Israel Regardie and the A∴A∴

by Alan Willms

A photo of Israel Regardie when he was young, probably in his 20s or 30s.

Israel Regardie

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

After writing about Marcelo Ramos Motta and the A∴A∴, I felt I should gather and publish my notes on Israel Regardie and his relation with that Order. As usual, I will update this article with new information as I learn more about the man.

Regardie and Aleister Crowley

After reading a few works by Aleister Crowley, young Israel got impressed with that man’s writing and started to dig deeper into them. Karl Germer, who also was at the USA at the time, got acquainted with him, and eventually offered Israel the opportunity to serve as Crowley’s personal secretary in France.

In October 1928, Israel Regardie faked the signature of his father to obtain the visa (since he was only almost 21 years old) and left the USA to Paris, to live with Aleister Crowley and Miroslava Vacek, the Scarlet Woman at the time.

Israel Regardie Probationer Oath

Israel Regardie lived with Crowley for four years and became his Probationer 0=0 in the A∴A∴. He said in an interview:

“I met [Crowley] to become his secretary for some few years, and had a good deal of contact with him. From him I learned a very, very great deal. What I learned from him is very difficult to put into words. I don’t think I learned a great deal of magic from him; I did learn a great deal of magic from his writings. The Equinox especially. I soaked myself in the volumes of the Equinox for years, and knew them backwards and forwards, inside out, etc. Crowley somehow had an enormous maturing effect on me. I was a young boy when I met him, I had just turned 20. Somehow, in his own inimitable way, he helped me to grow up and become something of an adult. I owe him a very, very great deal, a very great deal. Later we fell out, which was due to my own stupidity.”

In 1937, Crowley and Regardie had an argument by letter where basically Crowley wrote antisemitic remarks and Regardie answered with homophobic remarks, and they never spoke to each other again. Crowley would pass away in 1947.

Regardie never officially advanced beyond 0=0 under Crowley, but later he joined the same school where the Beast trained: the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, more precisely the Stella Matutina branch. There, he progressed quickly from their Neophyte 0=0 Grade to Theoricus Adeptus Minor 5=6 Grade.

A few decades after Crowley was already dead, Regardie finally reconciled himself with the “old boy”, as he states:

“After I recovered from my annoyance of a quarrel with him, I reestablished my admiration for him, and my love, if you like, and still hold him in the highest esteem, although I am a great deal more objective about him now than I ever was before.”

Among the Thelemites

Around the 70s, Regardie was a close friend of notable Thelemites such as Phyllis Seckler and Grady McMurtry, who were married at the time and together revived the O.T.O.

Grady McMurtry, Israel Regardie and Phyllis Seckler

Regardie edited many thelemic books published at that time, such as AHA!, The Vision & the Voice, Gems From The Equinox, Magick Without Tears, etc.

Although Regardie is famous because of his Golden Dawn books, he published many other works, such as One Year Manual (which he suggested as a way to fulfill the A∴A∴ Probationer Task), How To Make and use Talismans, A Garden of Pomegranates, among others.

Regardie’s adepthood according to two A∴A∴ Adepts

Phyllis Seckler, one of Regardie’s Thelemite friends, who was recognized as an Adeptus Minor 5=6 by Karl Germer (the heir of Aleister Crowley and the highest-ranking A∴A∴ member at the time of his death), considered Regardie as a great initiate based on his works, and thought he was in the A∴A∴. She was surprised to learn that he didn’t even know the Order still had active members. He said he would forward A∴A∴ inquiries to her after the publication of Gems from the Equinox.

James Eshelman, one of Seckler’s senior disciples, states that Regardie told him he attained to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel and that he worked unofficially the A∴A∴ curriculum. Also, it seems Regardie knew at least a few quotes from the Holy Books of Thelema by heart:

”[…] he did say in conversation and in correspondence that he had attained to the K&C of the HGA. He separately said something else on another occassion, and it seems to say the same thing: Though he was received as a Probationer in A∴A∴, he was never initiated to Neophyte, so held that he had never been ‘in the A∴A∴’ — but he did say that he had worked its curriculum step by step on his own. (My favorite visit with him included a few minutes when he and I did a ‘duelling banjos’ type of quoting parts of Liber LXV and Liber VII back and forth at each other with ever widening grins.)” — James Eshelman, Heruraha Forum

Liber LXV and Liber VII are two of the Holy Books of Thlema. One of the tasks of an A∴A∴ Probationer is to memorize a chapter of Liber LXV, and one of the tasks of a Neophyte is to memorize a chapter from Liber VII.

Was Regardie a Thelemite?

Chich and Tabatha Cicero, well known Golden Dawn authors and associates of Israel Regardie, state that Regardie was not a Thelemite. However, his own work and the other associates he had seems to indicate the opposite.

Take into consideration this beautiful account from a man who’s not a Thelemite, but had a brief phone conversation with Regardie:

”[…] the one person connected with the O.T.O. that everyone respects is Israel Regardie, Crowley’s secretary for many years, who apparently manages to avoid fighting with anyone. […] The next morning I called Regardie. […] He was a very nice man, and the first person who acted as if he believed the thelemic doctrine, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Since this is the way all good Crowleyites start their letters, and the most important tenet of Crowley’s doctrine, it’s nice to know one of them believes it! - Tom Whitmore, Raiders of the Lost Basement”

Conclusion

It seems Regardie:

  • Officially only was an A∴A∴ Probationer.
  • Allegedly worked the entire A∴A∴ Outer College curriculum by himself.
  • Allegedly attained to the Knowledge & Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel.
  • Knew at least portions of the Holy Books of Thelema by heart.
  • Acted as a writer, editor, and/or introducer of many Thelemic books.
  • Was a close friend of some well-known Thelemites (Grady McMurtry, the head of Ordo Templi Orientis, and Phyllis Seckler, founder of College of Thelema, later warranting the foundation of the Temple of the Silver Star — both of these persons also are heads of A∴A∴ claimant groups).
  • Is one of the most well know and good standing persons among Crowley’s disciples.

He was not allowed to receive other Probationers “by the book”, but it seems somehow he became a bearer of the A∴A∴ torch. Nowadays, there are multiple A∴A∴ claimant groups who claim lineage from him, specially in Europe through his English student Gerald Suster.

References

  • HYATT, Christopher S. An Interview with Israel Regardie: His Final Thoughts and Views.
  • REGARDIE, Israel. The Eye in the Triangle.
  • SUSTER, Gerald. Crowley’s Apprentice: The Life and Ideas of Israel Regardie.
  • HERU-HA-RA web forum
  • Private letter archives

Love is the law, love under will.


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