Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer, Part 2 – by Theresa Crater

(You can read Part 1 of Theresa Crater’s series on Visionary Fiction author Dion Fortune here.)

“He thought less of death than most people think of emigration; in fact, he seemed to regard it in exactly that light.”


TavernerIn The Secrets of Dr. Taverner, Dion Fortune’s short story collection featuring the magical adept and psychiatrist by the same name, we met many interesting characters in the throes of mental crisis that have a spiritual cause, or the families of seekers who want to throw their relative who is not behaving according to social norms into an asylum so they can take control of their money. It makes for delightful reading. I can attest to that. I was going to thumb through the book to refresh my memory because I am quite busy these days with my own writing and teaching, but from the first story, I couldn’t stop reading.

Fortune explains in her preface that the character of Dr. Taverner is based on the real-life Dr. Moriarty, with whom she studied analysis and most likely magic. She says, “To ‘Dr. Taverner’ I owe the greatest debt of my life; without ‘Dr. Taverner’ there would have been no ‘Dion Fortune,’ and to him I offer the tribute of these pages.”

The nursing home depicted, where all manner of magical events occur, was a real place. I’m sure out there in the magical world there are people who could tell us stories about this man and the place. Sometimes one has to suffer a certain amount of smugness to extract such stories (not always), but it’s always well worth it. Fortune also claims all the stories are based on some actual case she herself saw. She says she didn’t exaggerate the events, rather the opposite. She had to tone them down for print.

The stories are narrated by a Dr. Rhodes, a practical and down-to-earth sort of fellow, who has just come out of WWI: “I have come out of the Army with my nerves shattered. I want some quiet place till I can pull myself together.” I’m not sure how much quiet he experiences after all. In many ways he serves as a window for less ethereal minds into the world of Dr. Taverner. In another way, he serves as the Seeker, and Dr. Taverner (and a couple of patients) as his Initiator. In the end, Dr. Rhodes comes over to “our side.”

The cases involve vampirism, which is not Dracula in this case, but a man back from war who has picked up a spirit that yearns for the vitality gained from blood. Other cases involve people who are more fae than human and who have such difficulty adjusting to the norms of everyday life, they have been sent away. In Dr. Taverner’s nursing home, they are allowed out of doors to mix with the faeries and elementals, which effects a cure. In one case, two people with such tendencies meet and marry. They live out of doors in a tent, traveling from wild place to wild place. I wonder if now England has enough wild places left for them.

Other cases involve astral transference. A dying man falls in love with a drug addict’s wife, and well, I won’t spoil the story. Black magic is sniffed out and stopped in many stories. One man uses scent to hypnotize his relatives, another seduces women with his extraordinary magnetism, and there are more. Dr. Taverner, with his trusty sidekick Rhodes, puts all right in the end.

As a side note, I was struck with how similar these stories are to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. Sherlock is by no stretch of the imagination a mystic or magician. He is a genius intellectually. But Dr. Watson reads very much like Dr. Rhodes. Both series use the sidekick as the narrator.

Perhaps the ethereal heights of intellect or spirituality would not make for a good storyteller. We are happy to put our feet up and stay in our comfortable armchair to observe the virtuosos among us. We can dream of going there, but not stretch ourselves overly much. It remains a pleasure. Yet the stories tweak at our spirits. They suggest things imagined or even half remembered. They suggest ways to grow spiritually. They are Visionary Fiction. They awaken their readers.



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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14 Responses to Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer, Part 2 – by Theresa Crater

  1. reanolanmartin says:

    Looks great! Thanks for bringing it to our attention,!


  2. Peggy Payne says:

    After seeing Part 1, I got a copy of her Sea Priestess and started reading last night. Decades ago a psychic told me I needed to read Dion Fortune and I'd never gotten around to it. I'm glad to be reminded.


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

  4. Amazing what can be pulled up when you pick at a thread someone points out in these blog pieces. The curiosity you kicked up about Dion Fortune and her connection to visionary fiction, Theresa, led me to at least look her up on Wikipedia. I was astounded to discover that she is a major figure in the pantheon of forward looking, if much maligned, esotericists at the turn of the 20th century, which also includes Madame Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley and Rudolf Steiner. And her impact on later VF writers, including Marion Zimmer Bradley is profound.

    An example from the Wikipedia article:
    According to author Diana Paxson, in a letter to Random House regarding her sister-in-law Marion Zimmer Bradley, she credits Dion Fortune's Avalon of the Heart and novels as the inspiration for The Mists of Avalon. In the letter she says "In particular, Mists of Avalon was a story of a woman's spiritual quest. The spirituality of Avalon derives from the British Mystery tradition, especially as it was interpreted by the occult writer Dion Fortune, whose character, Miss LeFay Morgan, is both a progenitor and descendant of Morgaine. In addition, Marion drew upon Dion Fortune's non-fiction book, Avalon of the Heart. For a time, Dion Fortune lived in Glastonbury, in a cottage at the base of the Tor, in the Chalice Orchard, Glastonbury, home of the legendary Glastonbury Tor is still a sacred center of pilgrimage for many".

    I know there are many MZB and Glastonbury fans among us, myself included. Finding Fortune (pun intended) among our VF ancestors is serendipity indeed. Good to know that many of her titles are now available on Amazon Kindle.


  5. Dion Fortune greatly influenced my VF writing in that she was a role model for me in the idea of embodying esoteric teachings in story in a way that doesn't proselytize. Thank you, Theresa, for bringing us her lesser known titles. I'm excited to read them.

    Most of you know my soul's love affair with Glastonbury. When I lived there, I had the privilege of visiting Dion Fortune's cottage at the base of the Tor. It is now the home to a lovely woman, Jan, who also opens it out as a B&B and Auro Soma Color Healing sessions..

    Vic, I hadn't realized Diana Paxson was Marion Zimmer Bradley's sister-in-law. Diana is an interesting author, and I know she finished one, at least, of MZB's novels for her after she passed away.

    Peggy – I loved your comment on how The Mists of Avalon has an uncanny power for you! Me, too. It changed my life, inspired me to go live in Glastonbury. Favorite book of all time for me.


    • Peggy Payne says:

      Glad to find out about Paxson — and wish I'd known about that cottage when I was in Glastonbury.


    • Jodine, Love your connections to Glastonbury. They make your books shine. Next trip to Glastonbury, I'm staying in the B&B that was Fortune's cottage. I set the house in my Glastonbury/Atlantis novel right in that spot, but I've never stayed there. Usually stayed at Chalice Well.


  6. Thank you Theresa. A story dealing with a magical adept and psychiatrist, plus characters in the throes of mental crises that have a spiritual cause, sounds not only interesting, but might also help me fine-tune a novel I'm editing. I purchased "The Secrets of Dr. Taverner, and can't wait to begin reading.


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

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