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HADLEY ROWELL, NORTH BONDI to DR & MRS HOMER CURTISS, WASHINGTON D.C.

The cover was sent to Dr & Mrs Homer Curtiss M.D., The Universal Religious Fellowship, 5130 Connecticut Ave., Washington D.C., U.S.A. The blue KGVI 3d stamp was overprinted 3½d and it was postmarked with a roller cancel SYDNEY/ 5- PM/ 9 4 JUN 9/ 1942/ N.S.W AUST. There was a red 2/ OPENED BY CENSOR label as well as a boxed purple handstamp 2/ PASSED/ BY/ CENSOR. The sender was identified as Hadley N. Rowell, ‘Bethara’, 101 Murriverie Rd., North Bondi, N.S.W., Australia. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The ‘Universal Religious Fellowship’ was founded by Harriette Augusta Curtiss (1855-1932), also known by her religious name Rahmea, and Frank Homer Curtiss (1875-1946), also known by his religious name Pyrahmos. Homer Curtiss, a physician and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, married Harriette in 1907. They began to head a study group which formally began its work on January 1, 1908. Originally known as the ‘Order of The 15', a name derived by numerological reference, it soon took its more descriptive title, the ‘Order of Christian Mystics’, by which it was known through the 1920s. The Curtisses formed a corporation, the ‘Universal Religious Fellowship’ in 1928, and that name gradually came to dominate their efforts through the 1930s. For a brief period in the 1920s, the name ‘Church of the Wisdom Religion’ was also used. The Order was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but moved its headquarters to California prior to World War I. Around 1925 it moved to Washington, D.C., where it remained until after Homer Curtiss' death in 1946, when it moved to Hollywood, California, where its remained during its final years.

The Curtisses were former theosophists who originally established the ‘Order of The 15' for the purpose of correlating advanced philosophical teachings (i.e., theosophy) with orthodox Christian teachings, and changed its original name to the ‘Order of Christian Mystics’ so it could more easily approach members of Christian churches. Its particular concern for expressing the universal principle in Christian terms and by using Christian scriptures (instead of eastern holy books) separated it from the main body of theosophists (the Liberal Catholic Church not having been created at the time of the order's founding). The order also saw itself as anti-organizational, and for many years did not incorporate.

Teachings of the order (and fellowship) were put forth in the numerous books (more than 20) written by the Curtisses, though their central teachings were summarized in The Voice of Isis, The Message of Aquaria, and Letters from the Teacher. In addition to their books, the Curtisses published a monthly lesson for order members, who were encouraged to form study groups and to use the "Prayer for World Harmony," printed in one of the textbooks. The order emphasized personal self-mastery and offered personal counsel via correspondence with the Curtisses. It is likely that the correspondence from Mr. Rowell of North Bondi, Sydney had to do with this personal counselling. The frontispiece for their book ‘Coming World Changes’ is shown for the list of the Curtisses’ membership is quite imposing (Figure 2).

The order followed theosophical teaching in general but developed its own special emphases. The Curtisses advocated a middle way on most issues within the occult community. It did not advocate vegetarianism or celibacy, though it strongly advocated reincarnation. It offered an occult interpretation of the Bible which the Curtisses believed had been lost due to emphases upon literal and historical interpretations. Psychic awakening, as a natural part of spiritual unfoldment, was emphasized. Most importantly, the order was preparing for the advent of the Coming World Teacher, the Avatar. However, they sought to keep their pupils from being led astray by personality, i.e., from the Theosophical Society which was at that time promoting Jiddu Krishnamurti as the World Teacher. The order trained its pupils to recognize and respond to the teacher on the spiritual planes. Finally, the order emphasized the important theosophical teachings of the oneness of truth and universal brotherhood. The order survived only a few years after the death of the Curtisses, though several of their books were kept in print for many years.

I acknowledge that most of this paper was extracted from the website www.novelguide.com.

 
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