Tag Archives: Carl Llewellyn Weschcke

The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G∴B∴G∴

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G∴B∴G∴: Being the Entire Study, Curriculum, Magick Rituals, and Initiatory Practices of the G∴B∴G∴ (The Great Brotherhood of God) [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]  by Louis T Culling, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke.

Culling Weschcke The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order of G∴B∴G∴

This text (the “Edited, Revised, and Expanded” second edition of The Complete Magick Curriculum of the G∴B∴G∴) is the work of three men distributed over about eight decades. 

At the root is the actual curriculum in the form of rituals and “directives from Headquarters” written by C.F. Russell to instruct the adherents of his Thelemic magical order G∴B∴G∴, which boasted “A Short-cut to Initiation.” This material was put into practice by an organization which achieved total membership in the triple digits during its operation in various US metropolitan areas in the 1930s. It is quite interesting in being a fully-realized Thelemic system of magical training and organizing that appears to have made no reference to the person of Aleister Crowley. It did, however, operate under the authority granted by him to Russell, and it did promote Crowley’s Liber Legis and his cardinal doctrine of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The system is deliberately minimalist in design, and the ceremonial liturgies hardly measure up to Crowley’s ritual texts, but I’m sure they were effective. Another notable feature was its deployment of a sex-magical program stemming from the writings of Ida Craddock.

The next layer of The Complete Magick Curriculum was contributed by Louis T. Culling, an initiate of G∴B∴G∴, O.T.O., and A∴A∴, who claimed to have been entrusted by Russell with the duty of publishing the G∴B∴G∴ material — to take place at least twenty years after the closure of the order to aspirants in 1936. (Culling also thanks Katherine Peacock, a fellow G∴B∴G∴ initiate, for her work in preparing the original edition of The Complete Magick Curriculum.) In fact, it was more than thirty years before Culling actually brought the book out, through Llewellyn Publications.

The new “edition, revision, and expansion” of the text, reflected in the 2010 trade paperback issuance, is the fault of longtime Llewellyn publisher Carl Weschcke, who facilitated the publication of the original edition, and was on friendly terms with Culling. This book appears to be a cardinal illustration of the scenario in which editorial correction is poor-to-nonexistent, since nobody wants to tell the boss that his composition stinks. Spelling is variable and erratic. Weschke’s contributions, whether in the foreword, the chapter-level commentaries, the “study and discussion points,” or the appended glossary, are all structured in the form of glosses and lemmas which purport to clarify topics and expressions on which Culling’s text touches. Most of these are repeated at least once, so that by my rough estimate, at least seventy pages’ worth of the book are perfectly redundant. Even just within the forty pages of front matter, there are multiple paragraphs that recur verbatim.

Weschcke has a long history of involvement in American occultism, including AMORC, Aurum Solis, and Wicca. But he has evidently never been initiated into any Thelemic society, and his comprehension of Thelema is patently lacking. The book reproduces the first chapter of The Book of the Law, introducing numerous significant errors. E.g. I:56-57, where “solve” is “solved,” and the Hebrew letter aleph is given instead of tzaddi! (117) Weschcke confesses himself “rather at a loss” in accounting for the “Calypso Moon Language,” (88, 243) because he has (obviously) never given serious study to The Vision and the Voice or Liber LXVI. Instead he offers “research” — fruit of a quick Internet search, I suspect — consisting of the various possible meanings of “Calypso,” most of which are painfully irrelevant. In the G∴B∴G∴ instructions, practitioners are told to use the ficus gesture (right-hand fist with thumb between index and medius) as the “Magick Wand.” Weschcke says that this ceremonial technique is “to my knowledge, unique to the G∴B∴G∴” (58, 268), because his knowledge includes no working familiarity with the O.T.O. Gnostic Mass or the A∴A∴ Ritual of the Mark of the Beast (Liber V).

Sometimes Weschcke’s commentaries willfully contradict the spirit of Culling’s original text. For example, when Culling offers a useful distinction between the technique of the Thelemic magical oath and that of the New Thought affirmation (33), Weschcke insists that Culling is “showing his natural prejudice for what today we more often refer to as ‘fluffy.'” (Surely Weschcke means “prejudice against“?) Then Weschcke provides a lengthy defense of the “beautiful philosophy” of New Thought and its derivatives (41-42, 274).

Unfortunately, one point in which Culling and Weschcke concur is a certain anti-intellectualism (e.g. 178). While it is surely true that intellectual inquiry alone will never suffice to accomplish the Great Work of spiritual realization, the sort of active disparagement of study shown in this book will result in just the accumulation of errors and nonsense that it now exhibits throughout. As successful magicians should be aware, it’s not a matter of either theory or practice, but rather both theory and practice.

I would like to be able to refer readers to the first edition, which would be free of the more egregious elements of the book I read. But it is quite scarce, and commands prices of $100 and more — which I can hardly view as worthwhile to anyone other than the specialist researcher into Thelemic history. There is a missed potential shadowing this book: the possibility of a richly objective documentary treatment like that in The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor by Godwin, Chanel, and Deveney. Perhaps someone will someday undertake that work for the G∴B∴G∴

The Wizard and the Witch

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism by John Sulak, foreword by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke.

Sulak Weschcke The Wizard and the Witch

The Wizard & the Witch is a dual biography of Oberon and Morning Glory Zell, constructed as an oral history. John C. Sulak interviewed over fifty different people in order to assemble the firsthand accounts that make up the body of the book. Although most were almost certainly interviewed separately, the editorial process has set them into dialogue with each other as Sulak works through chronological and topical segments of the book. With one conspicuous holdout, he was able to garner input from a great range of family members, lovers, and creative collaborators. Not all of the accounts are complimentary, but all have the ring of sincerity.

The earliest sections reach back into the childhoods of the two subjects, and the story is told up to 2009. It traces the religious vocations of the Zells and the vicissitudes of the Church of All Worlds of which Oberon was a founder, and with which they are identified. Although first developed as a science-fiction-inspired “grok flock,” CAW became a vanguard of public-facing neopaganism in the United States. Oberon later gained some notoriety for his cryptozoological efforts concerning unicorns and mermaids, and these are treated here also. Morning Glory Zell is commonly credited with coining the word polyamory, and the book provides ample detail on the Zells’ unconventional sexual ethics, their amorous involvements, and the developments of their various households.

I was a personal acquaintance of at least one person named in this book, and I can recall having attended a modest-sized pagan festival in central Texas where Morning Glory was present, so I understand myself to be two degrees of separation at most from the people in this book. Although I am a generation younger than the Zells, I found it easy to appreciate their life experiences by relating my own to some of the accounts given here. Certainly, many readers might consider this story to be an exotic one, but the motives, ideals, and foibles characteristic of the people involved are ones that I recognize, and in most instances, respect. The book is an enjoyable read, and even for those who may understand themselves to have less of a personal interest in the events and persons described, it vividly recounts a valuable perspective on the development of new religious expressions in twentieth-century America.

The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G∴B∴G∴

The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G∴B∴G∴: Being the Entire Study, Curriculum, Magick Rituals, and Initiatory Practices of the G∴B∴G∴ (The Great Brotherhood of God) by Louis T Culling; edited, revised, and expanded by Carl Llewellyn Weschke; from Llewellyn Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Louis T Culling Carl Llewellyn Weschcke The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G∴B∴G∴ from Llewellyn Publications

“Founded upon the revolutionary premise that High Magick can be distilled to a few powerful and efficient steps, Louis T. Culling’s original edition of this classic magick book broke all the rules.

Llewellyn is proud to present an updated and expanded edition of this pioneering work.

The G∴B∴G∴, or “Great Brotherhood of God,” was a magickal order founded by acclaimed magician Frater Genesthai. Louis T. Culling, one of the initial members of the G∴B∴G∴ in California, was instructed by Genesthai to reveal the Order’s magickal curriculum when the time was right.

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, publisher of Culling’s original edition of this book, offers illuminating commentary, definitions, and discussion points to render these profound magickal philosophies and practices even more accessible and relevant for contemporary magickal practice. This new edition is also an interesting philosophical commentary, answering a number of questions about historical occult orders and figures like Aleister Crowley. The techniques taught in this curriculum include:

Dream Recall and Interpretation · Functioning in the Borderland · Finding One’s True Magickal Identity · The Retirement Ritual · The Invocation of Thoth · Ritual Divination · Imprinting the I Ching on the Body · The Three Degrees of Sex Magick · Thelema and the Magickal Will · Invocation of Human Quality · The Rite of Transubstantiation · Conversations with a God · Magickal Offspring—the Familiar · The Great Lunar Trances” — back cover

The Wizard and the Witch

The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism, an oral history with Oberon and Morning Glory Zell, by John C Sulak, with foreword by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, from Llewellyn, may be of interest.

John C Sulak The Wizard and the Witch from Llewellyn Publications

“This is the stranger-than-fiction story of two soul mates who rejected the status quo and embraced higher ideals … and had a whole lot of fun while they were at it. Reclaiming Pagan as a spiritual identity—and living in an open marriage for over four decades—Oberon and Morning Glory Zell truly embody the freedom to think, to love, and to live.

Telling the stories of their singular lives in this unique oral history, Oberon and Morning Glory—together with a colorful tribe of friends, lovers, musicians, homesteaders, researchers, and ritualists—reveal how they established the Church of All Worlds, revitalized Goddess worship, discovered the Gaea Thesis, raised real Unicorns, connected a worldwide community through Green Egg magazine, searched for mermaids in the South Pacific, and founded the influential Grey School of Wizardry.

Join Morning Glory and Oberon as they share the highs and lows of their extraordinary lives, and explore the role they played in shaping the community of Witches and Pagans that thrives in the world today.”