Dion Fortune (1890-1946) was born Violet Mary Firth to a wealthy English steel manufacturing clan who had moved to Wales. The family motto – Deo, Non Fortuna – “God, Not Fortune” was coined by her grandfather. Her mother (and possibly her father) was interested in Christian Science, and from the age of four Violet began having visions of lost Atlantis.
In 1913, while attending an agricultural college, she had a nervous breakdown; subsequent to her recovery she became interested first in Freudian and then Jungian psychotherapy. At this time she also began exploring the various occult groups thronging London at that time: Theosophy,
Spiritualism, and organisations committed to ceremonial magic and the Qabalah. Using her family motto, Violet gave herself the name “Dion Fortune”.
Developing, as she believed, her faculties as a medium, Dion decided that she was in touch with various “Ascended Masters”, including the “Master Jesus”. She wrote extensively during the 1920s, both about the occult and novels based upon occult subjects.
After joining and quitting a number of esoteric bodies and collecting several disciples, she founded the Society of the Inner Light (SIL). Teaching what she called the “Western Mystery Tradition”, Fortune emphasised such sacred spots as Glastonbury; the symbolic importance of the Arthurian legend; magic; and meditation. As a synthesiser of such things, she was unequalled. During World War II she and her disciples mounted a psychic defence of Britain against the Luftwaffe. The year after the war ended, she fell ill and died of leukaemia.
As with her own teachings, in which Fortune veered back and forth in emphasis between Christianity and paganism, so too with succeeding members of the SIL, which has similarly gone back and forth between the contradictory elements of their founder’s teachings. Glastonbury bears witness to her influence.