Aspects of Occultism by Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight - Read Online
Aspects of Occultism
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When Dion Fortune wrote Aspects of Occultism, "occultism" was an umbrella word used to describe hidden lore, secret traditions, and arcane knowledge. Today, when the word "occult" is often confused for "cult," and all its negative aspects, Fortune's essays would be better referred to as "esoteric studies." In this book she discusses evocative magic, the sites of Druid worship, parallels between Christianity and the Qabalah, the astral plane, auras, spiritual healing, power cycles, and our relationship with the Higher Self.

This revised edition includes a new introduction by Gareth Knight, an index, and an additional essay by Fortune-"The Myth of the Round Table." People familiar with Fortune's work will love this book!

Published: Red Wheel Weiser on
ISBN: 9781609254971
List price: $14.95
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Aspects of Occultism - Dion Fortune

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by Gareth Knight

ASPECTS OF OCCULTISM is a collection of articles culled from Dion Fortune's Inner Light Magazine which published from October 1927 through August 1940, its columns largely filled by Dion Fortune herself. In its columns some of her great works, such as The Mystical Qabalah, first saw the light of day, but it also contained many shorter pieces, written on short notice to meet a deadline, which deserve preservation in volume form because of the information they offer interested students. Hence this collection, and its companion volume, Applied Magic.

Written as they were, usually under pressure, and with little opportunity for revision, they have a particular fascination, for often Dion Fortune would start on some fairly general subject and then, as she warmed to it, she would get somewhat carried away and deal with technicalities and practicalities of magic that, in the climate of her times, she would normally have been reluctant to divulge in public. Such is the case with the first chapter in this volume, God and the Gods. This begins as a kind of general overview of comparative religion as she understood it, as a kind of pre-emptive defence to the charge that she could hardly claim to be Christian if she opened the door of faith to any number of pagan gods.

She starts by trying to define just what worshippers mean when they talk of archangels, angels, and saints on the one hand, and gods and goddesses on the other. From here she passes naturally into the modus operandi of magic. That is to say, as far as she is concerned, all such imagined forms have been fashioned in astral substance by the group mind of the worshippers—and may then be activated or ensouled by cosmic forces. Thus the worshippers are working magic, whether they realise it or not.

The individual worshipper who combines personal belief with prayerful desire may well perceive a sense of power, an awareness of a divine or an inner presence. The mechanism is the same whether it be the weary traveller invoking St. Christopher, or the wing-heeled Mercury. The divine power behind it is one and the same whatever its metaphysical label—God, the Cosmos, the Nous, Ain Soph—although the actual channel in the consciousness through which it flows is what might be technically described as an artificial elemental.

The way the power is contacted and discerned is much the same, she reveals, for worshipper or for ceremonial magician. It all resides in the magic mirror of the imagination, which may not be so subjective and fanciful as is commonly supposed.

It is possible for such forms to take on a certain degree of objective appearance in the presence of an entranced materialising medium, as was once a favoured technique of the spiritualist movement, for example. However, it is arguable if the advantage is a great one, for such substance being malleable to thought, all that is likely to appear is already within the sitters' imagination.

Providing a heavy pall of incense smoke in a confined space is not a technique that is entirely practicable, having a counterproductive effect on the breathing tubes of the celebrants, while the use of noxious substances would, as Dion Fortune delicately says, not lend itself too well to drawing-room performance (see page 6), if that is where one plans to do one's magic. Although a place set apart for dedicated use is an undoubted advantage, the temple of the modern magician is one that is not built with hands. It is constructed within the consecrated imagination, and with a trained and prepared mind, this can be powerful enough an experience.

As Dion Fortune goes on to say, it is one thing to make an invocation, but it is the corresponding force within the magician that needs to be controlled. Her rather throwaway remark that Mars is an easy potency to evoke to visible appearance is open to some misunderstanding. She is not referring to the figure of the armed and bearded Roman deity cavorting around the temple, but to the fact that if the forces are not properly controlled, it is easy to have a stand-up confrontation of the participants following this kind of evocation. When it comes to matters of Venus, the same applies, but in a somewhat more intimate form. In matters of the Moon, we may be in the comparatively easier atmosphere of mutual self-deception.

From this it follows that spiritual intention is all important before aimlessly evoking all that moves upon the inner planes in a spirit of feckless adventure or idle curiosity. Fortunately, in practical terms, most beginners are protected by their own ineptitude. The purpose of ceremonial working that Dion Fortune has in mind is the improvement of character, and in this respect the construction of an appropriate talisman may be a useful adjunct, guided by an astrological chart.

In this respect, whether she realised it or not, Dion Fortune was treading directly in the footsteps of the great Renaissance magus, Marsilio Ficino, translator of the Hermetic texts, who has since been given greater recognition by the scholarship of Frances Yates in Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, and The Art of Memory.

Although this article dates from 1933, she reveals her sympathies toward ideas embraced a generation or two later by the neopagan movement. This does not mean that she was a closet witch, as some latter-day enthusiasts have been led to speculate, for she retained throughout her life a deep respect for both Christian tradition and belief and Qabalistic hermeticism. Here she draws attention to the benefits of observing the solar year and the adoration of God made manifest in nature, whether in direct nature mysticism, or the traditional divisions of the solar year by the planets, signs of the zodiac, and elemental tides. In her practical work she tended toward the ancient pantheons of Egypt, Greece, and Chaldea. She maintained a deep sympathy for the renaissance of native tradition, which indeed led her to maintain a centre in Glastonbury, where she felt that this tradition had its heart, combined with an early form of Christianity via the legends of Joseph of Arimathea and of the Holy Grail.

Something of this is to be found in her novels, The Winged Bull and The Goat-foot God, as well as within the chapter included here, on Sacred Centres. The idea of a Head and Heart centre in every land was expressed from the very beginnings of her practical work with her group. This is why, in 1924, they founded two centres for their group, one in Glastonbury, the heart centre of England as they saw it, and the other in London, the capital city and head centre of the nation.

These were not the only two centres, however, that featured in their early aspirations. They also had a centre dedicated to spiritual healing on a height on the South Downs to the southwest of London, and one that aspired to the environmental improvement of urban living conditions in the pioneering garden city of Letchworth. They felt that Letchworth had spiritual links with nearby St. Albans, the site of the first Christian martyr in Britain. It was also the home of Francis Bacon, with his various esoteric connections in theosophical tradition with Count Rakoczi, to say nothing of the alleged Shakespearean connection, which to Dian Fortune's mind was connected with their perhaps being members of the same Rosicrucian lodge. Plenty of pabulum for the speculative mind here!

Her beliefs about power lines between cathedrals and ancient heritage sites predate much of the explosion of interest in these matters today. Not that she was a lone pioneer, for she cites evocative works of the day, such as Lewis Spense's Mysteries of Britain, but plainly she could discern which way the winds of change were blowing in terms of esoteric thought, while at the same time holding to a threefold balance of Christian, Hermetic and Pagan paths.

If power lines between sacred and ancient sites represent an esoteric appreciation of geophysical space, then her essay on Power Tides and Cycles represents an esoteric appreciation of geophysical time. This article dates from the late 1920s and demonstrates the foundation for the observance of elemental tides within her group, the nomenclature of which may not be readily obvious.

Vernal Equinox to Summer Solstice

Fire Tide—Growth and spiritual enlightenment.

Summer Solstice to Autumnal Equinox

Earth Tide—Fruitfulness and holidays.

Autumnal Equinox to Winter Solstice

Air Tide—Mental work and new projects.

Winter Solstice to Vernal Equinox

Water Tide—Cleansing, purification.

Observance of these tides always played an important role in the esoteric work of her Fraternity, and members were expected to meditate seriously upon them. Indeed it was also taught that conscious awareness of them made the power of these tides more effective in inducing the spiritual growth and effective work of the initiate.

Dian Fortune was, for most of her occult working life, a medium. Not a medium of the spiritualist kind, who makes contact with personalities of the recently departed, but what her contacts preferred to call a cosmic medium, bringing through esoteric teaching from a higher source. For much of her life she and her group were rather coy about this, and it was not readily admitted, save obliquely, until 1938 to the readers of Inner Light Magazine, and then more publicly in 1942 in the pages of the spiritualist newspaper Light. Anyhow, a direct sample of her work along these lines is provided in the chapter called The Astral Plane and provides an opportunity to judge the difference in style and content between a directly received teaching, and one written in the normal way by her conscious self.

In the whole history of her Fraternity, emphasis was placed upon it being the intrinsic value of a communication that is important, not its alleged source. There were others within the Fraternity who tried their hand at this kind of work from time to time, and here again a difference in quality and style is discernible. This is not the place to enter into an analysis of this very complex subject, which could well demand a volume in its own right.

The Worship of Isis by virtue of its style and content would seem to have come from a similar source, although it saw publication in fictional form in her novel The Sea Priestess (written in 1936 and published in 1938). In the story, an inner plane presence known as the Priest of the Moon is described working back of Vivien Le Fay Morgan. The fictional temple, as with most locations in Dion Fortune's novels, had its counterpart in real life. It is like as an old fort dating from the Napoleonic wars facing out over the Bristol Channel, in that small part of the west coast of England that faces directly onto the broad Atlantic, unobstructed by the coast of Ireland. It stands at the end of a