spear, the cup, the stone, or the cruets of white and red? Great mystery surrounds their origin as well as their fate. If we read the earliest Graal stories, we find there is much to suggest that the Graal itself had a faery origin. Was the rich Fisher King in his boat upon the waters, who directed Percival to the mysterious castle that was at first invisible to the eye, one of the Faery kind?

            In later legend the Graal winners took a strange boat, called the Ship of Solomon, in which they took the Graal to Sarras, which seems an inner aspect of the Holy Land just as Logres is an inner level of Albion. What was the mission of Joseph of Arimathea in all of this? Is the belief that he was bringing back the Graal to Avalon, a realisation that the Hallows were about to be returned to their faery origins? (cf. Red Tree, White Tree by Wendy Berg.)

            All these speculations, and many more, may come to us when, in Dion Fortune`s words, the Lake of Wonder rises from its faery springs under the Hunter`s Moon.

But, there are also visions of a different kind that can be seen from the height of the Tor by day; one of which Dion Fortune had witnessed twice and says is a sight never to be forgotten.

In the ordinary heat of day, she recalls, there are times when there falls upon the Glastonbury levels what is known locally as “the Blight”. A strange heaviness that will not turn to thunder is in the summer air. The sun glows dully like a copper disk through the low lying clouds, and in the oppressive dimness and heat, nerves are on edge with restlessness and uneasiness.

            On one such occasion, driven desperate by the oppressiveness of the levels, she and her companions set out to climb the Tor. Up and up through densest mist they climbed, moving in a sphere some ten feet in diameter, shut in by a white wall impenetrable as stone – until they reached the very summit. And there, from a white blindness, they came out of the mist as suddenly as a train runs out of a tunnel. For the crest of the Tor was above the cloud line.

The sky was of that deep indigo blue often seen at Avalon – a blue that should be seen through the boughs of an apple tree in blossom. From marge to marge no cloud flecked its depths, but below their feet there stretched to the very horizon a rolling, billowing sea of purest white, with purple in the hollows. While above their heads was the tower, its shadow flung far out over the cloudy floor. It was as if the world had sunk in the sea and they were the last of mankind. No sound rose through the mist, no bird circled above. There was nothing but blue sky, grey tower, billowing mist and blazing sun.

Physical though this vision might have been, and possibly because of this, I think this simple image is as important as any of the visions of the legendary tales. It is an image of the elemental powers as they exist at their most direct and most obvious way. Earth, Water, Air and Fire. The Air of the inverted bowl of the blue sky above. The Earth of the stone of the tower below, its foundations in the earth. The Water heaving and billowing within the mist all about. And the Fire of the great Day Star shining on all from above.

It provides the foundation for a fundamentally important symbolic structure to link between the Powers of the Above and with the Powers of the Below. The Power within the Heavens and the Power within the Land. The Heavenly Light with the Earth Light. The Overworld with the Underworld.

If you are familiar with the structure of the Tree of Life,  you may like to experiment with it.

            As you stand in vision upon the summit of the Tor realise that you are standing on the sphere of the Kingdom of Earth, Malkuth.  The Sun that shines above you is a source of life and light from Tiphareth. About it in the inner airs are the planetary powers, and far beyond, although rendered invisible in the effulgence of light, you know there is the Supernal Kingdom of the Stars. In which at the Kether point we might envisage Polaris, encircled by Arthur`s Wain, or the Great Bear, itself within the constellation of the Little Bear, which in another form of reckoning is also part of Draco, forming a wing of the Dragon – and hence the link of King Arthur and the Pendragonship.

But this is only half the picture. For beneath our feet is another Tree of Life, a reflection of that which rises above. It goes down into the sacred Earth. The Sea of Mist that extends immediately below and around us is a form of Yesod, the Foundation. And in the levels of the inner Earth beyond is the radiant glow of the Volcanic Fire of the very heart of Gaea,  counterpart to the Sun in Tiphareth above. The planetary powers that surround that interior Sun being the alchemical powers of the metals and sacred elements.

And if we extend our vision beyond these powers we may become aware of what have been called the Stars within the Earth. And I suggest that their configuration may not be too far different from those of the southern celestial sky, in which is contained the wondrous ship of the Argonauts in their quest of the Golden Fleece, of Ara the great light house dedicated to Isis, and the constellation of the Centaur, the great teacher and healer, whose brightest star is Alpha Centauri, one of the closest to Earth, and which, esoterically speaking, has been said, in Dion Fortune`s Cosmic Doctrine to indicate the way to the Central Stillness of the Cosmos. That place where all began, and to which all will in, or out of time, return.

So much for these visions of the above and the below and this great vertical polarity. But there is also a horizontal polarity that must not be forgotten. That is to say, of a great network of power and light that goes, not only round, but through the globe of the Earth itself.

It links up with many other centres, but one in particular it seems to me should predominantly concern us. Dion Fortune has called Glastonbury “England`s Jerusalem”, and William Blake was not far off this realisation too. Which inevitably calls to mind another great Avalonian of our times, Ronald Heaver, who made his home near Glastonbury. And who, in the 1930`s, was instrumental in preserving the Garden of Joseph of Arimathea in Jerusalem, about the site of the Holy Sepulchre.  (cf. The Hidden Adept & the Inward Vision, by R.J.Stewart). He regarded this as a key location not merely for religious belief, but of planetary energies that would play a major role in the future.

In the early 1970`s he was advising that the spiritual energies of Jerusalem could be harmonised only through re-connection to other sites in other parts of the world. We have become familiar with the physical existence of tectonic plates, which cause stresses within the planetary surface. Much the same would appear to be the case on the inner side of Earth.

That is to say, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, and traditionally regarded by the ancient world as the centre of the Earth, Jerusalem lies on a confluence of major fault lines in the spiritual body of the planet, which has often been cited as the underlying cause of the many centuries of conflict in that area. These conflicting telluric or Underworld forces manifest through human strife. This is something we need, it seems, to bear in mind, in our sacromagical work. For by working with the spiritual forces of the UnderWorld and OverWorld conjoined, we may transform the elements, and ease the pressures of the interior fault lines, first within ourselves and then beyond. This seems to me true Alchemy as it should be expressed in the 21st century.