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Article Specs

Article ID: 8413

VoxAcct: 9

Section: passages

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 5,857

Times Read: 12,980

Donald D. Harrison
Type of Passage: Death
Date of Passage: January 7th. 2004

Author: Pagan Communities
Posted: January 7th. 2004
Times Viewed: 12,980

We received the message that Wednesday, January 7th, 2004, Rev. Donald D. Harrison died in Los Angeles, California. Donald (Don) Harrison was one of the founders of the Church of Eternal Source (CES); an American organization that wants to revive the old Egyptian religion and philosophy in our modern times. Apart from everything this organization and especially the modern neo-Egyptian movement accomplished, it's important to remember the fact that with Harrison we have lost one of the great inspiring persons which with their enormous enthusiasm and perseverance paved the way for a new modern sober look on spirituality. There were in the 1970's (and later, even still today) lots of people who lose themselves and their goal in religious dreams and fantasies, luckily there are always the modest hard workers which made it their calling to guide their ideal safely around all obstacles and traps. They don't look for followers, but they try to make people see they can be their own ! light. Instead of leading they like guiding, and this way they help the evolution of modern spirituality another step forward. Often these are not the biggest groups or persons, nor the most famous ones. But their example and their heritage will guarantee some badly needed light on the hard way of the search for ourselves. This is the story of one of them, in memoriam of Don Harrison.

Donald Harrison was born May 31, 1931 and grew up with foster parents in Grand Junction, Colorado, in the United States of America. Already at an early age it turned out he had a great talent for drawing, combined with a great interest in old Egypt. Both of them would stay with him during his life. His foster parents were conservative Protestant, but he himself already at an early age became interested in the origin of religion. He converted himself to the Catholic faith, but maintained his passion for Egypt. During the building of a monastery in Grand Junction he decorated the walls with painted scenes of Egyptian papyrus plants. During his military service, when he joined the US Navy, he traveled around the world, to succeed for his Arts diploma afterwards, at California State University in Los Angeles. Don had planned to become an arts teacher. However, a car accident resulted in a slight handicap which made it impossible for him to get the necessary papers. Sinking away ! in a deep personal and spiritual crisis, he turned to the Catholic Church and became a monk in the Benedictine St. Andreas monastery . This decision didn't help him, however, to find his calling. One day he went through a severe crisis of faith. He went to the chapel to pray. When he looked up at the paintings and statues and suddenly he saw how all the figures gave themselves to erotic love games. He had some kind of Kama Sutra vision which would become a turning point in his life. That day he left the monastery for good.

Donald turned to his artistic qualities as a woodcutter and started making 'authentic' replicas of ancient Egyptian furniture. He made as correct as possible a replica of the throne of Pharaoh Tutmoses III; a sarcophagus on true scale decorated with chapters of the Egyptian Book of the Dead; and shrines for Isis, Thoth and Ma'at. Around that time he read Gore Vidal's novel 'Julian'. He was deeply moved by the heroic attempts of this Roman Emperor trying to restore the ancient pagan faith after the Christian coup d'Žtat during the reign of the Emperor Constantine. He took up the task to continue Julian's mission. That's why in 1967 he started to publish a modest neo-pagan discussion magazine in Los Angeles, which he called 'Julian Review' after the Emperor Julian.

'Julian Review' was the first modern neo-pagan magazine in the Western world. It offered a forum for serious discussion about the revival and possible restoration of the ancient pagan religions in the modern world. This movement had started early, in 1938, when Nadezhda and Gleb Botkin as the very first examples, had their Long Island Church of Aphrodite, a neo-pagan community, officially registered in the state of New York. They were followed in 1967 by Feraferia, which is counted as the second registered pagan organization. (Today Feraferia is represented in this magazine by Phaedrus, and regular contributions of the founders Fred McAdams and Lady Svetlana). Feraferia published in California from 1967 articles about their own neo-Greek 'Faerie' faith in their own magazine 'Korythalia'. Both publications were supplemented by a third publication from St. Louis, where at the same moment the magazine 'Green Egg' was founded, which would have a worldwide distribution later on. ! All these publications in those days were nothing more than hand typed carbon copies. Their success became their disadvantage this way, but they had made acquaintance with each other, and their message and ideas would go around the world from this moment on.

Very soon Don got too busy to continue with the labor intensive typing. Due to the many new contacts, something like a big modern neo-pagan movement had started to grow. A reader of 'Julian Review,' Michael Kinghorn, wrote to Donald, which in the end resulted in the foundation of a modern neo-pagan group calling itself the 'Delphic Fellowship,' being strongly inspired by the ancient Greek faith. Both suspected the Egyptian faith would be too esoteric for most people, so they choose the better known Greek variation. Although it was the first serious attempt to bring together all the various modern pagan groups existing at that moment, they had hardly any success. Meanwhile they had made contact with Fred McAdams of Feraferia, who was evolving in his own way his interpretation of ancient Greek religion and culture, calling it the 'Faerie' faith. Feraferia too was trying to bring together the many modern neo-pagan groups in California, and it seemed self-evident they would comb! ine their efforts. Thus the neo-Greek Delphic Fellowship dissolved in the broader Council of Themis, named after the Greek Goddess guarding all kinds of meetings and counsels. Here all possible kinds of modern neo-pagan movements could bundle their powers to work for acceptance and the right to exist. Also here the time seemed to be too early for such an initiative. However, the Council of Themis got its successor in the Pagan Federation, which still exists today.

In 1969 Donald Harrison met Harold Moss via Feraferia. (He also contributed an article to this magazine). Already from 1957 Harold Moss was busy organizing Egyptian dress-up parties for students. However, his great interest in ancient Egypt asked for a more serious approach. In 1963 Harold started organizing Egyptian summer parties for a select group of friends. These parties eventually turned into a yearly tradition of a serious celebration of the Egyptian New Year . In 1970 all these contacts mentioned above had resulted into many close contacts between the many modern neo-pagan movements across the West Coast of the United States of America. The originally Egyptian New Year parties had become big meetings where modern neo-Greek, neo-Babylonian, neo-Egypt, followers of Wicca, shamans and many others met and inspired each other .

Against this background Don Harrison, Harold Moss and Sara Cunningham (Wicca) made the decision on the 25th of August 1970 to found the Church of Eternal Source. On the 7th of October of that same year, the CES was registered by the state of California as an official church community. In a way 'Church' is not such a good word. The CES became more of a federation where all kinds of people working with the Egyptian religion found a place for contact and mutual attunement. The absence of central leadership was an important issue. The CES still is made up of loose groups, all with their own priests or priestesses serving their own favourite God, Goddess or Gods. Here it is important to note that they didn't strive to copy the way it could have been in ancient Egypt, they tried to find a modem spiritual form of an ancient faith in the environment of today. Here, serious study of, and religious inspiration by antiquity are the foundation for modern reconstruction.

Not everything went without troubles. In 1971 a conflict arose about the question if the CES should maintain her priesthood financially, or if they should take care of their own means of life. They decided for the last option, and as a result some members left the CES. However, the CES evolved into a strong and important organization within the network of the modem neo-pagan movement. Harold Moss became an enthusiastic ambassador, traveling to San Francisco, St. Louis, Minneapolis and later Boise, to contact other groups around the country. Research and translation of ancient Egyptian sources, as well as passing on correct knowledge about it, became an important mission next to the religious work. Most of the known ancient papyri were studied and became the foundation for re-enactment of the ancient Egyptian rituals in a modern interpretation and setting. Besides all these ancient sources, the members produced also an enormous amount of hymns, music, texts, works of art and ! plays of their own.

Don Harrison was responsible for a big part of this all. He designed the CES logo with the sun on the moon, and was ordained as an official priest of Thoth. He built an authentic temple for Thoth in a spare room of his own home in Burbank, California, where he maintained regular religious services. His art contributions decorated CES publications, including Khepera Magazine, the CES Newsletter, and the luxurious invitations for the yearly New Year festivals which for years were held at his place.

In 1976 Don Harrison together with Harold Moss traveled to the United Kingdom and visited, besides famous places like Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, of course the Egyptian departments of the British Museum in London. They also made a cruise of the Nile and visited the most important temples and holy places in Egypt. This journey became the subject of a series of lectures for the California State University in San Diego. During the 1970's the Egyptian New Year parties had become the yearly meeting point for the whole of the modern neo-pagan movement in Southern California. However, in the 1980's the tides were changing. Due to personal problems of the most important members, the active life of the CES was restricted to the yearly celebration of the Egyptian New Year festival only. In 1989 Harold Moss moved from California to Boise, Idaho, where he kept on writing and working for the CES. Eventually in this state also the CES was registered as an official church organizat! ion. Don Harrison and Harold Moss represented the CES together again at the 1996 Themis II Conference in Nevada City, California. Here, after so many years, the leading persons of the modern neo-pagan movement met each other again to share their experiences. Today the CES is officially recognized as a formal church organization in the states of California and Idaho, so Donald Harrison, Harold Moss and their priestly colleagues have the right of officially using the title of 'reverend.' Besides the closed meetings there is the tradition of an open ritual once a year, which helps to give the CES a broader public and popularity.

In 1994 Donald Harrison had withdrawn from regular employment. However, he was President of the Church until he died, and continued living his life in Los Angeles. He never stopped his drawing and painting, and started writing a new novel set in ancient Egypt. During his life, eventually he wrote and illustrated three novels about Antiquity: 'The Spartan' in 1982; 'The Alexandrian Drachma' in 1984; and 'The Lion Warriors' in 1986. All these works try to recall the spirit of free eroticism and mythical life as it should have existed in Antiquity. They are sometimes compared to the work of Mary Renault.

As part of the so-called second (modern) generation of the neo-pagan movement, Donald Harrison played an important role shaping modern religious thinking today, not to mention the modern neo-pagan movement itself. A newspaper interview in 1982 described him as: "A shock of raven-black hair and a thick black mustache on a square-jawed bronzed face give the writer and artist the intimidating look of a Rocky mountain man...[he wears] a handsome denim jacket embroidered with the falcon wings of the Egyptian solar God Horus." However intimidated the interviewer may have been, to his friends Don is a very quiet, modest, self- effacing man who allows his evident scholarship and spectacular artistic talents to speak for him.

May he have found his ultimate goal and destination .

The text of this biography is partly copied from the CES home page: where you can also find more background information.

In Memoriam Donald D. Harrison
(English and Dutch versions by Phaedrus. Permission is given to reprint intact.)
© 2004 Brandhout magazine,


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