Esoteric Orders and Their Work [NOOK Book]


Esoteric Orders and their Work examines how and why esoteric schools have restricted admission to their secret societies and orders, and shrouded their practices in mystery. The knowledge guarded by these schools--passed down through the ages, and revised from time to time by great teachers--is a secret traditional science that studies the causes that lie behind observable phenomena.

Dion Fortune reveals every aspect of these secret ...

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Esoteric Orders and Their Work

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Esoteric Orders and their Work examines how and why esoteric schools have restricted admission to their secret societies and orders, and shrouded their practices in mystery. The knowledge guarded by these schools--passed down through the ages, and revised from time to time by great teachers--is a secret traditional science that studies the causes that lie behind observable phenomena.

Dion Fortune reveals every aspect of these secret organizations and the training they offer to initiates.

Revised edition contains a new introduction by Gareth Knight, and an index.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609254896
  • Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
  • Publication date: 8/13/2000
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,372,016
  • File size: 862 KB

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Esoteric Orders and Their Work


Samuel Weiser, Inc.

Copyright © 1962 Society of the Inner Light
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57863-184-1



Before embarking upon the study of the subject of this book, The Esoteric Orders and their Work, it is necessary to define the sense in which the term esotericism is used to include all aspects of super-physical science. To do this is a matter of some difficulty, as it is a relative term, being used in contradistinction to exotericism. Esotericism begins where exotericism ends; and as the boundaries of exoteric science are always advancing, so the boundaries of esotericism are always receding; that which was taught to the initiates of Egypt is taught to the school-children of England. Reading, writing and arithmetic were once occult arts. So also are the profounder aspects of hypnosis, though some of its minor aspects have been rediscovered by exoteric scientists. As evolution advances, the average man becomes capable of that which once was only possible to the exceptional man. As the civilised man is to the savage, so is the adept to the average man. The powers of the civilised man appear miraculous to the savage because he does not know the laws to which they conform; but the civilised man knows only too well that he does not transcend the realm of law when he flies like a bird or heals the sick; he achieves his results by knowing certain natural laws and utilising them, and so does the adept.

The individual savage may be capable of benefiting by education, or he may not; it depends upon his capacity. The average man may be capable of benefiting by initiation, or he may not; it also depends upon his capacity; but each individual should have the opportunity of advancing to the highest development of which he is capable. A certain degree of evolution must be reached before initiation becomes operative; a student does not enter upon a post-graduate course until he has graduated. It is the function of exoteric religion to see to it that each member of the race reaches the normal standard of evolution; it has to seek the lost sheep and raise the submerged tenth. Until a man has learnt the lessons of his faith he is not ready for the lessons of initiation. It is the function of the Lesser Mysteries to enable each individual admitted to their teaching to attain the highest degree of development of which he is capable. In the Lesser Mysteries are unfolded the latent capacities of man; but in the Greater Mysteries are unfolded the hidden capacities of nature. The Lesser Mysteries deal with the subjective sphere, the Greater Mysteries with the objective sphere, and the one is the essential preliminary to the other. It is not possible for a man to command the elemental essences of nature unless he is master of the elemental aspects of his own nature, for the powers within, if rebellious, will betray him to the powers without. Discipline must precede dominion. We operate upon that which is without by the corresponding aspect that is within. If the nature be not purified, it will make a mixed contact when it touches the Unseen. The operations of occultism are based upon the powers of the will and the imagination; both blind forces. Unless they are controlled and directed by a motive which has relation to the universe as a whole, no ultimate synthesis is possible. The personality must be universalised by the ideal at which it aims in order that it may function as an organised part of the cosmic whole. It is this urge towards universalisation which is the ultimate hunger of the soul; the lesser self seeks to achieve it by drawing all things into itself in a rage of possession; the greater self seeks to achieve it by transcending the bounds of self and becoming one with the universe. There are two unions to be achieved : the self may become one with the universe by means of universal sympathy—this is the goal of the occultist; the self may also be made one with the Creator of the universe by means of absolute devotion—this is the goal of the mystic. But the occultist, having achieved his own goal, has not yet made the ultimate integration, he has not yet passed from the manifested phenomenal aspect into the cosmic; and the mystic, having achieved his transcendent union, cannot hold it, but must lapse back into the phenomenal universe. The ultimate integration can only be achieved by means of universal sympathy and absolute devotion united in one nature. Into such an one all things are gathered by means of sympathy, and he is in his turn gathered into the All by means of devotion.

This is the ultimate aim of evolution for the manifested universe as a whole; and he who goes by the Way of Initiation does but anticipate evolution. It is the function of the Mysteries to assist the initiate to tread that section of the Path which has already been explored, but beyond lies a section that is known to no consciousness that is in a physical form; this section a man must tread alone with his Master; and beyond lies a section where a man is alone with his God.

Not in one incarnation can this be achieved. Three incarnations of absolute devotion without error may serve; but who is without error, and how far must we be upon the Path before absolute devotion is attained ? We cannot step out of the march of evolution with one foot and into the Cosmic Light with the other; it takes many steps to tread the Path, and some of them slip and have to be retraced. The difficulties are emphasised because many embark lightheartedly upon this great and terrible venture, but the fruits of it are not minimised, for they transcend all that eye can see or heart can dream. Neither do we have to wait until the end of the journey before we begin to reap. Day by day the manna fell during all the journey through the wilderness, though Egypt had to be abandoned and the Red Sea over-passed before it appeared.

So in the great journey of the soul to the Promised Land, which is the Way of Initiation, the safety of human habitations has to be left, and the soul journeys houseless and alone into the wilderness and comes to the Red Sea; here it is that the weak turn back and return into slavery to make bricks without straw for which they receive no wages. But if the supreme test of the Red Sea is faced, the waves are parted by an unseen force and the traveller passes through dry-shod, with a wall of waters standing up on either hand; this is the test of faith, for by mundane law those waters should fall; it is only a higher law that keeps them back.

Then, the test being safely passed, though still in the wilderness, waters flow from the rock and manna falls daily, for though still in the world of sense, the traveller has come under the operation of a higher law.



In order to understand the import of initiation it is necessary to glance at the history of the evolution of humanity. Occult science teaches that other species of human beings existed previously to humanity as we now know it; these distinct species it calls the Root Races, and believes that the Root Race at present in possession of the globe is the fifth in this evolutionary series. In the two previous races, known as the Polarian and Hyperborean, consciousness had not become individualised, but humanity was overshadowed by its group-soul in the same way that the lower types of animals are overshadowed to the present day. The esoteric psychology of the group-soul affords a vast field of study and is too involved to enter into in the present pages; it must suffice to say that the operations of such a group-soul may be recognised in the intelligence of the ant and bee and the migrations of the birds. Many puzzling phenomena of animal intelligence are accounted for by the hypothesis of a group-soul.

As human evolution proceeded, more and more of the mind-stuff common to the species became organised into distinct complexes and incarnated in the many separate vehicles which formed the composite body of the group; these organised complexes, developing about the original nuclei, or divine sparks, scattered through the amorphous mass of the group-soul, ultimately became individualised entities and developed into human form. After evolution had proceeded a certain distance, these individualised entities attained a degree of independence which rendered them difficult of control by the overshadowing group-soul; and the Logos summoned to His aid those of His children who had completed the cycle of their growth in a previous evolution and attained cosmic adulthood. (For it must not be forgotten that an evolution is to the Solar Logos what an incarnation is to a human being; and that each evolution is but a day in the great cyclic life of Brahma.)

These Great Ones influenced the forerunners of humanity by presenting images to their minds by means of a process which we should call telepathic suggestion. The images necessary to enable sensation to be translated into mentation were thus provided ready-made, as it were, and mankind was saved the lengthy and laborious necessity of building these images out of accumulated experiences. In the first Cosmic Day, of course, the then humanity had to go through this process; but subsequent evolutions were enabled rapidly to recapitulate stages previously gone through by the aid of their Elder Brethren; it is only after the high-water mark of the previous Cosmic Day has been reached that evolution has to take place out of the raw material of experience.

By means of the experiences to which consciousness had now rendered man susceptible, the concrete or objective mind of humanity was gradually built up upon the basis of the inspirational content which had been injected into the subconscious human mind by the ministrations of the Elder Brethren and the influences of the group-soul. The point was finally reached when the concrete consciousness over-ruled the inspirational subconsciousness, just as the latter had over-ruled the influence of the group-mind; the direct line of control from the Logos, through the Oversoul, to the individual, thus being lost. It therefore became necessary to link up the conscious mind with the subconscious mind so that the cosmic control might be re-established, and this was the function of the Cosmic Initiators, or Manus.

These Great Ones, who are the nearest kin to humanity of all the Lords of Evolution, having attained their development in the Cosmic Day immediately preceding our own, appeared upon the earth during the middle of the Atlantean Period. These are the "High Priests after the Order of Melchisedec," being without father or mother and building their physical vehicles without human assistance. It was their office to communicate with the concrete mind of humanity, and forge a connecting chain of associated ideas from consciousness to sub-consciousness, thereby enabling man to pick up the subtler vibrations which are the voice of the higher spheres.

In order to do this they had to appear to concrete consciousness in concrete form; hence with infinite difficulty they had to build a vehicle that concrete consciousness could cognise. These anthropoid forms were so unsuited to the highly evolved forces they had to carry that they were only held together with the greatest difficulty and for short periods of time. Hence the accounts of the sudden appearances and disappearances of the gods which form part of all primitive traditions. For these Great Ones were the actual gods of myth and fable, the Divine Founders of racial cultures to which all primitive traditions look back. (They must not, however, be confused with the personifications of the nature forces of later periods; these are the culture gods or divine progenitors.)

These great entities gathered about themselves bands of students selected from the most promising of the race to which they came, and developed their faculties until they were able to cognise consciously those subtle types of vibration which hitherto they had only been able to perceive intuitively, thus recovering the primitive type of mentation upon a higher arc. This having once been accomplished, the Manus were able to withdraw to those planes upon which they could function with greater ease and freedom, summoning their pupils to "rise upon the planes" and attend them there for instruction, and leaving it to those same pupils to train others as they themselves had been trained, thus recruiting the occult school through succeeding generations.

Thus was the great Sun-worship of Atlantis founded and its school of initiation equipped with knowledge. The Manus were able to tell their pupils of the formations of the spheres because they themselves had been present when the spheres were being builded; they could inform them of the phases through which evolution had passed because they were either eye-witnesses, having themselves developed in certain of the phases, or were the initiated pupils of those who had. Thus it is that the occult schools hold the traditions of the history of cosmic evolution.



Readers of esoteric literature will be aware that there are many different schools of occultism, and will find that the teachings and symbolism employed in all are fundamentally the same; so much so that by a mere translation of the terminology the initiate of one is enabled to understand the scriptures of another. Nevertheless, these schools are not identical, for although the form is the same owing to their common origin, the force that animates them is entirely different owing to the circumstances of their foundation.

It will be remembered that, among the many seismic disasters which shook ancient Atlantis, there were three of greater magnitude than the others; and these were distinguished as the Three Great Cataclysms. Before each of these cataclysms an emigration went forth of those who had sufficient development to enable them to foresee the disaster. These took with them copies of the Sacred Books, and also had among them initiates of a grade to found a lodge. These initiates drew their authority for the foundation of the new centre from the then Manu. Now the Manus, like all else, function under the aspects of the cosmic phases, and as the Logos of our system is a triune entity, whose three phases are wisdom, power and love, the Logoidal phases run through a cycle of three, so that although all three aspects are always there, yet at one time one, and at another time another, will predominate, just as a triangle, revolving upon its centre, would present first one angle, and then another, to the observer's gaze, while still remaining triangular. This sequence can be observed in history if a sufficiently lengthy period be studied; there will be a phase in human culture during which power is being built up, succeeded by another in which wisdom is being accumulated, and culminating in the final phase of the period in which brotherly love brings in a Golden Age.

Thus it was that the force transmitted to their disciples by the Manus of Atlantis was coloured by the Logoidal aspect which prevailed at the time of their functioning. The force transmitted by a Manu is spoken of as his Ray. In addition to enabling man to raise his consciousness to awareness of the subtler planes, the Manus put their pupils in touch with a great cosmic force proceeding direct from the Logos, and it is with this force that candidates are put in touch by means of the ritual of their initiation. It will thus be seen that, although the theory taught to an initiate of the different occult schools is fundamentally the same, the modus operandi of its practice will differ greatly according to the special nature of the Ray which supplies what may metaphorically be called the motive power of the Order.

The great Sun Temple, in which all the Rays met, no longer exists, being sunk beneath the waters of the Atlantic, but its teaching is still preserved by the three great occult traditions which are the descendants of the three great emigrations.

The First Emigration, which came out under the direction of a Manu operating under the Power aspect of the Logoidal cycle, has power for its keynote. This emigration, moving eastward according to the then disposition of the land-masses of the globe, halting each year to sow and reap its wheat and building temporary altars where it did so, moved across the north of Europe and Asia, leaving a megalithic trail behind it, until its progress was blocked by what we now call the Yellow Sea; it then spread southward along the coast-lands of Asia until it finally contacted the remains of the Lemurian culture in the Pacific, from which it derived some of those elements which render it to-day a dangerous and polluted current. Although it is not permissible in a paper of this nature to enter into questions which involve practical occultism, those who know the nature of the Sin of the Mindless may be able to deduce its results.

Excerpted from Esoteric Orders and Their Work by DION FORTUNE. Copyright © 1962 Society of the Inner Light. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Gareth Knight          


I. Esotericism, Occultism, and Mysticism          

II. The Origin of the Mysteries          

III. The Three Great Traditions          

IV. The Paths of the Western Tradition          

V. The Evolution and Functions of the Masters          

VI. The Training and Work of an Initiate          

VII. The Occult Schools          

VIII. Orders, Fraternities, and Groups          

IX. The Use and Power of Ritual          

X. Oaths and Obligations          

XI. The Right and Left-Hand Paths          

XII. Seeking the Master          

XIII. The Choice of an Occult School          

XIV. The Path of Initiation          




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