Thursday, September 3, 2015

Speaking of the Legacy of Jane Wolfe...

Today's post focuses primarily on one aspect of Jane and Phyllis's legacy, and how you can help it continue to manifest, right now. I had planned on waiting to make this post until after the Seckler post was ready, but with NOTOCON, and the Wolfe post turning into actual research, everything takes longer than anticipated, and I'm running out of time to talk about this important opportunity to support the Wolfe legacy. 

TL;DR - Jane's student Meral (Seckler) saw a gap between modern American students and Crowley's ideal A.'.A.'. students, and she put together a bridge for the gap called the College of Thelema, now the International College of Thelema (ICOT).

Now keep reading, motherfuckers, I put time into this.

In the previous post, I talked about Jane Wolfe and her lasting legacy to the A.'.A.'. and the OTO. The next post, currently being written by my partner Harper Feist, will explore how her legacy continued to influence the modern manifestations of the Orders through her A.'.A.'. student Soror Meral (Phyllis Seckler).

The Legacy in Brief:
  • Jane taught Phyllis A.'.A.'. stuff.
  • Phyllis did the A.'.A.'. stuff, and it worked.
  • Karl Germer corresponded with Phyllis about A.'.A.'. stuff.
  • Karl told Jane Phyllis was 5=6, and intimated the same to Phyllis in gentler words.
  • Phyllis pursued her HGA, and went about manifesting things as she saw fit. Like a boss.
One of the things she saw fit to do was inspired by the number of people she saw who came to her to follow the curriculum of the A.'.A.'. who were completely unprepared to handle it. The A.'.A.'. stuff Crowley put together isn't that hard, really, and it isn't that big of a deal when you've been given a complete 19th century private education based on the Trivium and the Classical Educational Model. It's actually an extension of that educational training, focused on the esoteric, mystical, and mathematical aspects of the magical arts.

Seckler, a High School English teacher in California, was painfully aware of the fact that at 18, Aleister Crowley had more academic education under his belt than 99.999% of American students. She understood that the A.'.A.'. curriculum was going to be about impossible for most folks to succeed at, given the tools and training they got from a public education. 

At the same time, she understood that people needed to receive Thelema wherever they were at. Some people needed more help, a more structured organized approach to the concepts and libers of the A.'.A.'. materials than they could get from the traditional model of the A.'.A.'. process. She put together a study course to prepare people who weren't able to apply the discipline and practice of the classsical education model to the syllabus of the A.'.A.'. on their own, never having been exposed to it. It was intended to increase the success of participants in the practices of the A.'.A.'..

She formed the College of Thelema, which over the years has morphed into the International College of Thelema (ICOT), a non-profit religious and educational organization based on the principles of Thelema. It was founded in service to the A∴A∴, under warrant from Phyllis Seckler (Soror Meral), to provide preparatory training in ceremonial magick, Raja Yoga, Qabalah, Tarot, Astrology, and much more.
Today, led by David Shoemaker, the International College of Thelema continues to provide aspirants with the opportunity to receive instruction in the tenets of Thelema in a way that prepares them to succeed in their Summum Bonum. 

In pursuit of advancing this effort, the ICOT is currently raising funds to expand their physical footprint, and to provide a facility to continue the legacy of Jane Wolfe and Phyllis Seckler. Check out their Indiegogo campaign for further details. This is the chance you have, right now, to contribute to the ongoing manifestation of the legacy of our Progenitrix:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Progenitrix: The Jane Wolfe Legacy

In the next couple of posts, I'm going to be introducing a couple of the women of the A:.A:. and the OTO that are being spoken of less and less in our modern discourse of the history of our Orders. There is a movement afoot to restore these ladies to their rightful positions as the central core of the OTO that kept it alive through the darkest of times, often in spite of the men who held the official reins of the Order.

I'd like to begin with Jane Wolfe. Her Wikipedia entry provides the basic overview of her biographical data, and is in itself a testament to her strength in the early 20th century.

Born in Pennsylvania in fucking 1875, she left home to pursue a career in New York City.

Full stop.

Think about that, for a second. Pennsylvania Dutch farm folk are pretty practical people. They are born with dirt under their nails. Hearth and home, family, finding a strong farmer man to have babies with to continue the prosperity of the community, these are the primary values ingrained in these people from the womb.

But not her. She got some business skills, and took off to New York City.

What kind of 19th century farm girl does that? She not only knew what she wanted (NOT FARMERS), but she had the courage and the audacity to take a huge risk to pursue her will. She wasn't someone who had never thought about doing what she needed to do to get her world to align with her aspirations before she met Crowley. She was a born Thelemite.

And she didn't fail, guys. She succeeded. She found herself in despair over the mess her parents had made of her upbringing, and to combat that pursued a career on stage. She didn't wallow in her issues, she instead found a treatment that was opposed to the symptoms she was feeling. She couldn't express how she felt in her daily life, so she threw herself into a place where she would have to express feelings she had no other outlet to express.

She built herself a career on stage, but eventually she smelled that there was something new in the world, that things were changing. She understood the power of film, and how that was going to change the world. She followed her instinct, and relocated to California and became one of the first movie stars, in the silent film industry.

She could have continued in that, getting roles, building up her stats, and making all the money she wanted, but it wasn't enough. Like the rest of us, she had a hunger. She attacked the world, sucked out the marrow of all things material, achieved stardom and celebrity status, and she was still unsatisfied.

Her understanding of the changing focus from theater to film is indicative of another thing: she sensed and responded to the change of the Aeon. She recognized the potential of film, the shift in focus before anyone else did, and she made her place in the new frontier, carving it out and dominating her niche.

She was drawn to the occult, and like so many of us, got off to a bad start. She got hooked up with the roots of the New Age movement of her day, and began dabbling in automatic writing, and trusting the channeled instructions of a man who claimed to represent her guides. Deeper into the miasma she went, until she suffered a breakdown, shouting on th eset of a Cecil B. DeMille film, "It is God, it is Illujmination!" After some time in a sanitarium, she began clawing her way back to normalcy, and, having gotten her hands on a copy of the Equinox, she began writing to Aleister Crowley.

He quickly set her on the path of Scientific Illuminism, teaching her to question every spirit and disembodied Master that came through the pen, or the ouija board, or the sensitive weak-minded channelers in her life. In time he convinced her to join him in Cefalu, and packing up her things, she took the step that led her to living Thelema.

On June 30, 1920, she wrote in her diary, "In Bou-Sada, alone." The woman who left Pennsylvania to pursue a career on Broadway, the woman who left that to pursue a career in film, left everything behind once again to explore a completely different experience: life with Aleister Crowley.

She staid at Cefalu until it closed, living the life of the A.'.A.'. student the way Crowley intended it. She spent a year studying and practicing, recording her results, and submitted them to Crowley. Her typed diary entires and his handwritten response are available today from this link. Everyone should read them, the insights into how he taught his students, the things he had them do, his self-assessment made in passing is so useful to us now. Seeing the way the methods of the modern A.'.A.'. continue his on-site and in-person system and tradition is awesome.

After Cefalu, things unraveled quickly for the Beast. Jane became an integral force for carrying on the current, and Crowley referred to her as the "spearhead" in the effort to re-establish an Abbey of Thelema. After much sturm and drang, and ordeal after ordeal, she returned to the States, continuing her work to advance Thelema in the world.

This time period of the A.'.A.'. and the OTO was, quite frankly, just awful. Crowley wrote regularly how desperate they were for cash. Jane's health was deteriorating, but she continued to support the Work as best she could with the people she had available.

As the years went by, the men of the early years of the A.'.A.'. and the OTO came and went, leaving behind the names and anecdotes we recall today. C.F. Russell, Charles Stansfield Jones, Willfred T. Smith, Jack Parsons, she was there through them all, and remained after they were gone. At Crowley's acknowledgement of her rise to Neophyte, Jane took on Phyllis Seckler as her Probationer in the A.'.A.'., passing on the teachings and traditions she received at Cefalu. She worked tirelessly and continuously in the establishment and maintenance of Agape Lodge in the US, and at the time the lodge closed, she was the sitting Body Master.

Her life was not one of many joys, easy successes, or financial prosperity. When she died, it was said she died from sheer exhaustion. Doing the research into the ife of Jane Wolfe was pretty terrible. I read letters in the Red Flame editions of Jane Wolfe's life with Crowley (available from Conjoined Creations at this link), and it was like immersing myself into a frantic stream of frustration, annoyance, and what we'd call pure and unadulterated abuse by today's standards.

Yet at the same time, I read her diaries and her commentaries, and in spite of the frenetic horse shit she had to deal with month after month, year after year in the birth pains of the modern Thelemic orders, she kept careful notes of her practices and experiences. She found moments of peace, bliss, and ecstasy. She found a calm center from which to move the foundations of the Earth as it welcomed the New Aeon. She was a proto-feminist, recording that some might accuse her of "suffragette syndrome," yet she never considered Aleister Crowley above her in any way, but always considered the man her equal.

She remains a great role model for our tradition, a quiet fighter who faced madness, ridicule, and the light of the divine alike, and staid her ground. It was undoubtedly her work that laid the foundation for Grady McMurtry and Phyllis Seckler to re-birth the OTO after the death of Karl Germer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What's RO doing in a Thelemic Order or Two?


After nearly thirty years of studying the occult, and at LEAST seven years of doing real magic, I finally got around to joining the A.'.A.'. and the OTO in ... 2012? 2013?

Definitely one of those.**

At the time, I had just completed the Philosopher's Stone using ancient Hermetic technologies, and I was consequently thoroughly blissed out by the energies released at its formation. I was seeing goddesses and tasting the nectar of the Holy One on a weekly basis. I was deep in the throes of "Insufferable Prickitis," a malady I first saw described by Aleister Crowley in his notes on Liber Samekh*.

I got better, mostly.

A looooooooong time before that, my good friend BJ Swain invited me to see him perform as Priest in the Gnostic Mass at the OTO. For years we had been unable to interact personally in the flesh because he had been friends with my first ex-wife, and my second ex-wife was afraid I'd ... I don't know, talk to him and all of a sudden leave her to be with a woman I didn't like who'd left me for another magician? It didn't make a lot of sense to me, but to keep her happy ("Happy wife, happy life," right?) I never hung out with BJ.

It probably didn't help that he was a somewhat prominent member in the local solar-phallic sex cult that did public performances of the Gnostic Mass with polyamorous beautiful nekkid Priestesses on the regular. She was insecure about that stuff too.

So when we finally divorced, one of the first things I did was go to a mass... of course. 

Now understand, I'd read the mass. It's online for everyone to see. I knew it was sex magick, and knowing BJ as the lusty fellow he is, I went into the rite with certain ... expectations. 

Sexy expectations. 

When it said, "The Priest Adores," I was like, aww hell yea, the Priest is totally gonna get it on! 

I saw the obvious magick going on throughout the script. I saw the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, the anointing and empowerment of the man-god, the anointing and obeisance of the woman-god, the necromantic conjurations of the dead, the creation of what Wiccans would turn into the Great Rite, and the ultimate ecstatic culmination of the transubstantiation of the host and the wine, and ... 

It was totally THANATEROS turned up to fucking 11, man!  

I couldn't wait.

And so I went to the mass. 

And of course, it was a disaster

The deacon didn't have the priest's robe, cap, and crown. When the part of the ceremony came where they were required, slapstick hilarity ensued. The deacon ran up to the altar, and there were no robes. He ran into the back room where the mass gear and childrens' robes are stored, and we heard lots of rustling, the banging of boxes, and muffled cursing. He returned to the temple, the whites of his eyes showing completely around the irises, carrying no robes. He left the temple and went to the common area, where again the sounds of cabinets opening and closing came to us, and he again came back to the temple, bearing no robes.

Through all these shenanigans, the Priestess remained kneeling before the Priest in a pose that was absolutely beatific. BJ, dressed in his white togs, held the lance stoically. If he felt like murdering his past self for not making sure all was ready, I sure couldn't tell. They breathed in, they breathed out, and held the sacred space as the deacon scurried frantically in his search.

At last, he returned to the storage room, and did the unthinkable: he turned on the light. Today I remember hearing "Ah HA!" shouted jubilantly from the room, but I might be making shit up. It happens. However, I will never forget seeing the lights in the little back room shut off and the deacon emerging, shining very much like the Sun with a smile from ear to ear, the robes, cap, and crown held triumphantly above his head in one hand.

Proudly he strode to the Priestess, handing her the clothes, and she robed BJ right up. 

Everything was going great at that point, if a little stilted, and it was time for the Priestess to be shut up behind the veil. My palms were a little sweaty, I admit. The Priestess was lovely, and the idea of her being all nekkid and, ahem, you know, "adored" (nudge nudge wink wink, knowhatImean?) had me as worried about a public hard-on as a 14 year old at the pool. I understood after the sex magick we got to approach her and take communion. I didn't want to be sporting a tent.

And then he opened the veil, and ... 

I couldn't see hardly anything. She was naked, sure, but with the smoke and the candles, I could sort of make out where a nipple might have been, and it was of course beautiful, and tasteful, but it wasn't quite what I'd expected. When BJ finally got to the adoration, he kissed her knees, respectfully. Calmly. Sedately. 

He was obviously in another place and I could feel him doing some magickal something, but this was NOT THE CUNNILINGUS I HAD EXPECTED.

I was like, ok, I sort of maybe don't get it.

Then he said some stuff in Greek, and did a mass. Like, a real mass. With bread, and wine, and showing the congregation the stuff and holding it up, and at one point the Deacon rang a bell, and at another point they breathed on it and said Hriliu, and then he did his thing, and then it was our turn and I was like, ok, let's do this.

And I approached the Dais.

And I didn't have an embarrassing hard on.

And I was handed a Cake of Light.

And I took a (the LARGEST) glass of wine (I'D EVER HAD IN MY LIFE).

And I put the bread (cakes of light) in my mouth, and I chewed it up.

And I chewed it.

And I chewed. And chewed. And chewed.

I don't understand exactly how it happened, but apparently all the saliva glands in my mouth chose this particular moment to go on strike, or on vacation, or at the very least to begin their very own private reproduction of "The Gobi Desert, as Seen in a Mouth." It might have been some psychological response to the Mystery of Ingredient X, or it might have been stage fright because I hadn't done a public mass ever and I was sure everyone was watching me chew, slowly, and judging, or it might have been just one of those things that just happens. 

Whatever, it was the driest moment of my life.

My Mouth on Cakes of Light
At last I remembered I had a glass of wine in my left hand, and I SUDDENLY KNEW why it was so big! I drank, and drank, and drank, and at last the crusty paste in my mouth went down, and I could even begin to consider the formation of words with parched tongue and teeth, as soon as I finished the wine, because yeah, I'd been drinking a while, and there was STILL A LOT LEFT.
Betty White visited William Blake Lodge

At last I finished swallowing the bread, and the wine, and I got rid of the glass, and I assumed the position, facing the priestess with my arms crossed, right over left in the form of Osiris Risen, and I knew I could say it, and I took a breath, looked up at her in her splendour, ready to say the words...

And then time stopped. It was like I was frozen. I could feel the particles of cakes in my mouth, here and there, taste the red wine remnants on my tongue. I saw 22 candles whose flames had stopped flickering, smelled the perfume of a dozen roses, and to this day I remember her ankles were crossed as I moved my awareness up to look at her... and then she disappeared.

I could see the altar, and the outline of my Priestess. But where she had sat, there was only a deep darkness, a black silhouette, and in a moment I realized that it was full of stars. 

And for a time, I communed with infinity, open and receptive, receiving and responding. There was a transfer between us, a current that flowed, and information was exchanged. I don't know what She got from me, but sometimes as I am falling asleep, I can sense a part of me processing what She gave me, prising it apart, teasing out the details.

The moment passed, and I recovered myself a bit, and at last was able to both know and to say:


In that moment, I was shown an aspect of divinity that changed my life completely. No joke or symbol set were Nuit or Hadit, but actual deities whose reality and influence and intent upon the Earth would not be denied. I became a convert in that moment, and the seeds of my zealousy were planted, by the hands of a blue lidded daughter of night.

Within a month, I met a woman with red hair and a sparkle in her eyes that changed everything I knew about life and relationships. It was a wonderful time, and she just happened to be going through the Man of Earth initiations, and had also just happened to have submitted her application to the A.'.A.'., and she suggested I might consider doing so myself.

It was a merry adventure, and I'll go into some more details in other posts. Suffice it to say, I found the A.'.A.'. and the OTO to my liking.

The people are AMAZING. I've never had fellowship like this. I met a couple I trust to be the godparents of my kids, which is saying something. I don't even LIKE other people. I hang out with people I disagree with utterly, and we make fun of each other. I get to pick the brains of the heirs of the Hawk and Jackal system of magick. I get to learn Hebrew calligraphy, and do kundalini yoga exercises, and study traditional astrology, and teach Hermetics, and play pinball, and drink tequila, and talk magick with the best besotted minds of our generation.

The gods are INTENSE. I've dealt with Pan, Hadit, Nuit, Babalon, and some Egyptian scrubs who will get their own posts eventually. The Crowley-based methods of interacting with them produce a set of results that are not like conjurations of spirits, nor like the manifestations of the gods you get in the Orphic Hymns. It's something else, and it's something cool, and it's something useful, but it will take a lot more words.

The wine is NOT BAD. Leaping Laughter Lodge is the base camp of the Dionysian Chapter, so we get really fuckin' great wine a lot of the time, and boxed not bad wine for the rest of the time. Having the local Bishops be the hosts of the biennial wine tasting at NOTOCON has its privileges. We get to taste the good stuff before everyone else. Suck it, you jealous bitches.

And the parties...

So I get to hang out with Frater Barabbas at his country estate every couple of months, and he has the most AWESOME PARTIES guys! He and his lovely wife Joni are great hosts. Imagine hanging out in a great library, wandering over to the Temple all fully charged, and there's cats, while talking to Barabbas about Enochian and Goetic conjurations over a glass of iced home-made bourbon, while actively struggling with Maya in a way that doesn't even interrupt the conversation. It's basically heaven and earth in one place.

Scott Stenwick and Michele Montserat have also made us feel so welcome here. Michele is a fellow Taurus, and is like the sister I never knew I wanted. I feel a lot like we're the same person in different bodies all the time. Scott and I have a habit of getting drunk and playing the crowd at events that is just so much fun, verbal tag-teaming and magickal exposition for the win. We went out for dinner the other night, and it just felt so comfortable. They and their families are so sweet to hang out with.

And there's an active cell of the A.'.A.'. that can get together and talk shit about Crowley over beers without it being a formal thing, keeping our heads low at the OTO events because you can't cross the streams, and sharing the woes of the test, and Probationing, and Neophyting, and so forth and so on. I get that you don't NEED anyone more than your superior, but it's so nice to be able to be like, "OMG, lightning bolt asana, wt actual f?" and have people get it.

And the Mass! I pass out cookies as the Positive Child, or pass out wine as the Negative Child fairly regularly. I am on rotation for Deaconing, and I get to be the Sun and conjure the Dead into the Priest (that's not theologically accurate or whatever, but it's fun). I haven't forgotten the robe, cap, and crown yet, but after publishing this I'm sure it will happen soon. I'm memorizing lines for the Priest role, and gathering accoutrement, but there are things that have to happen first.

I'm eventually working my way up to Priestess, but I've got a ways to go, and there's no official OTO or EGC Gnostic Masses with a male Priestess yet, but one of these days I want to be the one who disappears for someone, just for a second. So they can see that I, too, am full of stars.

So that's my story, for folks interested in such things. How I ended up a Thelemite, dues current in the OTO and continuing my work in the A.'.A.'.. I love to tell that story, especially my first mass. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Now I'll be moving on to the things that are more important to me. The story of Soror Estai, for example, and the things she did, and the impact she had through Agape lodge, and the continuing impact she has on us all. And I'll be talking about Soror Meral, the mother of the modern OTO, and some interesting things she never bothered to mention over the years. And I'll be talking about A.'.A.'. topics, and the relationship between the Orders Crowley founded, and I'll be running my mouth about things beyond my Grade, as one is wont to do when you're dues current.

Stay tuned!


* "In the same way the Adept almost always begins by torrential lyrics painting out mystical extravagances about "ineffable love", "unimaginable bliss", "inexpressible infinities of illimitable utterness". 7 He usually loses his sense of proportion, of humour, of reality, and of sound judgment. His ego is often inflated to the bursting point, till he would be abjectly ridiculous if he were not so pitifully dangerous to himself and others. He also tends to take his new-found "truths of illumination" for the entire body of truth, and insists that they must be as valid an vital for all men as they happen to be for himself.

It is wise to keep silence about those things "unlawful to utter" which one may have heard "in the seventh heaven". This may not apply to the sixth.

The Adept must keep himself in hand, however tempted to make a new heaven and a new earth in the next few days by trumpeting his triumphs. He must give time a chance to redress his balance, sore shaken by the impact of the Infinite."

** Edit: It was definitely 2012. A friend and student of mine reminded me he joined in 2011, and I was all, "you're going through a phase," and he still makes fun of me for that. :D

Welcome to the Horns of Cerastes!

There was also an humming-bird that spake unto the horned cerastes, and prayed him for poison. And the great snake of Khem the Holy One, the royal Uræus serpent, answered him and said:

I sailed over the sky of Nu in the car called Millions-of-Years, and I saw not any creature upon Seb that was equal to me. The venom of my fang is the inheritance of my father, and of my father's father; and how shall I give it unto thee? Live thou and thy children as I and my fathers have lived, even unto an hundred millions of generations, and it may be that the mercy of the Mighty Ones may bestow upon thy children a drop of the poison of eld.

Then the humming-bird was afflicted in his spirit, and he flew unto the flowers, and it was as if naught had been spoken between them. Yet in a little while a serpent struck him that he died.

But an Ibis that meditated upon the bank of Nile the beautiful god listened and heard. And he laid aside his Ibis ways, and became as a serpent, saying Peradventure in an hundred millions of millions of generations of my children, they shall attain to a drop of the poison of the fang of the Exalted One.

And behold! ere the moon waxed thrice he became an Uræus serpent, and the poison of the fang was established in him and his seed even for ever and for ever.
- Liber LXV, Cap. V

I've spent the last nine years or so writing the Head for the Red blog, a record of my pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone. I completed that Work a couple of years ago, and as part of that completion, I found myself beginning a whole new phase of my life, this time as an ACTUAL Thelemite, instead of just a "those who call me a Thelemite wouldn't be wrong" Thelemite. I joined both the A.'.A.'. and the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), and I've since been studying a lot of the things Crowley wrote for the first time since I was like 18.

And not being 18 is a HUGE benefit to people studying Crowley. I know I know, everyone's a teenage Ipsissimus, but I really thought I was. Seeing it anew from the perspective I'd reached after going through the personal transformation of the Alchemical Work put everything into a totally different context.

I've made a ton of friends in the OTO, and I have a lot of things I want to talk about that relate to OTO and Magick and life in general, but I built up a pretty big audience base over the last nine years of people who are not lodge folk, and may EVEN be somewhat antagonistic towards lodges in general. I may have been antagonistic at some points myself. Once or twice.

So I don't want to be focused on topics that are not prurient to that crowd on that blog, but I still have a lot to say about the A'.A.'. and OTO materials I'm working through. So I created this blog for that purpose.

If you're one of my Thelemic friends, this will be where I make mass jokes and dabble in pestilence-centering, and comment on Thelemic Life as I see fit. I have a LOT of opinions on things related to the Orders, and this gives me the platform to speak my mind without alienating all my other friends, clients, and audience in general.

It also gives me a chance to grow a new audience, more focused on a specific aspect of my Work these days.


Let the games begin!