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The Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) is an international fraternal and religious organisation founded at the beginning of the 20th century of which the English author, poet and occultist Aleister Crowley is undisputedly the most renowned historical member.  Upon his demise, Aleister Crowley bequeathed the legal ownership of all of the countless material he produced to the O.T.O.  This site,, is neither an official nor a recognised O.T.O. website, and thus is not sponsored or controlled by that organisation.  As a consequence, you must bear in mind that all material to be found on this website which was originally produced by the aforementioned Aleister Crowley is and remains the copyright © of O.T.O.

The text of any such material, although the majority of it is freely available to plagiarise elsewhere on the internet, has been made available on this site solely for personal and non-commercial use and is provided here in a convenient searchable form as a study resource for those seekers looking for it for research purposes.  For commercial use of any material, please contact International Headquarters Ordo Templi Orientis.

To see a full list of all of Aleister Crowley's publications (magical and personal (e.g. novels & poetry)) click HERE.

O.T.O. stands for Ordo Templi Orientis, the Order of Oriental Templars, or Order of the Temple of the East.  O.T.O. 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.

It was the first of the great Old Aeon orders to accept The Book of the Law, received by Aleister Crowley in 1904 EV.  This book proclaims a New Aeon in human thought, culture and religion.  The Aeon arises from a single supreme injunction: the Law of Thelema, which is 'Do what thou wilt'.

The U.S. Grand Lodge is the governing body of O.T.O. in the United States.  It is the most populous and active branch of O.T.O., with many local bodies spread throughout the country.

Ordo Templi Orientis has two constituent rites, MysteriaMysticaMaxima and Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica:

  • MysteriaMysticaMaxima (MMM) is the initiatory arm of O.T.O.
  • Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.), the Gnostic Catholic Church, is the ecclesiastical arm of O.T.O.  It confers sacraments including the eucharist of the Gnostic Mass, baptism, confirmation, and ordination.

Many O.T.O. events are open to the public.  Those who wish to learn more about O.T.O. are encouraged to attend their public events.  Attendance at a celebration of the Gnostic Mass is a particularly good choice for newcomers as it provides an excellent introduction to our symbolism and philosophy.  Contact a local body near you for more information - visit the webmaster.

If you are interested in becoming a member of Ordo Templi Orientis, see their Membership page for more information.  Their FAQ (PDF) page answers many common questions about O.T.O. and Thelema.

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Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.)


The Spiritual Father of the O.T.O was undoubtedly Carl Kellner (1 September 1851 – 7 June 1905), a wealthy Austrian paper chemist, inventor and industrialist.  Kellner became a Freemason in 1873, having been initiated into the Humanitas Lodge on the Austro-Hungarian border, taking the motto 'Brother Renatus'.  He then became interested in the more esoteric aspects of Freemasonry, joining John Yarker's Rite of Memphis-Misraim.

During extensive travels in Europe, America and Asia Minor in search of occult wisdom, Kellner claimed to have come into contact with three Adepts (a Sufi, Soliman ben Aifa, and two Hindu Tantrics, Bhima Sena Pratapa of Lahore and Sri Mahatma Agamya Paramahamsa), as well as an organisation called the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light.  As a consequence of these travels, he decided to found yet another Templar group, its purpose being to revive the sexual magic which Kellner believed had been the real secret of the original Order of the Temple and called his fraternity 'Ordo Templi Orientis' (the Order of Oriental Templars) as a way of acknowledging his intellectual debts to his ‘teachers’.

In 1885, he met Dr Franz Hartmann (1838 - 1912), a Theosophical and Rosicrucian scholar, with whom he discovered a ‘key’ providing a clear explanation of the complex symbolism of Freemasonry which also opened the mysteries of Nature.

Around 1895, Kellner began to discuss an idea for founding an Academia Masonica with another associate, Theodor Reuss (28 June 1855 – 28 October 1923), aka Frater Merlin or Peregrinus.  During their discussions, Kellner decided that the Academia Masonica should be called the ‘Oriental Templar Order’ and allow women to become members.  But due to the regulations of the established Grand Lodges which governed ‘Regular Masonry’, women could not be made Masons and therefore, by default, would be excluded from membership of the new Order.

The discussions between Reuss and Kellner did not lead to any positive conclusion at the time, mainly because Reuss was working with Leopold Engel (1858 - 1931) on the revival of an Illuminati Order of which Kellner disapproved.  However, in June 1902 Kellner contacted Reuss again and they agreed to proceed with the establishment of the Oriental Templar Order by seeking authorisation to work the various rites of high-grade Masonry.

At the time, Reuss was the Grand Master of the Swedenborgian Rite of Freemasonry in Germany, besides being the Special Inspector for the Martinist Order in Germany, and Magus of the High Council in Germania of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia.  With Kellner's assistance, Reuss applied to the English Masonic scholar, John Yarker (1833-1913), for charters to operate three systems of high-grade Freemasonry, the said rites being issued in June 1905.  These rites, along with the Swedenborgian Rite, were adopted as integral elements within the overall scheme of the Order.  The Swedenborgian Rite included a version of the Masonic Craft degrees, while the Cernau Scottish Rite, along with the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim, provided a selection of the workable high grades probably as complete as had ever existed.  With the incorporation of these rites, the new Order could operate as a completely independent Masonic system.  Kellner died on 7 June 1905, when Reuss assumed full control of the Order.

Reuss, not particularly in his capacity as head of the O.T.O. but rather in that as a journalist, travelled to England frequently.  On one such trip in 1910 (shortly after the well-publicised court case between Aleister Crowley and S.L. MacGregor Mathers concerning The Equinox) he contacted and met Crowley whom he admitted to the three degrees of the O.T.O.  At the time Crowley regarded this organisation as no more than a simple Masonic fraternity, but in the following year, after Reuss had accused him of revealing the 'innermost secrets' of the Order, he soon changed his mind.  Crowley responded to this accusation by explaining that since he was not, and never had been in possession of these 'innermost secrets' he was hardly in a position to reveal them.  Reuss then opened a copy of Crowley’s Liber CCCXXXIII (The Book of Lies) and pointed to the passage beginning ‘Let the Adept be armed with his Magic Rood and provided with his Mystic Rose’.  Crowley immediately understood that the O.T.O.’s system of magick was of a sexual nature!  It seems a fruitful conversation followed during which they agreed he would head a British section of the Order.

In April 1912, Crowley was appointed National Grand Master General X° of the O.T.O. for Great Britain and Ireland (click on the image to the right to enlarge it and note his name was recorded as Edward Alexander Crowley).  This appointment included authority over an English language rite of the lower (Masonic) degrees of the O.T.O., which was given the name 'Mysteria Mystica Maxima', or MMMMysteria Mystica normally formed a part of the name of national sections of the O.T.O., the Swiss section, for example, was Mysteria Mystica Veritas.

Crowley subsequently visited Berlin where he was given copies of the Order’s instructional manuscripts and had the title of ‘Supreme and Holy King of Ireland, Iona and all the Britains within the Sanctuary of the Gnosis’ conferred upon him.  Crowley was impressed with the magical teachings he received from Reuss.  He discovered the O.T.O.’s techniques to be far simpler than the long-winded ceremonial methods of the Golden Dawn.  Reuss seems to have been equally impressed by Crowley and converted to ‘Crowleyanity’, the new religion of Thelema.

By the end of 1912, Crowley and Reuss had condensed the system of Craft and high-grade Freemasonry into a workable system of ten numbered degrees incorporating the teachings and symbolism of a number of additional occult and mystical societies.  Kellner's Academia Masonica formed the VII°, VIII° and IX° of this system, while the tenth degree (X°) designated the National Grand Master General of the O.T.O. for a country or region.  The ultimate authority in the Order worldwide was with the Frater Superior, or Outer Head of the Order (O.H.O.).

In that same year, the system of the O.T.O was still principally Masonic, as a result of which the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), to whom Crowley ‘owed Masonic allegiance’, objected to the performance of the Craft Degrees in England outside of its jurisdiction, and particularly to the admission of women into Freemasonry.  Consequently, Crowley included the following statement in his Manifesto:

"The O.T.O., although an Academia Masonica, is not a Masonic Body so far as the craft degrees are concerned in the sense in which that expression is usually understood in England; and therefore in no way conflicts with, or infringes the just privileges of, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE)."

But Crowley remained uncomfortable with the Masonic character of the O.T.O. for several reasons:

  • He believed that women could not be initiated as Freemasons, although he considered they ought to be able to be initiated into the O.T.O.
  • He was frustrated with the elaborate preparations required to stage Masonic initiations, and with the length of the Masonic rituals and their excessive wordiness, perceiving these factors to be obstacles to successful implementation amongst modern working people.
  • He believed the symbolic content of the Masonic rituals had become ‘garbled almost to the point of uselessness’.
  • He wanted to use the system of the O.T.O. to help spread the teachings of Thelema.

Consequently, in circa 1915, Crowley prepared revised rituals which would convey the significance of the Craft and its high degrees concisely and dramatically, while at the same time being suitable for the initiation of both men and women.  This would not infringe on the just privileges of UGLE and would also convey the basic teachings of Thelema, his prime objective.

Crowley also composed Liber XV Ecclesiae Gnosticae Catholicae Canon Missae (the Gnostic Mass) which he prepared for the O.T.O. to use as the central ceremony of its public and private celebration corresponding with that of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1916, Reuss relocated to Basel, Switzerland, where he established a ‘National Grand Lodge and Mystic Temple’ of the O.T.O., and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light at Monte Verità.  In January 1917, he published a manifesto for this National Grand Lodge along with a revised version of his 1906 O.T.O. Constitution, and appended an abridgment of Liber II - The Message of the Master Therion.

In May 1917, while still living in America, Crowley's Lodge in England was raided and closed down by the police, probably because of Crowley's work for Viereck's anti-British publication The Fatherland, although the reason given was for charges of fortune telling against one of the members.  All Lodge records were seized, and Crowley was forced to temporarily resign his position of Grand Master in favour of Charles Stansfeld Jones (1886 - 1950) for the sake of the remaining members.

Despite setbacks such as this, Reuss was impressed with Crowley’s System of Thelema, so much so that he translated Crowley's Gnostic Mass (an explicit Thelemic ritual), into German.  In an undated letter to Crowley, Reuss reported that he had read The Message of the Master Therion to his group, and that he was working on a translation of The Book of the Law into German.  He purportedly added, "Let this news encourage you!  We live in your Work!!!"

World War I ended on 11 November 1918.  In October of that year Crowley had prepared another substantial revision to the Order's initial rituals, this time completely abandoning the term ‘Masonry’ along with its characteristic emblems, signs and grips of the Craft degrees, and presented his revised rituals to Reuss for Order-wide adoption.  In March of 1919, Crowley published The Equinox, Volume III, No. 1 (known as the ‘Blue Equinox’), which contained a number of important O.T.O. documents, including:

  • Liber LII: The Manifesto of the O.T.O.
  • Liber CXCIV: An Intimation With Respect to the Constitution of the Order
  • Liber CI: An Open Letter to Those Who May Wish to Join the Order
  • Liber CLXI: Concerning the Law of Thelema
  • a revised version of Liber XV, The Gnostic Mass.

Crowley returned to England in December 1919, when C.S. Jones (to whom Crowley had previously handed temporary control of the O.T.O. in England) resigned that position.  In 1920, Reuss published his Program of Construction and Guiding Principles of the Gnostic Neo-Christians: O.T.O., in which he set forth his ideas for a utopian society.  The principles of this society were to be based on Thelemic ideas (The Book of the Law), with statements from the Master Therion quoted and explained along with more traditional ideas from Rosicrucianism, Gnosticism, and Yoga.

A disagreement between Crowley and Reuss eventually saw Crowley take over as the Supreme Head of the O.T.O.  Crowley maintained that he had a letter from Reuss asking him to take control, but that letter has never materialised.  He never mentioned the one highlighting the reasons for his falling out with Reuss (click on the image to the right to enlarge it).  What Reuss means in this letter concerning Crowley’s ‘Australian ego’ and ‘Viceroys’ can be explained thus.  Frank Bennett (Frater Progradior), although born in Lancashire, was now an Australian disciple of Crowley and founder and head of the O.T.O. in that country.  Bennett was a bricklayer in Lancashire, when he first met A.C. in 1910.  Unfortunately he died in 1932 after achieving only a modest success in establishing the OTO in Australia.  The OTO was also chartered to operate in South Africa under Thomas James Windram (Frater Semper Peratus Xº).  Windram, an accountant living in Johannesburg, died in 1939.

In July 1921, Bennett travelled to the recently founded Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu where he began personal studies under Crowley.  There he joined a small number of Thelemic luminaries including Leah Hirsig, Cecil Frederick Russell, Jane Wolfe, Cecil Maitland and Mary Butts, but soon stood out in the crowd with his enthusiasm and aptitude.  Aleister specifically rewrote an initiatory text, Liber Samekh, a ritual for attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, for Bennett to use during a magical retirement.  Frank Bennett kept a detailed account of his experiences during this retreat which has since been published as The Magical Record of Frater Progradior.

Crowley was immensely impressed with Bennett’s achievements, and came to consider him a star pupil.  He formally admitted Bennett to the Ninth Degree of the O.T.O. and officially appointed him as his ‘Viceroy in Australasia’.  Crowley also advanced Bennett rapidly through the grades of the AA, with Bennett taking the Oath of an Adeptus Minor in October 1921.  He returned to Australia in December of that year.

On 28 October 1923, Theodore Reuss died of complications arising from an earlier stroke.  At the time of his death there were only three National Grand Masters in the O.T.O.: Heinrich Tränker in Germany (who had temporarily taken control of the German faction), Charles Stansfeld Jones in America and Aleister Crowley.  During the summer of 1924, as a consequence of the death of Reuss, Aleister, Dorothy, Leah and Norman Mudd were invited to an O.T.O. conference in Hohenleuben, near Weida, in Thuringia, Germany.  Their very large unpaid hotel bill was settled by the O.T.O. who also paid their fares.

The German group consisted of Herrn Karl Germer, Heinrich Tränker, Grosche, Grau, Hopfer and Birven, and Fraulein Martha Künzel.  In addition to several personality conflicts, the Germans were divided over the fact that Crowley had appointed himself head of the O.T.O., ousting Reuss with whom he had a misunderstanding some years earlier, which Crowley stated had been 'resolved'; Crowley maintained he had a letter from Reuss asking him to take over control of the Order (see above).  The Germans were also not yet convinced about The Book of the Law, which had only recently been translated into German.

Eventually, Karl Germer and Martha Künzel sided with Crowley, soon followed by Tränker and Grosche, but Herrn Grau, Hopfer and Birven decided to keep the Pansophical Lodge independent.  Nevertheless, Aleister Crowley left the meeting as the undisputed Outer Head of the Order (OHO).  Of all the people Crowley met in Germany, the most important person was Karl Germer who would spend most of his time promoting the organisation in the USA and who supported Aleister Crowley financially over the next ten years, almost bankrupting himself in the process.

N.B.  Grosche and Germer quarrelled, causing Grosche to remain independent.  After the closure of the Pansophical Lodge in 1926, Grosche regrouped a number of the ex-Pansophists to found the Fraternitas Saturni, which not only recognised Crowley’s status as a prophet, but accepted the Law of Thelema in a modified form, although Grosche insisted on keeping it independent from O.T.O. and under his own, rather than Crowley’s, authority.  Fraternitas Saturni continues to the present day in Germany, Canada and elsewhere, and does not represent itself as being O.T.O.

Germer was arrested by the Gestapo in February 1935 during a clampdown on occult societies, and was tortured before being held in Esterwegen concentration camp.

This is a copy of the arrest and internment warrant for Karl Germer.  Click on the image to enlarge it.  Dated 13 February 1935 it reads:

"Sie haben durch die ständige Verbindung mit dem im Ausland lebenden Hochgradfreimaurer Crowley dessen staatsfeindlichen Umtriebe unterstützt und durch die Verbreitung seiner Lehre versucht, in Deutschland Anhänger für ihn zu werben."

"You have supported the subversive activities of freemason Crowley, now living abroad, by consistently keeping in contact; and by spreading his teachings you have tried to recruit disciples for him in Germany."

In August he was released unepectedly.  It is speculated that it may have been because of Martha Künzel’s known admiration for Hitler (she had even urged him to read Crowley's Book of the Law) that he was released so suddenly with no explanation as to why.  He fled to England and then to Dublin. moving to Belgium in May 1940, where he was arrested for being German.  He was deported to France and interned before emigrating to the USA where he became Grand Treasurer of the O.T.O. spending most of his time promoting the organisation in that country, eventually becoming one of Crowley’s sources of income through donations and his share of joining fees.  Martha Künzel renounced her admiration for Hitler when war was declared.  Germer’s life did not become any easier in the USA.  He was hounded by the FBI who remembered Crowley's pro-German propaganda during WWI.  They were well aware of Germer’s links to Crowley and assumed he was a Nazi sympathiser.  In 1942, Crowley appointed him as his successor as Outer Head of the Order and Germer filled the office after the death of Crowley in 1947.

During WWII, the European branches of O.T.O. were either destroyed or driven underground.  By the end of the war, the only surviving O.T.O. body was the Agapé Lodge No. 1, which had been established in 1915 in Vancouver, Canada under the authority of C.S. Jones and Aleister Crowley.  In the 1930s, on instructions from Crowley, Wilfred Talbot Smith (1885 - 1957), a charter member of Agapé Lodge No. 1, moved from Vancouver to work with Jane Wolfe (1875-1958), who had been a student of Crowley’s at Cefalu, to establish Agapé Lodge No. 2 in Los Angeles, California.

Smith and Wolfe gathered a group together in Hollywood, California, and along with Regina Kahl (1891 - 1945), began to celebrate the Gnostic Mass on a weekly basis on Sunday, 19 March 1933.  Agapé Lodge No. 2 held its first meeting in 1935.  Agapé Lodge No. 2 contributed greatly to Crowley\’s publishing efforts; Crowley appointed Smith (Ramaka) as X° for the USA.  Later, Agapé Lodge No. 2 moved to Pasadena, California, and was headed by John Whiteside (aka Jack) Parsons (1914 - 1952), a respected chemical engineer and aerospace pioneer. in California.  There were various initiates in different countries, although very few new initiations were being performed in the USA.

In June 1947, Crowley, now in his later years and having appointed Germer as his successor to the O.T.O, wrote to him:

"You seem in doubt too about the succession.  There has never been any question about this.  Since your re-appearance you are the only successor of whom I have ever thought since that moment.  I have, however, had the idea that in view of the dispersion of so many members, you might find it useful to appoint a triumvirate to work under you.  My idea was Mellinger, McMurtry, and, I suppose, Roy (Leffingwell), though I have always been a little doubtful about the trustworthiness of the last."

At the same time, Crowley wrote to Grady Louis McMurtry (1912 – 1985) to inform him that while Germer was to be Crowley’s successor as Head of the O.T.O., he (McMurtry) should prepare himself to succeed Germer.  It appears that although Crowley, while trusting in Karl Germer's ability to govern the Order as his successor, did not trust in his ability to find and designate an appropriate successor for himself.  He was correct!  Aleister had met McMurtry several times during and towards the end of the war, so had come to know him well, and realised that with more maturity he would fulfil the role admirably.

Crowley died on 1 December 1947 after which Karl Germer became (the official) O.H.O. of the O.T.O., serving from late 1947 until his own death in 1962.  Following Crowley's death, his will was probated and the executors began receiving his property for shipment to Germer who received most of the materials from Crowley's estate and eventually took them to their final destination at WestPoint, Calaveras County, California.

Germer was primarily interested in publishing Crowley's writings, a task in which several O.T.O. members lent a hand, but aside from promotion of those already initiated into the Order, no new initiations were effected.  Germer notified McMurtry and others that the O.T.O. was to be incorporated and governed by a triumvirate (a group of three officers who together were responsible for public administration or civil authority), but this incorporation was never accomplished under Germer's leadership.

After Germer’s death on 25 October 1962, without his having designated a successor, McMurtry eventually became the O.H.O.  He was conscious of the critical condition into which the Order had fallen and was impelled to invoke his documents of emergency authorisation from Crowley, and to assume the title 'Caliph of O.T.O.' as specified in Crowley's letter to him from 1947.  He chose Dr Israel Regardie (1907-1985) and Gerald Yorke (1901-1983) to be the two witnesses he believed were necessary for this act.  McMurtry referred to these two men as the ‘Eyes of Horus’, as they were the two most prominent surviving personal students of Crowley.  He advised them of his plans to reconstitute the O.T.O. using his letters of charter from Crowley, and requested their support, which they offered.

Under McMurtry, as Caliph or acting Head of the O.T.O., several attempts were made to attract new members to the Order and to promote it to the public.  In 1969, Crowley's deck of Thoth Tarot Cards, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, was published by Samuel Weiser Inc.

Meanwhile, an attempt was made to assume control of the O.T.O. by Marcelo Ramos Motta (1931-1987) using ‘Society Ordo Templi Orientis’ as its name.  Motta had been a student under Germer, but had never obtained the authority to initiate or operate a Lodge, nor had he been formally initiated into the O.T.O.  After Germer's death, Motta asserted a claim to being his successor and formed an O.T.O. group in Brazil.  He went to the USA to claim the copyrights on Crowley's works, first suing Samuel Weiser Inc., a publisher of many of Crowley's works, for copyright and trademark infringement – a case he lost.  The O.T.O., still under McMurtry, then served Motta with a suit to be heard in San Francisco which was concluded in 1985, which Motta again lost.

The O.T.O. was recognised by the court to be the continuation of Aleister Crowley’s O.T.O., and therefore the exclusive owner of all its names, trademarks, copyrights and other assets, and McMurtry was found to be the legitimate head of the O.T.O. within the United States.  The decision also recognised the O.T.O. as a legal membership entity.  Grady McMurtry died on 12 July 1985.

As opposed to designating his own successor after his death, McMurtry wanted his successor to be chosen by a vote of the Sovereign Sanctuary of the O.T.O.  The election was held on 21 September 1985, the result being that the musician William Breeze, born 1955, was chosen to succeed McMurtry – he continues in office to this day as Frater Hymenaeus Beta.

In early 1996, a new corporation was founded to carry on the work of the U.S. Grand Lodge of O.T.O, while the existing corporation reorganised itself as the International Headquarters of O.T.O.  On March 30, 1996, Sabazius X° (David Scriven) was appointed as National Grand Master General for the U.S. Grand Lodge.  In 2005, Frater Hyperion X° was appointed to the equivalent post of the newly formed UK Grand Lodge, and Frater Shiva X° was appointed to the post in the Australian Grand Lodge in 2006.

N.B.  International Headquarters (IHQ) of the O.T.O. is incorporated in California as a non-profit, tax-exempt, religious corporation under the name Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), and is the body governing the O.T.O. worldwide.  It is presided over by the Outer Head of the Order (OHO — also known as Frater Superior), who holds the XII°.  Since the time of Grady McMurtry the office of OHO has been associated with the title of Caliph.  IHQ is administered by the International Supreme Council consisting of the OHO, the Secretary General, and the Treasurer General.

A history of O.T.O. under each of the Outer Heads of the Order can be seen and read by visiting HERE.


The O.T.O. was officially founded at the beginning of the 20th century.  It was the first of the Old Aeon orders to accept Liber Al vel Legis sub Figura CCXX (The Book of the Law), proclaiming a new Aeon in human thought, culture and religion, as dictated to Aleister Crowley in Cairo in 1904.  The new Aeon arose from a single supreme injunction, the Law of Thelema.  It should be stressed that this Law should not be interpreted as a licence to indulge each and every personal whim, but rather as a mandate to discover one's True Will and then to 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 only be fulfilled through the individual efforts of each person.

The Order was originally affiliated with European Masonry, but was completely overhauled, mainly through the efforts of Crowley, and represents an amalgamation of the different streams of esoteric wisdom and knowledge which were originally divided and driven underground by political and religious intolerance.  Its symbolism contains a reunification of the hidden Traditions of the East and the West, and its resolution of these Traditions has enabled it to recognise the true value of Aleister Crowley's revelation of The Book of the Law.  It draws from the Traditions of Freemasonry, and the Rosicrucian and Illuminist movements of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the Knights Templar.  It does still, however, share some terminology and traditions with Masonry.

The O.T.O. operates local bodies throughout the world, most members participating directly in one or more of them.  Camps, Oases, and Lodges, in order of increasing importance as well as services offered, are the three levels of local bodies within the O.T.O.  Most local bodies offer classes on Ritual Magick, Kabbalah and any other topics of interest to Thelemites, many performing the Gnostic Mass on a regular basis.  Other common local activities include performance of group rituals.

Of the entire system of the O.T.O., Crowley wrote,

"It offers a rational basis for universal brotherhood and for universal religion.  It puts forward a scientific statement which is a summary of all that is at present known about the universe by means of a simple, yet sublime symbolism, artistically arranged.  It also enables each man to discover for himself his personal destiny, indicates the moral and intellectual qualities which he requires in order to fulfil it freely, and finally puts in his hands an unimaginably powerful weapon which he may use to develop in himself every faculty which he may need in his work."

For more information and a list of the O.T.O. organisations worldwide, visit its website.

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Structure & Grades Within the O.T.O.

The O.T.O. uses a graded system similar to that to be found in Freemasonry, with thirteen numbered degrees and twelve un-numbered divided into three grades or triads: the Man of Earth, the Lover, and the Hermit (see Book of the Law, Chapter 1, paragraph 40):

  • Man of Earth Triad

    • 0° - Minerval
    • I°- Man & Brother / Woman & Sister
    • II°- Magician
    • III°- Master Magician
    • IV°- Perfect Magician & companion of the Holy Royal Arch of Enoch
    • P.I.- Perfect Initiate, or Prince of Jerusalem

  • Outside all Triads

    • Knight of the East & the West

  • Lover Triad

      • Sovereign Prince Rose-Croix, and Knight of the Pelican & Eagle
      • Knight of the Red Eagle, and Member of the Senate of Knight Hermetic Philosophers
    • VI°
      • Illustrious Knight (Templar) of the Order of Kadosch, and Companion of the Holy Graal
      • Grand Inquisitor Commander, and Member of the Grand Tribunal
      • Prince of the Royal Secret
    • VII°
      • Theoreticus, and Very Illustrious Sovereign Grand Inspector General
      • Magus of Light, and Bishop of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica
      • Grandmaster of Light, and Inspector of Rites & Degrees
  • Hermit Triad

    • VIII°
      • Perfect Pontiff of the Illuminati
      • Epopt of the Illuminati
    • IX°- Initiate of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis
    • X°- Rex Summus Sanctissimus
    • XI°- Initiate of the Eleventh Degree (a technical degree which has no relation to the general plan of the Order)
    • XII°- Frater Superior, Caliph, and Outer Head of the Order

According to the O.T.O.

The Minerval Degree (0°) is simply an introductory Initiate degree in which the aspirant is considered to be an ‘honoured guest’ of the O.T.O. rather than a full member.  It is designed to allow the aspirant to decide whether or not to pursue full membership, and to allow potential sponsors the opportunity to decide whether to support the aspirant's application for full membership.  Minervals may begin preliminary novitiate training under an Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) Bishop towards ultimate ordination to the Diaconate and/or Priesthood in EGC, but they are not eligible for ordination or for service as an officer of a Local Body.

The First Degree (I°) bestows full membership upon the initiate.  A First Degree initiate may retire from active participation in the 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 life.  An initiate of the Second Degree is eligible for ordination as a deacon of EGC.

Beyond the degree of PI, advancement is by invitation only.  Initiates of the intermediate degree of Knight of the East and West (KEW) are eligible for formal ordination to the Priesthood in EGC.  Episcopal consecration in EGC is conferred as part of the Seventh Degree.  The Tenth Degree (X°) is held by the National Grand Master General of the O.T.O. in a particular country.

The Man of Earth degrees follow a pattern based on the symbolism of the Chakras and the stages of Kundalini Yoga, and represent, in dramatic form, the Individual's Path in Eternity.  In the 0°, the Ego, a wandering God, 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 the Death of the individual, and the IV° represents the world beyond Death, the glorified state of the Initiate.  In the PI Degree, the Initiate symbolically achieves ultimate Perfection (Completion), and the entire cycle is withdrawn into Annihilation.

Of these Events or Stations upon the Path, all but the II° represent single critical experiences.  The O.T.O., however, is concerned mostly with the varied experiences of Life.  All subsequent degrees are therefore elaborations of the II°, a progressive instruction in how to live, 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 with instruction in Hermetic Philosophy, Kabbalah, Magick and Yoga, all aimed at preparing the Initiate for the revelation and application of one Supreme Secret.

Every man and woman of full age (18+), free, and of good report, has an indefeasible right to the first three degrees of the O.T.O. (but not according to any particular time schedule).  These first three degrees actually include all the degrees in the Man of Earth Triad (the Minerval is considered a prologue to the First Degree, and the Fourth and PI Degrees are considered pendants to the Third Degree).

Progress of an O.T.O. initiate toward the Fourth and PI Degrees is usually a matter of years.  A certain amount of time is normally required to 0 allow full maturation of the effects of the O.T.O. initiations, although under some circumstances the Minerval and First Degrees may be taken on the same occasion.

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Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica / Gnostic Catholic Church

The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) is the ecclesiastical arm of the O.T.O., its central activity being the celebration of Liber XV Ecclesiae Gnosticae Catholicae Canon Missae, The Gnostic Mass.  In more recent years, other rites have been written and approved for use within the church, including Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination (for Deacons, Priests, Priestesses and Bishops), and Last Rites.  Click HERE to read the Gnostic Mass in full.

Membership of the E.G.C.

  • The Clergy

    • The Father / Mother of the Church (The Patriarch or Matriarch)
    • The Primate (or Presiding Bishop)
    • Bishops (The Episcopate)
    • Priests & Priestesses (The Priesthood)
    • Deacons (The Diaconate)
    • Novices (The Novitiate)

  • Lay members (The Laity)
  • Bishops in Amity (Advisory membership)

The Creed

I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD; and in one Star in the Company of Stars of whose fire we are created, and to which we shall return; and in one Father of Life, Mystery of Mystery, in His name CHAOS, the sole viceregent of the Sun upon the Earth; and in one Air the nourisher of all that breathes.

And I believe in one Earth, the Mother of us all, and in one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest, Mystery of Mystery, in Her name BABALON.

And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.

And I believe in one Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the Word of whose Law is VELHMA.

And I believe in the communion of Saints.

And, forasmuch as meat and drink are transmuted in us daily into spiritual substance, I believe in the Miracle of the Mass.

And I confess one Baptism of Wisdom whereby we accomplish the Miracle of Incarnation.

And I confess my life one, individual, and eternal that was, and is, and is to come.


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Some Prominent Members of the O.T.O. & their Magical Mottos

Magical mottos are the magical nicknames, noms de plume, or pseudonyms (normally in Latin) taken by various individuals in magical organisations, the motto generally being adopted upon initiation into the neophyte grade of the organisation.  These members were known by, and often referred to in many publications by their mottos.  Users of magical mottos typically referred to each other in their capacity as initiates as Frater (men) or Soror (women), Latin for brother and sister respectively, followed by the initials of their magical mottos.

Member's Name Motto Meaning
Breeze, William Hymenaeus Beta
Conway, William C.
Cowie, George Macnie Fiat Pax Let there be peace
Crowley, Aleister Baphomet
DuQuette, Lon Milo
Encausse, Gérard
Gardner, Gerald
Germer, Karl Saturnus
Grant, Kenneth
Greenfield, Allen H.
Harris, Lady Frieda
Hyatt, Christopher
Kaczynski, Richard
Kelllner, Carl
McMurtry, Grady Louis Hymenaeus Alpha
Mudd, Norman Omnia Pro Veritae
Noname, Jane
Northrop Hollister, Sara
Parsons, Jack
Reuss, Theodor
Russell, C.F.
Seckler, Phyllis
Smith, Wilfred Talbot
Wasserman, James
Wolfe, Jane

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