Church of Light
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The Church of Light was incorporated November 2, 1932 in Los Angeles, California. Its mission is “to teach, practice, and disseminate The Religion of The Stars, a way of life for the Aquarian Age, as set forth in writings of C.C. Zain.” (The Church of Light, "Vision for the 21st Century.") The three founding officers were President C.C. Zain, pen name of Elbert Benjamine (1882-1951), Vice President Fred Skinner (1872-1940) and Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth D. Benjamine (1875-1942).(The Church of Light, "Where We Are Located.")
The Church is the continuation of an initiatic organisation, the Brotherhood of Light, established in the same city in 1915. The Brotherhood of Light lessons were written over a twenty-year period by Elbert Benjamine from 1914 through 1934, and continually revised by him until his death. Benjamine had been invited in 1909 by the leaders of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (HBofL) in Denver to join them as successor to Minnie Higgin, who had been the order’s astrologer until her death that year. The surviving Council members proposed to Benjamine that he rewrite the order’s teachings in a systematic form as the basis for a new organization that would “bring occultism to the life of ordinary people.” This change was inspired by orders from Max Theon to close the HBofL following the death of his wife the previous year. After five years of preparation and study, Elbert Benjamine came to Los Angeles in 1915 and began to hold meetings. “At that point it still operated as a secret society. On November 11, 1918, the Brotherhood of Light opened its doors to the public, offering classes and a home-study course.” The 1932 reorganization as The Church of Light was a response to ordinances passed that year by Los Angeles County “prohibiting both the teaching and practice of astrology.”
Astro-Philosophical Publications, founded in Denver in 1892, was a publishing arm of the HBofL created by Henry and Belle Wagner. The authors it published included Thomas H. Burgoyne and Sarah Stanley Grimke, both cited by Benjamine as sources of Brotherhood teachings. He accorded the same status to Ghost Land and Art Magic by Emma Hardinge Britten. Another early HBofL member, Genevieve Stebbins, relocated to California from England in 1917 with her husband Norman Astley, and provided assistance to the Benjamines in establishing the Brotherhood of Light.
Following the 1943 remarriage of Elbert Benjamine, his son and heir apparent Will Benjamine departed in acrimony and established the Stellar Ministry, “a short-lived religious group that taught a mixture of Hermeticism and Christianity.” Although the group did not survive, Church of Light membership “never quite recovered from these discords.”
The 21 volume Brotherhood of Light lessons are publicly accessible to nonmembers of the church, but only members participate in a system of written examinations covering each volume. Each examination passed advances the member one degree. Seven volumes each are devoted to astrology, alchemy, and magic. Students who complete all 21 degrees (including examinations) are awarded a “Hermetician’s Certificate.”
Church headquarters were located through 1999 at 117 (later 2341) Coral Street in Los Angeles, which had been the home of the Benjamines. After several years based in Brea, California, in 2005 it relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Regular classes and services are held at its headquarters, 2119 Gold Avenue, many of which are viewable as live streams and archived on the church website. The current president is Paul Brewer.
- Vision for the 21st Century
- Where We Are Located
- "Elbert Benjamine", Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology, 5th ed. (Detroit: Gale, 2000.)
- Horowitz, Mitch, Occult America (New York: Bantam, 2009), 217
- Godwin, Chanel, and Deveney, eds., The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1995), 39.
- Gibson, Christopher, "The Religion of the Stars: The Hermetic Philosophy of C.C. Zain,Gnosis Magazine, Winter 1996,61.
- Gibson, Christopher, "The Religion of the Stars: The Hermetic Philosophy of C.C. Zain",Gnosis Magazine, Winter 1996, 63.
- Zain, C.C., Laws of Occultism, (Los Angeles: The Church of Light, 1994), 152,156.
- "C.C. Zain", Greer, John Michael, The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.(St. Paul, MN: LLewellyn, 2003, 527.
- Gibson, Christopher, "The Religion of the Stars: The Hermetic Philosophy of C.C. Zain",Gnosis Magazine, Winter 1996, 62.
- Meet the Staff
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology, 5th ed. (Detroit: Gale, 2000.) "Elbert Benjamine."
Gibson, Christopher, "The Religion of the Stars: The Hermetic Philosophy of C.C. Zain," Gnosis Magazine, Winter 1996
Greer, John Michael, The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.(St. Paul, MN: LLewellyn, 2003)
The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism.Joscelyn Godwin, Christian Chanel, and John Patrick Deveney, eds. (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1995)
Horowitz, Mitch, Occult America. (New York: Bantam, 2009)
Zain, C.C. (Elbert Benjamine), Laws of Occultism. (Los Angeles: The Church of Light, 1994)