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.
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.