Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer, Part 1 – by Theresa Crater


Dion Fortune

Many people are familiar with Dion Fortune as a spiritual teacher in the Western Metaphysical Tradition, the founder of Fraternity of the Inner Light (later re-named the Society of the Inner Light). She was born Violet Mary Firth in Wales in December of 1890.

Dion Fortune showed psychic abilities as a child, and later reported a life in Atlantis as a priestess. She became interested in the occult when studying with a Freudian lay analyst. She pursued both esoteric and psychiatric study in her life, joining the Golden Dawn when she moved to London, then beginning her own group at the foot of Glastonbury Tor in 1924. Before leaving the Golden Dawn, Fortune studied psychiatry with Dr. Moriarty (it looks like Arthur Conan Doyle may have known him, too). She wrote many nonfiction titles on magic and occultism; many have become standard references in the serious study of esotericism. She wrote under the pseudonym Dion Fortune, most likely taken from her family moto Deo Non Fortuna, ‘God not luck’. She is buried in Glastonbury, England.

sea priestessTwo of Fortune’s novels focus on tantric ritual or sacred sexuality, The Sea Priestess (1935) and Moon Magic (1956). Some claim that Fortune included spiritual principles in her novels that were too secret to be published in her nonfiction, and perhaps it was this sexual content that the time period could not handle being discussed more openly.

However, the head of her branch of the Golden Dawn, Moina Mathers, objected strenuously to Fortune’s writing at first, fearing she was sharing secrets not meant for the general public. In her fiction, it seems Fortune wanted to give us the feel of a ritual rather than an intellectual understanding of one. The novels involve a ritual which is slowly built up to, allowing energy and magnetism to gather around the event. There is usually a neophyte who is being taught along with the reader.

Her best known novel is probably The Sea Priestess. The magical adept Vivien Le Fay Morgan meets a man, Wilfred Maxwell, who is having a crisis in his life. Vivien was a priestess in Atlantis in a past life. She remembers saving England from being entirely submerged during the fall of that ancient civilization.

Together, Vivien and Wilfred do a series of magical workings, the man being led intuitively through the events. Vivien does not instruct him as a magician per se. They remodel a house next to the ocean in Somerset, that magical land set between Wales and England near where Glastonbury is located. (The actual beach is a National Trust site which can still be visited.) They decorate the house with magical paintings of the undersea domain and its supernatural rulers. It is here they conduct the final, climactic ritual in which they embody the gods and goddesses.

Gareth Knight, her student and now a renowned esoteric teacher and writer, includes a very interesting discussion of the “Rite of Isis” in his forward to the novel which suggests Vivien gains her longevity from this ritual: “People think that sex is physical and that love is emotional, and they don’t realize that there is something else between a man and a woman which is magnetic in much the same way as the compass turns to the pole.”

moon magicI’m not sure which was Dion Fortune’s next best-loved writing, either Moon Magic (1956) or the short story collection The Secrets of Dr. Taverner (1926), but Moon Magic is another novel about sacred sexual ritual. The main character of Moon Magic is again Vivien or Lilith Le Fay as she calls herself in this text. Fortune claims this character “would not lie quiet in her grave,” so she was forced by psychic pressure, so to speak, to write another novel.

In this novel, Lilith/Vivien builds another temple, this on in an abandoned church next to the river Thames where the river is influenced by the ebb and flood of the sea. She meets another man, Malcolm in this case, who is emotionally repressed and trapped in a dead marriage with an invalid. He has become a workaholic as a result. Vivien, who in this novel claims to have discovered the elixir of life and to be 120 years old, begins to work on Malcolm in a similar way that she worked on Wilfred, allowing energy and magnetism to build for their subsequent ritual.

In both these novels, the couple performs the “Great Marriage,” an act of sexual magic that reinvigorates both the feminine and masculine principles in themselves and their society. In both, it is the priestess who is the competent magician and the man who is trapped inside conventional society and world views. She leads him forward and in so doing saves him and invigorates the world.

Fortune says in the preface, “One might even say that the writing of it was a magical act.” She warns it might not be very entertaining. She also claims in the preface, which she titles “Preliminary Considerations,” that the book “contains . . . an amount of very odd lore, much of which I did not know anything about until I read it in these pages.” This statement is quite suggestive that her writing method involved a great deal of unconscious and superconscious activity.

To read more about Dion Fortune, go to this page of the Servants of the Light website, which I have largely used as the source for this article. There is a lot out there about her out on the web, but the SOL continues the school she began. The next parts of this post will consider her other works of Visionary Fiction.



Theresa CraterTheresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her paranormal mysteries. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver.

www.theresacrater.wordpress.com    @theresacrater on Twitter



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19 Responses to Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer, Part 1 – by Theresa Crater

  1. esdragon2 says:

    I've read and enjoyed many of her works, but just as an aside; I was born in Firth Park, Sheffield, UK and this is where her family name comes from. Her father, (one of many philanthropists in Sheffield,) endowed us with this Park, where I played in as a child. He was also a cutler, and Firth Stainless was one of his discoveries. Before stainless steel was invented, cutlery was made of iron and rusted easily. Of course I didn't discover any of this history until much later when I started reading her stories and delving into her background.


  2. Thanks for sharing that. Fun that your childhood park is connected to her family. Her father saved us from rust and polishing the silver. 🙂


  3. Dion Fortune's novels inspired me, creatively and spiritually. It was from reading her novels that I realized I wanted to embed esoteric teachings in story form. In a creative way that would touch readers on their soul level without being preachy or didactic. Viola – I began to write Visionary Fiction!


    • esdragon2 says:

      It was too long ago to be able to state that she inspired me to write V F. There was no such thing,(unless you count CG Jung' prophetic comments.) All the same she certainly inspired me.


    • Jodine, Your novels are a testament to her. I'm onto your third and enjoying them like I enjoy reading hers. I was going to review the Dr. Taverner stories for the second blog and now I can't stop reading them. I love the teachings while being entertained. It feeds something deep inside me.


  4. Pingback: Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer – by Theresa Crater | Theresa Crater

  5. Thanks, Professor Crater, for adding more required reading to my list, not only Dion Fortune's novels but also your own. The VFA is a perpetual learning experience–I expect it to still be going when I get back next time.

    Was aware of Fortune as an occultist but not as a novelist. Your description of her works reminds me of Moonchild by the notorious Aleister Crowley, her much maligned contemporary, that I recently worked through. With sexual mysticism thematic to both, a subject still on the edge of propriety in the 21st century, I wonder if the world is ready for esoteric discussion, in fiction or otherwise, of subjects so deep and prone to misrepresentation. Interesting that Dan Brown does go there at the end of Da Vinci Code, although that aspect of his blockbuster drew little notice.

    I recently read a small book called Kybalion, a summary of Hermetic Philosophy that presents "Gender" (the masculine/feminine aspects you mention) as one of the Seven Hermetic Principles. Made much sense and illustrated what underlies humanity's fascination with sexuality, sacred and otherwise. Another vast area for the bolder among us to explore. I have a third novel on the boards in which I think I will take a stab at it.

    Great opener, Theresa. I look forward to more.


  6. Thanks, Vic, and please call me Theresa. You made me laugh, because VFA does add books to my reading list as well, and often I'm very glad when I read them. Now you've added two! I think I'll raid my husband's bookshelves and see if he has Crowley's novel. The Kybalion sounds fascinating, too. “Gender” as one of the Seven Hermetic Principles sounds fascinating.

    I write about sacred sexuality in The Star Family especially, and Jodine's novels include it as well. Jump in the pool! The water's fine. 🙂


  7. drstephenw says:

    Fascinating, Theresa. Thank you for sharing this work. And fascinating comments. It's enthralling how VF spans the light and the dark and everywhere in between.


  8. Thank you, Theresa, I am so glad they nourish 'something 'deep inside of you'! Comments like yours makes me feel I've accomplished what I intended in my novels!


  9. esdragon2 says:

    Interesting Vic that you mentioned Dan Brown. I'd dismissed him entirely on the grounds of all the negative reviews I'd heard. Yet in holiday about 4 years ago with nothing in the bookcase I wanted to read, I picked up his book. A very different understanding of what he was trying to say gradually emerged. By the time I got to the end I had completely reversed my former views.


    • Brown's Da Vinci Code has the remarkable quality of appealing to audiences on many different levels. That he managed to stir up the ire of the dogmatists, prompting them to publish works refuting his "fictional theories," likely meant several millions more books sold. I'd be curious to see what percentage of his readers got the deeper inferences in his works.


  10. esdragon2 says:

    What concerns me here Vic, is how influenced I was by all the reviews I had read before I started his book. They were ringing in my ears for a long time, and frankly obscuring my open-mindedness. If I hadn't persisted I would still be telling my friends what an illiterate and stupidly commercial book it was. So much for the power of reviews and reviewers! What a lesson!


  11. Pingback: Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer – by Theresa Crater | Visionary Fiction Alliance | Sol Ascendans - The Website of Alex Sumner

  12. Thanks so much, Theresa, for introducing me to a visionary fiction writer I'd never heard of until now. Looks like some research is in order. I look forward to your next post where you'll share some of Dion Fortune's other visionary fiction works.


  13. Pingback: Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer, Part 2 – by Theresa Crater | Visionary Fiction Alliance

  14. Pingback: The Lesser Known Novels of Dion Fortune, Part 3 – by Theresa Crater | Visionary Fiction Alliance

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