Dion Fortune's "Mystical Meditations on the Collects"
The following posts offer a weekly resumé of Dion Fortune's interpretation of 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, or Spirit.
01 Thought for the week beginning 3rd January 2021: The Epiphany
Keynote: Seeing with the eyes of the spirit
It is worth bringing to mind the meaning of the word 'Epiphany' which is: "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 did not see, such as the symbolism of the star in the East and the spiritual significance of the new-born babe in the stable.
This Collect asks for the ability to see beyond the outer form of things, to discern the energy that lies behind them and causes their outward appearance.
Developing the ability to see the world with the eyes of the spirit 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 Week beginning 10th January 2021
Keynotes: Wisdom, Courage
The Collect for this week asks for the ability to "perceive and know what things we ought to do..... "
Dion Fortune's interpretation of this Collect is that In situations of uncertainty, rather than make hasty or arbitrary decisions it is better to pause for a while in order to contact a higher Wisdom and to gain a better perspective of what is causing the present situation. With the benefit of a more insightful perception, we can then begin to make appropriate changes - not forgetting to ask for courage in making them and carrying them through.
03 Week beginning 17h January 2121
“Grant us thy peace all the days of our life……”
When we desire peace for ourselves, our first thoughts often tend towards the stress, anxiety and internal conflict that we would like to get rid of. When our thoughts turn to peace in the word, we also tend to think of this in terms of the removal 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 simply by removing stress or 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 can reach a place of acceptance and understanding which ultimately will lead to a deeper and lasting peace.
04 Week beginning 24th January 2121
The words of this week's Collect are: "Almighty and Everlasting God, look mercifully upon our infirmities….."
'Infirmity' is uppermost in everybody's mind at the moment, with daily reminders of the devastating personal and global consequences of the pandemic. We can - should? - pray for Divine mercy, but it may also be helpful to try to look upon our own selves with mercy and compassion. If we can reach an acceptance of where we are now, at this very moment, then this may be a step towards future healing and wholeness.
05 Week beginning 31st January 2021
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."
Many of us are more aware than at any other time of "so many and great dangers" in the current pandemic.
The vivid but perhaps surprising image in this Collect is of "standing upright." If we stand in this position, and take a deep breath, it enables a clear flow of energy to be channelled through our entire selves, integrating body, mind and spirit, and connecting heaven with earth.
It's a simple thing to do, but it can be remarkably effective.
06 Week beginning 7th February 2021
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…..”
In her commentary on this Collect, rather than becoming distracted by debate as to what constitutes ‘true’ religion,' 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 and understanding need continual revision. As we progress along the Path, what we believed to be true yesterday, may not seem so today.
The secret to this, DF reminds us, is to become still...and to adopt a 'humbleness of mind.' Then we may realise that the 'truth' is found through our individual perception of the power of the spirit rather than in this, or that, religion.
07 Message for week beginning 14th February 2021
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' in body, mind and spirit? And yet somehow we know that this is what we must aim for.
Dion Fortune tells us that even the practice of constant vigilance will not suffice. What works better, she suggests, is to 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 occur of its own accord and in its own perfect way.
08 Message for the week beginning 21st February 2121
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….’
We have come a long way from the 'Thou Shalt Not' rules of the Ten Commandments. Our belief as to what constitutes a 'sin' or 'offence' has changed according to our own changing awareness, our sense of compassion and our understanding of the needs of others.
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 28th February 2021
Keynote: Be still, and know that I am God
Achieving 'stillness' is so difficult. Too much to do, busy 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 7th March 2021
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 might be 'Compassion.'
Compassion is empathy, understanding, care and concern for others, kindness, fellow-feeling, tolerance and goodwill.
Suppose that instead of saying: "My Passion is........." we say: "My Compassion is......"
11 Message for the week beginning 14th March 2021
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 with good reason 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 21st March 2121
It is now a year since the first 'lcckdown' in the UK. A year ago, it felt appropriate to quote the complete Collect in addition to Dion Fortune's response and interpretation. The post of a year ago is repeated here, offering an opportunity to observe any inner and outer changes that may have taken place during the last 12 months.
"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 28th March 2121 Palm Sunday
Keynote: "Take up thy cross and follow me."
The language of the Collect for Palm Sunday may be more difficult to accept if you are not of the Christian faith. But Dion Fortune's commentary offers a more universal view:
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."
14 Message for the week beginning 4th April 2021(Easter Sunday)
The Collect for this week focusses on the ways in which Christ's death and resurrection 'opened unto us the gate of everlasting life.'
Dion Fortune emphasises that for us, 'overcoming death' is 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.
15 Message for the week beginning 12th April 2021
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 can happen when we work ourselves up with blame, gossip and resentment!
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 and at the right time. 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."
16 Message for the week beginning 18th April 2021
Keynote: "Give us thy Grace”
The Collect for this week is a prayer for Divine Grace, and Dion Fortune asks us to think about what 'grace' means to us. We rarely use the word nowadays, except as a girl's name or perhaps we remember the short prayer that used to be said before meals. DF suggests that Grace could be defined as the "energising of the spiritual nature" and "the filling of our whole being with light and enlightenment."
She adds: "If we prayed for grace instead of specific benefits, we should not find that our prayers so often had no apparent answer. "
17 Message for the week beginning 25th April 2121
Keynote: The enlightened understanding
The Collect for this week begins: "Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of Thy truth..."
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.......For this week, let us set ourselves the task of sacrificing upon the altar of Truth our self-esteem...."
18 Message for the week beginning 2nd May 2021
Keynote: The Joy of the Spirit
Dion Fortune's observation on this Collect is very much in tune with the ethos of her 'Glastonbury Tor meditation.' She writes: "Let us meditate on the unity of all manifested existence and our own relationship to it, then shall we desire to be in harmony with that of which we are an integral part, and this desire, steadily followed, will bring us to the state where true joys are to be found."
19 Message for the week beginning 9th May 2021
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 sure what was 'good!'
Dion Fortune suggests - as of course we knew all along - that we should avoid assuming that what we personally believe to be good is the whole picture and 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 manage. Then, we will gain a better understanding of what really is 'good.'
20 Message for the week beginning 16th May 2021 (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 gave to all followers.
21 Message for the week beginning 23rd May 2021
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, not only the Disciples, and that its invocation was a right and fitting conclusion to the Christian Mass.
The full text of her Rite of the Master Jesus is available on this website.
22 Message for the week beginning 30th May 2021
Keynote: Mystical Understanding
This week's Collect is for Trinity Sunday, the trinity in this instance 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 the universe but use terms such as Energy, Substance and Consciousness, or Life, Love and Wisdom.
Dion Fortune relates these three principles to faith, intuition and reasoning. Faith, she writes, is an "opinion based on intuition rather than upon logical grounds." However, she adds, it is precisely this which allows us to gain a realisation of the triple nature of Deity. Once we have made this realisation we are no longer dependent upon 'blind faith' but have achieved a truly Mystical Understanding.
23 Message for the week beginning 7th June 2021
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 should never be thought of as a sign of weakness. It means that the scene of our struggles shifts from the physical plane to the Inner planes. When we do this, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. "(2 Corinthians, 10: 4-6)
DF 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.
24 Message for the week beginning 13th June 2021
Keynote: The Good Law
The Collect for this week refers to the concept of 'law.' Commenting on what is meant by 'natural law' Dion Fortune writes: “If no law ordered the universe it must long ago have shaken itself to pieces from sheer friction.” That's an interesting idea to ponder.
She asks why we tend to believe that ‘natural law’ applies to the 'natural kingdom' such as the birds and animals but 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.”
25 Message for the week beginning 20th June 2021
Keynote: The Power of Prayer
Dion Fortune observes that we tend to only to pray - if indeed we pray at all - in moments of extreme need, or when everything else seems 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 pandemic.
Her advice - which as always is down to earth and eminently practical - is that we should try 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.
26 Message for the week beginning 27th June 2021
Keynote: The Two Standpoints
The Collect refers to the 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.
Dion Fortune comments that when the Lower Self "...is on a flowing tide of prosperity.." we tend to lose sight of the eternal values. But "Even more in prosperity than in loss do we need the contact of spiritual forces, or, to use the old phraseology, the blessing of God, to rest upon our lives, lest we forget the purpose of life...."
27 Message for the week beginning 4th July 2021
Keynote: Thy Kingdom Come
This phrase is well known to us from The Lord's Prayer, and Dion Fortune'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."
This might also be considered as the ultimate purpose of magical work: to help bring Heaven ('The Kingdom') to earth, or in other words to reveal the spirit hidden within matter so that Heaven and Earth are one.
28 Message for the week beginning 11th July 2021
Keynote: The Love of God
Dion Fortune writes, beautifully: "The knowledge of God begins when the operations of the mind end. It is by a form of consciousness which transcends thought that we apprehend spiritual realities. 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.
Then, as we so love, in silence and in stillness....the Whisper from the Silence comes across the great gulf, for consciousness has 'tuned in' to the keynote of God."
29 Message for the week beginning 18th July 2021
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 commonplace notion of ‘quietness.’ But for most of, times of real quiet are rare. We are assaulted with noise and distracting activity from the world about us, and from the clamour of our own thoughts and feelings.
To experience a true ‘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, and the meaning of spiritual service, because it enables us to attune to an essential quality of god. And it is so simple!
30 Message for the week beginning 25th July 2021
Dion Fortune makes what may initially seem a surprising comment: “ Desire is prayer. When we desire a thing, we are invoking it as far as lies within our power…”
The Collect for this week, however, asks that we should be given only those things “that are profitable to us.” The challenge, of course, is to identify those things which are comfortable and will make our lives easier but which may not have a beneficial effect on our inner development.
How to tell the difference?
31 Message for the week beginning 1st August 2021
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, with good reason: 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, but we tend to be misled by our personal desires which can so easily be rationalised 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.
DF suggests that an important first step in 'seeing the bigger picture' is regularly to set aside a little 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.
Practical advice: simple, and reassuringly do-able.
32 Message for the week beginning 8th August 2021
Keynote: Right Praying
The Collect for this week again addresses the topic of prayer. As Dion Fortune points out, using 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.”
33 Message for the week beginning 15th August 2021
The word ‘power’ is often used in the Collects, where a number of interpretations are offered as to the meaning of this difficult concept. It is a word much used in magical circles and esoteric groups.
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 be that these qualities show a lack of power! But further reflection may well suggest differently....
34 Message for the week beginning 22nd August 2021
Keynote: More than we dare to ask
Dion Fortune comments that Life, Love, Power and Wisdom are all around us like the air we breathe, yet 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. Then it is that the higher self rises up and prays: ‘Give us more than we dare to ask.’ “
35 Message for the week beginning 29th August 2021
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 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.
Many will agree with this, but many will not. How can we envisage our highest ideal which is over and above even the apparent requirements of our 'faith?'
36 Message for the week beginning 5th September 2021
Keynote: Divine Law
Some will find 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 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."
Nevertheless, many find it natural to conceive of God, or the Cosmos, in terms of 'law' or 'science.' In the end, all our definitions of God are but metaphors.