Why they became member of the O.T.O. 13 Ben Fernee
March 1999: several newsgroups
Subject: Concerning my recent booklist (2)
I am writing to you as I sent you a copy of my recent email list of
While many folk have been been kind enough to express their appreciation
at seeing so many rare and significant items described in an informative
manner I did receive one negative response. The three member committee
which governs an organisation called the Ordo Templi Orientis thought I
should not be selling some of the items because they considered them to
be their secrets. I joined this organisation about a dozen years ago,
though have not been active in it for some years. I consider the reasons
for their objections rather ill-founded, so I have published the
following defence - though I rather doubt it will have much success. I
rather think the have made up their minds, and we have argued about
other things too. I do apologise if all this is rather alien to you, and
I can well appreciate that it must appear to be a storm in a very small
teacup. Perhaps you may recognise the same group dynamics that afflict
train spotter clubs, Womens Institute Jam Making societies and other
such august occult orders! If alien, I hope you find it at least
entertaining. Please do not think it is sinister and heavy, rather a
squabble between friends. Everyone involved is on the same side as far
as the really important things in life are concerned. Fear not - my
future postings will return to my usual fare of esoteric and occult
books for sale!
I have also posted this message to the news group alt.magick and the
email list Thelema 93
My best regards
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
My name is Ben Fernee, I have been trading as Caduceus Books selling
esoteric and occult books for ten years. I have been a member of the OTO
(Caliphate) for about a dozen years, rising to VIIth degree, Grand
Inquisitor Commander, and bishop of the Gnostic Catholic Church. In
recent years though I have not been involved in the administration of
I was recently asked to catalogue and sell a collection of items by
Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, Kenneth Grant, A.E. Waite and others. This
was posted on my webpage, and also issued as an email list and
physically incarnate catalogue that is available on request.
I then received a letter from the Supreme Council informing me that my
membership of the OTO has been suspended and that I will be
automatically expelled if I did not offer a suitable defence to the
charge of "offering for sale our confidential documents". I asked the
members of the Supreme Council for clarification of which items in my
catalogue they considered their confidential documents and received
replies from Bill Heidrick and Soror Helena.
The principal items were:-
Order No.5344 Crowley, Handwritten manuscript by Crowley of Liber
CCXXVIII De Natura Deorum. A variant form significantly different from
that published in Francis King, Secret Rituals of the OTO, Weiser 1973
or C.W. Daniel 1973 or Brocken Mountain Lodge OTO 1986 or from the
original manuscript available for study at the Warburg Institute in
Order No.2073 Koenig (Ed.), How to Make Your Own OTO, ARW 1996 Presents
copies of Crowley manuscripts and typescripts held at the Warburg
Institute, part of the University of London
Order No.5299 Lodge of Perfection IVth Degree typescript with a
handwritten note by Gerald Yorke stating this to be an early version
abandoned by Crowley because of objections from the freemasons that it
was too close to their Royal Arch ritual
My full description of these items can be found on my web page or in my
email list or in my physically incarnate catalogue available on request.
I robustly and utterly deny the allegation that I have offered for sale
the "confidential documents" of the Supreme Council. This allegation
conjures shabby images of my selling items obtained through my
membership of the Order. This, I most definitely have not done. I make
this defence public so that this is clearly and generally understood. I
am not in the least ashamed of my position.
The phrase "our confidential documents" is an absurdity.
To suggest that a bookdealer is offering for sale items that do not
truly belong to the seller is about the most serious allegation that can
be made against someone in the trade. However the documents in question
are clearly and unequivocally the legal property of the present owners,
not the Supreme Council of the OTO. Originally, legal ownership of them
was transferred to Gerald Yorke, who was not an OTO member. The
documents presented in item 2073 he lodged at the Warburg Institute
where they are now. Peter Koenig and ARW then published an edition
carrying facsimile reproductions of them. Items 5299 & 5344 were sold by
Yorke to a private collector and they have been in private hands since.
If the Supreme Council seriously believes it owns these documents it
should commence legal action against the present owner in front of an
independent judge who can order the documents to be handed over if he
should agree with the Supreme Council
Æs claims. However, instead of
entering an arena where this claim can be properly judged and resolved,
they threaten me with expulsion, which resolves nothing - but avoids the
testing of their claim to ownership. I would suggest that this is
because they realise that their claim to ownership of these items is
spurious and empty.
Secondly the documents are not confidential to the Supreme Council of
the OTO. I deny any suggestion that I break my OTO oaths of secrecy by
selling these items. The oaths of secrecy of the Order are simple and
straight forward. In a ritual one undertakes to keep secret what one is
about to be told and experience. One contracts to receive certain stated
penalties if one breaks these oaths.(1) I consider these oaths to cover
the initiation ritual one experiences, and that which derives from
membership of the OTO associated with it, such as study guides,
correspondence, identity of other members etc.
The oaths do not cover texts, books and information about the OTO in the
public domain (2) which I have received from non-OTO sources. Members of
the Supreme Council may wish that this material does not exist, but the
reality of the Universe is that it does. They may wish that the
initiation oaths prevent me from selling them (as every other specialist
occult bookdealer of note also does, though without interference from
the OTO). However the reality is that the oaths do not, as they refer to
that which one learns "within the guarded border" of the OTO. Crowley
never envisaged that so much information about the OTO would be so
readily available from non-OTO sources. It is meaningless to speculate
what his response might have been aside from noting that the oaths as
written by him take no account whatsoever of this material. Surprisingly
the oaths as rewritten by Hymenaeus Beta do not either! In the past some
members of the Supreme Council have suggested that they do by proposing
convoluted pseudo-legal implications to the oaths, presumably present in
the ritual as some form of inaudible small print. I am pleased to reject
these as spurious confusions of what is in fact clear. The oaths mean
what they say.
I would note that the position taken by members of the Supreme Council
leads them to the absurd pretence that information available to any
serious student is their secret. Yet more absurd is that they claim item
No. 5344 to be their secret and that I have betrayed it when I have only
given a broad description and they do not even know what it says! This
secret is for the purchaser, as the present owner and myself are
prepared to enter into confidentiality agreements.
Bill Heidrick suggests:-
As an OTO member, notably also one holding the VIIth degree, your
sales descriptions on those IVth & VIIth degree would be an oath
violation in itself. It amounts to saying: "that's it".
No. I compare both items to publicly accessible versions of the ritual
NOT to that which I have experienced through my membership of the Order.
If my identification of Liber CCXXVIII De Natura Deorum to be a VIIth
degree sex magick instruction is grounds for suspension I demand the
same be done to Hymenaeus Beta. On page 482 of Magick, Weiser 1997 he
identifies De Natura Deorum as " A secret instruction of the VIIth
Heidrick also suggests that:-
As a bookseller, you are in violation of copyright by marketing
Koenig's copyright violations.
I would note that a plethora of books are published in violation of the
Caliphate OTO's copyright claims. The titles are far too many to mention
here, but include important Thelemic texts such as the Auto-Hagiography,
Magical Record of the Beast 666, Rites of Eleusis, the Fish, White
Stains, Giants Thumb etc. The Caliphate OTO should pursue its copyright
claims with publishers and the other claimants of the copyrights in
courts of law rather than hassle one particular secondhand bookseller
for selling secondhand copies of books issued by publishers that do not
recognise the Caliphate OTO's claims to copyrights.(3) I would observe
that no other bookdealer is so treated. It can be arranged for an
independent judge in a court of law to decide whether the copyright
claims of the Supreme Council are legitimate, and, if so, whether I
infringe them by selling secondhand books. However, rather than do this
they choose instead to expel me from the OTO which is irrelevant to the
purpose of establishing their claims.
It should be noted that I have been advised that the Supreme Council's
proposed actions appear to be unlawful under British law as an "unfair
restraint of trade".
It might be suggested that my oaths of obedience would prevent me from
selling such items against the wishes of the head of the Order. I would
note that when I took the crucial oaths, being then as written by
Crowley, they were different to those applied now. Furthermore, these
issues have been debated before and on that occasion Hymenaeus Beta
explicitly refrained from instructing me thus.
It might be asserted that regardless of oaths, copyright issues etc. it
is simply inappropriate for a member of the OTO to sell items that
contain certain information about the OTO. This is untrue. I have been
selling copies of Francis King (Ed.), Secret Rituals of the OTO, for ten
years. During this time I have received advancement in the Order and
performed numerous initiations. I explained to candidates the true
situation - that with some scholarship, familiarity of the library
system etc. they can obtain substantial information concerning the
Order's rituals etc. However, I would advise them that prior knowledge
of the ritual might lessen the psychodramatic effect. Properly informed
candidates, as sensible adults, were well able to make their own
decisions as to whether to seek out these texts. I made no secret
whatsoever of the fact that I was so selling the book Secret Rituals.
Indeed I was pleased to send Hymenaeus Beta a copy of a catalogue which
clearly listed it. He was kind enough to promote the catalogue in the
pages of the OTO journal the Magickal Link. I was pleased to supply the
Order archives with photocopies of a number of other items listed in the
catalogue. How things have changed!
I suggest that the Supreme Council, by making a false allegation and by
its inability to respect a principled and reasonable position, has
brought itself and the OTO into disrepute in this matter.
I have heard it suggested that certain items should have been offered
for sale discreetly, not advertised publicly and that my intention was
to embarrass the Supreme Council. Nothing could be further from the
truth. I would point out that this was a collection that the owner
wanted to see fully catalogued as a permanent record and then sold. He
specifically instructed me to allow no sneak previews. The reason for
this was to circumvent the informal arrangements between interested
parties that are so often made in advance when significant items come up
to auction. There was no desire to embarrass anyone.
It has been suggested that this conflict is an inevitable result of the
position taken by the Supreme Council. Material concerning the OTO is in
the public domain. The reason for this is that there was a break in the
continuity of the Order. Prominent members such as Frater Achad, Frank
Bennett, Lady Frieda Harris and Crowley himself entrusted their OTO
texts to non-OTO members, such as Gerald Yorke, rather than an OTO that
did not really exist. These texts were passed on to other non-members,
lodged in libraries and published. It need not have been so, but part of
the role of members of the Supreme Council has come to be the denial
that this break in the continuity of the Order ever occurred. The
existence of the public domain books and documents are testament that it
did. Rather than accept the reality of the situation they attack me,
the messenger, for presenting these texts that are now outside the
parameters of the Order and its oaths.
It should be noted that there is more to this matter than may initially
meet the eye. The members of the Supreme Council are well aware that the
owner of these items is himself a publisher of Crowley books who does
not recognise their claims to copyrights. He is closely associated with
John Symonds who has rival claims to control the copyrights which have
never been legally challenged by the Caliphate OTO. Now the three
members of the Supreme Council of the OTO claim that I have violated its
copyrights and that I am selling "our confidential documents" but avoids
seeking redress in a court of law where these issues could be
independently judged and that judgment enforced. Instead it prepares to
expel me, which resolves nothing. I suggest that the members of the
Supreme Council are partisan in these matters. I have no confidence in
their ability to independently and fairly judge the allegation made
against me. They have consistently avoided the arenas where the claims
upon which they base the allegation against me might be independently
judged and resolved. Instead the choose to enact a process where they
are both prosecution and judge. I supect that they wqould have prefered
if no one but themselves had heard my defence. I feel my expulsion is a
In summary I robustly deny the allegation made by the Supreme Council of
the OTO that I am "offering for sale our confidential documents":-
The documents do not belong to the Supreme Council.
They are outside the parameter of OTO confidences (the oaths of secrecy)
as I received them from non-OTO sources.
The allegation that I have broken my oaths in my identification of
certain items is spurious unless the head of the OTO is likewise
suspended and expelled.
The criticism that I am in breach of copyright by selling secondhand
books published by companies that do not recognise the Caliphate OTO's
copyright claims is ludicrous as no other secondhand bookdealer is so
hassled. This is a matter for the OTO to pursue in court with publishers
and other claimants of the Crowley copyrights - not secondhand
The allegation should be withdrawn, and my membership should be
Love is the law, love under will.
(1) Personally I do not interpret these penalties literally, but rather
see them as allegorical descriptions relating to karmic consequences
upon the subtle body. They are no less serious for that. Certainly they
are not of the nature that they can be meted out by the members of the
(2) I use the term public domain here and hereafter to mean obtainable
by members of the public from published books available on the open
market (new and secondhand), published books available through public
libraries, manuscripts in research libraries available to students and
private scholars, manuscripts and photocopies held by private
individuals who are not members of the OTO etc. I do not use it here in
the sense that there are no copyright claims made upon this material.
(3) Concerning my catalogue description of Order No.2073 How to make
your own McOTO I should note that Peter Koenig has denied that this work
was suppressed by Caliphate legal action. He states that he does
remember that there was a short exchange of solicitors letters a year
after it came out in which Hymenaeus Beta sought, and did not receive
recognition of his copyright claims. The book was out of print anyway,
at this time.
PO BOX 5349,
Tel. 07071 880742, +44 7071 880742 from overseas
Fax. 0870 0552982, +44 870 0552982 from overseas
Web page http://www.io.com/~albion/caduceus/
Date: Mon, 31 May 1999
From: Ben Fernee
Subject: OTO Expulsion update
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Thank you for your response concerning my suspension from the Caliphate
I wish to announce that Secretary General of the OTO, Soror Helena, sent
me a letter dated 20th May telling me my membership of the OTO has been
terminated. The reason for this is that the International Caliphate OTO
administration took issue with what books and documents I have offered
for sale. My defence is available from me on request by email.
I would like to make it clear that I am not in the least ashamed or
embarrassed about this, as I consider this action an error born of
Many will be aware that the initiations of the OTO involve oaths of
secrecy. Candidates undertake to keep secret that which you are about to
experience and learn in the ritual. This I have done. I take these oaths
to cover also knowledge, correspondence, documents etc which one may
acquire through one's membership of the Order. These too I have kept
secret, and will continue to do so.
I utterly reject the suggestion by the Caliphate administration that I
broke my oaths of secrecy by selling published books that may contain
information concerning the OTO, or documents that have been in
private collections for decades before the Caliphate was founded and
have long been the legal property of non-members. Any such items I
receive from non-OTO sources, they were not supplied to me under the
seal of the Order, they are not covered by my oaths.
The oaths are crystal clear. If you do break your oath of secrecy you
will suffer certain stated penalties. These are direful attacks upon
ones body, described as the physical body but generally taken as
referring to karmic consequences upon the subtle psycho-sexual body. The
oaths allow for no other penalties. Clearly these penalties are not of
the nature that they can be imposed by any committee or individual. The
Caliphate administration's belief that it can judge me in these matters
is an ill-founded arrogance.
Many will also be aware that there are also oaths of obedience. These
cover only OTO business, not what books I sell in my private business. I
would note that Hymenaeus Beta has explicitly not invoked these oaths in
I reject their argument that I should not sell secondhand copies of
certain books because were published in defiance of the copyright claims
of the Caliphate OTO administration. Indeed two of the editions in
question were published prior to any copyright claims by the Caliphate
administration and were never challenged by them! Many Crowley titles
are issued by publishers that do not recognise the copyright claims of
the Caliphate OTO. It is ludicrous to expect a secondhand book seller to
avoid selling such titles.
In my defence (available from me by email on request) I stated my
position concerning these matters. I would like to take this opportunity
to thank the scores of people, both from outside and inside the
Caliphate OTO, and those from Minerval to IXth degree, who have sent me
messages of support. I find that others can easily understand and
appreciate my position. It has been brought to my attention that
prominent past members have approached their oaths in the same way as I.
I quote from OTO Newsletter Vol.II No.1, an article by Hymenaeus Alpha,
Grady McMurtry. It discusses the book Secret Rituals of the OTO., Ed.
Francis King, Weiser 1973 US & C.W.Daniel 1973 UK:-
"When you take an Initiatory degree, you take oaths not to reveal
certain information that has been passed on to you. Ordinarily I could
not discuss this. However I can quote from a book that has been
Hence the founder of the form of the OTO operated by the Caliphate
administration made the same distinction that I do between information
acquired through my membership of the OTO and that received from non-OTO
sources. He quotes from the book, I sell it. Our oaths are the same, and
we have not broken them.
For many the OTO is something other than a club with a membership
committee that can exclude those it considers out of favour. If the
initiations mean anything they cannot be undone thus. I am still bound
by my oaths. I will continue to support in their chosen path the many
friends & customers who wish to work the initiations offered by the
Caliphate OTO administration.
Finally I would like to unequivocally state that I will never sell or
otherwise pass on any document acquired through my membership of the
Order. This would be an anathema to me. I will continue to offer for
sale any item that is not covered by my oaths of secrecy which my
customers consider to be of interest.
With my regards
Love is the law, love under will.
PO BOX 5349,
Tel. 07071 880742, +44 7071 880742 from overseas
Fax. 0870 0552982, +44 870 0552982 from overseas
Web pages http://www.io.com/~albion/caduceus/
Private premises, visitors very welcome by appointment, please get in contact
for address & directions.
'Caliphate' Inquisition and the Ordo Templi Orientis Foundation