Book Review: the Magical Battle of Britain

There is so much practical magical and esoteric wisdom in this book, I am unclear where to start. So I will start with Dion Fortune herself, who remains a living force and presence within modern western magic. Today there are conferences, books, workshops, websites and discussion pages that explore her work more than ever before. The volume under review shows us exactly why she remains such a force. Consisting largely of her weekly and monthly letters to members of the Fraternity of the Inner Light during the early and middle stages of World War II, the book is exceptional in many ways.

Firstly, the context. What we have in these letters is a evidence, real and concrete, of how a magical fraternity functioned and even thrived under the most onerous and trying circumstances – that of a nation at War. And we must remember this was not a nation going to war on a distant front but rather a war where the distinction between civilian and military effort collapsed and the whole of Britain’s resources were part of the war effort. It is hard to imagine today, just as it is hard to imagine our magical rituals being interrupted by aerial bombardment, as what happened with Dion Fortune.

The context then is everything, and Dion Fortune’s incredible faith and strength shines through these letters regardless of this terrible context, no doubt inspiring and comforting many of the distant members of her Fraternity, unable to meet due to war-time travel restrictions. She is unwavering in her relationship with her Masters, the belief that spiritual principles will invariably overcome material based evil, that Britain will survive and the Axis powers will be defeated. She is completely sure of the efficacy of her magic, guided by the higher powers.

If we as a nation make ourselves a channel of cosmic law through realisation of the spiritual nature of the struggle we are waging, we become the channel for the manifestation of the power of God, and the stars in their courses will literally fight for us, as they did in the weather conditions attending the evacuation of the B.E.F. from Dunkirk, when the storm and the calm fell exactly as needed and even the military authorities talked of a miracle. (p. 34).

This book also unveils and reveals how Dion, acting on guidance from her Masters, chose a revolutionary course of action early in the war. In this time of national and world peril, with the group mind of the nation sensitive and open, non-initiates and initiate alike were taught the secret methods of magic and mind working. The book reveals exactly the instructions given, how the magic worked and the results that ensued. Even today with the nuts and bolts of magic plastered over the Internet, theses workings and meditations have a potency and presence on the written page. And it is of course, arguable that these actions that revealed the secret wisdom to non-initiates were the seeds for the spreading of the Tradition that grew with the likes of Gareth Knight and others during the 80s and 90s.

The letters here show collective and transpersonal magic in action; the bringing through of spiritual and evolutionary principles into the collective group mind, to produce actual changes in consciousness, religion and even politics. The results of the Fraternity’s efforts are evidentiary as time and time again the principle they worked for found itself manifest very quickly in the actual life of the nation. In addition the book reveals the workings for the Angelic Presences that patrolled the boundaries of Britain on the inner levels, keeping it safe from invasion.

A welcome feature of the book is the practical instruction on magic embedded within the letters. These include:

  • Methods of meditation
  • The function and use of astral imagery
  • Seeding the group mind
  • Contacting the Masters
  • Psychic Protection

For these and many other reasons, this re-issue of these war-time letters of Dion Fortune by Skylight Press is highly recommended and ‘required reading’ for anyone interested or involved in western magic, paganism or wanting an overview of an esoteric fraternity at work.

Of importance also is the glimpses the book shows of Dion Fortune the woman as well as the magician. Revealing a reflective and philosophical side of the author, the letters show a person committed to service and truth, and more than once a countering the oft-repeated views of classism and racism we still hear today. Of the former, Gareth Knight as a wonderful and illuminative editor writes, “I have heard it said that Dion Fortune, in her social attitudes, was something of a snob. This would hardly seem to be supported by her trenchant remarks about social privilege in her hundredth letter”. Indeed, this and other letters show a classless, almost socialist viewpoint. Discussing the ‘new age’ Dion saw as being born out of the ashes of the war, Dion wrote:

Life values, not money values, will set the new standards, and there will be a drastic revision of the rights of ownership.” (p.98) and later, “The whole of the New Age turns on the concept of the ownership of the land by the people versus the ownership of the people by the land.” (p.121).

It is interesting to see Dion’s comments on race within these letters. While there seems little doubt her previous exoteric novels and occasional esoteric comments displayed the ingrained racism of her time, Dion surprises us here, supporting on the inner and outer levels …

…the abolition of the colour bar, which has been definitely laid down as one of the bases of the reorganisation of our colonial empire by the Colonial secretary. We must see it as individuals and as a group that this notable advance in Christian principle does not get sidetracked by the dead weight of prejudice, and the more dynamic activities of the tendency to over-compensate  our personal inferiorities by taking advantage of anyone whom circumstances have placed at a disadvantage. ” (p.109).

In a later letter she advocates that the occult still be practiced along traditional racial lines, seeing no good or point in the western traditions being practiced by other cultures. Within 25 years of her death though, as W.G. Gray would experience, her Fraternity would be initiating and training members of several races and countries. We can only speculate how Dion would have responded to this, and other post-war changes in Britain. Our speculation though should be guided by her own favourite saying, that “an ounce of experience is worth a pound of theory”. Though her mental speculations on these matters may have swung to one side of an arc, there is little doubt her practical experience in them would have outweighed her mental theories. Dion was never one afraid of change or unable to admit she was wrong, something that is also woven throughout these letters.

Another thing still occasionally heard about Dion Fortune, is that by the start of the war she had peaked magically and had retreated into a low powered Christian mysticism, that the glories of her Pagan magical days were over. This then would make the material under consideration a minor curiosity at best. Nothing could be further from truth, and really in one sense to even draw distinctions between Dion’s ‘Pagan’ and ‘Christian’ days makes no sense: she was ever committed to a threefold path that was both the source and the drawing together of all strands on the western tradition, as described in this post.

The letters in this book reveal an adept of great purpose, power and skill. Each sentence enriches us, as it enriched her pupils, transmitting more than the words and intellectual meaning alone. There is dexterity and fortitude here, and wisdom unlike most of today’s modern works on the same subject. Moreover during this period she also wrote the material collected into ‘the Circuit of Force‘, the most profound book on the dynamics of the etheric vehicle yet produced. Despite being bombed, despite all the travails of war and the dispersal of her adepts, Dion was clearly still on her contacts, still writing, still training and still serving the tradition that was her life. This was her finest hour.

The Magical Battle of Britain by Dion Fortune, Edited by Gareth Knight

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6 comments

  1. Matt Baldwin-Ives · August 4, 2012

    Excellent review Peregrin. This is a fantastic book and long overdue this important reissue !

  2. Rebsie · August 9, 2012

    Many thanks for this wonderful review, which picks up on so many important points. I was really struck by the depths of her sensibility and calmness and her refusal to let the prejudices and jingoistic hatemongering of war have any influence whatsoever on her magical work. During the long years this book was unavailable it developed something of a sensationalised myth around it, that DF had been fighting the Nazis using occult powers – I think people imagined that she was blasting aeroplanes out of the sky with curses and grappling with Hitler on the astral. On the contrary, her approach was resolutely positive and focused solely on the Light – because she knew that more could be achieved by bringing in light than by descending into darkness, and that it wasn’t her place to dictate the outcome of any physical battles (in war, both sides believe they’re in the right). How many of us would have the strength of character to fend off all feelings of hatred for the enemy when the bombs are screaming overhead, your home city is being devastated all around you, and the walls of your temple are shaking with the roar of enemy planes as you try to meditate? I certainly wouldn’t want to be put to that test.

    As you say, the book shows many examples of what a social progressive she was, and although she displayed some traces of the white middle-class imperialist culture she was born into, she was certainly no racist. And you’re absolutely right that she followed, right from the start of her career, a balanced threefold path which embraced hermetic, mystical and elemental magic with equal priority. No doubt one or other of the paths became dominant at different times, as is normal, I think, for anyone following the threefold ray, but the misconception that she was a Pagan turned Christian (or vice versa!) does her a great disservice. There is indeed much in this book which is humbling as well as enlightening.

  3. Suecae · August 12, 2012

    A very interesting review, and Rebsie’s comment and your text both gives food for thought. I also find her amalgam of christian and pagan practises, if not unique, at least something I personally find to be worthy to promote and discuss further.

    On a more personal note, I received your ‘By names and images’ in the mail yesterday. 🙂

  4. Peregrin · August 12, 2012

    Thanks, Matt, Rebsie and Suecae.

    Yes, Resbie’s comments drew out more from the book than my review…. which could have been as long as the book, so wonderful it is 🙂 Thanks, Rebsie.

    Hope you enjoy and are enriched by the book, Suecae 🙂

  5. Pingback: A Review of The Magical Battle of Britain by Peregrin WIldoak | Through the Skylight
  6. Pingback: The Magical Battle of Britain, by Dion Fortune « WiccanWeb

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