After Harper and I published the "Progenitrix" articles on the lives of Jane Wolfe and Phyllis Seckler within the realms of the A.'.A.'., the O.T.O., and the ongoing impacts of their lives on the promulgation of the Thelema of Aleister Crowley, it rapidly became apparent that the history of these Sisters, and of Phyllis Seckler in particular, was a subject of dispute among modern Thelemites in the Order.
The number of contradictory ideas, incorrect representations, and blatantly false allegations surrounding our progenitrix that were brought to me by our brethren was astounding. I had no idea that people didn't already know this stuff.
In writing the essay on Jane Wolfe, I relied a great deal on her actual correspondence with Crowley, and her diaries at Cefalu*. I also consulted the correspondences between Seckler and Germer, and between Seckler and Wolfe. This correspondence is publicly available, and has been published for years, made available by Marlene Cornelius**, and David Shoemaker***.
I thought everyone with an active opinion on Jane and Phyllis had read this information, but apparently... not so much.
The publicly available record directly contradicts 90% of the misinformation I've heard from my sisters and brothers in the Order, and clarifies the remaining 10% that might be interpreted improperly when taken out of context. All of the documentation I found is indisputable, by even the most adamant detractors of our Sister.
Yet accusations of recension, perversion, lack of initiation, and even implications of criminal activity continue to float around the edges of the Thelemic community.
In an effort to resolve the disconnect between historic facts and the various theories and gossip I've heard exchanged with sisters and brethren in the Order, ranging from Austin, Texas, to Baltimore, Maryland, and to here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I decided I needed to get as close to the source as possible. After all, she was with us until 2004, and it's not like I don't actually know the people who knew her best when she was alive.
So, of course, I went to David Shoemaker and asked him about some of the things people were saying.
David was one of the people closest to Soror Meral in life. He was her personal student in the A.'.A.'., and worked closely with her during the final decade of her life. As a member of a relatively small group of people who could consider themselves the heirs of her legacy, and as one of the people who actually worked with her on several of the projects that are the subject of so much confusion, it made sense to go to him and address these topics directly.
Talking to David about these subjects was quite enlightening. If you've heard his Living Thelema broadcasts, you're familiar with the calm and intelligent approach he brings to the subjects he addresses. Even extremely inflammatory accusations were met with gentle correction, supported by simple documentable facts.
Over the last couple of months I've continued to ask him questions covering topics that cover the history of the A.'.A.'. from the time of Germer's death, when there was only one recognized administration, through the development of Neo-A.'.A.'. administrations, until we reached the current state of affairs.
I spoke with him about the different methods of administration of the A.'.A.'. that Soror Meral experimented with as she progressed through her own initiations and the accomplishment of her Great Work, and came to understand more clearly how the traditional student program of the A.'.A.'. never stopped, and the actual roles the institutions such as the International College of Thelema, or the Temple of the Silver Star played under the auspices of her teachings.
After these conversations, I found myself in a much better position to understand the relationship between the A.'.A.'. and the O.T.O. historically and today.
Sisters and Brothers, a lot has gone down over the years.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be publishing the results of our interviews in a series of "Progeny of Estai-Meral" posts. It might take a while to cover all the material. There's a fair amount of it, after all. It's been more than a minute since Meral's recognition by Germer as a 5=6. Life has happened.
And it hasn't stopped.
While I get the next post together, take a few minutes and tune into this Stooping Starlight episode, featuring a rare interview with Soror Meral. Hearing her speak gives you more insight into her life, view, and personality than anything I could write about ever will. While an abridged transcript of this interview appears in The Thoth Tarot, Astrology, and Other Selected Writings (see below), the Stooping Starlight podcast provides never-before-published conversations with Soror Meral.
* See Jane Wolfe: The Cefalu Diaries 1920-1923, available from the International College of Thelema (http://intcot.org/store)
** See Jane Wolfe: Her Life with Aleister Crowley, Parts I and II, available from Conjoined Creation
*** See The Thoth Tarot, Astrology and Other Selected Writings, and The Kabbalah, Magick, and Selected Writings Volume II, available from Weiser Antiquarian Books.