Phyllis Seckler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Phyllis Seckler
Soror Meral
Phyllis Seckler.jpg
TitleGuiding Teacher
Personal
Born
Phyllis Evalina Pratt

(1917-06-18)June 18, 1917
DiedMay 31, 2004(2004-05-31) (aged 86)
ReligionThelema
NationalityUnited States
LineageA∴A∴ lineage of Soror Estai
Known forRe-establishment of O.T.O., empowerment of women in Thelema
ProfessionTeacher
TempleLodge 418
OrderOrdo Templi Orientis
ChurchGnostic Catholic Church
Founder ofCollege of Thelema, Temple of Silver Star
Senior posting
TeacherJane Wolfe
SuccessorDavid Shoemaker, James Eshelman
ProfessionTeacher

Phyllis Evalina Seckler (June 18, 1917 – May 31, 2004), also known as Soror Meral, ninth degree (IX°) member of the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Gnosis of Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), and a lineage holder in the A∴A∴ tradition. She was student of Jane Wolfe, herself a student of Aleister Crowley.[2]

Early life[edit]

Youth: 1917–1939[edit]

Seckler was born in Edmonton, Canada on June 18, 1917.[3] Her family moved to California when she was only about four years of age, as her father had lost a political bid for mayor of Edmonton and had gone deeply into debt for that. After graduation from high school in Los Angeles, she had a year of work in a Junior College and then another year of work to fit her to be a stenographer. She then got a job with a bank and attended drama classes in Hollywood conducted by Regina Kahl who was a member of Ordo Templi Orientis.[4] She attended The Gnostic Mass written by Crowley and met Wilfred Talbot Smith and actress Jane Wolfe.[5] She joined the O.T.O. in August 1939 and on June 6, of 1940, became a Probationer of the A∴A∴ under Jane Wolfe, who had studied with Crowley in Cefalu.[6]

The Agape Lodge: 1939–1944[edit]

Agape Lodge No. 1, founded by Wilfred Smith in 1935, was based in Hollywood, and initially had 7 initiates to the Minerval level.[7] The lodge held regular meetings, lectures, and study classes, as well as social events and a weekly Gnostic Mass open to the public.[8] On the 6th of June 1939 Seckler, and other individuals who attended drama classes, including Louis T. Culling and Roy Leffingwell were brought in by Regina Kahl who worked as a drama teacher. Kahl was a drama teacher at Los Angeles City College and the program was under the auspices of the W.P.A. to put people to work during the depression years. Since Kahl had been on the stage many times and had studied her drama parts for opera, she knew quite a bit about theatre. Seckler joined her class in January 1937 as she was bored with her job in the bank and found that it was quite a challenge to memorize her parts and to put on the skits and small plays which Kahl had asked of the class. She often mentioned matters having to do with Thelema and quotes from Crowley.

Near the end of the semester, Regina Kahl who was Seckler's drama teacher, decided to put on a small play in the attic of the house on 1746 Winona Boulevard where the Gnostic Mass was held. They had a dais with 3 steps and curtains and Kahl decided that this could be used for a play. About five of Kahl's students worked on presenting the play. When the evening came, it was a warm evening in early June and Seckler walked through the dark with some anticipation to the evening's entertainment. Seckler joined the crowd and soon their group went up the stairs to the second floor and from there they went up the narrow stairs to the attic of the house and heard the play with a good deal of enjoyment. Afterwards, they went down to the living room and were entertained with refreshments and good conversation. Again the invitation to the Mass was given. Then Wilfred Talbot Smith quoted some Crowley's poetry. Seckler was attracted by an atmosphere and took the occasion to attend the Gnostic Mass several times that summer, often with Paul Seckler who later became her husband, or another friend. Other Agape lodge members included rocket scientist Jack Parsons, his wife Helen Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard and Helen Parson's sister Sara Northrup who he later married. Seckler made a friend of Ron Hubbard, as well as becoming friends with Wilfred Smith. She subsequently moved into the large house rented by the O.T.O. at 1003 South Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena, where many of the lodge members, including Hubbard, were living as a form of commune and raising livestock and vegetables in the grounds.[9]

Art and teaching: 1945—1947[edit]

19th-century painting by Fridolin Leiber portraying the Holy Guardian Angel embracing the children of earth that are gathered together in the Hall of Darkness.

Seckler studied Art and graduated with honors and an M.A. from the University of California in Los Angeles. After she had her teaching credential for Art, she taught in a Northern California High School for 20 years.[10] About three years after the start of her job, Jane Wolfe died and left all of her papers and books to Seckler.[11] Also, during those years, Seckler focused on her work in the A.·.A.·. and became a good friend of Karl Germer who was a friend of Jane Wolfe and at the time lived in New Jersey working as a merchant of machinery. Their friendship had started by correspondence.

During Seckler's years as a teacher, Karl Germer, who was in continuous correspondence with her, oversaw the work of her degree.[12] She later met Marcelo Motta who was introduced to her by Germer and wrote to him but his letters showed dictatorial attitude towards her.[13]

Later life[edit]

Rescue of Crowley literary remains: 1947–1969[edit]

Crowley died on December 1, 1947. Agape Lodge of which Seckler was a long-standing member was the only working Lodge of the O.T.O. at that time. At the time of Crowley's death there were still many important manuscripts that had little or no copies and had not been published at all.[14]

Since the death of Crowley, Karl Germer who was appointed Crowley's successor, became the Outer Head of the Order (O.H.O.) and started working on preservation of Crowley's literary remains.

In his capacity of Grand Treasurer General, Germer was sent 3 tons of materials from England. He moved these literary materials to a house in Hampton, New Jersey, where he set up a dedicated library and began the work of filing and record keeping. Before the materials had been sent to the United States, copies of everything have been made in England in a manuscript form. Afterwards Germer and Gerard Yorke collaborated on sending each other a copy of anything that Crowley had written which the other did not have.

There was also a third person in England who obtained many copies of various of Crowley's writings. Yorke later sent much of his collection to the Warburg Institute in London where it remains in the library to this day. Seckler did not know that there were copies made and many of her actions and concerns were based on the belief that there was only one copy of the unpublished writings of Crowley.[15]

It was due to Germer's effort and that of Israel Regardie and a few others that Crowley's work was preserved and published. In 1951, when Germer was in Hampton, New Jersey, Seckler wrote about her concern that some of the unpublished works of Crowley might be lost unless some copies were made. He agreed about her concern and the upshot of this correspondence was that Seckler began to type copies. During the summer of 1951, she typed part of the Confessions. During the summer of 1952, she typed The Vision and the Voice with all its complicated notes in the text. She was satisfied with her knowledge of the Qabalah as helped her in spotting typist errors in the manuscripts.[16] The third summer she typed Magick Without Tears. The two later typings which were done on multilith plates, were sent to Germer in Hampton, and there he had the assistance of two devoted members of O.T.O. to make reproductions. Germer was deeply grateful for Seckler's labour and efforts and gifted Seckler with Crowley's material which at the time was hard to find.[17]

In 1954, soon after Magick Without Tears. was printed, Germer retired from his job in New Jersey and moved to California. He had been living in New Jersey for about seven years and at first did not have a regular base of operations in California. This was Germer's concern and for some time he was trying to find decent Headquarters where he could continue with publishing the works of Crowley. After about 2 years he found a house in West Point, California.[18] He then set up the Head Office of the O.T.O, there and put together the library which had been packed away while he was moving. Trying to preserve Crowley's work, he engaged himself in sending Crowley's writings to various publishers.[19]

Germer’s death: 1967[edit]

Germer died in late October 1967 and the will he made to dispose of Crowley's literary remains provided that all of the Crowley materials should go to the Heads of the Ordo Templi Orientis, carrying hereditary rights. Sascha Germer and Frederick Mellinger of Swiss O.T.O. were appointed to act as executors of the will. All Germer's personal property was to be left to Sascha. After Germer's death, Germer's widow became very suspicious and could not place the materials in any place suited to their importance. Seckler was almost the first one to be informed by Germer's widow of his death. [20]

A correspondence was begun between Germer's widow and Frederick Mellinger, but Mellinger would not come to California to help with the disposal of Germer's library. Soon after this, Mellinger died and Sascha was left with the task of discovering what to do about Germer library, correspondence and other materials.[21]

Knowing that Sascha Germer cannot fulfill the task of securing Germer's library, Seckler asked for help from higher planes and reportedly had been told clearly to help Sascha secure Crowley's literary remains. One of Seckler's other instructions, which she later passed on to Sascha, was that she was not to let anyone in Southern California hear of Germer's death. Intuitionally, Seckler was alarmed that all the materials should be guarded only by Germer's widow and felt that something was terribly wrong in South California.[21]

The Germer Estate robbery: 1967[edit]

By 1967 the news of Germer's death had spread to Southern California and the upshot of this was that a group of people turned up at the Germer estate, which served as the headquarters of O.T.O. during Karl Germer's life. They told Germer's widow that they were members of O.T.O. and she fell for the trick and opened the door. Immediately they blew gas in her face, overpowered her, and administered some sort of shot which put her out completely, and then robbed Germer's library on the second floor of the house. The local sheriff was called to Germer's house and a report was made.

In 1967 Seckler was informed that there was a theft of the items that were considered a part of O.T.O. heritage material which was kept at Germer's house. Sascha Germer was robbed of some of the most important documents and accused Seckler's child Stella of taking them. Since this was an outright fabrication, Seckler decided to find who the thieves might be. During the course of her investigation she wrote to various people, discovering the whereabouts of former Agape Lodge members, including her female friend who had been very active in Thelema for many years and had many students. She visited Seckler to let her know about some thefts from her own apartment by one of her trusted students after the death of her husband in the summer of 1965. A year later Israel Regardie's library was also subjected to thievery by the same group of people when Regardie was out of the house. The last robbery was of Germer's house in West Point. It was later discovered that the robberies were carried out by the members of organisation who called themselves The Solar Lodge. They later got themselves into trouble and the organisation was closed down by the FBI.[22]

Rescue of O.T.O. heritage: 1975[edit]

Germer's widow Sascha died on April 1 of 1975, but Seckler only heard about it a year later. Helen Parsons Smith and Seckler drove to Germer's house in West Point in late April 1976 and discovered that Sascha had been dead for a year and that the house had been vandalised three times or more since her death, as it was almost impossible to lock it up properly.[23]

While the 1967 robbery and subsequent events caused some damage, part of Germer's library had survived. The Crowley archive was recovered from the Germer estate during the summer of 1976 after the rights were finally transferred to O.T.O. and it was later moved to a storage facility in California. The contents included Crowley manuscripts, surviving catalogues of Crowley typescripts and memorabilia.[24]

Re-establishing O.T.O. 1969–1978[edit]

During her investigation of the robbery of Germer's library, Seckler begun corresponding with Grady McMurtry who resided in Washington, D.C. at the time. As a result of their lengthy correspondence from Dec. of 1968 to April 1969, McMurtry left his job in Washington, D. C. and travelled to California, arriving there on April 29, 1969.[22] McMurtry learned from her for the first time that Germer had been dead for several years and Seckler learned that McMurtry held letters of authorization in regards to the O.T.O. from Crowley, who knew that Germer might not appoint a successor, authorising McMurtry to take charge of the O.T.O. in case of emergency when he met Crowley as a young Lieutenant in the American forces during World War II. In those letters Crowley named him as Caliph and successor to Germer. She later re-activated the Order with McMurtry (Frater Hymenaeus Alpha) by invoking his "emergency powers" to reconstitute the order, which had flagged following the death of Germer. McMurtry and Seckler were both long standing members of the O.T.O. After combined effort of McMurtry and Seckler, O.T.O. was incorporated under California law and began to grow in North America for the first time since Crowley's death.[25]

418 Lodge: 1979–2004[edit]

Under her pen name Soror Meral, Seckler served as a Master of 418 Lodge of O.T.O. in California from its inception in 1979 until her death.[26]

College of Thelema[edit]

Portrayal of a Holy Guardian Angel by an unknown artist

Seckler is founder of the College of Thelema and co-founder (with James A. Eshelman) of the Temple of Thelema. Both of the organisations have a course of studies devised by Seckler to make it easier for the A.·.A:. aspirants to succeed in the A.·.A:.

Temple of Silver Star[edit]

Prior to her death, Seckler warranted the founding of the International College of Thelema (formerly known as the College of Thelema of Northern California) as an autonomous continuation of her work, as well as the Temple of the Silver Star (the initiatory Order within the International College of Thelema.).[26]

Works[edit]

Seeking to guide her students to an understanding of the Law of Thelema, especially deeper understanding of oneself and of one's magickal Will, Seckler continually published the bi-annual journal IN THE CONTINUUM which featured her essays on Thelema and initiation, including those from Crowley's Collected Works, as well as instructional articles for the students of the A.:.A.:., illustrations and essays which help to clarify some of Crowley's thoughts and aid in the understanding of Thelemic principles expressed in Liber AL. Printed for nearly 25 years from 1976 through 1996, IN THE CONTINUUM also published rare works by Aleister Crowley which at the time were out of print or hard to find.[27]

Empowerment of women[edit]

Throughout her life Seckler was an outspoken supporter of feminism and a women's rights campaigner who supported working women. She campaigned for empowerment of women in Thelemic community with a particular focus on women whose contribution to Thelemic movement was overlooked.[28] Seckler convinced many women to fight for working rights, reproductive rights and recognition. She used her skills as a writer to publicise Thelemic women's cause in her bi-annual journal In The Continuum, aiming to raise awareness on important Thelemic matters such as gender equality, often expressing her criticism about certain Thelemic groups who would only accept those women who had a social status and good education. During her teaching career, Seckler spent time in poorer parts of Northern California, helping vulnerable gay men and disadvantaged women, including rape victims, who wanted learn about Thelema and Crowley but did not have access to a teacher or had the means to purchase the right books. She wished to give opportunities to disadvantaged Thelemites, including those suffering from poverty and illiteracy, inviting them to submit their articles and illustrations for her Thelemic periodical. She also wished to make use of the new technology of cinema to make Thelema more accessible to wider audience; after Seckler's death, a newsreel film about women and the occult based on her work was seen by an estimated 10 million people.[29]

Legacy[edit]

Seckler is remembered amongst all the modern powerful women and feminist heroes as having the historical power of the archetype of guiding teacher of mankind. Her role as recent figure for inspiration and knowledge is even more evident today.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ College of Thelema (4 June 2004). "Religious Leader, Educator Phyllis Seckler Dies at 86". Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  2. ^ Starr, Martin P. (2003). The Unknown God: W. T. Smith and the Thelemites. Bolingbrook, Illinois: Teitan Press. ISBN 0-933429-07-X.
  3. ^ "thelema.org: Phyllis Seckler obituary". 24 March 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  4. ^ Seckler 2012, pp. 45.
  5. ^ In The Continuum V-9 1996, pp. 1–2.
  6. ^ "Order of the Lion and Eagle: Phyllis Seckler". 24 March 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  7. ^ Starr 2003, pp. 227.
  8. ^ Starr 2003, p. 237.
  9. ^ Starr 2003, pp. 271–273, 276; Pendle 2005, pp. 207–210.
  10. ^ In The Continuum V-9 1996, pp. 2.
  11. ^ In The Continuum V-4 1993, pp. 43.
  12. ^ "Karl Germer: Selected Letters 1928-1962". 25 March 2018. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  13. ^ In The Continuum V-10 1996, pp. 2.
  14. ^ In The Continuum II 1978, pp. 5.
  15. ^ In The Continuum II 1978, pp. 18–19.
  16. ^ Karl Germer: Selected Letters 1928-1962 2017, pp. 105–109.
  17. ^ In The Continuum II 1978, pp. 6–8.
  18. ^ Seckler 2010, pp. 103.
  19. ^ In The Continuum II 1978, pp. 8–9.
  20. ^ In The Continuum II 1978; Shoemaker, p. 95–97; ly2017.
  21. ^ a b In The Continuum II 1978.
  22. ^ a b In The Continuum II 1978, pp. 12.
  23. ^ In The Continuum II 1978, pp. 14.
  24. ^ "O.T.O. Archives and Crowley". 23 March 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  25. ^ Crowley, Aleister; et al. (July 1990) [March 1986]. Hymenaeus Beta (ed.). The Review of Scientific Illuminism: The Official Organ of the O.T.O. The Equinox #10. III. Soror Meral, Research Ed. (Revised ed.). York Beach, Maine: Weiser Books. ISBN 0-87728-719-8.
  26. ^ a b "Thelemapedia: Phyllis Seckler". Thelemapedia.org. 11 February 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  27. ^ a b "Essay on Sister Phyllis Seckler aka Soror Meral". 22 March 2019.
  28. ^ In The Continuum II 1978, pp. 16.
  29. ^ In The Continuum II 1978, pp. 18.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Shoemaker, David (2017). Karl Germer: Selected letters. Temple of the Silver Star. ISBN 978-0-997668-65-0.
  • Seckler, Phyllis (2010). Rorac Johnson; Gregory Peters; David Shoemaker (eds.). The Thoth Tarot, Astrology & Other Selected Writings. Teitan Press & College of Thelema of Northern California. ISBN 978-0-933429-27-7.
  • Seckler, Phyllis (2012). Rorac Johnson; Gregory Peters; David Shoemaker (eds.). The Kabbalah, Magick, and Thelema. Selected Writings Volume II. Teitan Press & College of Thelema of Northern California. ISBN 978-0-933429-28-4.
  • Starr, Martin P. (2003). The Unknown God: W.T. Smith and the Thelemites. Bollingbrook, Illinois: Teitan Press. ISBN 978-0-933429-07-9.
  • Seckler, Phyllis (2003). Cornelius (ed.). Jane Wolfe: Her Life With Aleister Crowley (Part 1). Red Flame #10. ISBN 0-9712376-2-X.
  • Seckler, Phyllis (2003). Cornelius (ed.). Jane Wolfe: Her Life With Aleister Crowley (Part 2). Red Flame #11. ISBN 0-9712376-3-8.
  • In The Continuum II, College of Thelema (1978). ITC Vol. II, No. 2. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
  • In The Continuum III-4, College of Thelema (1983). ITC Vol. III, No. 4. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
  • In The Continuum III-6, College of Thelema (1984). ITC Vol. III, No. 6. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
  • In The Continuum IV, College of Thelema (1989). ITC Vol. IV, No. 5. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
  • In The Continuum V-4, College of Thelema (1993). ITC Vol. V, No. 4. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
  • In The Continuum V-9, College of Thelema (1996). ITC Vol. V, No. 9. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
  • In The Continuum V-10, College of Thelema (1996). ITC Vol. V, No. 10. California: College of Thelema Publishing.

External links[edit]