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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 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 Unknown God

The Unknown God: W.T. Smith and the Thelemites by Martin P Starr, from Teitan Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Martin P Starr's The Unknown God from Teitan Press

“The first documentary study of Aleister Crowley’s contemporary followers in North America, told through the life of their de facto leader, Wilfred Talbot Smith (1885-1957). Smith, the unacknowledged offspring of a prominent English family, emigrated to Canada where he met Charles Stansfeld Jones and through him, the works of Aleister Crowley. Although Crowley and Smith met only once, their twenty year correspondence proved to be a major link to the few and the faithful attracted to Crowley’s work in the United States and Canada. Smith’s spiritual life centered first on the initiatic structure of the Order of the A∴A∴, complemented by the emerging fraternal and social schemes of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). Smith followed Jones into a few long-forgotten movements like the Universal Brotherhood and the Psychomagian Society, but he declined membership in C.F. Russell’s Choronzon Club.

To promulgate the Crowleyan teachings, in 1934 Smith incorporated his own ‘Church of Thelema’—known to Los Angeles newspaper readers as the ‘Purple Cult.’ The following year he initiated OTO activity in Los Angeles which attracted its own cast of occult characters. Smith’s life reached a strange conclusion when Crowley, taking a page from Louis Bromfield’s novel, THE STRANGE CASE OF MISS ANNIE SPRAGG, which explored ‘the twin mysteries of love and religion and the confusion that lies between’ and combining it with a reading of Smith’s natal chart, sent him off on a retreat to determine which God he was incarnating. It was a journey from which Frater 132 never returned …

THE UNKNOWN GOD is a fascinating and complex human story, intimately interwoven with the lives of most of Crowley’s disciples in the United States including C.F. Russell, Jane Wolfe, Max R. Schneider, Jack Parsons, Louis T. Culling, Frederic Mellinger and Grady L. McMurtry as well as occult teachers like H. Spencer Lewis (AMORC) Paul Foster Case (BOTA), and Wayne Walker (OM), Hollywood actors such as John Carradine and even the founder of the Mattachine Society, Harry Hay. Students of 19th and 20th century esoteric movements, including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Theosophical Society and the Crowley-derived organizations, will find THE UNKNOWN GOD worth reading.”


The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Aleister Crowley, Friends, and Followers

You may be interested in Weiser Antiquarian Book Catalogue #108: Aleister Crowley, Friends, and Followers.

“The catalogue starts with a work that has provoked considerable discussion even before its public release: Michael Effertz’s thoughtfully argued book Priest/ess: In Advocacy of Queer Gnostic Mass. There follows a section devoted to copies of The Book of the Law including a copy of the seldom-seen O.T.O. leather-bound Centennial Edition, limited to 418 numbered copies, signed by Hymenaeus Beta and the 1956 reissue of The Equinox of the Gods with the rare separate folder containing a facsimile of the original manuscript of “The Book of the Law.” Rare materials by Crowley in the following section include several letters from him to his collaborator on the Thoth tarot deck Frieda Harris, a superb first edition of The Book of Lies, a rare greeting-card type edition of The Hymn to Pan, and the original typescript of The Yi King: An Interpretation, a work which would later be published by Helen Parsons Smith as the Shi Yi.

Some of the most exciting items are found in the next section “Works by Friends and Followers of Aleister Crowley.” This includes Kenneth Grant’s copy of the Hatha-Yoga Pradipika of Svatmarama Svamin with Grant’s elaborate ownership inscription and his personal sigil as well as a list of the various titles to which he lay claim – on the half-title page, along with editions deluxe of Beyond the Mauve Zone and The Magical Revival. There is also a good selection of works by Jack Parsons including his own copy of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, with Jack Parsons’ ownership initials on the first blank. In addition to an unusual collection of publications by Louis T. Culling there is a nice group by Israel Regardie including a signed edition of The Eye in the Triangle.

The penultimate section “Works Relating to Aleister Crowley and his Magical Orders” includes a number of unusual books, some of which have a most interesting provenance. Thus a copy of L. Ron Hubbard, Final Blackout was a gift to Wilfred T. Smith and his wife, Helen (Helen Parsons Smith), a copy of De Villars’ Comte de Gabalis belonged to Reea Leffingwell (of Agape Lodge), whilst a copy of The Kabbalah; Its Doctrines, Development and Literature has ownership signatures of two California Thelemites, Joseph C. Crombie and Mildred Burlingame. Copies of Arthur Edward Waite’s superb edition of Eliphas Levi’s The History of Magic and William Stirling’s The Canon are both from the collection of Aleister Crowley’s student Arthur Edward Richardson, with his bookplate on the front pastedown, whilst the first edition of Richard Kaczynski’s ground-breaking biography, Perdurabo. The Life of Aleister Crowley, is a presentation copy inscribed to English Crowley scholar Nicholas Bishop-Culpeper. The final section of the catalogue is somewhat more whimsical, featuring books related to music and cinema which make some mention of Aleister Crowley. Not surprisingly many also invoke the names of Jimmy Page and Kenneth Anger.” [via]