Jamie Barter: Chapter 12 – The OTO – Its Relevance Today

“There is nothing mysterious [secret] or Oriental about anything”

–    Mahatma Guru Sri Paramahansa Shivaji [Aleister Crowley]

From Lecture 1 (1)  (1938 e.v.)

(N.B., EDITORIAL NOTE:- The below constitutes the entirety of the ultimate (or penultimate) Chapter to the proposed revised second edition of Francis King’s The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O..  For ease of reference here I have transferred all of the footnotes to the end of each paragraph in which they appear.  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:  With thanks for invaluable research assistance and hospitality from Peter König, Gregory von Seewald (d’csd)


The O.T.O. – Its Relevance Today.

“As to the external organisation [of that very ancient order of sages, whose object is the amelioration and spiritual elevation of mankind, by means of conquering error and aiding men and women in their efforts of attaining the power of recognising the truth], it will be necessary to give a glance at its history, which has been one and the same in all. Whenever that spiritual society manifested itself on the outward plane and appeared in the world, it consisted at its beginning of a few able and enlightened people, forming a nucleus around which others were attracted. But invariably, the more such a society grew in numbers, the more became attracted to its elements, such as were not able to understand or follow its principles; people who joined it for the purpose of gratifying their own ambition or for making the society serve their own ends obtained the majority over those that were pure. Thereupon the healthy portion of it retired from the field and continued their benevolent work in secrecy, while the remaining portion became diseased and disrupted, and sooner or later died disgraced and profaned. For the Spirit had departed from them.” (from the M.’. M.’. M.’. Preamble)1
<1  See page XXX.>

At the present time of writing, one hundred years have elapsed since the beginning of the Order according to the date which is most commonly but not necessarily accurately advocated {i.e., 1895}.  As the Æon of Horus the Crowned and Conquering Child now advances on towards the new millennium, contemporary Thelemites have the right to ask among themselves this terrible question: what exactly is the point of the O.T.O. as it stands today?  Terrible, because the Prophet of the New Æon himself once held out fine hopes for this quasi-masonic, magickal and fraternal society which would set by example, as the more secular and socio-political arm of Thelema, the standards for a revolutionary new way of living together. In so doing, it would remain true to all that was chivalric (in the finest sense of the word) in “knightly” and “damely” sexual conduct, and hold fast to the ideals of good fellowship and open dealings with one another that, as sheer common sense, originally lay behind the mediæval masonic and guilds movement.

Such was the theory; and it would certainly be extremely hard for anybody not to agree with the proposition that, at one time, such a definite end was planned for the Oriental Templar Order – and as was remarked in the author’s essay Metaphor, Media, Magick & The Buried Crowley,2

The O.T.O. was the first co-masonic group, unreservedly admitting women … whose members originally engaged in the eastern practices of tantra utilising the serpentine cerebrospinal neural energy of kundalini.

<2  Published on pages 75-106 in Skoob Esoterica Anthology No. 1 (London, 1995). The middle (third) section of this essay also incorporates a fuller examination of the changing world-view as it was emerging c.1913-17.>

These days it might be argued that freemasonry has reached its “use-by date”; that there are much greater “equal rights” for women; and that the techniques and applications of what is commonly known as sex magick bear greater circulation, with delicacy and art, in an intelligently wider, less obsolete forum.  It might also be argued that aside from acting as a useful funding resource for the occasional publishing venture, the practical effectiveness of Crowley’s O.T.O. as a working organisation started to dissipate very shortly after its foundation as the M.’. M.’. M.’. in June 1912.  Apart from some sporadic minor activity overseas and a small but ultimately unsuccessful venture.to revive its British fortunes attempted without Crowley’s direct involvement in the 1920s, the police raid upon the Order’s premises at 93 Regent Street during the First World War marked a definite end to any regular proceedings. This raid, an act of revenge by the authorities against Crowley’s perceived treachery by merrily editing the pro-German North American journal The International also occurred at around the time when he was rewriting the Order’s Constitution in collusion with Theodor Reuss and was quite several years before he ever acceded in his own fashion to the office of Outer Head of the Order (see Chapter Six).

As such, the intact Crowleian version of the O.T.O. lasted for the grand total of fifty years, from 1st June, 1912 (the year in which, according to Liber CXCIV, “The O.T.O. came into his hands”) to 25th October, 1962 (the date on which his appointed successor Karl Germer died) in the most generous calculation which it is possible for us to give it.  Throughout this period, the only years during which Crowley can be considered-to have been actively an international Head cover more or less one half of it, from c. 1922-5 until 1947.  However his attitude towards the Order changed markedly over this interval of time: from a long afterglow after a period of initial extravagant enthusiasm to a firm desire for its subsequent total metamorphosis.

Although Crowley witnessed reports of the baleful devastation wrought by the atomic bomb shortly before the end of his life, post-war society since then with its accelerated pace of living, shifting cultural values and social environments of advanced electronic technology bears little or no resemblance to the world before 1947; far less the world of 1919 when the Constitution of the O.T.O. was last rewritten. Yet in spite of the visionary attempts which were made during the societal upheavals of World War One to remodel the working machinery of the Order, the final outcome was that it continued to be inextricably bound up with its Old Æon masonic past, far more than it sought to make inroads and progress into the future. This was despite the O.T.O. being a considerable and sweeping improvement upon the whole system of freemasonry as it had stood before.

During the course of the 1940s, Crowley contemplated the prospect of a far more sweeping and wide-ranging revision of the O.T.O. than any that had been undertaken previously. In a letter to Karl Germer dated 14th March 1942, he outlined the “quite clear” necessity for […] a complete change in the structure of the Order, and in its methods. […]3

<3  Crowley wrote in similar terms to Jane Wolfe on 16th February 1943, that “in order to re-constitute the whole system” it was “quite clear that there must be a complete shake-up.”>

while Germer himself reported to Kenneth Grant that:

[…] A.C. wrote me in a letter of 1946 or 1947 (I quote from memory) [- his mnemonic abilities were considerable] that it may be that strict Order work seems not suited for modern conditions, and that he leaves it to me to possibly invent some quite different form for the propagation of the G[reat] W[ork].”4

<4  Letter from Karl Germer to Kenneth Grant dated 3rd May, 1951. Kenneth Grant also remarked in Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God: “Some time prior to his death in 1947, Crowley had seen the need for reformulating the Order on New Aeon lines … § By 1945 Crowley had so surely sensed the future trend that he wrote in his diary that the structure of the O.T.O. would have to undergo fundamental changes. § Elaborate ceremonial and the establishment of flxed Lodges in specific localities would be superseded by a fluid and far flung web comprised of Thelemic power-zones. These power-zones would form a loosely-knit network of occult groups using the Ophidian Current to prepare human consciousness for intercourse with the denizens of other dimensions.” (see page XXX).>

As it transpired, the nuts-and-bolts business of orchestrating this proposed drastic change did not rate highly enough on either Germer’s or Crowley’s list of priorities for them to ultimately carry it out.  In terms of Crowley’s actual running of the Order, his enthusiasm for such a project can be adequately guaged from the fact that no O.T.O. meetings were ever held under his jurisdiction in the U.K. since before the onset of war in 1914.  It is quite possible that he may have grown increasingly disappointed with the Order’s central “brotherly” axis virtually from the beginning, after encountering minor misdemeanours and more serious fraudulent dishonesty among its members. As described in Crowley’s Confessions, after less than a year had passed he discovered that Vittoria Cremers (Soror Lux Peto), in whose hands reposed the financial affairs of the Order, had made “mischief all around … embezzled large sums of money … and robbed me and betrayed me at every turn.”  According to R.A. Gilbert, an occult writer who made an inspection of the old records of the Order, in November 1913

[…] a Grand Tribunal was held at the [M.’. M:. M.’.’s Supreme] Council’s Court of Paris at which she [Vittoria Cremers] was expelled from the Order. At the same tribunal thirteen other accused brethren were tried for such shocking crimes as absenteeism and indifference. A few had been guilty of more picturesque offences. […]5

<5  R.A. Gilbert, in the periodical Nuit-Isis (Oxford: Autumn 1993), pp. 13-14. This was a reprint with slight modifications of an earlier article from a 1975 issue of Spectrum.>

This gradual disillusionment with the M.’. M.’. M.’. culminated in what Crowley came to regard as an act of  grand betrayal by George Macnie Cowie, Cremers’ replacement who was then until 1917 his “Grand Treasurer General”.  Cowie was the man who sold the kaaba, Boleskine House – also Crowley’s own home – from underneath him while the Beast was abroad in North America and made off with the Order takings (according to Crowley’s account, that is; Cowie’s own version of these events is unavailable).  Following Reuss’ death in 1922, Crowley also came to experience a considerable amount of friction with most of his other senior continental O.T.O. brethren, notably with regard to the implications of the Magus and Prophet of Thelema’s September 1924 public standing as “World Teacher” in his proclamation To Man, otherwise known as The Mediterranean Manifesto.  Crowley’s archivist and sometime secretary, VIo O.T.O. initiate and A.’. A.’. member Gerald Yorke (Fra. Volo Intelligere) has commented upon this general diminuendo of affairs that

He hoped to reach a far wider public [than the A.’. A.’.] through the O.T.O. with its Masonic and Rosicrucian Affiliations.  By the time he sailed for the United States in the winter of 1914 he had two Lodges operating in England, and one each in Canada and South Africa. Membership was still small, but a start had been made. Nothing came of it. The English Lodges were closed by the authorities as a result of his German propaganda during the First World War, the continental lodges disowned him, and those founded by his disciples never rose from the obscurity in which they started.  As an organisation the O.T.O. was for him a broken reed. […]6

<6  From his little published essay, 666, Sex and the O.T.O.>

Despite being set up and promoted as a “dues-paying organization” (and Crowley’s own stipulation of the same in several places including point #3 of Liber CI, that “all Brethren shall be exceedingly punctual in the payment of Lodge Dues [which] take precedence of all other calls upon the purse”), Reuss complained that he had never actually received any dues from Crowley himself! In his final letter to Baphomet dated 9th November, 1921, he put this delicately and with great finesse:

[… You] signed an understanding to pay a certain precisely stipulated fee to me for every person or candidate which you admitted into the O.T.O.  You may perhaps remember that you as yet have never paid even a single penny to me ever since you were admitted. […] However, I shall not press this point. I have never pressed you for payment of fees, and have, as you well know, also never received fees from you.  I only mention that you did years ago sign a paper to the effect to pay fees to me.

Within a fortnight of receiving this letter Crowley had assumed the office of O.H.O., and ever since then a conspicuous absence of O.T.O. ritual activity took place in his own homeland. Throughout the remainder of his tenure Britain showed no signs of having either a properly functioning administrative headquarters other than where Crowley happened to dwell himself, nor any sort of dynamic working group. By the mid-1940s it is hardly surprising that one of his English IXo O.T.O. members, David Curwen, was beginning to wonder whether the Order had an external reality to it at all – as Kenneth Grant recorded:

My own meeting with Curwen was brought about owing to his increasing suspicion that although he had been made a member of the Sovereign Sanctuary IXo O.T.O., the Order no longer existed; if it had ever existed, outside the pages of Crowley’s books.  Curwen therefore asked to be put in touch with some Order members, and Crowley gave him my name.7
<7  Remembering Aleister Crowley (Skoob Books: London, 1991), p. 51>

Regardless of this event, Crowley’s Order could not be thought of as a vibrant concern in any conventional sense: and although it did indeed have an active base of sorts in California, at various times in his correspondence the Grand Master was to refer dismissively to its members there as “fans” or “louts”, in despair at the antics of one lodge master after another.  A letter addressed by Crowley to Jane Wolfe dated 4th May 1943, commenting upon Agape Lodge’s attempted relaunch of The Oriflamme (the old European-O.T.O. journal), had this to say:

[…] I cannot see the point of this at all. It is the most amateurish production I have ever set eyes on. You give absolutely not one word of the information which people expect when they pick up a new magazine.  Why don’t you print the Constitution of the O.T.O. perhaps in an abridged form? You have got to show who you are, what you stand for, and what you are doing. […] I cannot imagine any more stupid way of wasting money. Then, in case anybody ever should see the thing-which God forbid!-you print those verses of Jack’s; which are not bad in themselves in their way, but you could hardly have found anything in the whole world more objectionable from our point of view. What could have been better calculated to revive the ancient stories about drug-traffic, and so on? Incidentally, he not only misquotes the Law, but gives it that very interpretation of all others which we are most anxious not to give.  When I saw them I said: “This cannot be plain idiocy; this must be malignant design! Then when your letter came and said that you were editing the thing, I saw that it must have been plain idiocy after all!
§ […] You say nothing about the course of initiation; in other words, I simply cannot imagine what you are after.
I can see nothing but distraction, dispersion and waste, and colossal stupidity beyond the power of the human imagination to conceive.
You ask for help or criticism; and this is it.  It is much milder than I should like. Anyhow, for the future, please print nothing of mine in any such rag-bag of imbecility!
It is perfectly ridiculous to express a hope that I may sit under your vines and fig-trees when you do nothing whatever to help the work at Headquarters. […]

Five days later, Crowley rattled off another letter to Wolfe which stated:

[…] it is quite obvious that you [Agape Lodge] are not running 1003 [Orange Grove Avenue, Agape lodge Headquarters] on business lines.  Smith once sent me a batch of photographs of some of the inhabitants. They looked to me like hoboes!  Sluttish, slattern, no trace of birth or breeding: I was aghast.  How does this go with the quality of the literature?  You seem to take no steps at all to attract the right kind of people – altogether, it’s a mystery.

He was still facing similar disappointments two years later, when on 22nd November 1945 he wrote to her again complaining

[…] I hear, too, that the Rituals were gabbled through. It will not do. An initiation should make a life-long impression; if it does not, it is not an Initiation at all.  Do impress this on Jack!

Whether it was because he considered the Californian scene to be a “spiritual desert”, as Germer himself did several years later, Crowley never found it expedient to relocate there, even during the horrific bombings of the London Blitz.

The policy which was representative of Crowley’s administration during his final years as self-styled O.H.O. was possibly best summed up by a reply to a prospective member’s inquiry in Magick Without Tears, that

I am arranging to send you the official papers connected with the O.T.O. but the idea that you should meet other members first is quite impossible. Even after affiliation, you would not meet anyone unless it were necessary for you to work in co-operation with them. […] 8 [My italics]

<8  Letter dated 30th April, 1943. Also a letter written to Jane Wolfe the previous month declared: “I am sure it has been very bad for you to have had a lot of people to play with. This is very bad for almost everyone.   Personally, I keep people who are studying with me apart as far as possible – ‘Let not one know well the other.’
Whenever two or three people get together the old trouble starts all over again.”>

Since Kenneth Grant’s record states that it later turned out to have been magically productive for him to work in co-operation with David Curwen, this criterion of “unless … ” was therefore satisfactorily fulfilled in respect of Curwen himself.  Otherwise, this state of affairs more resembled the cellular, minimalist guru-to-chela type arrangement of the A.’. A.’. than what was intended to be a more conventional universal quasi-masonic “fraternal society” whose other members could be freely approachable.9

<9  This also seems to contradict Article #42 from Liber CI which states that “Every Brother is expected to do all in his power to induce his personal friends to accept the Law and join the Order. He should therefore endeavour to make new friends outside the Order, for the purpose of widening its scope.” And yet, this in tum could be seen to contradict The Book of the Law: to “[…] argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch.” (Ill: 42)>

Some time after his initial period of involvement with the O.T.O., Crowley mooted as a possible alternative his “Order of Thelemites” under the direction of the master of his South African M.’. M.’. M.’. Lodge, Magne Honoratum Fra .’. “Semper Paratus” 6°=5□ A.’. A.’. (James Thomas Windram).  The following points were made in an innovative draft Constitution which at one time may have been the direction in which Crowley was preparing to move the O.T.O. itself:

2. (a) There shall be three grades in the Order: the Hermit, the Lover, and the Man of Earth (in all official documents these Grades shall be known respectively as Magister, Adeptus, and Zelator.)
(b) It shall be open for any Zelator to aspire to the Grade of Adeptus. The qualifications for this shall be the regular training of the A.’. A.’. and an Adeptus shall be at least a Lord of the Paths of the Vault of the Adepts.  M.H. Fra .’. Semper Paratus shall be empowered, notwithstanding the above, to grant certificates to persons suitable in his judgment to exercise the function of an Adeptus to assist him in governing and directing the activities of the Order during the period of their training.
(c) It shall be open for any Adeptus to aspire to the Grade of Magister. The qualifications shall be:
1. Eleven years of service as an Adeptus;
2. That attainment of the Grade of Babe of the Abyss in the A.’. A.’.;
3. Retirement from all active Work in the Order involving personal contact with groups.

3. (a) Membership shall be granted by certificate from M.H. Fra.’. Semper Paratus or his duly appointed delegate. The qualification shall be signature of the Pledge-Form following:
I, ………….. …………………………………… , being in possession of a copy of the Book of the Law and the Comment thereon by 666, and having studied for Eleven Days, do Solemnly Declare that I accept the Law of Thelema, that I will devote myself to discover my True Will, and to do it. […]

7.  [ …] The general plan of the O.T.O. shall be put before all members of the Order so that they may be brought to an understanding of the sublime principles of that Order, which seek (1) to instruct the individual by allegory and symbol in the profound mysteries of birth, life, and death, and thereby to assist him to discover the true nature of his purpose in life; and (2) to train the community in the most enlightened institutions, wherein the True Will of the Individual and the Community will be developed and held inviolate.

8. […] The Order of Thelemites is not a mystical, magical or occult Order in the ordinary sense of these words. Its purpose is to enable its members to succeed in life by teaching them the correct attitudes towards life and how to avoid wasting time in lines of effort for which they are not suited.

10.   Care should be taken to avoid the Order of Thelemites being classed as an occult or even religious body; its ceremonial and psychological features shall be explained by insistence on the fact that they are necessary to the primary purpose of the Order, the discovery of his True Will (as opposed to his conscious ideals or wishes) by each individual member.

11.  Consonant with the principles of the Order, propaganda may be undertaken with a view to the removal of arbitrary restrictions on the Will of the individual, and co-ordinate the laws of every country to the Law of Thelema; that is, the Order of Thelemites shall strive to establish a code, the sole object of which shall be to prevent any man, or body of men, from interfering with the True Will of another, as in the case of murder, robbery, rape, etc. It shall similarly strive to create a Public Opinion in favour of Social Tolerance of all opinions and practices which do not interfere with the True Will of the individual and the community.

12.  The Order of Thelemites is categorically opposed to:
(a) All superstitious religions, as obstacles to the establishment of scientific religion;
(b) All codes of morality which fail to conform with “Love under will”;
(c) All social or political systems which tend to hinder the development of hegemony or individual genius;
(d) All forms of education which fail to assist the biological aim of the pupil;
(e) All ordinances which tend to obstruct the course of nature in eliminating the unfit; and
(f)  Generally, all things which conflict with the text of Liber [A]L, CCXX, “The Book of the Law”.

13 […] (a) The objects for which the Order of Thelemites has been constituted have no concern with money per se, nevertheless, as no work can be carried on successfully in the outer without money, M.H. Fra :. Semper Paratus is authorized and empowered to make from time to time, such rules and regulations with regard to Initiation Fees, Annual Subscriptions, and any other matters relating to the material welfare of the Order as may seem in his discretion necessary or expedient.
Members are charged to support the Order and its activities according to their ability and True Will. […]

In addressing the present-day “point” to the O.T.O., our contemporary Thelemite might conceivably ask whether it was ever really a proper Order in a masonic sense at all. Certainly the governing authorities of orthodox freemasonry such as United Grand Lodge have consistently denied its (and indeed Crowley’s own) credentials in the matter. Despite this, the O.T.O. – whichever O.T.O. – has always firmly maintained throughout its chequered history that it is a masonic organization in addition to a sex-magical one. Indeed, in June 1987 the then head-elect of C.O.T.O. in Europe, one Soror Andræa Lacedonia-Bacuzzi IXo, told a small gathering of its English initiates at which the writer happened to be present that the O.T.O. was this alone, and “not a magical organization at all”! Despite being subject,to further inquiry, her point of view was never subject to actual correction by her chief Hymenæus Beta and in retrospect has really proved to be rather an apt description although at the time it gave rise to a little ripple of outraged indignation.10 C.O.T.O.’s Grand Treasurer-General Bill Heidrick proved similarly sympathetic to freemasonry (although a little more favourably disposed towards magick) when he wrote that:

… We, like so many others, are a magical order arranged along Masonic lines. [However, note the prioritisation of capital letters] It’s been that way for about 90 years.  If we dumped Thelema and Magick, I would split. If we dumped the structure of OTO, abandoning our degree system, initiation ceremonies (which after all so close to Craft masonry and Scottish Rites that the same thing in a book would invite charges of plagiarism!), hierarchy and the rest, there wouldn’t be any OTO to split from.  You think Crowley wrote those initiation rituals out of whole cloth? Better think again. Better still, read a book like Richard Carlile’s Manual of Freemasonry, Reeves & Turner, London, early to mid-19th century.  Crowley didn’t do much more to those rituals than a bit of cutting out, a bit of Thelema-in-place-of-Xianism and a replacement of some (not all) of the words and signs. [… Also:] Completely aside from the questions of legitimacy and irregular masonic status for OTO – and there is something there; we get preferential treatment at a number of Masonic locations because of it.11

It must be heartwarming, surely, for members of the “Caliphate” to realize that their longstanding treasurer is so healthily business-minded – “completely aside from the questions of legitimacy”.

<10  It should be borne in mind that C.O.T.O. is not actually a sex-magick outfit at all, certainly not in the practical sense and by all the evidence not even discussed theoretically – empty claims of such work being carried out “in the higher grades” notwithstanding (with the possible exception of what was evocatively called “jump initiation”, or becoming a IXo  by having sex with or otherwise pleasing Grady McMurtry).  Even Grady McMurtry himself announced “What is the O.T.O. up to?  All you have to do is ask any outsider and they will tell you, ‘Sin and Sex Magick’ … Well, just where that ‘sin and Sex Magick’ is in the O.T.O. I would really like to find out.  Of all the IXo papers that were handed out I have had a personal report only from one couple.  It had been a strange adventure, and they had had to manufacture some of their own rules due to the strangeness of the operation… It is about the only positive magickal operation of that kind I have known of since I got together with a certain Priestess of the Order and brought down the residence we now call Alpha House.” (The Magickal Link, February 1985)>
<11  Letter from Bill Heidrick to Gerald Suster dated 10th June , 1992 (reprinted with the kind permission of the latter.)>

As a result of these factors, a large part of the O.T.O.’s relevance today is directly bound up with the broader issue of the importance or otherwise of freemasonry as a whole, inasmuch as it has always regarded itself (and been regarded) as being a quasi- or “fringe” masonic body. Crowley’s remarks in Confessions on the degradation of the freemasonic tradition are not inappropriate here, since they address identical elements which now exist inside a large proportion of the “O.T.O.” remnants too. As it is written:

[…] The meaning of masonry has either been completely forgotten or has never existed at all, except insofar as any particular rite may be a cloak for political or even worse intrigue. […]12
<12  Confessions, Chapter 72. (See page XXX).>

Furthermore, according to a letter in Magick Without Tears, although the O.T.O. was once perceived of as involving a training “of the Masonic type”, there was

[…] no “astral” work in it at all, nor any Yoga.  There is a certain amount of Qabalah, and that of great doctrinal Value.  But the really vital matter is the gradual progress towards disclosure of the Secret of the Ninth Degree.  To use that secret to advantage involves mastery both of Yoga and of Magick; but neither is taught in the Order.  Now it comes to be mentioned, this is really very strange. However, I didn’t invent the system; I suppose that those who did knew what they were about. To me it is (a) convenient in various practical ways, (b) a machine for carrying out the orders of the Secret Chiefs of A.’. A.’. (c) by virtue of the Secret a magical weapon of incalculable power.13
<13  From “Morality (2)”.>

From the same source, 666 stated in a letter dated 20th August, 1943:

The eighteenth century Rosicrucians may, or may not, have been legitimate successors of the original Brotherhood – I don’t know. But from them the O.T.O. derived its authority [my italics]

This passage differs from the more youthful, exuberant confidence displayed by Crowley in documents ranging from his honeymoon period with the O.T.O. such as the M.’. M.’. M.’. Preamble.14 Unlike them, this letter written some thirty years later indicates a far cooler and altogether more tentative appraisal which was based upon his further life experiences and therefore wider ranging perspective.  He went on to mention that:

[…] The late O.H.O. Theodor Reuss possessed a certain number of documents which demonstrated the validity of his claim according to him; but I only saw two or three of them, and they were not of very great importance.  [P.-R. König has advised that all of these passed on to Hans Hilfiker.]  Unfortunately he died shortly after the last War, and he had got out of touch with some of the other Grand Masters.  The documents did not come to me as they should have done; they were seized by his wife who had an idea that she could sell them for a fantastic price; and we did not feel inclined to meet her views. I don’t think the matter is of very great importance, the work being done by members of the Order all over the place is to me quite sufficient. [My italics]

In view of the limited amount of evidence to support it, one is unhappily forced to conjecture that the work of O.T.O. members “all over the place” seems to be more a case of wishful thinking or at least tactical fabrication on the part of Uncle Aleister than anything to the contrary.
<14  See Part One for this and other Crowley documents written during this time (c.1912-19).>

It is also important to bear in mind that during Crowley’s lifetime his revised O.T.O. rituals were never worked physically in his presence. So when a few of these ceremonies were finally performed in California from 1935 onwards, they took place without his personal supervision and instead came under the direction of an Agape Lodgemaster whom he very soon grew to distrust (Wilfred T. Smith, Frater 132).15 As technique, it was in fact Crowley’s own preference at that time (as declared in the letter dated 4th September, 1943 from Magick Without Tears) to take a candidate carefully through the O.T.O. rituals to III° as rapidly as she or he was “fairly familiar” with them. This choice of words clearly suggests that prospective candidates needed to have a previous reasonably strong acquaintance with the rituals. At their initiation, such rituals would then not be “secret” to them by definition.16

<15  See page XXX for observations made by Crowley upon this individual.>
<16  In two more letters from Magick Without Tears, Crowley also made these other important revelations:

“With regard to the O.T.O., I believe I can find you a typescript of all the official documents. If so, I will let you have them to read, and you can make up your mind as to whether you wish to affiliate to the Third Degree of the Order. I should consequently, in the case of your deciding to affiliate, go with you through the script of the Rituals and explain the meaning of the whole thing; communicating, in addition, the real secret and significant knowledge of which ordinary Masonry is not possessed.” (Letter dated March 19th, 1943).>

“You have never taken the trouble to go with me through the Rituals of O.T.O. […]” (from “Morality (2))”>

There has been much speculation about the sort of privy knowledge which may or may not have lain within the holy arcana of the Order, but the “secrets” of freemasonry (whatever their fundamental worth, which is debatable) have certainly very largely become lost with the passing of time.  The author has personally experienced five of the seven degrees which Crowley reformulated and rewrote – and conversed with others who have undergone a similar experience – and can categorically state that at no time was I nor any other person to my knowledge ever vouchsafed any additional information of any kind during or after those points in the rituals when it is declared that “the secrets of this degree” will now be “entrusted to you”, or that they are now “open for you to study”, or when “the keys to Our Sacred Knowledge” are to be “conferred” upon the candidate.  This was most noticeable with regard to the parts of the Fourth Degree, which were accurately described by Crowley as being “but pendants” to the Third in Liber CXCIV. (The Third, of course, does at least contain the “Lost Word” of Freemasonry, concerning which more details are given in the relevant section.) The IVo is also the most conventionally masonic out of all the Crowleian initiation ceremonies, during which a veritable avalanche of titles cascades down upon the helpless form of the candidate.

Virtually all of them are now meaningless and they are useless in any practical sense.  One might also gainfully question the precise point of the grips, signs, steps, pass words and other miscellaneous accoutrements of the mummery of freemasonry at the turn of the 21st century.  In a modern-day context they convey very limited information, are methodically inefficient, often irrational even within the confines of their own terms of reference, and if Thelemic at all, then quite accidentally so.  Crowley was quite accurate about their utility, or rather non-utility, when he divulged that

With hardly an exception, the “secrets” of freemasonry are strictly arbitrary.  Let me explain what I mean.  If I am given the combination of a safe, I expect to be able to open it by the use of the word.  If I can do so, it proves that it is the correct word.  The secrets of freemasonry disclose no mysteries; they do not do what they profess to do; they are meaningless conventions.12
<12  Confessions, Chapter 72. (See page XXX).>

In addition, as he remarked in a letter to Jane Wolfe dated 20th March, 1942:

I have dealt with Karl’s ignorance of the rituals. There are more ways of killing a dog than choking it with caviar. Some Masters don’t know any rituals at all. I hold hundreds of degrees in various Masonic Orders, never went through them, never saw the rituals, never knew the Words, Signs, etc., never remembered even the names of 90% of them.

Nevertheless, although it was, as he put it, “evident that all freemasonry was either vain pretence, tomfoolery, an excuse for drunken rowdiness, or a sinister association for political intrigues and commercial pirates” [my italics],

[…] Reuss told me a good deal of the history of the various rites, which is just as confused and criminal as any other branch of history; but he did persuade me that there were a few men who took the matter seriously and believed that the foolish formalism concealed really important magical secrets.17
<17  Confessions, Chapter 67.>

But as we have seen from the extract by 666 quoted a little earlier, it is not by any means clear that any of the “various rites” of the original brotherhood were ever incorporated into those of the O.T.O….

Thankfully there are other “secrets” involved in the system of O.T.O. apart from the antiquated ones of Freemasonry. There are notably those of the sex-magical instructions given out in the VIIo and degrees of the Grade of the Hermit collectively known as the “Sovereign Sanctuary of the Gnosis”; and according to point #2 of Liber LII,

The letters O.T.O. represent the words Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Temple of the Orient, or Oriental Templars), but they have also a secret meaning for initiates.”18

<18  The solar-phallic symbolism of the letters represents the erect male genitalia with testicles, shaft and foreskin, in contrast with the female vagina as depicted by the Vesica Piscis of the O.T.O. lamen. Also, the Hebrew letters for O, T and O (Ayin, Tau, Ayin; or 130, 406 and 130 spelled out in full) added up together to the number of The Sun – 666. (This “secret meaning” was not conveyed by initiation but by cabbalistic deduction on the part of the author.)>

Apart from the “secret” rituals and instructional materials which appear in this book, it does not seem as if there are any more papers by Crowley extant on this subject matter.  Other sex-magical writings if they ever in fact existed (a matter which is open to conjecture) must in all probability have perished along with him.19 This initial omnibus edition of Secret Rituals of the O.T.O. – what William Breeze might also label, along with his description of C.O.T.O.’s Equinox, “a handy compendium” – contains a distillation of all of the relevant information available. As such it represents an essential collation of the knowledge, understanding and wisdom that was formerly transmitted by the crowning light of the now dysfunctional and to all appearances deceased Crowleian Order.
<19  The main books by Crowley which are lost or may have been destroyed (assuming they were ever written) and in any event are no longer extant appear to be:
“The Formulation of the Flaming Star” sub figura V [not to be confused with Liber Reguli.]
Liber IAO sub figura XVII
“On Mahāsatipaṭṭāna” sub figura XXV
Liber Shi Yi Chien sub figura XLIX
“The Structure of the Mind” sub figura CCLXV
Liber Siloam sub figura CDLI
“The Beast”, Liber DCLXVI
Liber Serpentis Nehushtan sub figura DCCCVIII
“The Cactus”, sub figura CMXXXIV
The Utterance of the Pythoness”, Liber MCXXXIX
If copies of these were in the original Crowley-Germer archive, it is fairly likely that they were burgled in 1967 and burned in the fire at the “Solar Lodge” in 1969. A few of them were mooted for appearance in The Equinox Volume Ill, No. 2, but since Gerald Yorke did not record them as being present it is possible that they were lost in Crowley’s lifetime during the course of one of his numerous moves. It would be fair to assume that unless one or more of these papers have been isolated from human contact for over half a century, some murmur about its/their existence probably would have circulated by this time if anybody knowingly possessed it/them. It is also held by a few people that some of these works may have appeared under a different name in a different form, e.g. Liber Siloam as chapter 15 of “De Arte Magica” and “The Structure of the Mind” as part of Liber DCCXXIX, The Amalantrah Working.>

The fundamentals behind sex magick – specifically those enshrined in the Instructions to the IXo in the form of The Unveiling of the Sangraal and De Arte Magica, as well as Emblems and Modes of Use – are today much more widely known, with even Crowley’s deprecatory critical biographer John Symonds managing to write a passable paraphrase of the actual mechanics of the operation on page 160 of his biography, The King of the Shadow Realm (albeit in his typically disparaging style):

[Reuss opened The Book of Lies] at chapter 36, “The Star Sapphire”. With “minatory index” – the phrase is Crowley’s – he pointed to the sentence “Let him drink of the Sacrament and let him communicate the same.” The “Sacrament” was the mixed seed which, before emission, has been charged with intent by the will of the magician, then scooped out of the vagina and consumed towards the conclusion of the “operation”. This was Crowley’s secret, a parody of the Eucharist; it was also the secret of the IXth degree of the German O.T.O..

Further refinements of the technique as it relates to the actual consumption of “the Elixir” involve its absorption through the mucous membrane of the roof of the mouth, rather than swallowing it. This is because the delicate protein fabric enveloping the essence of the “charged Sacrament” will get rapidly broken down by the strong acids of the digestive system before it has had a chance to properly integrate into the mind-body symbiosis. The act of dissolving the Elixir in brandy on the part of some practitioners is not advisable for a similar reason. Also, it needs to be prevented from coming into external contact with any influences which might possibly interfere with its operation; as Kenneth Grant put it:

[…] The sacrament should be passed back and forth from mouth to mouth, rhythmically and without permitting
contact with the circumambient air.20
<20  Hecate’s Fountain (Skoob Books, London: 1992), p. 175. Kenneth Grant also made the informative revelation on page 47 of Remembering Aleister Crowley (Skoob Books, London: 1991); “Crowley told me that the procedure was, that if I could tell him the secret of the Ninth Degree O.T.O., it would be his duty to confirm it, but only then. After which, I in turn would be required to take a special oath prior to admission to this degree. He suggested, therefore, that I write an essay setting forth my understanding of the matter. This I did, and he admitted that I had fathomed correctly the nature of the secret. It was an informal affair, as were most things where Crowley was concerned.”>

Finally, in accordance with The Book of the Law the whole ritual needs to be performed by both sun (the male’s secret winged flame) and moon (the female’s stooping starlight) always “unto Nuit”, that is, in worship of and identification with the Infinite Beyond. (Nuit’s own complement, Hadit the Infinite Within, is ultimately unknowable and furthermore the knower.) One magically effective means of consummation is by way of assuming the God-forms in the Stèlè of Revealing – i.e., with the woman on top and the man penetrating from underneath. The correct manner of the preparation of “the Elixir” would equate with what was referred to at the beginning of this chapter as chivalric knightly and damely (“kingly” and “queenly” would do just as well) sexual conduct, because each participating magician must sincerely have practised the art of Chastity.21 The Elixir, in addition to being orally consumed, may also alternatively be smoothed down onto sigils, talismans, parchment, dolls, etc.  This overview is not the place for any further examination of the techniques, modus operandi and methodology of sex magick itself, and nowadays there are plenty of “manuals” available which deal quite comprehensively with the efficacy of the matter to greater or lesser degrees of accuracy.  However, although A.C. mentions in Part IV of The Revival of Magick (originally published in The International Vol. XI No. 11) way back in November 1917 “Only in the O.T.O. is some knowledge kept back, and that because the great secret is so easy to learn and so simple to operate that it would be madness to entrust it to any person untested by years of fidelity”, William Breeze annotating as Hymenæus Beta wrote the following mysterious unelaborated-upon footnote lacking in any further informative detail:

Complete initiations in all degrees of the [Crowleian] O.T.O. has been found to be an essential prerequisite to safety, sanity and success [sic] in working its highest degrees. [my italics]34

<21  Not a misprint. The reference here is to the essay of the same name in Little Essays Toward Truth, reprinted in full in the text of IX° Emblems and Modes of Use (see page XXX). As such, the true meaning of Chastity can
be said to refer to the action of abstaining from any impure or improper sexual activity. This is no puritanical act of denial (which it might seem at first in cold print), but may best be summed up as anything which takes place in heterosexual or homosexual or autosexual sexual congress “if the ritual be not ever unto me […]” (see Liber AL I: 51-3 for further reference.  Also, II: 27 and Ill: 16.)>
<34  Oriflamme 2: “The Revival of Magick” (New Falcon: Arizona, 1998), p.38>

Whether one likes it or not, this particular genie cannot be forced back into its bottle: the mysterious IXo “secret” of the O.T.O. is a secret no more, and that is that. Nothing is carved in stone which lasts for ever, and it is prudent always to be adaptable to a change in circumstances. Writing elsewhere concerning the “ultimate secret” 666 remarked in a letter dated April 30th, 1943 from Magick Without Tears:

Secrets. There is one exception to what I have said about publishing everything: that is, the ultimate secret of the O.T.O. This is really too dangerous to disclose; but the safeguard is that you could not use it if you knew it, unless you were an advanced Adept; and you would not be allowed to go so far unless we were satisfied that you were sincerely devoted to the Great Work. (See One Star in Sight.) True, the Black Brothers could use it; but they would only destroy themselves.

It is equally tenable, though, that this ultimate secret is in fact Crowley’s ultimate joke and means nothing more (!) than men and women’s decent, honest and fraternal behaviour with  one another as suggested earlier in the opening paragraph to this chapter.  For certain self-centred men and women, it is apparently the hardest thing in the world to achieve: because it means subsuming their individual egos in the interests of serving the universe creatively through the medium of their peers, as Crowley recognized in Liber CLXI, “O.T.O.: Concerning the Law of Thelema”:

[…] Power in the Order depends, therefore, directly on the willingness to aid others. Tolerance is also taught in the higher grades; so that no man can be even an Inspector in the Order unless he be equally well disposed to all classes of opinion. […] § A fortiori, then, it must be possible to train men to independence, to tolerance, to nobility of character, and to good manners, and this is done in the O.T.O. by certain very efficacious methods which (for I will not risk further wearying you) I will not describe. Besides, they are secret. But beyond them is the supreme incentive; advancement in the Order depends almost entirely on the possession of such qualities, and is impossible without it. Power being the main desire of man, it is only necessary so to condition its possession that it be not abused.22
<22  See page XXX.>

This was explained in the following terms:

In short, there is no circumstance of life in which the O.T.O. is not both sword and shield. § You wonder? You reply that this can only be by generosity, by divine charity of the high toward the low, of the rich toward the poor, of the great toward the small? You are a thousand times right; you have understood the secret of the O.T.O.22
<22  See page XXX.>

On 22nd November 1945 Crowley wrote to Jane Wolfe that the O.T.O. was “an effort to reconstitute human society on a basis of Individual Freedom, Nobility, Generosity, and Wisdom.” Two years previously he had asked her to get Jack Parsons to see that

[…] science, art, philosophy and the like are our prime care. The sex-ideas come a very long way behind. It is chiefly for the technical use that it matters so much. And all this frivolous promiscuity is the very reverse of our aim. We must intensify, concentrate, exalt this side of our nature.

It is made clear in Liber CLXI that the top echelons of the Order will remain out of reach unless brethren can show “a talent for government”.  This aptitude will itself be

[…] exhibited far more by nobility of character, firmness and suavity, tact and dignity, high honour and good manners, those qualities (in short) which are, in the best minds, natural predicates of the word gentleman. The knowledge of this fact not only inspires confidence in the younger members, but induces them to emulate their seniors.22
<22  See page XXX.>

In Confessions, Crowley found in practice that this secret of the O.T.O. “cannot be used unworthily”, and he remarked in Magick Without Tears that if he chose to, as he put it, “acquiesce at all in the system of the O.T.O.” so far as “the secret of secrets” was concerned, it was really on a point of “personal honour” – his pledge given to the late Frater Superior and O.H.O., Dr. Theodor Reuss.23  To put the matter another way, the determining factor behind the function of secrecy was and is not some external authority administering penalties, demanding blind confidentiality, conformity and obedience above all else and exerting a paralysing dread upon the soul of the magician – for that is nothing short of emotional blackmail, Jehovah-like coercion, and slavery at its worst; but quite simply it is rather the exercise of the ethics of individual magicians alone.  For all this, the importance of any magical Oath – any compact of true conscience duly sworn with the universe: its forces and phenomena, the space-time continuum of the consciousness of Existence; ought not to be under-estimated or treated lightly. Abuse of it can, and quite often does, lead to what might poetically be described as “abomination within the temple”: schizophrenia, psychosomatic illnesses and what Crowley called ruination of the Unity of one’s Godhead.
<23  Confessions, Chapter 72; Magick Without Tears, Letter #13.>

In view of Crowley’s given candour on the subject of secrecy, then, it is surprising that The “Caliphornian” O.T.O. try to ensure that the details of what is left remaining from the Crowley-Germer Archive are themselves kept so secret.24 No known bibliography of surviving items has ever been publically issued, and hardly anybody seems to know exactly where it is located or much information at all other than that C.O.T.O. senior officers Phyllis Seckler (Mistress of 418 Lodge) and Helen Parsons Smith (ex-Treasurer of Agape Lodge) keep its remains under lock and key.  Although one has to assume that the “Caliph” is allowed access now and then if he asks them nicely enough! Keeping this business something of an enigma has undoubtedly bestowed mystique and hence glamour upon it as a “selling point” for the “Caliphate”, whereas in all probability very little of an extraordinary nature can now exist. The clandestine nature of the enterprise can also be seen to go directly against the spirit of Crowley’s recommendation in point #3 of Liber CCC, that:

The special tracts written by Us, or authorized by Us, should be distributed to all persons with whom those who have accepted the law may be in contact. [My italics.]

In my opinion, it is justifiable in the context of the here and now to interpret “distributed” as meaning “publicised” and “special” tracts to refer to Aleister Crowley’s both published and unpublished work; in addition, point #46 of Liber CI states:

Members of the Order will be permitted to use the Library in any of our Profess-Houses.

It may possibly come as no great surprise to any member to learn that no open Libraries nor Profess-Houses abound (or perhaps more accurately, there are insufficient numbers of properly constituted Profess-Houses) in any of the surviving “O.T.O.s” with the possible exception of the “Swiss”;25 nevertheless the implicit principle of unrestricted access to Thelemic books and papers stands undiminished, certainly with regard to use of that “Library” belonging to C.O.T.O. Grand Lodge itself (i.e., the Archive itself).
<24  In fact, it might almost be said with C.O.T.O. that since there were hardly any “secrets” left it was necessary – essential – to invent some, no matter how trivial: for example, the President of the Electoral College rather gauchely remarked in The Magical Link of May 1987: “[…] Speaking of the Lodge Master’s oath, did you really think Francis King published all of the O.T.O. secret rituals?  Think again!  He missed a few, including Crowley’s installation ritual for lodge Masters. […] The oath is confidential, but designed to set a beautiful pattern or how a lodge should be operated.”’ In which case, how much more beautiful and sensible might it be if C.O.T.O. were to make it unconfidential? (Editorial Note: this ritual was not considered to be of sufficient importance or interest to warrant inclusion in this volume.)>
<25  It should be noted that the opening statement of Liber CXCIV declares that: “Any province of the OTO is governed by the Grand Master and those to whom he delegates his authority, until such time as the Order is established, which is the case when it establishes eleven or more Profess-Houses in the province. Then the regular constitution is automatically promulgated.” (Italics mine). This is another example of the fatuity of C.O.T.O. in attempting to illegitimately reactivate the “regular” Constitution. It should also be borne in mind that the III° initiation ceremony actually stipulates of the candidate that he or she will only recognize the authority of the Grand Master Baphomet and that “[…] without regular charter from him, I will not initiate or purport to initiate any person into any association of any kind or administer any ceremony identical with or resembling in any way the Ceremonies of Our Order.” (Again my italics). Strictly speaking, none of the four candidates for O.H.O. hold a “regular charter” from Baphomet (the last undisputed “Crowleian” O.H.O.) and any initiations undergone in their respective systems would therefore go against the grain of this particular requirement.>

That the American “Caliphornian” O.T.O. has published little more than a small trickle of previously unproduced material – and a great deal of that coming through the instrumentality of the independent Gerald Yorke collection in London26 – seems to suggest that the former Crowley-Germer archive stands in such a denuded state as a result of its former robberies that there is scarcely anything left inside which may be original or noteworthy.  This fact helps to explain an increasing emphasis upon salvaging and publishing pre-Crowley O.T.O. material in the “Caliphornian” newsletter The Magical Link, especially when taken in conjunction with C.O.T.O.’s significant inability to generate much from within its own ranks and in its own name – literature, rituals or techniques which are magically new, productively creative, and worthwhile.  Such a manœuvre also assists their scheme to draw in comparatively well-off orthodox freemasons to the group, who instead of being treated as Lay Brethren, now under the new dispensation have to begin at 0o (i.e., square one, at the bottom).  Recent issues of the Link have contained an unprecedented number of features by or about Reuss, Kellner, Tränker and Jones, published many years and times before elsewhere, and have introduced other material more commonly associated with a non-Thelemic freemasonic (as opposed to new æonic magical) system. Apparently no longer content with merely laying claim to be just “Aleister Crowley’s O.T.O.”, by this insidious process of reverting to the unchallenged period of Reussian ascendancy in the Order C.O.T.O. are now, in their desperation and eagerness for temporal power, attempting to be recognized (subliminally at least) as “The O.T.O.” – period.
<26  Despite later attempts to diminish Yorke’s achievement, The Magickal Link for July 1983 wrote of “ […] his unexampled [sic] work towards the preservation of our heritage. [… his] curatorial work has succeeded in ensuring to the coming generations the availability of the main corpus of 666’s writings, both published and unpublished. […]  Suffice it to say that all Thelemites will forever owe this great man an incalculable debt of gratitude.”  For all this it is ironic that members of C.O.T.O. and their associates have used the Yorke archives extensively given that Gerald Yorke never rated Grady McMurtry nor what he labelled his “Caliphate nonsense” very highly at all. He considered both of them as not quite the genuine article, as did Karl Germer whom, it must not be forgotten, strongly disfavoured McMurtry in his final years and would never have “approved” him being in charge of the Order, emergency measures or not (see last letter to Germer to McMurtry, page XXX).>

C.O.T.O. and S.O.T.O. and T.O.T.O. and the “Swiss” O.T.O. have continued to place a particular importance upon apostolic succession, so far as each are able; yet why this should be the case in what one might call “the new reality”27 has never been made very clear. As Crowley himself remarked in a letter dated 13th January, 1936 to F. M. Spann,

[…] my Charter to rule all English speaking countries does not date from the death of Reuss, but from the beginning of my association with him. § But I do not personally attach very much importance to documents.  The curse of fraternal organizations is the eternal squabble about jurisdiction.  §The claim of the O.T.O. rests upon the solid basis of its knowledge, which, though partly inherited, has been brought up to date on modern scientific lines by the research of myself and my colleagues. Nor do I believe of the Fairy-story theories of the Secret Wisdom. It does no good to anyone who ls not wise. You must train yourself to make proper use of your knowledge, or it is dead.

<27  The basic elements and “playing-principles” of this new, quantum-field reality were summarised in the late Timothy Leary’s definition from his “Re-Introduction” to High Priest (Ronin Books, 1995) as: “Einsteinian Relativity, Heisenberg Determinacy, Plankian Chaotics and McLuhan Linguistics”.>

Within this new reality the whole concept of parampara or “pedigree” in thelemic terms is secondary and of a lesser sort, and in the Crowley O.T.O. one which has, in any reckoning, been thrown into utter confusion by Karl Germer’s actions as previously outlined; so much so that if nothing else Germer at least lived up to Saturn’s magical notoriety as “the old ruler who devoured his children”. One might profitably question the logic not only of whether Frater Saturnus was the right person to be left in charge, but the precise reason why. Although he published Magick Without Tears, The Book of Lies and Liber Aleph under the auspices of the A.’. A.’. between 1954 and 1962 – the last two with considerable help from his protégé Marcelo Motta – Germer did nothing to expand the O.T.O’s sphere of influence at all: he held no meetings, initiated nobody, and closed down all Operations in America at Crowley’s death the only active centre in the entire world – within a decade (not forgetting though that throughout this whole period of post-Crowleian Agape Lodge operations, the Reussian O.T.O. in Switzerland in particular was still active.)  As it has been described by even such an O.T.O. enthusiast as Bill Heidrick, under Germer’s poor direction the Order “gradually went dark” after 1948, and in November 1952 Germer wrote candidly to Jane Wolfe that

“[…] I suppose I am expected to be the author who knows how to solve the conflicts, while my greatest gift is to create and increase them and their mutual friction to culmination. § Unless – unless, unless, it is my mission to be the instrument for giving the various parties involved the “LESSON OF BETRAYAL”, which every candidate has to learn as one of the major ordeals. I have seen A.C. give this ordeal deliberately, with – in one case – terrible repercussion. […]

Germer’s particular psychology and hence, partly, Crowley’s choice of him as successor is intriguing. In the final years of the 1950s and early 1960s the Germers hardly ever dared to leave their Californian home: Sascha, according to Grady McMurtry, drifting into mental illness; Karl doing little and increasingly left to brood, maybe with bitterness, on how his own circumstances and the futile emptiness of his own life and magickal career had apparently turned out. Together the now impoverished couple grew gradually older, frailer and more afraid that someone – the Vatican, CIA, FBI, Zionists, O.T.O. members, “ordinary” robbers – was out to get them and the Master’s archive uncomfortably ensconced in their living space. In the event, their paranoiac fears were borne out when the library was not only comprehensively ransacked several times and within five years of Germer’s death, but his lonely and increasingly confused widow herself assaulted and drugged unconscious during the raid. Although revered by Motta as an 8o = 3□ Magister Templi, Germer does not seem to have written any work of magical or literary value apart from an autobiography and miscellaneous letters; certainly nothing so important as a magical textbook or Adeptus Exemptus thesis on his knowledge of the universe and proposals for its welfare and progress, as prescribed in One Star in Sight. Another letter written to Jane Wolfe from 1954 even made the perhaps belated and astonishing declaration:

[…] I have never done systematic work on “777” and Magick. I lack the imagination to do the studying myself. What I want is a teacher to help me take the first steps. […] I have never done the ritual of the Pentagram (nor Hexagram) […]

Possibly this may have been a cause of some of his troubles particularly as Liber Aleph, Crowley’s extended epistle to his heir, emphasised he must “Neglect not the Performance of the Ritual of the Pentagram.”  Far from being the new cutting-edge of Thelema, the Beast’s successor was instead a strangely displaced human relic cast adrift in time and space: an either lapsed or never-was German mason, and a military man from the “old school” of the last century.  It seems fantastic that, as an improbable throwback to the Old Æon, Germer was nominally still the leader of an Order charged with declaring the Law of Love, Light, Liberty and Life just three years before the full-blown emergence of the vanguard of the “hippie” counterculture in California. The manner of his death – allegedly not peaceful, but with him screaming in agony in the aftermath of a botched operation to alleviate prostate cancer – was regarded by some (McMurtry for example) as karmic retribution for his miserable failure to carry through Crowley’s wishes to further the O.T.O. and so betraying his vision.  But did he?  Such a lack of foresight concerning the apparently woeful outcome of Germer’s incumbency would not sit very adroitly with the insight and perspective of a Master, far less the vision of an Ipsissimus: therefore it seems highly unlikely that Crowley would have appointed the otherwise plainly unsuitable Germer to be his successor just out of gratitude for services rendered over the years, without first at least anticipating that some sort of reactive turbulence would occur later on.  In other words, as with creating John Symonds to be his literary executor, a sublimely hidden ulterior motive was involved: with Germer selected to also be his “fall guy”.28 Grand Master Baphomet must have wished to bring all sorts of matters to a head by such a series of moves, yet whether he would have envisaged that the process would still be working itself out nigh on fifty years later, or whether he actually intended the old O.T.O. to wither and die upon the vine (as for example G.M. Kelly of Pittsburgh has surmised) are interesting side-issues upon which it is outside the immediate scope of this overview to meditate.
<28  So that the reader does not gain a possibly imbalanced view of Germer’s capabilities and qualities, the following extract from Crowley in a letter to Jack Parsons dated 19th October, 1943 is appended in which he states “You blame me for selecting Karl.  There was nobody else to choose from. Apparently you didn’t get on very well with Karl when you saw him in New York, and I can very readily understand this although he says, no doubt most sincerely, that he and his wife laid themselves out to be particularly nice to you.  But in this respect Karl is extraordinarily difficult; after all these years I don’t in the least know how to take him.  If I suggest sitting down to a game of chess he is quite likely to feel himself ill-used. His thought is so pure, so concentrated, so unified, that he is liable to regard almost any remark as a malicious interference.  You have to make allowance for this.  Of course, at other times he is quite a normal, good fellow, but you never know.  This, however, is merely a technical question; the first point in any man is his integrity and I have never known any human being in the same street as he is in this respect.”>

If any Thelemites are still of the opinion that any variety of O.T.O. has some sort of relevancy in the future, then they should already have raised in their minds the issue of how the Order might be “rescued”.  Could it ever be made to rise whole once again, like the phœnix invigorated and restored from the ashes – or is it doomed forevermore to be, as Gerald Yorke put it, “a broken reed”?  If a palpable renaissance of its activities were to be an option, the desirability of this happening would presumably all depend upon the direction in which it was geared to take place. The Order could, for instance, be “rescued” in terms of going back towards something previously known – i.e., the form which was proposed in the Constitution but never actualized during the reign of Crowley, Reuss and Germer: in other words, the forty-five year “good old days” lasting between 1917 and 1962.  This was the step which Grady McMurtry went for in activating his “emergency authorization” and which his successor, Bill Breeze, has continued with interest.  However, what might be labelled as the stultifying “Gormenghast” effect of long-term traditionalism is that it ultimately turns into overriding inertia in terms of any response to the new and becomes mechanical repetition by rote stripped of meaning.  Little of lasting benefit can be gained through unqualified pursuit of the arts of necromancy, even if its ghoulish perpetrators attain transferable skills thereby in the practice of applied graverobbing and general skullduggery; nor can a great deal ever result from resurrecting an unwieldy apparatus from a byegone era and then forcing it to stagger, amid much protestation of clanking, like the clapped-out museum object that it is today.  All the same, it has to be said that there is poetic justice in and a certain richly ironic amusement to be derived from the fact that it was this same overly exalted, basically freemasonic set-up which inspired the structure of the dubious would-be “high tech” Pact, the so-called “chaos magical” Order of the Illuminates Of Thanateros (I.O.T.)!29
<29  See the author’s essay Will & The Wisp, a study of Thelema and chaos magic theory, to which the latter phrase of the title refers.  Contact the publisher for further details of forthcoming publication.>

Or alternatively, this “rescue” of the O.T.O. might be done in terms of essaying the only other alternative apparently available – that of going onwards into unknown territory and being new, different and something else again.  The Order of Kenneth Grant is so far the only one which has been seen to at least try to evolve and magically progress within the parameters of the Current, and whilst one is not always able to agree with its declared findings, at the same time neither can one disagree with the fact that it has carried out and is carrying out pioneering research of a singular character.  Yet within that process it has become difficult to recognize it as part of the pre-existing O.T.O. phenomenon at all.  If our hopeful Thelemite should choose the course of action which involves the O.T.O. going forward, it may surprise her or him to realize that there is little more to be said in favour of that than going backwards. The reason for this is a matter of what is right for our “conceptual continuity”, as the noted philosopher-musician Frank Zappa would have it: the particular Post PostModern cultural time-stream through which we are paddling.  Chapter Eleven’s discussion concerning T.O.T.O. repeated the conventional wisdom that an ongoing magical tradition and “organization of sages” has continued from “earliest times” on through to the present day with its external identity subject to a periodic flux or shape shift. This being so, the season would appear to have come round for it to alter these outer characteristics of its inscrutable inner nature once again.

Apart from the fault lines and fragmentation within its organizational system already covered, even the very name of the O.T.O., the Order of Oriental Templars (or Order of the Temple of the East) is, apart from itself being Old Æonic, in its Templar sense also early mediæval. In the Æon of Horus, the East is not only the “golden dawn” where the sun is terrestrially seen to rise from each day: Sol/Ra is more importantly worshipped as a (relatively) ever-shining star coming-forth in infinite space – a spark of intimate fire That then reveals Nuit to be not infinite Night but instead infinite “daylight”.  Thelemic orders functioning in the outer would especially do well to all acknowledge and reflect this illuminating fact.  The A.’. A.’. is brilliant in that respect inasmuch as it represents “The Sun behind the sun”; so too is “the company of heaven”, wherein “every man and every woman is a star”.  Many of the titles of the old Order – “Supreme and Most Holy King”, “Perfect Pontiff of the Illuminati”, “Most Wise Sovereign”, “Frater Superior…” – now have an old-fashioned and jaded ring about them which sits uncomfortably with modern sensibilities more attuned to the “new” reality.  Similarly, when it was held in Liber CXCIV that authority and prestige in the O.T.O. were absolute, such a policy strikes a genuine Thelemite nowadays as not only jejune but quite unnecessary, and in the wrong hands more than a little dangerous.  On the face of it, there appears to be no need whatsoever for any sane magician to retain such an outmoded husk as the Templar Order of the East (as it is in effect), and under any different circumstances from those presently operating it would be extremely counter-evolutionary for her or him to want to do so.

The backward and forward looking perspectives outlined in the first two of the three preceeding paragraphs account for the world-views respectively of the “Caliphornian” and “Typhonian” O.T.O.s. [Since the “Swiss” O.T.O. appears to be in the process of dissolving their Order within something much larger – the hooveresque30 Psychosophische Gesellschaft – it therefore cannot enter into any discussion of the O.T.O. itself being an intact and autonomous organization. And even though Motta originally only intended his rather reactionary “Society” Ordo Templi Orientis to be a stop-gap measure in order to prevent abuse of the O.T.O. name, at present S.O.T.O. appears to be a dormant if not actually defunct enterprise. Should one of the members of its “triumvirate” (or her or his appointed successor) seek to re-activate it with the consent of the other two (or, if either of these choose to abdicate responsibility or die, their own appointed successors), then this knotted situation of S.O.T.O.’s own making may need to be re-assessed. In which case, their new world perspective would of itself be an unknown quantity and hopefully one of startling originality in its conception…
<30  The precise image in mind is of that creature in The Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine which sucks everything into itself, including the film.>

Consequently, our wishful-thinking Thelemite’s hypothetical “rescue” of The O.T.O. has blundered, full of good intentions, into an impasse.  From this standstill position the ideal course of (in)action is now to go neither backwards nor forwards in the actual Name of “Ordo Templi Orientis”.  If there did happen to be one “true” Crowleian Order in existence (i.e., one which had uninterrupted continuity and unimpeachable qualifications going back to at least 1962), then this problem would not arise – or at least not quite in the same shape, since as an undivided entity the O.T.O. could do precisely as it wished without challenge from any of its (nonexistent) rivals, and any actions it took would be seen for what they were, as a natural development or progression of the Order for good or ill.  However, there is no Outer True Order any longer. And in the matter of where each of the O.T.O. claimants might go to from here, it is no longer acceptable practice for any of them to behave as though their individual organization were the rule of an absolutely free autocracy in an “old reality” type of situation.

In assessing the issue of relevancy, our contemporary Thelemite concerned with the present-day importance of the O.T.O. seems to be left over with the dilemma of plurality.  This only becomes a problem if she or he has short-sightedly managed to become obsessive about charters, constitutional exactitude, matters of apostolic succession and various things of that ilk. The situation may well even prove to turn out as a blessing in disguise: the most right and proper thing possible in this age of post-Newtonian physics, where everything is relative and has far reaching non-local quantum implications anyway. C.O.T.O.’s particular forte lies in research and in providing information on Aleister Crowley and the broad sweep of studies connected with him for use by layman and scholar; if it could realize this with even half of the (misapplied) zeal and vigour with which L. Ron Hubbard and his works have been treated by the Scientology organization (Chapter Eight gives further details of certain philosophical connections with “Dianetics”), that would be no mean achievement. By contrast, with T.O.T.O. it is the raising and exploration of new and unique ideas in consciousness which is the more important priority, though findings in these spheres may be scientifically reported in various publications as well. These two areas are where what might be called “progressive” and “conservationist” tendencies are at work. In the long run both fields of activity are of equal value, and both have their necessary place in the multiversal current scheme of things wherein magick work of all sorts eventually becomes accomplished.

Yet another blessing in disguise is that just as there cannot be a single “O.T.O.” any more, neither is there any single O.H.O. to decide upon and dictate what must happen in the affairs of an Order ostensibly dedicated to the propagation of Do what thou wilt in the Outer. Instead, each different “O.T.O.” leadership can serve as an alternative to, and a safeguard on, the activities of the others. That would be the key point of an “O.T.O.” as it stands today. As with market forces in economics competition is strictly healthy, and all other factors being equal tends to directly benefit the individual. In this way it would be better in many respects to have even more active “O.T.O.”s, which is why the tenuousness of the “Swiss” and the apparent supineness of the “Society” are causes for regret at the moment. Under the present circumstances it is therefore advisable – providential, even – for the “Typhonians” to continue to use the name O.T.O. as a check upon the real potential for abuse by the “Caliphate”.  Correctly speaking though, these days no “O.T.O.” group should be calling themselves, or imagine that they have the right to call themselves, Ordo Templi Orientis without the use of a qualifying prefix or suffix.

Should the “Caliphate” ever cease their laborious endeavours to assert that they themselves are the only O.T.O., along with their heavy-handed restrictive practices to secure a monopoly position towards that end, this situation would no longer be necessary: afterwards, the “Typhonian” O.T.O. as its main legitimate rival would be able to evolve quite independently of “O.T.O.” if they so wished, and possibly change their name too. Reader, say you so? Fool! Even if this more settled state of affairs were to come about, there would still be no guarantee that the position would not revert later on if a newly tyrannical and belligerent C.O.T.O. leadership should ever come to power. (Naturally the same criteria might also apply with a tyrannical and belligerent T.O.T.O. leadership too. And yet it says much about the current status quo that it is the “Caliphate” who have an overwhelming desire to establish themselves as the only true O.T.O. – even going so far as to attempt to “buy” Kenneth Grant out in the process!31 – while the “Typhonians” do not manifest any strong objections to the idea of plurality and do not seem greatly concerned by it one way or the other.)
<31  See page XXX.>

This no-win stalemate position is very similar to that effect when nuclear deterrent acted upon the two superpowers during the Cold War; but there is no O.T.O. equivalent of the Berlin Wall to be torn down. I may add further that the prospect of all four rival O.T.O. factions (or even the main two) linking up in future to form some homogeneous, undivided born-again O.T.O. group seems a highly improbable, most retrogressive and, it must be said, very undesirable eventuality. It would not be like a similar situation involving the four world heavyweight boxing championships, for example, or the four different scientific standards for measuring heat.32
<32  In case anybody is particularly interested or just curious, these are the WBO, the WBA, the WBC and the IBF; Fahrenheit (oF),Centigrade (oC), Kelvin (°K) and Rankine (°R).>

The more that one studies the existence of the Ordo Templi Orientis not only today, but for the past three-quarters of a century since 1921, the more its tangible essence recedes like fairy-gold into the distance, slip-slip-slipping away and finally becoming unattainable.  Also there are two distinct O.T.O.s to consider before 1947: the freemasonic, Old Æon one started by Kellner and constituted by Reuss (which is the more “legitimate” and historically genuine of the two, but which can be discounted for Thelemic purposes); and the O.T.O. of Aleister Crowley (which he partly reconstructed along more New Æonic lines, though was never able to finish the task).

Even if the O.T.O. was more relevant to Thelema under Aleister Crowley than under Theodor Reuss, some doubt has been expressed, justifiably, over whether or not he was authorized to take over the O.T.O. from his predecessor in any way other than through his own magical desire. Regarding this, Konig has commented:

William Breeze has published that Reuss’ letter of appointment of Crowley as O.H.O. “must” have been written in 1922 and “although it has not (thus far) been located in any archive, Crowley’s succession is a matter of historical fact” [Magical Link, 7,4; Buffalo, 1994] Despite this fact, Crowley was only ever a Xo for all the Britains, Ireland and the Ionian Isles. The Xo cannot be inherited or given over as that is only awarded by the O.H.O..  This applies also to the self-proclaimed office of O.H.O. (Crowley) and the so-called Caliphs (suddenly also O.H.O.). Reuss’ reaction to Crowley’s usage of the term “Roy” and “Viceroy” indicates that he would also have refused to accept the term “Caliph”. […] 33
<33  In Ein Leben für die Rose by P.-R. König (p. 149) – English translation approved by author.>

The rightness of any action such as that taken by Crowley can only be determined by the individual concerned being quite convinced beyond all acceptable doubt that she or he was acting directly in accord with her or his true will. It is open to the possibility of all sorts of dire consequences if they be mistaken, as earlier comments around individual ethics and misinterpretation of the nature of conscience have already indicated. Under the circumstances, in terms of the advancement of the magickal current it is reasonable to believe that Baphomet/ Aleister Crowley knew what he was doing in this respect, whereas others such as some of the candidates to the succession, mentioning no names – did and do not know.

By the time of his death in October 1923, the preference of Grand Master Reuss was that he would be succeeded in the O.T.O. by Hans Hilfiker or else Arnoldo Krumm-Heller rather than Crowley, to whom he had then borne “badly mangled relations” for a couple of years as well as a distinct hostility towards Thelema at odds with his earlier enthusiasm.  The only other means by which Crowley could legitimately have succeeded him as Head of the Order was by the unanimous decision in his own favour of a convocation of Xos. This was a method that fell through when Crowley not only failed to gather any such support, but was also unable to bring more than two of the other nine Xos together in the same place and at the same time at the Weida Conference.

Our resolutely inquiring Thelemite, having now established by a large act of faith that Crowley was rightly rather than wrongly O.H.O. of Ordo Templi Orientis to begin with, then faces a further problem.  After the Prophet’s death Karl Germer, his personal choice as successor, could and strategically should perhaps have called together another convocation of all remaining Crowleian and Reussian Xo and senior IXo O.T.O. personnel (e.g.: Hilfiker, Krumm-Heller, Tränker, Jones, Pinkus, Lekve, Grant, McMurtry, Leffingwell, Parsons, Wolfe and Mellinger) to seal the appointment de jure and so beyond the possibility of any further argument.  He did not do so.  In any case, just how successful he would have been – given “Karl’s ignorance of the rituals”, etc. – is another matter.  Even more significantly Karl did no real magickal work within the Order such as holding meetings or initiations; in 1953 he permanently closed down the only existing Crowley authorised O.T.O. lodge anywhere without opening another one up, and made no definite clearly laid-out plans to arrange for a successor who would carry on the Work.

Our magnanimous Thelemite, having further accepted that Germer was if nothing else then at least the most senior officer left in charge of Crowley’s O.T.O. between 1947 and 1962, is now faced by a further difficulty in that some of Germer’s own “successors” have in their turn left a similarly unclearŠand muddied trail. Marcelo Motta, his personal favourite, left not one or two but three possible choices; and Grady McMurtry, whom outwardly like Crowley assumed the title of O.H.O. for no constitutionally viable reason, did not appoint his successor nor was that successor William Breeze chosen by the other prescribed alternative means of Xo convocation (or even by acting Xos within C.O.T.O.’s own infrastructure!).  Kenneth Grant is the only original one still left alive, and although Hermann Metzger may have appointed his successor through the legitimate enactment of personal choice, there does not appear to be any documentary evidence on the subject – yet.  And finally, especially for our optimistic Thelemite there is this thought: with the passing of time, things look as if they can only get more complicated…

Can there be any hope of simplification?  Possibly, though not in the obvious sense.  To best resolve the question concerning the meaning of the O.T.O. as it exists today, once more we need to return to the conception of the venerable Frater Transmutemini. And as the closing remarks of the court in the case of Motta v. Weiser had it:

The O.T.O. was nothing more than an idea in the mind of Aleister Crowley […] The abstract idea of an O.T.O. persists, available to be appropriated by anyone so inclined, but no single group of persons having exclusive right to use the O.T.O. name appears from this record to exist.

Today, as in 1973, the O.T.O. is the idea (more than it is the reality) of human society founded upon mutual tolerance, committed to its advancement through the implementation of true will and the harnessing of the sexual polarities of the life force. This living idea or archetype can however be accessed, adapted and realized (which is to say, technically embodied) by any individual or group mind that has become attuned to the vital and magickal invigorating and [r]evolutionary “93” Current.

Then by their varied fruits shall each and every “O.T.O.” organism be known: with accurate discrimination – that foremost virtue of the Tree of Life – determining the appraisal of any level of success professed in and by their transmission of that Current.

“Disappointment arises from the fear that every joy is transient. If we accept it as such and delight to destroy our own ideals in the faith that the very act of destruction will encourage us to rebuild a nobler and loftier temple from the debris of the old, each phase of our progress will be made more pleasant.” (Crowley on The Soldier and The Hunchback in “Confessions”, Chapter 65).

The above constitutes the entirety of the ultimate (or maybe penultimate) Chapter to the proposed revised second edition of Francis King’s The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O..

© 1995-6, 2013 reserved but flexible.

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