Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis
The OTO After Crowley
An occult magazine published recently in England carried what purported
to be a flow-chart, showing the descent of the Ordo Templi Orientis
from its foundation by Kellner down to the present day. The
flow-chart is in fact a highly contentious piece of work circulated by
the so-called Caliphate O.T.O., the group formerly led by Grady
McMurtry and now operating from New York. It comes as no surprise,
therefore, to see that the main line of succession to the position of
Outer Head of the Order (O.H.O.) passes from Crowley to Germer, and
thence to McMurtry. Thus, the Caliphate group presents itself as the
mainstream O.T.O., the direct and legitimate successors to Crowley; and
all other groupings as at best mere offshoots from the main stem, at
worst frauds and pretenders. Its sounds fairly straightforward. The
trouble is, however, that the claim is simply untrue. The more that it
is examined, the more shallow it becomes.
This article has in fact been prompted by the latest appearance of the
flow-chart. It could - and perhaps should - have been written years
ago. In essence, it seems a waste of time to have to argue about the
past, when what really matters is the present task of developing
Thelema and radiating the 93 Current. Some people and organisations
seem to see Crowley, Thelema and the O.T.O. as glamorous museum pieces,
fixed in perpetuity, to be preserved and cherished here and hereafter.
According to this notion, the structure of the Order is sacrosanct,
bequeathed to us by the Great Man himself. Thus they admit of no
development, no innovation, no change. In short, Thelema becomes a cult
of Crowley, and his personality a prime focus. Nothing could be more
laughable, more pitiable, than such a notion. It is surely a grotesque
distortion of Thelema, and a negation of all that Crowley strove for.
Things are in a constant state of flux and flow, unless they are dead.
Of course if people hide from change, it is often because they are
scared of the challenge of thinking afresh, of innovation. A finished,
fixed system is much easier to deal with than one that is constantly
changing, constantly evoking.
Crowley succeeded Reuss as O.H.O. in 1922 [Remark by P.R. Koenig:
Reuss got rid of Crowley in 1921]. However, the reins of
leadership passed by no means easily or smoothly. Many of the existing
lodges in Germany, and no doubt elsewhere, had had strong reservations
about Crowley for years. Simply, many of them went their own ways, and
thus the Order was to some extent splintered. Crowley undertook a
certain amount of reorganisation of the Order, but he retained its
masonic or quasi-masonic structure, with its apparatus of fees, secret
signs, passwords, ritual conferring of grades, etc. Something of a
doctrinal Thelemic influence seems to have been infused into the grade
rituals, and the degrees appear to have been reorganised to some
extent, but the structural masonic influence is clear. A glimpse of
this type of stucture can be gained from the Blue Equinox.
The masonic influence is not altogether surprising. During the closing
years of the last century and the opening years of this, when the
modern "occult revival" is deemed to have gathered impetus, many of the
occult groups seem to have sprung from masonic or quasi-masonic
organisations. Many of the founders of these groups were themselves
Freemasons, and they carried over with them the preoccupations with
charters, grades, secret passwords, grips and the like. Any structure
of grades is - or should be - purely functional and pragmatic, a means
of orderly progress through a course of work. They should never be seen
as assessments or statements of "spiritual status"; and if people are
going to be prey to such misconceptions, then it might be better to
have no grades at all.
Crowley was to some extent a product of the old,
patriarchal Aeon, and seems to have been unable to get away from the
idea of such old-Aeon structures. This is perhaps demonstrated by his
limited remodelling of the Order after he took over the leadership.
Despite Crowley's ambitions throughout the years, he died in 1947
without nominating a clear magical heir or successor. During the last
few years of his life, his trusted lieutenant was Karl Germer. Crowley
appears to have inducted Germer straight into the IX* of the Order, and
the latter had no acquaintance with the earlier grades that a more
orthodox progression through the structure would have given him. Germer
was the Grand Treasurer General, and the financial burden of directing
the affairs of the Order seems to haven fallen largely on his
shoulders. It is curious that, although Crowley came to see Germer as
being his successor, he did not take the trouble to train him for the
position, nor even establish whether Germer himself felt up to the
task. When Crowley died, he left behind a very confused state of
affairs. Although it was his wish that Germer succeed him, Germer felt
that he was not equal to the task, and declined to become O.H.O. Thus
he remained as Grand Treasurer General, fulfilling the role of curator
of an Order that was effectively dormant. In the years following
Crowley's death the Order was rudderless and in disarray. Some lodges
went their own ways, and others just withered.
This picture of the Order following Crowley's death can be
substantiated. Kenneth Grant was a member of the Sovereign Sanctuary of
the Order, and corresponded with Germer on Order affairs. This
correspondence is voluminous, and is of particular interest for the
light that it sheds on these matters. In particular, it substantiates
the position that Germer refused the office of O.H.O. Indeed, far from
claiming the office, he took every opportunity of disavowing it.
In a letter to Grant dated 24 September 1948, Germer advises him that
... You should study all that is published about the Constitution etc
of the O.T.O. and digest it. You would have known that I am not the
O.H.O. I do not know whether I would accept the job if it were pressed
It is clear from the above extract that the job had not been pressed
upon him, and that he woule feel reluctant to be "drafted" into the
position. In a subsequent letter to Grant, dated, 25 May 1951, he
expands upon this:
... In the first place, do not refer to me as your superior in the
Order. That is only true in an extremely limited sense. What I appear
to be in the O.T.O. has been thrust upon me, against my will. I will do
what I can; but I shall refuse to make claims that go against my grain.
I am strictly speaking the Grand Treasurer General of the O.T.O. No
more, no less! The whole situation shouts for somebody who has the will
and the guts and the capacity to grow into supreme leadership. If he
comes along he will have my full support. But I, personally, am not
going to sail under false pretences. I have told everybody that I never
learnt Rituals, never saw them performed; nor the Mass: in short, I
have no feeling for Order-organisation.
Gemer went on reiterating this point - that he was not the O.H.O., did
not wish to be, and felt himself inadequate for the task. More
interestingly, however, he began to see Grant as a potential O.H.O. The
following passages are extracted from a letter to Grant dated 18
The whole position is well summarised in the following extracts from a
letter to Grant dated 18 January 1952:
... As you know, I never went through the O.T.O. grades; I don't know
ritual, or the rituals. But A.C. made me Grand Treasurer General with
the financial burden mostly on my personal shoulders ...
... I have never gone systematically through the grades, etc. I,
therefore, cannot advise on this side of the work. I have come to the
conviction that you are being trained for just this, and I am sure that
you have the passion, the capacity for intensive work, and the Will to
reach Mastery in this department or field.
... Nor am I against the O.T.O. system, or the system of Degrees. Only,
paradoxically, I have very little interest in it. I wish someone could
take the whole work, and the responsibility for the burden which A.C.
laid on my incompetent shoulders, off me! What I hate more than
anything is to sail under false pretences. I repeat what I've said
before: I have never gone through an O.T.O. initiation or graduation;
I've never been present at a Gnostic Mass performance ... I do not know
the password, grips etc. of even the lower degrees of the O.T.O.
Briefly: A.C. appointed me to the highest grade and responsability
without coaching me for the job. If we want to get the O.T.O. properly
going again, we need a competent leader, not only for England but for
the world. It must be somebody who knows the thing inside out; who has
a goal, not only for a period of his own life-span, but beyond that. I
have often thought that you might well be chosen for the job ...
It is clear from these extracts that Germer did not consider himself to
be O.H.O., and it is surprising - given his repeated disavowals - that
he has come generally to be seen as such. In his role as caretaker he
worked well and devotedly, issuing several of Crowley's works
posthumously - for instance, Liber Aleph and Magick Without
Tears. Certainly, he administered the affairs of the Order, and
fullfilled a custodial role in the years following Crowley's death.
However, he was not the O.H.O.
... You ask me: what is going on elsewhere concerning the O.T.O.
There is no active Lodge, as such in the U.S.A., of the O.T.O. What
is done is by old members individually.
It is at this point that the claims of the Caliphate group break down.
It is their contention, as instanced by the flow-chart earlier referred
to, that McMurtry succeeded Germer as O.H.O. Quite how this could
possibly have been the case, when Germer was on his own admission not
of this position himself, is not at all clear.
After all, if Germer had reiterated this point in his correspondence
with Grant, he must surely have mentioned it to others as well. It is
difficult to imagine that McMurtry and his colleagues were not aware of
the true state of affairs - in particular of Germer's position in the
Order. And yet, this group continues to base its claims upon a line of
transmission of headship from Crowley to Germer to McMurtry. To
illustrate this, the following is an extract from a letter from their
Grand Treasurer General to an English enquirer, dated 22nd July 1984:
... From the 1920's Aleister Crowley became the Outer Head of the Order
(O.H.O.); and he is responsible for the present form of the Order.
Since that time, the Order has been headed in turn by Fr. Saturnus
(Karl Germer) and, after the demise of Fr. Saturnus, by Fr. Hymenaeus
Alpha, Caliph (Grady McMurtry). We hold papers of direct and unroken
continuity in the direction of O.T.O. from the hand of Aleister Crowley
to the present head of the Order ...
Before proceeding further, it would be profitable to shed some light on
the position of McMurtry, and on the nature of the "papers of direct
an unbroken continuity in the direction of O.T.O." A brief
consideration of events during the last few years of Crowley's life is
During the 1940's, Crowley became increasingly disillusioned with the
Agape Lodge of the O.T.O., situated in California. He regarded its
leadership as being increasingly erratic and inane, and eventually came
to see the whole Lodge as a lost cause. An interesting account of this
episode is given in chapter 9 of Kenneth Grant's The Magical
Revival, and Crowley's growing frustration with the Lodge is clear.
Eventually, he came to the conclusion that a fresh start was needed.
Consequently in 1946 he issued McMurtry with written authority to take
charge of the work of the Order in California. Following this, he was
also appointed as an official representative of the Order in the United
States of America generally. McMurtry's authority, given in the form of
two documents, was however quite limited, being subject to the approval
of Germer, himself resident in the States. The first, dated 22 March
1946, states that
... This is to authorize Frater Hymenaeus Alpha (Capt. Grady L.
McMurtry) to take charge of the whole work of the Order in California,
to reform the Organisazion in pursuance of his report of Jan 25, '46
e.v. subject to the approval of Frater Saturnus (Karl J. Germer). This
authorization is to be used only in emergency ...
Following this a second document was issued, dated 11 April 1946, and
the body of it is as follows:
... These presents are to appoint Frater Hymenaeus Alpha - Grady Louis
McMurtry IX* O.T.O. - as Our representative in the United States of
America, and his authority is to be considered as Ours, subject to the
approval, revision, or veto of Our Viceroy Karl Johannes Germer IX*
As can be seen from these extracts, the documents hardly constitute the
"direct and unbroken authority" that has been claimed. This
shortfall would not, of course, be of any importance, were it not for
the fact that the Caliphate group places so much store by the
documents. Interestingly, Germer has already been quoted as saying, in
the course of his letter to Grant of 18th January 1952, that there was
no active Lodge in the United States. This was written some six years
after the authority from Crowley was issued, and thus makes it clear
that McMurtry and his colleagues were not seen particularly active.
One of the chief banes of occultism is the addiction to paper
credentials, authorisations, charters and the like, which it is felt
lend some sort of spiritual weight, exaltation or glamour to the
recipient organisation. However, the proof of the pudding is surely in
the eating, and the yardstick for assessing any group can only be its
creativity and vitality. Another bane is that of harking back to a
supposed sort of Golden Era, in this case an imaginary homogeneous
O.T.O. in Crowley's time. Now, anyone who has taken so much as a
cursory glance at the history of occult orders must feel almost
sea-sick from the flux and flow exhibited. Like minor political
groupings, there is a succession of schisms and regroupings, alliances
and splinterings. Things never seem to stand still. When we speak of
"the O.T.O." from which descent is claimed, what do we mean? Crowley
was a controversial figure, and when he became O.H.O. many Lodges
simply went their own ways rather than yield to his authority. Might
they not have claimed some justification, to be the "genuine
O.T.O."? It must be clear, therefore, that "by their fruits
shall ye know them".
With this in mind, the following is extracted from "An Official
Statement Concerning the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.)". It was
originally published in Mezla in 1977, and is still relevant
Certain individuals have questioned the authority of the O.T.O., as
re-organised by Kenneth Grant in accordance with the evolution of the
93 Current transmitted by Aleister Crowley from Shaitan-Aiwass in 1904
The vitality of a magical current may be assessed by its products. It
should be evident to all but the voluntarily blind, therefore, that the
various shoots of the original O.T.O. - bar one - have, by this
criterion, proved themselves virtually impotent.
Readers should consider the fact that all books on Crowley that
appeared prior the Grant's Typhonian Trilogy reveal an almost total
ignorance on the part of their authors as to the three major concerns
of the Book of the Law. We refer to: 1) the importance of
extra-terrestrial influences and the necessity for establishing proper
contact with them through the magick of the New Aeon; 2) the mode of
their invocation by magical means; 3) the science of the kalas
(psycho-sexual emanations of fully-polarized male-female organisms)
which lies at the heart of the Book of the Law and which is the
substratum of all its teachings and the key to the curious cyphers
(literary and numerical) which abound in its pages. In point of fact,
no books to this day - with the exception of Grant's - treat of the
most secret magick of the kalas and their use in the psycho-sexual
mysteries of the 93 Current.
Read Cammell, Hutin, Regardie, Symonds, et al. We repeat: no book
published before 1972 contains so much as an allusion to these matters.
Whilst Symonds was jeering at Crowley and his antics in The Great
Beast, and in various introductions to Crowley's posthumously
published works, Grant was pursuing researches that were to supply the
vital keys to an initiated understanding and direction of the 93
Current as transmitted through the Book of the Law.
In the previous issue of this newsletter, and in the introduction to
the new O.T.O. edition of Liber AL, Crowley himself has been
quoted in respect of the changes which he knew he would have to occur
if the O.T.O. were to survive as a fully functioning vehicle of the 93
Current. It was Grant who ultimately effected these changes. But in
tearing down the old and rigid system of graded advancement - which
depended mainly on fees and favours - he called down upon himself an
avalanche or protest from those who were in a position to profit
materially from the obsolete system.
Karl J. Germer, having proved himself blind to the implication of
Crowley's letter to him, failed to understand and accept them when -
soon after Crowley's death - Grant submitted his plans for change. The
remainded of the story has passed into "magical" history. But at that
moment, precisely, the 93 Current surpassed Germer and he was no longer
in a position to make decisions affecting the Order, which then came
completely under the direction of Kenneth Grant. The division is
precise and final and the choice lies with you.
It remains to remind those who support the old-aeon concept of the
O.T.O., that they have not produced - nor can they ever produce - the
slightest evidence of a creative current in any of its forms, such as
is evidenced by the one here represented, which is therefore the Only
Consequently if, instead of wasting valuable time and energy in denying
its living reality, such individuals were to strive to understand what
the 93 Current actually can mean for themselves and for humanity at
large, they may reach a stage when these words will seem superfluous.
To this end they should aquaint themselves very thoroughly, very
profoundly, with Grant's Typhonian Trilogy, for no where else in
published form have the genuine and ultimate formulae of practical
occultism been made so fully available ...
It is a charge often repeated, as if to illegitimise "Grant's O.T.O.",
that Grant was expelled from the Order by Germer. The extracts already
quoted from correspondence between the two make it clear that, in
the earlier years at least, relations were cordial and that Germer had
a high opinion of Grant. In later years, however, there was dissension
between them, and Germer issued documents which purported to expel
Grant from the Order. Due to the situation prevalent at the time,
however, and Germer not being - on his own admission - the O.H.O., the
supposed expulsion must be considered invalid. More to the point,
though, it is surely irrelevant, as this article demonstrates.
It was the publication of Crowley's Confessions in 1969 that
stimulated much of the current interest in Crowley and his work; and it
was on the cover to this volume that Grant first laid claim publicly to
the office of O.H.O. For years following Crowley's death the Order was
without direction, in disarray, and barely alive in the Outer
by P.R. Koenig: this is historically not correct. See my English Introduction to
the OTO History]. In
the circumstances, it was in all probability Grant's assumption of the
position that saved the Order from disappearance into oblivion. Since
then he has proved beyong doubt, by virtue of his creative development
and enhancement of Crowley's work, his worthiness for that position.
© Michael Staley
STARFIRE I,2, 1987 |
London WC1N 3XX
A lot of above mentioned documents can be found as facsimiles in
Peter-Robert Koenig's Materialien zum OTO
The History of the "Caliphate": Song
of the Whitewash: Mysteria Mystica Maxima
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