Dion Fortune and the Western Way

Much of what is here is indebted to the work of Gareth Knight – thanks a bunch 🙂

Dion Fortune died just over 65 years ago (January 8, 1946). I have written about her before and will no doubt write more. This is because, despite recent books, articles, academic papers and conferences we have not nearly reached the bottom of the Fortune barrel. Her influence continues to grow, the current of magical work she founded stretches further down time and her presence remains strong. As I wrote on Facebook on the anniversary of her death, Dion Lives!

Dion promoted and practiced the Three Fold Way, an integrated approach to the entire dismembered corpus of the western tradition as encompassed in the paths of Hermetic Mysteries, Devotional Mysticism and Nature Contacts. As Gareth Knight has shown, the apparent oscillation of Dion between ‘paganism’ and Christianity is a chimera and outside commentators who presumed to see certain outer activities as adherence to one path over another were not seeing the full picture, which was ever integrated.

To recap, the three paths of the Way are:

  • Hermetic Mysteries (pillar of severity, orange ray) – the path of ceremonial magic, Qabalistic analysis and exegesis, intellectual contemplation. Here a spiritual force or being is approached by symbolism in its broadest context.
  • Devotional Mysticism (pillar of mildness, purple ray) – the path of Christian and other religious worship, adoration and mysticism. Here a spiritual force or being is approached by devotion in its broadest contexts.
  • Nature Contacts (pillar of mercy, green ray) – the nature path, working with nature beings, the fey, the land spirits, Goddesses and Gods of the natural order. Here a spiritual force or being is approached by empathy in its broadest contexts.

I am still amazed at both how encompassing this Three Fold approach is and how little it is followed in today’s contemporary occultism and esoteric practice. The three paths embrace the Three Pillars of the Qabalsitic Tree of Life and present both a theoretical schematic and practical approach to full mystery practice. Many people and some groups these days are more inclined to work ceremonial magic and pagan rituals than ever before. Some include the mystical even. Often however, there is no or little integration between these approaches and paths, something that a full understanding of the Three Fold Way automatically produces. Simply put, there are not three paths, but three faces to the one Way of the West which act as paths in and by themselves.

We can of course, if we wish, see similarities with the mystery of the Trinity, three persons in one God. And like the Trinity we can only understand the Three Fold Way by experience and practice, not logical thought or analysis. Try getting our head around the Trinity and we fail; approach it meditatively as an ongoing invitation to enter the relational process by which the One becomes, and we are blessed. The same with the Way. If we try and work it out, we fail. If we simply ocky strap our pagan practice to GD lodge work and our prayer time, we miss out. The Western Way itself is one; we enter it and allow it to produce three interrelated modes of practice, three faces to the same mystery.

The simplest way to get a sense of this is to (re)read with openness and spiritual curiosity Dion Fortune’s novels The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic. I first did this as a teenager and was gobsmacked to say the least. If we examine these two novels we see the protagonist, Vivien Le Fay Morgan (Lilith Le Fay) working her Isian magic and mystery in a seamless dance of the three paths. Isis is symbolised, and through those symbols, approached in ceremonial form; She is worshipped and Vivien devotes her life to her; and finally the natural forms of Isis, sea, river, moon, are approached and an empathic connection and communion established. I think this concrete embodiment of the entire Western Way is one of the many reasons why these novels remain so potent and popular even today. And because they were written with more than a little inner plane input and inspiration, we can easily ‘pick up’ the essence of the Three Fold Way on the inner planes through entering deeply into the novel as we read.

I was very lucky to read these novels at the very start of my unfoldment in the western traditions. They helped set me up in so many positive ways and now looking back on my early days I can see why I made certain choices. Again, let me state – the Three Fold Way is not three paths, but one way in three interrelated directions. The need to express this integration within any of the paths being currently worked is important. This is why, I think, I naturally included land connection prefaces and devotion as part of the Golden Dawn Order we formed. Whilst one path faces a certain direction – towards the ceremonial in this example, it is always informed by the other two paths and the mysterious unity of all paths. The outward inclusion of devotional prayers and land connection in a GD temple is simply a way of opening to this reality, allowing the temple to be informed and directed by it.

Several years ago after some magical work influenced by Dion Fortune, I woke up with the idea of forming a collective of different spiritual groups within the western esoteric tradition. Based upon the Three Fold Way, the collective would come together to provide service and training. The collective would be Janus faced, looking both inward towards individuals’ spiritual unfoldment and outward via free communal service (or for little charge to cover rent etc). Inwardly, the collective would be comprised of groups or teachers aligning themselves with one of the three paths. So this could include a Golden Dawn group, an Isian Temple and a Wiccan coven. Or a Martinist Order, a Mystical Christian group and a Faery tradition. All groups however would contribute to the collective activities (see the diagram below for more information).

A foundation course on the western tradition would be conducted by members from all groups on a rotational basis. This would allow newcomers to the Western Way to see all sides of the Three Fold Way and find how best they can unfold and serve further as they learn the basics of grounding, meditation, visualisation etc. For those wishing to go deeper, the individual groups could offer advanced courses using the collective’s space and resources before admitting individuals into the group via initiation or whatever was suitable.

The outward face of the collective would provide healing, house clearings and mandatory volunteer service several times a year. These activities would be the public face of the collective and the means to serve the greater world in practical, hands on ways. The whole would be administered by a council comprising of rotational membership from all groups of the collective.

I was very inspired and excited to have this vision. I have yet to realise it, and I think Perth is simply not the right place for such an ambitious project. I have shared it here for two reasons. Firstly, to perhaps inspire others in another place, and secondly to show a little of how embracing the Three Fold Way will inspire and move us to take the whole show farther and onward. Dion’s work then becomes a foundation stone for further unfoldment and service. As it should. 🙂

11 comments

  1. Pallas Renatus · January 10, 2011

    I can’t even describe how excited I am by this idea. I love the particular emphasis on integration, rather than having a long list of “ands” to describe our practice.

    And perhaps Perth is just the right size for a small pilot program 😉

  2. David · January 10, 2011

    After reading Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess I had a feeling that something along these lines working with the devotional side and the other aspects at the same time would be a good thing for Perth indeed. There was more to it than just that, but I disagree with the last paragraph. Though perhaps I am just biased.

  3. Tony Fuller · January 13, 2011

    Dear Peregrin, A most interesting and stimulating post. I think the possibility you raise is an excellent idea. You may be interested to know that there are emerging indications that Dion Fortune actually joined the Cromlech Temple, or Holy Order of the Sun, which was itself a type of blending of the different types of spiritual methods you outline.

    Tony F.

  4. Peregrin · January 13, 2011

    Dear Tony,

    thanks for your comments. This is very interesting about Dion Fortune and the Cromlech Temple. I look forward to knowing more, and more about the Temple itself. Speaking of which, when are we going to see a great, big fat book from you, sharing all you know about this? 🙂 Thanks.

  5. morgana · January 15, 2011

    Hi Peregrin,
    Despite what you say about Perth now not being the right time and place you have posted this here and now as well as your post about the land. Maybe it is in fact exactly the right time and place to do this work. Although, to be quite honest, I myself would prefer that it did not include a wiccan coven. But that aside, I encourage you to go for it.
    Morgana

  6. Debra Chesnut · January 24, 2011

    Living in isolation in Alaska I primarily studied Dion Fortune and the BOTA correspondence courses for over twenty years when, to my surprise, I was ‘taken by the spirits’ during a meditation and was classically initiated as a shaman in the Northern Arctic tradition. I took the Qabalistic approach as my spiritual path and shamanism as my practical magical path, actually a type of Nature path as you described it. Eventually, I blended them and offer classes that incorporate both shamanism and the Western Esoteric path in one teaching. There is no real difference, all traditions arise from the same source, it is just the naming of them. I realized that I couldn’t work either without the other and your idea is, to me, the ideal way.

    Debra

  7. tomandmanfred · February 24, 2012

    Thank you for your observations.

    I find the idea of starting a spiritual order an exciting one; but I suspect that vibrant spiritual orders that are tapped into the Source begin more organically than according to a master plan. Look at St. Francis, for example. His Order of Friars Minor began very messily — very much like childbirth. Does it matter that it emphasized devotion more than symbolism? Not really. Over time, other elements trickle in and provide some balance; and then there is the balance provided by other Catholic religious orders and the church as a whole. I think it is more important that any religious movement be rooted in the Source, which is to say begin ecstatically and authentically rather than out of the left side of the brain.

    In my experience, devotion is the paramount element of the three. Symbolism and empathy are unavoidable; but devotion takes conscious decision. Notably, it is the path up the middle pillar, which Fortune herself called sufficient for transitioning from Malkuth to Kether.

    My suggestion is, if you have a vision for a religious order, get out there and get your hands dirty. Establish your house, even if it be a house of one. If Spirit is behind what you do, you won’t always be alone. And the path of devotion is the most difficult path imaginable — yet also the most rewarding, I think, though I can’t say I’ve made a conscious effort to travel the others.

    If you have an opportunity to see the film “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” you might enjoy it. It’s about 40 years old, but it blew my mind. It might also inspire you.

  8. Pingback: The Golden Dawn, the Inner Light and Leadbeater « Magic of the Ordinary
  9. Dandre'Val-Dorian Leach · February 21, 2013

    Aprx 5 years ago I read the secret and other books similar.I noticed a correlation in my self studies.Here is a correlation with the western tradition and hermetic qaballah and from reading the mystical qabalah I have decided to commit myself to progress in this capacity of self development but I need a structured curriculum.May you contact me via email in regard to an acredited correspondance course program.Thank you for your guidance in this matter.

  10. dchesnut2013 · February 22, 2013

    I too, was brought into the Western Tradition by Dion Fortune, then Paul Foster Case through BOTA. I live in Alaska and relied totally on long distance help and contact. It wasn’t always easy. Eventually I formed a non-profit which does incorporate what you are talking about. I created the Golden Heart Mystery School which has a small study group called the Way of the Mystic which focuses on the Qabalah etc., I teach a Spiritual Warrior class to create Spiritual Warriors who do house cleansings, blessings, ‘spirit removal’ etc. on behalf of our community, and we meet to honor the yearly cycle for every Full Moon, New Moon, Solstices and Equinoxes. The thing is, I never put it together that this was basically the Three-Fold way. Thank you for your blog!

  11. dchesnut2013 · February 22, 2013

    Oh, by the way we would love to join your collective 🙂 ps. we also offer heaings etc.

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