The Late Magus and Caliph J. Edward Cornelius (1951-2023)

On December 8, 2023, our beloved Prophet, teacher, and friend, Jerry Cornelius, passed away peacefully in his sleep in his Arizona home. He wrote on Thelema until the day he died. 

Gerald Edward Cornelius was born on July 14, 1951 in New Haven, Connecticut. The son of Barbara Priscilla Baribault and George Edward Cornelius, Jr., Jerry lived a life touched by the magick and dedicated to spirituality. As you can read in Aleister Crowley and the Ouija Board, or How I Haunted My House, some of his family members belonged to the secretive Promethean Society, and he received early training from a Promethean family friend.

Similarly, in The Story of the Cornelius Family, Jerry writes. “On July 14th, 1965, I turned fourteen. … Unconsciously I began embracing what in Hinduism is called Brahmacharya which is a behavior that will inevitably lead one to Brahman…. I found religion not in any organized church but rather in the pages of books on witchcraft and the occult. I bought everything I could find on the subject. I believed, if I pursued these studies, they would hopefully bring about the illumination of my Soul.”

In August of 1977, Jerry would join Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) as an associate member, taking Minerval 0° in November of that year. In March of 1979, Grady Louis McMurtry acknowledged him as OTO VII°. In July of that same year, he joined the A.’.A.’. as a Probationer 0°=0* assuming the motto Frater Verité Sans Peur—Truth without Fear.

Over the next several years, he worked the vertical Tree through A.’.A.’. In April of 1984 he assumed VIII° in the OTO and also took the Oath of the Abyss. “By 1987 I was disgusted, I gave up my OTO Lodge and moved New Orleans for a few months. It was here that I officially crossed the Abyss and assumed the degree of Magister Templi 8°=3* and entered the City of the Pyramid in Binah (בינה). How do I know this to be true? While in New Orleans the guidance or visions from my Angel reappeared.” He completed his Magical Thesis in April of 1989 and spent the next several years being tested as to whether he was truly a Magister Templi.

On July 14th, 1993, he grabbed the sword and became the next Caliph, finally making it official on July 14th, 1997, taking the motto Frater Hymenaeus Gamma 267.

In 1999 he released issue No. 7 of RED FLAME, titled The Magickal Essence of Aleister Crowley. “All hell would break loose over the fact that I publicly talked about A.’.A.’. lineages and with that the battle lines were drawn in the sand!”

Meanwhile, Jerry writes, “In 1996 I saw the birth of my son Faustus. No greater self-reflection upon Self can be seen than in watching your child grow and having flashbacks of similarities regarding one’s own childhood. I learned much during this period, and the final pieces of the puzzle came into view. This was the period where I came unto my own, meaning that I was the center of my universe and I saw all things as either being part of it, or merely fleeting asteroids passing by.”

On January 20th, 2000 Jerry assumed the Grade of Magus 9°=2*, whereby he uttered his Word in order to create a New Universe—AHAON (pronounced “aion”). He has stated to some of us privately that in many ways his incarnation served to reveal the secrets of ON.

In December 2000 Jerry began the website Red Flame, A Thelemic Research Site.

In the autumn of 2015, Jerry would see the publication of the first of ten volumes of Essays. In addition to those ten volumes, Jerry would go on to publish at least ten other books.

Jerry leaves behind a cluster of unpublished manuscripts and articles. In the upcoming years, we will publish those as well as our own books, which build upon Jerry’s research.

Even having known and loved Jerry personally, it’s hard to sum up the man. Wise, funny, acerbic, “a harsh taskmaster,” caring, bold, creative, and a force of nature. As he used to say of himself, God broke the mold after He made him. As he also used to say, with Jer there was “never a dull moment.” Jerry’s close friends will miss him terribly. Many Thelemites around the world will mourn him.

We leave you this time with Jerry’s final thought, from his Last Will and Testament: “He who dies with the most Crowley books is nonetheless dead.”

Christopher Reed Johnson and Erica Johnson aka Erica M Cornelius