Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 20, Vol. 2. Vernal Equinox 2011
The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G.'.B.'.G.'., Louis T. Culling, edited by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke. Llewellyn Publications: Woodbury, MN, 2010. 310 Pages. $19.95 USD.
The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G.'.B.'.G.'.(The Great Brotherhood of God) by Louis Culling, has long been considered a classic within esoteric circles, especial those heavily influenced by Aleister Crowley and his Thelema. Culling (1894 – 1973) was an initiate of the G.'.B.'.G, and led the Southern California section of the Order. This is a new edition with added material by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke (the CEO/Owner of Llewellyn Worldwide).
In this book Culling reveals the entire body of work related to the G.'.B.'.G.'., including its Curriculum, Rituals and Initiatory Practices. The practices of the G.'.B.'.G.'. are heavily influenced by the works of Aleister Crowley as G.'.B.'.G.'. founder C. F. Russell had been part of Crowley’s inner circle at Cefalu, Italy, where Crowley gave Russell his blessings to found a new Order which he did in Chicago, Illinois. This new Order was the G.'.B.'.G.'. which taught the fundamental principles of Crowley’s own Order, the A.'.A.'.or Argenteum Astrum (Silver Star).
What makes the work of the G.'.B.'.G.'.a bit different from other forms of magical work associated with the Western Mystery Tradition, and Crowley’s own brand of magick, is that the G.'.B.'.G.'.promised a “shortcut to initiation”. Just how could an Order’s curriculum do this? Culling sets out the material of the G.'.B.'.G.'.which is built heavily upon obtaining Knowledge and Conversation with your Holy Guardian Angel. This is a thread which winds throughout the G.'.B.'.G.'.material from the first pages – and through most of the material of Crowley in general.
The book is laid out with each chapter pertaining to a particular topic like The Ultimate Aim of Magick, The Magickal Oaths, Magickal Writing, Sex Magick, and Group Ritual. Each of these chapters (and others) is followed by a Commentary Section and a Definitions and Discussion Points Section. These sections help to better explain elements or material discussed within the various chapters which can be good for newer people who are looking for understanding to some very complex issues in magical practice.
Included in the book are several photos of showing the various Signs associated with the G.'.B.'.G.'.and its work. These photos are in Appendix Three, and are extremely helpful, but will appear to be rather dated as they are the original photos from the first edition of this book. In addition to these images, there are also several diagrams and tables listed for various correspondences that are of great assistance to a person working through the material in this book.
There are some differences in the way that things are done in many instances from the material which influenced the G.'.B.'.G.'. For instance the tracing of Pentagrams in the G.'.B.'.G.'.are the inverted Pentagrams rather than those that are normally found in Crowley or Golden Dawn material. This is one of those things which are unique to the G.'.B.'.G.'.during the 1930’s through about 1970. It works for the material presented.
Culling presents many ideas in The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G.'.B.'.G.'.which have now become something of a mainstay in the magical community. Among these are the use of the Magickal Journal and the Dream Journal. His influence on later ceremonial magicians is clearly shown throughout the book.
As stated, this new edition has extra material from Carl Llewellyn Weschcke. In many cases this material is useful and helpful, but there are several instances in which Weschcke’s commentary is either not clear or seems to intermingle with Culling’s words. This is maybe the biggest drawback to the book.
Ultimately, I found that the reissuing of this “classic” and the material given far outweighs any negatives that can be derived from the added material and commentary. If you are a student of ceremonial magic, Thelema, Crowley, or just a plain student of magic in general, there is something to be found in The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G.'.B.'.G.'.Here is a book that can be read a hundred times and still present something new and interesting to the reader and student. This is a must have for any practicing magician regardless of tradition.