Ordo Templi Orientis — Ecstatic Creation of Culture

Ordo Templi Orientis Phenomenon

Ecstatic Creation of Culture

by Peter-Robert Koenig






In this lecture I shall be concentrating on the following concepts:
  1. Aleister Crowley's magical religion as the basis of present day occultism.
  2. Euphoric trance-images.
  3. Cabbala as a verbal link between realities.
  4. Occultists associated with occult Orders, and 'free' occultists.
Ordo Templi Orientis Phenomenon, Ecstatic Creation of Culture, Criação Extática de Cultura, Ekstatische Erzeugung von Kultur


For certain occultists, reality is made cabbalistically transcendent by means of the euphoric image in the circumstances, and with the assistance, of sex. Is Herbert Marcuse's "Libido as the transcendental principle of solidarity experience" being realised in an occult underground culture?

Both the rational and the irrational may become united in an enlarged concept of consciousness, with an effect on human behaviour's orientation. Nonetheless, the question as to why and how these visionary experiences happen remains open. The one certainty is that 'something' is experienced on a definite but unknown level of consciousness. This lecture is not the place to discuss how dependent perceived realities are on consciousness (whether one postulates that consciousness is collective or not), or to debate the brain's rôle. So my theme is not the 'whys and wherefores' of visions (such as the possibility that they represent a fear of what is visible); it is the way that these visions exist, "what is this kind of occultism able to achieve in society?"

"The Holy Books" of the occult prophets, for example Aleister Crowley, are keys for his disciples to alter consciousness. Crowley's "inspired" writings burst forth from the cocoon as a "heavenly" shorthand, which can be applied with a wordlink/hyperlink (the cabbala as "virtual reality"). It is again symbolically decoded in order to be used for domestic magical and consciousness expanding needs. It is unimportant whether creativity is initiated through intercourse with the phenomena (like trance), or induced by the phenomena themselves. Imagination and interpretation testify to the real — the sacredness of images. Crowley's disciples call this the "magical succession": to build consciousness expansion upon the visions of others. The creativity released by the visions, and the writing down of visions themselves, give more reality to the experience, and make it more holy. This alchemy changes the writer, and the text itself begets a "magical child" — a world beyond to be shown here in this world. This achievement of visibility, that is rich in detail of the trance-image, is experimental; and angels of observation run together, jumping from here to there, combining sensuous fragments. The occultist does not appear to provide a well supported or unsplintered identity, compared with a traditional concept of personality.

The indefinable moment of the visions soon determines a new function of the eye: a "seeing" that extends to all that is known, until visual perception becomes more complex. A lack of definition of relevant experiences in exactitude (eg, the lack of an emphasis of a bearer of a symbol), which enables new comparisons to be made between signs and symbols; and maybe new codes and rethoric as a goal of new structures. Visions become extensions of man into a state of gnosis. Through the interpretation, an increase of reflection arises, which cannot be attributed to a particular author, and cannot be regulated by the chief of any particular order. Magical succession does not demand a constant repetition of a theatrical production (as in the case of organised occultism), but it is a metaphor for the continuity of the strategies of illumination.

As an organiser of images experienced in trance, the occultist reflects back to the archaic idea of creation by idealistic aesthetics. He suspends authorship in the materialistic sense (similar to the conceptions of Marcel Duchamps or Andy Warhol), whilst re-organising what has already been created through visions received in trance; and in this way "old" traditions are welded together into a new entirety.

Like surrealism, occultism tries to break the domination of rational philosophy and logic, stressed by Descartes. Occultism is based on the belief in a higher reality of certain forms of association through the cabbala, faith in the power of dream- and trance-images, and in the stream of words uncensored by the intellect. As many voices, colours and material as is possible, need to be perceived in the underground culture of the occultist. A euphoria of images and voices determines his identity and reflection. Like every Utopia, this one draws its power from envy for a world without limits, and unveils that primordial wish of man, on the one hand to be master of his own reality, and on the other to escape its chains. Gnosis demands the removal of structure from life itself.

The occultist strives after world dominion and ambivalently glides between destruction of the culture (through resistance to the ruling morality), and the preservation of the High- and Mass- cultures (as he requires their magical traditions). There exists no alternative to this totalitarian claim on the same level, or with the same claim to significance. This is why the occultist swings between transcendentally seeking cultural anticipation, and its counterpart, a hope for destruction of the existing culture.

Regarding Crowley's antidemocratic, racist and misanthropic writings, followers point out: "The reason [...] aspects of Thelema are omitted [in public discussion] indicates the actual problem with presenting Thelema as a religion and attempting to get Thelema sanctioned by the government or approved by the public: Thelema is ultimately in contrast to and transgressive of normative society. Thelema rejects the morals and values of normative society and acts to transgress and violate these norms. From the inclusion of intoxicants in ritual, to the positive view of sexuality, which frequently is seen as promoting promiscuity, to the pro–authoritarian and Nietzschian aspects of Thelema, normative society has much to reject in Thelema and conversely, Thelema encourages its adherents to reject most aspects of normative society."

The intoxication of aesthetic and/or libertine ecstasy, celebrates new cults. Comparisons can be made in occidental spiritual history (the cabbalistic encyclopedias of the Renaissance, and humanistic faith in the good of togetherness). "Who is actually speaking?" brings us to the question of the occult mechanisms of visions and voices. The subject must be kept separate from cultural questions, and is only really of concern for the legal branches of occult organisations. In the world of the "free" occultist (that is, those who are not bound to any order or secret society) everything is both equally important and insignificant. The subject has been set free from the gravity of its uniqueness and becomes a forum for influences of every kind. This blend and consistency determines the momentary state or condition of its subject. The mix is everything, and becomes a potentially infinite reservoir of signs. This deluge of voices and visions can be decoded by its receiver according to their particular kind. The occult utopia seeks the realisation of the existence of a worldwide web of unified sole individuals, and wishes to change society and culture more lastingly and comprehensively than the achievement of socialism. This network, a kind of occult internet, removes every geographical and social distance, and shows itself as a space free of legal borders despite resistance from single states or unities of governments, who want to exercise rule and effective control.

There are rather mechanisms imminent in the occult system which set a limit on the prosperity and effectiveness of occult culture:

Shall the recipient accept every vision and voice which he perceives in trance? Shall he voluntarily limit himself to a couple of selected "givers of impulse" (As occult organisations are); or shall he start a conscious programme of selection from the esoteric and occult supermarket which will be universally plundered and leave only a completely devalued treasury of total subjectivity?

The building of the development of culture is hindered by occult organisations (for example the several OTO-groups), because their totalitarian attitude to culture (as in every cultural society), consists of "repetitions" of rituals, signs, etc. with little original thought or practice. The individual is expected to "find themselves" in this cultural repetition, which hinders creativity. The supreme visionary, founder of meaning, maker of images, and source of actual occult streams is Aleister Crowley (allegedly, head of an OTO-group). His visionary blueprint is overshadowed by his deficient biography. Crowley died in 1947, and is now controlled by his alleged possessors of copyrights: that is, one OTO-group, this shows how the needs of lust and the wishes of the body are to be controlled. Particularly strongly, their mastering of body and consciousness is shown in their control of the euphoria of imaging through dogmatically fixed tables of values (eg: 729 = Baphomet), and through bringing sexuality as sexmagic in a form of ecstatic limitation. Sensuality becomes a theatre of war of culture creation. The conscious self-slavery (often controlled by the holder of copyright of occult doctrine), serves as a radical counter-blueprint to the mainstream-culture. Subjugation to the occult dogma is experienced as the realm of freedom — although the achieved dissolution of the ego turns out to be the product of an over-strong ego. The occultist understands himself as a rebel and a narcissus, who sets himself IN and BESIDES the predominant culture. His icon worship is not separated from a ban on images (eg in the rejection of Christianity): He understands himself as part of an elite,and as a reflecting psychopath, he endeavours to create himself anew. Even he tries to undergo again each stage of biological and familiar programming. Many occultists believe they can consciously change their genetic material. The body, especially the head, not only is metaphorically the seat of perception and thinking, but it is a factual nervous switchboard, transporting all in-coming information.

The intensitiy of his experience, is the sole quality in which the occultist is interested. Occult culture means the death of sequential, linear thought; an erosion of people's ability to plan and manage their own lives. The resulting lack of space, can serve as a metaphor for a loss of bearing, reference, and meaning. Hence, such extreme occult utopias fail: only a few seekers after cultures are ready and willing to break out of their mainstream culture. Therefore, most hard-core occultists remain stuck in their hope of salvation, and are swaying between relaxation beyong this world, and their indistinctness in this world, whether on the kitchen table or in the marriage bed. This is what they call Gnosis: and it is going to be regulated by hierarchical organisations, whose self-reflection turns out to be a critically immune self-reverentiality which narrows down the occult subculture and paralyses it. Even to the most reconcilable romantics, it is clear that occultism is no domain of the genuine, truthful and good.

This unreflected system of communication, serves everyone who is willing to use it. Therefore, occultism without contradiction, manifests itself in already existing structures (eg power orientated organisations, eg OTO), or installs itself in social-cultural niches of potentials of fear and aggression ("satanism", "secret societies"). Innumerable often competing organisations (eg OTO splinter groups) cannot establish a move into the promised land, or to the New Age; but retreat to the old values of power and consummation in a universe that has been delivered to cults of objects and religios artifacts. Certain conditions of being are defined as: biased analysis, moods as programmes, self-perception as cultural attainment, and pure imagination as relevation: are the new determinations. Dogmatisation infantilises the contents, those seeking for directness become enmeshed in a sacredised repertoire of rituals of self-dissolution, without effectively overcoming the ego. Today, in the circus of the images of the world, occultism is the continuation of fashions, of habits or mannerisms of how to display oneself, and of pseudo-originality. The cultural reality of the occultist makes a symbolic breakdown into signals of hierarchy. To experience, to record and to process, is reduced to already fixed images in a consciousness- dissolving way. The step from "finding" to "inventing" becomes methodically and mathematical, by being equipped with the help of the cabbala! The occultist acts as an archaic modeller at the boundary station of the entanglement between a visible and invisible world, where the unheard from the underground realm want to communicate themselves — and only find inflation of Gnosis and ego.

Therefore, the occultism I have described above achieves thus only a glance at the philosophical value of High culture, and gives a description of Mass culture.


© Peter-R. Koenig, August 1996/July 1998
Translated and adapted by Mark Parry-Maddocks

Tradução portuguesa: Criação Extática de Cultura
deutsche version: Ekstatische Erzeugung von Kultur, Version 2011

This article was also a speech delivered for C.E.S.N.U.R. at the University of Montréal in 1996

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