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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The letters O.T.O. stand for Ordo Templi Orientis, the Order of Oriental Templars, or Order of the Temple of the East. The O.T.O. is an Outer Thelemic Order which is dedicated to the high purpose of securing the Liberty of the Individual and his or her advancement in Light, Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, and Power; through Beauty, Courage, and Wit; on the Foundation of Universal Brotherhood.

The O.T.O. is the first of the Old Aeon orders to accept The Book of the Law, received by Aleister Crowley in 1904, with its message of a revolution in human thought, culture and religion based upon a single supreme injunction: the Law of Thelema, which is Do what thou wilt. This Law is not to be interpreted as a license to indulge every passing whim, but rather as the mandate to discover one's True Will and accomplish it; leaving others to do the same in their own unique ways. "Every man and every woman is a star."

The Law of Thelema can ultimately be fulfilled only through the individual efforts of each person. Nevertheless, many worthy aspirants to the Great Work of Thelema have a genuine need for information, guidance, fellowship, or the opportunity to assist their fellow aspirants and serve humanity. Such aspirants will find welcome in the O.T.O.

We hold papers of direct and unbroken descent in the leadership of the O.T.O. from Aleister Crowley to the present head of the Order. We are incorporated as a tax-exempt religious entity in California and the United States, and have been judged to be the genuine O.T.O. of Aleister Crowley by the US Federal Court. Upon request, we will gladly provide photocopies of the documents which establish our legitimacy.


Although Ordo Templi Orientis was founded as such in the late 19th century, its traditional history includes the Knights Templar of the 11th century and Adam Weishaupt's Bavarian Illuminati of the late 18th century as precursors. It was Karl Kellner who revived its traditions and gave it the name it bears today. Kellner was an Austrian industrialist and paper chemist, a high-grade Freemason, and an initiate of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light; a mystical society founded in the mid 19th century by Paschall Beverly Randolph.

Kellner's O.T.O. consisted of three degrees only, corresponding to the degrees VII?, VIII?, and IX? of the current form of the Order. In 1902, Dr. Theodor Reuss became Outer Head of the Order (O.H.O.), and, with the assistance of Franz Hartmann and Heinrich Klein, developed the O.T.O. into a complete initiatory system of ten degrees.

Largely through the efforts of Reuss, Ordo Templi Orientis absorbed elements of other fraternal and occult societies into its teachings and structure in its first two decades of operation. Some of these societies actually granted limited or full authority of operation to O.T.O., while others simply granted a "right to study" their teachings. In 1912, a list of such societies was published, which included: The Gnostic Catholic Church, The Order of the Knights of the Holy Ghost, The Order of the Illuminati, The Order of the Temple, The Order of the Knights of St. John, The Order of the Knights of Malta, The Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, The Hidden Church of the Holy Grail, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, The Holy Order of Rose Croix of Heredom, The Order of the Holy Royal Arch of Enoch, The Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry, The Rite of Memphis, The Rite of Mizraim, The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Masonry, The Swedenborgian Rite of Masonry, The Order of the Martinists and the Order of the Sat Bhai. This list was not considered complete, but included most of those Masonic and knightly organizations that O.T.O. officers considered particularly important in the makeup of O.T.O.

From 1902 to 1921, Reuss spread the O.T.O. internationally through the appointment and chartering of National Heads, who were accorded the rank of X?. The Chartered X? National Heads were expected to conduct the business of the O.T.O. largely without intrusive supervision by the international head- quarters. National Heads were required to adhere to the O.T.O. constitution of 1906, as revised in 1917, and to maintain good records of the membership in their respective countries. Dr. Gerard Encausse (also known as Papus) was the Head for France. Encausse's provincial branch of O.T.O. became ultimately known as "The Franco-Haitian O.T.O." Dr. Krumm Heller (also known as Huiracocha) was Head of O.T.O. for Latin America, and his province of O.T.O. became known as Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua, O.T.O.A. for short. Charles Stansfeld Jones (also known as Parzival) was head of O.T.O. in Canada, and attached his province to that of Aleister Crowley. Aleister Crowley (also known as Baphomet) had charge of O.T.O. in the British Isles, the United States and Canada (with the cooperation of Jones).

Crowley used the name "Mysteria Mystica Maxima", or M:M:M: to indicate the lower Degrees of his O.T.O. province, but used "Ordo Templi Orientis" as the name of the over-all system. There were other Reuss era O.T.O. provinces in several European countries and in Brazil. Crowley chartered O.T.O. provinces in South Africa and in Australia. Without exception, all such provinces of O.T.O. were chartered, documented and recorded by the issuing O.T.O. authority. Secondary chartering was also documented, e.g. AMORC, the San Jose, California based Rosicrucian organization, had a 1921 "Gage of Amity" document from O.T.O. to their founder, H. Spencer Lewis, a VII? O.T.O. member.

Theodor Reuss became ill and resigned as Head of the O.T.O. in 1921, dying the next year. Aleister Crowley was the designated successor to the headship of the international O.T.O., and he was ultimately confirmed in that status by X? National Heads. Crowley served as the Outer Head of the Order from 1922 until his death in December of 1947.

Agape Lodge No. 1 was established in 1912 in Canada under the authority of Jones and Crowley. In the 1930s, Wilfred Smith (also known as Ramaka) came down from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, on instructions from Crowley to establish Agape Lodge No. 2 in Southern California. Agape Lodge #2 held its first meeting in 1935, in the vicinity of Pasadena, California. Later, Agape Lodge No. 2 was headed by Jack Parsons, a respected chemist who was instrumental in the founding of the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

When World War II broke out, international communications became increasingly disrupted and civilian travel was limited. Crowley became very dependent on foreign representatives, being unable to travel himself. Karl Germer (also known as Saturnus), Crowley's German representative, was arrested by the Gestapo and confined in a Nazi concentration camp for "Seeking students for the foreign resident, high- grade Freemason, Crowley." Germer's warrant of arrest survives to this day, and he was released early in the War through the efforts of the American Counsel. Germer traveled ultimately to the United States, where, as Grand Treasurer General and Crowley's second in command, he conducted much of the business of the O.T.O. The other European branches of O.T.O. were destroyed or driven underground during the War. The South American branches maintained a light contact with Germer until the early 1960s.

By the end of the IInd World War, only Agape Lodge No. 2 in Pasadena, California was still functioning. No Lodge work was conducted in England at that time, and initiations were very rare outside of California. The South American O.T.O.A. held no initiations; and sent a candidate, Dr. Montenegro, up to California for initiation.

During the IInd World War, Grady Louis McMurtry (also known as Hymenaeus Alpha), a member of Agape Lodge No. 2, traveled to Europe on military assign- ment, and visited Aleister Crowley on several occasions while on leave. At that time, Crowley made McMurtry a IX? O.T.O. member, and ultimately made McMurtry the chief O.T.O. officer in charge of O.T.O. work in California and the United States, under Karl Germer. Crowley also notified McMurtry that Germer was to be Crowley's successor as Head of O.T.O., but that McMurtry should hold himself prepared to succeed Germer.

Crowley died in December of 1947; and in accord with his wishes Karl Germer became International Head of O.T.O., serving from late 1947 until his death in 1962. Agape Lodge No. 2 continued in Southern California until 1949, after which the Lodge ceased to hold regular meetings.

Under Karl Germer, the O.T.O. entered a period of relative dormancy, and no new members were initiated. Germer notified McMurtry and others that O.T.O. was to be incorporated and governed by a triumvirate of officers, but this incorporation was never accomplished under Germer's headship of O.T.O. Germer did charter a group in England under Kenneth Grant, a III? member; but Germer closed the new group in England and expelled Grant from O.T.O. membership. Germer also took an interest in the efforts of Herman Metzger (also known as Paragranus) in Switzerland, and took steps to regularize Metzger into Crowley's O.T.O. Metzger was thought to have come from a post war survival of the earlier Reuss period, but had no original connection with Crowley's O.T.O. Germer and Metzger fell into disagreement toward the end of Germer's life. Metzger has not engaged in O.T.O. activity either directly or indirectly in the United States.

Germer died in 1962 without having designated a successor. Some ranking members, including Grady McMurtry, were not notified of his death for several years, and several years passed before the question of succession to Head of the O.T.O. was properly addressed. Metzger in Switzerland published a claim to being the Head of the Order based on a private election represented to have been held in Switzerland. Ranking members of O.T.O. outside of Switzerland were not informed of Metzger's purported election until after the alleged fact. Metzger was not generally accepted as Head of the Order outside his own group. Kenneth Grant also asserted a claim to being Head of the O.T.O., but this was done after he had been expelled from membership by Germer.

In 1969, surviving O.T.O. members from the Germer and Crowley years were invited to join with McMurtry to resume regular operations of O.T.O. At that time there were less than a dozen surviving O.T.O. members in the United States. On December 28, 1971 e.v., the Ordo Templi Orientis Association was registered with the State of California to form a legal entity for O.T.O. This Association included members of Agape Lodge #2, from the Crowley and Germer period. Grady McMurtry produced his letters of charter, and assumed the title "Caliph of O.T.O.", as specified in Crowley's letters to McMurtry from the 1940s.

In 1977, McMurtry held O.T.O. initiations at his home in Berkeley, California, and began a group there. The group began publishing a newsletter, ultimately the O.T.O. Association was converted into a corporation. O.T.O. was incorporated under the laws of the State of California on March 26th, 1979 e.v. Those who had claimed in print to be O.T.O. members or who were known to be former members were notified of the formation of this corporation, and given a period of time to file a claim to continued membership, according to a precedent established earlier by Karl Germer. The corporation attained 501©3 Federal Tax exemption as a religious entity in 1982.

A substantial effort was made to assume control of O.T.O. by Marcello Motta under the name "Society Ordo Templi Orientis." Mr. Motta had been a personal student of Karl Germer for a number of years. After Germer's death, Motta formed a group in his native country of Brazil. Motta at first recognized Kenneth Grant as Head of O.T.O., but rescinded this recognition on learning that Grant had been expelled by Germer. Motta ultimately came to the United States and sued Samuel Weiser, Inc., a publisher of many of Crowley's works, for copyright and trademark infringement; maintaining that he was the sole representative of Crowley's O.T.O. This case was decided in Weiser's favor by the US District Court in Maine. The Judge found that Motta's representations regarding O.T.O. did not meet the test of legal existence. During the proceedings in Maine, the O.T.O. under McMurtry served Motta with a suit to be heard in the 9th Federal District Court in San Francisco. The San Francisco case was concluded in 1985, with Motta again losing. O.T.O. under McMurtry was recognized by the Court to be the continuation of the O.T.O. of Aleister Crowley and the exclusive owner of the names, trademarks, copyrights and other assets of O.T.O. McMurtry was found to be the Outer Head of O.T.O. within the United States. The 9th District decision also recognized O.T.O. under McMurtry as a legal membership entity. This decision was appealed and upheld. Grady McMurtry died following the original decision of the 9th District Court, but the process of appeal established that O.T.O. continued as a corporation.

An election was held two months after McMurtry's death, with all voting members of O.T.O. present. Hymenaeus Beta was elected Caliph and acting O.H.O. of O.T.O. in September of 1985. Hymenaeus Beta continues in office to this day.


The structure of the O.T.O., like that of Freemasonry and the ancient mystery schools, is based on a staged series of initiations or Degrees, most of which are conferred ceremonially. In the Rituals of these Degrees, the O.T.O. seeks to instruct the individual by allegory and symbol in the profound mysteries of Existence, and thereby to assist each to discover his or her own true Nature.

Every man and woman of full age, free, and of good report, has an indefeasible right to the first three Degrees of O.T.O. These "first three Degrees" actually include the Minerval, First, Second, Third, Fourth and P:I: Degrees; as the Minerval is considered an antecedent to the First Degree, and the Fourth and P:I: Degrees are considered extrapolations of the Third Degree.

These early degrees follow a pattern based on the symbolism of the Chakras and the rising of the Kundalini; and represent, in dramatic form, the Individual's Path in Eternity. In the 0?, the Ego is attracted to the Solar System. In the I?, the Child experiences Birth. In the II?, the Man or Woman experiences Life. The III? represents Death of the Individual, and the IV? represents the world beyond Death. In the P:I: Degree, the entire cycle is withdrawn into

Annihilation. Of these Events or Stations upon the Path, all but the II? represent single critical experiences. We, however, are concerned mostly with the varied experiences of Life. All subsequent degrees are therefore elaborations of the II?, since in a single ceremony it is hardly possible to sketch, even in the briefest outline, the Teaching of Initiates with regard to Life.

The V? - IX? rituals and teachings are therefore instructions to the Initiate in the Mastery of Life; there is instruction in Hermetic Philosophy, Qabalah, Magick and Yoga, all aimed at preparing the Initiate for the revelation and application of one Supreme Secret.

In addition to the official O.T.O. instructions, many of the local O.T.O. Lodges, Oases, Camps and Profess Houses offer supplementary instruction to their members; and to a lesser extent, to the general public. The particular form of this supplementary instruction depends on the character and capabilities of the particular local body; it may be provided in the form of classes, seminars, study programs, or publications.


At this writing, O.T.O. has approximately 1500 members, and is active to varying extents in about 17 countries. Membership in O.T.O. is private in the sense that names and addresses are not released to anyone, including O.T.O. officers lacking need to know, without prior express or implied consent of the individual members concerned.

Membership is divided into two primary categories: associate membership and initiate membership. Associate membership can be strictly a correspondence matter, with no physical presence required. Associate members receive a subscription to The Magical Link (see below), have access to other membership publications, and may attend many O.T.O. local activities if a local body is nearby. Otherwise, associate members have the opportunity to correspond with other O.T.O. members in the U.S.A. and other countries, by mail or by one of several computer-based networks.

Initiate membership can be conferred only in a physical ceremony by a properly chartered initiator. Initiate membership is subdivided by Degree. There are a total of 16 Initiate Degrees in the O.T.O., including eleven numbered Degrees and five un-numbered, intermediate Degrees. The numbered Degrees include the Minerval Degree (0?) and the Degrees designated by the Roman Numerals I? through X?.

The Minerval Degree (0?) is an introductory Initiate Degree, designed to allow the aspirant to decide whether or not to become a full member. The First Degree (I?) bestows full membership upon the initiate. A First Degree initiate may retire from active participation in O.T.O., but the spiritual link forged between the initiate and the Order during the ceremony of the First Degree will remain throughout the initiate's physical life. Beyond the Degree of P:I:, advancement is by invitation only. The Tenth Degree (X?) is honorary, and designates the National Grand Master General of the O.T.O. in a particular country. In addition to the Degrees previously mentioned, there is traditionally an Eleventh Degree (XI?), which is entirely independent of the O.T.O. initiatory, governmental, and administrative structures. Further information may be provided to qualified individuals interested in this Degree.

Progress of the O.T.O. initiate toward the Fourth and P:I: Degrees is usually a matter of years. A certain amount of time is usually required to allow full maturation of the effects of the O.T.O. initiations. Although the Minerval and First Degrees may be taken on the same occasion if the candidate so wills; a nine month "attunement" period between these degrees is usually recommended. SUBSIDIARY ORGANIZATIONS

The O.T.O. encompasses several subsidiary organizations for the study of facets of Thelemic culture not specifically available within the O.T.O. initiatory structure. These currently include:

The Gnostic Catholic Church

Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, the Gnostic Catholic Church, was brought to the O.T.O. by Dr. Gerard Encausse (Papus). The E.G.C. is a Thelemic religious environment, dedicated to the advancement of Light, Life, Love, and Liberty through alignment with the Law of Thelema. The central activity of the E.G.C. is the celebration of the Gnostic Mass, as set forth in Liber XV. Membership in E.G.C. is available through baptism, confirmation, and (after a period of training) orders. Many O.T.O. local bodies celebrate the Gnostic Mass on a regular basis, and in most locations, no formal affiliation is required to attend the Mass.

The Knights of Baphomet

Originally formed as an elite guard in service to the Caliph, the Knights of Baphomet is now a organization dedicated to the study and practice of Chivalry as it applies to life in the Aeon of Horus. Membership is by invitation only.


Ordo Templi Orientis publishes a number of periodicals, from Grand Lodge and from individual Lodges, Oases and Camps. The three primary Grand Lodge periodicals are:

The Equinox

This is not a re-printing of the original Volumes I to III, but a never-before published continuation of the original series. The first issue in this continuation, The Equinox, Vol. III, No. 10, was published in 1986. This issue contains the O.T.O. Constitution, most of Crowley's writings on the O.T.O., and important instructional documents of interest to O.T.O. members and other Thelemites. A second printing is currently in preparation. Please write to the publisher at the following address for details:

Samuel Weiser, Inc.
P.O. Box 612
York Beach, Maine 03910
The Magical Link

This is a quarterly newsletter for members only, currently in its ninth year of publication. The Magical Link is delivered free of additional charge to dues-current associate and initiate members of the Order. Each issue of The Magical Link contains an updated address list of all O.T.O. local bodies and reports of O.T.O. activites worldwide.

The Oriflamme

This quarterly journal will soon be available to members free of charge and to the general public by subscription, or at most occult and metaphysical book stores.

We are very interested in expanding the number of Crowley's works in print. For a nonmonetary consideration (copyright protection), we will usually be willing to provide small publishers with a letter of release to print almost any of Crowley's written works.

Copyright © by The Book of THOTH - The complete guide to the Tarot, Magick and the Occult All Right Reserved.

Published on: 2005-08-20 (5312 reads)

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