Ordo Templi Orientis Phenomenon
A Personal Account of Sexual Harassment
Papageno Strikes Back, But the Bitch is Alive
By Soror Bitshtar, 19 January, 2004
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
This article was written from the perspective of one female Thelemite. It was written within a specific framework which does not particularly evoke sympathy. I wrote this article because I believe that by doing so, I may encourage others who have been in a situation similar to mine to come forth. My aim here is to expose one personal scenario which exemplifies the misogynistic “rhetoric” inherent in the discourse and actions of the so-called “leaders” and “players” within the current O.T.O.
The objective here is not to attract attention to any particular “individual”, but rather to suggest that there is an inherent tendency toward a male superiority within the OTO and other such Masonic-type orders. This tendency cannot be examined as a an isolated entity, but needs to be briefly deconstructed from its historical antecedents.
The O.T.O claims to have derived some its “western” mysteries and teachings from the Masonry and the Order of the Templars. Both the Masonry as well as the Order of the Knights Templar had unquestionably significant impact during the Virgo-Pisces Era; both also, as many other institutions during the old Aeon, naturally adopted the policy of excluding women. The Order of the Knights Templar, for example, was only open to men. Wives of men who joined the Templar Order were expected to join other religious orders as nuns. Templars were forbidden to kiss their mothers, wives, sisters or any women. The Masonry, up until today, does not accept women into its ranks (although there are “reformed” masonry lodges which have “special chapters” for women, wives, and etc.)
Primitive human tribes beliefs in women’s “erratic” nature were based upon a fear of women’s menstruation, its relation to the cycles of the moon, and consequently, its powerful and destructive effect upon men. This primitive fear of woman led many tribes to isolate women from common tribal rituals. The perpetuation of this primitive belief was conveniently revived during the Virgo-Pisces era, when a woman’s nature was believed to be too erratic, changeable, and fickle to be relied upon, especially for trusting the most “guarded” secrets. This myth kept women from being accepted into secret societies which had began to sprang in Europe at around the time of Renascence.
Insofar as the O.T.O is concerned, from the days of Theodore Reuss’s to Crowley’s until today, we notice that very few efforts have been made to “dispel” this inherent myth. Instead of a progressive approach toward attaining the goal of merging the male-female element as proscribed in Liber AL, several operative O.T.O.’s continue to relegate women to secondary or “lesser” roles, thus, perpetuating the myths of misogyny and male superiority.
My own personal account reflects this unchanged attitude. As a disclaimer, I would like to state that any similarities, apparent “accusations” to individuals will be either a result of a self-identification, or mere coincidence.
Since the early days of the O.T.O., the position of women within the Order has been predominantly a passive one; the most glaring example of that is the role of the Priestess within the Gnostic Mass. Female names of Gnostic saints are stripped from the canon of the exclusively male Pantheon. (Though it is true that some Thelemic Outer Orders have attempted to revise this list to include female names. However, this does not seem to have yet become official or accepted.)
Crowley, insofar as several of his assertions regarding the female gender inform, lived up to the writing standards of his time. The language factor here is inclusive, as the reference to “man” as the universal being was and still is common and acceptable language usage. But some of Crowley’s own writings certainly are tainted with an inherent misogynistic view of the female gender and the superiority of the male formula over the female. These are also surprisingly representative of the historical and social circumstances under which Crowley was writing, and probably include the Freudian factor, that is, Crowley’s hatred of his own mother.
There are undoubtedly, one the one hand, magical reasons which are beyond my understanding that might have led Crowley to exclude the female element from one O.T.O. Grade (the XI* Degree, of course). There are however, historical antecedents of the O.T.O. which might have influenced Crowley to leave women excluded from grades, or their limited or passive collaboration within certain rituals, simply untouched. It is known to all that before his death, Crowley urged Germer of the many reforms that needed to take place within the O.T.O.
Ironically, within a social context, since the advent of the New Aeon, that is, within just about one hundred years, women have made unprecedented advances in human society (most glaringly in the West). These first hundred years of the New Aeon have witnessed the “breaking of the chains” that had kept women in slavery. As said in Liber AL, II, 45, “…I will fill her up with joy: with my force shall she see & strike at the worship of Nu: she shall achieve Hadit.”
Some might question, then, why women have not yet played a significant, primary role within Thelema? The misogynist might even argue in response to that that women are not ‘evolved” enough to understand Thelema, or that their reproductive apparatus renders them “inferior” due to the reproductive burden of their sexual organs, or due to their lack of a penis. But this simplistic mindset does not explain why some women willingly chose not to reproduce, or chose to “play” the role of the male, either through manifest homosexuality, socially or magically.
Young women who come into contact with Thelema today have to deal with several obstacles, namely: a lack of more specific data and anecdotal female initiatic experiences (including experiences relating to the IX* Grade, its operation, and its perspective from the female operator); the inherent sexism within Crowley’s writings; and, and most importantly, a certain “abuse” of power by certain males within the O.T.O. This abuse of power, appears to be in absolute contradiction with the tenet, “Every man and every woman is a star” which strikes a cord in the heart of every woman who comes into contact with Thelema. This abuse of power also indicates that the O.T.O is not exempt from the type of abuse that occurs within other mundane organizations. On the contrary, the OTO could provide a fertile ground for “insecure boys” or “sick old men.” These unfit individuals tend to overtly diminish the importance of females members within “their” chapters or lodges, or if their importance is at all acknowledged, it is often through their “objectification,” either through “initiatory” sex rituals, and other such “favors.”
It is a hard for a female Thelemite to admit to this, but there is nothing very impressive about the diaries of some of Crowley’s “Scarlet Women.” I have found, through the diaries that I have read, that they were very shallow, containing mostly accounts of what A.C. did during a certain period of time. At best, they related some attempts at practicing the VII* operation, but nothing is recorded with scientific consistency. Many times I have questioned whether SW’s statuses were given as “honorary” to these women while they were in service of the Order. Nevertheless, there are indeed several female Thelemites who have made a contribution to Thelema. Jane Wolfe is definitely one very important example, a woman who was not “feminine” looking enough to fit within the standards of a Lodge “goddess.” However, there aren’t enough documents circulating that speak of her experience as a female Thelemite that could assist many of us females who are in the Path.
Consequently, there is a pressing need to deconstruct the “myths” that have been created over time about the role of females within the O.T.O., if we are to attract more females into our hordes, especially intelligent ones! Sadly, this “myth” has been consistently reinforced by certain unscrupulous male members of the Order who have been given power too fast, without greater scrutiny, and have consequently abused it.
(Not to say that there aren’t enough Thelemic males who have understood and acknowledged through their writing, their work, and through the virtue of their initiatic influence, the importance of reforming the inherent sexism within the O.T.O. These men have had the courage to promote women, to empower female members by letting them play active key leadership roles within their Order.)
Having established the above as the framework to my own personal account, I would like to begin by telling you that I came into contact with Thelema when I was a college student at age 18. At that time, I became interested in joining the O.T.O.; one local fellow who was an O.T.O. member told me that the O.T.O. was only for men. He went into great lengths to explain the symbolic “representation” of the O.T.O. letters, their relationship with the phallic male genitalia, and blah, blah, blah. I was rather bored by his lecture, which seemed “restrictive”. However, I had to acquiesce with his “glass ceiling” policy until another contact would later surface.
Some years later, I came into contact with a certain O.T.O. member, who held a key authority post locally. This member was also known for his writings, many of which featured pictorial renditions of the female genitalia, and other portrayals of the female body in a very “passive” way.
When I first saw such pamphlets, I questioned him directly about his depictions of the female body, as well as his overemphasizing on “passive” female nudity to illustrate his writings. On that occasion, I candidly told him that I found it unnecessary the overuse of such imagery, since it had no context within his writings. I also asked him why, if he was so adamant about including nudity, wouldn’t he include nude males as well? He told me at the time that these were mere “artistic” renditions and they represented his “love and worship of the Goddess.” I tried not to emphasize much on this and focused on trying to understand him within the context of his older “generation.” However, I found that this tendency had become symptomatic in that the mostly young male members of his Lodge were abusing of this imagery. Nevertheless, I tried to keep the focus on advancing the Order. At one point, given my dedication and contributions to his order, this high ranking member gave me high grade within his OTO.
Some years passed by and this high ranking member kept treating me as the Lodge “primadona”: he would not give me any meaningful work to do, and several of his interactions with me were very superficial. Many times I asked him serious questions pertaining to rituals and his response would be “don’t worry: you are already a goddess.” “Goddess of what?” I asked him. He seemed to imply that because I was a woman, young and had a vagina, I was “naturally” initiated. I refused to believe in that, but continued to work for the Order for one single reason: I wanted to make a contribution to the lineage of the Founder of this Order.
Many women might fall into the trap of being treated as “naturally” initiated. This assumption represents, on the contrary of a privilege, a trap in the sense that your female physiology makes you initiated since you bleed monthly, you reproduce, etc. The flip side of this assumption is that women are not allowed to do certain things.
Soon after I received the high grade nomination, I learned that one of the Lodge “Masters” was giving I* Grade Initiation to female candidates through a sexual act. In other words, any females wishing to enter his Lodge had to simply have the courage to strip themselves in front of all the mostly male members of the order and let the Lodge “master” penetrate “within.” This was, apparently, the “pre-requisite” to receiving the I* grade. I brought this issue up to the attention of the high ranking member. His response to me was that I had become too “serious.” I dismissed his comments, and at that point I knew there was no much I could learn from him and his OTO.
At that time, several members exchanged correspondence within themselves to the extend that they thought there might be something wrong with the abuse of such “sexual” initiations by the Lodge master. I collected details from many of these correspondences and started writing a detailed report. Sadly, most of the female initiates would join the order and leave shortly afterwards.
The high ranking member was aware that, while I was affiliated with his O.T.O., I had been in different relationships, and at one point had become involved with one Thelemite. A couple of months after my relationship began with this one Thelemite, the high ranking O.T.O. member called for a national “meeting” of all lodges. There would be some initiations, readings and one big luncheon. This was taking place at a hotel in a city in the mountains. I was in touch with the organizers by e-mail who notified me of a date and place for the event.
Prior to the event, the high ranking member told me how “excited” he was that I would be participating in the event. However, I did not tell him until later on that my partner would be coming along. My intention was to introduce both men in person, since they had already contemplated creating a formal tie between their Orders. After I notified him that my partner would be coming along to the national “meeting”, I did not hear back from him again. I waited until the day of the meeting to confront him in person.
Upon my arrival, assuming everything was still on, I contacted the local lodge Master to get driving directions to the meeting location. He told me by phone that the meeting had been cancelled by the high ranking member. I asked him why; he said, “I can’t explain to you by phone, we must meet in person.” Thus, I invited him and four other members of the O.T.O. for lunch. During lunch, they narrated what the “grand” initiation plan of his “master” was: It involved, among other things, presenting me to the other members of the order as his “Scarlet Woman” and possibly, performing a IX* grade initiation for the “entertainment” of the group. Since I had come accompanied with my partner, the “operation” was cancelled, and so was the important “national” meeting.
As one would conclude, from that day on, my contact with this high ranking member and his O.T.O. was severed. I wrote him a long letter immediately after the event expressing my outrage. I never received an answer to it.
Many years have passed and as far as I have been informed, things have not changed within his domain. Even though Lodge masters have resigned and new blood has come in, the basic “concept” of forceful “sexual” I* grade initiation, I believe, still persists. By now, I am no longer his “sought after” Scarlet Woman; others might have come and filled up the post, as they always will. Maybe, they will be bitchier than I was, and bite his penis off!
Love is the law, love under will.