Ordo Templi Orientis — English FA<br><br><b>Q:</b> Aleister Crowley, Theodor Reuss — Early Years And Development

The Ordo Templi Orientis Phenomenon

Ordo Templi Orientis
Early Years
And Development

by Peter-R. Koenig

The Ordo Templi Orientis Phenomenon — Theodor Reuss to Aleister Crowley — Charter 1912

Question: What are freemasonic degrees and do they have any special meaning?

Answer: Freemasonry is a loose league of organisations, consisting of Lodges, (which are the various local meeting-places for Masons), and Rites (which are different kinds of initiation rituals); these are more or less closely associated with what is called a Grand (or Mother) Lodge. Freemasonry was originally seen as a sort of self-development society for its members. This process takes place through a series of Degrees or initiatory stages, which are given in an individual lodge. There are several Rites or systems of Degrees, consisting variously of ten, thirty-three, or sometimes as many as ninety-seven degrees. But the most common system is called Craft Masonry (or Symbolic or Blue Masonry in the USA); this consists of three degrees, called Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master. Beyond this, there extends a ladder of various 'Higher Degrees' or Rites to which a Master Mason may proceed if he wishes, such as Royal Arch Masonry, Mark Masonry, Rose Croix Masonry, etc. The degrees a Mason possesses will refer to his degree of Masonic knowledge, or how long he has been a Mason, or else his position in the hierarchy of his lodge. Some of the degrees are conferred by means of a ritual; others exist only on paper in the form of certificates or diplomas.

Q: Can degrees be bought to establish lodges or rites in a particular country?

A: Occasionally, yes. Potential Masons naturally want to belong to an authentic Rite or lodge. This authenticity is called 'regularity' within Freemasonry, and refers to permission to form a lodge or use a Rite, by means of charters, successions, constitutions, and the like. To be accepted today as 'regular', one needs the explicit permission of a 'regular' Grand Lodge, the highest authority here being the United Grand Lodge in England, which has associations with other national Grand Lodges. But things weren't always like this; until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, there were over seventy so-called 'High Degree' systems which all claimed to be continuations or extensions of regular Craft Masonry. Despite having something like four hundred different names for their degrees, there was practically no difference between all these systems. Although most of these 'irregular' Rites soon disappeared or became regularised, some persisted, and turned to selling permission to use their degrees to the highest bidder; they rather resembled the trade in bogus academic qualifications, or doubtful aristocratic titles.

Q: Do these degrees and rites have a deeper meaning?

A: In regular Masonry, for some of those who proceed to the higher degrees, the answer is probably yes, however superficial the degrees can seem to outsiders; but to the ordinary Craft Mason, it is likely that Masonry is little more than an exclusive social club. But for the initiates of many irregular or pseudo-Masonic rites, the matter is anything but superficial, however much this inner meaning may vary from rite to rite. In the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) for instance, the line of succession of the leadership is vitally important, as it is believed that the leader is the repository of the Order's magical power, and also has a claim on various copyrights and royalties. One recently-founded O.T.O. group in the USA (the so-called 'Caliphate', which started in 1977) receives royalties from every single pack of the Aleister Crowley 'Thoth' Tarot that is sold.

Q: Who was John Yarker?

A: Born in Manchester in 1833, Yarker began as a regular Mason, but after disagreements with the English Grand Lodge, he became one of the irregular Masonic degree-merchants, eventually selling permissions to work the 'Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite' (AASR), and the 'Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim' (MM) for as much as he could get; these rites had originated in 18th-century France, and had been largely defunct until Yarker started promoting them. Yarker died in 1913.

Q: And who was Theodor Reuss?

A: Reuss (1855-1923) was an Anglo-German irregular Mason who introduced Yarker's AASR and MM into Germany in 1902, as part of an ongoing trade in charters and permissions. On the basis of his new charters, Reuss immediately dreamt up several new pseudo-Masonic Orders all of his own, none of which were very successful. But by 1906 he came up with the idea of the O.T.O., completing his invention by 1912; it was a mish-mash of Craft Masonry, AASR, MM and the sexual mysticism of Tantra. Reuss also devised a modern-day 'Order of Illuminati', and several Rosicrucian bodies, but he could never seem to keep them separate, either in his own mind or elsewhere. In fact, his collection of Orders was in a constant confusing state of flux, they all seemed to be interwoven and linked; their names changed from one month to the next, while some of their members belonged to several Reussian Orders, while others didn't. Regular Masonry rejects all Reuss's Orders, especially the O.T.O., because Reuss accepted women as members, which is impossible in traditional Freemasonry.

Q: What kind of magazine was Reuss's 'Oriflamme'?

A: The 'Oriflamme' was published between 1902 and 1914, and was initially intended as the journal of two of his many inventions, the 'Swedenborg Rite' and an order of Rosicrucians. When these met with little success, it became the magazine for members of the AASR and MM, but by 1912 it was mainly devoted to the O.T.O., though very few editions were published up to 1914. On a cursory reading, the 'Oriflamme' looks much like any other club's newsletter: internal business like statutes, nominations, minutes, history and official announcements, but all expressed in pompous language — even though it contains coded hints which only his membership could have understood.

Q: Reuss introduced the AASR and MM into Germany. Were these regarded as 'regular' rites?

A: Reuss produced several different lists of all the degrees in these two rites, and therefore they had varying duties and privileges exercised by him in Germany. In fact, regularity was largely in the eye of the beholder then, as some Masons accepted MM as regular, while other most certainly didn't. In Switzerland there are three Masonic lodges which started life as MM foundations, but which have long since adapted their rituals to a regular pattern, and dispensed with all the MM higher degrees; and there are examples elsewhere in Europe — all highly respectable bodies, despite their doubtful origins. Of course, none of these had anything to do with the O.T.O., except by the tenuous association through Reuss.
To some of his contemporaries, Reuss was nothing more than a fraudster; he introduced irregular rites to Germany without telling those that joined them that they were irregular, or saying what the precise names and aims were of his rag-bag of Orders. Not surprisingly, a lot of members left — and this may be one explanation for his founding the O.T.O. — as an umbrella-organisation for several high-degree systems. The fact that this Order with his uniform buttons, pathetic and grandiloquent titles and envy for religious aristocracy was turned into a fairground tent where a 'Caliph' and his 'Scarlet Whore' tell fortunes with a set of Tarot cards would certainly have met Aleister Crowley's mentality of sanctimonious sheepishness. Today, the O.T.O. is usually equated with Crowley; but this is historically inaccurate, and a good reason for analysing the complex history of the O.T.O.'s development.

Carl Kellner

Q: Who was Carl Kellner?

A: The best thing is to quote from his entry in the "Österreichische Biographische Lexikon 1815-1950": "KELLNER, Karl [sic]. Chemist and industrialist, born Vienna 1.9.1851; died Vienna 7.6.1905. Studied in Vienna and Paris. While working at a private laboratory in Vienna, at the age of 22 he had already made certain crucial observations; after his entry into Baron Hector von Ritter-Zahony's factory (at Podgora, near Görz) in 1876, these findings eventuated in the Ritter-Kellner Sulphite-Cellulose process, which was soon in use in many paper-mills... (Electro-chemical bleaching processes)... The Castner-Kellner Alkali Company built in England what was then the largest plant for chlor-alkaline electrolysis in the world... Kellner occupied himself with technical inventions... among which were discoveries in spun fibres, electrical lighting, photography, synthetic gem-stones, etc." (Volume III, Graz-Köln 1965, p. 290).

Q: What sort of Masonic activities did he start in Europe?

A: According to both Reuss and Franz Hartmann, Kellner was initiated into the 'Humanitas' lodge at Neuhäusl (?Neudörfl) in 1873, a lodge which been founded on 9 March 1871 under the constitution of the Grand Lodge of Hungary. It was the first and most prestigious of the so-called 'Border Lodges' founded just over the border in Hungary, to avoid the official Austrian ban on Freemasonry. After this, Kellner became inactive in regular Masonry, transferring his energies to the higher degrees as represented by the AASR and MM. Kellner knew Yarker personally, because Kellner was part-owner of a factory in Manchester (where Yarker lived). We can only speculate as to why Kellner was interested in the AASR and MM; perhaps he was looking for a way to recruit members for his own private Hatha Yoga group. As Reuss had the rights to these rites in the German-speaking world (Kellner once told him: "You could have had a perfect Bismarckian career as a diplomat") Kellner subsidised him with cash to organise several Masonic bodies for him. Mention of several of Kellner's AASR and MM degrees may be found in Reuss's 'Oriflamme'. In December 1902 in London John Yarker appointed Kellner to the 96° of MM, and "Sovereign Honorary General Grandmaster... of our Order". On 27 December 1903 Kellner was made 33°, 90° and 96° for both England and Germany. In 1904 he became "Special Representative" of the MM for America but by this time he was already seriously ill. Kellner's name never appeared in an O.T.O. context while he was alive, nor is there any extant document or other firm evidence that proves the existence of a body like the O.T.O. during Kellners lifetime - only "oral history" among his surviving descendants.
In fact, the O.T.O. only came into being at least six months after Kellner's death; in the issue of the 'Oriflamme' dated 1905, which contains an obituary of Kellner, all his Masonic degrees are listed — but there are no O.T.O. ones. Incidentally, Kellner most certainly had no contact with Rudolf Steiner, either.

After 1905: Theodor Reuss

Q: Why did Reuss turn out to be something of an outsider, and why after Kellner's death did several of Reuss's followers sue him?

A: Like Aleister Crowley, Reuss spent some time in the courts. At a meeting of the Swedenborg Rite's Grand Lodge held on 2 September 1902, attended by a small number of Reuss's co-founders of the Rite, it was recorded that Leopold "Engel and Miller refuse to give their charters back to the lodge. An objection to the lawsuit has been lodged. However, the withdrawal will be made public in the 'Oriflamme'." After this, several members left the Order of Illuminati, that Reuss had founded with Engel; as mentioned previously, Reuss was always very vague about his Orders, and most of the membership had the impression of belonging to several of these groups at once. So there was uncertainty if resigning from one of the Orders meant that you had automatically left all the others as well. At all events, having lost his source of income from membership fees and subscriptions after the resignations, Reuss was forced to take out a private loan to pay for printing the 'Oriflamme'. He was then reduced to paying off his other debts by selling the highest MM degrees for a suitable price. Reuss confused the private loan with a loan to the lodge, and therefore had a suit filed against him two months after Kellner's death.
It came out that Reuss's activities in establishing other lodges, and publishing the 'Oriflamme' had been done without the permission of the Swedenborg Rite's "Mother Lodge and Temple of the Holy Grail" in Berlin; and were thus deemed to be purely private enterprises on Reuss's part. Finally, the confusion was resolved: Reuss's MM had nothing to do with Reuss's other orders, although he was still chief of them all.

Q: After this trial did he continue as the representative for the MM in Germany?

A: Of course. Only Yarker could have withdrawn Reuss's 'powers'. Obviously there was a high turnover of members while Reuss was in charge, but this is no different to many modern O.T.O. groups. Reuss consistently tried to forge links with other Orders, or to found new Orders of his own.

Q: How do you interpret Yarker's permission dated 24 June 1905 for Reuss et alii to work from 1° to 33°, as well as 90° and 95°?

A: Yarker gave Reuss permission to work these degrees ceremonially; which meant he could initiate new candidates and establish new German lodges with the right to work these degrees. In other words, there was a sense of crisis in the air, and Reuss needed a new public relations tool.
At about this time it probably occurred to Reuss that he could recruit a number of AASR and MM members as potential candidates for yet another new Order — what would later become the O.T.O., although it didn't have a proper name as yet. He did sometimes talk of the "Oriental Freemasons" or the "Order of Old Templar Freemasons" (both expressions also used in an AASR context). The Rite of Memphis itself had the alternate titles of the "Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry", or the "Oriental Order of Memphis". It could be that Kellner and Reuss had already discussed a new name for a possible "Academia Masonica". For myself, I believe that Reuss was simply being an opportunist, and was trying to find which name would lure the most new members into his schemes. But when he founded the "Order of Oriental Templars" (certainly not before 1906, although he said in 1914 that already in 1905 there was a metal plaque by the front door of his house showing the name "Ordo Templi Orientis") there were more confusions leering around the corner.

Q: Who belonged to which of Reuss' orders? Wasn't the Rite of Memphis already called the "Oriental Templars"? How were they linked? Was a member of the O.T.O. automatically a member of MM?

A: Between 1906 and 1913 (when Yarker died) the O.T.O. was undoubtedly quite distinct from all other Reuss Orders, otherwise Crowley couldn't have been made head of the O.T.O. in Britain when Yarker was chief of MM for the same country. When Reuss spoke of "Our Order" it was still utterly uncertain which Order he meant. But it is nonsense to assume that the O.T.O. was at this time a sort of pot-pourri of bits taken from the AASR, MM, the Illuminati Order, regular Masonry, the Gnostic Catholic Church, the Rosicrucians, the Golden Dawn, and so on and so forth. The multiple schisms and court-cases show conclusively to my mind that on occasion there were more different Orders under Reuss than he had actual members. As Reuss's new baby, the O.T.O. was something Reuss wanted to promote as his most sublime idea yet.

Q: What about the rumours of Reuss's indecent behaviour?

A: The worst he seems to have done was Tantra-like exercises, possibly done without much on. In his scheme for a "Mystic Anatomy" Reuss said that the W.O.M.B. was a store-house of Prana, or magical power; as early as 1893 he was promoting this as a method of healing.
According to his very personal interpretation of Yoga, Kellner enumerated several traditional schools of practice. A major role was played by the nerve fibres (Nadis) and ten different kinds of breathing (Vayus). The ancient Indian names for the ten Vayus are: Prana (in the heart), Apana (near the anus), Sama (near the navel), Udana (in the throat), Vyana (the whole body), Napa (in the genitals), Kurma (opens the eyelids), Krikara (causes sneezing), Devadatta (causes yawning) and Dhananjay (floats through the physical body).
Reuss's version of 'sex-magic' was focussed on the sixth Vayu Napa — which he placed in the "reproductive organs" in an article published in 1912. During a complicated exercise, he advised concentrating the thoughts to raise the reproductive energies from the genitals to the solar plexus, storing them there by an effort of will for "transmutation purposes"; this was all done by correct breathing. In the end, the "Great Unity" would occur, bringing with it clairvoyance, and experiencing everything seen in the fullest consciousness possible. This was what Reuss called "white sex magic".
In 1906, Reuss was accused of perpetrating a "homosexual assault"; one of his followers promptly leapt to his defence, defending his Hatha Yoga teachings against such deliberately "indecent" accusations. Reuss had to defend himself in person after another of his disgruntled ex-members A.P. Eberhardt recalled certain events that had taken place at Munich in Bavaria during 1903, in his book "Winkellogen Deutschlands" (English: On German Irregular Lodges) which appeared at Leipzig in 1914.
It was also Eberhardt's considered opinion that during his long MM-membership under Reuss he never heard anything about a supposed O.T.O., which (according Eberhardt) emerged only in 1912. After Reuss' death in 1923, the "Masonic Journal of Vienna" published an article in 1926, which claimed that Reuss's indecency had in fact been a "mutual touching of the phalli" and that Reuss was eventually expelled by the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA). In 1936, the rabidly anti-Semitic Nazi paper the "Judenkenner" revived the rumours of indecent behaviour. Possibly the 'genital oath' from Genesis 24:9 played a part in this: "So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter." It was also mentioned in Casanova's "Memoirs" as an "oath of the Rosicrucians".

The founding of the Ordo Templi Orientis

Q: You have written that the first English foundation is dated 22 January 1906, and the first German one took place on 21 June 1906. What are your sources?

A: I can't have expressed myself very clearly. These aren't founding dates as such, but the dates found in the corresponding constitutions; the exact founding-dates have yet to be verified. So the sources are the dates written in these published constitutions. Of course, we could argue till the cows come home as to just what's meant by 'founding'. It's quite possible that in 1906 the O.T.O. only existed on Reuss's stationery; certainly the expression "Order of Oriental Templars" can be found on the stationery Reuss used for the edict he sent to Rudolf Steiner in 1907 — which, of course, doesn't make Steiner a member of the O.T.O., either!

Q: Why did the O.T.O.'s constitution only become generally known in 1912 — or were those two constitutions back-dated?

A: That's a question that nobody can really answer. Maybe Reuss waited until after Hartmann died in 1912 before starting to write about the O.T.O. in the autumn of that year. With Hartmann out of the way, there was no other high-ranking MM member left in the German-speaking world who could have interfered. Things could have been like that in 1906; Reuss had had to hold his fire until after Kellner's death in 1905 before founding his own Order, the O.T.O. (if it was really the case that there were genuine 1906 constitutions, and not back-dated ones). On the other hand, Kellner might have been planning a cover-organisation from which to recruit wealthy people for his Hatha Yoga group. And in retrospect Reuss published his claim that Kellner and Hartmann were founding members of the O.T.O. - although no proof exists.

Q: How was Reuss's group of Orders structured in 1905-06?

A: Kellner's 'Inner Triangle' (supposedly a European offshoot of the American 'Hermetic Brotherhood of Light') had already disintegrated by 1904, when Hartmann was busily distancing himself from both Reuss and the yogic activities of his friend Kellner. It should also be borne in mind that Reuss was not "au fait" with Kellner's ideas about Yoga. The latter's "Occult Circle" was quite different and distinct from all the other Orders around Reuss, Kellner and Hartmann, although it was possible to belong to both; but the "Occult Circle" or "Inner Triangle" were merely conventional names, and only had a rhetorical connotation, being linked to something else. Kellner's death also meant the death of the informal private group, even though its members were at his funeral.
Anyway, Hartmann had got rid of Reuss by 1904, which meant that Reuss had to use a rubber-stamp facsimile of Hartmann's signature for the charters he was issuing. Left to his tender mercies there were the Swedenborg Rite, the AASR, MM, the SRIA, Martinism and several completely mysterious knightly Orders; but it's still almost impossible to say where any of these started or ended, because Reuss constantly changed their names and structures as it took his fancy. It's possible to get a 'freeze-frame' picture of the state of play for October 1905: Kellner's "Inner Triangle" no longer existed; in Germany, Reuss was leading the "Sovereign Sanctuary" of the AASR (which was an old Scottish rite of Templar-Masonry), as well as the MM. But AASR and MM were autonomous bodies, and were kept strictly separate after August 1905. In January 1906 Reuss is alleged to have re-constituted the O.T.O. — at least on paper — from the "Hermetic Brotherhood of Light" (and not from the AASR or MM). Reuss was obviously referring to a different HBL than the one Kellner mentioned — several passages in rituals and texts hint broadly at certain "Asiatic Brothers of the Light" (and not to the MM). I doubt very much if the O.T.O. of this era consisted of more than one member — that being Reuss himself. On 24 July 1907 Reuss further separated the Rite of Memphis from that of Misraim; they too became autonomous bodies. Only in 1908 did Reuss re-constitute a Sovereign Grand Council of the MM in Germany, when he'd found enough suitable potential members in Paris. Reuss's activities in other organisations (Martinism, Illuminati, etc.) are no longer discernible by this time. In the various issues of the 'Oriflamme' up to 1912 only MM, the Swedenborg Rite, and the AASR are mentioned; there's not a trace of the O.T.O.. His O.T.O. rituals, if they do date from before 1912, are a crude mixture of rituals deriving from the Scottish Rite, the Rite of Cerneau, the Royal Arch, Rose Croix, Albert Pike and Laffon de Ladebat, and Memphis-Mizraim. For once Reuss clearly if clumsily committed himself: "The mere possession of these various Masonic degrees does not constitute a Member as an: O.T.O." In fact, he seems to have thought the reverse true: membership of the O.T.O. meant membership of the AASR, MM and the like, but membership of the MM was not equal with membership of the O.T.O.
After Hartmann's death in 1912, the O.T.O.'s structure was defined thus: the first three degrees were the equivalent of Craft Masonry; the IV° was a mutated version of the AASR; In the V° Hartmann's obscure 'Esoteric Rosicrucianism' was combined with the AASR's eleventh and eighteenth degrees; both the name and the lection for the VII° were taken from the fourth degree of the Fratres Lucis ('Knights of the True Light' or 'Order of the Asiatic Brethren', and therefore Reuss's and maybe Crowley's 'Hermetic Brotherhood of Light') although the VII° seems to have been only a purely administrative degree; and then real O.T.O. membership started at the VIII°; the IX° corresponded to the Illuminati Order, and the X° was Reuss himself. The sex-magic only entered Order teachings at the IX°.
In 1914, one year after Yarker's death, Crowley linked several of the AASR's and MM's degrees with some of the O.T.O. degrees. Take Steiner's degrees; his 30°, 67° and 89° don't fit into the O.T.O.-AASR-MM scheme, but should have been put between the VI° and VII° O.T.O.. Apart from that, the 33° AASR, 90° Memphis, 95° Misraim and X° O.T.O. are purely administrative degrees. In retrospect, Steiner never led a branch of MM, merely using the term 'Misraim Service' which came from a Misraim ritual. 'Mystica Aeterna' was a new term for 'Misraim Service' and an offshoot of neither MM nor O.T.O.
After 1917 the O.T.O. was meant to be an umbrella Order or a collection of other Orders with the authority to grant charters, permissions and degrees from these other Orders. (Today it has become a common delusion among some O.T.O. members that they automatically become regular Freemasons when joining the O.T.O.!) In 1917 Reuss changed the order structure again, redistributing the thirty-three degrees of the AASR among the first six O.T.O. degrees: so the VII° became identical with Craft Masonry, and again proper O.T.O. membership did not commence until the VIII°, which was now dubbed the 'Esoteric Rosicrucian' degree. Again, sex-magic was only imparted in the IX°.

English version: Synopsis of Degrees.
Traduction française: Synopsis des Degrés.

The Ordo Templi Orientis Phenomenon Hermetic Brotherhood of Light for tactical purposes

Theodor Reuss to Aleister Crowley, 1917

Rudolf Steiner

Q: Did Rudolf Steiner know about all this?

A: Although Steiner quoted in 1904 from a 1903 manifesto called "About Our Order" Kellner and Reuss, it is extremely unlikely that he knew either about the O.T.O. or sex-magic. This manifesto was against evoking spirits, and spiritualism in general, which also happened to be Steiner's view. Indeed in 1903 neither sex-magic nor the O.T.O. had been dreamt of; Kellner was still alive, and he was interested in Yoga rather than magic. Reuss himself only spoke once in print about "the divine act of procreation", and that was in the 'Oriflamme' in 1906, in August of which year Steiner broke with Reuss. "Sex-magic" as an expression appeared for the first time in the December 1906 'Oriflamme', and then not again until 1912 when the O.T.O. became Reuss's public front.

Q: On 27 March 1906, Reuss wrote a letter to Steiner appointing him as a 33° and a 95°. Did Steiner get these degrees earlier on 24 November 1905, or did Reuss simply appoint him through the post?

A: I assume the latter is true.

Q: In his letter to Sellin, Steiner expressed total disapproval of Reuss and ignorance of his activities. Is there any evidence or proof that Steiner — apart from his MM membership — ever had any contact with Reuss?

A: No.

Q: Why didn't Steiner try and stop Reuss throwing ridiculous dignities and titles at him?

A: I would guess that this was part of Steiner's policy of deliberately ignoring Reuss.

Q: What lies behind the story told by Alice Sprengel, that Steiner was supposed to have torn up the diploma that made him an O.T.O. member?

A: This becomes clear in the proper context. Alice Sprengel nursed hopes that Steiner would marry her; when he jilted her in 1915, she was disillusioned, and transferred her esoteric loyalties to Reuss. Frau Sprengel's relationship with Steiner is shown in her letters to him, which can be found in Volume 253 of Steiner's "Collected Works".

Q: What did Frau Sprengel do in the O.T.O.?

A: I refer you to my book "The O.T.O. Phenomenon", where the story is told in detail. Reuss gave her an authorisation to set up O.T.O. lodges, and made her a member of the O.T.O.'s "executive council of three" in 1921. The other two members of the "three" were also women, which presumably started tongues wagging in the moral climate of those days. After Reuss died in 1923, almost everyone in the O.T.O. was jockeying to become his heir, but nobody knew which of his various Orders could be passed on, or even if Reuss had named his successor. So far, not one document has been found which unambiguously states who Reuss's heir was, although there have been several claimants to the title. This has meant from that day to this that an endless round of plotting and scheming is part of every O.T.O.'s stock-in trade, in an effort to prove that they alone are the 'real' O.T.O.; something which started in the Swiss O.T.O. lodges Reuss had left behind. Before World War Two, Frau Sprengel's Swiss branch of the O.T.O. acted as a sort of 'exiles lodge' for occult refugees from all over Europe, such as the notorious founder of the German Fraternitas Saturni, Eugen Grosche. It is quite conceivable that two dozen years after her disappointment with Steiner, one sunny afternoon at her headquarters in the sunny southern Swiss canton of Ticino, Frau Sprengel (surrounded of course by her favourite followers) suddenly 'remembered' Steiner's supposed O.T.O. membership-certificate, which he had promptly torn to bits. She then took good care to write down the wording of this certificate from memory all those years later. As an old member of the O.T.O. with a high degree, it is possible that she confused Steiner's oath on joining the MM (dated 3 January 1906) with the longer candidate's oath of Reuss's subsequent MM-O.T.O., which she now shortened to "Alte und Primit. Ritus von M. u. M. O.T.O." (Ancient and Primit[ive] Rite of M[emphis] a[nd] M[israim O.T.O.). The abbreviations used are evidence that she could have had an O.T.O. certificate to hand when 'remembering' Steiner's supposed certificate — but also that she was in a hurry, because such documents never use abbreviations. Nor did Frau Sprengel's original note of what she recalled survive; only a copy of it which came into the hands of a certain Gundula Bader (later mixed up in Metzger's O.T.O.), who passed it on to one Emil Bock. By way of yet another intermediary called Erich Gabert, the copy eventually fetched up in the archives of Steiner's Anthropsophical Society at the 'Goethenæum', and was duly included in Steiner's immense "Collected Works", in Volume 265 on page 100. Therefore it can hardly be called a mysterious business at all.

Q: What was behind Reuss's announcement of a forthcoming book about 'Sex in Theosophy and Anthroposophy, with the original pledges of the leaders'?

A: I have to admit I haven't got the faintest idea.

Q: Was there ever personal or written contact between Aleister Crowley and Rudolf Steiner?

A: I doubt it. Crowley did dedicate a poem to Steiner in 1944, and mentioned him in a private letter dating from 1919 as being "in relation with the O.T.O.," but mocked him for spouting "a lot of drivel". This seems to mirror Crowley's wishful thinking. Today, a lot of O.T.O. followers still believe that Steiner was a Grand Master of the O.T.O.. But in its list of illustrious past Grand Masters, Crowley's O.T.O. Manifesto of 1912 also mentions Hermes, Dante, Ulrich von Hutten, Paracelsus, Goethe, Ludwig II., Richard Wagner, Nietzsche, amongst others — and if Crowley said it, these latter day O.T.O. members assume it must be true. Still, if Crowley felt Steiner spouted drivel, it would be safe to assume that if the two men had ever met that the feeling would have been mutual...

Crowley and the Ordo Templi Orientis

Of course, Kellner, Reuss and Crowley all practised their occultism in different ways, just as several new O.T.O. groups founded since the occult revival of the 1970's have taken different directions, with varying structures and customs. Until 1905, the private circle around Kellner used unexceptionable Yoga exercises, and practised meditation in the search for past lives; the symbolism used was mainly Theosophical, with Hindu and Chaldæan overtones. After Kellner's death Reuss used Hindu and Egyptian symbols and sexualised the broadly Masonic teachings of his new O.T.O. hierarchy; later Crowley tried to personify this symbolism in himself. Both Reuss and Crowley had ambitions to reform society at large: the sexual re-education of the masses would be the responsibility of "priest-doctors". As Reuss wrote in 1914: "If a youth is to mature, than he should complete his first coitus under the direction and instruction of the 'Matrona' [High Priestess] in a ritual manner and in the form of a 'Sacramental act'. In just the same way will the virgin be introduced by the Matrona to the mysteries of the sex-act in the Temple. As long as the virgin and youth live outside the lawfully prescribed state of marriage, they are bound to seek all gratification of desire within the Temple." Reuss went further; private property would be eliminated, forced labour and eugenics were to be introduced, while only physically perfect parents would be permitted to have children. The religion of the O.T.O. would become that of the State.
And in 1919, Crowley wrote that every non-member of the O.T.O. was to be treated like a savage.

Q: What changes did Crowley make in the O.T.O. in 1912?

A: Crowley was always short of money after he had squandered his inheritance, so he used his branch of the O.T.O. for cash, and for publishing his writings, which no other publisher would take on. Furthermore, the O.T.O. was the perfect means for the advancement of Crowley's own apocalyptic sex-magical Thelema. He rewrote some of Reuss's O.T.O. rituals in 1914, liberally sprinkling them with Thelemic words and concepts. But Reuss never used Crowley's rituals, nor did any of the other O.T.O. lodges then operating. As far as I know, Crowley never personally performed any of his own O.T.O. rituals either, apart from the sexual ones, which involved consuming semen and vaginal secretions, generally for a magical purpose — which in Crowley's case was usually to find more money. A candidate for the Crowleyan O.T.O. had to learn the text of the ritual by heart, and then on the prescribed night the initiation was supposed to take place in the candidate's dreams while they were asleep. In effect, Crowley altered his relatively small O.T.O. group into what would be called today a 'doctrinal group'; less politely expressed, he made it into a cult ruled tyrannically by him as a super-guru, prophet, antichrist, and world saviour, its members being financially and sexually dependent on him. It's hardly a matter of wonder that Reuss expelled him from the O.T.O. in 1921; as a direct result Crowley appointed himself Reuss's heir, on the assumption that he'd had a stroke. To this day, Crowleyan O.T.O.s repeat the tale of Reuss's stroke in their 'official' histories — yet there isn't the slightest evidence for it. Theoretically, Crowley's own original O.T.O. could be called a proto-fascist group, with its various elements, such as its rôle as a revolutionary movement (for this is how Thelema was described), its élitism, its personality cult of the leader in symbols and rituals, and its romantically irrational ethos.
Totalitarian aspects may be found in the desire for transcendence in Crowley's Thelemic religion. But modern O.T.O. groups, scattered as they are and riven by schisms, lack the necessary solidarity among their members to be truly called authoritarian, however much they wish to emulate Crowley. It's simple enough: in today's atmosphere of tough media scrutiny, totalitarian manipulation is hardly possible, even if some people try to sneak it past under an æsthetic disguise.

    Das Milieu des Templer Reichs — Die Sklaven Sollen Dienen. Hanns Heinz Ewers — Lanz von Liebenfels — Karl Germer — Arnoldo Krumm–Heller — Martha Kuentzel — Friedrich Lekve — Hermann Joseph Metzger — Christian Bouchet — Paolo Fogagnolo — James Wasserman. Unbequeme Aspekte in der Geschichte des O.T.O. und Thelema.

Strictly for the Birds?

Q: Can you give us some of the essential points about Reuss and Crowley's Gnostic background?

A: Reuss's Gnosticism tended towards a hedonistic Manichæanism, and the doctrines of the Ophites, mixed with a small amount of ill-digested Tantrism. Crowley's Thelema can hardly be counted as proper Tantrism, because Tantra demands complete openness, and the ability to let oneself go, while Thelema puts everything under the control of the Will.
In Manichæanism matter is seen as evil, the world a place of decay. Although many Manichæan scriptures enjoin asceticism (no meat, sex, or marriage), there are some that preach the opposite. It is a firmly held tenet in all Manichæan doctrine, however, that angels may copulate with spiritual rulers called Archons to lose their evil restrictions; through the unification of good with evil, souls are cleansed, and what remains over may be "given to all the species of the Earth".
Archons are the guardians of the universe, which is made up of layer upon layer like an onion in Manichæan doctrine. They have enslaved humanity, and one of their number, called the Demiurge, created our world. From the ancient Babylonians onwards, the Mayans, Homer, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Plato, and other philosophers and schools of thought were able to assert their own model of the universe without much fear of contradiction, that is until Copernicus published his "De revolutionibus orbium cælestium" in 1543 and effectively started modern astronomy and cosmology. From then on the Gnostic universe retreated inwards, while its proponents sometimes launched themselves into the extra-terrestrial.
The Ophitic serpent, which swallows its own tail, may be found emblazoned on the covers a number of Reuss's pamphlets; it is a symbol of a sexual union between God and Man, while in sex-magical terms it is the spermatozoon. Not all Gnostics are 'Spermo-Gnostics' but in the O.T.O. context, this is the main emphasis. Both sex-magic and spermo-Gnosis (be they ascetic or hedonistic) focus on sperm or semen as the axis of human-divine destiny. For sex-magicians semen symbolises the sun or the universe, in the same way that Crowley equated the shape of the glans penis with that of the brain.
In 1906 Clément de Saint-Marq published his "L'Eucharistie", which was essentially a sexual interpretation of the Mass. Reuss said that this text contained the central secret of the O.T.O., which was the union of man with God through consumption of semen — as allegedly taught by Jesus Christ! Sperm-eating as a specifically magical practice was subsequently attributed to the VIII° in Crowley's O.T.O.. The actual meaning of semen as the vehicle of the Gnostic Logos was revealed in the IX°, though there semen was mixed with vaginal fluids. But Crowley demoted the IX° to a magical degree, where the commingled sexual fluids were smeared on talismans and so forth to invoke spirits or achieve a result.
Reuss and Crowley used the O.T.O. as a fertile breeding-ground, turning it from a purely ritualistic concern into a hedonistic Gnostic body — though without mentioning their original sources; they conveniently forgot the many French researchers into Gnosticism, who published their researches around the turn of the century. Reuss and Crowley's O.T.O. Gnostic Mass collaboration of 1917 shows their form of Gnosticism very plainly. They only took part of the duties of the Manichæan 'Elect' into consideration — the Elect were meant to concentrate the sparks of divine light left behind in mankind when the 'Logos Spermatikos' returned to the 'Pleroma'; these sparks imprisoned in matter could be absorbed by consuming certain foods. They also neglected the ascetic aspects of Manichæanism (which enjoined avoiding physical activities which would tend to disperse the remaining divine sparks), instead concentrating on building up a brilliant 'Body of Light' (or Host) fitted for return to the Blessed Realm, the Pleroma. This Host was made of blood and semen, and sometimes vaginal fluids. Thus the IX° and the Gnostic Mass became parodies of the Christian Eucharist, with further refinements of techniques related to the consumption of the Elixir or Host, which they also called the 'Elixir of Life' or the 'Universal Medicine'.
Crowley had his own personal variations on this recipe. Between 1920 and 1923 he indulged in cocaine, ether and heroin, in coprophagy and sadomasochistic daydreams in which he was the slave. He wrote: "In my Mass the Host is of excrement [from his 'Scarlet Whores' as he called his lovers, male or female] that I can consume in awe and adoration; while I make my Holy Guardian Angel the latrine of my imagination" (diary entries dated 5 July and 13 August 1920). One can find all the outer forms of religious piety in algolagny: kneeling, prayer, adoration, scourging, sermonising, and punishment. Idealised rôle-play was lived out in discovering the perfect master or mistress and slave (Crowley), while his feelings of guilt could be transferred onto his environment, which is thereby tainted.
Those who tried to show tenderness to Crowley, or even loved him, were usually destroyed, because he could only truly love what was unattainable: his ideal, impersonal Scarlet Whore (who is one of the deities in the Thelemic pantheon, as well as a ritual office), the Scarlet Whore who rides upon him the self-appointed Beast; an image that may be seen on his 'Thoth' Tarot card design 'Lust'. Paradoxically, a form of self-denial is manifest in the Thelemic lifestyle as practised by Crowley: a numbing of the body by taking drugs and doing certain kinds of Yoga. The hedonist's secret feelings of inferiority will always tend to seek its justification on the borders of rationality; and so Crowley was ultimately forced to recognise the restrictions imposed by his original personal god, which was logic — and overcome his self-destructive tendencies, when he wished to control the ability to destroy rational thinking. If Crowley expressed his feelings of guilt through coprophagy, he also sought to bolster his self-esteem and find the refuge of certainty by passing harsh judgements on those he cold not influence, and serving out punishments to those people he could - his own followers. Beside his religious need to cede control to a higher being (i.e. his Holy Guardian Angel), he felt he was the emissary of a higher power (thus himself becoming an agent of manipulation), and yet openly sought the lethal injury of self-destruction through humiliation and identifying with the lowest of the low. The turds defecated by his Scarlet Whore purified Crowley the slave, and became religious trophies that gained him magical power.
Ultimately Crowley can be said to have failed, due to the disinclination of his Scarlet Whores to be 'correctly' sadistic. He tended to choose candidates with a weakness such as potential alcoholism, whose poor psychic defences could easily be broken down when higher entities entered them in magical ceremonies. Crowley soon tired of them, turned against them, and threw them away like a used tissue. Because of his need to be humiliated, he never got the unquestioning adoration that alone satisfied him. His Holy Guardian Angel became increasingly remote, and at the end of Crowley's life in 1947, vanished completely.

Coprophagy vs Poetry?

Result of an interesting discussion on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thelema93-l in 2005.
Diary entry of 26 July 1920. Crowley boasts to his Swiss Scarlet Whore Leah Hirsig while on cocaine that he is such a powerful priest and magician that he could transform excrements into his Eucharist Host. She calls his bluff (which, later in the entry he admits it was -- "I'm a Coward, and Liar. Leah-Alostrael — my Scarlet Woman — knew it.") So she tells him to go ahead and prove it by eating her shit. He finds himself unable to do so. She taunts him saying that he is no priest if he can't live up to his boast. So he complies. He complains "my mouth burned; my throat choked; my belly retched; my blood fled whither who knows, and my skin sweated.... My teeth grew rotten, my tongue ulcered; raw was my throat, spasm-torn my belly ..." Read his 'Leah Sublime':

           "Sprawl on me! Sit
           On my mouth, Leah, shit!
           Shit on me, slut
           Creamy the curds
           That drip from your gut!
           Greasy the turds!
           Dribble your dung
           On the tip of my tongue!"

This small extract does not give the full extent of Crowley's enjoyment with Coprophagy. Crowley also notes that Leah Hirsig enjoyed this kink as well ("worn whore that has chewed your own pile of manure" and "splutter out shit [...] turn to me, chew it with me, Leah").
There is also a urine fetish and a fetish with getting venereal diseases — that is, Crowley expresses a kink for disease, even including what seems to he Hirsig's bad oral hygiene or gingivitis, stating that her breath stinks and that he wants her to spit on him.
(Notes on obscure medical terms: "Gleet" is another name for gonorrhea. "Pox" — here short for "the French pox" — does not refer to viral pox diseases like smallpox or chicken pox, but is an old euphemism for any sexually transmitted disease. "Cheeses" refers to venereal yeast infection or to Trichomonas infection, or to both. "The itch" — also called "Cupid's Itch" in times past -- may refer variously to a venereal yeast infection, Trichomonas infection, ringworm of the pubes, or any more serious sexually transmitted disease.) The complete poem "Leah Sublime" is online at Ra-Hoor-Khuit Network's Magickal Library http://www.rahoorkhuit.net/library/crowley/sublime.html As I stated above: Crowley between 1920 and 1923 indulged in cocaine, ether and heroin, in coprophagy and sadomasochistic _DAYDRAMS_.
I didn't say it was a regular practice.


If there was ever a Gnostic inspiration for Reuss's O.T.O., it undoubtedly disappeared with Crowley's advent, with his "Magick" and self-idolising. Although there was supposed to be a "Sanctuary of the Gnosis" in Crowley's O.T.O. (it referred to the sex-magical degrees) there was very little proper Gnosis to be found there. The religious significance of semen as the vessel of the Logos was lost, because it was used in practical, magical ways that only had a mundane end in view.
'God-like' men like Crowley sought to control earthly beings through divine powers, but until Godhead was reached, he found stimulation in a ritual identification with the divine; and this was also the aim of Reuss's O.T.O.. But Crowley changed Reuss's copulation with God "under control of the Will" ("a sacramental act", "a mystical marriage with God", a communication with God) into becoming God oneself. As a magician, Crowley failed to immerse himself in the divine light, and only developed on a mundane level. He failed as a Gnostic to dissolve into the ascending light.
Reuss had nothing to add in a doctrinal sense to his final occult 'manifesto' "Parsifal and the Secret of the Graal Unveiled", which was published in 1914. His sexual reformation constrained itself within the O.T.O.. Compared to Reuss, Crowley's inner teachings always seemed cloaked in a welter of artful 'manly' posturing, sex-magic hurriedly performed in garrets and Turkish baths, and a restless movement between Cabbala, Yoga, Tarot and I-Ching as the mood took him. But occupying the foreground there was always Crowley himself, looming large and taking every chance that came along to annex existing ideas and organisations to his schemes. What's more, Crowley's own life proved to be the O.T.O.'s immense Achilles' heel; his world consisted of theoretical self-dissolution, strategies to disjoint personality, identity and action — all of which resulted in experiments on himself alone, and narcissistic idolising of himself alone.

The new O.T.O. in the USA.

Q: The tabloid press often repeats the story of Charles Manson's alleged contact with Jean Brayton's 'Solar Lodge of the O.T.O.'. The 'Caliphate' (the new American O.T.O. founded in 1977) often claims that Brayton's group was irregular in O.T.O. terms, but Phyllis Seckler, a protagonist in the founding of the 'Caliphate', has admitted that it was a genuine O.T.O. lodge. Do you agree with that?

A: Yes. To exaggerate for a moment, you might say that without Manson the 'Caliphate' would not even exist. During Crowley's lifetime there was only one active O.T.O. lodge in the USA, the so-called 'second' Agapé Lodge in California. One of its members Grady Louis McMurtry, received some special instructions from Crowley which stated that in "case of emergency" McMurtry was to take over this lodge, subject to the approval of Crowley's heir insofar as the O.T.O. went, a German called Karl Germer. Germer did not think much of McMurtry (calling him a "Minus" and saying that the US was a "spiritual desert"), and he closed Agapé Lodge on 7 September 1953; Germer now favoured H.J. Metzger from Switzerland as his own O.T.O. successor. With that, McMurtry completely lost interest in the O.T.O.
In the 1960's, a former member of Agapé Lodge called Mildred Burlingame "initiated" Jean Brayton with some of Crowley's O.T.O. rituals; Brayton's resultant group was something like a motherless satellite of a defunct lodge. Neither Burlingame nor McMurtry (who later decided he was interested in the O.T.O. after all) had permission either to initiate or found a new lodge of the O.T.O.; indeed it was (and presumably still is) explicitly forbidden in the O.T.O.'s statutes to initiate candidates or establish new lodges without a superior officer's permission.
When Charles Manson [possibly?] became involved with Jean Brayton's Solar Lodge, McMurtry informed on Brayton to the FBI to avoid the FBI investigating McMurtry himself. He also provided the journalist Ed Sanders with material about the affair — and in return Sanders made no mention of McMurtry in his book "The Family" about the Manson murders. Now McMurtry, together with his wife Phyllis Seckler founded a group called 'The Continuum', and started publishing Crowley material. The Continuum was the nucleus of the 'Caliphate' a new O.T.O. founded in 1977 for the purpose of receiving tax-free status as a religious body, and to benefit from the royalties generated by supposed Crowley copyrights worldwide. Unfortunately for the 'Caliphate', Crowley's Last Will and Testament did not mention McMurtry at all, but named the Englishman John Symonds as his "Literary Executor". Brayton's Solar Lodge of the O.T.O. existed before the 'Caliphate' did; now McMurtry somehow had to get rid of this unwanted competition, and fly in the face of the facts to proclaim himself as a self-appointed Head of the O.T.O., with worldwide supremacy. He founded a new Agapé Lodge, called it a Grand Lodge and embarked on a campaign of either silencing or activating other O.T.O. lodges or members — which of the two he did was dependant on their willingness to accept his authority. This was why he called Brayton's lodge "irregular", asserting that Mildred Burlingame's power to initiate had been invalid, but at the same time accepting as valid other ex-Agapé Lodge members who supported his claims — like his own wife. McMurtry not only ignored the claims of Mrs. Burlingame, but also those of Kenneth Grant, Marcelo Ramos Motta, and H.J. Metzger. A carefully-mounted propaganda campaign did the rest in upholding McMurtry's fantasies.
Either both Brayton's Solar Lodge and the 'Caliphate' are regular branches of the O.T.O. (that is, independent satellites of a defunct O.T.O. lodge dissolved in 1953), or neither are. Later, some of the powers-that-be inside the 'Caliphate' noticed that McMurtry had based his claims on a contradiction, and conceded belatedly that Mrs. Burlingame "performed limited O.T.O. activities" — though without specifying what these were.

Q: Do you get the impression that people mainly mean Crowley when they talk about the O.T.O.?

A: Indeed yes. All too often, "the" O.T.O. is meant when Crowley is mentioned, and vice-versa. After Reuss died in 1923, Crowley turned the O.T.O. into a company-like enterprise; one of his schemes was to sell the O.T.O.'s sex-magical 'Elixir of Life' - the mixture of semen and vaginal fluid — as a mass-market patent medicine called 'Amrita'. Crowley had high hopes for it, writing "It means shifting the Centre of Gravity of the Human Race!" in his diary on 6 August 1923.
Because they are a Crowleyan O.T.O., such stuff is bad news for the 'Caliphate's public image. Nevertheless, this group — which has recently started calling itself "O.T.O. International" — still tries to sell the 'Crowley product' to the masses.

Q: You have been highly critical of what you see as the 'Caliphate's philistinism and narrow-mindedness being in direct contradiction to their claims to expand people's consciousness. Do you think that their ambitions to become an organisation to be reckoned with are doomed to failure?

A: According to some unofficial statements made by the leaders of this group, its work consists mainly of publishing Crowley's writings: "[The] O.T.O. is just a club. A simple club. A wholly mundane thing. Its fate is in no sense tied into that of the Aeon itself..." — or so said James Eshelman on 8 April 1997. Eshelman was formerly the representative for the 'Caliph' (or chief) of the 'Caliphate', William Breeze, who succeeded McMurtry after the latter's death. And four days later on 12 April 1997, Mr. Eshelman had this to say on the 'Caliph's behalf: "...he is willing to sacrifice the spiritual development of the present generation [of members] (since it's impossible to reform the post-Grady [McMurtry] version of the Order anyway [Crowley's or Reuss's version of the O.T.O.?]) in order to lay the best foundation for the spiritual growth of humanity for the next couple of thousand years." And how will Mr. Breeze accomplish this miracle? Why, by selling exclusive (and pricy) 'Caliphate' editions of Crowley's books...

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.". See The Templar's Reich.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Grant's 'Typhonian' O.T.O. is one of the rare groups without a noticeable hierarchical power structure (apart from the way KG expels people), and is supposedly devoted to the creative aspects of Crowley's Thelema alone.


Copyright: December 1998, translation adapted by Mark Parry-Maddocks
Questions: Wolfgang Weirauch (Flensburger Hefte, fax (0461) 2 69 12 Germany)
Thomas Lueckewerth (Sigill, Postfach 160 142, D 01307 Dresden)

  • English version: O.T.O. — Early Years and Development.
  • Deutsche Version: Zur Geschichte des Ordo Templi Orientis.
  • Versione italiano: Ordo Templi Orientis — I primi anni e la sua evoluzione.
  • Traduction française: L’ancien O.T.O. et son évolution.
  • Traduccion castellano: O.T.O. — Original y su Desarrollo.

    Online facsimile documents regarding Reuss and Steiner
    Rudolf Steiner: Never A Member Of Any O.T.O.
    Material by Theodor Reuss
    Early documents with the expression "Ordo Templi Orientis" or "Order of Oriental Templars"...
    Material by Carl Kellner

    More about all this in: Andreas Huettl and Peter-R. Koenig: Satan — Jünger, Jäger und Justiz

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