Thursday, 23 March 2017

Upon Westminster Bridge

Upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Springtime of Dion Fortune

There she is staring out at you...or maybe that should be "in to you"!

Whether writing as Violet Firth, Violet M Steele or Dion Fortune, the person behind these names was a prolific author, with some 20 plus works of non-fiction and a further 9 works of fiction. Just in case you can’t get above 20, don’t forget her two lesser known works of The Soya Bean: An Appeal to Humanitarians and  The Psychology of the Servant Problem: A study in social relationships. Not a bad track record for someone who was busy lecturing and teaching, as well as setting up and running her own esoteric fraternity.

Most readers seem to appreciate her no-nonsense, down-to-earth and eminently readable style. It tends to lack the occasional pomposity and arrogance peppered throughout Crowley’s highly impressive output. True, some of her writing is now woefully dated in ways that much of Crowley’s isn’t. Similarly, some of the “facts” she presents have not withstood the test of time. However, if forced to choose between the two, she remains my “go to” writer – my desert island book collection.

Regretably, most biographers and commentators have glossed over her childhood writing. Some people think it isn’t that good or simply isn’t worth any analysis. Personally, I tend to see the foundations of her adult writings crystallising in these youthful productions. There are some great little gems to be found for example amongst Matins and Vespers, Violets and More Violets. To me there are many fine examples where the reader can see that even as a young teenager, she had already found her voice.

With the daffodils flowering in abundance out here in the West of England, and another Vernal Equinox fast approaching, one particular passage she wrote on the 27th of March 1905 strikes me as particularly apt.

Please humour me. Read the following passage and see if you agree that she had already found the foundation of the voice that we would come to recognise as Dion Fortune. 


“Opens a door in Heaven
From skies of glass
A Jacob's Ladder falls
On greening grass,
And o'er the mountain wall
Young angels pass.
Oh, follow, leaping blood, the season's lure,
Oh heart, look up, serene, secure,
Warm as the crocus cup, like snowdrop pure."


So much has been written about Spring in both prose and poetry that little remains to be said. Perhaps the reason that it has received so much attention is that it is the most beautiful of all seasons. The roses of Summer are lovely, but they do not excel the daffodil which gilds the riverside meadows in early Spring; nor can the reds of Autumn compare with the pale green of a newly-opened bud.

Perhaps we appreciate Spring's loveliness so much because we have fasted while the countryside was covered with snow, and now we feast our eyes upon a transformation which appears the more lovely when contrasted with the previous season's quiescence; and by the time Summer appears, we have been surfeited by the sweets of her predecessor, and do not appreciate, as fully as we might otherwise have done, her richer beauties.

As soon as last year's leaves had fallen, small brown nobs were visible upon the twigs and branches of the trees; during the Winter these remained dormant, but as soon as the warmth of Spring quickened the chilled sap into renewed activity, they began to swell, and ere long burst the dull outer coat and exposed to view the delicate green leaves within.

A sudden transformation now takes place; the landscape no longer wears the sombre colours of Winter, it seems as if some magician's brush has passed over the land from south to north, painting all the country green. The trees have opened their leaf-buds, or shaken out their catkins, which cast on the wind clouds of yellow pollen that drift across the open meadow-land, fertilising all female flowers in their path.

Other trees do not trust their precious dust to the capricious breezes, but secrete the honey which tempts the small wild bees to brave the uncertain weathers of an English Spring, and at the same time perform an involuntary service for their hosts.

The insect life is also awake ; in sunny hedgerows beetles are beginning to appear, and the ants are working furiously to repair and extend their subterranean homes.

The appearance of the insects only heralds the approach of the insectivores, and from over the seas ever increasing streams of bird visitors are arriving.

Our own bats, too, who have slept away the Winter, now reappear, and the brisk snap of their little jaws as they catch a fly can be heard quite plainly on a still evening.

The flowers are by no means the least beautiful part of this altogether lovely season. Spring is heralded in by the snowdrop and wild violet; the climax of its reign is reached when the daffodil and cowslip are in flower, and it is ushered out by the pink petals of the dog-rose.

That the human life has a Springtime as well as Nature, has been declared many times, but the mental life has one also ; when the buds of child-thought begin to grow into the full leaf of the mature mind, we call it Expansion.

When the spiritual search for Truth results in the discovery of perfect peace and understanding, it is called Revelation.

Yet these three, the Natural, Mental, and Spiritual Springtides, are the same process working in different spheres of life, and might be classed together under the one name of The Awakening.

More Violets - Violet M. Firth

Thursday, 24 November 2016

A response to living in interesting times

On the 6th of July 1941, almost two years into the bloodshed and destruction of the Second World War, Dion Fortune sent out her 80th war letter to members and friends of the Fraternity of the Inner Light. Over 70 years later, in a seemingly vastly different world to the one she knew -- at least on the surface -- much of this particular letter’s content has a fresh poignancy and strong sense of currency for where we find ourselves in the 21st Century.

"This is the basis of the psychological leadership of democracy. Its use demands of the leaders two things: firstly, a realisation that life is governed by certain principles which are universally and eternally prevalent, and that the departures therefrom are no more than the rise and fall of the waves on a tidal beach -- it is the tides that count, not the ripples. Leaders must trust and be true to such principles, and never, in a spirit of short-sighted opportunism, avail themselves of the ripples. Secondly, such leaders must have a spirit of dedication and self-abnegation which will cause them to have no care for power for its own sake but only as a means to an end -- the end being the service of society, so that they will be willing to delegate power in order that experience may be gained and growth made by those of whom they are the trustees. Those are the leaders we want, and, those are, the leaders we must have if the history of the last generation is not to repeat itself. "

In the accompanying meditation for the week she also asked her co-workers and friends to work through the theme of “Invocation for the sending of the leaders of the New Age”. This topic continued her established approach of using the meditation subjects to either tackle an immediate issue or to look towards establishing a better future.  

Now, in the past few months many people in the United Kingdom and the United States of America have been horrified by the apparent rise in the popularity of right wing politicians and their often hateful and self-serving views. People in Spain, France and Germany have also expressed real concerns about the growing interest and following of fascist beliefs.

By all accounts, compassion and kindness towards our fellow humans appear to be retreating. In the circumstances it is easy to become angry, hateful and despondent. It is, perhaps, also easy to fall into an outlook that all has been lost and that we are now trudging through the Wastelands.

A close friend recently questioned “the point of it all” in reference to magic and the Western Mysteries against this backdrop of rising fascism and general hatred. I responded that I felt it was easy to mistake 70 years as a long time. However, in truth, it is a blink in the eye of God, or indeed the Human Project, and, we must continue to do the right things even if the tide often appears to be going against us. Desired outcomes can sometimes take a much longer time to manifest than a mortal lifespan. That’s a particularly difficult one to swallow for many of us in a world bustling with narcissism and immediate gratification.

Many things keep me personally going through the flotsam and jetsam. Meditation and contemplation, ritual and ceremony, divination and dreaming, visualisation and visioning, to name a few! Turning off social media for a day or more can help too.

Recently I’ve found great inspiration by returning to Dion Fortune’s war letters. Reflecting on these I have been reminded of a salient passage from Galatians which reminds us of a universal truth we perhaps need to hear more of over the coming times:

 “…for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone…”

I hope others can also find and share some love, light and compassion from meditation and reflection on the war letters. 

If you are not already part of a lodge, group or coven tackling these very real challenges before us, you may find it useful to take up the practice of the Keeper of the Planetary Flame. In fact, you might find it a useful addendum to your spiritual practise even if you are involved in a group.

The Keeper of the Planetary Flame is a technique Gareth Knight introduced in the late 1970s. It continues the work exemplified by Dion Fortune and is similar to the techniques used by a small number of lodges working within her Tradition.  My internet friend, Sheila Browning, now kindly curates a network of co-workers carrying out this regular exercise. Check out their Facebook page here.

Amongst other things, the work links people together across the globe, focussing on mediating the power of the stellar fire at the centre of our planet. This spiritual presence, which some look on as being our planetary heart, is essential to the well-being of our planet and all Humankind living upon it.

The exercise can be done daily or once a week and takes a few minutes each day to carry out the core practice described below. Gareth Knight’s instruction are as follows: -

“You will need a stone (or crystal) and a candle. Place your stone before the candle. Light the flame and be aware how it is an expression of the fire at the centre of our planet, of the sun, and of the starry regions around us.

Be aware of your stone as ultimately originating in the stars. Feel its connection to the land you live on and the processes of flowing fire within the earth.

Be aware of others who participate in this work and sense a field or network of spiritual energies linking us all together. Along these lines of connection, and up from the centre of the planet through your stone and flame, and from the stars, great streams of spiritual power and light flow and move.

Hold this awareness and attunement as long as feels right. Then blow out your candle, being aware that what you have set in motion is still running through the mortal realm.”

The destiny of Humankind is to bring the Kingdom, which already exists in the world of spirit, to Earth. That task involves both individual and group effort -- of families, teams, partnerships, communities and nations. Before it can happen we must learn to express our innate quality of being community creatures. Love of Humankind makes possible the building of community life, and true community living depends upon spiritual principles, not political ideas. That doesn’t mean that we should throw the baby out with the bath water and not participate in political acts or have related views. However, I’d suggest that it does mean we should take time out from these to come back to the core spiritual principles behind appearances.

I hope you can join with us in this important venture.