Sunday, 24 June 2012
The Church of All Worlds
The Church of All Worlds (CAW) is a neopagan religious group whose stated mission is to evolve a network of information, mythology, and experience that provides a context and stimulus for reawakening Gaia and reuniting her children through tribal community dedicated to responsible stewardship and evolving consciousness.
The key founder of CAW is Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, who serves the Church as "Primate", later along with his wife, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, designated High Priestess. CAW was formed in 1962, evolving from a group of friends and lovers who were in part inspired by a fictional religion of the same name in the science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein; the church's mythology includes science fiction to this day.
The headquarters are presently in Cotati, California. CAW's members, called Waterkin, espouse paganism, but the Church is not a belief-based religion. Members experience Divinity and honor these experiences while also respecting the views of others. They recognize "Gaea," the Earth Mother Goddess and the Father God, as well as the realm of Faeries and the deities of many other pantheons.
Many of their ritual celebrations are centered on the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece.
CAW began in 1961 with a group of high school friends. One of these was Richard Lance Christie from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Christie was fascinated by the "self-actualization" concepts of Abraham Maslow, a renowned American psychologist, and after meeting then-Timothy Zell at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, he began experiments in extrasensory perception. It was during this time that the group they formed read Heinlein’s science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, which became the inspiration for CAW.
Heinlein's book, combined with Maslow's self-actualization concepts, led to the formation of a waterbrotherhood that Zell and Christie called Atl, the Aztec word for "water", and also meaning "home of our ancestors". Atl became dedicated to political and social change and the group grew to about 100 members.
Zell formed CAW from Atl, and filed for incorporation as a church in 1967. It was formally chartered on March 4, 1968, making it the first Earth religion to obtain full United States recognition as a church.
CAW modeled its organization after the group in Heinlein's novel, as a series of 9 nests in circles of advancement that were each named after a planet. The basic dogma of the CAW was that there was no dogma – the basic "belief" was a stated "lack of belief". Within their religion, the only sin was hypocrisy and the only crime in the eyes of the church was interfering with another person.
By 1970, CAW placed greater emphasis on ecology and nature, applying the term pagan to nature-lovers in general, regardless of religion
Moving toward an emphasis on nature eventually led to a breaking of the relationship between CAW and Atl. By 1974, CAW had nests in more than a dozen states around the United States. That year, Zell married Morning Glory (née Diana Moore) and in 1976 he and Morning Glory settled in Eugene, Oregon and then at the Coeden Brith land in northern California.
When Zell stepped away from central leadership, the Church of All Worlds suffered internal strife that led to most of the church dissolving. By 1978 the focus and headquarters shifted to California with the Zells and the nine-circle nest structure was revamped. CAW then served for several years as an umbrella organization for its subsidiaries.
By the mid-1980s, CAW had practically ceased operation outside of Ukiah, California where the Zells relocated in 1985. Anodea Judith assumed presidency until 1991, and the structure of the organization was revamped with plans for more nest meetings, training courses, new rituals, and publications. By the late 1990s CAW had increased membership internationally, becoming particularly strong in Australia, where it was legally incorporated in 1992.
In 1998 Oberon Zell-Ravenheart took a year-and-a-day sabbatical from his role as Primate, and the church headquarters were moved to Toledo, Ohio.
On August, 2004, the Board of Directors decided to terminate CAW due to financial and legal struggles. In January, 2006, CAW was reestablished with Zells again assuming a leadership role. In 2007, Green Egg, CAW's influential journal, returned to publication in an online format.
The "3rd Phoenix Resurrection of the Church" continues to the present day.