Early Thelema and A.’.A.’. in New Zealand: an appeal for information

vyvian deacon

After months of research into the existence of Thelema and A.’.A.’. ( respectively the religious framework and magical system devised by Aleister Crowley) in New Zealand before world war 2, we are going to present the (scant) information we have accumulated here with a general appeal to any one who may stumble across this who has any further information to please leave a comment on this post.

The most concrete evidence we have for the the teaching/practice of Thelema during the years covered comes in controversial figure of Vyvian (sometimes Vivian)  Deacon Australian spiritualist who came to New Zealand in the early 20’s speaking on spiritualist matters and apparently spreading a movement known as “the Christian Mystics of the Rose Cross” a name which obviously links it to Rosicrucianism but according to his daughter  a front for Thelema.  (that he had a connection with Crowley is well attested despite the muddiness surrounding his induction into the O.T.O (Crowley’s magical order)).

The following is the section from the SKOOB OCCULT REVIEW’s biography of the life of vyvian deacon  relating to his activities in New Zealand, written by his daughter  Vivienne Browning in a pair of articles called “I was a child disciple of the beast

Although I was born in Sydney I
was conceived in New Zealand, where
my father (Note. Vyvyan Deacon
[1895-1938)) had gone from Sydney
in May 1920, to act as resident
lecturer on the Spiritualist platform at
Churches in the main cities of New
Zealand, starting with Christchurch
and Wellington. This was as a forerunner
to the famous spiritualist Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle who was on his
way to tour Australasia.

My father was renowned as the
‘Silver-tongued Orator,’ a gifted Spiritualist
medium, whose reputation was
not diminished by a three-month cootract
in Christchurch being extended
for a further three months due to the
greatly increased congregation and
membership of the Church, especially
by young men and women. Popularity
was achieved by launching a full and
varied programme of mystical lectures,
Occult training in Oratory,
socials, Drama classes s pecialising in
Shakespeare; be was Grand Master of
the Order of the Golden Girdle, for
which he wore a large silver star with
a central raised hand of Christ imprinted
in the centre of the palm with a
ruby heart, where the imprint of the
nail is usually shown. As Frater
Memnon for the Christian Mystics of
the Rose Cross for whom he was the
Sole Custodian in Australasia, be
wrote a controversial treatise on
LOVE. The C.M.R.C’s pamphlets and
tracts show clearly that his C.M.R.C
was a cover for the O.T.O and found
favour an1ong the youngsters in
Christchurch and Wellington.

My parents and sister had moved in
1919 to stay in a Commune called
‘ Ivycliffe’ based on the principles of
William Jan1es Chidley, (1860-1916]
(sex-reformer and Naturist friend of
Havelock Ellis, ) whom my father had
known since 1910 until his death. A
journalist 01idley-disciple John Shirlaw
opened up as a Chidley Commune
his beautiful home with tropical gardens
leading down to the Sydney
Harbour. While staying there with a
friend of Frank Bennett’s called Curtis,
my father was rumoured to have
introduced •Black Magic’ at some of
the uninhibited parties and accused of
making a love potion. Frank Bennett
visited and on occasions brought a
picnic with him. Mymother was wary
of Frank Bennett and his drug-taking,
although she approved the study
classes held at The Commune in
Nietzsche, Steiner, Psychology, Philosophy
and Literature. The change in
my father’s basic life-style was sufficient
for my mother to decide to stay

when he went to New Zealand.
A year after my father had settled in
New Zealand my mother heard that he
w;;s ill and troubled. For all her
disapproval of a Thelematic life when
it involved strong drink, smoking and
eating meat, she was a devoted and
loyal wife, so she dutifully packed up
her belongings and set off to join him
with their baby daughter, unarmounced
and uninvited.

In Wellington, the spiritual meetings
which had swelled the congregations
did not compensate for the uneasiness
felt by the female Church President at
the reputation of the 25-year-old tall,
dark handsome popular young Leader
who had been separated from his
family for over a year. Again there
were rumours of love potions of
‘unmentionable ingredients’ (bodily
fluids associated with the Gnostic
Mass said to have been adopted by the
O.T.O.), and of visits to a notorious
sinister small Ch.inese restaurant
where it was said there were scantily
dressed dancers, and strange strong

My mother found my father eventua!
Jy in Wellington and took an active
part in the Church’s activities with the
Sunday school and musical services,
but she was not amused by being
taken to the Chinese restaurant where
she was • made drunk’ for the ftrst
time in her life. She did not become
reconciled with my father until the end
of the year 1921 when my father had
been forced to resign as Lecturer/
Teacher at the Church, ostensibly
because of his unguarded behaviour
with young girls in the congregation,
using hypnosis to cure their headaches
and meeting them unchaperoned, but
the real reason was the Mystery
masking O.T.O. proceedings.

Undeterred, my father was qualifted
to set up his own Church Universal
with his own Copyright Catechism,
and the Church showed signs of
thriving with its social amenities,
Healing, Library and Orchestra, but
the girl with whom my father had
fonned a liason in the belief that my
mother and he would never be
together again and reconciled, left
Wellington abruptly for an unknown
destination. Suddenly my father fow1d
life as a Religious Leader incompatible
with family life, so, having
become reconciled with my mother, in
April 1922 the Deacon family, incubating
myself, returned to Sydney,
where Frank Bennett had come horne
and was awaiting them with all the
fresh news from The Abbey of Thelema
in Sicily.

that Deacon was in New Zealand and active in religious circles at this time is attested in a series of advertisements for public lectures on spiritualism at the “spiritualists church worchester st west” in christchurch

Deacon 2


before moving on to Wellington and an association with “the church universal” giving a series of lectures (which resulted in the reporting of some reasonably detailed outlines of the talks) as well as some Independent lectures at the “Esperanto Hall” directly addressing Rosicrucianism.

that “the Christian Mystics of the Rose Cross” did exist and that vivian deacon was involved is evidenced by two ads from Australian news papers. one from 1919

Deacon 3

and another from 1925

Deacon 4

so the timeline and general shape of Vivienne Brownings story seems to bear scrutiny, the lack of publicity to any meetings of “the Christian Mystics of the Rosy Cross” in New Zealand opening the possibility of it being continued as a front for the O.T.O (and likely invite only to people recruited through his various public lectures if this were the case. allowing the other possibility of course that it was dormant over the  the time of his New Zealand activities.)

If anyone has any information at all about “the Christian Mystics of the Rosy Cross” (especially), the “spiritualists church worchester st west” or “the church universal” in Wellington, Please leave a comment.

The other (slightly less) promising lead is that of Clement Wragge esoteric archaeologist (amongest many other things). his archaeopedia.com entry contains the following exciting though poorly sourced entry.

Wragge was also a leading spiritualist, describing himself in 1921 as “Minister of the Auckland Spritual Scientists Church” and refering to both theosophy and A.’.A.’.[8]

8.  MS My Life, Auckland Institute and Museum Library.

no manuscript by this title turns up in the Auckland Museum Institute’s records, though if this means that it has been lost, or not recorded when they digitised their records, or it never existed, or if archaropedia got the title of the manuscript wrong is not clear.

We have tried to contact  Auckland Museum Institute on multiple occasions about this with no result thus far, our best guess being if it exists it is actually the manuscript called Autobiographical notes as basis for an article, and ‘Reminiscences of an
Eventful Life’ by Clement Wragge.

Box 2

Item 6

6. (a) Autobiographical notes as basis for an article, and ‘Reminiscences of an
Eventful Life’ by Clement Wragge
(b) ‘The Life and Work of Clement Lindley Wragge’ by Inigo Jones, 1950

If anyone has any information that can throw any light on this please leave a comment.

Other tidbits.

Though there are a few references to Crowley in the New Zealand press this is the only one obviously aimed at New Zealanders (though despite the claim it was specifically written for the press it seems to be an adaptation of an Australian review with the references to Australia edited out).


Press, Volume LXVI, Issue 13918, 17 December 1910, Page 7

Deacon 5
Deacon 6
Deacon 7
Deacon 8
Deacon 9


other than that the last possible avenues of research that we have uncovered consist of those people lecturing in New Zealand on the subject of Rosicrucianism in the 1920’s (as people who possibly had contact with “Christian Mystics of the Rosy Cross”)

Deacon 10

Wellington 1923

Deacon 11

Wellington 1927

a 1925 reference to F.H. Dawn as attending the FREE DISCUSSIONS CLUB

Deacon 12

Auckland 1928

*With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand.

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