Tag Archives: Reference

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 Satanic Rituals

The Satanic Rituals: Companion to The Satanic Bible [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Anton Szandor LaVey, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

LaVey The Satanic Rituals

The Satanic Rituals is the “companion” text to LaVey’s “Satanic Bible”, and is an expansion of the material given in the last two sections of the latter. Included in the book are a variety of rituals and ceremonies derived from French, German, Middle-Eastern, Russian, and fictional sources – as well as Satanic baptisms, and including a version of the Black Mass. LaVey gives informative forewords to each ritual, explaining the origins and nature of the rites. Perhaps the only tenuous inclusion in the volume is a rite based on the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P Lovecraft, which may make HPL purists squirm (although LaVey reworked it from it’s first “incarnation” in a Derlethian-style Christianized context as penned by Temple Of Set founder, Michael Aquino). Overall, this is worthy of a read.

The Satanic Mass

The Satanic Mass [Amazon, Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by H T F Rhodes, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Rhodes The Satanic Mass

This is perhaps one of the most acclaimed books on the history of the infamous “Black Mass”. The author provides an insightful and unbiased account of the origins of this ceremony from ancient pagan times through to it’s more corrupt modern incarnations. Perhaps one of the most interesting theories put forward by Rhodes is that the “Black Mass” was actually pagan in origin, rather than an invention of Christian fantasies – he suggests that the early pagans performed rites which denied the Christian god in favour of their own ancient cultural deities – rites that were later to be considered “Black Masses” by the Christian missionaries who were shocked at such “blasphemy”. Other topics also covered include the “heresy” of the Knights Templar and Cathars, the Guiborg Masses, and “diabolism” in Freemasonry. Essential reading.

The Satanic Bible

The Satanic Bible [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Anton Szandor LaVey, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

LaVey The Satanic Bible

Where to begin? This is undoubtably the most popular treatise on Satanism that has ever existed – but is it any good? The main problem with the “Satanic Bible” lies in it’s commercial singularity – such has aided more than a few Church of Satan spokesmen over the years in arrogantly claiming they are the only “true” upholders of Satanism since other groups hold no desire to come forth into the public eye with a marketable introduction. But the real issue, of course, is what the book contains. It is divided into four parts – the first section being primarily paraphrased from Arthur Desmond’s “Might Is Right” and revised by LaVey. It is basically a collection of elitist proclamations presented in “verses”. The second section could be easily said to be the primary part of the book, expounding the philosophies of Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan in relation to a variety of subjects, covering “God”, love, hate, life, death, sex, and “psychic vampirism”. It’s an interesting read to be certain, although the actual personal appeal of LaVey’s philosophies depends mainly on the attitude and tastes of the reader. It has been often said that the appeal of LaVey lies mainly in his accessibility – especially to teenagers, who no doubt form a large part of his following. The language used, and the rationale LaVey applies, made this book pretty much an assured bestseller – and indeed it has been so. In essence, LaVey’s brand of “Satanism” is mainly a blend of rational self-interest (with emphasis on hedonism), materialism, and anti-mainstream sentiments – mixed together with a magickal system that is itself a blend of historical, cultural, and psychodramatic ritual applications (also borrowing from Aleister Crowley and other modern magickians). All this is nicely “packaged” together under the symbol of that age-old Christian archetype – The Devil, Satan. The third and fourth sections relate to the aforementioned magickal system, although the rites presented are basic ceremonies designed for the purposes of invoking lust, compassion, or destruction. LaVey outlines the principles of his system with a fair deal of (accurate) logic and explains the nature of the tools applied. The book is concluded with his own revisions of John Dee’s “Enochian Keys”, which are basically much the same as the originals save for the inclusion of Satan. In summary, whether you love or hate LaVey, the book is certainly worth a read. For those seriously interested in the doctrines of the late “Black Pope” and the Church of Satan, it is an essential purchase. For anyone else, it is a good reference text on the basics of American Satanism as well as an interesting read in it’s own right. Decide for oneself.