1. jfc
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  3. Tuesday, 05 May 2020
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Much is said and written about DNF's Christian hermeticism and her deep Christian beliefs but far less seems to be discussed about her views on paganism which have, in fact, had a profound impact on the modern pagan traditions that have been reimagined recent history.

There is no doubt that DNF believed that the pronouncement of Christ that ‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions' was a tenet that held great significance. Her strong belief that, as she declares in ‘The Sea Priestess’, ‘All the gods are one god and all the goddesses are one goddess and there is one initiator’ held true for the whole of her occult career. Her vast experience in both psychology and magic led her to hold a view, in harmony with my own, that the creator is like a diamond and each god or goddess is a different facet of that precious gem.

She held the strong belief that the old pagan mysteries, which came from a time when mankind was in much closer contact with the inner world - before the stresses and strains of the physical world overwhelmed the delicate balance of inner and outer - were well trodden ‘tracks in space’ which, if worked either in ritual form or by meditative methods, could be opened up once more and utilised in the the current phase of the Great Work. This can be clearly seen in her novels such as ‘The Sea Priestess’ and ‘The Goat Foot God’ which, as well as being a practical lesson in Qabbalistic methodology serve to promote the use of ancient pagan symbolism as a route to the inner planes. Further strong examples of her nod to the Old Gods, particularly the nature deities, can be found in her workings of the Rites of Isis and of Pan and also in the short story that forms a part of ‘The Secrets of Dr Taverner’ that is called ‘The Daughter of Pan’.

Since her work has had such a profound effect on modern paganism it would be nice to see it more widely discussed.
Alfred Accepted Answer
The theme would make for a wonderful collection of her papers, if such papers now exist. There is an irony, perhaps, in the outer antipathy sometimes expressed between pagans and Christians, when we consider the pagan symbols, traditions and formulas that were absorbed (and in that way preserved for the wider populace) by the Church. DNF's work on the qabalah reminds us of the value of synthesis, without diluting the potency of the constituent parts.
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jfc Accepted Answer
I agree that it would be wonderful to be able to further investigate any unpublished papers that she may have produced on this subject. I suppose you would have to speak to SIL about that but the general paucity of such material would sadly, tend to make me think that she either never really put her thoughts on this subject into print other than those papers that we already have or else they have gone missing over the intervening years.
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Nova Genista Accepted Answer
I agree with jfc and Alfred that it would indeed be wonderful to explore more of her work relating to paganism but, like jfc, I wonder if she ever put her thoughts on this subject into print. Her paper 'Power Centres of Britain' (Occult Review, Feb 1931 and reproduced elsewhere on this website) encourages folk to explore locations in their own regions, but does not tell them what to do with the power centres when they find them. Perhaps at that time, given the greater adherence to high street churches, there was a concern that such discussions might lead some to have a fit of the vapours as I presume such explanations would be leaning towards the green and pagan paths.

It is unfortunate that, once areas have their own names, such as 'Christianity' and 'Paganism', it seems to me to encourage a greater tendancy to identify differences rather than similarities. jfc's thought provoking piece at the head of this thread has led to quite some discussion over on a Facebook page. Some of that seems to support the idea that, today, folk tend to see themselves in a 'Pagan' or 'Christian' camp and generally discuss such things principally with similar minded people. Individuals may be drawn to particular areas for whatever reason but a recognition and respect for the full spectrum of views, methods and acitivities is surely a prerequisite to progress. If we, active in the Western Esoteric Tradition, do not at least have some understanding of the broader field so we can move towards operating as one, perhaps we cannot expect much success in movement towards all becoming One.

A way forward would indeed be to investigate these areas, perhaps best through websites such as this - or, to kick things off, a seminar with speakers drawn from the various 'camps' - once such events can be held.
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Wendy Accepted Answer
I know that many groups practising the pagan Mysteries can readily find inspiration in Dion Fortune’s writings, but my impression is that she did not provide us with a great deal of specific comment about the Green Ray, or paganism, or the Old Religion, and that what she does say is somewhat scattered. It would be great if someone could gather it together.
As jfc mentions above, it is probably in the Rites of Isis and Pan that we have the best picture of her beliefs on the subject. But I would be interested to learn how many folk have actually performed these rites since they were first published in full in 2013, and how they went? Does anyone know? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that no-one has performed them although I would like to be proved wrong!
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Wendy Accepted Answer
I have continued to think about why DF wrote less about the Green Ray and paganism than the Hermetic and Devotional Rays, and I wonder if this might be because of the very nature of this type of work? Is Green Ray/pagan magic simply more difficult to define? Or to systematise into a body of teaching? And in what ways does it fulfil DF’s definition of magic as ‘the art of causing changes in consciousness…….?”
I don’t have any answers to these questions!
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jfc Accepted Answer
There is no doubt that it is incredibly difficult to codify Green Ray work due to the extremely experiential and personal nature of the work itself. In terms of a defined system, one can only really develop that as a means of searching for the 'faery door' (or, indeed, the sacred grove / well), that will offer you admittance to the realm and I think that the actual purpose of any writings on the subject is merely to offer directions to the entrance rather than providing a map of the path. As far as 'the art of causing changes...' is concerned I think it's safe to say that any accomplished shaman might well be able to offer some insight into that but, for my part, I find that any deeper contact with the Green Ray offers an expansion of the consciousness of self and of our connectedness to all of creation that is quite profound. That DNF had experience of this is apparent in her 'Chant of the Elements' which is a consummate exercise in Green Ray working.
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Alfred Accepted Answer
Thinking further on this topic and the insight comments that have followed, the Green Ray would seem to be one of personal (and therefore subjective) experience. We have the framework of the wheel of the year, based upon solar and lunar cycles, and thereafter we principally need to engage with Nature on her terms. With doubt there is the projection of god and goddess forms to work with, but in the main, I think, we gain the most from going into the woods, or on to the hills, or down to the sea, with a clear mind and an open heart.
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Wendy Accepted Answer
Continuing to ponder the meaning of ‘paganism?’ I’m finding many questions. If paganism might be defined as the knowledge of, and practical and devotional engagement with the ‘old’ ie pre-Christian deities, then for example a magical ritual taking place in an indoor, Masonic/Solomonic’ based temple, invoking the presence of, say, Jahweh and the Hebrew Archangels, or an ancient Egyptian sun god, or Isis, or Melchizedek, or Enoch, or Mithras….would this be pagan?
On the other hand a magical ritual evoking Jesus’s close connection with the natural landscape of the Holy Land - Galilee, the River Jordan, Cana (water into wine ) the sacred Mount Hermon, Jacob’s Well, the white-washed villages, the almond groves, the healing springs of Tiberias - would this be Christian or pagan?
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Alfred Accepted Answer
That's a great question! I typically identify paganism as: a) Western non-Abrahamic traditions and motifs, b) connected with Nature, natural cycles, and the land. Of course, there are crossovers as you intimate and there may be pagan elements within more orthodox traditions and workings. All of which is probably my way of saying: it's complicated! I'd add, on reflection, that generally paganism seems to be thought of as simpler in form than more structured approaches. I have to say that the more I think about it the less clear I become!
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jfc Accepted Answer
That is a very interesting take on the subject, Wendy. Since the very word 'pagan' means 'rural' my own view would be that pagan worship involves the honouring of and the communing with the deities of the land, sea and sky and the cyclic nature of life, the seasons, etc. Solomonic or Masonic ritual work, I would place in Hod and would be highly intellectual and technical in nature. Pagan worship is of the green ray of Netzach and tends to be highly emotionally charged and spontaneous. Interestingly, I would put your second example of Jesus as the embodiment of the spirit of place as being both Christian and pagan. In short, what I think I am trying to say is that the perceived identity of the deity, per se, isn't really that significant. What matters more is that you are dealing with the connections between spiritual forces and the physical landscape in which those forces operate as well as our emotional / instinctive bonds with both.
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MargaretB Accepted Answer
Is trying to define the significant differences, or similarities, between paganism and Christianity a little like trying to define the differences between colours such as red and green? The scientist may respond that the difference between red and green is the wavelength of the light. That is, of course, correct, but such an approach is, I think, rather like simply listing the sort of activities that folk might usually categorise as Christian compared with others that might usually be categorised as pagan. What I mean in terms of the similarities or differences is the qualities and uses. Some folk might think some colours appropriate for some things and others inappropriate for those applications. Some folk prefer one colour to others. Their preference is not right or wrong. It is their own preference. Perhaps the same can be applied to Christianity and paganism. Some folk prefer one approach (assuming for the moment that each can be categorised as one separate approach), some prefer the other.

The visible spectrum was somewhat arbitrarily separated into seven colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). In reality there is no real boundary between each, rather each blends into the next, yet that overlap does not prevent folk from identifying preferences for one colour over others. Maybe paganism and Christianity could be viewed the same way, as part of one continuous thing. Another comparison may be to consider colours such as pink and purple for example. They do not appear on the visible spectrum because the visible spectrum of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet is made up of colours which comprise only one wavelength and, in that context, they are pure colours. Other colours such as pink and purple for example are made of light of mixed wavelengths. Perhaps Christianity and paganism are more like the mixed colours in that they cannot be shown to be entirely different from each other in terms of any significant property.
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jeremy Accepted Answer
Fascinating subject. I have no esoteric wisdom to impart or any knowledge of DF's works for that matter, so my thoughts are maybe unwelcome in this setting, but all of the comments you've written on this subject contain something worth reading. So, here's some of many ideas that I've had on the subject this evening:

Realistically, all the ideas depend on defining Christianity, historic Paganism and modern Paganism and then identifying the differences, influences and similarities between them.

There's no such thing as Christianity and no such thing as Paganism. If you require a difference, then the idea of Christ would be at the centre of one, but not part of the other.
The similarity between them is cultural. Christ as a standard bearer for good, would be present in modern Paganism because we're both part of the Judaeo-Christian bloc and psychologically, and in historic Paganism no one ever sees themselves as the bad guys.
In this context, National Socialists used the power of German churches to mobilise the opportunity for racial purity and further the Reich, and DF's fondness for Christianity was mobilised to protect Albion.

I like to analogise that Paganism is a connection with nature and the nomadic hunter gatherer world and the Abrahamic religions are all part of the sedentary civilisation and newly ascendant arable farming movement required to feed them.
However the outlook of the individuals in either sector don't change. In the brief times of my life that I've spent living with foraging animists, their view of Gods might be the land, sea and sky but whether it's in the form of sacrifice or prayers, it's the same imploring words as the farmer and the same belief that someone or something will send the rains if you beseech aloud on your knees or drain the blood from a chicken standing up.

Christianity and Paganism are nebulous words. They, just like the concept of God, don't actually mean any one thing to any two people.
Christianity around the world is a thousand different versions of similar stories mixed with whatever aspects of cultural animism that preceded it. Ghanaian Christianity contains Pagan Vodun, just as Incan culture is part of Christianity in Bolivia.
Modern Paganism is also a thousand different stories mixed with romanticism and rejection of state religions which gives rise to any and all ideas and beliefs. But everything beyond Roman civilisation was exactly that too.
Though ironically pre-Christian Roman Pagans were still laughing about the Upper Nile's animal headed Gods, but Mithras was the original child of light story that Christianity appropriated. But Christianity is a fulfilment of prophecy from Jewish texts, which were a theft of writing and history from the Babylonians, which was in turn based on knowledge of Zoroastrianism bringing one God to tribal living.
In this context, to say there's a difference between Christianity and Paganism, would be to deny the roots and our common heritage as "spiritual" beings. Yet it highlights the difference between modern Paganism and historic Paganism on the question of whether pantheons, Gods or Goddesses are more fun to work with than earth spirits or the big tree by the river.

Some of the ideas I mulled over is within the concept of history.
Living in any culture at any point in time comes down to what you could glean from your surroundings. Starting from what your parents taught you, what was said in the field or marketplace, who you went to for medicine, and what your spiritual leaders or tribal elders said it was. Prior to the embrace of mass media, I can't see how the development of Christianity could have taken any different route.
When DF was learning her version of Christianity, she could at least read it for herself, but her views were influenced by people who lived their entire existence without an electric light bulb. For the sake of argument I have to assume that her views of Paganism would be no less skewed than how the Victorians viewed Vikings as wearing horned helmets.
The problem with living 100 years ago is that the progressive increase of change we see today couldn't have been imagined even when the greatest changes in our civilisation were being implemented.
DF could never have imagined a UK where Christianity wasn't seen as a united force, representing "good" or that the rejection of God and a predominantly secular society would be popular.
The great advantage modern Pagans have on this score is that even from their most radical anti-religious zealots, there's no persecution for apostasy or threats of eternal fire and damnation ... for historic Paganism, your mileage might vary - But I doubt DF would have imagined a skyline of church spires and gleaming golden domes and the country full of pockets of radicalised political Islam and hate-filled evangelicals arguing about who's the only true Muslim or Christian while spouting about scriptural infallibility.
But it's imagining these perspectives that allows me to think that only a few decades earlier than DF's life, many people learned their Christianity through the individual lens of whoever stood in the pulpit. And prior to the appearance of Caxton and Gutenberg gawd knows what nonsense people were being told Christianity was in Athens, Rome or St Petersberg.

So, to conclude these thoughts ... Christianity or Paganism can be anything you want them to be or be whatever you're told they are. Depending on your place and time you could encounter a redeeming loving Christ, a vengeful flaming sword wielding Christ, the joy of the May Queen, abundant crops or kiling your neighbour because someone told you that they had a statue of Zeus.
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jfc Accepted Answer
I think that Margaret makes a great point with her blending of colours metaphor. There is no doubt that a lot of the success of early Christianity can be attributed to its recognition of popular pagan rites and practices and the appropriation thereof. I smile to myself every time I come across a well dressing ceremony, a halloween celebration or even a harvest festival (and let's not forget May Day of course) and marvel at the foresight of the early church leaders who came up with the concept of the absorption of the early local practices and the seamless transformation of the old gods into the saints.
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Alfred Accepted Answer
This thread is an excellent example of intelligent discussion and synthesis. As an aside, I watched a recorded TV programme today about the myth/s of King Arthur and the archaeological evidence for the Dark Ages. Rather than providing evidence of a great battle or invasion of Saxon hordes the truth is a lot more complicated and points to a blending of cultures. The main difference was one of locality with an approximate demarcation between the dominant culture extending diagonally up from the West Country. In the end, these things are more nuanced than they first appear, and the reference in this thread to Christianity as it was commonly considered during DF's time is, I feel, a key missing piece of the puzzle.
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jeremy Accepted Answer
That's a nice but pertinent aside Alfred, I'd pondered a similar entertaining idea earlier:

In the same way that Neanderthal or Denisovan genes blended with early Homo Sapiens wherever their territories or food sources overlapped. Religion, ideas and technological advancements all shared the same routes and space.
Here's an imagined history to illustrate cause and effect.
Those lands where people and civilisations gathered along rivers were cursed by neighbour's territorial expansions, at the mercy of invasion, greed and warrior culture. But after those dying moments, survivors were left with new partners, offspring, influxes of culture, ideas and beliefs. They had trading interactions and accessed new technologies and communicated in new languages. Creating accounting to track commerce hurries the need to transition from an oral tradition to the written word. Which eventually grew into the great religious movements, educational centres and philosophies we recognise today.

When it came to Christianity there was a much more rapid transition between localised Paganism and organised Religion. It occurrs when a state, army or leader adopts an orthodoxy. Eventually state sponsored intolerance destroys the lingering heretical opposition and Paganism or the ideas behind those beliefs are subsumed by what we now refer to as "cultural appropriation” rather than a natural osmotic synthesis of the best ideas.
If you want to believe that Muslims are wicked and barbaric or that Islam was spread by the sword and forced conversions, it certainly suits the writers of the Crusader era as well as the modern narrative -
But imagine trying to convince someone that your own society would change its entire historical identity because an invader put a sword to a neck or two.
It's not to say that forced conversions didn't happen, but a more enticing explanation for the spread of Islam could be the Jiyaz tax, which non-Muslims paid directly to the rulers, so there is no financial benefit to forcing conversions ... giving any conquered population a good excuse to pretend to be Muslim to avoid paying the tax would produce high take up statistics.

In regard to the opening comment about DF's diamonds and facets declaration: I don't think DF thought it through.
My preference is a love for Ganesh, but Hindu tradition styles each God to represent various human attributes or goals. Rama and Krishna along with a number of others form avatars of Vishnu which could certainly be described as facets of the same God.
It's become popular to lump in the Abrahamic initiators Yahweh, God and Allah as different names for the same creator, but I suspect it's more to distract from the glaring differences and often deplorable human behaviour that these Gods display in their own Word than it would actually be true.

I've always felt that a more likely beginning of the Universe was a happy accident waiting to happen and then hydrothermal vents, soup and amino acid appeared for breakfast.
But for theists there can't be anything worse than going through 4.5 billion years of evolution to finally develop a strong sense of mammalian sentience only to realise that you're alone in your own head ... and for the past 4000 years Buddhists have been telling you that all the pain and suffering to get here is just an illusion.
Pagans, New-Agers and every other theist or Deist have all felt the same concept of "something", "we're all connected" or "It's all one" but whether they called it Gaia in Greece or Allah in Turkey the only sure reason that a creator becomes a necessary part of the story is because believers require security, purpose and something out there that cares.

However, I didn't mean to digress so far from the fatal flaws in the diamond analogy, because while history requires part guesswork, part prejudice and part imagination, the flaws are pragmatic.
Paganism precedes monotheism so the mapping of a pantheon onto a diamond requires multiple demotions of pre-existing Gods and one new God's elevation to supreme being status.
It's also not a good analogy to equate the idea of a creator with a man made object where none of the facets are equal in size, colour or importance and the ability to cut diamonds is only a few centuries old.

To wrap this up, I like to imagine that Tolkein built an entire world of magic, but when he announced that there would be “one ring to rule them all.” I hope the introduction of what appears to be unnecessary dogmatics is in fact a reflection of the power and simplicity that monotheism holds over any other belief system.
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jeremy Accepted Answer
I felt like exploring some more ideas while I was stringing up the cucumbers and watering the aubergines.

I should say something positive about jfc’s initial post. I suspect that he is suggesting something mildly heretical. But in DF, you have intellect and ritual and from modern Paganism you could take intuition and freedom. So blending the best parts could invigorate DF’s current works.

I think the justification was played out better 3000 years ago by the sons of Zeus. Apollo and Dionysus are the rational or impulsive representations of ourselves. The heart and mind if you like and balance can be retained when they worked together.

So to wrap this up I’ll use my best Greek accent to play a bunch of dead people and both sons of Zeus:

Apollo: John’s Gospel attribution to Jesus “In my father’s house there are many Mansions” is not a tenet or significant.
Dionysus: (Doing his Freddie Mercury impression) Buzzkilla No! He will not let you in!
Apollo: It’s a way to explain that even if everyone chooses the afterlife experience, the house was so big that everyone would fit in. It’s not a message of inclusivity, it’s dealing with the awkward question of available heavenly real estate.
Dionysus: Yeah? But let’s have a drink first!
Apollo: Christianity is not inclusive. Jesus was the voice of tolerance in a land under Roman occupation, but he wasn’t inclusive. The entire foundation of redemption is based on conditions and exclusivity.
Dionysus: (singing with a West Indian accent) Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our minds!
Apollo: (Getting frustrated) The synagogues were full of Pharisee collaborators, Roman sympathisers, hypocrites and purity freaks and the obsession with man-made rules was absolutely opposed by Jesus ….
Zeus: (Interrupting, walking ominously towards the bannister) You boys had better learn to respect each other’s strengths!
Dionysus: (Using a Mexican hippy accent and laughing) Hey Zeus, we’ll try.
Zeus: (Shouting over the bannister) Otherwise you two will be played by McCoy and Spock on Star Trek!
Apollo: Pass the wine Dion, serious work requires a sense of humour.
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jfc Accepted Answer
Regarding my metaphor of the diamond perhaps I misspoke slightly with the use of the word 'Creator' which I used because I was speaking in the context of paganism in the light of Christian understanding. A better phrase to use would perhaps be 'forces of creation' indicating that it is not a specific deity in its own right but rather more akin to the three Negative Veils of Existence made manifest and then differentiated into the relevant god forms.

With regard to the rest of my namesake's points I wouldn't even know where to start but I must say, whilst I have been called many things over the years I don't recall 'heretic' being one of them!
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Wendy Accepted Answer
Hello All

I wonder if this might be the right moment for us to return to the original spirit of this thread, which is to ponder Dion Fortune's views on paganism? Not an easy question to answer - but I think quiet contemplation may bring some valuable insights.

With love, Wendy
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Alfred Accepted Answer
Agreed! Also, the most tangible evidence of DF's views will be found in her writing - so that's a project for someone!
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Wendy Accepted Answer
Reading through our realisations so far, what rings true for me are the suggestions that pagan magic is 1. comparatively simple, 2. takes place out of doors and 3. depends to a significant extent on individual experience. This is confirmed by DF’s descriptions of pagan magic so far as I am aware, because this type of magic is described only in her novels (it doesn't get a mention in The Mystical Qabalah! )and usually (always?) takes place out of doors. I hesitate, though, to use this as a definition of pagan magic because it may seem to imply that it is therefore ‘lesser’ or ‘lower’ than complex rituals that take place in a formal, indoor, Masonic/Solomonic temple setting. Was that DF's belief, I wonder?

I think this might be the crux of the matter - paradoxically pagan magic is much more difficult to define, explain and formulate than Hermetic magic. And yet we know that it is more significant and valuable than a simple, out-door, devotional ceremony might suggest because - ideally - it involves a direct recognition of and 'working with' the Planetary Being, irrespective of what god/ess forms happen to be invoked in the process: pagan, Christian or whatever.

The final pages of The Cosmic Doctrine suggest that in fact all our magical endeavour should be dedicated to the purpose of raising the consciousness of the Planetary Being towards its spiritual apotheosis as the Planetary Entity, and for me this is the best possible definition of ‘pagan’ magic.

But I find it difficult to identify in DF’s writings any imaginative/magical description, or analogy, or symbolic image, of either the Planetary Being or the Planetary Entity, or practical suggestion of how this 'Ascension' may be achieved. Maybe I’ve missed it? Or maybe during her lifetime no-one had quite reached that stage of perception? I think if I could find something like this in her work I would be clearer as to her contribution to pagan magic.
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