The Church of All Worlds is the organization Michael Valentine Smith founds in Stranger in a Strange Land, a book by Robert Heinlein,
to bring Martian knowledge to earth and in so doing, save us. It was organized as nine concentric rings, one for each planet. The outer
ring was for the public to come by and watch; the inner rings involved a growing-closer that culminated with
the center ring, wherein one experienced water sharing and became part of the core of the church, living in its
In a case of life imitating art (though intentionally and without quite the same level of superpower),
the Church of All Worlds (CAW) is also a Neopagan religion. They are pantheist and experiential, believing
deity to be immanent in everyone, which leads to their phrase (from the book), "Thou art God/dess". This phrase,
from Stranger in a Strange Land, also appears in the Old Testament of the Bible (verse 6 of Psalm 82) and
the New Testament (verse 34 of John 10).
In CAW, worship generally involves weekly or monthly Nest
meetings held in members' homes.
An autonomous Nest had at least three 2nd Circle members meeting monthly. The central form of their
involves sharing a chalice
of water. They also have a church sanctuary
Annwfn in northern California. In general, members, called "Waterkin
the terms "belief" and "faith", considering them to lead to dogma
. They also believe in local and tribal deities, but do not consider them
aspects of human consciousness.
The Circles/Rings (they can't seem to decide from what I looked up to jog my memory) are numbered from one to nine, with nine innermost.
Originally, the ring system of learning was based upon reading and doing things,
with a set number of
required accomplishments to ascend to a given level. You might, for instance, find yourself
reading science fiction, learning a martial art, and doing community service at a soup kitchen.
Under this original system, no one ever reached the highest (innermost) circle. Later on, things
would be split into a three-tier Seeker/Scion/clergy system, though the full nine-level delineation
still exists, with three rings to each tier.
The Church of All Worlds was founded on April 7, 1962, after two members of a science fiction club
at Westminster College shared water, forming a water brotherhood called
"Atl". The initial members were Tim Zell and Lance Christie, but the brotherhood
soon expanded, and members had mugs with a symbolic bird on them. The science fiction club
tended to focus on Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand, as those were the writers the members liked best,
and so Atl, aka the Atlan Foundation, tended to hold those values as well. As time passed, however,
Tim Zell began to turn towards a more philosophy that focused more on nature and divinity, something that
did not mesh with the views of all. In 1968, this caused
a break, and those that broke off named themselves the Church of All Worlds.
The Church of All Worlds amplified certain aspects of Atl. Polyamory and nudism were not
frowned upon, and they were more pro-technology than the average Pagan group at the time.
Still, they were ecology-oriented. The Church was a proponent of the Gaia hypothesis and
consider Earth to be Mother Nature, and could be considered forerunners of Deep Ecology.
They created a creed that states: "The Church of All Worlds is dedicated to
the celebration of life, the maximal actualization of human potential
and the realization of ultimate individual freedom and personal
responsibility in harmonious eco-psychic relationship with the total
Biosphere of Holy Mother Earth."
They began to publish a magazine, Green Egg, about Neopaganism. (It should be noted
that Tim Zell is universally considered to be the origin of the terms Neopagan/Neopaganism).
The Green Egg was considered one of the best magazines at the time, a forum for Pagan writers of all
leanings. By 1974, there were Nests in multiple states. In 1976, Tim Zell decided to move to California to live a rural life of research, writing,
and religious practice, leaving leadership of CAW and publishing of the Green Egg to others. Unfortunately,
CAW rapidly fell apart.
From that time to the late 1980s, Tim Zell and his wife, Morning Glory Zell, did many
things on their own. Tim would change his first name to Otter following a vision quest. Their
Living Unicorn Project
also came up with a way to transform a newborn goat into a unicorn by moving the horn buds before
they were attached to other tissue, and would lease the goats to Barnum Bailey & Bros. circuses.
With the money they made a trip to New Guinea to see if they could find a similar explanation
for the mermaid; this was arguably less of a success, because they discovered that the native
word for mermaid was the same one used for the manatee. Finally, they returned from their
retreat in the late 80s, and restarted Green Egg and the Church, though their absence was a setback
(and indeed might be considered one, though not the only, reason for the preeminence of Wicca).
For more information about the fictional
Church of All Worlds, read Stranger in a Strange Land
For more information about the real-life one, read Drawing Down the Moon
or look at their
home page at http://www.caw.org/