September [29] 2008


From famed English occultist & author

Dion Fortune–The Mystical Qabalah

(First published in 1935)

(Art’s Note: This is one of those true classics where every passage seems to sparkle with timeless insight, clarity of expression and poetic beauty. Recommended for rank beginners, as for spiritual novices to initates in the timeless traditions)


1.  “The mysticism of Israel supplies the foundation of modern Western occultism.  It forms the theoretical basis upon which all ceremonial is developed.  Its famous glyph, the Tree of Life (TOL), is the best meditation-symbol we possess because it is the most comprehensive. 2

2.  It is not necessarily incumbent upon us to do certain things or hold certain ideas because the Rabbis who lived before Christ had certain views.  The world has moved on since those days and we are under a new dispensation.  But what was true in principle then will be true in principle now, and of value to us.  The modern Qabalist is the heir of the ancient Qabalist, but he must re-interpret doctrine and re-formulate method in the light of the present dispensation if the heritage he has received is to be of any practical value to him. 2

3. We must always test the purity of a tradition by reference to first principles, but we shall equally judge of the vitality of a tradition by its power to assimilate.  It is only a dead faith which remains uninfluenced by contemporary thought. 3

4.  Scholars declare that the Q. is a medieval forgery because they cannot trace a succession of early manuscripts, but those who know the manner of working of esoteric fraternities know that a whole cosmogony and psychology can be conveyed in a glyph which means nothing to the unintiated.  These strange old charts could be handed on from generation to generation, their explanation being communicated verbally, and the true interpretation would never be lost.5

5.  It is well known to mystics that if a man meditates upon a symbol around which certain ideas have been associated by past meditation, he will obtain access to those ideas, even if the glyph has never been elucidated to him by those who have received the oral tradition “by mouth to ear.” 5

6. No student will ever make progress in spiritual development who flits from system to system;  first using some New Thought affirmations, then some Yoga breathing exercises and meditation-postures, and following these by an attempt at the mystical methods of prayer.  Each of these systems has its value, but that value can only be realized if the system is carried out in its entirety.

7.  The curious symbol-system known to us as the TOL (Tree of Life) is an attempt to reduce to diagrammatic form every force and factor in the manifested universe and the soul of man…In brief, the TOL is a compendium of science, psychology, philosophy and theology. 13

8.  The student of the Q goes to work in exactly the opposite way to the student of natural science;  the latter builds up synthetic concepts;  the former analyses abstract concepts.

9.  Who then were the first Qs?  The Rabbis are unanimous upon this point, they were angels.  In other words, it was beings of another order of creation than humanity who gave the Chosen People their Qabalah.  13

10.  There are some psychologists who will tell us that the Angels of the Qs and the Gods and Manus of other systems are our own repressed complexes; there are others with less limited outlook who will tell us that these Divine beings are the latent capacities of our own higher selves.  To the devotional mystic this is not a point of any great moment; the devotional mystic gets his results, and that is all he cares about; but the philosophical mystic, in other words the occultist, thinks the matter out and arrives at certain conclusions.  These conclusions, however, can only be understood when we know what we mean by reality and have a clear line of demarcation between the subjective and the objective.  Any one who is trained in philosophical method knows that this is asking a good deal. 14

11.  The Indian schools of metaphysics have most elaborate and intricate systems of philosophy which attempt to define theses ideas and render them thinkable; and though generations of seers have given their lives to the task, the concepts still remain so abstract that it is only after a long course of discipline, called Yoga in the East, that the mind is able to apprehend them at all.

12.  The Qabalist goes to work in a different way. He does not attempt to make the mind rise up on the wings of metaphysics into the rarefied air of abstract reality;  he formulates a concrete symbol that the eye can see, and lets it represent the abstract reality that no untrained human mind can grasp. 14


14. In contemplating such a composite symbol as the TOL the initiate observes that there are definite relations between its parts.  There are some parts of which he knows something/ there are others of which he can intuit something, or, more crudely, make a guess, reasoning from first principles.  The mind leaps from one known to another known and in so doing traverses certain distances, metaphorically speaking; it is like a traveler in the desert who knows the situation of two oases and makes a forced march between them.  He would never have dared to push out int the desert from the first oasis if ha had not known the location of the second; but at the end of his journey he not only knows much more about the characteristics of the second oasis, but he has also observed the country lying between them. 15

15.  It is said that thought grew out of language, not language out of thought.  What words are to thought, symbols are to intuition.  Curious as it may seem, the symbol precedes the elucidation; that is why we declare that the Q is a growing system, not a historic monument.  There is more to be got out of the Qabalistic symbols to-day than there was in the time of the old dispensation because our mental content is richer in ideas.16

16. Each symbol, moreover, admits of interpretation upon the different planes, (Astro) and through its astrological association can be related to the gods of any pantheon, thus opening up vast new fields of implication in which the mind ranges endlessly, symbol leading on to symbol in an unbroken chain of associations’ symbol confirming symbol as the many-branching threads gather themselves together into a synthetic glyph once more, and each symbol capable of interpretation in terms of whatever plane the mind may be functioning upon. 16

17.  The universe is really a thought-form projected  from the mind of God. [Q v Zen)  The Qabalistic Tree might be lined to a dream-picture arising from the subconscious of God and dramatising the subconscious content of Deity.  In other words, if the universe is the conscious end-product of the mental activity of the Logos, the Tree is the symbolic representation of the raw material of the Divine consciousness and of the processes whereby the universe came into being. 17

18.  But the Tree applies not only to the Macrocosm but to the Microcosm which, as all occultists realise, is a replica in miniature.  It is for this reason that divination is possible.  That little-understood and much maligned art has for its philosophical basis the System of Correspondences represented by symbols.  The correspondences between the soul of man the the universe are not arbitrary, but arise out of developmental identites.

19.  A man’s soul is like a lagoon connected with the sea by a submerged channel; although to all outward seeming it is land-locked, nevertheless its water-level rises and falls with the tides of the sea because of the hidden connection.  So it is with human consciousness, there is a subconscious connection between each individual soul and the World-soul hidden in the most primitive depths of subconsciousness, and in consequence we share in the rise and fall of the cosmic tides. 17

20.  Each symbol upon the Tree represents a cosmic force or factor.  When the mind concentrates upon it, it comes into touch with that force;  in other words, a surface channel, a channel in consciousness, has been made between the conscious mind of the individual and a particular factor in the world-soul, and through this channel the waters of the ocean pour into the lagoon.  The aspirant who uses the Tree as his meditation-symbol establishes point by point the union between his soul and the world-soul.   This results in a tremendous access of energy to the individual soul; it is this which endows it with magical powers. 18

21.  The interpretation of the Q is not to be found, however, among the Rabbis of the Outer Israel, who are Hebrews after the flesh, but among those who are the Chosen People after the spirit–in other words, the initiates.  Neither is the Q, as I have learnt it, a purely Hebraic system, for it has been supplemented during medieval times by much alchemical lore and by the intimate association with it of that most marvellous system of symbolism, the Tarot.

22.  As far as actual scholarship goes, I am in the same class as William Shakespeare, having little Latin and less Greek, and of Hebrew only that peculiar portion which is cultivated by occultists–the ability to transliterate unpointed Hebrew script for the purposes of Gematric calculations.  Of any knowledge of Hebrew as a language I am guiltless. 20

[ART’S NOTE: You are now finished with highlights from the first 20 pages ONLY of this work : ) To take a real plunge into Fortune’s Hermetic Qabalah, naturally, you should order a copy and read the whole thing. However, it’s my experience that simply contemplating POTENT QUOTES (as I have done for a number of great texts on this site) opens the reader to an intimate and powerful connection with the heart and heightened vision of the author].