Looking through the notes I compiled when I was writing
Fortune and the Inner Light back in
1999 I realise that the chalet at Chalice Orchard I recently referred to as the
Shrine was in fact called the Sanctuary. But no doubt, as the saying goes, a rose by
any other name will smell as sweet! And
such a place played an important part in her work.
Dion Fortune and
Thomas Loveday acquired Chalice Orchard in 1924. Up to then they had no headquarters of their
own at Glastonbury, and most of the work performed so far had been either at
Alice Buckton’s guest house at Chalice Well or in an old farm house in
Chalkwell Street. (It was here that Dion Fortune experienced her celebrated
vision of a salamander after a fiery accident with an oil lamp!)
The Fraternity of the Inner Light was formally founded
in 1927, along with the Inner Light Magazine, although the first mention of
Chalice Orchard by Dion Fortune is in the May 1927 issue of The Transactions of the Christian Mystic
Lodge of the Theosophical Society (of which she happened to be president
for a brief period) . She wrote:
are betraying no secret of the Mysteries if we remind our readers that ‘the
holiest earth in England’ is Glastonbury. The veil is very thin there, and no
sensitive soul that makes the Glastonbury pilgrimage returns as it went. It is
for this reason that a pilgrimage centre has been founded there, and those who
seek the hidden side of things may go thither and meet others like-minded to
the power-tides are flowing it is very necessary that all should be ‘of one
mind in one place’ if the power is to be brought through in its strength. The
critic and scoffer close the doors of the soul and the angel of the threshold
turns back as he is about to enter the guest chamber. Only where knowledge and
dedication have control of the conditions can the mental atmosphere be made
that is necessary for the manifesting of the power-tides upon the physical
the Chalice Orchard Club we have made a centre where these conditions can be
maintained, and we cordially invite all those who seek the door into the Unseen
to come to us there and share with us the wonderful atmosphere of the Isle of
Avalon untainted by scepticism and heedlessness. In the old apple orchard high
upon the shoulder of the Tor stands a little wooden building dedicated to the
service of the Masters and the opening of the soul. All who seek that opening
will be found a realisation that the two aspects of force, spiritual and
elemental, are necessary to the completion of life. Some parts of Glastonbury,
such as the Abbey, are purely spiritual; other aspects, such as the Tor, are
purely pagan. Under the apple trees in Chalice Orchard, we seek the realisation
and harmonisation of both; the spiritual aspects bringing inspiration and
devotion; the pagan aspects bringing joy, power and beauty.
may not tell the seasons of pagan power,
but the Christian Path has no secrets, and we invite all who seek the Graal to
come to join us at Chalice Orchard for the great Christian festivals, and
especially for the one that now draws near, the glorious feast of Pentecost.
High up above the green water-meadows on the shoulder of the Tor, looking out
across the Severn estuary to the hills of Wales, a low wooden house hides among
the apple trees. Its doors stand open to all who seek the Way across the
Threshold by the Western Gate.”
The chalet called ‘the Sanctuary’ was erected in
1932, following an appeal for funds.
want to establish at Chalice Orchard a sanctuary for meditation and practical
occult work, and we ask all those who are interested in our Centre there if
they will contribute to the fund we have opened for that purpose.
is essentially a place of pilgrimage. No one who visits it can fail to realise
its strong spiritual atmosphere. We feel that it would be of very great value
to have there a quiet place set apart for prayer and meditation, where those
who desire to do so may enter into the silence.
are therefore asking all those who realise the significance of Glastonbury and
who have felt the inspiration of its
influence, and especially those who know and love the little hostel in its
sheltered garden, to contribute to this fund in order that we may make a
sanctuary and keep a perpetual light upon its altar.”
The importance that Dion Fortune laid upon a
Sanctuary is revealed in comments from one of her inner contacts about the one they
established at their London headquarters.
must maintain very carefully the sanctity and isolation of this home. It is for
that reason that you are isolating your Sanctuary, and great power will
concentrate there. Keep the lights dim there, and allow nothing to disturb it.
“It is well for you to accustom yourselves to
this means of communication. It is perfectly normal. I am just as much alive as
you are. You must learn to accustom yourselves to the idea that man is
consciousness, not a vehicle, and then there will be nothing strange to you in
the idea of contacting consciousness. It is one of the chief bases of occult
work that the imagination takes the initial step. Faith is the basis of all
things. If you have faith, determination, and courage, you can achieve
anything. It depends on no one but you.
is more power in meditating in silence, but you should invoke aloud. By invoking
aloud you give rise to certain vibrations, which have an important effect
because they have their correlation with the subtler planes. You invoke aloud
in order to bring through from the subtler planes to the physical, but when you
meditate you aim to go to the subtler planes.
is so much easier to go on to the subtler planes than you realise. First you
imagine yourself to be there, and then you will yourself to be there. People
usually reverse the process. It is necessary to make the form before you pour
in the force. You do it now to a greater extent than you realise – you are
functioning on two planes, you have more vision than you bring through to
conscious consciousness.” (cf. Dion Fortune & the Inner Light
pp. 96-97 – Thoth Publications, 2000).
As regards further details of such form building see
also my own Magical Images and the
Magical Imagination (now also available as an e-book) or indeed Dion
Fortune’s Magical Battle of Britain, the editing of which in 1993 brought
through some very live contacts to me, that resulted in The Abbey Papers, a very comprehensive demonstration of form
building for a variety of purposes as seen from the other side. (All
My thanks go to David Walker who with his wife
Corinne runs the Enchantment book and
esoteric merchandise shop at the foot of Glastonbury Tor for his clarification of
just what is on sale for auction of the Dion Fortune associated bit of
real estate. It is NOT the original Chalice Orchard but a slice taken out of it
on which a very nice modern house was built round about the late 50’s. So if
anyone is delving in their back pocket for something to spend at the auction,
read the small print and make sure exactly what you are bidding for.
However, it is possible that DF spent
some time on the space involved, depending on whether one of the original
chalets, known as ‘the Shrine’ was located on that particular spot. I recall visiting
the place back in 1954, as I described in I
Called it Magic, and if my recollection is right the Shrine chalet was down
towards if not in that area. I was shown it by Mary Gilchrist, who lived at
Chalice Orchard at the time. It was in a rather sorry state, used to house what
looked like old furniture, although it still had a certain amount of inner whizz
bang about it, and would have last been used by Dion Fortune in 1945 following its dedication and esoteric use by the group
in the nineteen thirties.
However, the past is past, and we
needs must embrace change when it is due. The Tor is still there and available
to all – in recognition of which I append a little piece that I wrote a few
years back, largely based on Dion Fortune’s Avalon
of the Heart . It can form the basis of a pleasant little meditation
whether you are physically there or not.
Dion Fortune’s vision of the Tor
If Joseph of Arimathea set his
sights on Glastonbury Tor to identify the final goal of his long journey, for
Dion Fortune it was above all a focus of elemental power and inspiration. Upon
its shoulder 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 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.
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 his glory in the
west, and his reflection upon the clouds in the eastern sky.
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 come 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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anyone who seeks an instructive and enjoyable day out on Saturday 26th
September might like to think about a trip to Glastonbury where an all day
seminar on Dion Fortune is taking place in the Town Hall from 9.30.am. I attended
the first couple of these and was delighted to see that at least one or two folks
had found it worthwhile to make the trip all the way from California (Hi there Filomena!) Sorry I can’t
be there myself this time but the years weigh a bit too heavy on the old
carcase. However, whoever comes might possibly catch a glimpse of me on the
higher spiritual levels, or even the upper astral – although don’t push your luck!
Cost of the day is £14 which is a bargain in anyone’s money. If anyone
however should have from £150,000 to £200,000 to invest in a bit of cultural
real estate Dion Fortune’s old home and
headquarters at Glastonbury is said to be up for auction on 22nd
September. Details available from Cooper & Tanner, 41 High Street,
Glastonbury, BA6 9DS (Telephone 01458 760029)
Anyhow, for any unable to attend either function I append a little
travelogue of my own about Glastonbury, that I once wrote for Michael Howard’s excellent
magazine The Cauldron a while ago.
Different Faces of Glastonbury
The first time I saw Glastonbury, as I have
recorded in my esoteric autobiography I
Called It Magic, was as a romantic
young RAF corporal astride my motorbike looking down at the Tor from the
Shepton Mallet road, in 1953, imagining myself to be some kind of knight
errant. A view, as I said “once seen, never forgotten”.
I came to know it better, as indeed I came to know myself better, over
the years – but in both cases no easy answers are forthcoming. We are all of
us, more complicated creatures than we easily realise, and so is a sacred site
and west country town like Glastonbury.
Indeed, at times I have been led to think, that if this is “the holiest
earth in England”
I would hate to see the tackiest! Although I suppose it depends upon how deep
one wants to delve.
On the surface show, the last time I was in Glastonbury attending a spiritual event, as
we debouched from our high minded gathering I heard a local resident referring
to our like as “the scum” that besmirched his fair town. And I suppose he had a
point. I am old enough to recall the time when it had more the ambience of a
charming west country backwater without the pervading atmosphere of joss sticks
and spliffs. Although even in the 1960’s it was not uncommon to see signs up at
public house doors – “No Hippies!” The
hippies have I suppose now come and gone but have nonetheless left, I suppose,
a kind of cultural imprint of sorts.
Not of course that the place was not always considered a little bit
“odd”. For the upside of that, one can do hardly do better than consult Peter
Benham’s excellent book The
Avalonians. And this goes back to the 1920’s
and even further – although in those days they were perhaps a little more
genteel about it.
As far as Avalonians go, I have to say my own particular esoteric
mentor, Dion Fortune, was something of a late comer. She fell in love with the
place, put down roots at the foot of the Tor, and wrote a virtual love letter
about the place, somewhat inaccurate in parts as love letters tend to be, but
nonetheless moving, published in 1934 as Avalon of the Heart. She certainly mixed a
heady cocktail out of the place with evocations of Merlin, the Holy Grail, the
Celtic saints, Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Thorn, the Abbey, the Tor,
Chalice Well, King Arthur, Morgan le Fay, even the lost continent of Atlantis.
And she demonstrated an early exercise of her psychic faculties in
company with Bligh Bond at the Autumnal Equinox of 1921 with a paper that
became the core of inner work with her Fraternity for many years. That there
was an unbroken line of descent of spiritual power connecting directly with the
elemental powers of the soil, in which are the roots of the soul of the nation,
that is to say, of those who inhabit the land. And that which was noble in the
pagan was carried on into Christian times. Head in London, heart in Glastonbury
was how she tended to express this in her practical work, with headquarters in
Bayswater and hightailing it down the Great West Road, possibly in the side car
of Thomas Loveday’s motorbike, to her chalet at the foot of the Tor, where she
wrote amongst other things, her magnum opus The Mystical Qabalah and supporting novels.
In her capacious mind there was
no great divide between the pagan and the Christian, which she felt confirmed
at Whitsun in 1926 when a spiral power had them all spontaneously dancing on
the Tor along with an unequivocal call from the Elemental kingdoms “Come from the depths of your Elemental Being and
lighten our darkness – Come in the name of the White Christ and the Hosts of
the Elements.” Just what was meant by the “White Christ” –
who apparently entered the Underworld to preach to the Elemental Kingdoms
during the first Easter – has recently been further explored by Wendy Berg in Red Tree, White Tree (Skylight Press 2011) along with the current revival of interest in the
faery tradition. Married up to the symbolic objects allegedly brought to Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea. Red and white cruets
that have some connection with the Grail tradition and other weapons of
Arthurian tradition which, like Excalibur, originally came from faery sources –
otherwise called the Lake. (Odd that Glastonbury was
pre-historically a lake village!) Powers that originally came from the faery
world being duly returned to it.
There are obviously deep matters here that tend to go rather deeper
into magical and mystical territory than is commonly supposed. What we might
regard as bubbling away at the bottom of the cauldron. Although the superficial
view may only see the scum that floats on the surface.
This at times can have its amusing and disconcerting side. I recall a
visit to Glastonbury
to show some Greek friends over the Tor, which happened to coincide with an
official religious ceremony of sorts. This was accompanied by holy music
blaring from loud speakers, along with the unusual sight of nuns scurrying up
and down the Tor, rather as if an ant hill had been disturbed. And one was
reminded that the orthodox religious like to make a claim on the place that is
every bit as important as the neo-pagan or the esoteric.
The whole situation was amusingly encapsulated for me by the sight of a
somewhat prim and proper religious procession proceeding toward the Tor which
was spontaneously joined by a young lady, bare foot and festooned with wild
flowers, stoned out of her head by God knows what, attracted out of Chalice
Well gardens to dance alongside and within and the more staid procession. That,
in a sense, was a caricature, to my mind, of Glastonbury all over!
However, there is of course more to it than that. And it seems to me
that Dion Fortune had it about right in crediting the place with being a
harmonious meeting point between many strands of the spiritual powers of the
land. (Well perhaps not too harmonious!) There is a certain great mystical
peace manifest among the abbey ruins just as there are about the town points of
stimulus to the ancient powers of the land, and there need be no conflict
between them. Although I suppose, a certain amount of effervescence might be
expected in the confluence of the red and the white. Dragons fighting, but not
in anger. Even if we humans do like to take sides like supporters at some
cosmic football match.
Something of this effervescence comes out in unexpected ways. One such
being the attack on the Glastonbury
thorn on Wearyall Hill. Who knows what is at the back of all that? And I do not
suppose that even those who perpetrate it know. Even if they think they do.
Glastonbury has a way of coming back at you, even when you least expect it, even
if you want to pretend it isn’t there. It has a certain powerful magnetism. I
have found it in my own affairs. Helios Book Service, which I launched with my
old partners John and Mary Hall back in the early sixties, up near Cheltenham, ended its days in Glastonbury. Sold up when John and Mary
retired, it showed a brave face at a corner site at the bottom of the High
Street for a couple of years before going to the wall. And on a more positive
note, when invited to give a talk in the Assembly Rooms at a Dion Fortune
memorial conference in 2007, a young lady came up and started a conversation
that ended up with my being persuaded to write my autobiography. Something I
swore I would never do as I always preferred looking forward to looking
However, looking backward does have its points. The subject of my talk
that day was on the Faery Tradition in Arthurian Legend, which somehow seemed
to strike an octave with Dion Fortune’s introduction to faery in 1920 at the
performance in this same hall of Rutland Boughton and Fiona Macleod’s The Immortal Hour.
What goes around, comes around. And particularly in what Dion Fortune described
as a “three ring circus” such as Glastonbury.
From faery rings, to the ring of the Glastonbury zodiac first noted by Dr John
Dee, to the continuing ring on the inner of the Abbey bells, there is something
for everyone there. Even Tesco’s supermarket.
As Sir Gawain, and other heroes like him found, when confronted with
the prospect of embracing a loathly damsel, you only have to take her on her
own terms for her transformation to take place. But it is all in your own mind!
[from The Cauldron magazine, May