Dion Fortune's "Mystical Meditations on the Collects"
The following posts offer a weekly resumé of Dion Fortune's interpretation of the 'Collects.' The Collects are a series of Christian prayers and invocations, one for each week of the year, but DF's interpretation of them comes from a more inclusive spiritual understanding which she hoped would speak to those of many faiths. Her comments bring out the universal spiritual truths behind the prayers and reveal how they contain words of wisdom for all seekers.
Dion Fortune's full commentary on the Collects can be found in her book 'Mystical Meditations on the Collects.' but we hope that these excerpts will provide a useful summary of her thoughts on this subject. They make a fascinating addition to her better-known and more 'occult' work.
A Brief Introduction to "Mystical Meditations on the Collects"
The title of Dion Fortune's book: ‘Mystical Meditations on the Collects’ gives the impression that it is likely to be 'Churchianity' in tone and will therefore have little to do with magic. In fact the book is very much to do with magic as the art of "causing changes in consciousness according to will." It might more accurately be entitled 'Magical Meditations on the Collects.'
As DF explains in her preface, her purpose is to demonstrate how the underlying wisdom of 'The Collects’ is based on universal spiritual truths rather than the orthodox interpretation of Christianity. She writes: "The presentation adopted in these pages may not only cause scandal to the orthodox, but also to the heterodox…”
Briefly, a ‘Collect’ is a short invocation which gathers together the intentions of a group of people. Although the Collects are usually associated with the Church, their structure is very similar to the magical practice of invocation, which traditionally is made in five stages:
The first stage identifies the god or goddess whose help is requested
The second stage describes the particular quality or aspect of that god or goddess which is relevant to the present invocation
The third stage defines as precisely as possible the nature of the request
The fourth stage describes the hoped for outcome
The fifth stage asks for the compassion and blessing of the god or goddess thus invoked
We might for example invoke Athene, focus on her aspect of wisdom and ask for her help in understanding an aspect of esoteric teaching. Our goal is to reach a greater knowledge of ourselves and increased clarity as to the choices we should make in the challenges that face us. Holding this in mind, we invoke Athene and attune our minds to her wisdom.
N.B. The time and tradition in which these Collects were written means that they use only the term 'God' in reference to the Deity. Readers may wish to substitute alternatives such as Goddess, or Spirit.
01 Thought for the week beginning 3rd January 2021: The Epiphany
Keynote: Seeing with the eyes of the spirit
It is worth bringing to mind the meaning of the word 'Epiphany' which is: "a sudden perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an illuminating discovery or realisation; an intuitive grasp of reality through something apparently simple."
As Dion Fortune reminds us in her commentary on this Collect, the Wise Men in whose name we celebrate 'The Epiphany' saw much that others did not see, such as the symbolism of the star in the East and the spiritual significance of the new-born babe in the stable.
This Collect asks for the ability to see beyond the outer form of things, to discern the energy that lies behind them and causes their outward appearance.
Developing the ability to see the world with the eyes of the spirit can take a lifetime of trying, but we can make a start simply by wanting to do it. And it makes the perfect New Year's Resolution.
02 Week beginning 10th January 2021
Keynotes: Wisdom, Courage
The Collect for this week asks for the ability to "perceive and know what things we ought to do..... "
Dion Fortune's interpretation of this Collect is that In situations of uncertainty, rather than make hasty or arbitrary decisions it is better to pause for a while in order to contact a higher Wisdom and to gain a better perspective of what is causing the present situation. With the benefit of a more insightful perception, we can then begin to make appropriate changes - not forgetting to ask for courage in making them and carrying them through.
03 Week beginning 17h January 2121
“Grant us thy peace all the days of our life……”
When we desire peace for ourselves, our first thoughts often tend towards the stress, anxiety and internal conflict that we would like to get rid of. When our thoughts turn to peace in the word, we also tend to think of this in terms of the removal of conflict.
Dion Fortune reminds us that the invocation in this Collect is made to the ultimate source of all Life, the One Deity of "all things in heaven and earth." She suggests that real peace is not achieved simply by removing stress or conflict but through our understanding of how all things in the universe are interconnected. She suggests that when we have a better knowledge of the cause of things, of why things are as they are, then we can reach a place of acceptance and understanding which ultimately will lead to a deeper and lasting peace.
04 Week beginning 24th January 2121
The words of this week's Collect are: "Almighty and Everlasting God, look mercifully upon our infirmities….."
'Infirmity' is uppermost in everybody's mind at the moment, with daily reminders of the devastating personal and global consequences of the pandemic. We can - should? - pray for Divine mercy, but it may also be helpful to try to look upon our own selves with mercy and compassion. If we can reach an acceptance of where we are now, at this very moment, then this may be a step towards future healing and wholeness.
05 Week beginning 31st January 2021
Keynote: Protection from evil
The Collect for this week asks for strength and protection "in the midst of so many and great dangers" because "by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright."
Many of us are more aware than at any other time of "so many and great dangers" in the current pandemic.
The vivid but perhaps surprising image in this Collect is of "standing upright." If we stand in this position, and take a deep breath, it enables a clear flow of energy to be channelled through our entire selves, integrating body, mind and spirit, and connecting heaven with earth.
It's a simple thing to do, but it can be remarkably effective.
06 Week beginning 7th February 2021
Keynote: True religion
The Collect for this week asks: “Oh Lord, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion…..”
In her commentary on this Collect, rather than becoming distracted by debate as to what constitutes ‘true’ religion,' Dion Fortune emphasises the importance of the word continually. The Collect asks for help in our continued perception and understanding of spiritual truth, not least by acknowledging that our perception and understanding need continual revision. As we progress along the Path, what we believed to be true yesterday, may not seem so today.
The secret to this, DF reminds us, is to become still...and to adopt a 'humbleness of mind.' Then we may realise that the 'truth' is found through our individual perception of the power of the spirit rather than in this, or that, religion.
07 Message for week beginning 14th February 2021
This Collect asks that we may purify ourselves even as Christ was pure.
"How is this to be achieved?" Dion Fortune asks, with good reason! How can we achieve 'purity' in body, mind and spirit? And yet somehow we know that this is what we must aim for.
Dion Fortune tells us that even the practice of constant vigilance will not suffice. What works better, she suggests, is to set aside a few minutes each day in order to enter the Silence. When we listen to the Silence we can reconnect with the spirit. And then, purity will begin to occur of its own accord and in its own perfect way.
08 Message for the week beginning 21st February 2121
Keynote: Forgiveness of Sins
This Collect observes that we are ‘justly punished for our offences’ and asks that we should be ‘mercifully delivered by thy goodness….’
We have come a long way from the 'Thou Shalt Not' rules of the Ten Commandments. Our belief as to what constitutes a 'sin' or 'offence' has changed according to our own changing awareness, our sense of compassion and our understanding of the needs of others.
Dion Fortune acknowledges this when she writes: "If we applied to our spiritual life some of the knowledge which a deeper understanding of the human mind is bringing to light, we might get an insight into the nature of much suffering which we fondly believe to be vicarious."
09 Message for the week beginning 28th February 2021
Keynote: Be still, and know that I am God
Achieving 'stillness' is so difficult. Too much to do, busy thoughts and overwhelming feelings are all familiar, each coming between us and 'stillness.' Lots of Doing, not enough Being.
Dion Fortune comments on a realisation that can emerge when we do achieve stillness. She writes: " Let us remember that we live in this One Life and not in any separate struggling existence of our own; it is only a delusion of the senses to think that we have to maintain our separate existences; we simply have to Be still, and ‘know that I am God."
10 Message for the week beginning 7th March 2021
The Collect for this week asks: ‘…..pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of Charity…’
Dion Fortune comments that the word 'Charity' is translated as 'Love' in the Revised version of the New Testament, but that perhaps a better translation might be 'Compassion.'
Compassion is empathy, understanding, care and concern for others, kindness, fellow-feeling, tolerance and goodwill.
Suppose that instead of saying: "My Passion is........." we say: "My Compassion is......"
11 Message for the week beginning 14th March 2021
Keynote: We shine with reflected light
The Collect for this week begins: “ Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves….”
Surely, we have power to help ourselves? Dion Fortune observes with good reason that many folk are likely to take exception to this statement!
But she explains...."We do not live with our own Life, but because there is at the heart of each one of us a Divine Spark from the Central Fire which is God. It is by this one Divine Spark that we live."
Ultimately, we have to realise the truth of this....and then, the potential of unlimited spiritual power can begin to flow through us.
12 Message for the week beginning 21st March 2121
It is now a year since the first 'lcckdown' in the UK. A year ago, it felt appropriate to quote the complete Collect in addition to Dion Fortune's response and interpretation. The post of a year ago is repeated here, offering an opportunity to observe any inner and outer changes that may have taken place during the last 12 months.
"We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Dion Fortune comments: "In quietness and in confidence shall be hour strength.....For this week, then let those who are prepared to abide the issue and follow the right, whatever it may turn out to be, invoke the power of God upon their "hearty desires" and their enemies equally; they may see unexpected changes; they may find there is a price to pay; but they will come out into green pastures and in the end will be at peace."
13 Message for the week beginning 28th March 2121 Palm Sunday
Keynote: "Take up thy cross and follow me."
The language of the Collect for Palm Sunday may be more difficult to accept if you are not of the Christian faith. But Dion Fortune's commentary offers a more universal view:
She writes: "....few souls can go by the Way of the Cross in its Mystical sense, but all can use their experience of life as a means of helping others. Let our own sufferings teach us sympathy. Let our own limitations teach us mercy."
14 Message for the week beginning 4th April 2021(Easter Sunday)
The Collect for this week focusses on the ways in which Christ's death and resurrection 'opened unto us the gate of everlasting life.'
Dion Fortune emphasises that for us, 'overcoming death' is achieved when we are able to lift our consciousness to a realisation of spiritual existence - or in other words eternal life - here and now, on earth, in each moment.
15 Message for the week beginning 12th April 2021
The Collect for this first Sunday after Easter asks that we should "..put away the leaven of malice and wickedness...."
The use of the word 'leaven' in this context is interesting.. The dictionary defines leaven as: 'to make rise, puff up, expand' - a good description of what can happen when we work ourselves up with blame, gossip and resentment!
The Collect continues: "....that we may always serve Thee in pureness of living, and truth;....."
Dion Fortune observes that purity (of life) does not mean denial or emasculation but the right use of energy, in the right place and at the right time. It is the intrusion of energy from a lower plane onto a higher plane which causes 'impurity.' She gives an example: "The instincts which we share with the animals are noble and pure upon their own plane; it is only when they swamp the affections that they are impure."
16 Message for the week beginning 18th April 2021
Keynote: "Give us thy Grace”
The Collect for this week is a prayer for Divine Grace, and Dion Fortune asks us to think about what 'grace' means to us. We rarely use the word nowadays, except as a girl's name or perhaps we remember the short prayer that used to be said before meals. DF suggests that Grace could be defined as the "energising of the spiritual nature" and "the filling of our whole being with light and enlightenment."
She adds: "If we prayed for grace instead of specific benefits, we should not find that our prayers so often had no apparent answer. "
17 Message for the week beginning 25th April 2121
Keynote: The enlightened understanding
The Collect for this week begins: "Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of Thy truth..."
How often do we protest: 'I'm not arguing, I'm explaining why I'm right!"
A better approach, DF suggests, is to "...go apart into the Silence in order to get our bearings, otherwise we shall wander by the way." She continues: "Our greatest safeguard in these matters is humility; a clearsighted recognition that even our loftiest endeavours may be misplaced, our highest ideals mistaken.......For this week, let us set ourselves the task of sacrificing upon the altar of Truth our self-esteem...."
18 Message for the week beginning 2nd May 2021
Keynote: The Joy of the Spirit
Dion Fortune's observation on this Collect is very much in tune with the ethos of her 'Glastonbury Tor meditation.' She writes: "Let us meditate on the unity of all manifested existence and our own relationship to it, then shall we desire to be in harmony with that of which we are an integral part, and this desire, steadily followed, will bring us to the state where true joys are to be found."