Thursday, December 1, 2016

From Cefalu to Sacramento Part 4: Wending the Way to Sacramento

In the previous installment, we discussed the events that followed the death of Karl Germer, mentioning the ongoing work of Phyllis Seckler as she picked up and continued the administration of the A.'.A.'.. She went through a lot over the years, developing what eventually became the International College of Thelema and the Temple of the Silver Star in service to the A.'.A.'..

She worked to create resources for people looking into the subjects of Thelema and Crowley through the publication of In the Continuum, a bi-annual journal that was available from 1973-1996. She worked to document her own Superior's history, writing a series of articles on the life of Jane Wolfe that was eventually expanded and published as Jane Wolfe: Her life with Aleister Crowley, Parts 1 and 2. Copies of Part 1 are still available from Conjoined Creation, and I hope to see a combined volume re-published one day.

As we mentioned in the previous post, throughout her life Seckler continued to accept students in the formula of the original blueprint Crowley published in the Blue Equinox. In 1993, Seckler was contacted by David Shoemaker, who soon began his work in the A.'.A.'. under her personal tutelage, and began his initiations into the Mysteries of the O.T.O..

 He and Phyllis Seckler became more than just student and teacher over the years. Hearing his stories about their time together, it quickly becomes obvious that they were friends and compatriots in the pursuit of the Work. She found in him the person she felt most comfortable leaving the legacy to which she had devoted her entire life. When she passed, he was named her de facto spiritual heir, receiving her personal library, and the documents of her history in the Orders. He followed her as Body Master of 418 Lodge in Sacramento, and currently leads the International College of Thelema and the Temple of the Silver Star, which were established by explicit warrant from Seckler.

It's really not my place to speak about his accomplishments within the A.'.A.'.. He is more than capable of speaking publicly about himself, should he so choose, and he's made a great deal of his personal Work available publicly available through the Living Thelema podcasts, now fully cataloged at livingthelema.com, and through the book of the same name published in 2013. Speaking to him in person, seeing his presence at events, and receiving instruction in the techniques of Magick he shares speaks volumes about his experience and demeanor.

But I'd like to share my favorite anecdote about David Shoemaker, and it's not one that comes from him, or anything he's ever made available publicly. It comes from conversations I had with an old friend at a tiny and remote whiskey bar somewhere within the borders of the Chesapeake Bay. It was before I joined the A.'.A.'. myself, and it was one of the things that made my decision easier.

My friend and I met long after smoking was outlawed in all public places, but the smoke of thousands of imported cigars had long since permeated the grain of the wood of the bar as we discussed the route of the A.'.A.'. leadership as it led to David Shoemaker.

"David's legit, perhaps the only one who can actually provide an unassailable paper trail back to Crowley, if that matters to you," my friend said. "While that gets him paper respect, there's a lot more to it than that. His whole life in Thelema demonstrates the Grades."

You can bet this got my attention.

My friend went on to tell me All About What Happened to the A.'.A.'.TM. He just sat there, sipping his Coca-Cola (he didn't drink, even though there were scotches worth more than he made in a month available to him if he would just place the order for once in his life) and talking. He told me of Germer, and of Motta, and Breeze, and Gunther, of Grady McMurtry, and his own teacher's teacher, and he told me of Jane Wolfe, Phyllis Seckler, the Eshelman period, and then, finally, we spoke of David Shoemaker.

He told me about how David had showed up in the early 1990s, and fell right into the current 93, rapidly moving up through the degrees of the O.T.O. and the Grades of A.'.A.'. alike. He spoke of the contributions to the College of Thelema by the key players, the end results, and the eventual change in focus that happened sometime before Phyllis passed away. He told me that she had left her full library and archives to David, and that he was her primary spiritual heir.

And then he spoke of the disappearing David. "It's like he went silent after she died. Nothing on the national O.T.O. lists to speak of, nothing international, of course, and during this period, very little came out of the West Coast with his fingerprints on it."

But then... something happened.

"Something settled in him, and then everything changed," as it was put to me.

My speculations revolve around the facts. Sometime between 2004 and 2010, David Shoemaker passed through some levels of initiation and experiential understanding that shifted his focus from a passive recipient of the teachings to an active teacher of our Mysteries. He returned to public life, broadcasting Living Thelema, and taking the actions that eventually led to the formation of the International College of Thelema, and its initiatory body, the Temple of the Silver Star.

"No one knows what happened, for sure, but it's pretty obvious," said my friend. "You don't do this stuff until you hit ..." and I won't say what Grade he was referencing, but basically, everyone who cares can figure it out. It's basic math, though, and his actions and his experiences map directly onto the path of initiation and what you'd expect someone to do when they hit certain Grades of the Order.

So that about wraps it up. It was a long and winding road that led from Cefalu to Sacramento. Yet, in my mind, it's all pretty straightforward:
  • Crowley to Germer
  • Germer to Seckler
  • Seckler to Shoemaker
The only reason we have all this other stuff to wade through is because people didn't like Phyllis Seckler, or the idea of her having the authority she had earned. She had standards, she said what she thought, and she didn't put up with adolescent foolishness when she saw it. She was a trail blazer, and through her tenacity she carved out the niche in which the O.T.O. was capable of being reborn. If Grady McMurtry was the father of the modern O.T.O., then she is undeniably its Mother. Without her direct support and encouragement, we simply would not have the organizations I am proud to be a part of today.

I have been told I am simplifying things a great deal, and I might be. Those with vested interests in promulgation of revisionist history need this whole situation to be a lot more complicated to be able to weave alternate claims of legitimacy together. I've seen references to unpublished documents that allegedly contain "proof" that my conclusions are totally wrong, but in the same breath I'm told that these documents aren't supposed to be published and I just have to trust that they exist.

I am skeptical.

The documented facts led me to a remarkably simple conclusion, however:  The spiritual and administrative authority of A.'.A.'., and the office of its Praemonstrator, was passed down to the highest ranked and recognized member of the A.'.A.'. in good standing with both the O.T.O. and the A.'.A.'. at the death of Karl Germer, and has continued in its work and its service since the days of Aleister Crowley. R regardless of any other claims or arguments, only one active administrative body of A.'.A.'. can , to my satisfaction, trace itself back to Aleister Crowley through decree, degree, and bequeathment.

Over the course of the publication of these recent posts, I've had the opportunity to discuss the topics I'm bringing up with people from around the world, in multiple A.'.A.'. organizations around the globe that track their heritage back to Seckler, Motta, Grady McMurtry, and Gunther, and a surprising number of others that I didn't even know existed. People I've known for years in the occult community (and I mean people I've been friends with long before I ever considered joining any modern organized Thelemic group that goes back to Crowley) have contacted me and revealed their affiliation with groups that I had assumed were defunct or meaningless in the context of this discussion.

I was wrong about that. I've come to realize that my perspective has been pretty insular. I'm a US citizen, in the O.T.O. Kingdom of the United States, and my experiences have been heavily influenced by the people I have met in various lodges around the United States, and a bare handful of international members of our global fraternity. A lot has gone down since Motta passed, apparently, and it's been as bad as I had expected in some instances, and far better in others. Eventually.

The number of A.'.A.'. members around the world doing the work who have responded to this project has shifted my perspective on this subject quite a bit, while at the same time served to reinforce my conviction that the overall intent that started this is of global consequence when it comes to the relevance of the E.G.C., the O.T.O. and the A.'.A.'. when it comes to manifesting the Aeon of Horus and the fundamental aims of Hermetics on the planet that go back as long as we've had Herms in the first place.

Incredibly effective magicians are coming out of all the claimant groups. People I respected as "grimoire magicians" are secretly members of our collective heritage. Witches and sorcerors who seem to be focused only on the practical aspects of magick are working their wiles in service to the A.'.A.'. for the good of the whole rest of the world, whether the world can accept and understand it or not. They are literally everywhere.

They are doing the Work. They are experiencing the outcomes we are all striving towards. The exercises, practices, and study materials laid out by Crowley are working for people across the whole spectrum of practices we affiliate with publicly. The Work is actually doing what it's intended to do, and on a much broader and global scale than I ever dared hope.

Y'all are awesome. Thanks. I'm proud to be amongst the company I find myself in.
I still stand by the results of my own research to date. My opinions are pretty strong, and I think there is only one A.'.A.'. claimant group worth the time and effort I've put into it, historically, spiritually, and personally.

But I also recognize that those are my experiences, and my conclusions. I based my choice of claimant groups to join on the foundation of documented history, and my intractable practicality. My experiences have been awesome. I had supervisors who responded, encouraged me, challenged me, while leaving me to the resources that come with the program to reach my own conclusions. I've gotten out of the system everything (and more) that I've put into it.

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The authors of Horns of Cerastes are happy to share their insights, opinions, and interests in all matters Thelema. Anything uncited is probably an informed opinion, but there are times when we have been known to just have fun. Do be careful, it might get on you. Also, all comments are moderated.