O.T.O. in Canada
A bookstore, "Cover to Uncover" opened by Liza *** on Stanley St / Montréal in 1973. The original aim of the store was to publish Aleister Crowley manuscripts and sell books. The unfortunate reality was, at that time most people could not afford to buy their books so Liza*** and her partner Michael thought it better to turn into more of a library/tea house. Liza was very pregnant at that time. Their son "Kephra" was born in December 1973. They left Montréal a year after to South America and lived in the Jungle of the Amazon.
Once upon a time Canada was considered to be the 'Caliphate' O.T.O's "most rapidly gorwing [sic] province" (IX° William Heidrick to Donna Anne Parks, 13 March, 1982). The first 'Caliphate' body was founded in Montréal in 1981 with some fifty members; it was called 'Phoenix Lodge', and William Breeze (the current 'Caliph') was its first Lodgemaster. By the end of the 1980s, as well as Phoenix, there was an Oasis ('Starry Wisdom'), and two Camps in the suburbs of Montréal: one in Laval ('Camp of Our Lady Nuit') and one in Sainte Jovite ('Wytchwood Hill'). [see the corrections and the map to this paragraph]
On 20 June 1981 Breeze became Grady Louis McMurtry's [Hymenaeus Alpha] "personal envoy ... International Coordinator ... opening diplomatic relations with such branches of O.T.O. as exist abroad" and acted "as the Caliph's personal representative ... for the Dominion of Canada".
Phoenix's first Treasurer was Robert Deumié. As he owned the 'Café Thélème' in Montréal, he became Phoenix's fifth Lodgemaster, as well as being appointed president of the firm 'O.T.O., Inc.', and the "Caliph's personal representative" after William Breeze was elected 'Caliph'. The Café Thélème was occasionally used for 'Caliphate' meetings during the 1980s, although a large number of initiations and advancements were done separately in one batch by the 'Caliph' and an initiatory team especially imported from New York.
Deumié was expelled from the 'Caliphate' for supposedly revealing some of their secret signs and rituals in a French-language film which was shown on television in Québec. Shortly before Deumié's expulsion, David Poole (who was at that time Phoenix Lodge treasurer) opened what he called "The Templar Centre" in Montréal. A group of people — not all of them c.O.T.O. members — had clubbed together to rent space in the basement of a building on Ontario Street, a short distance east of the Café Thélème; here the O.T.O. set up a temple and library, as well as partitioning off some office-space, and installing bathroom and shower facilities.
Yet after only a short time in these apparently ideal surroundings, the c.O.T.O. moved its meetings to the back of the 'Metamorphoses' occult bookshop on Crescent Street, which was owned by Serge Lebel, who had been a Thelemite since circa 1981. Initiations were now performed at Poole's house out in Laval.
After another few months, the group was on the move again: this time, they rented some space at the 'St. Marc Memphis-Misraim Centre' on Notre-Dame Street to do their initiations. After a couple of years at this address, the fringe-Masons of Memphis-Misraim asked the c.O.T.O. to quit their premises; this was after the news of the Solar Temple mass-suicide broke. The name of the Solar Temple in French — Ordre du Temple Solaire — and particularly its initials "O.T.S." — were just too close to "O.T.O." for Memphis-Misraim's comfort.
[After publication of the names of the locations, further research cleared up some misunderstandings.]
It has been claimed that it was Alan Stewart (Starry Wisdom Oasis Master, Phoenix Lodge Secretary, and Breeze's friend until he was expelled) who was almost single-handedly responsible for the demise of the 'Caliphate' in Canada, due to his appalling behaviour which upset and terrified so many people.
The 'Caliphate' was legally incorporated as a commercial corporation in the provinces of Québec and Ontario in 1981; curiously, they never tried to register with the Federal authorities in Canada — nor was there ever an effective Canadian X°. The Québec corporation was wound up on May 4th 2001, having failed to fulfil its legal obligation to file company returns for two years running.
Generally speaking, the 'Caliphate' is now defunct in Canada, although a few groups still maintain a tenuous existence on the Internet. A number of otherwise inactive members in Montréal decided that they were Wiccan High Priests in the 1980s, and became very active Wiccans from 1992 onwards.
EditorialA collection of correspondence has been gathered over the last couple of years which casts a very different light on the 'Caliphate' O.T.O.'s early history from the impression that group gives in its 'official' histories, and reveals details of its activities in a country hitherto largely neglected: Canada.
Research to this article started in 1999. Eventually, the material was edited by Bryony Murds in late 2001 and published in March 2002. Additional editing was done in January and June 2003.
Editorial interpolations and expansions are given in square brackets. Spelling and punctuation of originals have been silently corrected.
Bryony Murds: "These people posing for a group photograph outside a Montréal café on June 14th, 1981 don't look very unusual. Could they be a group from a university? Some of the older figures could be academics still dreaming of the revolutionary sixties, while the younger ones look like they might be students. But the café behind them has an unusual name: 'Café Thélème', or 'Café Thelema' in English; and it was put to unusual uses, containing a magical temple in its basement at one stage. The picture is actually a rare record of some of the prime movers in the Canadian 'Caliphate' Ordo Templi Orientis, (or COTO for short). Among them are such figures as the first 'Caliph', Grady McMurtry, and his successor and present head of the 'Caliphate', William Breeze, as well as a number of other early Canadian O.T.O. luminaries."
The source who contributed the photograph tried to identify the people in it:
"1. Grady is very noticeable standing just to the right of the café sign. 2. Directly below him, almost hidden is Jim Wasserman, dark hair, bearded. 3. The black woman to the left of the sign is Jim's wife, Waletta (or Walitta?). 4. Behind her is François Cartier. 5. To Grady's left standing, pregnant woman in long red dress, and bearded gentleman in grey t-shirt, these are the Ripples, Michael and Michelle. 6. Bill Breeze is kneeling, far left between the gentlemen wearing the red and blue shirts. Bill has a white shirt, dark sun glasses."
Another correspondent recognised some more faces: "The person way in the back, who is 'framed' by the doorway, seems to be Peter Cohen. The person who is standing a little in front to the right of McMurtry (high white forehead, glasses, and a scruffy beard) is Michael Hoirch alias Frater 'Ani La Ani'. The woman to the right of him, with long dark hair and glasses, who seems to be holding a baby (though I can't account for the baby) seems to be a woman named [S*** V***] (don't know her last name). [S*** V***] and Peter Cohen were Hoirch's roommates at one time, perhaps then. The woman who is the second, kneeling from the right, looks very much like Gail Thompson, who died last year [2000?] in fact. In those days she called herself Kateri. She was very much into magick, but never O.T.O. Robert Deumié, the café's owner, is kneeling, wearing a brown vest, left knee touching the ground, third from the left. The first guy on the left, squatting/kneeling, right up front, may be Michel Verdun. Don't recognise any of the others. There is one next to Deumié who might be 'Bishop' Robert Latullippe, but I am really not sure. I can only say he would probably look like that when much younger and plumper (he is very thin and ascetic looking now, like a Dominican priest; he doesn't smile either, like the guy in the photo). Latulippe would dress that way; he always favours black and white, no jeans ever. And often a little tasteful upside-down crucifix somewhere on himself. How do you get to be Bishop when you weren't ever a priest? I guess Grady McMurtry knew how!"
And yet another correspondent: "I recognise a couple of people. In the centre is Robert Deumié & Robert Latulippe, behind them to the right I see Peter Cohen, to the left of Deumié wearing glasses could be Alan Stewart; he doesn't look healthy though. Behind him to the right wearing red could be Rob Davis [Larry Mintz]. In the back with grey beard seems to be Hymenaeus Alpha [McMurtry]."
Robert Latulippe also recognized some of the people. Read his memories in Part V.
Alexander Duncan in November 2011: "I am the standing figure on the right in the white suit. I discovered Aleister Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice on Christmas day, 1967 or 1968, and studied his works continuously before contacting Dr. Iscrael Regardie by mail in or about 1973. Dr. Regardie was very friendly and we exchanged a number of letters before he referred me to the Caliphate O.T.O. for initiation. He also invited me to visit him at his home and put me in touch with various people. I also corresponded with Phyllis Seckler I believe while she was still married to L.G. McMurtry. Ms. Seckler, who wrote to me in her official O.T.O. capacity, struck me as a rather creepy and hostile, fundamentalist type and a person of limited creativity and intelligence. I also corresponded briefly with Kenneth Grant, and a member of a purported A.·. A.·. group who at that time was studying quantum physics and has since published a major biography on Crowley. About 1980 (I forget the exact year) I met with the Caliphate in Montreal and was initiated into the 0 degree I think, along with my friend, A.G. I was moreover approached by several of Mr. McMurtry's lieutenants and invited to organize a chapter of the O.T.O. in Toronto, presumably with his approval. Pursuant to this goal I contacted a number of people in Toronto. We held classes for a short time at Glendon College, York University and one actual initiation as well. People involved included:
I was never at any time expelled from the order so technically I am still a member I suppose, or possibly expelled in absentia.
My main raison d'etre for seeking initiation with them was to formulate a magical link with Crowley himself, through McMurtry."
Alexander Duncan is now the proprietor of Eonic Press and a practising Buddhist.
We shall be meeting many of these characters in the stories that follow.
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More about all this in: Andreas Huettl and Peter-R. Koenig: Satan — Jünger, Jäger und Justiz