Wednesday 29 January 2020

The spiritual Battle of Britain - then and now

I am reading a book that was recommended by my Albion Awakening co-authors: The Magical Battle of Britain, a selection of letters from the Second World War by Dion Fortune, edited by Gareth Knight (1993). 

Dion Fortune was the pseudonym of Violet Mary Firth, who was perhaps the most respected and influential magical practitioner of modern times to come from Britain; and importantly, from my point of view, she was a sincere and devout Christian - of an Esoteric kind.

Her idea was that - after war was declared, and as Britain prepared for the possibility of invasion, it was important to encourage people by spiritual means: to build-up the folk and racial soul of the British; by means of directed meditations of many people.

Reading the book, it seems distinctly possible to me that what she did was of genuine benefit - especially when regarded as one specific manifestation of a spiritual 'mobilisation' that had multiple facets - most obviously seen with Winston Churchill becoming the national leader.

It is noteworthy that DF herself displayed an extremely unusual, and admirable, combination of strength of character, creative inspiration, ethical solidity - and yet a disinterested and altruistic absence of ego.

What she 'asked for' in these magical-group-meditations was always, it seems, very carefully restricted to the spiritual level (not seeking specific physical results, not personal advantage); and was therefore benign. She was, in her small scale fashion, one of the rare examples of an effective and natural woman leader - a mini Elizabeth the First!

However, as I read I also developed the conviction that this Magical Battle of Britain was probably the last time that such a thing was possible. Indeed, even before the end of the 39-45 war, the British national consciousness had changed qualitatively - and in the direction of being both less spiritual, and less group-ish.

The way that Dion Fortune used symbolism (sword, sceptre, grail), the concept of a national soul which was also a racial soul, the use of visualisation (eg of guarding angels)... these are essentially the spiritual categories of an earlier, pre-modern phase of human consciousness. By 1939 they were merely residual in the spirit of Albion; and became possible and effective only briefly and for one more time, under the exceptional demands of that era.

Very rapidly afterwards there was a dwindling and disappearance of both symbolic power, and the capacity of an individual to immerse in the group-soul. Before the war was done, Britain had begun to become pretty much what it is now; materialistic and anti-Christian; hedonically aiming at 'comfort and convenience'; and its national ideology established as Leftist-bureaucratic and totalitarian (as Orwell made clear, based on his wartime experiences).

My understanding is that these changes were underlain by that developmental change in British consciousness which was only briefly interrupted by the Swan Song described in the Magical Battle of Britain.

As symbolism and immersive group spirituality dwindled and then became impossible; so the churches dwindled, leftist-hedonic-materialism waxed.

And (as I see it, anyway!) the necessity for a Romantic Christianity became incrementally more and more obvious and urgent.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Dion Fortune was a good person and a genuine Christian. She was also a consistent and uncompromising opponent of all aspects of the sexual revolution.

John Fitzgerald said...

The question for me is are the symbols DF used now truly redundant or have they just temporarily fallen out of fashion? In the event of another war or similar crisis, it'd be interesting to see if people spontaneously reach out to these time-hallowed images and motifs or if our contemporary Dion Fortunes (if any remain) are left evoking ancient British powers with no response at all from a public who no longer think, feel or imagine in this way. If the latter case wins out then that's definitely a victory for the Devil, who would be very pleased to render nugatory such a vivifying stream of national consciousness and spirituality. I'd like to think, however, that the former scenario represents the true state of things, despite current appearances. This sort of symbolism is definitely 'alive and kicking' for me, for instance, yet I also know that most people - on the surface, at least - do not respond to such things in the way I do.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas "Dion Fortune was a good person and a genuine Christian. She was also a consistent and uncompromising opponent of all aspects of the sexual revolution."

The former almost always entails the latter; past as well as present.

@John - Well, I would regard the situation as I stated it; and that symbolism is now powerfully effective at the individual level - but only for certain individuals; and as a part of the Romantic Christianity of direct personal experience, rather than as a part of organised/ riual group-activity.

For me, that is the postwar challenge we face.

Sean fowler said...

to build-up the folk and racial soul of the British; by means of directed meditations of many people. Good magic.
Interesting to note that the complete opposite has occurred. A broken down folk and racial soul, by means of the directed meditations of a multitude. Been of the opinion that the greater proportion of the populace has been under a wicked spell for a very long time.

jana gatien said...

Maybe there is something else happening. We seem to be at a time when all collective-related identifications are dissolving. While previously, I've been of the opinion that one cannot transcend what one has not fully embodied. This would entail a knowledge and embracing of one's heritage, nation, history, etc. (That one's earthly identity must be embodied in order to transcend it ...) But now that folk identity is lost to most countries in the west. Indeed, I'm in Canada, where its sense of culture & nationhood was only ever non-descript & immature at best. My ancestry, for example, reaches back to Scotland, Ireland & Belgium, and I've never even been to those places. Now Canada is a leftist, godless nebula. Mush. Inverted and eating itself, being "nice" while ideological worms burrow the psyche, both the collective's and the individual's (as most are empire-groomed collectivist slaves mistaking themselves for free individuals).

I see the dissolution of earthly heritage-folk knowledge dissolving everywhere. Is it relevant to resurrect this heritage or is it only our spiritual heritage that we are, perhaps urgently, being called to focus on right now, in these final chapters? Are we to see the bigger picture and themes of the earthly story itself? Is it no longer relevant or timely to focus, perhaps sentimentally, on the stories of our tribe or geography?

Maybe I think this could be so because it lends relief from having no such legacy, no elders, no genuine historical accounts to depend on. Is this rootlessness in a sea of chaotic cul-de-sacs to be the final catalyst for those inclined to connect with Christ to transcend the world of death? Everything happening now must have a spiritual purpose. I'm not sure God would allow it if it didn't.

Epimetheus said...

Another Canadian! Hi Jana!

If all the old nations and identities are dead, maybe we're meant to generate new culture we can really believe in. Instead of trying to connect with heritage, we're meant to exercise pure creativity for ourselves. I see this already in the huge variety of small-time Youtube channels - this is the television that the young are invested in.

Nobody's really motivated by someone else's hopes and dreams. Modern workplaces are full of shambling zombies. No-one really cares about second-hand culture. Everyone online pretends to for clicks. The ultimate in motivation is working on our own hopes and dreams and creative ideas.

Ranger said...

Were the Inklings in any way involved with that? Sounds like something in the alley of at least some of them. And it stirs the imagination to think that, even if they didn't, their work during this period was somehow helped by this spiritual battle.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ranger - A good question. Probably not, but...

Only Charles Williams was involved in this kind of rituatl magic, and he had left his main magical societies by this time. However CW did have a group - Companions of the Co-Inherence - who practiced group activities with some resemblence to ritual magic - they were not necessarily or explicitly Christian.

However, I think this group focused on personal support, mainly. But of course, they were a closed society, much was 'secret', and it is quite possible that they did perform coordinated prayer-meditation related to the war - it would not surprise me. Grevel Lindop's biography of CW is the best source about his magical activities.

If you are interesting in this matter, generally, then Gareth Knight, the editor of the Magical B of B also wrote a good book called the Magical World of the Inklings. His approach is not much use for Tolkien IMO, but surprisingly enlightening for Lewis; and MWotI was written with help from Barfield - who was an Anthroposophist, hence used to the idea of thinking influencing society.

Knight wrote his book before Lindop, so didn't have the full picture of CW's magical activities.

John Fitzgerald said...

There are a couple of really good papers given by Edward Gauntlett on CW's magical activities in the archive of the CW Society Quarterly. They date from the 2000s. If you just google 'Edward Gauntlett' and 'Charles Williams Society' they should come up. I think The Magical World of the Inklings is an outstanding book. I agree with Bruce that the material on Tolkien isn't as full as it might have been, but the sections on the other Inklings are excellent in every way - stimulating, revealing, and deeply imaginative.

Michael D. said...

Mr. Knight's own two volume set on Qabalistic symbolism was good reading years ago. I don't know what his personal allegiances are, but his texts had really positive treatment of Christianity as well as being unabashedly critical of sexual liberation. I guess now I'd say they were really un-PC. Anyway, that really impressed me back in the day, as he stood in sharp opposition to most other writers on the subject that I've read by then.

Bruce Charlton said...

Yes, Gareth Knight is a Christian (received Anglican), like his spiritual-mentor Dion Fortune (both are pseudonyms!)- I wasn't sure about his views on the sexual revolution, but in his autobiography it seems clear he was a serious family man (one wife, two kids) and certainly he never advocates 'liberation'.

Probably that was a major reason for his long and successful activity in running Esoteric groups, because these are most typically broken-up by sexual tensions, problems or abuses when they are sexually 'liberated' in their activities and practices.