Dion Fortune's "Mystical Meditations on the Collects"
The following posts offer a weekly resumé of Dion Fortune's thoughts on the 'Collects.' The Collects are a series of Christian prayers and invocations, one for each week of the year, but DF's interpretation of them comes from a more inclusive spiritual understanding which she hoped would speak to those of many faiths. Her comments bring out the universal spiritual truths behind the prayers and reveal how they contain words of wisdom for all seekers.
Dion Fortune's full commentary on the Collects can be found in her book 'Mystical Meditations on the Collects.' but we hope that these excerpts will provide a useful summary of her thoughts on this subject. They make a fascinating addition to her better-known and more 'occult' work.
A Brief Introduction to "Mystical Meditations on the Collects"
The title of Dion Fortune's book: ‘Mystical Meditations on the Collects’ gives the impression that it is likely to be 'Churchianity' in tone and will therefore have little to do with magic. In fact the book is very much to do with magic as the art of "causing changes in consciousness according to will." It might more accurately be entitled 'Magical Meditations on the Collects.'
As DF explains in her preface, her purpose is to demonstrate how the underlying wisdom of 'The Collects’ is based on universal spiritual truths rather than the orthodox interpretation of Christianity. She writes: "The presentation adopted in these pages may not only cause scandal to the orthodox, but also to the heterodox…”
Briefly, a ‘Collect’ is a short invocation which gathers together the intentions of a group of people. Although the Collects are usually associated with the Church, their structure is very similar to the magical practice of invocation, which traditionally is made in five stages:
The first stage identifies the god or goddess whose help is requested
The second stage describes the particular quality or aspect of that god or goddess which is relevant to the present invocation
The third stage defines as precisely as possible the nature of the request
The fourth stage describes the hoped for outcome
The fifth stage asks for the compassion and blessing of the god or goddess thus invoked
We might for example invoke Athene, focus on her aspect of wisdom and ask for her help in understanding an aspect of esoteric teaching. Our goal is to reach a greater knowledge of ourselves and increased clarity as to the choices we should make in the challenges that face us. Holding this in mind, we invoke Athene and attune our minds to her wisdom.
N.B. The time and tradition in which these Collects were written means that they use only the term 'God' in reference to the Deity. Readers may wish to substitute alternatives such as Goddess, Deity, Divinity or Spirit.
01 Thought for the week beginning 5th January 2020: The Epiphany
Keynote: Seeing with the eyes of the spirit
The word 'Epiphany' is often used nowadays, and it is worth bringing to mind its original meaning of "a sudden perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an illuminating discovery or realisation; an intuitive grasp of reality through something apparently simple."
As Dion Fortune reminds us in her commentary on this Collect, the Wise Men in whose name we celebrate 'The Epiphany' saw much that others at that time did not see, such as the symbolism of the the star in the East and the spiritual and universal significance of the new-born babe in the stable.
This Collect invokes for the ability to see beyond the outer form and to discern what lies behind it; to attune ourselves to the qualities and spiritual energies that ensoul it and indicate its significance for our present lives and for the future.
Developing this perception can take a lifetime of trying, but we can make a start simply by wanting to do it. And it makes the perfect New Year's Resolution.
02 Thought for the week beginning 12th January 2020
Keynotes: Wisdom, Courage
This Collect asks for the ability to "perceive and know what things we ought to do..... "
When we are unsure what our next step should be, rather than make hasty or arbitrary decisions it can be useful to pause awhile and try to contact a higher Wisdom to help us get a clearer perception of what is causing our present situation. With the benefit of a more insightful perception, we can begin to make appropriate changes, not forgetting to also ask for courage to help us make them.
Dion Fortune reminds us in her commentary that "God does not lead us into the wilderness to perish." Our gods and goddesses do not set us insoluble problems.
03 Week beginning 19h January 2020
“Grant us thy peace all the days of our life……”
When we desire peace for ourselves, our first thoughts often tend towards what we want to get rid of: stress, anxiety, demands on our time, people who cause us undue problems. When our thoughts turn to peace in the word, it is natural to think of this in terms of the removal or absence of conflict.
Dion Fortune reminds us that the invocation in this Collect is made to the ultimate source of all Life, the One Deity of "all things in heaven and earth." She suggests that real peace is not achieved by getting rid of demands and stresses, nor by avoiding or removing conflict , but through our understanding of how all things in the universe are interconnected. She suggests that when we have a better knowledge of the CAUSE of things, of why things are as they are, then we will find acceptance and understanding, which ultimately brings deep and lasting peace.
04 Week beginning 26th January 2020
The words of this week's Collect are: "Almighty and Everlasting God, look mercifully upon our infirmities….."
During this season of colds and flu, 'Infirmity' is certainly in our minds. But Dion Fortune’s suggestion is that we should look within. What should we understand by the word ‘infirmity?’ Physical disease or disability? Emotional imbalances? Mental challenges?
As was once so memorably said: ‘Nobody’s perfect,’ and during our life on earth our ‘infirmities’ are one of the signs that can tell us so much about ourselves. We can pray for Divine mercy, but equally we should regard our own imperfect selves with mercy and compassion. If we can calmly accept where we are now, at this very moment, then we have taken a step towards healing and wholeness.
05 Week beginning 2nd February 2020
Keynote: Protection from evil
The Collect for this week asks for strength and protection "in the midst of so many and great dangers" because "by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright."
We are frequently aware of 'so many and great dangers,' mostly those in the world about us but also, as the Collect suggests, the temptations we experience in daily life when we realise that we have acted in a way which was perhaps not the best choice!
One of the keys to understanding this Collect lies in the image of ‘standing upright.’ If we imagine ourselves standing in this posture it can evoke an image of a clear flow of energy channelled through our entire selves, integrating body mind and spirit, and connecting heaven with earth.
It's a simple image, easily visualised, and can be remarkably effective.
06 Week beginning 9th February 2020
Keynote: True religion
The Collect for this week asks: “Oh Lord, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion…..”
Rather than becoming distracted by debate as to what constitutes ‘true’ religion,' in her commentary on this Collect Dion Fortune emphasises the importance of the word CONTINUALLY. The Collect asks for help in our continued perception and understanding of spiritual truth, not least by acknowledging that our perception needs continual revision! As we progress along the Path, what we thought to be true yesterday, may not appear so today.
The secret, she reminds us, is to become still...and to adopt a 'humbleness of mind.' Then we may find that the 'truth' is found through our individual perception of spiritual things rather than in this or that religion.
07 Message for week beginning 16th February 2020
This Collect asks that we may purify ourselves even as Christ was pure.
"How is this to be achieved?" Dion Fortune asks, with good reason! How can we achieve 'purity' on every level of our being and consciousness? And yet somehow we know that this is what's needed.
Dion Fortune tells us that even the practice of constant vigilance will not suffice. What works better, she suggests, is to resolutely set aside a few minutes each day in order to enter the Silence. When we listen to the Silence we can reconnect with the spirit. And then, purity will begin to take place of its own accord and in its own perfect way.
08 Message for the week beginning 23rd February 2020
Keynote: Forgiveness of Sins
This Collect observes that we are ‘justly punished for our offences’ and asks that we should be ‘mercifully delivered by thy goodness….’
Our concept of what constitutes a sin or 'offence' constantly changes according to our own changing awareness, our sense of compassion and our respectful sense of the needs of others. We have come a long way from the didactic rules of the Ten Commandments.
Dion Fortune acknowledges this when she writes: "If we applied to our spiritual life some of the knowledge which a deeper understanding of the human mind is bringing to light, we might get an insight into the nature of much suffering which we fondly believe to be vicarious."
09 Message for the week beginning 1st March 2020
Keynote: Be still, and know that I am God
Achieving 'stillness' is so difficult. Frantic activity, whirling thoughts and overwhelming feelings are all familiar, each coming between us and 'stillness.' Lots of Doing, not enough Being.
Dion Fortune comments on a realisation that can emerge when we do achieve stillness. She writes: " Let us remember that we live in this One Life and not in any separate struggling existence of our own; it is only a delusion of the senses to think that we have to maintain our separate existences; we simply have to Be still, and ‘know that I am God."
10 Message for the week beginning 8th March 2020
The Collect for this week asks: ‘…..pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of Charity…’
Dion Fortune comments that the word 'Charity' is translated as 'Love' in the Revised version of the New Testament but that perhaps a better translation of Charity might be 'Compassion.'
Compassion is empathy, understanding, care and concern for others, kindness, fellow-feeling and tolerance.
Just suppose that instead of saying: "My Passion is........." we said: "My Compassion is......"
11 Message for the week beginning 15th March 2020
Keynote: We shine with reflected light
The Collect for this week begins: “ Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves….”
Surely, we have power to help ourselves? Dion Fortune observes that many folk are likely to take exception to this statement!
But she explains...."We do not live with our own Life, but because there is at the heart of each one of us a Divine Spark from the Central Fire which is God. It is by this one Divine Spark that we live."
Ultimately, we have to realise the truth of this....and then, the potential of unlimited spiritual power can begin to flow through us.
12 Message for the week beginning 22nd March 2020
This week, the complete Collect and Dion Fortune's response are both especially appropriate to our present world crisis:
"We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Dion Fortune comments: "In quietness and in confidence shall be hour strength.....For this week, then let those who are prepared to abide the issue and follow the right, whatever it may turn out to be, invoke the power of God upon their "hearty desires" and their enemies equally; they may see unexpected changes; they may find there is a price to pay; but they will come out into green pastures and in the end will be at peace."
13 Message for the week beginning 29th March 2020
Keynote: Atonement through realisation
The Collect for this week deals with the concept of forgiveness - not only of others, but also of ourselves.
Dion Fortune comments: “ When we realise that we do not live by any separate existence of our own, but as part of the One Life which is God:………...we shall learn that our own character and its reactions are the only problems we have to contend with…."
For many of us, the coronavirus pandemic is a harsh reminder of just how interconnected our lives are. it is important to hold in mind, I think, that this interconnectedness can also work in very positive ways!
14 Message for the week beginning 5th April 2020: Palm Sunday
Keynote: "Take up thy cross and follow me."
The words of this Collect for Palm Sunday may be quite hard to accept if you are not of devout Christian faith. But Dion Fortune's commentary offers a more universal view which speaks to all.
She writes: "....few souls can go by the Way of the Cross in its Mystical sense, but all can use their experience of life as a means of helping others. Let our own sufferings teach us sympathy. Let our own limitations teach us mercy."
15 Message for the week beginning 12th April 2020 (Easter Sunday)
The Collect for this week focusses on the Christian message that Christ's death and resurrection has 'opened unto us the gate of everlasting life.'
Dion Fortune emphasises that for us, 'overcoming death' can only be achieved when we are able to lift our consciousness to a realisation of spiritual existence - or in other words eternal life - here and now, on earth, in each moment.
Each week it seems that the words of the Collect have especial meaning for us in our present global crisis.
[b]16 Message for the week beginning 19th April 2020
The Collect for this first Sunday after Easter asks that we should "..put away the leaven of malice and wickedness...."
The use of the word 'leaven' in this context is interesting.. The dictionary defines leaven as: 'to make rise, puff up, expand' - a good description of what happens when we work ourselves up with blame, gossip and negativity.
The Collect continues: "....that we may always serve Thee in pureness of living, and truth;....."
Dion Fortune observes that purity (of life) does not mean denial or emasculation but the right use of energy, in the right place. It is the intrusion of energy from a lower plane onto a higher plane which causes 'impurity.' She gives an example: "The instincts which we share with the animals are noble and pure upon their own plane; it is only when they swamp the affections that they are impure."
17 Message for the week beginning 26th April 2020
Keynote: "Give us thy Grace"
The Collect for this week prays for Divine Grace, and Dion Fortune asks us to think about what we understand by 'Grace.' We rarely use the word nowadays, but she suggests a definition of Grace as the "energising of the spiritual nature" and "the filling of our whole being with light and enlightenment."
In her usual forthright way, she adds: "If we prayed for grace instead of specific benefits, we should not find that our prayers so often had no apparent answer. "
18 Message for the week beginning 3rd May 2020
Keynote: The enlightened understanding
Dion Fortune observes: "The Collect for this week emphasises a vital point in the life of the Path - the power to know right from wrong."
How often do we protest: 'I'm not arguing, I'm explaining why I'm right."
A better approach, DF suggests, is to "...go apart into the Silence in order to get our bearings, otherwise we shall wander by the way." She continues: "Our greatest safeguard in these matters is humility; a clearsighted recognition that even our loftiest endeavours may be misplaced, our highest ideals mistaken"
19 Message for the week beginning 10th May 2020
Dion Fortune observes that there is a deep psychology contained in the Collect for this week, which describes how attempting to use will-power alone to over-rule our desires does not lead us to the state of joy that we hope for; rather, it produces a house divided against itself.
She comments that our own inner harmony and sense of serenity and joy is dependent upon our adjustment to the laws of the Cosmos. “Let us accept and adjust, and then we shall be at peace."
20 Message for the week beginning 17th May 2020
Keynote: Divine guidance
The Collect for this week asks that “….by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by Thy merciful guidance may perform the same….”
If only we knew for certain what was 'good.'
As Dion Fortune wisely advises, we should avoid assuming that what we personally believe to be good is the whole picture, or to delude ourselves that "the circle of our vision circumscribes the universe.’ Instead, she suggests, we would do better to try to lift our consciousness to the highest spiritual level that we can attain. Then, we will gain a better understanding of what is 'good' in a manner that transcends our own needs or personal vision.
21 Message for the week beginning 24th May 2020 (Sunday after Ascension Day)
Keynote: The Holy Spirit
The Collect for this week asks that after the ascension of Christ into Heaven, the comfort of the Holy Spirit should be sent to those who remain on earth.
As Dion Fortune observes: "We know little in conventional Christianity concerning the nature and office of the Holy Ghost (Spirit.) She suggests that we think of it as the aspect of Deity which relates to the things of the mind. ".....through the work of the Holy Spirit we find understanding and illumination."
By way of example, she points to the special Wisdom and possible Initiation given by Christ to his disciples in the Upper Room. She contrasts His teaching of the deeper secrets of His Mysteries to this small group, with the more readily accessible message he preached to all followers.
22 Message for the week beginning 31st May 2020
Keynote: The descent of power
This is Whitsunday, or Pentecost, which Dion Fortune describes as one of the most powerful and positive times of the year. "......when the great Power-tides descend upon the world, we shall receive of the spiritual forces according to our utmost need and capacity."
In her Rite of the Master Jesus, she concludes the celebration of the Eucharist by describing how the power of the Holy Spirit descended upon the Disciples while they were seated in the Upper Room. She clearly believed that this power was available to all, and that its invocation was a right and fitting conclusion to the Christian Mass.
23 Message for the week beginning 7th June 2020
Keynote: Mystical Understanding
The Collect for this week refers to Trinity Sunday, the trinity being that recognised in the Christian Church as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Many other religions and spiritual systems also recognise the essential three-fold nature of Deity in terms such as Energy, Substance and Consciousness, or Life, Love and Wisdom.
Dion Fortune relates these principles to the three concepts of faith, intuition and reasoning. Faith, she writes, is an "opinion based on intuition rather than upon logical grounds." But, she adds, this intuition allows us to gain a realisation of the triune nature of Deity. Once we have made this realisation of the triple nature of Deity, we are no longer dependent upon 'blind faith' but have achieved a truly Mystical Understanding.
24 Message for the week beginning 14th June 2020
Keynote: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal”
Dion Fortune observes how frequently the Collects encourage us to rely upon God rather than our own strength. This is not a sign of weakness but it means that the scene of our struggles shifts from the physical plane to the Inner planes. If we can do this, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal."
(2 Corinthians, 10: 4-6)
She continues: "Those who understand the significance of the Inner Life keep still upon the mundane plane when great events are toward, for they know that the mundane plane is the plane of effects, and that all causation is in the unseen.”
If we can each preserve stillness on the mundane plane, even when pressing events appear to call for immediate action, then we have taken a step towards creating a real and lasting peace.
25 Message for the week beginning 21st June 2020
Keynote: The Good Law
The Collect for this week refers to the idea of 'law.' Dion Fortune comments on the nature of 'natural law' and writes: “If no law ordered the universe it must long ago have shaken itself to pieces from sheer friction.” She asks why we tend to believe that ‘natural law’ stops short with the animals and does not equally apply to us, even to our own spiritual natures. “If every single human being were pure, and compassionate, the world’s misery would be wiped out in one generation.”
26 Message for the week beginning 28th June 2020
Keynote: The Power of Prayer
Dion Fortune observes that we tend to only to pray - if we pray at all - in moments of extreme need, or when everything else appears to have failed. But, as she says: “Who has not known the need for comfort in the hour of anxiety before the dawn?” There have surely been many anxious hours before dawn during the current global crisis.
Her sensible advice is that we should aim to learn about how prayer works, how it feels, and what power it has, at a time when we are feeling more at peace and less anxious! So that in our hour of real need, we are better able to reach out to the wisdom and comfort of the Divine.
27 Message for the week beginning 5th July 2020
Keynote: The Two Viewpoints
Regarding this Collect, Dion Fortune describes how there are two viewpoints from which we can look at life. There is the viewpoint of the lower self or personality with its background of the desires and senses, and there is the viewpoint of the Higher Self or Soul, with its background of Spirit.
She reminds us that this is a two-way process: our higher self or Soul develops from the experiences we gain in our daily lives.
“...The purpose of life is the evolution of the Soul….”
28 Message for the week beginning 12th July 2020
Keynote: Thy Kingdom Come
This phrase is well known to us from The Lord's Prayer, and DF's comment on it is, as always, straightforward and to the point:
"It is only through a change of individual consciousness that the kingdom of heaven will come on earth."
We might also say that the bringing of Heaven ('The Kingdom') to earth is the purpose of magical work.
29 Message for the week beginning 19th July 2020
Keynote: The Love of God
Dion Fortune observes that when we seek to know God solely through the power of our intellect, “we can rise no higher than a knowledge of the manner in which the Divine Light shines through the prism of forms.”
She suggests that we must seek God through the medium of the power of our own love. “ There is but one thing which will draw the soul across the great gulf which is fixed between matter and spirit, and that is an outgoing of strong love towards That which is on the farther side of the gulf.”
30 Message for the week beginning 26th July 2020
The Collect for this week asks that we should learn how to serve in ‘in all godly quietness.’
It can perhaps seem strange to associate god with the apparently commonplace notion of ‘quietness.’ But for many of us, times of real 'quiet' are rare. We are assaulted with noise and distracting activity from the world about us - and from inside ourselves in our thoughts and emotions.
To experience real ‘quiet’ for a few minutes, once or twice a day, can be transformational. The Collect for this week suggests that this is an essential element in our learning how to 'serve.' because in effect we are taking on an essential quality of god. Dion Fortune's book The Cosmic Doctrine refers to this quality as 'The Central Stillness.'
31 Message for the week beginning 2nd August 2020
Dion Fortune makes the perceptive comment that “ Desire is prayer. When we desire a thing, we are invoking it as far as lies within our power…”
The Collect for this week asks that we should be given only those things “that are profitable to us.” The challenge, of course, is to distinguish between those things that are comfortable for us or that will make our lives easier on an immediate level, without regard for their long-term effect on our development.
How to tell the difference?
32 Message for the week beginning 9th August 2020
Keynote: Right Understanding
The Collect for this week asks for ‘the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful…..’
Dion Fortune asks: how do we know what is ‘right?’ If we all thought and acted 'rightly' then the world would be filled with spiritual peace and harmony. We become misled by our personal desires, which we rationalise as being for the greater good. To think and act ‘rightly’ depends on our understanding of the spiritual principles that govern a situation, and these are not always easy to grasp.
She suggests that an important first step in 'seeing the bigger picture' is to regularly set aside time in which to read some Spiritual writings. The inspiration offered by such writings will, she says, guide us with wisdom and support us with their invisible companionship.
There is something so practical and comfortingly accessible in this advice!
33 Message for the week beginning 16th August 2020
Keynote: Right Praying
The Collect for this week again addresses the topic of prayer. As Dion Fortune points out in her customary common-sense approach: “ God does not give us things because we ask for them, and withhold them because we have not asked for them."
She continues: "Do we ask to be relieved from suffering, to be spared the fulfillment of our fears, to be saved from the consequences of our errors?”
Most of us would answer ‘yes’ to all of these. But, DF says, in our prayers or aspirations we are often as children “asking for pennies.” If, instead, we ask for “courage and understanding, love and patience, light to illumine our darkness and Divine love to comfort our sorrow….then we shall not be denied.”
34 Message for the week beginning 23rd August 2020
The idea of ‘power’ is often addressed in the Collects, where a number of interpretations are offered as to the meaning of this difficult concept. It is a concept much discussed in esoteric circles, not least as to the difference between 'power' and 'energy.'
The Collect for this week suggests that Divine or spiritual power is revealed primarily through the qualities of mercy and pity. Our immediate reaction might well be that these qualities show a lack, or absence, of power! But further reflection suggests that this may not be so..…..
35 Message for the week beginning 31st August 2020
Keynote: Beyond our grasp
Dion Fortune comments that Life, Love, Power and Wisdom are all around us like the air we breathe. But sometimes we are reluctant to open ourselves freely to the tides of spirit "lest our small securities be swept away in the great tides of Cosmic Life."
Many of us will likely find some truth in that!
36 Message for the week beginning 6th September 2020
The Collect for this week asks for help in maintaining our ‘fidelity,’ or faith. Dion Fortune’s comments on the word 'faith' are worth quoting in full:
“We cannot now believe that God would require us to massacre the little children of those who believed wrongly (she is referring of course to the Biblical King Herod) yet men have been found, not once but many times, to do this in a spirit of unfaltering fidelity. How are we to avoid making like errors? We cannot do it by the light of human reason and expediency….but only by lifting our eyes to the highest ideal we can conceive.”
This ideal, DF suggests, is found in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Some may agree with this, but many may not. How can we envisage our highest ideal which is over and above even the apparent requirements of our 'faith?'
37 Message for the week beginning 13th September 2020
Keynote: Divine Law
The tone and content of the Collect for this week are not easy to relate to. The Collect describes God in terms of rules and commandments, advising that our well-being depends on our obedience to these ‘laws.’
In her commentary, Dion Fortune suggests that ‘God’s Law’ might be more easily related to and better understood if we think of it as "the music of the spheres" or as the essential wholeness, unity and harmony of all created life. If we are able to realise and understand something of this infinite beauty and harmony, then this is a way in which we can begin to love God’s ‘law’ - and "dare to leap into the ocean of Cosmic Life."
38 Message for the week beginning 20th September 2020
Keynote: Divine Guidance
Dion Fortune comments on the difficult concept of Divine Guidance and our inclination - or disinclination - to ask for it: "Our judgement of ourselves soon becomes vitiated if we have no Exemplar by which to measure ourselves.'
"Like water, human consciousness forever seeks its own level...It is only the pressure of Divine Life which can bring human life to higher levels…..It is only when we make contact with the Divine that we are lifted above the endless circle of the human."
But she adds, in affirmation of humanity's unique attributes: " If we allow the human qualities of kindliness and gentleness to find expression through us, they will open the door to Divine Love....."