We took what you might call the long way home from Glastonbury, partly because we had more time than expected, partly to avoid the holiday traffic of the motorways… and partly just because we could. There was a distant hill that a shaft of sunlight had illuminated for us from the site of Dion Fortune’s grave on an early visit last October and we had been waiting for the right time to go there. The day was hot; way too hot for climbing hills, so, with our usual logic, we planned on heading west towards the coast and Brent Knoll.
It was odd driving back that way. I had camped there with the boys once before, back in 1997, before the internet had opened the doors of knowledge and research. We didn’t climb the hills back then, my late partner was already fighting terminal cancer and camping itself was enough of an adventure under those circumstances. I had, however, bought myself a first set of cheap watercolour paints from a ‘pound shop’ and had painted the hill that rose so strangely from the flat landscape. I had painted, too, a half ruined church on another hill and the headland that bounded the beach near the campsite… Brean Down, it was called. How was I to know back then that these places featured so crucially in one of my favourite books? I just knew there was something about the landscape that spoke to me and it was odd to dig out those first, awful attempts at painting when we reached my home that evening and see those landscapes captured in line and colour.
Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess and its sequel, Moon Magic are fictional books, yet they contain much esoteric and psychological teaching and for many who walk the byways of the Mysteries, especially in the Qabalistic tradition, these two stories hold a very special place. Dion Fortune, was one of the most influential figures in the resurgence of esoteric studies in the 20th century. She was briefly a member of the Golden Dawn before she eventually founded the Fraternity now known as the Society of the Inner Light, one of the most respected organisations in the Western Mystery Tradition to this day. She was a pioneer in the spiritual landscape; she had trained in psychology and saw the intimate link between the two disciplines, writing several books that drew the parallels between them and evolving an esoteric teaching that stands even now as the fountainhead of understanding for many of us.
Other than the traditional teaching books, Dion Fortune, born Violet Mary Firth, wrote fictional tales that embodied many of her teachings in dramatic form, engaging the heart, mind and imagination in a way that echoes the work of many esoteric Schools including our own. Indeed, although we follow a parallel path and claim no spiritual descent from that lineage, the three directors of the Silent Eye all studied within that tradition and trained with a school which is part of that direct line of teaching. That, perhaps, is one reason why we had made Dion’s grave our first priority when we went to Glastonbury last year; it was a mark of respect and perhaps thanks to a much-loved teacher who had opened the way for so many.
As we stood beside the grave and looked out over the flatlands, a single shaft of light illuminated a distant hill, painting it gold in the damp, grey morning. It was a strange and otherworldly moment. We had just published The Initiate… also a not-quite-fictional tale of adventure, vision and esoteric teaching… and were shortly convening for the Walk and Talk event in the town where Dion had lived, with our School, that teaches using a combination of psychology, magic and mysticism. There were birds everywhere and we looked out across the landscape. “We have to go there.” There was no question. I recognised the shape of the hill… Brent Knoll, or Bell Knowle in the Sea Priestess. Yes, we would have to go there one of these days… and Friday, it seemed, was that day.