Goodbye.

When I first started my investigation, I was hopeful that my work would reveal to others that the things I believe to be great threats to our world are real. The occult is real and I know that powerful people work very hard to ensure that the public will never realize this. What could I do to take a stand against these forces and show everyone that they were being lied to?

I gathered my evidence and worked hard to tell my readers that there are groups who are working with dangerous occult forces. However, my work was only met with ridicule and disbelief. I have dug myself deeper and deeper into this terrible Church, now I fear that I have only succeeded in endangering those close to me. One faint light at the end of this investigation was given to me recently, I believe people apart from myself are able to finish things now. I am leaving for good, this is the last you will read of Ted Benwall.

If this identity ever gets linked back to my real one, then I am sorry to my friends and family. I was selfish and took upon myself a dangerous investigation that put you all at risk. I did not mean for things to get so out of control and I hope one day you will understand. Goodbye.

Ritual Dangers

The members of the Church continue to blindly follow Brother Arvakhac. He prophesied that the Dwellers of the Abyss would seek energy in our world from metals we value, which Church members have already stolen, and small animals we hold in worship, which seems to be their new target.

I noticed it this morning. There has been a rash of missing pet notices all around the city. The number of missing animal posts on Craigslist yesterday was 52, and the average in the last month has been 39. So far today there have been 227 posts about missing cats, dogs, birds, even hamsters and gerbils. I called the SPCA and they have received 503 calls today.

Just what Brother Arvakhac and the congregation plans to do with all these animals remains unclear, but there is a dangerous line they are crossing today. At the last meeting, he told the group to “cast aside all that [they] hold dear,” and I fear he is now instructing them to do the same for others, forcefully. Somehow, a group of 75 devoted cultists, have managed to steal animals from hundreds of families, across the city. Have they sacrificed them in some horrific manner? How does a group even accomplish such a task?

I have no idea what they plan to do next, but it appears that the visions of Brother Arvakhac continue up the hierarchy of human affection. In his first sermon, he said that the entity was gathering energy from our world, “first from the metals we hold in false praise, then in the beasts we claim to love, and finally from our fellow man, whom we praise more than God.” I am now fearing for my life and I continue to be plagued by warnings from others. It may be too late to get out now, I plan to prepare for an exit as it seems the world is not ready to understand what I have to share. Those who doubted me and continue to ridicule my efforts will remain in the dark, perhaps for the best…

Approaching Storm

I received another call yesterday. As the voice on the other end of the phone read out a code, I was already preparing myself for another meeting.

The group met at a renovated warehouse space and once again, Brother Arvakhac delivered a passionate sermon. He spoke of his conversation with a Dweller of the Abyss. “A woman of great power came to me. She spoke of our coming union and handed me a scroll. When I awoke from the vision, I held this in my hands. Brothers, on this day, we shall enter the Abyss.” He raised his hands to the congregation and revealed a scrap of paper. On it was written 9 19 2015.

For more than two hours, the sermon continued. The high priest spoke of the preparations to be made. “We must cast aside all that we hold dear. All that ties us to the material world. In the Abyss, the physical falls away and the true self is set free.” All the members of the congregation remained transfixed by Brother Arvakhac’s words. He mentioned the robberies as proof of the growing power of the Dwellers of the Abyss, and claimed that animals would be the next to disappear, sacrificed to feed the coming energy.  

Normally after a meeting of the Church, groups of two or three would linger and chat, to catch up. However, once last night’s gathering came to a close, all the members filled back into the street and dispersed quickly. Somehow, Brother Arvakhac and the other leaders of this chapter have corrupted this secret society, and this Saturday will convince 75 of its members to perform some sort of Abyss summoning ritual.

I contacted other members of the Church elsewhere in the US to see if there have been similar sermons delivered to other groups. I received a reply from a member in Boston, and another in San Francisco, and they claimed to have heard nothing at all like this. Apparently, this doomsday prophecy exists solely in the mind of Brother Arvakhac.

I need to get proof of what happens—whatever happens—to as many people as I can. What happens on September 19th needs to be seen by the world.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Brother Arvakhac’s apocalyptic speech continues to concern me greatly. His predictions of the end times are nothing special within New Religious Movements, but some of the vocabulary was rather specific. Traditionally, a doomsday prophecy is broad and sweeping, allowing the speaker to change interpretations as necessary, and even adjust the date of the supposed judgement day. However, Brother Arvakhac spoke in specifics, and one of the details mentioned was precious metal.

I noticed that he mentioned that the “Dwellers of the Abyss will seek energy within our world, and rifts will appear to gather that energy. They will take from us that which we hold dear. That which consumes us with false love. First, our precious metals shall be gathered, for the importance our civilization gives to such material is present within.” At the time, I had thought little of this. However, I have noticed a spurt of robberies within my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Antique shops have been targeted, and their reports have been rather bizarre.

I interviewed the owners of several of the antique shops targeted, and they told me that only silverware sets, gold jewelry and bronze statues had been taken. Fillip Koenig, owner of Rare Classics, an antique shop in Park Slope, was confused about the thefts.

“I have never seen anything like this. The thieves got in without breaking anything, didn’t set off the alarm, and must have had plenty of time to work. They only stole the good stuff. No gold leaf, no silver plating. All pure,” said Koenig. When asked if it could have been an inside job, he laughed. “You think I’m busy enough these days to hire help? It’s just me.”

The other owners had similar stories to tell – only items of pure metal were stolen, no alarms were triggered and all the surveillance footage has either been wiped clean or corrupted.

These robberies fit too closely with the predictions of Brother Arvakhac. It seems the members of the Church may be stealing on the orders of their leader as some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t know where this leads, but these actions suggest the members believe in the prediction of Brother Arvakhac to such a degree that they are willing it into fruition.

How I Became a Brother

In 2008, on a wet November afternoon in Providence, Rhode Island, I found myself seated in a half filled community center auditorium, listening to various self-professed wise men attempt to spread their gospel. At the time, I was working on a documentary series for a cable channel about New Age Movements. I was there to interview Curtis Bloom, the keynote speaker at Rhode Island Shamanic Journeys Seminar. While I awaited Mr. Bloom, I decided to get some B-roll of the crowd, mainly middle-aged and elderly white men and women, as they drank herbal tea and listened to stories on how the mysteries of the Kabbalah could be unravelled. Nothing stood out until the Knowlton Brothers stepped up to the podium. They were different than what I was used to seeing. These were not spiritual frauds, intent on stealing money from the hopeless, nor were they teaching truisms and bastardized yoga—they had discovered something real, and I knew I had found the subject for my next film. After the seminar, I contacted one of their supporters, and I was soon invited to a meeting with the inner circle. Within six weeks, I became an active member of The Church of the Dark Sun.

For the last seven years, I have been slowly gathering footage for a feature documentary on this little known group. I have managed to record the audio from many of the meetings, both the small scale weekly Study Groups and the large general meetings, but I have yet to get video footage of what I have seen. However, I have managed to interview several ex-members of the Church, and I have pieced together an oral history of this secret order.  

The Church of the Dark Sun was founded in 2000 by two brothers, Keith and James Knowlton, in New Haven, Connecticut, as a ritualistic magick and homeopathic discussion group known as The Seekers of the Ra. The brothers became well known for their lectures, and soon began teaching classes to a small group of devotees. In December of the same year, Tana Heim, a member of the Thelemic society known as the Typhonian Order, heard the brothers speak and invited them to join the Order.

Keith decided to stay in New Haven, while James returned to London with Heim to be initiated into the Order. He spent three years within the group, learning the ways of Thelema and the Left Hand Path. In late 2003, Keith Knowlton reunited with his brother in New Haven. In the meantime, James had brought the teachings of The Seekers of the Ra to larger audiences across the Eastern United States.

Taking what he had learned from the Typhonian Order, Keith worked with his brother to create a tighter central group within Seekers, known as the The Church of the Dark Sun. Using Thelemic themes, as well as Hermetic magical traditions, the brothers codified the practises of the group into a more regimented form, with a clear hierarchical structure. The brothers continued their lecture circuit as The Seekers, but invited anyone they saw fit to their inner, secret group.

In mid-2004, the Church became a tax exempt religious group within the States, and started weekly meetings in cities across the Eastern Seaboard. They adopted various Hermetic religious texts, and began to become more insular, with the Knowlton brothers performing fewer and fewer public lectures over the following years. The 2008 Rhode Island Shamanic Journeys Seminar was one of their final public appearances.

The Church beliefs surround the affirmation of the spiritual self over the temporal body, the separation of the mind and the ego, and the communion with other worldly beings, known as the “Dwellers of the Abyss.” While they have a strict hierarchical organization within individual chapters, each city’s Church operates independently of the others. Only the Knowlton Brothers have power over all chapters.
The general meetings I have attended, besides this latest gathering, consist largely of lectures by the Knowlton Brothers, as well as larger magick rituals, including sex magick. Once a year, the New York chapter sacrifices a goat to celebrate the Lunar New Year, however, in the seven years I have covered the group, this is the only violent act I have witnessed.

The Church of the Dark Sun

Ancient mysticism, sex magick and philosophical discussions are all part of the peaceful practices of The Church of the Dark Sun, an occult community that has been steadily growing in the United States over the past 15 years. Last night, however, at the New York City chapter’s first general meeting in three years, they announced the coming apocalypse.

Two days ago, I was at the grocery store with my family when I received a call from an unknown number. When I answered, a familiar voice recited a seemingly random set of digits, stopped, and started again. It was only on the second time around that I was able to grab a pen and scribbled down the information on the side of a cereal box. Using a cipher I had been taught years ago, I was able to decode the details from the call – a summons to a meeting of The Brothers of the Abyss, along with a time and location.

I have been following The Church of the Dark Sun since first hearing the founding brothers speak in 2008. Shortly thereafter, I was granted access to the church, and have since been recording as much of their activity as possible for a feature length documentary. The Church is one of the most secretive and fascinating occult organizations active today. They are spread across the United States and claim to have over 4000 active members. Their magick rituals far surpass anything I have ever witnessed before.

The New York chapter of the Church meets at a new location for each of its general meetings, and last night I arrived at the address at the appointed time to find other members filling into a large, nondescript brownstone

The 75-odd brothers present all entered a small antechamber, changed into their ceremonial robes and proceeded into a large living room for the ceremony. After lengthy introductions and blessings, High Priest Brother Arvakhac addressed the congregation.

“There has been a shift in the stars, Brothers. I have witnessed the future to come, and it is glorious,” thundered Brother Arvakhac. “The Abyss has come, and we must welcome its embrace. The uninitiated will not understand what is at hand. They will first seek to control it, then, when they cannot, they will seek to save themselves. But only the Pure may be saved.”

Brother Arvakhac spoke at length about a coming apocalypse. The focus of the prophecy centered on an impending opening to the Abyss, a higher plane of existence, that would bring “glory to all those chosen and rain down hellfire on all the impure souls.” The High Priest purported to have seen a vision of an entity, slowly gathering energy from our world, first through metals, then small creatures, and finally through the life force of mankind itself. This terminology did not sway from predictions made by countless other doomsday groups.

However, The Church of the Dark Sun has no history as a doomsday group, nor accounts of violence or fear mongering amongst its members. In my seven years following the group, there have never been any signs that the Church has apocalyptic ideologies, nor did it close itself off from the outside world, like so many cults do. My reason for fascination with the Church has been just that; unlike so many other New Religious Movements, they seem to be only beneficial to their members, have shown no signs of cult like behaviour, and have never requested money from me or any other member I have interviewed. And they are able to perform real magickal ceremonies.

Yet now, for the first time in the group’s unblemished 15 year history, the Church of the Dark Sun has announced a clear end of the world, and became, for the first time, a potential threat to the safety of their members.