|The Secrets of Doctor Taverner by Dion Fortune Amazon Link|
The Secrets of Dr. Taverner is a collection of short stories that can, and should, be read somewhat independently from one another. A short introduction sets the required general background: these are to be read as experiences of the author, roughly fictionalized and toned down from the real thing. The author states that if she told the more fantastic details one might be tempted to dismiss the stories. Toned down or not (as her introduction claims) there is enough spice here for most esoteric thrill-seekers.
The storyteller speaks of ‘his’ apprenticeship to the leader of the “Group of Seven,” who works in the human world as a psychiatrist of no mean talent. The various stories tell of souls exchanging bodies (not always willingly); of past lives bleeding through into present reality; of dances with elemental kings and primal entities; of astral hounds chasing men to their death; and finally of the storyteller’s meeting with ‘his’ own soul on a dark night. Toned down indeed — what must the reality have been like!
Dr. Taverner is a good example of Dion Fortune’s books. Each story explores occult, psychology and magical topics as they interplay with the life of one character and those around him or her. Each story is a thesis on one aspect of life, with the entire book composing a good all-around introduction into the work of the practicing occultist.
The stories portray the occult path as long and arduous work, definitely not for the faint of heart or those seeking easy living. Unlike many modern New Age pundits Dion Fortune saw the mystical path as one which passed through all veils of existence, good, bad and evil, not just those of peaceful wishes and starry-eyed daydreams. And definitely not always dark and dangerous.
In Dr. Taverner’s world people face real problems which don’t go away with a simple meditation, haphazard banishing or pretty mental image – in fact, generally quite the opposite. For example, one lady in a thinly disguised sanatorium turns out to be an ancient upper-grade initiate who has gone astray, paying in the present life for misdeeds done in the past. Rather than using her significant abilities to ‘get off the hook’ she incarnates in a paralyzed, debilitated body and must let go of the one man who loved her in order to pay off an old karmic debt.
In another story, a heroin addict of considerable esoteric skill swreaaps bodies with an innocent person who has little personal power. The resulting clash of morals between the addict and the “cosmic police” seems inevitable, yet doesn’t happen quite the way we would expect in the present time.
If you could give a friend only one of Dion Fortune’s books this would be high on the list – with a few caveats. It is definitely not for the squeamish; such people would prefer the smooth style of Moon Magic. For those who like flashy story lines and intriguing situations, or those with a shorter attention span or limited time, this is a good choice. If you tend to get hung up on the fantastic this book might give the wrong impression of magical working.
Sometimes it’s hard not to feel that it’s all a bit much.
If you’re unsure start with Moon Magic and/or The Goat-Foot God for a more believable read. Then come back to this one.