Claude Rex Nowell (November 2, 1944 – January 29, 2008), also known as Corky King, Corky Ra, and Summum Bonum Amon Ra, was the American founder of Summum, a 501(c)(3), philosophical and religious organization that practices a modern form of mummification.
Nowell was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States. When he was four years old, his parents divorced and he and his mother moved to Southern California. That same year (1948), his mother married Robert Williamson King and she had Claude's name legally changed to Claude Rex King. When he was young, Claude was given the nickname "Corky" which was how he was known to friends and family.
Up until 1959, Corky King lived in Monrovia, California. Then his family moved to Tustin, California, where he graduated from Tustin High School in 1962. He went on to attend Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and graduated in Construction Technology. Corky King moved back to Salt Lake City in 1964 and about that same time, he legally changed his name back to Claude Rex Nowell. He attended Brigham Young University and graduated from the University of Utah.
Founding of Summum
In 1975, Nowell founded Summum following an experience he describes as an encounter with highly intelligent beings. The purpose of Summum is to share with others the information he received from his encounter and to provide an environment for those on a path of spiritual development. In 1980, Nowell legally changed his name to Summum Bonum Amon Ra as a representation of his spiritual path.
Pyramid and winery
In 1978, Nowell began construction of a pyramid that would be used as a winery to produce Summum Soma Nectar. Despite Utah's strict liquor laws and the rigid controls it places on alcoholic beverages, a Utah law allowed him to establish the winery provided the wine was used for religious purposes. The winery was established in 1980 and is one of very few in the state of Utah. The Soma Nectar is also referred to as Nectar Publications and are used in a practice of meditation for the purpose of developing mystical potentials.
Through Summum, Nowell re-introduced mummification in a modernized form and at one point was a licensed funeral director in the state of California. Nowell has been referred to as "the father of modern mummification," and the mummification services offered by Summum have received attention in international publications. The process begins with the body's submersion in fluids for 77 days and is complex, requiring about 1,000 hours of labor over six months. Those wishing to be mummified write a "spiritual will" outlining where they hope their soul will go in the next lifetime, to be read to their body at least once a day during its 77 days of submersion.
The first human to undergo the mummification process was Nowell himself, who died in January 2008. His body is encased inside a bronze mummiform (casket) that is covered in gold and stands inside the group's pyramid.
Summum philosophy and litigation
Since founding Summum, Nowell, under the name of Summum Bonum Amen Ra, has authored books published by Summum that delve into the organization's philosophy. In one of the books, Ra outlines principles upon which the Summum philosophy is based. Summum has requested that monuments displaying these principles, known as the "Seven Aphorisms", be placed next to Ten Commandments monuments in city parks. In one case, where the city of Duchesne, Utah rejected the request, Summum filed a lawsuit on the basis of freedom of speech and discrimination. The city opted to relocate its monument rather than allowing Summum to erect its monument, rendering the lawsuit moot and leading to its dismissal. Another lawsuit, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, was unanimously decided by the Supreme Court against Summum. The case could have national implications and could potentially impact many of America's cities.
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- Ra, Summum Bonum Amen (1988). SUMMUM: Sealed Except to the Open Mind. Summum. ISBN 0-943217-00-8.
- Ra, Summum Bonum Amen (1994). Sexual Ecstasy from Ancient Wisdom. Summum. ISBN 0-943217-00-8.
- Summum v. City of Ogden, No. 01-4022 (Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals 2002-07-19).
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