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.
Two 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.”
I’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 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