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.
2 years ago
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#496
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.
2 years ago
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#497
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.
2 years ago
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#499
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.
2 years ago
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#500
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!
2 years ago
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#501
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!
2 years ago
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#502
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.
2 years ago
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#503
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.
2 years ago
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#504
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?
2 years ago
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#505
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!
2 years ago
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#506
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.
2 years ago
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#507
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.
2 years ago
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#509
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.
2 years ago
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#510
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.
2 years ago
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#514
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!
2 years ago
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#515
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
2 years ago
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#516
Agreed! Also, the most tangible evidence of DF's views will be found in her writing - so that's a project for someone!
2 years ago
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#520
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.
2 years ago
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#521
DF does seem to have said very little about pagan magic but there are some snippets in one of her papers that might help to indicate her views on one aspect of it. The following paragraphs are from The Brocken Tryst, Part II, Occult Review, Vol 56, August 1932, pp 102-107. The main thrust of the article was an assessment of an experiment proposed to be carried out by Harry Price (National Laboratory of Psychic Research) using a manuscript of which DF doubts the validity. Despite that, the following may be of interest to those interested in her views on paganism, albeit her available publications appear to indicate that her views on some matters may have changed with time.

Now Pan and his congeners are the givers of frenzy, the crudest form of the divine inebriation. In psychological terms, Pan equates with the abreaction. The he-goat, grossest of beasts, represents the most primitive form of the libido. Whoever performs the Rite of the Goat intends to liberate the most atavistic aspect of the unconscious mind. The analogy is natural and obvious to anyone who is acquainted with the manners and customs of billy-goats, just as the Cockney child, seeing pigs fed to the first time, exclaimed, “No wonder they call ‘em pigs!”
The goat-formula, then, is a form of unrepression........
.......
There is always a basement to the house of life, and different temperaments abreact their primitive aspects in different ways, as psychology has shown us. Some arrive at a working compromise which would scandalise the Alliance of Honour, but nevertheless enables life to be carried on. Other develop neurotic traits of one kind or another. The ancient pagan systems found a place for the Rite of the Goat; the non-Christian faiths understand its significance and deal with it after their own fashion. Protestant Christianity alone knows nothing whatever about it and makes no attempt to deal with it, except by the blind and inadequate method of repression.
.......
When we consider the general tendency of social life since the war, with its breaking-down of all restraints and inhibitions, we shall see that the formula of the goat rite is not an inappropriate one for the present age, and that we are entering one of the periods when the woe-water of libido is beginning to rise. It is a period of unrepression, like the Elizabethan Age and the Age of Pericles. These periods of the breaking down of inhibitions are also periods of creative activity and a great vitality of the human spirit, for the higher aspect of Pan is Dionysus.
........
For be it noted that the goat is Pan, and the beautiful young man is Dionysus, Balder, Quetzlcoatl, or any other beautiful youthful god. The Blocksberg formula, therefore, represents the sublimation of the sex force from a lower to a higher arc, its idealization, as it were; and it teaches a very important Mystery truth, which modern psychology is just beginning to suspect. It teaches that the loftiest spiritual force has its roots in the primitive and cannot be cut off from them without withering. The presence of the goat in the rite indicates that the sex forces will be stimulated and called into activity; the presence of the virgin indicates that they will be kept under control and sublimated, and that the rite will not end in an orgy
’.
2 years ago
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#524
Jeremy, I must admit I don’t find it easy to locate the point you are making!

DF’s aim in magical work was to achieve changes of consciousness in accordance with spiritual will, and that is the purpose behind these discussions. We are told that one of the first steps in that process is to achieve detachment from the clamour of the emotions and the concrete mind.

I think it is fair to say that because this is a Dion Fortune website, it therefore naturally avoids the infinite fascination of other traditions/religions - there is plenty of room for them elsewhere! Irrespective of her immediate environment and upbringing, DF was contacted by the immortal beings of the Inner Plane Hierarchy who guided her work in a certain direction which they believed would assist in the course of evolutionary development in the current epoch, and an aspect of that is what is developing in the 'modern pagan tradition.'

Those who consider themselves part of DF’s tradition and legacy find particular relevance - or ‘contact’ one might say - in her writing; not simply the written words as they appear on the page, but the Inner meaning behind those words in which inspiration may be discovered through meditation. But I think any genuine inspiration or 'Wisdom' tends to come in few words!

Hence the origin of this discussion which isn't an attempt to define paganism or to locate its origin or chart its historical practice, but to reach a greater understanding of its meaning for us here and now, and how it can be progressed, by contacting the wisdom that may be discovered behind DF’s writings.
2 years ago
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#525
DF's Aspects of Occultism, Chapter II: Sacred Centres, appears to give some pointers as to her views relating to paganism and the way in which work with the land could be of benefit.
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