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 2nd January 2022: The Epiphany
Keynote: Seeing with the eyes of the spirit
The meaning of the word 'Epiphany' 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 perceive and attune to the energy that 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. "Energy follows thought."
And it makes the perfect New Year's Resolution!
02 Week beginning 9th January 2022
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 it is best to pause for a while in order to contact a higher source of Wisdom. With the benefit of a more insightful perception, we can then begin to make appropriate changes - not forgetting to ask for courage in carrying them through.
03 Week beginning 16th January 2022
“Grant us thy peace all the days of our life……”
When we hope to achieve peace within 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 and how things are as they are, then we can reach a place of acceptance and understanding - which ultimately becomes a deeper and lasting peace.
04 Week beginning 23rd January 2022
The words of this week's Collect are: "Almighty and Everlasting God, look mercifully upon our infirmities….."
'Infirmity' is 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 will be a sure and certain step towards future healing and wholeness.
05 Week beginning 30th January 2022
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."
The vivid if 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 can be remarkably effective.
06 Week beginning 6th February 2022
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, Dion Fortune suggests that rather than being distracted by debate as to what constitutes "true’ religion" we should focus on the word "continually." The Collect asks for help in our continued perception and understanding of spiritual truth, not least by acknowledging that this may need regular revision. As we progress along the Path, what we believed to be true yesterday may not seem so today, and is likely to change again tomorrow.
The secret, DF reminds us, is in becoming 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 13th February 2022
This Collect asks that we may purify ourselves even as Christ was pure as this will make us "heirs of eternal life."
"How is this to be achieved?" Dion Fortune asks, with good reason! She advises that the practice of constant vigilance and attention to the details of everyday life is not the way. What works better, she suggests, is the simple practice of setting aside a few minutes each day in order to enter the Silence.
"Whatever else has to be crowded out, let us cling to those few minutes apart in the Silence."
08 Message for the week beginning 20th February 2022
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….’
Humanity has come a long way since the forbidding 'Thou Shalt Not' laws of the Ten Commandments were considered to be appropriate guidance for humanity. Equally, our understanding of what constitutes a 'sin' or 'offence' has changed, as has 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 27th February 2022
Keynote: Be still......
Dion Fortune observes that we can only travel alone for a certain distance along the Path, and then we must be still "and listen for the coming of a Presence which is not of this plane of existence." She adds that "what we uncomprehendingly call God is the Logical Consciousness which has projected this universe as a thought-form....."
She continues: "The Candidate has to await the Great Initiator" and this initiation will be an experience of union through love with the God we recognise, whether we are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu.....Let us for our work in meditation this week try to be still and feel God all about us...."
10 Message for the week beginning 6th March 2022
The Collect for this First Sunday in Lent refers to the spiritual purpose of the practice of abstinence. Dion Fortune observes that “Self-inflicted suffering can never be pleasing to God as such, and if undertaken for that purpose it defeats itself…”
But, she continues, it is the “small self-denials…which are the gymnastics of the soul and keep it strong and supple to meet the sudden crises that test its stamina.”
She advocates that we use the period of Lent to “marry effort to desire” and to focus on dedicating our lower nature to spiritual purpose.
11 Message for the week beginning 13th March 2022
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….”
Dion Fortune observes that many of us are likely to take exception to this statement! Surely we have power to help ourselves? But, she continues: "The realisation that we have no power of ourselves is the beginning of omnipotence."
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.....it is indestructible in its existence and unlimited in the spiritual power that can be drawn through it. Did we but realise its significance we should be as gods in the true sense....."
12 Message for the week beginning 20th March 2022
Keynote: Cast out the beam that is in thy own eye
The Collect for this week makes two apparently contradictory requests: that God should look upon our ‘hearty desires,’ but should also protect and defend us from “all our enemies.”
Dion Fortune observes that we cannot ask for one without the other. While her advice will seem particularly challenging in the current world conflict, there is surely a rightness in her suggestion that we should invoke the power of God equally upon our enemies and our own ‘hearty desires.’
13 Message for the week beginning 27th March 2022
Keynote: Expiation by realisation
This week’s Collect addresses a profound aspect of the Law of Redemption and the ab-reaction of evil. Dion Fortune affirms that the consequence of wrong can always be redeemed by true spiritual healing. This takes place initially by the soul’s realisation of its problems and needs, and then through the invocation of divine Grace.
Regarding the nature of the mysterious force of ‘Grace’ she observes that it might be compared to electricity: we know it for what it does rather than for what it is. “It must suffice to say that a prayer for God’s grace brings a very powerful response.”
Belief in the existence of Grace must however be the first step, even though we may find it very difficult to define.
14 Message for the week beginning 3rd April 2022
Keynote: “In God we live and move and have our being”
The Collect for this week asks that we may be ‘governed and preserved, both in body and soul.' Dion Fortune reminds us that “God is the beginning and end of our existence, and His Nature is our law. Always must we come back to the One Existence.”
She adds: “God does not give us peace in answer to our prayer, but by our prayer we bring ourselves into harmony with God…all the time we are governed and preserved. The inharmony exists only in our lack of realisation and our fear.”
15 Message for the week beginning 11th April 2022 Palm Sunday
Keynote: "Take up thy cross and follow me."
These words from the Collect for Palm Sunday may be more difficult to accept if you are not of the Christian faith. Dion Fortune's commentary offers a more universal view, and 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.”
We might also consider the symbolism of the equal-armed Rose Cross rather than the Calvary Cross. The Rose Cross indicates the ability to extend our awareness both 'horizontally' through our environment to include all living creatures, and 'vertically' into the spiritual worlds. When we are able to hold both of these extensions of awareness simultaneously, we have ourselves become the Rose.
16 Message for the week beginning 17th April 2022 (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 each individual, 'overcoming death' can be achieved when we are able to lift our consciousness to a realisation of spiritual existence - eternal life - here and now, on earth, in each present moment.
17 Message for the week beginning 24th April 2022
The Collect for this first Sunday after Easter asks that we should "..put away the leaven of malice and wickedness...."
The dictionary defines leaven as: 'to make rise, puff up, expand' - a good description of what can happen if we work ourselves up with criticism, gossip or resentment.
The Collect continues: "....that we may always serve Thee in pureness of living, and truth;....."
Dion Fortune observes that achieving purity does not require denial or emasculation, but is the right use of energy, in the right place 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."
18 Message for the week beginning 1st May 2022
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 the concept of 'grace' means to us. We rarely use the word nowadays, unless to mean 'elegant.' DF suggests that Divine Grace could be defined as the "energising of the spiritual nature" and "the filling of our whole being with light and enlightenment." These are surely worth praying for!
She adds: "If we prayed for grace instead of specific benefits, we should not find that our prayers so often had no apparent answer. "
19 Message for the week beginning 8th May 2022
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 say, in so many words: 'I'm not arguing, I'm explaining why I'm right!"
Rather than be critical, or irritated, by the words or actions of others, a better approach, Dion Fortune 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......."
20 Message for the week beginning 15th May 2022
Keynote: The Joy of the Spirit
Dion Fortune's observation on this Collect is very much in keeping with the spirit of her 'Glastonbury Tor' meditation which, above all, encourages us to develop an awareness of our connectedness with all living things.
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."
21 Message for the week beginning 22nd May 2022
Keynote: Divine guidance
The Collect for this week asks that “….by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by Thy merciful guidance may perform the same….”
If only we could be sure what is 'good.'
Dion Fortune reminds us that what we personally believe to be good is rarely the whole picture! We do better to try to lift our consciousness to the highest spiritual level that we can manage so that "the circle of our vision circumscribes the universe." Then, we will gain a better understanding of what really is 'good' - for the whole of humanity.
22 Message for the week beginning 29th May 2022 (Sunday after Ascension Day)
Keynote: The Holy Spirit
The Collect for this week asks that after the ascension of Christ into Heaven, the comfort of the Holy Spirit should be sent to those who remain on earth.
As Dion Fortune observes: "We know little in conventional Christianity concerning the nature and office of the Holy Ghost (Spirit.)" She suggests that we think of this as the aspect of Deity that relates to the things of the mind: ".....through the work of the Holy Spirit we find understanding and illumination."
By way of example, she points to the special Wisdom and possible Initiation given by Christ to his disciples in the Upper Room. She contrasts his teaching of these deeper secrets of his Mysteries to this small group, with the more readily accessible message that was given to all followers.
23 Message for the week beginning 5th June 2022
Keynote: The descent of power
This is Whitsunday, or Pentecost, which Dion Fortune describes as one of the most powerful and positive times of the year. "......when the great Power-tides descend upon the world, we shall receive of the spiritual forces according to our utmost need and capacity."
In her Rite of the Master Jesus, she concludes the celebration of the Eucharist by describing how the power of the Holy Spirit descended upon the Disciples while they were seated in the Upper Room. She believed that this power was available to all, not just to this group of Disciples.
The full text of her Rite of the Master Jesus, and many of the teaching papers that accompany it, are available on this website.
24 Message for the week beginning 12th June 2022
Keynote: Mystical Understanding
This week's Collect is for Trinity Sunday, a trinity which is recognised in the Christian Church as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Many other religions and spiritual systems also recognise the essential three-fold nature of the universe but use terms such as Energy, Substance and Consciousness, or Life, Love and Wisdom.
Dion Fortune offers an alternative interpretation of these three creative principles as faith, intuition and reasoning. Faith, she writes, is an "opinion based on intuition rather than upon logical grounds." However, she adds, it is this which allows us to gain a realisation of the triple nature of Deity. Once we have made this realisation we are no longer dependent upon 'blind faith' but have achieved a truly Mystical Understanding.
25 Message for the week beginning 19th June 2022
Keynote: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal”
Dion Fortune notes how frequently the Collects encourage us to rely upon God rather than relying on our own strength. She reminds us that this should not be thought of as a sign of weakness, but rather It means that the scene of our struggles shifts from the physical plane to the Inner planes. When we do this, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. "(2 Corinthians, 10: 4-6)
She continues: "Those who understand the significance of the Inner Life keep still upon the mundane plane when great events are toward, for they know that the mundane plane is the plane of effects, and that all causation is in the unseen.”
If we can preserve stillness on the mundane plane, even when pressing events appear to call for immediate action - then we have taken a step towards creating a real and lasting peace.
And if, subsequently, action seems necessary, then it is more likely to be rightful and appropriate to the situation rather than a personal and emotional reaction.