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What kind of person, then, was Dion Fortune? To imagine her as she saw herself, or as others saw her. Was she a person of integrity? How much weight can we place on her sincerity? These are not questions we would naturally ask of a scholar, mathematician, philosopher, inventor, or even an artist, although we might well do so in the case of a psychologist, who is supposed to be of much more direct and, hopefully, beneficial influence upon our own behaviour and character. Even more so in the case of one whose influence might be considered covert, yet more powerful that of a magician! Personality and character traits are especially significant in the case of one following the path of a discipline whose key concept is self mastery; indeed it was Fortune's own advice that prospective students should judge the worth of an organisation not by its glossy brochures and brave words, but by virtue of its human output in everyday life. Sound advice indeed! She was not an orphan, as some say. She was brought up as a child in a Christian Science household. Was it this, perhaps, that led to her parents' tendency to stress her superiority over her classmates, leaving her with few friends, and causing her to develop something of a propensity towards snobbishness, a characteristic that led her to take better comfort in the company of horses and ponies? This, coupled with a withdrawn life of reading and no doubt a large measure of daydreaming, may well have led to the development of latent mediumistic powers, which in the end became sufficiently visible as to alarm both her parents and also her neighbours! In reflective mood, she composed poetry. Her poem 'Violets' composed when she was just 13 is lightweight but unlike most (even adult) attempted poetry today, keeps metre and rhyme almost perfectly. One feels that she could well have developed into an accomplished poet had she so minded. Extended contact with adults rather than with children of her own age could well have made her a difficult child, but also of course, sharpened the edge of her self confidence. That she was strong minded while still a young woman is amply borne out by incidents at college her strong sense of fair play led her to boldly advise a fellow student to defect rather than continue awkwardly under the circumstances of a suspected swindle. And paradoxically, it
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going through phases. all in stark contrast to her much more relaxed behaviour when staying at her other centre in Glastonbury. Bernard Bromage attests to her superb and unflagging self confidence. then magical. she was his 'star pupil'. even to the extent of playing practical jokes on the staff. he noted a certain tendency to recklessness in her use of psychological terms. But strangely in view of her later Land Army stint. or perhaps 'lateral thinking' in today's terms and yet despite her early professional experience in depth psychology. reminding him of the Sea Priestess of her then current novel. career. remarked many years afterwards that she actually displayed a great sense of fun. Physically slim and attractive in her teens. Mr Penry Evans did not appear easy to get on with. a fellow student of Fortune's at Studley Agricultural College. let her hair down. including the Director of the Science Museum.htm was her later confrontation with the Warden and undergoing a harrowing psychological barrage from her strong enough to precipitate a lengthy and incapacitating breakdown. she was said to dislike gardening. Queensborough Terrace. and Fortune shed no tears at their parting. and unflappability. she would delegate all her duties. presence. Her dress in those years reminded Bromage of the figure advertising Sandeman's Port flowing crimson cloak and large wide brimmed black hat. Yet there were other times too. Fortune's marriage was not particularly happy . she filled out later in life. Evelyn Hadfield. which in a sense. although elsewhere he says that Maiya Trenchell Hayes was the model for this. the journalist Bernard Bromage was one of the closest.Dion Fortune: A Character Sketch file:///C:/silweb9/journals/Vol24No2/TMP541f8vjzp. . although some say that her magical work was at its peak during the time of their marriage. She had vivid memories of her lecturing unhesitatingly and without notes. He especially remarked upon her unique insights and innovative approach signs of genius. He had met Dion Fortune in 1936 when she was 46 years old and at the height of her magical career and incidentally attending Bromage's London University Extension Course lectures on Literature and the Occult. Of those who knew her personally. seeming to precipitate all sorts of weird and unaccountable incidents about herself when others were about. He considered her essay work to be of excellent quality indeed. that might well have been the essential transformational crisis which firmly oriented her in the direction of her subsequent psychotherapeutic. One of the students under Fortune's much appreciated tutelage in of the Fraternity of the Inner Light during the years 1930 to 1946 was Helah Fox who knew Fortune well. and behave in very buoyant mood. standing completely still with a remarkable. she was anyway. She almost wept when someone read out for them a moving letter from a serving Officer on the front. But in Glastonbury. perhaps only dimly remembered by then. which regularly attracted intelligent audiences. Yet her personality was more forgiving than her demeanour suggested. sometimes military. having the demeanour of one who perhaps nowadays might be associated with the feminist cause. Bromage delighted in her still active humour . although she certainly always appreciated the results. but retained her strength of mind. and he was keen to read all her published material as soon as it became available.like most marriages. when she let her depth of feeling show.she termed his University Extension Class a 'coven' and their discussions eventually led to him setting up a lecture programme at 3. Perhaps it was not too strange that she seemed to feel that this attire somehow made Fortune invisible.
Butler.and where he engaged some well known literary and artistic personalities to take the chair. both epithets far from deserved. that her self taught ability to handle her body and emotions with such great economy. It is interesting to speculate on her relationship with Aleister Crowley. Bromage felt at this and on most occasions. she earned the nickname 'Fluff' on account of the rigour she displayed on inspecting the surfaces round the room after they had been cleaned! But Butler also emphasises that her outward character was well capable of adaptation according to circumstance. But as far as detractors were concerned. something of the power of mythical drama to stir the unconscious. and hierarchy. for example. . discrediting her own in the process. Bromage was deeply moved by. One special occasion for Bromage was when Fortune invited him as a guest into one of her Lodge rooms to see her perform in a so called Rite of Isis (she agreed with Bromage afterwards that it was more Greek than Egyptian!). she may have been a little naive – not being able to foresee. recognising in it. Indeed. Perhaps it needs people of charisma. or 'pantomime' as he called it. all of which matters have certainly taken on a different complexion half a century on. always teaching from principle. gives due credit to his superior intellect. In one dated 8th January 1942. which Hutton designates as a 'personality quirk'. she never interfered in the personal life of her students. the ritual. Hutton is further critical of her inflexible stand on sex. whilst at the same time retaining an underlying stability which was never afraid to acknowledge mistakes. they were certainly an influence upon each other. In June 1944 she sent him a copy of her Sea Priestess. and her calm self assurance and authority were such as to fit her well for a ministry of healing. a student of Dion Fortune's from 1925 1946. she used her fine sense of judgement. The one or two that survive seem to suggest that their relationship was not uncongenial. As for personal relations. and allowing life experience to be the real teacher. Others report that in her dealings with human nature. perhaps for the first time. Then there was the matter of her fear during the war of racial contamination. In a letter to him dated 14th March 1945 she complains about the negative comments she had received from readers of her Mystical Qabalah concerning the number of appreciative references she makes to Crowley’s scholarship in that book. It rests with Bromage to sum her up more favourably as 'one of the most interesting personalities of the century' particularly with regard to her 'dynamic curiosity in 'occult matters' (Bromage 1960). and despite her obvious authority. He recalls how meticulously she supervised the production of each and every page of her Inner Light Magazine. race. and over time they are said to have exchanged a fair number of letters. her magical contemporary. the possibility that there might be friction between the conflicting Interests of the three sub sections of her Fraternity almost an inevitability in any organisation.E. he was well aware of the healings of some most difficult cases that she and her husband Dr Penry Evans had effected together. broadly confirms Bromage's recollections of her. indeed. Whether they worked magic together is doubtful. and a member of the Society of the Inner Light until 1978. Healing does not seem to be a major part of the Society's activities nowadays. and wishes him all due success in his Tarot work. W. and always avoided confrontation where possible. It is unfortunate that Crowley’s Bohemian antics attracted to him the name of ‘Antichrist’ and ‘wickedest man in the world’. she addresses him ‘playfully’ as ‘666’. Although untrained in occultism.
The 'us' in this case were Fortune and her husband. stock.. contrary to Grant. after their meeting with great warmth: “I am so glad you liked us. Fortune was courageous enough to stand her ground and refuse his article.” Fortune in 1934 was described by Ithell Colquhoun as a big woman. whose sessions of Jungian analysis Dion Fortune was (anonymously) attending. He reported. yet still strikingly and unconventionally dressed. and reminding one of a schoolmistress or matron of a nursing home. and projected a sturdy.. I suppose you know you have given away the old 'Golden Dawn' system. let us focus on their general tone. the correspondence which survives roughly charts their relationship. in whose house they met. . Despite. or perhaps because of their firm friendship. Regardie reveal some disagreement over matters of fundamental importance. specifically. Regardie would on no account accept. he having met her only fleetingly towards the end of her life in 1945. lock. because we liked you! it is a great pleasure to meet someone to whom I can talk 'on the level”. which faculty (Colquhoun perhaps mischievously comments). Perhaps she was nearing her end. which. somewhat hypnotic. Her eyes were deep blue and glistening. the wife of Dr Lawrence Bendit. He became disenchanted with the Bristol Lodge of the Golden Dawn of which he was a member for two years for much the same reasons that Fortune had been unhappy with the Alpha & Omega Lodge i. Nov 14th1932: “. he felt that she had matured. and appeared less secluded. and in touch with a greater circle of people of like mind. that the officers did not understand what they were about. simply and conventionally dressed. and barrel? It is by guarded by oaths with the most penalties I trust you have not been slain by invisible forces!” She appears to take the matter somewhat flippantly. Colin Wilson recounts that Mrs Bendit. But rather than go into the minutiae of the technicalities discussed in the letters. new plans for reviving more pagan attitudes.e. Later. commented on her as a “burnt out shell”. And Nov 16th 1932. offering the sound advice “I should be wary if I were you. when Bromage met her for one last time to discuss her ambitious plans for some sort of federation of occultists. that she was dressed more conventionally in black satin. Yet in the same year. “Could be used to extract donations from her disciples for the benefit of the fraternity. something she had done in a small way herself in the Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage with regard to the Alpha & Omega. whom Regardie’s considered henpecked! Later correspondence and articles by. as a psychologist.” Kenneth Grant's memories of Fortune are few. She was vigorous and well spoken. and keen to discuss with Aleister Crowley. She was in her final illness. for telling phrases that let slip any traits of her character.There was an exchange of letters with Israel Regardie during the 1930’s. of course. and he hoped that Fortune would publicise his somewhat caustic views in the Inner Light Review. She speaks of reviewing his books (which she says she valued above anything written by Crowley or Levi) and later praises his exposure of most of the secrets of the Golden Dawn system. common sense approach to her subject. with faded blond hair. the existence of the Masters.
and what researchers believe they can detect in her novels and other publications. and stuffy atmosphere. but going back to first principles. Yet he had his own quarters at Chalice Orchard. self possessed. the other. and a writer of brilliance. to her pupil W. and takes Francis King to task for exaggerating the consequences of Fortune's disappointment and uncharacteristic attempts at retaliation. Crowley. and personal integrity'. Fortune. Colquhoun deals fairly with the matter of Fortune's ultimate departure from the Alpha & Omega Lodge of the Golden Dawn headed by Moina Mathers. How. and found it a pleasant enough site. a Bohemian exhibitionist.Butler a 'friendly unassuming individual who knew more about the art of magic than the rest of us might hope to learn in half a dozen lifetimes'. was bold enough to strike out on her own to create an eminently workable system. self sacrifice. Queensborough Terrace as having a dank. then are the sometimes conflicting opinions of those who knew her when she was alive. and exerted a rare talent for inspiring and motivating others. displayed excellent organisational ability.E.These. although he does mention in passing that while she was under her first teacher some of her fellow students did tend to be rather wary of her because of her outspokenness. most are positive. Does one detect a hint of bitterness in these descriptions? It has been said that Fortune maintained several deep and lasting friendships. He was not. set an example of 'super achievement. non Fortuna By God. perhaps because he was unaware of the extent of her previous experience and training elsewhere. Fellow member Edward Garstin was surprised that she intended to set up her own organization after spending such a short time with the A. and there is no eye witness evidence to indicate other than that their liaison was purely fraternal. The move certainly indicated her enthusiasm. although he had pretensions of being so the one. some four years after Fortune's death. Colin Wilson was one of the first to write of Dion Fortune at second hand. Ithell Colquhoun's account speaks of Charles Loveday as Fortune's 'boyfriend'. for . presenting her as a magician whose qualities have been greatly underestimated 'the last great magician of the 20th century'. Colquhoun visited Chalice Orchard during the 1950's. something most unlikely to have happened. Colquhoun also suggests the possibility of Charles being the Raoul Loveday of Crowley's Thelemic Temple. There is no doubt that he worked well beyond the call of duty for the Fraternity it was he who purchased and personally refurbished the ex army huts erected at Glastonbury and who is today buried beside her in that very same town. after all. Wilson grants Dion Fortune several pages. a matter promptly dismissed by Butler and others. perhaps. interestingly. not by chance). a term much open to varied interpretation these days. He contrasts her with Aleister Crowley. and contaminated by pets. cluttered with lumber. Fortune was apparently a model student in the Golden Dawn until she began to question certain practices and lose confidence in the leadership. who did not merely rely on previous sources or suspect traditional texts. mistakenly described as 'her master' he was never that. chilly. do we sum up Dion Fortune as a person? In a way similar.O. Secondary sources are based mostly upon hearsay. but the buildings seemed too small for comfortable ritual work. sober. She similarly describes 3. And what happened to Violet how fir did she identify with her role as a magician to the detriment of her role as a woman? The adoption of a magical name (albeit based on her family motto Deo. In an attempt to gain some feeling for the environment in which Fortune worked. In his surprisingly informative and balanced review of the occult The Giant Book of the Supernatural. Certainly a figure of fundamental importance in the Western magical tradition.
as the renowned occultist and surrealist Austin Osman Spare acknowledged. Chapman. Wellingborough. and Collins. and setting the scene for a new Renaissance. Indeed. Did she then perhaps see herself as the magical shakti of the New Aeon? Or. 1986 Western Mystery Tradition.E. Janine Quest for Dion Fortune. PhD. Unpubl. Paul. the obvious sincerity and straightforwardness in advising her readers of all the opportunities and all the pitfalls of magical training. Thoth Publications. 1989 Verter. her character shines through in her own writing the tenacity of purpose in her War Letters. and how she is known to us to this day. might be seen as a somewhat questionable course of action nowadays as indicating in some sense an abrogation of her earthly day to day personality. 1993 Colquhoun Ithell Sword of Wisdom London. Carr The Story of Dion Fortune. Spring 1960 Butler.everyday purposes as well as use in her magical role. Geoff Ancient Magicks for a New Age. Maine. displacing the one sided materialist outlook of the so called Enlightenment. Harvard University Press. Colin The Occult. Anne Twentieth Century Mystics London. and is its own vindication of her strength of character.. 9th October 2003 Works consulted: Bancroft. 1971 . 1998 Hutton Ronald The Triumph of the Moon. what shows through her own writing is more than can be dealt with here. Loughborough. Gareth Dion Fortune and the Inner Light. a pioneer heading the contemporary paradigm shift that is slowly but inevitably beginning to re include esoteric elements in society that have been deliberately excluded for three hundred years. Heinemann. Oxford University Press. 1987 Richardson. 1976 Richardson Alan Priestess The Life and Magic of Dion Fortune. 1976 Bromage Bernard 'Dion Fortune' in Light Vol 80. More than all this. Neville Spearman. 2001 Ophiel The Art and Practice of Caballa Magic. as 'one of us!' She certainly lived up to Bromage's assessment of a person was a 'symbol of something new in the way of integration. MN. Aquarian press. Wellingborough. Charles. 1975 Fielding. Practical Magic and the Northamptonshire. York beach. 2000 Nelson. Thoth Publications. Bradford Dark Star Rising: the Emergence of Modern 1800 1950 Princeton University. Llewellyn. Alan and Hughes. Loughborough. St. Hodder and Stoughton. 'Dion Fortune' was how she signed her letters. 1997 Wilson. Northants. Perhaps another time. New York. struggling to break out of the clutches of an materialism into a realm in which spirit can interpenetrate matter to a fresh issue. Samuel Weiser Inc.’ As we would say today. Aquarian Press. 2000 Knight. Nevertheless. W. Victoria The Secret Life of Puppets. London.
Wilson. Colin Mysteries. London. Colin (Ed) The Giant Book of the Supernatural. London. 1978 Wilson. 1994 . Paragon. Hodder and Stoughton.
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