Three categories of ‘reality’ in Dion Fortune’s Applied Magic.

Camille Flammarion, L’Atmosphere: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), pp. 163

I have been surprised through my re-reading of ‘Applied Magic’ how much of Fortune’s work resonates with my own philosophies and understanding of magic, consciousness, and reality. Even in the points of disagreement I have discovered new ideas and perspectives that informs my understanding.

‘Applied Magic’ is a series of short essays on magical theory and practice. In the current essay I am reading, ‘The Three Kinds of Reality’, fortune defines the space in which we exist, and in which occultists practice; the unknown, the unmanifest, and the nonexistent.

The non-existent just isn’t, and that is all there is to be said about it. But the Great Unmanifest very much is, and to call it the Root of All Being is a very good description.

Dion Fortune ~ Applied Magic.

According to Fortune the unknown, exists but is beyond our consciousness. It is also subjective, what is unknown to me might be known to you. The unknown is not a ‘thing’ as Fortune points out, but a relationship between oneself and a ‘thing’. The unknown is mutable, it may become known through study, exploration, or accident. This is distinct in the thinking of some philosophers (Herbert Spencer – referenced in Applied Magic) from the ‘Unknowable’, which would be something like the mind of god and not within the possibility of human consciousness. Fortune does not seem to agree with this idea of the ‘unknowable’ and certainly there is logic around the idea that if the unknowable exists (as opposed to being nonexistent) then it is within the realm of possibility that it could become ‘knowable’. If something were unknowable then would it not fall into the category of nonexistent?

It is the unmanifested that is compelling. Those things are known but not yet real. The act of pulling ideas through the curtain, the blend of magic and the mundane that manifests the world we inhabit. The act of creation. ‘It is only unmanifest’ Fortune states ‘…because we have not got […]any faculties or senses by means of which we are able to contact it. ‘If an extension of consciousness takes place […] then for us it is no longer unmanifest, it becomes manifest.’

This is what the practice of magic is about, for me at least, exploring what methods allow me to shift my consciousness.

I am going to cover the balance of this chapter in Part 2 of this post. The second half of the chapter is a bit woolly in my current view. Fortune identifies the categories of unmanifest beings ‘the inhabitants of the unseen’. This includes souls of the departed, projections of the living, and the angelic hierarchies.



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