Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis
The OTO After Crowley

Michael Staley

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 on me.

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 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.

The whole position is well summarised in the following extracts from a letter to Grant dated 18 January 1952:

... 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 ...
... 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 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.

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 necessary.

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* O.T.O. ...

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 today:

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 e.v.
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 True Order.
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 [Remark 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

with permission:
STARFIRE  I,2, 1987
BCM Starfire
London WC1N 3XX
Starfire - Magazine of the Typhonian Order - 1-2

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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