Brother Charles Lee Reese, perhaps best known as Frater Ebony Anpu, one of the foremost Thelemic educators in Northern California, has partaken of his greater feast. Many have been moved to write tributes and memorials, and many of these will surely grace the websites of the world-wide web over the coming months and years. I wanted to share a couple of my own prominent reminiscences (among a myriad!) of our sorely missed friend and teacher.
I first met Ebony in 1978, shortly before the Spring Equinox, when I was initiated into the Minerval degree. We got to know each other while he was living at AThNU House on 19th Av. in San Francisco; later I was a customer for his various publications and an occasional visitor at his Stellar Visions Oasis' monthly meetings. We began working together in 1984 while he was Grand Secretary General and I was an Assistant Secretary, and he soon became a good friend as well as an invaluable source of information. He also became my teacher, especially in the area of Tantric magical methodology, which is why my favorite among his multitudes of mottoes will always be A Snake. It was in the context of these studies that I remember Ebony telling me of the time that our late Caliph Grady McMurtry took him aside and offered to make him an official member of the Sovereign Sanctuary. Some of those who did not know him well may have thought him arrogant, but Ebony in fact was quite modest about his attainments. He turned Grady down because he didn't feel sufficiently qualified at the time. Grady told him, "You're going to regret this", and so he did (at least at the time he told me the story).
Other notable experiences with Ebony often involved some magical occurrence or other; in fact, it was he who first demonstrated for me the reality of magick. Of course I have a tesseract story, but since I expect that others have even better ones I will instead relate an interesting coincidence that once took place. When Ebony was running Stellar Visions out of the Mission district (in SF) in the early 1980's I was living at 20th & Folsom Sts. in the same general part of town. Most of my roommates and friends were artists, musicians, and students, many of whom were involved in radical political activism. One group in particular excelled at putting on guerilla street theater performances at demonstrations. There was at the time an ongoing campaign against one of the city's most egregious slumlords and a massive demo outside of his realty office was planned. It was decided to begin by publicly cursing the slumlord, and since I was the anarchist occultist most easily to hand I was consulted for advice on how to go about it. Then, as now, I would not curse anyone who had not in some way already cursed me. So I was given compelling evidence not just of this guy's sleazy business practices but of his use of hired thugs to intimidate and harass tenants who he couldn't legally evict. Convinced, I revealed the secrets of hexing, as I had learned them through the study of almost exclusively Assyro-Babylonian texts. On the day of the demo I'm told (I didn't actually attend) that the curse was recited quite dramatically while the requisite wax image was burnt. Within a couple of months the slumlord had been indicted for fraud, and his empire was crumbling; though he never did any real jail time it still ended up stripping him of some of his considerable ill-gotten gains.
Years later, when Ebony was living at 41st and Opal in Oakland, we were hanging out talking as usual in his living room/library when the topic of the old Stellar Visions days in SF came up. Ebony in his caustic way was ragging on the asshole landlord whose eviction had been the final blow to the old oasis. "But man I cursed that asshole good. Inside of a month he was busted!" This stirred my own recollections and I asked him who the landlord was – of course, it turned out to be the same slumlord I had had a hand in cursing! So I asked him what curse he had used, expecting, as our brother was so well-versed in Egyptian magic that he had pulled something out of a papyrus. He went to his shelf and pulled down a familiar looking book; it was a copy of one of my favorite collections of cuneiform translations. He pointed to the curse he had used – you guessed it – the very same one I had selected for use something less than a month before him.
I know that I promised not to tell a tesseract story, but since tesseract magick was probably Ebony's greatest contribution to the technology of Thelema, and because (though a trivial incident in itself) it served to convince me of the evident power of magick to transform one's universe I will include it here after all. I had for some time been hearing incredible reports about the efficacy of Ebony's tesseract workings. Being rather skeptical by nature I was somewhat dubious and didn't at all credit the reports I'd heard. One day in late 1987 or early 1988 I was visiting at 41st and Opal where I'd often go to rap with Ebony, listen to him play his magnificent, bluesy fuzz guitar, and share some sacrament. The conversation turned to what I'd recently heard about his tesseract workings. He laughed at the reports, but he didn't deny them, and he offered to take me through a tesseract ritual so I could see for myself. "But you have to be ready for your universe to radically change.", he said. "Can I control how it will change?", I asked. "'fraid not", was his succinct reply. As I was rather satisfied with my universe at the time I declined his offer. "Well, let me just show you what it involves.", he said, and I agreed that just having it explained couldn't do any harm.
So he went over to his desk and brought back a slim calligraphic manuscript. As we sat on the sofa he showed me, step-by-step, how the Hebrew alphabet could be arranged to form the geometry of a tesseract (a "four-dimensional" cube; sort of to the cube what a cube is to the square). As he finished up the explanation he flashed his characteristic smile, devilish and angelic all at the same time, and said, "Oops, looks like I took you through it after all!". I wasn't upset by this, I didn't believe in it anyway, so I went home without expectations or anticipation about how my universe might change. That night I set to making dinner, but when I turned the knob to light the burner under my pan of water for the pasta, the burner behind it went on instead. I had been living in this apartment for close on five years. The inner knobs had always lit the front burners and the outer knobs had always lit the back burners. I got one of my room-mates to come and see. "But that's the way it's always been.", he said. No one else remembered it the way I did. Later that night I called Ebony. He laughed, but he seemed impressed, "You must really be doing your will if that's the only change your universe needed to balance it." Considering some of the horror stories I've heard related I'm grateful that a switch of the oven knobs was all it took to convince me of the reality of magick!