Dion Fortune’s Applied Magic

I am preparing to do a podcast episode on Dion Fortune’s Applied Magic as part of the She Speaks Volumes series on the feminist voice in witchcraft.

I first read Applied Magic in the late 80s, when I was in my teens. I was just starting to get in to witchcraft which I think was when feminism began embracing the craft as ‘women’s history.’

Back then, her non-fiction work didn’t really land with me, ideologically she had fallen out of favour, as had many of the spiritualists who channelled ‘masters’.

Her novels though really captured me, I was enchanted particularly with The Sea Priestess and her descriptions of the remote house on the craggy shoreline, with gorgeous interior design, that was the backdrop of exuberantly occult rituals and the mysterious woman who performed them.

I decided though for the podcast to re-read Applied Magic because I have been having exciting thoughts about magic lately and I thought it might be interesting to revisit her work now that I perhaps have a more sophisticated understanding of magic and consciousness than I had at eighteen.

I am on chapter one, and though I don’t expect to have a major revelation every chapter, Applied Magic begins with the simple observation that there are two paths that ‘seekers’ follow, and the most common path ‘the mystic way’ is based on the idea that god is an essence and not present in matter.

“We are so accustomed to hear the renunciation of the world and the abnegation of the self set up as the only true path of the soul which seeks the Highest, that we hardly dare whisper that there may be another path.’

Applied Magic, Dion Fortune

The ‘mystic way’ is responsible for a great deal of human trauma. It is much easier for example to aspire to ‘god’ when HE is a remote idea, free of the flaws of imperfect flesh than when he is begging you for spare change on the corner.

What Fortune calls ‘the occult way’ by contrast seeks divinity in matter. The belief that ‘god/goddess/divine/universal consciousness’ (call it what you will) is present in all things. This path, rather than transcending the corporeal world, seeks to master material reality. Fortune draws the distinctions that mastery here refers to mastering the skills, like a musician, and not by brute force like a slave-master.

In this chapter I believe Fortune has clearly articulated the difference in ideology between judeo-christian ideas of god and paganism. The idea of ‘mastering material reality’ is a concept that seems like it would land in these days of self-helpery, and personal development.

I find myself really looking forward to reading this and sharing my thoughts in the podcast episode.

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