Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CF Russell, Sex Magick and Fine Arts

I mentioned CF Russell in my previous post regarding the Occult Digest, and promised that I would devote an entire post to him.  This is a fascinating subject in relation to Chicago's history, the history of the occult and the local gay community that worked in esoteric circles locally in the early 20th century.  Needless to say, someone could write an amazing essay/book/thesis on the subject.  This is my attempt to show the tip of the iceberg.

Cecil Frederick Russell (1897-1987) was at first an ardent follower of Aleister Crowley.  After getting dishonorably discharged from the US Navy, Russell stayed at Crowley's Abbey of Thelema briefly, where the two fought and parted ways.  Russell (who Crowley referred to as having a "violent reaction against any act of authority") then founded his own order, the Choronzon Club, in 1928. Some sources say that Crowley suggested that he The Choronzon Club changed its name to G.B.G. in 1931 - it is often believed stand for "Great Brotherhood of God," though apparently Russell was evasive regarding the meaning of the acronym. 

Dues were only $5, and if a new member got a friend to enroll then they were able to keep half of this amount.

Russell put out advertisements in the Occult Digest, which he also wrote several articles for:
A shortcut to Initiation
The Choronzon Club
Box Chicago, 111

Naturally there are those who disagree with any idea of "shortcut," so Russell raised some eyebrows with what some called "abbreviated rituals" (though they may have just been jealous of his quickly growing numbers due to the fast track and low dues).  "For his first few months of membership the initiate of the G.B.G. was kept in ignorance of its sexual-magical affiliations and were only revealed to him (or her) after he had satisfactorily completed a course of occult training devised by Russell" (Francis King, "Sexuality Magic & Perversion").  This course can be found online as a PDF very easily.

 "But in 1933 a schism broke out in Russell's ranks; a meeting was held
 on the 8th floor of 410 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, with the
 object of forming a group consisting exclusively of homosexual men (the
 basis on which all contemporary XI° groups are founded). Eventually
 four groups could be distinguished as springing from Russell's initial

"The remaining members in Chicago, who had been an exclusively XI° group for some time, had held their meetings at 64 East Van Buren Street since 1941 independently of Russell; in the 1960s they returned to Michigan Avenue."

For those not aware, XI° was the anal sexual magick degree of Crowley's formulated for the O.T.O.  

Those of you who are paying attention will recognize the 410 South Michigan Avenue address as being the Fine Arts building.  The building how houses artist studios, several music instructors, a Kundalini Yoga studio and others.  There is an art walk on the 2nd Friday of every month.  The building was built in 1885 and at one point housed a number of Theosophical groups, among other things.  If you wander through the building, it's easy to feel some of the earlier roots.


Prepare for an obligatory elevator ride with a human elevator operator.

 Murals on the top (10th) floor.

 staircase finials

8th floor, as mentioned previously

also on the 8th floor

Selected Works bookstore on the 2nd floor - these are only the discount books outside of the entrance.  They have a cat that roams the stacks, and if you look you can find books that were originally part of different Theosophical / esoteric groups.

Many of Russell's writings can be found online here:  http://cfrussell.homestead.com/files/intro.htm

All of the information in this post taken from:
1.  XI°: Anal Intercourse and the Ordo Templi Orientis - http://parareligion.ch/sunrise/xi.htm
2. Sexuality, Magic & Perversion, Francis King
3. Magick - The Order of the GBG (online PDF)

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