You may have read Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land. It’s a seminal work of science fiction, one of the most influential sci fi books of all time. So influential, the reading of it inspired a pair of college students in 1962 to found what would become one of the biggest neo pagan religions in the world.
In the book, a man, Mike, who has been raised by Martians returns to Earth as an adult and experiences culture shock. Furthermore, raised with Martian philosophies, he comes with many concepts of a more self actualized way of being, founds a religions and of course gets martyred. It put the word “grok” on the map: “Hey man, i grok that”. This is archaic today but the word was in heavy usage back in the 60s and 70s. The religion Mike found is all about the Hindu “Namaste”: seeing and acknowledging the god in each other. Free love and lots of casual, polygamous sex abounds, which in 1962 was a big deal as the hippy movement hadn’t really risen from the beats yet. This book influenced the free love ideal of the late 60s quite a bit.
“Heinlein’s portrayal of sex has at it basis the conviction that the Judeo-Christian fixation on purity, celibacy, faithfulness within marriage, and legitimate offspring is ultimately wrong; it inevitably results in sexual jealousy, possessiveness, negative perceptions of those born out of wedlock, and punitive sanctions against women who seek to escape these patriarchal bonds.”
A water ritual, a sharing of water, is used in the story to create a bond between people and Mike’s religion is set up as a series of small nests. All of these things became reality when the fictional Church Of All Worlds was created in actuality as well as other additions we’ll mention in a moment. The most important aspect of the Stranger In A Strange Land religion that must be noted is the idea that through a great understanding, personal awakening and a deep, devotional attitude, a person could break free of the patriarchic chains of western thought and reach an enlightened, self actualized state. This is the prime inspiration that began The Church Of All Worlds.
In 1962, two guys, Richard Lance Christie and Timothy Zell became close friends at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. They were into ESP experimentation and the ideas of Abraham Maslow, a renowned American psychologist.
Maslow’s work talked at length about the concept of self actualizing. He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people, as opposed to treating them as a “bag of symptoms. believe that every person has a strong desire to realize his or her full potential, to reach a level of “self-actualization”. He described what a self actualized person was like: “reality centered,” able to differentiate what was fraudulent from what was genuine. They were also “problem centered,” meaning that those treated life’s difficulties as problems that demanded solutions. These individuals also were comfortable being alone and had healthy personal relationships. They had only a few close friends and family rather than a large number of shallow relationships.Self-actualizing people tend to focus on problems outside themselves; have a clear sense of what is true and what is false; are spontaneous and creative; and are not bound too strictly by social conventions. Maslow noticed that self-actualized individuals had a better insight of reality, deeply accepted themselves, others and the world, and also had faced many problems and were known to be impulsive people. These self-actualized individuals were very independent and private when it came to their environment and culture, especially their very own individual development on “potentialities and inner resources”
Then these two friends came across the book Stranger In A Strange Land, which illustrated these concepts to a T.
They held a water ceremony where they dedicated themselves to self actualization, political and social change. They declared themselves a waterbrotherhood and named themselves Atl, after the Aztec word for water. The group grew to 100 members. They theoretically accepted any and all religious paths. ” The only sin was hypocrisy and the only crime in the eyes of the church was interfering with another person.”
In 1968, Timothy Zell decided to take Atl further and established the Church of All Worlds formally as a religion. This was not appreciated by all the Atl members and furthermore, Timothy began heavily stressing forms of earth worship, preaching about the Gaia hypothesis which he claims to have realized independently of James Lovelock, who is credited with creating the concept. The Gaia hypothesis posits that the Earth is a self-regulating complex system involving the biosphere, the atmosphere, the hydrospheres and the pedosphere, tightly coupled as an evolving system. The theory sustains that this system as a whole, called Gaia, seeks a physical and chemical environment optimal for contemporary life.
In New Age terms, this is interpreted to mean that the earth is a single, complex, living, conscious, evolving organism in which humanity is a part of the greater body.
The formation of an official church and this move into paganism splintered the Atl and split Richard Christie and Timothy Zell.
The new Church Of All Worlds however did magnificently. A key ingredient in its success was a self published magazine it began producing in 1968 called Green Egg. Green Egg became THE magazine on neo paganism, in fact putting the very word neo-pagan on the map. As the hippy movement blossomed, the new age movement began, alternative spirituality started looking to paganistic ideas and practices (that is, forms of nature worship), Green Egg was at the center of it.
In addition, Zell became passionately interested in esoterica and ritual magick. Ritual magick would become a life long passion.
In 1973 Timothy Zell met Diana Moore who went by the name Morning Glory. The two fell in love, Morning Glory divorced her then husband and married Timothy. Timothy then changed his name to Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and the two lovers new aged the fuck out.
In 1976 the two began almost a decade of traveling, adventure, and living in various retreats and in a school bus they converted to a mobile home. They founded the Ecosophical Research Association (ERA) in 1977 at a ranch northwest of Ukiah, California to investigate arcane lore and legends of cryptids such as Bigfoot and mermaids. Their wandering years ended in 1985 when they took up permanent residence at Coeden Brith, initially for the purpose of raising “unicorns” created from horn surgery on baby goats. The ERA sponsored a Mermaid expedition to Papua, New Guinea in 1985 and a later ERA project involved the May 1996 world-wide ritual to draw upon and re-activate the Oracle at Delphi.
Their marriage was an open one. Morning Glory’s relationship with Zell developed into a polyamorous one made up of three people from 1984 to 1994, including Diane Darling. When this arrangement ended, Zell and Morning Glory bonded with others to make a marriage of five and sometimes six. The group took the collective surname Zell-Ravenheart, and lived in two large homes.
The Church experienced a large drop in the 80s, time’s a changin’ of course, but picked back up in the 90s, becoming especially popular in Australia. In 2001 Green Egg ceased publication and in 2004 the Church’s Board of Directors decided to terminate the Church of All Worlds due to financial and legal struggles.
However, In January, 2006, due in large part to the efforts of Jack Crispin Cain, CAW was reestablished with Zells again assuming a leadership role. In 2007, Green Egg, returned to publication in an online format. The “3rd Phoenix Resurrection of the Church” continues to the present. Morning Glory passed away on May 13, 2014 but Zell is still alive, living in Sonoma County, California and to some extent still touring and lecturing.
Naturally, the Church of All Worlds is online. You can check it out here.
Issues of Green Egg since its return in 2007 are also online and can be found here.
That’s it, my little pretties. Drink Deep and May You Never Thirst.