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The Church of All Worlds, a Brief History

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Subject: The Church of All Worlds, a Brief History

It all began on April 7, 1962, when, after reading Stranger in a Strange
Land, Tim Zell and Lance Christie shared water and formed a
water-brotherhood called "Atl" at Westminster College at Fulton,
Missouri. During the mid-1960s the group was centered on the University
of Oklahoma campus at Norman under the name Atlan Foundation. A
periodical, The Atlan Torch (later The Atlan Annals), was published from
1962-1968. Following a move to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1968 the Church
of All Worlds was legally incorporated. In March of that year, the first
issue of Green Egg appeared and over the years made Tim Zell, its
editor, a major force in Neo-Paganism, a term which Zell coined.  CAW
was the first Neo-Pagan/Earth Religion to obtain full federal
recognition, although it was initially refused recognition by the
Missouri Department of Revenue on the basis of its lack of primary
concern about the hereafter, God, the destiny of souls, heaven, hell,
sin and its punishment, and other supernatural matters. The ruling was
overturned as unconstitutional in 1971.  The Church of All Worlds took
much inspiration from the science fiction classic, Stranger in a Strange
Land by Robert Heinlein. In the novel, Valentine Michael Smith was a
human being born on Mars and raised by Martians. Upon being brought to
Earth, he established the Church of All Worlds, built around "nests", a
combination of a congregations and an intentional communities. A basic
concept was "grokking", i.e., the ability to be fully empathic.
Heinlein's CAW emphasized non-possessive love and joyous expression of
sexuality as divine union. Their greeting was "Thou art God" or "Thou
art Goddess", a recognition of immanent divinity in each person.  The
basic theology of the CAW is a pantheism focused on immanent rather than
transcendent divinity, which is worshiped in female as well as a male
form. The most important thealogical statement came in revelatory
writings by Zell in 1970-73, on a theory which later came to be known as
the Gaia Thesis, a biological validation of the ancient intuition that
the planet is a single living organism, Mother Earth.  Pantheists hold
as divine the living spirit of Nature. Thus the CAW recognizes Mother
Earth, the Horned God, the Green Man and other spirits of animistic
totemism as the Divine Pantheon. Church of All Worlds was an early
forerunner of the Deep Ecology movement. Through its focus on Mother
Nature as Goddess and its recognition and ordination of women as
Priestesses, CAW can also rightly be held to be the first Eco-Feminist
Church. Its only creed states: "The Church of All Worlds is dedicated to
the celebration of life, the maximal actualization of human potential
and the realization of ultimate individual freedom and personal
responsibility in harmonious eco-psychic relationship with the total
Biosphere of Holy Mother Earth."

In 1974, CAW reported nests in Missouri, California, Illinois, Kansas,
Wisconsin, Iowa, Wyoming, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New
Jersey, New York, and Ohio. It was then publishing two periodicals,
Green Egg and The Pagan. Two years later Zell moved to Oregon with his
new wife, Morning Glory, an ordained Priestess, for a rural life of
writing, research and the practice of the religion he had
developed. They left the administration of the CAW and the publication
of the Green Egg in the hands of other Church leaders. After only a few
more issues, the magazine ceased publication. Subsequently many Church
Nests dissolved due to internal conflicts.  By the mid-1980s CAW
survived only in California, focused around the sanctuary land
bequeathed to the Church by its Bard, Gwydion Pendderwen. On and around
this rural retreat, a Pagan homesteading community grew which included
the Zells (Tim Zell had changed his first name to Otter in 1979
following a vision quest) and other long-time Church members who had
moved to California, as well as many new people. Two new clergy were
ordained during that time, Orion Stormcrow (a Church member since 1969)
and Anodea Judith. (In 1991, Deborah Hamouris was ordained, bringing the
present number of active clergy to six.)  In the late 1980s, following
Otter and Morning Glory's emergence from eight years of living in the
wilderness, the Church of All Worlds began reorganizing under the
leadership of Anodea Judith. The membership program was radically
upgraded to include a Progressive Involvement Program (PIP), intensive
training courses and a new members newsletter, The Scarlet
Flame. Activities and membership increased dramatically during this
period as CAW emerged from its slumber.  The first issue of Green Egg
(The Next Generation!) appeared in May, 1988, the 20th anniversary of
its original publication. It has risen to a position of prominence among
Pagan periodicals. Diane Darling, who joined the Church in the mid-'80s,
is its editrix, Otter its publisher and designer. In 1991, with 52 pages
and a four-color glossy cover, Green Egg won the Silver Award from the
Wiccan/Pagan Press Alliance (WPPA) for "Most Professionally Formatted
Pagan Publication". In 1992 Green Egg won the WPPA Gold Award for
"Readers' Choice" as well as the Dragonfest Awards for "Most Attractive
Format" and "Best Graphics". Diane won the Pentacle Award for "Favorite
Pagan Editrix", and Otter for "Favorite Pagan Writer".

The non-fictional Church of All Worlds has grown far beyond Heinlein's
dream.  There are nine concentric circles of member involvement, named
after the planets and grouped into three rings. Each circle's activity
includes study, writings, magical training, sensitivity and

encounter-group experience, as well as active participation in the life
of the Church. The First Ring, Circles 1, 2, and 3, is for Seekers,
those who are only participants. Second Ring, Circles 4 through 6, is
made up of Scions, members who help run the church.  The clergy, Council
of the Third Ring, consists of legally ordained priests and priestesses;
longtime members who have worked through the other circles, undergone
personal and leadership development, religious training, and completed
the Church's ordination requirements.  There are two governing bodies in
addition to the Clergy: the Board of Directors, which determines policy
and business matters, and the Fun Committee, which implements the
activities and functions of the Church. The Fun Committee is made up of
a Board member, a clergy member, and one representative from each of the
church functions, such as Rites and Festivals, Publications, Membership,
Communications and each subsidiary. There is an annual General Meeting
to elect officers and make changes in the Church's ever-evolving Bylaws.
Worship involves attending weekly or monthly Nest meetings usually held
in the homes of Nest members. Autonomous nests are composed of at least
three members of 2nd Circle meeting monthly or more often. The basic
liturgical form is based on a circle where a chalice of water is shared
around as part of the ritual part of the Nest meeting.  Longer events
are celebrated at the Church sanctuary, Annwfn, a 55-acres of land in
northern California. Annwfn has a two-story temple, cabins, garden,
orchard and a small pond. It is maintained by a small community of
resident caretakers.  In addition to the eight Celtic seasonal
festivals, the Church holds handfastings (marriages), vision quests,
initiations, workshops, retreats, work parties and meetings on the land.

As of 1993, the Church has ten chartered nests in California, with
others in Florida, Illinois, Arizona, Maryland, Wisconsin, Minnesota and
Australia (where CAW has become the first legally-incorporated Pagan
church in that country). A number of proto-Nests are in the process of
forming.  Current President is priest Tom Williams (a member since
1968).  Otter is presently engaged in the formation of the Universal
Federation of Pagans (UFP), a worldwide association with which he hopes
to unify the global Pagan community.  1992 was the 30th anniversary of
the Church. A Grand Convocation was held in August, with an attendance
of nearly 300. Membership at the end of 1993 was around 600.  The
Mission Statement of the Church of All Worlds is as follows: The mission
of the Church of All Worlds is to evolve a network of information,
mythology, and experience that provides a context and stimulus for
reawakening Gaea, and reuniting Her children through tribal community
dedicated to responsible stewardship and the general evolution of

Over the years, the Church of All Worlds has chartered a number of subsidiary
branches through which it practices and teaches its religion:
  * Forever Forests : Box 212, Redwood Valley, CA 95470.  Founded in
1977 by Gwydion Pendderwen; the ecology branch.  Sponsors tree-planting
events and rituals.
  * Lifeways : 2140 Shattuck #2093, Berkeley, CA 94704.  Founded in 1983
by Anodea Judith; the teaching branch.  Offers workshops, classes,
healing rituals, recovery programs, wilderness excursions, and training
for the priesthood. Handles the RING-web system.
  * Nemeton : Box 610, Laytonville, CA 95454.  Founded in 1972 by
Gwydion Pennderwen and Alison Harlow; the marketing branch.  Tapes and
CDs, songbooks, T-shirts, philosophical tracts and books.  Catalog
  * Ecosophical Research Assn. (ERA) : Box 982, Ukiah, CA 95482.
Founded in 1977 by Morning Glory Zell; devoted to research and
exploration in the fields of history, mythology and natural
sciences. Produced the Living Unicorn, the New Guinea Mermaid expedition
and a Peruvian Pilgrimage.
  * Holy Order of Mother Earth (HOME) : Box 212, Redwood Valley, CA
95470 Founded in 1977 by the Zells and Alison Harlow; magical and
shamanic branch open only to trained initiates. Creates and conducts the
Church's rituals and ceremonies.
  * Peaceful Order of the Earth Mother (POEM) : Box 5227, Clearlake, CA
95422.  Founded in 1988 by Willowoak Istarwood; dedicated to children
and child nurturing.  Provides enriching activities for children at
gatherings, summer camps and a quarterly magazine for Pagan youth, How
About Magic? (HAM) :$7 per year.
  * Green Egg : Box 1542, Ukiah, CA 95482.  Award-winning quarterly
journal of the New Paganism and the Gaian Renaissance, founded in 1968
by Otter Zell.  Sample $6; subscription $15/yr US bulk mail; $21/yr
US/Canada 1st class/envelope; $27/yr trans-Atlantic; $30/yr
  * Annwfn : Box 48, Calpella, CA 95418.  CAW's 55-acre land sanctuary
and retreat in the Misty Mountains of Mendonesia.  Write for Visitor's
  * CAW Membership and General Correspondence : (Australian Headquaters)
PO Box 408, Woden, ACT 2606.

References: Further information on the Church of All Worlds may be found
in the following books:
Adler, Margot, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-
Worshipers and other Pagans in America Today, Beacon Press, 1979;
revised and updated 1987.  (essential!)
Ellwood, Robert, Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America, 1973.
Gottleib, Annie, Do You Believe in Magic? The Second Coming of the
Sixties Generation, Times Books, 1987
Guiley, Rosemary, Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, Facts on File,
1989; (extensive!)
The Perennial Encyclopedia of Mystical and Psychic Experience, 1990.
Jade, To Know, Delphi Press, 1991.
Martello, Leo Louis, Witchcraft, the Old Religion, University Books,
Melton, J. Gordon, The Encyclopedia of American Religions, from the
Institute for the Study of American Religions, POB 90709, Santa Barbara,
CA 93190 1979 ( 3rd edition, 1988);
The Essential New Age, 1990.
Wilson, Robert Anton, Coincidance, Falcon Press, 1988

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