Weiser Antiquarian Books - Supplement to Catalog # 7.
‘Fraternally Yours, Karl’
IMPORTANT. Please note that this is an out-of-date catalog and is stored here for interest's sake only as the collection has been sold.
A collection of correspondence from Karl Germer (1885 – 1962) to Reea G. Leffingwell (1891 –1978) which spans the years 1946 – 1961. The correspondence starts in January 1946, the very month that Jack Parsons resigned from Agape Lodge, and was succeeded as its Head by Reea’s husband, Roy, and ends with what was most likely the last letter that Germer ever wrote to Reea, dated April 15, 1961, some eighteen months before his death. Whilst some letters or parts of letters in the series have obviously been lost, the group appears to be largely intact. As such it provides a unique historical record of the Ordo Templi Orientis and Thelema in the United States during that period, as well as giving specific insight into the thought and activities of Karl Germer and other American followers of Aleister Crowley.
The collection comprises 47 letters and 2 greeting cards, from Karl Germer (1885 – 1962) to Reea G. Leffingwell (1891 –1978). In addition there are 3 letters to Reea from her husband, Roy Leffingwell (1886 –1952), an incomplete carbon draft of a letter from Reea to Karl Germer, and an astrological chart with a sheet of corresponding notes drawn up by Germer.
All items the letter are in VG or better condition, though most have two or three holes punched (sometimes rather messily) in the margin, occasionally effecting the text. The usual creases from being folded into envelopes, are evident, and a few have some light (tea?) stains. Forty-six of the forty-seven letters by Germer are signed, and a number of them have manuscript corrections and additional notes in his handwriting.
A descriptive essay with quotations from the correspondence follows, and a detailed list of the letters which comprise this collection, can be found at the end of this catalog. For sale as a collection only. PLEASE NOTE THE COLLECTION HAS NOW BEEN SOLD
Karl Germer & the Leffingwells:
Karl Johannes Germer (Frater Saturnus) became interested in Crowley's works in the early 1920s, and the two met in 1925. From then, up until Crowley’s death, Germer remained in regular contact with ’the Beast.’ He rapidly became one of Crowley’s most faithful disciples, publishing his work in German, supporting him financially and becoming his representative in Germany. After suffering imprisonment by the Nazis Germer fled Germany, and eventually made his way to the United States where he settled in June, 1941, assuming the office of Grand Treasurer General of the Ordo Templi Orientis. He was Crowley's most trusted deputy in the United States, and heir to Crowley's worldly and spiritual estate on his death.
At the time that the correspondence starts, Roy Leffingwell had - at short notice - been dragooned into taking over as Lodge Master of Agape Lodge, from Jack Parsons. Few would have seen the appointment as anything other than a poisoned chalice. Parsons’ predecessor, W. T. Smith, had been expelled with great acrimony, and the Lodge was riven with dissension and dischord, and was arguably already well advanced along the path to self-destruction.
It is probably fair to say that Germer, then living in New York, was not only physically but also temperamentally removed from the
Californian Thelemites. The distance between them had been exacerbated by a seemingly endless stream of gossip, alleging general acts of craziness, malice and perfidy within the Lodge that had reached him. Most of this was generated by the Lodge members themselves, but some had even come from Crowley in far-off England.
Roy Leffingwell was by no means untainted by the mud-slinging, and when writing to Reea, Germer did not hesitate to draw attention to his concerns about her husband’s actions, particularly his apparent disregard of the strict injunction that all Agape Lodge members must sever their relations with W. T. Smith.
Roy Leffingwell was of course well aware of the myriad problems within the group, and in one of his letters to Reea bemoaned ‘the intrigue, gossip, and malicious mischief’ that had taken hold of the Thelemites. ‘My one bright spot in a rather dreary period is my beloved Monte [Gabriel Montengro Vargas]. He has in him no gossip—no criticism– only an overwhelming desire to find his Holy Guardian Angel, to discover the urge of his inmost, and to do That Will.’(RL3)
For a number of years Roy’s health had been failing, and this, coupled with Germer’s growing dissatisfaction with him, had caused Germer to send Jean Sivohnen (Soror 156) to see Reea to collect O.T.O. material of Roy’s that she had in her possession. (KG3). By 1950, Germer’s dissatisfaction with Roy Leffingwell had reached its zenith, and he apparently expressed sentiments to her which he reiterated in a letter the following year: ‘Roy went so far as to become obsessed by certain demonic forces, and did traiterous acts to the G.[reat] W[ork].’ (KG5)
When Reea expressed some sense of personal responsibility for the situation that had developed with Roy, Germer advised that her only responsibility was to herself, and her own development, observing:
The situation must have been a very difficult one for both Germer and Reea Leffingwell. It soon becomes obvious that not only was Reea a friend, and the wife of an errant subordinate, but she was also a student of Germer’s. Writing of diary notes which she had sent him, Germer declared ‘It has been a long time since something has moved me so much as what you sent me,’ and in an interesting aside noted that comments she had made elsewhere ‘pointed particularly to Ch. III, v. 44 [of Liber AL]. This set my ears on edge, because I have known so many who fell into that trap, women, that is. Men got obsessed by other vv.’(KG9)
Although Reea and Roy were effectively estranged, the subject of their wedding anniversary came up, and Germer could not refrain from commenting somewhat archly: (KG7) )
Throughout the correspondence politics within the group remain a major source of concern to Germer, and he expresseed his dismay at the news of an apparent falling-out between Reea and Jane Wolfe:
When not roused by mention of Roy, or the foibles of the other members of Agape Lodge, Germer was able to relax and write of matters more dear to his heart. High on the list of these was ‘to get the vast material which A. C. left, ready for publication, and publish it.’ (KG6) )
In early 1952 he wrote excitedly that he had at last made a serious start on the publishing project, and that ‘Ruth pledged to start intensively on typing some of unique MSS which we want to reproduce and bind up.’ (KG15) He continued: )
The project was finished later that year, and perhaps cheered by the results, Germer stuck his neck out and ordered—at the then staggering price of $600– an electric typewriter to expedite the process (although comments in a later letter suggest that the purchase was not completed ) . (KG24) He followed The Vision and the Voice with two other large multigraphed editions: The Gospels According to St. Bernard Shaw and Magick Without Tears.
In another letter Germer described working on the books: ‘When we were working here, they [Jean and Ero Sihvonen] drove to Hampton every weekend, they did the printing, Sascha [Germer] cooked and did the house-work, I and Sascha did the sorting, stacking, etc. etc. of the printed pages so there was fine team work.’ (KG29) With these projects out of the way, Germer was set to concentrate his energies on a publication he considered of much greater importance: (KG29)
Nothing came of that particular plan, although the letters reveal that Germer was constantly involved in some project or other aimed at getting Crowley’s works before the public eye. In a letter to Reea dated Aug. 24, 1955 he told that he was working on a German translation of Crowley’s Little Essays Toward Truth due for publication in Zurich at the autumn Equinox. (KG36)
Another letter sheds some light on one of the minor bibliographic mysteries in Crowley publishing: the appearance, at some time during the 1950s, of a version of the second printing of The Equinox of the Gods, the text block of which had been cropped and then bound in maroon cloth. It has long been known that this edition was distributed by Samuel Weiser publishing, who were presumably involved in its production, using sheets which had been shipped to Germer from England. In a letter to Reea written in July 1955, Germer indicates that he is in the process of getting 500 copies of the work bound, which can only have been this edition. (KG35)
Germer also informed Reea of plans that he was making, presumably with Gerald Yorke in England, and Norman Robb in Australia, to prepare copies of all of Crowley’s unpublished works, and to establish repositories for them around the world so that they would be safely be preserved for posterity. He explained that in particular they were ‘safeguarding all of A.C.’s letters that he himself wrote to correspondents all over the world by making copies of them. One never knows but how important all those letters may become in a hundred years for the real research worker and bibliographers [sic?] who will write the genuine history of Thelema and its founder.’ With this in mind he asked Reea to send on to him any of Crowley’s letters that she had in her possession. (KG33)
The sheer amount of material, printed and otherwise, which Germer himself had amassed was daunting. For some time he had been planning a move west, both to escape to a dryer climate, and to be nearer the Californian Thelemic community, but as he told Reea: ‘If we make the move, we have about 2 1/2 tons of books, manuscripts, papers, sheets that are printed and ought to be bound up, etc. etc. which we would best load into a truck and drive West.’ (KG16)
Despite Germer’s assertions that Roy Leffingwell had broken his oaths and betrayed Thelema, he still offered his condolences to Reea when he heard that Roy had died suddenly, of a stroke. His wife, Sascha, expressed her sympathy in a short handwritten note on the bottom of the page. Germer was also gracious enough to express his pleasure that a Gnostic Mass had been held in honour of Roy’s parting, even though he could hardly have been pleased that the outcast W. T. Smith had participated in it alongside Helen Parsons Smith, Jane Wolfe, and Mildred and Ray Burlingame. (KG21)
The intensifying war in Korea, and its political ramifications back in the United States, made politics and war a not infrequent topic of discussion. Germer, who had fought in the First World War, and then suffered internment in a concentration camp by the Nazis prior to the outbreak of the Second, had some strong opinions on the matter:(KG16)
Reea had pressed Germer for his views on the U.S. political parties. Despite expressing a fundamental disinterest in them, and in politics in general, Germer responded with a lengthy discourse on the subject which concluded: (KG19)
The political discussions between the two led to speculation about the broader global situation from a Thelemic perspective:
Both Reea and Germer were avid astrologers, and the letters contain a number of references to astrological theory. In answer to a query from Reea about an aspect of her own chart, Germer wrote: KG27)
Most of the books mentioned in the correspondence are by Crowley, though there is some discussion of works by other authors, and of course any new publication mentioning Crowley was a topict of great interest. In 1952 Germer had received copies of two recent books about Crowley, John Symonds’ The Great Beast, and Charles Cammell’s Aleister Crowley, The Man The Mage and the Poet. He wrote to Reea: (KG11)
Not surprisingly Germer was far from impressed with what he would later refer to as that “so-called ‘biography’ of A.C.’s.’ (KG13) In reply to Reea’s comments on the book, he wrote “Yes the book by Symonds is distasteful. Yet it has awakened interest in a cause which seemed dead. No one who is serious likes that book. The author reveals himself as a mean, frustrated creature.’ (KG15)
The publication of Symond’s second book on Crowley, The Magic of Aleister Crowley, did not enhance Germer’s opinion of its author: ‘The book is again written in that patronizing supercilious style, but it brings a lot of important material which existed only in manuscript-diary form.’ (KG42) Even worse was Daniel Mannix’s The Beast, which Germer felt to be part of a Roman Catholic plot to diminish Thelema, but as he told Reea, ‘there is nothing to do but grin and bear it.’ (KG45)
As could be expected in such personal correspondence, Germer constantly remarks on the lives and activities of friends and acquaintances. There are some particularly interesting references to Crowley’s son, Aleister Ataturk. In a letter written in 1951 Germer mentioned Ataturk’s mother, Deidre, whom he declared ‘a great woman,’ and went on to say that ‘when the time comes, they can find a refuge here.’ That time came—for Aleister Ataturk anyway– just three years later. Germer wrote to Reea: ‘Aleister is now here, lives with us until we can start on our trek for the West …… The boy is clever in a way, but with retarded growth in many others. 6ft. 1”, tall, slender like a reed, lazy in things he dislikes, dreams of having a girl friend, wants a job quickly so as to make money, be independent, etc.’ (KG37)
By early 1960, Ataturk had been sometime in the care of Jean Sihvonen.and had then drifted out of Germer’s orbit. Germer was not impressed with her handling of the teenager. ’I think that Jean has had and is having the worst influence on him. Of course, she knows better, because she gets direct instructions from “God”! Result is A[leister] A[taturk] is learning nothing and is not growing up.’ (KG46)
Germer’s comments about Jean Sihvonen are arguably typical of a suspicion, distrust and even hostility towards his fellow Thelemites that seems to develop through the latter years of his life. Writing of Grady McMurtry, the man who would eventually step forward to succeed him, Germer observed (KG43):
Eventually this mistrust would even taint Germer’s relationship with Reea Leffingwell, as can be seen from the final letter in the collection, which was also presumably the last letter that he ever wrote to her.(KG47)
In this brief essay I have attempted to give the barest outline of the wealth of information contained in this correspondence. Unfortunately circumstances have not allowed me much more than a hasty glance through it, and there is doubtless much of significance that I have overlooked. The material quoted in the text probably amounts to less than 5% of the total. This is an important correspondence, and we are hopeful that it will be bought by an individual or Institution that will keep it intact, and ideally, make it available for serious scholarly study.
Contents of the Collection
Letters: Roy Leffingwell to Reea Leffingwell
(RL1) Sept. 4, 1947. 1 page TLS. on plain paper. Approx. 450 words.
(RL2) Sept. 8, 1947. 1 page TLS. on OTO letterhead Approx. 300 words.
(RL3) Jan. 7, 1949. 1 page only (of 2?) typed letter, unsigned, on plain paper. Approx. 300 words.
Letters: Reea Leffingwell to Karl Germer
(RGL1) Sept. 4, 1947. 1 page TLS. on plain paper. Approx. 450 words.
Letters: Karl Germer to Reea Leffingwell
(KG1) Jan. 7, 1946. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 500 words.
(KG2) Nov. 26, 1946. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 450 words.
(KG3) Sep. 7, 1949. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 200 words.
(KG4) Feb 3, 1951. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 220 words.
(KG5) Mar. 7, 1951. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 350 words.
(KG6) Jun. 26, 1951. 2 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 650 words.
(KG7) Jul. 28, 1951. 1 page (only, of 2?) TL unsigned, on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 600 words.
(KG8) Sep. 24, 1951. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 100 words.
(KG9) Oct. 25, 1951. 2 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 600 words.
(KG10) Nov. 22, 1951. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 480 words.
(KG11) Jan. 21, 1952. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 200 words.
(KG12) Mar. 22, 1952. 2 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 1000 words.
KG13) Apr. 9, 1952. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 450 words.
(KG14) May 2, 1952. 1 page TLS on Germer's private letterhead. Approx. 160 words.
(KG15) Jun. 16, 1952. 2 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 600 words.
(KG16) Jul. 17, 1952. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 460 words.
(KG17) Aug. 31, 1952. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 150 words.
(KG18) Sep. 16, 1952. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 150 words.
(KG19) Oct. 25, 1952. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 450 words.
(KG20) Nov. 9, 1952. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 450 words.
(KG21) Dec. 7, 1952. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 300 words.
(KG22) Dec. 29, 1952. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 250 words.
(KG23) Mar. 5, 1953. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 400 words.
(KG24) Apr. 7, 1953. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 200 words.
(KG25) Jun. 16, 1953. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 350 words.
(KG26) Jul. 17, 1953. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 220 words.
(KG27) Nov. 18, 1953. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 330 words.
(KG28) Feb. 6, 1954. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 420 words.
(KG29) Jul. 29, 1954. 2 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 900 words.
(KG30) Sep. 20, 1954. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 300 words.
(KG31) Dec. 9, 1954. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 350 words.
(KG32) Dec. 29, 1954. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 150 words.
(KG33) Feb. 4, 1955. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 240 words.
(KG34) Jan. 9, 1955. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 320 words.
(KG35) Jul. 12, 1955. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 500 words.
(KG36) Aug. 24, 1955. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 300 words.
(KG37) Oct. 16, 1955. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 430 words.
(KG38) Oct. 21, 1955. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 150 words.
(KG39) Mar. 29, 1956. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 150 words.
(KG40) Dec. 16, 1957. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 230 words.
(KG41) Jan. 28, 1958. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 500 words.
(KG42) Jun. 14, 1958. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 100 words.
(KG43) Mar. 26, 1959. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 200 words.
(KG44) Jun. 20, 1959. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 150 words.
(KG45) Oct. 7, 1959. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 200 words.
(KG46) Jul. 30, 1960. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 240 words.
(KG47) Apr. 15, 1961. 1 page TLS on plain paper. Approx. 100 words.
(M1) Small commercially-printed holiday greeting card approx 5 x 3/34 inches, with short manuscript note by Germer.
(M2) Small commercially-printed holiday greeting card approx 3/34 x 5 inches, with short manuscript note by Germer.
(M3) 2 sheets of graph paper, approx 8 x 7”, one with Reea Leffinwell’s astrological chart, and the other with her handwritten notes on it. The sheet with the chart is defective, with numerous chips and missing about 25% of its surface area.
(M4) Carbon copy of a 1 page typed letter, Reaa Leffingwell to Karl Germer, dated Oct. 18th, 1959. Approx. 100 words in type plus about 70 words in her handwriting added at the bottom of the page.
Weiser Antiquarian Books
P.O. Box 2050
York Beach, ME, 03910-2050
Photographs of Karl Germer and Reea Leffingwell © Martin P. Starr, 2006.
(Used with his kind permission)
Essay, Introductory Text, and other Images © Weiser Antiquarian Books, 2006.
No reproduction without permission please.
Posted August 10, 2006.