A Brief Biography of Poke Runyon, aka Frater Thabion

Carroll "Poke" Runyon describes himself as a "Gentleman of the Old School" which he defines as: "One who recites classical poetry to heartless beauties while wrestling alligators." He has lived out his Neo-Romantic philosophy as a Captain in the Green Berets, a student of Ninjutsu, a blue-water sailor, scuba diver, and a ceremonial magician.

His background in occult study and practice is extensive: in 1970, following a near-death experience, and a mystic vision, he became the founder of The Ordo Templi Astartes (O.T.A.). which is now America's oldest continually operating Ritual magick Lodge. In 1980 Runyon received his Master's Degree in cultural anthropology from California State University at Northridge, specializing in Magick. After graduate school he went through all the degrees of Freemasonry in both the Scottish and York Rites.

He then undertook an intense series of Tibetan tantric initiations and training sessions under the direction of H.E. Luding Khen Rinpoche of The Sakya Order, mastering the Vajra Yogini (Goddess of the Sorcerers) system. Runyon later received the Kalachakra initiation from H.H. The Dalai Lama. Carroll Runyon has served as an officer in three active Golden Dawn temples. His articles on Magick and the Western Tradition have appeared in Gnostica magazine, and his Order's journal The Seventh Ray. His most noted contribution to the post W.W. II occult revival has been his rediscovery, and subsequent development, of the facial reflection/distortion dark mirror scrying method for magical evocation. In 1974 he appeared as a guest on Tom Snyder's network television Tomorrow Show narrating film footage of O.T.A. magical operations. In 1996, through his Church (The Church of the Hermetic Sciences, Inc.) Runyon wrote, produced and narrated a 75 minute video documentary entitled: The Magick of Solomon, and also authored its companion book The Book of Solomons Magick.

He is also the author of Secrets of the Golden Dawn, Cypher Manuscript and Seasonal Rites of Baal and Astarte while acting as editor of The Seventh Ray.

The Shaver Mystery Meets Mt. Shasta

S: Where do you originally hail from?

PR: St. Petersburg, Florida. I grew up with Lin Carter who went on to become the fantasy editor at Ballantine Books. Lin was the Godfather of the 1970s fantasy fiction revival.

S: What subjects interested you in school?

PR: Art, history, literature and drama. I was so bad in algebra that my folks hired a tutor for me, but her boobs were so big I couldn't concentrate on the equations.

S: As a teenager you were interested in the Shaver Mystery. Was it the SM that brought you to the field of metaphysics?

PR: I'm sure it was. I got deep into Shaver and really believed him, but my sci-fi fan friends (except for Lin who indulged me) told me that I was an idiot, and their peer pressure forced me to "grow up."

S: From magick you went into films about magick and ritual. Can you talk a bit about that transition?

PR: I started making films on magick as soon as I could afford to do so-which was about the time I retired from the business world in the mid 1990s. I got into Magick back in 1969 as a result of a near-death visionary experience. However, as real as that experience was, my love for romantic fantasy and drama gave my magical operations a theatrical setting. I remember one commentator back in the early 1970s writing that the O.T.A. Temple looked like a Hollywood movie set.

S: It's not cheap making movies, and since you operate outside the mainstream film industry, how do you finance your films?

PR: In that way I've been fortunate enough to finance them myself. I worked in the movie industry for several years before moving to a more stable and profitable career in industry. One thing I learned in my Hollywood days was that "He who has the gold makes the rules." This is why so few really good films on magick, spirituality and even the UFO phenomenon get produced. The backers want a return on their investment and "the truth" may not be profitable.

S: Your latest film, Beyond Lemuria, is about a metaphysical journey. How did the story line come to you?

PR: My good friend Ed Fitch ­ who plays Col. Rich and Rev. Bobby-John in the film --- grew up in the Mt. Shasta area and had been exploring and spelunking up there for many years. Ed was also a Shaver fan in his youth and was fascinated by the caves in the area. He enticed me to come along on one of his expeditions. I had my own visionary experience up on the Mountain. Following that I was inspired with the idea that we could contrast the mystical tradition of Mt. Shasta with the underground menace of Shaver's deros and tie the two together not just in geographical proximity but as good and evil survivors of the occult Lemurian myth. We already had exclusive footage of two Nan Madol expeditions, which we could tie in - giving us a Lemurian tour-de-force. The ultimate concept of putting the whole story into the framework of an occult magical initiation in which the candidate has to choose which path he will follow; darkness or light, gave us the chance to be more artistic and philosophical. Some people may be put off by that, but I believe it gives the film more depth and a deeper meaning.

S: Would you describe Beyond Lemuria as an instructional film? And how does it relate (if it does) to the anticipated great world changes of 2012 predicted by the Mayan calendar?

PR: Instructional certainly, but in what we hope is an entertaining and suspenseful scenario. As for Samyaza's prediction, I'm not exactly happy as to how that is working out. I would like to have been wrong, but if you get the latest issue of NEXUS Magazine you'll find our full page ad stating: "2012 and Planet X. A Prophecy of Doom from the Fallen Angel Samyaza." In the same issue is a Twilight Zone article by a Norwegian politician detailing the underground facilities that his government is preparing. No sooner did I open my copy of NEXUS and read the article, than Brian Williams came on NBC news with footage of one of the Norwegian underground vaults where they are preserving all the seeds of the earth. Williams was not joking about this. He seemed worried. Again, I wish we had been wrong.

S: You shot some scenes in the movie in the OTO temple in Pasadena, California. How did you get access?

PR: It is our O.T.A. Temple, not an O.T.O. Temple. Although Lon Milo DuQuette, who plays Hermes Trismegistus in the film, is a good friend of mine and also the Deputy Grand Master of the American O.T.O., we (the Order of the Temple of Astarte) are not followers of Aleister Crowley (Thelemites). But we get along well with the O.T.O., the Golden Dawn (Merrick Rees Hamer's esoteric connection), and the Fraternity of Hidden Light--- to which Paul Clark, who plays the Master Jesus in our film, is imperator.

S: So Cal has always been a place for magicians, enlightened pagans, metaphysicians, sorcerers, channelers, UFO religions and the like. Can you tell us what the scene is like in 2008?

PR: My answer to that question -- at least for the magical community -- is answered in the pervious question. Sure, we have our differences, but now it seems that the inter-fraternal squabbles of a few years back have given way to a spirit of cooperation and mutual support. I hope our film, which employs the talents of people whom I consider to be the leading masters of magick in America, will bolster and help to maintain this attitude --- especially in light of 2012.

S: There are many nods to Shaver in Beyond Lemuria. In fact, I think Shaver would have been pleased with the scene where the fallen angel Samyaza is holding up an ancient rock book. The stim mech scene is classic Shaver. But you seem to feel that in our age of Quantum Mechanics and String Theory, Shaver might conclude that the dero actually live in another dimension rather than in physical caves. At least, this is how the film portrays the deros' realm. Do you really believe Shaver might have changed his ideas about that if he had been alive today? As you know, Shaver and Palmer had many a heated debate on this when Palmer relegated the caves to the astral regions.

PR: I think Shaver would have embraced the inter-dimensional theory for one main reason: before the 1990s (Shaver and Palmer both died in 1975) the notion that physically real creatures and machines could visit us from another dimension just as physically real as our own was okay as science fiction, but not taken seriously by so-called rational people. In other words, if you really believed it, you were nuts. Shaver, who actually had been certifiably nuts on occasion, was very sensitive about this. Palmer's occult "astral plane" was too amorphous for him ­ and yet he himself admitted to the dreamlike qualities of his contact experiences. Now I don't think Jacques Vallee or Michio Kaku are ever going to publicly validate Shaver, but if you get Kaku's Parallel Worlds and Vallee's Dimensions under your belt you can find all the validation you need. I think Shaver, who laid out his own version of M-Theory which he called "The Simultane" in Erdis Cliff, would have been quick to embrace a theory that would sweep away all the criticisms used by his detractors to debunk the Shaver Mystery.

S: One interesting thing you mentioned in your film commentary was that you believe the dero control the Internet. Can you elaborate?

PR: This goes along with Shaver's statement that we are all deros, but when you consider that 80% of computer viruses originate outside of the U.S. one might wonder what percentage originate from the surface on our slice of the simultane? Also, who actually invented the internet? CERN? Gore? The Ivy League? The Pentagon? --- One of the most viscous anonymous slandering trolls on the internet turned out to be an editor for the world's most prestigious medical journal! Reminds me of the chattering of Shaver's dero nemesis "Max." Could cyberspace be inner space?

S: I noticed that you used shots of various Shaver paintings in this film. How'd you learn of the exhibition of these paintings at Chapman University? Was it back n 2005?

PR: I believe it was earlier than 2005. I don't recall how we found out, but Ed Fitch and I both attended. I understand some of those paintings were from your collection. As far as I know there is no good printed version of the Amazon and Wolfbat. I used one of my photos taken at the show for that one. I think in years to come Shaver will be recognized as a leading American surrealist painter.

Mysterious Mt. Shasta, California

S: When was your first hike on Mt. Shasta, and can you tell us a bit about the vision you experienced there. Beyond Lemuria seems to be heavily influenced by your Mt. Shasta vision?

PR: Timothy Green Beckley has a book coming out on Mt. Shasta to which I contributed a chapter on my own Mt. Shasta visionary experience, along with some photos from Beyond Lemuria. Briefly, I climbed the Mountain to the Sacred Grove (at 9000 feet above Ski Bowl) on my first Shasta recon in July of 2005. On the first day I got checked out by an Oriental who promptly disappeared when I tried to question him. I came back again the next afternoon, worked myself into a trance and made contact with "The Spirit of the Mountain." I was given essentially the same revelations that I put into the script for both Lon DuQuette and Isabela Shahira to deliver in the film. You become one with the mountain (kether of malkuth) and you recover memories of your own past lives. This is why we meet Lemurians and Atlanteans up there instead of American Indian ancestors (unless you are a Native American).

S: Your movie team used a lot of creativity making the various props for the film, like the Intragravatron and the stim mech, which used Edsel and Studebaker car parts. But where did you come up with the dero priestess's outfit - the one she wore in the stim ray scene? That was wild!

PR: In describing the big Elder Mech unit Doug Carey said we used Studebaker and Edsel parts. This is not exactly true. Actually we used their design concepts: the phallic 1947 Studebaker nose cone for the ray projector, above the vaginal grille of the 1958 Edsel. This old style sexual automotive symbolism makes the machine look like something built in the dim, dark past of pre-history because it evokes the dim, dark past of our childhood. David Lynch's production designer achieved the same effect by using Edwardian costuming and set decoration in his version of Dune. As for the Dero Princess's costume. Isabela supplied the harness from some earlier kinky gig. I modified it with the spiked breastplates, the big silver buckle and the third-eye headband. Even though the spikes were riveted on, she still managed to pop one off and I had to fix it on the set. Fun job! Originally I wanted to just glue the spiked breastplates on without any straps. Isabela was okay with that, but we decided it would be a little too much (or too little) maybe next time.

S: You said Beyond Lemuria was modeled after the old B movies of the 1940s. So why wasn't it shot in B&W?

PR: You are not the only one to raise that question. The answer is that we would have lost the outdoor grandeur of our authentic location shots and much of the dark-light symbolism of the film. We have a very good camera and shot the film in wide screen to maximize the natural settings. The old B movies of the '40s and '50s were shot on sound stages and back lots, or locations within miles of the studio. Part of the value of Beyond Lemuria is it's actual and natural locations. How many old B&W vampire movies were ever shot in Transylvainia ? (Now they shoot them there regularly but they are all in color.)

S: You've said that the Intragravatron was modeled after the famous "Hidden World Receiver" published by Ray Palmer. You probably know that the HWR was a variation of the Star Mech invented by Ed John in the late 1940s in San Francisco (related in "The House at 475 Fell St." in Shavertron.com). I hear you plan to build one of these devices. Are you having any luck?

PR: The Star Mech is new to me. We got the Hidden World Receiver from Hidden World A-12 1963 by John Hatfield Hart. It was essentially a white noise audio device. Dr. X is currently working on an updated audio-visual version which will also incorporate some aspects of the Intregravatron ­although we aren't claiming a vortex through the simultane at this point. That's the "next generation."

S: Why did you include the preacher character Bobby John in your film? He seemed the most out of place among the other characters.

PR: Perhaps not so out of place if you think about it from a transcendental Lothinian perspective. The Great Secret of Freemasonry, Rosecrucianism, Sufism, qabalah and the "I AM" of Mt. Shasta (which originated with Phylos, btw) is that we are all equally ensouled with an identical divine spark. The only way we can achieve world peace and brotherhood is through this revelation. Bobby-John was perverting Jesus' message to the exact opposite extreme. Therefore, he needed to be brought to the Light. And, of course, the good guys in the film needed a worthy task to accomplish. The idea of having Bobby-John as the alter ego of Colonel Rich is also significant.

S: Beyond Lemuria also reveals a distrust of our (or possibly any) government. Who do you feel is behind the machinations of the White House? Draconian masters?

PR: In a qualified sense, yes! But for my non-fiction draconian explanation you need to read Return of the Dragon Lords in our journal The Seventh Ray, Book III, the Red Ray (from Amazon.plug, plug). Ever since the Kennedy assassination the American public has distrusted our government. I grew up with a guy who ended up in the upper echelon of NASA. He got drunk one night in 1968 and told me that "They" were going to reveal the truth about UFOs in two years. Three years later I asked him where's "the truth?" He denied ever saying anything.

S: What do you want your audience to come away with after viewing Beyond Lemuria?

PR: First, I'd like them to feel that we have lifted a veil from two large interrelated areas of American mystical and phenomenal experience (Shaver and Shasta) that have been suppressed and ignored. Second, I'd like them to wonder how much of what we have presented might just be true, and Third, I'd like to encourage a revival of these themes in the more sophisticated and plausible context of 21st century scientific conjecture.

S: Are you planning any more treks to Mt. Shasta? How about more films dealing with the Shaver Mystery?

PR: Absolutely! We are heading back up to Shasta this summer to try out our new machine and to scout locations for another Shaver Mystery film. Meanwhile we want to encourage all you Shaverites out there to keep the faith. The Secret World will rise again.

S: Many thanks for taking the time, Poke.

To order your copy of Beyond Lemuria -- The Shaver Mystery and the Secrets of Mt. Shasta, go to BEYONDLEMURIA.COM.