Third Fortune/Steele Novel

Hunters of Humans was released on the fall equinox. This is the third novel written by Dion Fortune under the pen name V.M. Steele that Twin Eagles Publishing has saved from obscurity.

I have to say the very best part of this one is Fortune’s sharp insight into the human mind. I quite enjoy her rapid portraits of each character, painted up in a few brush strokes that bring the person’s deepest thoughts and feelings to the fore. Her prose rapidly brings us into the situation describing how even readers of crime novels assume a death in the neighborhood is natural. Then we see Ann reading about a death in her neighborhood which she compares to her own family’s history of heart trouble. We meet her, her father, and then the detectives, and within two pages, we’re off. It’s almost dizzying how quickly and skillfully Fortune brings this complex world to life.

The story both a romance and a mystery. Scotland Yard is called in to determine if the death of a local man was natural or a murder. The two detectives, two types aptly described by Fortune, lodge with a young woman, Ann, and her father. The book is a study of how the younger detective, Austen, and Ann find each other through class barriers that are rapidly falling and in spite of the crimes of her drunken father.

Ann is a reader of mysteries and Austen is the new detective, bringing science to solve the crime along with the older detective who is a master of his trade, although not educated in the new public school. But Ann is an aristocrat, a fallen one, but still. We watch post-war England break down social obstacles. We watch Ann gradually realize that not only is her father responsible for this death, but most likely killed her grandmother and mother, and has Ann in his sights as well.

The book is really about Ann and Austen managing each other’s temperaments.

“He had never paid much attention to women, having joined the police when he was only twenty and being extremely keen on his work . . . .  Consequently, when the flood-gates went down, the tide carried all away, never having spent its strength in backwaters.” (30)

The older detective fears this baby aristocrat will toy with his young apprentice and he shepherds the two through the dangerous psychological waters of both their budding relationship and the trial of Ann’s father for murder. So you see, I haven’t really given the mystery away, because the story is Ann’s realization and her struggle with familial ties and a new relationship outside the bounds of her class. But she doesn’t view it that way. She doesn’t want to disgrace Austen’s career by marrying her, a murderer’s daughter.

The novel is the least esoteric of the three published so far, but it is fascinating watching the psychologist that Fortune was at work. I enjoyed her deep insights and even the look at gender relationships that have changed a great deal. And yet some of those same forces still run through us, so there is always something to learn from reading Dion Fortune.

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A New Spiritual Examination of Dion Fortune’s Novels

Dion Fortune wrote, “The Mystical Qabalah gives the theory, but the novels give the practice.” Penny Billington and Ian Rees have taken Fortune at her word and written a book that explains the spiritual system behind the novels, then offers interesting guided meditations and rituals for the reader to explore on their own.

The Keys to the Temple examines Fortune’s four main esoteric novels in light of the Qabalah and the spiritual journeys undertaken by the protagonists. The book briefly explains the Tree of Life for readers unfamiliar with it, then aligns the four novels with the sephiroth on the central pillar. They match The Goat-Foot God with Malkuth (Earth), The Sea Priestess with Yesod (Moon and the Treasure House of Images), The Winged Bull with Tiphareth (the Sun and home of the sacrificed God), and Moon Magic with Da’ath (fusion of opposites or the Abyss where the personality dissolves into the transcendental elements).

Billington and Rees provide a synopsis for each book, then trace the hero’s experience from his dead-end experience to his meeting with guides and then his magical education through to the transformative ritual that is the culmination of each novel. They point out the ways we share the challenges, disappointments, and restrictions that have so disheartened each hero, thus from the start inviting us to see ourselves in the novels and undertake these transformations ourselves. As the hero progresses, the authors analyze the experiences in the light of the Qabalah and Fortune’s teachings, making parallels between the characters and the spiritual energies inherent in each of the centers on the Tree.

One of the things I found most illuminating was the way the authors described the initial set of centers on the Tree and how this compares to our beginning experiences in our spiritual journey. I started off in a Vedic practice. Eastern philosophy focuses on transcending, on reaching enlightenment. There was no invitation to explore the current personality in my training, and I perked along quite happily for a while, meditating and having some nice experiences, growing quite naturally. Until I’d done enough meditating to start uprooting some of the intense issues seeded by my childhood. Then I hit a road block. My current practice gave me no guidance. Luckily, I found a Zen Buddhist therapist who helped me quite a bit, which was still in the Eastern tradition, but he loved Jung and Reich. Jung was a master of the Western tradition.

The Western path is quite different. Rather than starting with the top as the goal, it works its way through the personality, the more spiritual individuality, and lastly the transcendent. It offers more guidance to the student who runs smack dab into their issues and needs to deal with them before they can go any further. As an aside, I would say I recommend doing both types of meditation, which is a bit of heresy on both sides of this supposed divide, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another blog.

Hod as the library

Billington and Rees talk about this process of resolving personality issues in terms of the four bottom centers on the Tree. We are in Malkuth (earth) and in our journey to Yesod, we bounce back and forth between the two centers on the side pillars, Hod (Though/Mind) and Netzach (Feelings/Natural Energy). Once we’re no longer content to accept the conventional world in Malkuth, our hearts and minds are illuminated by the imagery and spiritual potential experienced in Yesod. As we walk our early path, we bounce around in our feelings and thoughts until the constructs in our personality are softened and the issues resolved. Then it is easier for us to go on to Tipareth, the home of Cosmic Consciousness, if we return to the Eastern side of spirituality.

This is only one of the many pleasures and lessons I took from this book. After their more in-depth analysis of the books, the authors discuss how to proceed on our own spiritual paths, examining initial attitudes and practices, such as not going for glitz and how to set up magical space, all the while showing how these issues are faced by the characters in the novels. Then they offer a series of guided meditations using the imagery from the novels. Each section ends with a suggested ritual to cap off the work with that particular sephirah and set of energies.

All in all, a great read for fans of Fortune’s novels and serious spiritual seekers alike. Click to buy.

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Cambodia’s Celestial City

It was in 1860 that a group of Chinese and Siamese tour guides cut through the dense jungle to reveal the great edifice of Angkor Wat to French naturalist Henri Mouhot. Many say that Mouhot discovered this great former seat of the Khmer Empire, but the place had long been known by local groups.

Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s celestial city, built to reflect and make concrete the spiritual cosmos. Each temple is considered the home to the god it is dedicated to. The statues, lingams and other artifacts were imbued with the spiritual signature of that god or goddess. Humans go to these temples to align themselves with that particular energy. Why? To raise their consciousness. To achieve enlightenment.

The Khemitians (Egyptians) had similar rituals. Once a statue or other symbol was completed, the Neter or particular spiritual energy was evoked so that statue radiated the energy of that Neter. People would go and sing or meditate in a particular temple to align with that energy. Those of you who have been to Sekhmet’s shrine in Karnack know what I’m talking about. She’s there. She will interact with you. She will advise and admonish you. Most of all, she will love you more than you can imagine. But I digress.

Angkor Wat is built to reflect the Hindu cosmos. In the center of the universe stands Mount Mehru, the cosmic axis mundi. This is represented by a tower or prasat in each temple that enshrines the principle deity. And I’ll bet when we get there, we’ll find a central core to the whole complex that represents the One Consciousness from which all the deities spring. Then in each temple, following sacred geometry principles, are “subordinate” towers dedicated to the deity’s spouse or “vehicle.” The periphery of the temple is for objects and things associated with the liturgy or ritual performances.

Now before we get too excited about this apparent hierarchy, remember that in Hindu cosmology, the god is the form of spirit, while the goddess (spouse) is the energy that makes the form active. Thus, “vehicle.” (In Western metaphysics, the language is almost the opposite, with masculine being energy and feminine being form, but if you read carefully, the principle is exactly the same.) This is sometimes misunderstood as “subordinate” or lesser than. But this is really a matter of time. The form exists, then is multiplied and spread through the energy of the female. But spiritually, the two are equal. One cannot exist without the other. It is only when the manifest universe dissolves at the end of a huge cycle, represented by one breath of the Great Mother, that the two fold back into the One Consciousness.

The Khmer rulers would take statues and objects from the temples to align their rule with the cosmos. In ancient Khemit, statues of the Neters were paraded in the town to spread the energy.

The outskirts of the city near Angkor Wat are also full of spiritual artifacts. Water was very important to the civilization and Shiva lingams were placed in the waterways to energize it. Water running into the pyramids in Khemit was energized through the sun and crystals. This video shows the “River of a Thousand Lingas.”

In the 16th century, the Theravadan Buddhists revitalized the site and are still active there today. Monks will lead us in a dawn chant on one of our days in Angkor Wat.

Our Cambodia Wisdom Tour is December 4th – 11th. I’m looking forward to exploring these temples and meditating in them. Sign up by the end of September.

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New Dion Fortune Novel

OMG, it’s good. At least I think so. I couldn’t put it down. Twin Eagles Publishing has released their second V.M. Steele novel, The Scarred Wrists. V.M. Steele is another of Dion Fortune’s pen names. She published four novels as Steele. The books were looked down upon at the time, rejected as trivial and commonplace.

Richard Brzustowicz found himself drawn in when he went to the British Library during a research trip and read them. He writes about this experience in his Foreword. This novel was published in the same year as Fortune’s occult novel The Winged Bull, 1935, and Brzustowicz explores how similar themes are present—a young, vital woman meets a man suffering ill health both mentally and physically and brings both of them new life by their interactions. One has magical content, the other doesn’t, or at least not overtly.

Julian Pharmakos, who has named himself after the Greek scapegoat, must have a red head for a secretary (so he can pass her off as his sister) and hires young, innocent Patricia Stone. But Pat, or Coppernob as she is affectionately nicknamed, is an illegitimate child raised by the resentful husband of her mother who is also his wife, and has had to fight every day for a place in the family that dislikes her. Pat’s father kicks her out of the house when she disobeys him and marches off to her new job the next morning. Pharmakos takes her in, not as a lover, but to protect her.

It turns out he’s a recent convict, now working as a private detective with ties to Scotland Yard and many police chiefs in the area. If you suspect shades of Sherlock, you’re right. Pharmakos has made his home in a dilapidated warehouse, leaving the exterior in its disrespectful condition, but fixing one floor for his exquisitely decorated open-floor home. Fortune anticipates 21st century design here. Having spent so much time in solitary confinement, his nerves can’t stand anything close to walls or prison bars. There’s another floor to fix for Pat. The relationship develops from there.

Fortune’s experience and knowledge as a psychologist is very much in evidence in this novel. She reveals why Pharmakos is in such bad shape, showing an understanding of what is basically PTSD, and demonstrates how it should be treated. One can see why many in the 1930s would have rejected this novel as below Fortune since she was from an upper crust family. The novel deals with the criminal class, and paints such a vivid, realistic picture of the types to be found in this world, one wonders where Fortune got this expertise. It must have been from her practice as a psychologist.

Like her other occult novels, the energetics that play between this young, practical and down-to-earth woman and this artistic, highly sensitive, emotional man result in a transformation of them both. The dynamics of magic are at play, but not obviously so. Another similarity in many of the novels is the mix of classes. Pat is from a solid, middle-class family, but it turns out Pharmakos is an aristocrat. And not just any aristocrat. The family has given the heir the same first name for over 1,000 years. He’s a de Claire, a background he rejects until the very end. The ever-practical Pat thinks that if there is a coronet to be worn, well, she might as well wear it.

This somewhat mitigates the race and class consciousness of the time on display in the book. The novel also suffers from what we writers like to call the “narrative knot,” where the story is downloaded in big chunks at times. Pharmakos nervous breakdowns got to be a bit much at times, but none of that really slowed me down. I enjoyed every minute of it. You probably will, too.

Buy The Scarred Wrists here.

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New Book on Arthurian History and Legend

John and Caitlin Matthews have come out with an excellent resource for all you Arthurian fans. The Complete King Arthur:  Many Faces, One Hero is just that—complete. It takes us from a thorough investigation of all the historical figures who could have been our Arthur straight through to contemporary reworkings of the story in books, films, opera, paintings, and song.

The Complete King Arthur: Many Faces, One Hero by [Matthews, John, Matthews, Caitlín]

Just where did this larger-than-life story come from? Oddly enough, one contender is the Arthur of Rome, Lucius Artorius Castus, a soldier sent to the north to defend the empire. The troops he oversaw fought on horses carrying long spears under a dragon banner. The book then explores both battle leaders and kings who lived a bit after Lucius, many of whom may have inspired the legend. Then there is the warrior, Arthur of the battles, who probably originated from the Book of Taliesin. The Matthews explore the battles of the 5th and 6th centuries, looking at Geoffrey of Monmouth’s list as well, trying to piece actual history together with his rather loose telling of the story.

Next the Matthews jump into what I find more compelling, the Arthur of myth, exploring the oldest tellings of the tales. They show how Arthur became a symbol of the sovereignty and unity of Britain (which is more Wales than England during these times), then show how Arthur grew from a rather brutal warrior of the Dark Ages into a medieval king. Many British monarchs created ancestral bloodlines that directly connected them to King Arthur, a bit tricky since we can’t really say for sure who he was. Several had Arthurian stories enacted for their courts, allowing the lords and ladies to dress as these characters. Even as late as the 19th century, Queen Victoria had William Dyce painted her robing room with Arthurian frescos. Arthur represented ideal governance, fairness, emphasizing equality, helping those in need, rescuing damsels in distress, and searching for the Holy Grail—that enduring symbol of enlightenment.


The Matthews trace how the Grail became associated with the Arthurian legend. Also how Merlin, who was not much present in the early tellings, became a central figure along with Lancelot, another late-comer. Some eras emphasize the supposed indiscretions of Guinevere and Lancelot, while others the quests and adventures. The Matthews point out that each age molds the story to reflect their own ideals and problems.

The book finishes up with a thorough examination of those who have told the tale of Camelot through the ages, starting with Taliesin and Geoffrey of Monmouth, to Chretien de Troyes, to Mallory, Tennyson, T.H. White, Mary Stewart and up to the late 20th century and early 21st with writers such as Marion Zimmer Bradley and on into writers whom I haven’t read yet, but am eager to dive into.

If you’re a fan of Arthur and all things related to this story, you’ll find something of interest in this book.

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Metaphysical Writer Alan Richardson

I know many of you like metaphysical and visionary fiction. In case you haven’t read him yet, here’s another writer for you:  Alan Richardson. Richardson has published many books, both fiction and even more nonfiction.

I’ve just finished his latest novel, The Lightbearer, a tale of the ending of World War II and the Piscean Age, replete with modern figures who bear curious resemblances to mythical figures. Michael Horsett’s plane crashes, but his parachute catches him in a tree—hanging upside down with one leg crossed over another. Remind you of the Hanged Man? Plus his last name breaks down to Hor (Horus) and Sett (Set)—a combination of two Egyptian Gods. And a group of women recognize him as such. They have deep tantric plans for him—much to his delight. At first. You can play a game with this novel finding all the Tarot characters or pathways on the Tree of Life. Or just enjoy it. The novel is written in his characteristic witty, slightly irreverent, occasionally violent or shocking, but always revelatory style.

The bio I find most often for him is this one from Llewellyn’s website:  “Alan Richardson was born in Northumberland, England, in 1951, and has been writing on the topic of magic for many years.  He does not belong to any occult group or society, does not take pupils, and does not give lectures on any kind of initiation.  He insists on holding down a full-time job in the real world like any other mortal.  That, after all, is part and parcel of the real magical path.  He is married with four children and lives very happily in a small village in the southwest of England.”

I’ve also read On Winsley Hill, the story of Rosie, a visionary who sees into the past and into the nature of standing stones and other sites. An American archaeologist finds her and uses her talents, awakening the Goddess who engages in a somewhat debased, but still effective reenactment of the old rites at the end of the novel.

Then there’s The Fat Git, a modern day slacker Merlin whose job is, as always, to protect the  lands. But Vivienne distracts him while Mr. Vortig brings earthmovers in to demolish the sacred circle and build a monument to capitalism. Will Elaine and Yvonne wake him in time?

There are other novels that I haven’t read yet, but look forward to exploring, plus he’s written biographies of Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley, Christine Hartley and William G. Gray along with books on magic. His Inner Guide to Egypt will intrigue many of you if you’re prepared to do a little meditation.

There’s an interesting interview with him from Skylight Press. Here’s his Amazon page for those who want to explore more.


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On a Personal Note

Week before last, I had a stem cell treatment for my hip. I’d been struggling for a few years with arthritis, trying many alternative treatments that helped, but the blasted thing just kept getting worse. Since I love to travel, I knew I’d have to do something more serious sooner or later. Last summer, I got a chance to go to Peru, so I broke down and had a steroid injection just so I could climb all those magnificent sites. And I did it! But steroids don’t last and they’re toxic, so I started researching both hip replacement and stem cell treatment. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can differentiate and divide, creating new tissue.

I’ve always been a fan of natural medicine. It’s my first go-to. For me, allopathic medicine has its place—especially for serious accidents and as a last resort—but often there are better options.

I got to know more quite a bit about natural medicine in my life. After graduate school, I worked at Bastyr University in Seattle part time. For those who don’t know, Bastyr is one of only a few schools for naturopaths in the US. When I worked there, the headquarters was in an old elementary school, but now they have a 51-acre campus.

My partner all during the 80’s and into the 90’s was a naturopath, Ruth Adele, who now practices in Colorado Springs. She and I became professionals together, me a professor and she a doctor, and I watched her become one of the best naturopaths I know.

The problem with stem cells is the same problem with much natural medicine—health insurance doesn’t cover it. Insurance is covering more and more natural procedures and eventually, I think the two fields will come together, but this might not happen in my life time. Hip replacements are covered and everyone I talked to said they’re pretty easy these days and recovery time not so bad. But when I stared at that artificial hip in the doctor’s office, something in me just couldn’t quite say yes.

So I saved some money from an extra gig and finally did it. And I am really glad I did! I’m healing well, my pain is way down, and I’m very hopeful I’ll be traveling pain-free soon.

We have several options here in Colorado for stem cell treatment, but the Centeno-Schultz Clinic has been doing research on stem cells and treatments for fifteen years now. People travel from all over to come to it. That’s who I went to. They have a clinic here in Broomfield and one in the Cayman Islands where they can do the best treatment of growing your stem cells so you have gobs of them and reinjecting them at a later date. The US doesn’t allow this now, but it’s done in all over Europe and Asia. You can travel there to have it done, too. But that was a bit out of my price range, so I went for same-day reinjection. I instructed my bones to grow a bunch of stem cells and my doctor said I had the best harvest that day. So visualization and meditation, plus a really skilled doctor did the trick.

This clinic does two PRP injections, one before and one after, to really bring the best healing to the area. That’s Platelet Rich Plasma, a concentration from you own blood of the prime healing factors in the body. Those little suckers really go to work. The stem cells (pictured here) are harvested from your own body as well (iliac crest for you technical folks) and reinjected in between those two PRP shots. Yes, I was a pin cushion, but surprisingly the injections are not as painful as I’d anticipated. The stem cell harvesting was a breeze, but they give you just a little chemical help.

So now I’m growing a new hip. Part of one at least. I still have to be careful with the new tissue, but it will grow stronger and stronger. I’m glad I made this decision.

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