Respected psychiatrist, occultist, and author who approached magic and hermetic concepts from the perspectives of Jung and Freud. She was a prolific occult writer of novels and non-fiction books, an adept in ceremonial magic, and a pioneer psychiatrist on religious thought in occultism.
She was born Violet Mary Firth in Bryn-y-Bia, Llandudno, North Wales on 6th December 1890, the daughter of a solicitor. She showed mediumistic abilities at an early age reputedly having had visions and dreams of Atlantis as early as four years old. Later she claimed to have been a priestess there in a past life. She was a bright and intelligent child and wrote her first book, aged just 13, a book of poems entitled Violets in 1904. Her interest in occultism was sparked when she was working as a lay Freudian analyst around the time of the First World War. She was trained by a doctor named Moriarty who specialised in astro-etheric psychological conditions (and who later provided the inspiration for her series of short stories The Secrets of Doctor Taverner). Having found her ‘path’ in the Western Mystery Tradition she joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1919.
Moving to London, she joined an offshoot branch of the Golden Dawn run by Moina Mathers, widow of MacGregor Mathers, one of the Golden Dawn’s founders. She began to write articles under the name of Dion Fortune (taken from her family motto Deo Non Fortuna, ‘God not luck’), which were later published in book form as The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage, Sane Occultism and Psychic Self-Defence, the first of her many occult textbooks. These articles enraged Moina Mathers, who felt that Dion Fortune was betraying the secrets of the Order.
Dion Fortune became increasingly disillusioned with the Golden Dawn, and after Dr. Moriarty’s death in 1921 she set about founding her own esoteric order with a few of Moriarty’s students and a few members of the Theosophical Society in London. In 1924 her little group bought an old officers’ hut from the army and erected it at the foot of Glastonbury Tor in Somerset. This site, which they named Chalice Orchard, was the first headquarters of the Fraternity of the Inner Light (later re-named the Society of the Inner Light). Soon afterwards they also acquired a large old house – 3 Queensborough Terrace, London – which was big enough for certain members to live in as well as being an established magical lodge. Among those living there were Dion Fortune and her husband Dr. Penry Evans, although they divided their time between London and Glastonbury, and eventually divorced. The society soon became an initiatory school of high calibre. Working in trance mediumship, Dion Fortune made contacts with certain inner plane adepts, or Masters, whose influence on the Western Esoteric Tradition is still vital to this day.
During the 1930s Dion Fortune wrote several esoteric novels which contain much practical detail which was considered too ‘secret’ at that time to be published in her articles or textbooks. She also pioneered Qabalah as a key to the Western Mystery Tradition, and her book The Mystical Qabalah is still one of the best texts available on the subject. Her other main work was The Cosmic Doctrine, which was received mediumistically and originally reserved for initiates only. Its text is abstract and difficult to follow, and is intended for meditation rather than as a straight textbook.
During the Second World War she organised her own contribution to the war effort on a magical level – this project is now published as The Magical Battle of Britain. The Society of the Inner Light continued to operate its lodge at 3 Queensborough Terrace in the midst of the Blitz, and even when the house was damaged by bombs the disruption was minimal.
In early January 1946 Dion Fortune returned from Glastonbury feeling tired and unwell and was admitted to Middlesex Hospital in London. The illness was leukaemia, and she died a few days later, aged 55. She is buried at Glastonbury. Her last novel, Moon Magic, was unfinished at her death; the last chapter was allegedly channelled by her through one of the society’s mediums.
The Society of the Inner Light continued largely unchanged for many years after Dion Fortune’s death. In 1960 the headquarters moved to 38 Steele’s Road, London NW3 4RG. It continues today as an initiatory school and magical lodge with much the same principles as those in which it was originally founded.
Time-Line for Dion Fortune
1890: Born December 6th
1904: Wrote book of poems entitled “Violets” Living in Weston-super-Mare
1906: Family moved to London
1908: Links with Christian Science movement. Poem published “Angels”
1910: First employment at St Georges Secretarial College, London
1913: Became a Lay Analyst (Psychoanalysis) at Medico-Psychological Clinic, London
1914: Meeting with her first Master. Joined the Land Army. Slight connection with Theosophical Society
1917: Doing scientific research into the soya bean
1919: Initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
1921: Met Theodore Moriarty (the Dr Taverner of her novels!) who influenced her life greatly.
1923: Formed the Christian Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society
1924: Formed the Community of the Inner Light. Bought property at Glastonbury – the Chalice Orchard
1927: Formed the Fraternity of the Inner Light an Outer Court of the Golden Dawn. Married Thomas Penry Evans
1929: All ties with the Golden Dawn cut.
1930: Leased property in London called the Belfry. Priestess of Isis phase.
1935: The Mystical Qabalah
1946: Died of Leukameia : Jan 8th
Books on the Occult
Applied Magic and Aspects of Occultism
Esoteric Orders and their Work
Practical Occultism in Daily Life
Psychic Self Defense
The Cosmic Doctrine
The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage
The Magical Battle for Britain
The Mystical Qabalah
The Training and Work of an Initiate
Through the Gates of Death
Books on Psychology
(Written under her real name of Violet Mary Firth)
Machinery of the Mind
Problem of Purity
Psychology of the Servant Problem
Mystical Meditations on the Collect
The Soya Bean
Spiritualism in the Light of Occult Science
Glastonbury – Avalon of the Heart
The Demon Lover, 1929
The Goat Foot God, 1936
The Sea Priestess
The Secrets of Dr Taverner
The Winged Bull
The following are joint publications by Dion Fortune & Gareth Knight:
The Circuit of Force
An Introduction to Ritual Magic
Principles of Hermetic Philosophy
Spiritualism and Occultism
There are currently four biographies of Dion Fortune:
The Story of Dion Fortune
Charles Fielding, Thoth Publications, 1985
Priestess: the Life and Magic of Dion Fortune
Alan Richardson, Aquarian Press, 1987
Quest for Dion Fortune
Janine Chapman, Samual Weiser, 1993
Dion Fortune and the Inner Light
Gareth Knight, Thoth Publications, 2000