Friday, 19 May 2017

Knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is a product of life

At the end of each day when he goes to bed a would-be magus, as a symbolic action, should wipe his brow with the back of his hand and say to himself: "Has my brow this day been wet with mental sweat?" This little rite has value not only as a reminder of the Great Work that has been undertaken, but also as a mental and emotional catharsis, for it has been truly said that the chief temptation of any would-be magus is creation without mental toil."

 - The Elemental Ray, Charles Richard Foster Seymour

In my Lesser Mysteries training I was taught to apply Colonel Seymour's approach to the mundane life. It came with the turf and was non-negotiable. However, few occultists I’ve met seem either capable or inclined to do so. I think that’s a shame. Hard work in any field of endeavour brings its own wonderful blessings.

Sadly there is often a menial attitude toward the world and its fruits in occult circles, and this is not a virtue.

Why do some people maintain poverty of mind, emotions, body and estate instead of widening worldly contacts so that Life’s rich and varied resources can flow through? 

Those seeking the Path should look for life and more life and leadership to achieve this, not endless words and “facts” with a dank and musty library to house them all in. 

Why are so many occultists who claim to be way-showers still hiding in the graveyards of their own making, instead of leading in the field of art or science?

Why are they not striving to be the best teachers, artists, healers and healthcare professionals, ethical business leaders and truly revolutionary politicians? 

Why are so many occultists seemingly more capable of starting a fight in a graveyard with their own shadows and those of others, than applying themselves to bringing peace and healing within?

Many people seem to “take up occultism” as a hobby to provide an escape from the challenges or aridity of their everyday living. They may do this quite unconsciously. Not finding it easy to get on with family or colleagues, frustrated about some aspect of living and repelled by the sweat, toil, dirt and tears of an imperfect world, they seek an apparently readily available escape route. Such people often have a feeling that things are not as they should be and that the world could be a far better place. Indeed, I suspect few people would be able to reasonably deny this. Reacting to the often unpleasant realities of earth, they turn away and try their luck on the “higher planes” instead. Such escapism, though very easy to understand, is ultimately useless and is effective only in further reducing the ability to cope with life's problems.

Knowledge without life breeds stagnation and decay. 

Knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is a product of life.

*           *          * 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

- Theodore Roosevelt in Citizenship In A Republic
delivered at the Sorbonne, 
Paris, France 
on 23 April, 1910

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Upon Westminster Bridge

Upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Springtime of Dion Fortune

There she is staring out at you...or maybe that should be "in to you"!

Whether writing as Violet Firth, Violet M Steele or Dion Fortune, the person behind these names was a prolific author, with some 20 plus works of non-fiction and a further 9 works of fiction. Just in case you can’t get above 20, don’t forget her two lesser known works of The Soya Bean: An Appeal to Humanitarians and  The Psychology of the Servant Problem: A study in social relationships. Not a bad track record for someone who was busy lecturing and teaching, as well as setting up and running her own esoteric fraternity.

Most readers seem to appreciate her no-nonsense, down-to-earth and eminently readable style. It tends to lack the occasional pomposity and arrogance peppered throughout Crowley’s highly impressive output. True, some of her writing is now woefully dated in ways that much of Crowley’s isn’t. Similarly, some of the “facts” she presents have not withstood the test of time. However, if forced to choose between the two, she remains my “go to” writer – my desert island book collection.

Regretably, most biographers and commentators have glossed over her childhood writing. Some people think it isn’t that good or simply isn’t worth any analysis. Personally, I tend to see the foundations of her adult writings crystallising in these youthful productions. There are some great little gems to be found for example amongst Matins and Vespers, Violets and More Violets. To me there are many fine examples where the reader can see that even as a young teenager, she had already found her voice.

With the daffodils flowering in abundance out here in the West of England, and another Vernal Equinox fast approaching, one particular passage she wrote on the 27th of March 1905 strikes me as particularly apt.

Please humour me. Read the following passage and see if you agree that she had already found the foundation of the voice that we would come to recognise as Dion Fortune. 


“Opens a door in Heaven
From skies of glass
A Jacob's Ladder falls
On greening grass,
And o'er the mountain wall
Young angels pass.
Oh, follow, leaping blood, the season's lure,
Oh heart, look up, serene, secure,
Warm as the crocus cup, like snowdrop pure."


So much has been written about Spring in both prose and poetry that little remains to be said. Perhaps the reason that it has received so much attention is that it is the most beautiful of all seasons. The roses of Summer are lovely, but they do not excel the daffodil which gilds the riverside meadows in early Spring; nor can the reds of Autumn compare with the pale green of a newly-opened bud.

Perhaps we appreciate Spring's loveliness so much because we have fasted while the countryside was covered with snow, and now we feast our eyes upon a transformation which appears the more lovely when contrasted with the previous season's quiescence; and by the time Summer appears, we have been surfeited by the sweets of her predecessor, and do not appreciate, as fully as we might otherwise have done, her richer beauties.

As soon as last year's leaves had fallen, small brown nobs were visible upon the twigs and branches of the trees; during the Winter these remained dormant, but as soon as the warmth of Spring quickened the chilled sap into renewed activity, they began to swell, and ere long burst the dull outer coat and exposed to view the delicate green leaves within.

A sudden transformation now takes place; the landscape no longer wears the sombre colours of Winter, it seems as if some magician's brush has passed over the land from south to north, painting all the country green. The trees have opened their leaf-buds, or shaken out their catkins, which cast on the wind clouds of yellow pollen that drift across the open meadow-land, fertilising all female flowers in their path.

Other trees do not trust their precious dust to the capricious breezes, but secrete the honey which tempts the small wild bees to brave the uncertain weathers of an English Spring, and at the same time perform an involuntary service for their hosts.

The insect life is also awake ; in sunny hedgerows beetles are beginning to appear, and the ants are working furiously to repair and extend their subterranean homes.

The appearance of the insects only heralds the approach of the insectivores, and from over the seas ever increasing streams of bird visitors are arriving.

Our own bats, too, who have slept away the Winter, now reappear, and the brisk snap of their little jaws as they catch a fly can be heard quite plainly on a still evening.

The flowers are by no means the least beautiful part of this altogether lovely season. Spring is heralded in by the snowdrop and wild violet; the climax of its reign is reached when the daffodil and cowslip are in flower, and it is ushered out by the pink petals of the dog-rose.

That the human life has a Springtime as well as Nature, has been declared many times, but the mental life has one also ; when the buds of child-thought begin to grow into the full leaf of the mature mind, we call it Expansion.

When the spiritual search for Truth results in the discovery of perfect peace and understanding, it is called Revelation.

Yet these three, the Natural, Mental, and Spiritual Springtides, are the same process working in different spheres of life, and might be classed together under the one name of The Awakening.

More Violets - Violet M. Firth