Tuesday, June 1, 2004
RELIGIOUS LEADER, EDUCATOR PHYLLIS SECKLER DIES AT 86
OROVILLE, CA — The last of the original North American pioneers of the religious philosophy known as Thelema, and one of the key figures behind its growth and development for more than half a century, has died.
Phyllis Evelina Seckler, known to her fellow Thelemites as Soror Meral, died following a brief illness on Monday, May 31 at Oroville Hospital and Medical Center in Oroville, California, at 4:34pm Pacific Time, according to her colleagues at the College of Thelema. She was 86 years old.
Born Phyllis Evelina Pratt on June 18, 1917, in the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Seckler is most famous for founding the California-based College of Thelema in 1973; a school for training students in occult sciences developed by the late British poet and mystic Aleister Crowley. She was also an initiate of the magical order known as the A.·. A.·., as well as the international fraternity Ordo Templi Orientis, better known as the O.T.O., which she joined in 1939 after being introduced to the organization by Hollywood actress Jane Wolfe.
In her non-magical career, Seckler was known as an accomplished painter, poet and gardener. She earned a Master of Arts degree from UCLA in 1955 and then went on to teach art at Livermore High School that same year—remaining on the faculty until retirement.
"Phyllis was first and foremost a teacher," says Joe Larabell, a director of the College of Thelema. "We Thelemites like to compare people to stars in the night sky. Everyone different and beautiful in their own way. It is hard for us to imagine that one little star could shine so much brighter than most, but Phyllis was such as star."
Besides being an educator, Seckler was also a productive writer and publisher. Among her most famous works was In The Continuum, a periodical on Thelemic philosophy that ran from 1973 until 1996.
Seckler was married three times, including once to Grady L. McMurtry, the former head of the O.T.O., who died in 1985. The two were credited with laying the foundation for the success the O.T.O. would experience in later years. They were divorced in 1975 after a six year marriage. She is survived by a son and two daughters by her first husband, Paul H. Seckler, Jr., four grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
In honoring Seckler's wishes, the family has announced there will be no funeral services. However, memorial services are expected to be held by different Thelemic groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and elsewhere. A memorial web site dedicated to Seckler's life, work, and philosophy, is being established at www.sorormeral.org.