An Introduction to the
History of the O.T.O.

Printed in The Equinox III:10,
originally edited by Hymenaeus Beta X°

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

THE ORDO TEMPLI ORIENTIS (O.T.O.) is an Initiatic Body composed of men and women who have accepted the principles of The Book of the Law, which was transmitted through Aleister Crowley (1875 -1947) in Cairo, Egypt in 1904 E.V. The communicating Intelligence identified Itself as Aiwass, a messenger of the ruling hierarchy of our species. The Book announces a New Law for mankind and the planetary transition into the Aeon of Horus or New Aeon. The Book is conceived to be a perfect transmission of the divine, freed from any defects of human interference. As such, it is a luminous vehicle of Truth that can serve as an infallible guide to human conduct.

Aleister Crowley will at least be remembered as the greatest occult genius of the twentieth century. In The Book of the Law, he is designated as the Prophet of the New Aeon. An enormously prolific writer, his own work provides the best guide to his controversial character. His biographers have failed to capture his essence, even when not being overtly hostile. His influence on modern occultism is incalculable, penetrating every Western school. The present collection of papers, a minute sample of his literary production, should give even the first time reader a distinct impression of Crowley.

The O.T.O. practices yoga, meditation, ceremonial magick, qabalah, divination and related disciplines of the Western Mystery Tradition. Our central headquarters, long centered in Berkeley, California, is now moving to New York, with numerous groups spread throughout the world. The Order is open to all free men and women of full age (currently defined as eighteen years old) and good report.

The Order Degrees, as described in several Order documents included in this issue, are conveyed in a ceremonial manner. The Degree structure corresponds with the Hindu Chakra system as diagrammed elsewhere in this issue. Thus, the Man of Earth series of degrees fully activates the psychic body of the Initiate.

In addition to the Degree rituals, numerous Order bodies regularly perform the O.T.O. Gnostic Mass, which also appears elsewhere in this issue. The importance of the Mass within the O.T.O. is best illustrated in Crowley’s Confessions where he calls the ritual “the central ceremony of its {the Order’s} public and private celebration.“

Various other group rituals are performed, unique to each unit of the Order and generally indicative of the main interests of the members of the group concerned. These may include Crowley’s group workings such as his Rites of Eleusis, original adaptations of various myth cycles, revisions of solo rituals for group participation, or other creative efforts.



WE POSIT A KNOWLEDGE, or Gnosis, capable of perception by each human being — for, “Every man and every woman is a star.“ We further posit that Divine consciousness is experiential and that certain techniques are of value to induce the experience.

The religious instinct is an integral aspect of mankind. From time immemorial, people have gathered with one another to seek Truth and therein lie the roots of the Order. Secret societies dedicated to seeking wisdom have existed in all ages and cultures. From the puberty rite of the aboriginal tribesman, to the ecstatic whirling of the Dervish, to the elaborate ceremonies of the Mason, the aim is the same — the programmed alteration of consciousness within a group setting.

Myths that seek to explain the emerging of consciousness within the human race have been a continuous cultural phenomena. The Egyptian, Sumerian, Indian, Chinese, Greek, Near Eastern, Celtic and other civilizations had Mystery Traditions of the most central societal import. Each had its teaching legends of figures who mysteriously appeared to bring the gifts of civilization and spiritual wisdom.

These transmitting Forces have been variously conceived of as Gods, angels, spirits and by a host of other designations. It is to these same Beings (whatever aesthetic is used to describe Them) that we ascribe the religious awareness transmitted through the O.T.O. today.



THE MEDITERRANEAN COUNTRIES have characteristically functioned as a birthplace of religions and religious movements. Three of the world’s largest religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam began in this region. And prior to the inception of these, dating back to prehistory, the indigenes have worshipped such deities as Oannes, Osiris, Enki, Adonis, Attys and others. The area therefore has traditionally been one of unusual religious cross-fertilization and constant political upheaval.

It is a recurrent historical theme for governments to attempt to control the religion of a people in order to achieve stability. In 325 E.V., the Roman Emperor Constantine convened a group of religious leaders from the area to achieve this goal. He became the first ruler to adopt Christianity as the state religion. The Council of Nice, or Nicene Council, epitomized the future of the religion. The purpose of the meeting was to settle a theological dispute. The loser was anathemized and exiled, his books ordered burned and their possession became a capital offense. A hypocratic yea-saying to the first creed of the new faith cemented the work of the Council. All this took place under the “benign“ direction of the pagan Emperor, a notorious murderer who liberally rewarded the attending bishops after their work was finished.

The standardization of the books of The Bible followed some years later. Elements of mysticism incompatible with the “reform“ were neatly removed from the Canon. The vicious persecution of Gnostics, Pagans and Jews assured no philosophic rivalry with the growing Christian ideological consolidation. In 391 E.V., an angry Christian mob destroyed the Alexandrian Library and Temple (the great repository of pagan learning). This dealt a major blow to the spirit of intellectual research and hindered the possibility of exposing the fraud being built on the then-living remains of earlier cults.

Heresy became a catch-all phrase for religious speculation. Philosophy, so highly cultivated in pagan society, was constricted. It would be several centuries before the power was achieved to turn this policy into mass murder, but rehearsals for the Inquisition were well under way in the interim. An example was the murder of Hypatia in 415 E.V. Famed leader of the Neo-Platonic School, she was torn limb from limb by a band of enraged Christian monks. Great Pan was certainly not dead, but one can imagine His wailing for the human suffering to come.



PRIOR TO THE BEGINNING of the Crusades in 1095, Europe was experiencing a period of cultural stagnation caused jointly by the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire and the attempts of the Church to assume temporal sovereignty over its remains. The resulting confusion led to a usurpation of direct control by a number of once-vassal princes, giving rise to the system of Feudalism. The chaos of the period is best illustrated by the eagerness with which vast numbers of Europeans joined the Crusades.

The Holy Land contained the seeds of the later Renaissance. Arab culture was at its highest and most refined. The area now added European Christianity to its religious potpourri. The Mystics, Fakirs, Zoroastrians, Gnostics, Sufis and Buddhists of the region presented a kaleidoscopic panorama to the newly arrived Crusaders. The superstitions and dogmas of Catholicism must have seemed quite pale, when compared to the richness and sophistication of the Oriental theologies to which they were now exposed. Increasing doubt concerning the exclusive possession of divine favor by Christianity would gradually undermine orthodoxy.



DUE TO THE NATURE of the European presence, the Military Orders were the most stable institutions during the 200 years of Western occupation. The soldiers were involved with the exotic culture of their new homeland on a daily basis.

Foremost among the Military Orders was the Knights Templar. Founded by Hughes de Payens in 1118, the Order was originally composed of nine Knights, who protected pilgrims on their travels through the Holy Land. King Baldwin II, the second European King of Jerusalem, awarded them lodging near the site of the Temple of Solomon, from whence derives their name.

The Military Orders were clearly an idea whose time had come. The concept of a religious body of warriors was new to Christianity. The promise of glory, danger, travel, religious expiation, and the chance to fight to establish God’s Kingdom on earth, fell upon waiting and ready ears.

In 1126 the Templars came under the patronage of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the most influential and politically powerful Catholic theologian of his time. He aided their efforts enormously. At the Council of Troyes in 1128, St. Bernard presided over the writing of their Rule which dictated the behavior of the members of the Order. They were concurrently sanctioned by Pope Honorious. Within a short period of time, they amassed vast stores of wealth and land donated by aristocrats excited by their charisma.

The Templar Rule gradually expanded to include secret initiation rituals and private confessors. They were under direct control of the Pope and not responsible to any King or nation. As the European position weakened over the two centuries of occupation, the Templars were accused of collusion with the enemy on more than one occasion. It was noted, for example, that the colors of their mantles (a red cross on a white background, adopted in 1146) were the same as those of the Assassins or Hashishim.

The Assassins, founded in 1090 by Hasan-i-Sabah, grew as an independent Shiite-Ishmaili force within the primarily Sunni Muslim world. They rose to prominence by maintaining extremely well defended mountain fortresses, and by pursuing a policy of selective assassination. Their isolation and essential fanaticism suggest ingrained doctrines of an unorthodox nature. That there was communication between the Templars and Assassins is well known. Also, the hierarchical similarities between the two Orders are noteworthy. (The Assassins were crushed by the Mongols in 1256, but their descendants now live in India under the leadership of the Aga Khan.)

The Europeans were finally defeated in 1291 and the Templars left the Holy Land. On their return to Europe they were warily welcomed. Their independent, armed presence caused tension because there was no longer a pressing rationale for their existence. However, being the Pope’s personal army, they still enjoyed his protection. They participated, for example, in the Albigensian massacres at his behest.

Finally, through the malice and greed of Philip the Fair of France and the weakness of Pope Clement V, the Templars were arrested in France on a single night in 1307. (Philip had established a precedent for this by similarly arresting every French Jew eight years before.) The Pope, under Philip’s direction, issued a European edict requiring all nations to arrest the Templars within their borders. The edict was ignored or cursorily complied to by several nations, notably Germany, Scotland, Spain and Portugal. However, the French, Italian and English Temples were destroyed, thousands of Knights killed over the next seven years and the vast wealth of the Order confiscated by civil and religious authorities.

Many feel that the bankrupt Philip seized upon the idea of crushing the Order when he ran to the Parisian Temple for protection from an angry mob incensed by his monetary policies and currency manipulations. During his three-day refuge, he would have realized the extent of Templar riches. For among other things, they had established the practice of international banking among Christians. Their numerous fortresses along the trade routes leading Eastward served as depositories for kings, nobles and merchants. The Templars had grown even wealthier thereby. Another motivation for Philip’s hostility to the Order was that his application to join the Temple some years earlier had been refused by the these proud warriors.



TEMPLAR SURVIVORS generally changed the name of the Order, joined fellow Orders like the Hospitaliers, or went quietly underground. It is our contention that they continued to teach the doctrines and techniques they had learned and developed in the East — the “secret teaching“ of the Order. We further posit that this closely guarded teaching gave rise to the flourishing of the occult arts in Europe.

The centuries following the Templar dispersion in the fourteenth century played host to an esoteric revival which has continued to the present day.

The first written literature of the Grail Tradition appeared almost simultaneously with the founding of the Knights Templar. The Templar phenomena certainly inspired later authors like Wolfram von Eschenbach, whose Parzival, written in the late twelfth and early thirteen centuries, precisely reveals the symbolism of the O.T.O. lamen. Parzival’s first publication in printed form in 1477 closely corresponded with the introduction of the Tarot into Europe. The Tarot includes among the rich threads of its symbolic tapestry a perfect pictorial representation of the Grail symbols. Interestingly, St. Bernard and his Cisterician Order are acknowledged by Pauline Matarasso in The Quest of the Holy Grail as the source of the monastic guidance given to the Grail companions. The white habits of the monks, their consistent isolation as hermits and the virtues they espouse to the Knights being pure Cistercian doctrine.

Alchemy developed a considerable body of literature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which witnessed the works of Paracelsus, Agrippa, Trithemius and Bruno. The publication of the Rosicrucian Manifestos in 1614 and 1615 introduced the concept of a Secret Order of Adepts, silently guiding humanity’s destiny. The idea fascinated the European mind and became the model for Mozart’s Magic Flute and other epic poems and plays of the period. The Enochian workings of Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley were a particular nexus point of this Current. The plans for the utopian Palatinate of Frederick V were conceived in this remarkable period, which also saw the rise of such occult luminaries as Robert Fludd, Michael Maier, Elias Ashmole and Johann De Bry.

The great interest in Occultism continued unabated into the eighteenth century. Court de Gebelin introduced the theory that the Tarot was derived from Egypt and had a qabalistic correspondence with the Hebrew alphabet. Freemasonry spread at a rapid rate. Its Lodges played a pivotal role during the French Revolution. The legendary shadow figures of the Comte de St. Germain and Cagliostro were reputed to be organizing rebellion everywhere. The Illuminati, founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776, grew rapidly, giving rise to endless speculations of political conspiracy. It is still rumored today that the destruction of the French monarchy during the Revolution was intended to avenge Templar blood shed some four hundred years earlier.

In the nineteenth century, Kenneth MacKenzie, Frederick Hockley, Eliphas Levi, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Papus, P. B. Randolph, W. Wynn Westcott, and others, wrote about, practiced and taught the sacred sciences. Madame Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in 1875, the year of Crowley’s birth. The Golden Dawn was founded in 1888 and included among its members some of the leading lights of English literary and artistic circles. The erudite occult scholar, S. L. MacGregor Mathers was its most notable head. The genius of his contribution to the development of the Western Qabalah must be appreciated before any comprehension of Crowley’s work is possible. Crowley rose rapidly in the ranks of the Golden Dawn which served as his occult training ground.



IN 1895, KARL KELLNER (1850-n-1905), a wealthy Austrian industrialist and paper chemist, as well as a high-grade Mason, founded the Ordo Templi Orientis. Kellner had traveled widely in the East, where he met three Adepts who instructed him in specific magical practices. Kellner’s efforts to develop the Order were later assisted by Franz Hartmann, Heinrich Klein and Theodor Reuss, who had worked together prior to joining the O.T.O. The Order was first proclaimed in 1902 in Reuss’ Masonic publication, Oriflamme. On Kellner’s death, Reuss succeeded him as Outer Head. The “Jubilee“ edition of the Oriflamme, published in 1912, announced that the Order taught the secret of sexual magic.

Theodor Reuss was an interesting character. Born June 28, 1855 in Augsburg, he entered Masonry in 1876. He was a singer, journalist and possibly a spy for the Prussian political police, infiltrating the Socialist League founded by Karl Marx’s daughter and her husband. Reuss was later associated with William Wynn Westcott, a leader of the Golden Dawn, who introduced him to John Yarker. Yarker chartered Reuss to found the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim in Germany. After several attempts to concretize various Masonic Rites, Reuss settled on the development of the O.T.O.

The Order experienced a reasonably steady growth under Reuss’ leadership. For example, he chartered Papus in France, Rudolph Steiner in Berlin and H. Spencer Lewis in the USA. In 1912, the historic meeting between Reuss and Crowley occurred. Crowley wrote that Reuss came to him and accused him of revealing Order secrets. When Crowley responded that he had no idea what Reuss was talking about, Reuss opened to a chapter in The Book of Lies. When Crowley looked at it afresh, the initiated interpretation of sexual magick unfolded itself to him for the first time. Reuss appointed Crowley as Supreme and Holy King of all the English speaking world, and it was this authorization that he invoked when publishing the material in The Equinox.

Reuss resigned as Outer Head of the Order in 1922 after suffering a stroke and named Crowley his successor. All was well until 1925 when The Book of the Law was translated into German. There was a break in the continuity of the Order. Many members split with the new O.H.O. over the book, which Crowley was actively promulgating through the Order. He had earlier revised the Order rituals at Reuss’ request, deeply infusing the doctrines of the New Aeon revelation.

Crowley published many of his most important works under the imprimatur of the O.T.O.. He reformulated its long-term goals and mission and came to view the O.T.O. as the “ark“ for preserving the distillation of the world’s cultures into the future. These views are best expressed by Crowley himself, in his summary of the O.T.O. system excerpted from his Confessions in this issue. Crowley succeeded in fostering a few strong leaders in North America, and it is to these deep roots that the O.T.O. owes its continued survival. As he writes in Liber Aleph, “This Magick…dependeth greatly on the Art to set many other Wills in sympathetic Motion; and the greatest Magus may not be the most successful — in a mean Conception of a Limit of Time.“

The O.T.O. in North America was founded in 1912 when Charles Stansfeld Jones (well-known as Frater Achad) brought together twelve sincere and interested associates in Vancouver, British Columbia, all of whom signed forms agreeing to take initiation through the III°. They were duly chartered as a Agapé Camp (later a Lodge), and Crowley spoke glowingly of their work in his Confessions where he recounts his inspection tour in Vancouver.

Frater Achad, as Parzival X°, continued to stimulate O.T.O. activity in both Canada and the United States for many years. However, it was left to one of the charter members of the Vancouver Lodge, Wilfred T. Smith, to found the first Lodge in the United State in the 1930’s — Agapé Lodge in Pasadena, California. In Crowley’s later years, Agapé Lodge was the single most active Order body in the world, prompting Baphomet’s appointment of Smith as Ramaka X°. Smith and his Lodge members contributed greatly to Crowley’s publishing efforts, and performed a weekly Gnostic Mass for many years. Bro. Smith’s wife, Soror G., continues his important work after his death, and remains an honored and active Agapé Lodge member to this day. Soror Meral, Mistress of 418 Lodge, publisher of In The Continuum and head of the College of Thelema in California took her first initiation at Agapé Lodge, as did the late Caliph Hymenaeus Alpha X°. The membership of Agapé Lodge also included the illustrious scientist John W. Parsons, who helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Cal Tech’s Arroyo Seco. A crater on the Moon is named after him, in honor of his developmental work on the rocket fuel that launched America into space.



WHEN CROWLEY DIED in 1947, he willed all otherwise unassigned copyrights and literary remains to the O.T.O., and the succession as Outer Head of the Order to Karl Germer, Frater Saturnus X°. Germer had long served as Grand Treasurer General and Crowley’s Legate in the U.S., and Crowley directed that all the aforementioned property be shipped to Germer at the new O.T.O. Headquarters in New York. His strength of position within the Order, and the respect and, some would say, fear that he commanded made him the acknowledged leader. Crowley had in fact many times referred to him as his natural successor.

Germer was born in Germany in 1885. He had a distinguished military career in the First World War and was active in the influential German Pansophia movement of the 1920s. Years later, when the Nazis assumed control, he was imprisoned because of his connection with freemasonry and Aleister Crowley. While in Berlin’s notorious Alexanderplatz Prison, and later in a Belgian concentration camp, he endured great privation by reciting the Holy Books from memory, backward and forward, until he attained to the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel. He supported Crowley diligently especially in the later period of the latter’s life.

Germer was a quiet man, given to self-isolation. The Order ceased to initiate new members under his direction. His policy was to concentrate almost exclusively on the publishing program. Some fine results were accomplished, including Magick Without Tears, The Gospel According to St. Bernard Shaw, 777 Revised, The Vision and the Voice (with Commentary) and The Book of Lies (with Commentary).

Germer died in 1962 without naming a successor. His unprobated will directed only that the property of the Order be divided among the “heads“ of the Order.

The intervening years have not been lacking in claimants to leadership of the Order. The published record stands for itself. With some diligent investigation, interested parties can learn the details for themselves.

We (and recently the United States Government has legalized our opinion) view the succession as having been passed to Major Grady Louis McMurtry, Caliph Hymenaeus Alpha. His leadership of the Ordo Templi Orientis rests on several rather clear letters of authorization from Crowley himself. They met while McMurtry was a young First Lieutenant during World War II. He had been admitted to the O.T.O. in 1941 at Agapé Lodge through Jack Parsons. He received the Ninth Degree from Crowley directly and was entrusted with documents of emergency authorization to take charge of the entire work of the Order in California (as stated earlier, the only functional O.T.O. body at this time.) Crowley additionally appointed McMurtry his personal representative in the USA, whose authority was to be considered as Crowley’s own. These two charters, dated respectively March 22, 1946 and April 11, 1946, were subject only to Karl Germer’s approval, veto or revision.

Germer was well informed of these charters as he attended the Agapé Lodge meeting at which McMurtry presented them. The two men subsequently exchanged correspondence regarding plans to legally incorporate the Order in California. In a letter to McMurtry dated May 24, 1946, Germer stated, “I want you to be fully informed, as 666 holds you in charge of the Californian activities with any steps you decide to be taken with my approval.“ Whatever differences they may have had, there is nowhere the slightest suggestion that Germer even considered vetoing or revising McMurtry’s charters.

Six months before his death, Crowley wrote to McMurtry on June 17, 1947. He stated that while Germer was the natural Caliph to follow him, he had to look to Germer’s successor, who, he wrote, could well be McMurtry.

McMurtry disagreed with Germer’s policy of not initiating new members. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1961 largely to avoid a direct confrontation with Germer over this issue. Here he taught Political Science at George Washington University while working as a Management Analyst for the Government. He also directed the Washington Shakespeare Society. In 1969, he learned of the 1967 theft of the Order Library from Mrs. Germer’s home, during which she had been brutally beaten. He immediately resigned from Government Service and returned at once to California to conduct an investigation, reactivating his authorization from Crowley as Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the Order. The results of his extensive research were forwarded to the authorities concerned, as well as Mrs. Germer, and form the substance of the Solar Lodge chapter in Ed Sanders’ book, The Family.



WHEN MCMURTRY BECAME AWARE of the critical condition into which the Order had fallen after Germer’s death, he was impelled to invoke his documents of emergency authorization from Crowley. His first public act was to arrange for the publication of the Crowley/Harris Thoth Tarot Cards in 1970. This deck has the power of assisting the Magician to invoke the energies of the New Aeon — a visual tool for the programming of consciousness. In 1983, he released The Holy Books of Thelema. This collection of the Class A documents are the founding documents of the Thelemic religion. The two publications taken together constitute the Prophet’s essential legacy, the words and images of the New Aeon.

In the 15 years since McMurtry assumed leadership, the Order has grown to its largest size ever. With Lodges, Chapters and Camps in the U.S., Canada, South America, Germany, Norway, the Balkans, New Zealand and Australia, the Order is like a lotus opening to the rays of the New Aeon Sun.

We face many problems at present, yet, “There is success“, and we work unremittingly. The Order has met the criteria for promulgatation of the O.T.O. Constitution in the United States. While some suggestions from An Open Letter to Those Who May Wish to Join the Order (see infra) appear quaint in these days of over-regulation (free railroad transport indeed!), we present these writings at this time that we may reaffirm our fealty to the principles therein. The structure envisioned by these documents is then both our reality and our goal. May their words be guides to those so chosen.



DURING THE WRITING of this article, on July 12, 1985 E.V., our Beloved Caliph Hymenaeus Alpha celebrated his greater feast. On the day of his death, the Order was notified of our legal victory in a United States Federal Court which certified our exclusive ownership of all names, trademarks, insignia and copyrights willed by Crowley to the Ordo Templi Orientis.

On September 21, our new Caliph was proclaimed. His dedication to the principles described in the following pages assures us that they will be implemented fully and speedily. His first act of adherence to the Constitution’s guidelines was to accept the mantle of secrecy imposed on the X° and O.H.O. in Liber 52 (see infra). His respect for his predecessor and his lineage have impelled him to choose the name Hymenaeus Beta. Formerly a member of the Man of Earth Triad, the fact of his elevation to Frater Superior gives evidence of the magical fitness of the current manifestation of the Order. “The succession to the high office of O.H.O. is decided in a manner not here to be declared; but this you may learn, O Brother Magician, that he may be chosen even from the grade of a Minerval. And herein lieth a most sacred Mystery.“

Soon after the election, the new Caliph reactivated Agapé Lodge as the International Grand Lodge of the Order, located in New York.

A new phase of our development has begun and we look with eager eyes to the future.

Love is the law, love under will.

USGL Grand Secretary General
New York City, Winter Solstice An III xv



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