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O.T.O. Synopsis of Degrees
This historical document was written by Aleister Crowley in 1912 preceeding the Manifesto and Constitution of the O.T.O.
The 1913 and 1919 Manifestos of M.M.M. and O.T.O. issued by Crowley give a lengthy list of organisations whose “wisdom and knowledge” were said to be concentrated in the hands of the initiates of O.T.O., prominent among which are:
- The Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry (33 degrees).
- The Rite of Memphis (97 degrees).
- The Rite of Mizraim (90 degrees).
- The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Masonry (33 degrees).
The founders of O.T.O. had obtained from the English Masonic enthusiast John Yarker charters for the combined rite of Memphis and Mizraim, the Antient and Primitive Rite (henceforth A & P) or Reduced Rite of Memphis, which compressed the first 95 degrees of Memphis into a more manageable 33, and finally the 33 degrees of the Rite of Cerneau, generally regarded by Masonic historians as a spurious imitation of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR).
In one of Crowley’s manuscript notebooks (MS Notebook 30 in the Yorke collection, preserved in the Warburg Institute) is found the following “Synopsis of Grades” which develops the correspondences between these rites and the revised O.T.O. degree system.
In the original MS this table has been hatched out. It is possible that it was never made official.
[annotated by Frater T.S.]
During the last twenty-five years, constantly increasing numbers of earnest people and seekers after truth have been turning their attention to the study of the hidden laws of Nature.
The growth of interest in these matters has been simply marvellous. Numberless societies, associations, orders, groups, etc., etc., have been founded in all parts of the civilized world, all and each following some line of occult study.
While all these newly organized associations do some good in preparing the minds of thoughtful people for their eventually becoming genuine disciples of the One Truth, yet there is but one ancient organization of Mystics which shows to the student a Royal Road to discover the One Truth. This organization has permitted the formation of the body known as the Ancient Order of Oriental Templars. It is a modern School of Magi. Like the ancient Schools of Magi it derived its knowledge from Egypt and Chaldea. This knowledge is never revealed to the profane, for it gives immense power for either good or evil to its possessors.
It is recorded in symbol, parable and allegory, requiring a Key for its interpretation.
The symbols of Freemasonry were originally derived from the more ancient mysteries, as all who have travelled the burning sands know. The ritual and ceremonies, signs and passwords have been preserved with great fidelity; but the Real Key has been long lost to the crowd who have been initiated, advanced and raised in Masonry.
The Key to this knowledge can, however, be placed within the reach of all those who unselfishly desire, study and work for its possession.
The Symbols of Ancient Masonry, the Sacred Art of the Ancient Chemi (Egyptians), and Homer’s Golden Chain are but different aspects of the One Great Mystery. They represent but different degrees of initiation. By the Right Use of the “Key” alone the “Master Word” can be found.
In order to afford genuine seekers after Hermetic Truth some information on the aims of the Ancient Order of Oriental Templars, we now print the preliminary instruction issued by the Fratres of this Order.
To all whom it may concern
Let it be known that there exists, unknown to the great crowd, a very ancient order of sages, whose object is the amelioration and spiritual elevation of mankind, by means of conquering error and aiding men and women in their efforts of attaining the power of recognizing the truth. This order has existed already in the most remote and prehistoric times and it has manifested its activity secretly and openly in the world under different names and in various forms; it has caused social and political revolutions and proved to be the rock of salvation in times of danger and misfortune. It has always upheld the banner of freedom against tyranny, in whatever shape this appeared, whether as clerical or political, or social despotism or oppression of any kind. To this secret order every wise and spiritually enlightened person belongs by right of his or her nature; because they all, even if they are personally unknown to each other, are one in their purpose and object, and they all work under the guidance of the one light of truth. Into this sacred Society no one can be admitted by another, unless he has the power to enter it himself by virtue of his own interior illumination; neither can any one after he has once entered, be expelled, unless he should expel himself by becoming unfaithful to his principles and forget again the truths which he has learned by his own experience.
All this is known to every enlightened person; but it is known only to few that there exists also an external, visible organization of such men and women who, having themselves found the path to real self-knowledge, are willing to give to others, desirous of entering that path, the benefit of their experience and to act as spiritual guides to those who are willing to be guided. As a matter of course, those persons who are already sufficiently spiritually developed to enter into conscious communion with the great spiritual brotherhood will be taught directly by the spirit of wisdom; but those who still need external advice and support will find this in the external organization of that society. In regard to the spiritual aspect of this Secret Order, one of the Brothers says
“Our community has existed ever since the first day of creation when the gods spoke the divine command: ‘Let there be light!’ and it will continue to exist till the end of time. It is the Society of the Children of Light, who live in the light and have attained immortality therein. In our school we are instructed directly by Divine Wisdom, the Celestial Bride, whose will is free and who selects as her disciples those who are devoted to her. The mysteries which we are taught embrace everything that can possibly be known in regard to God, Nature and Man. Every sage that ever existed in the world has graduated at our school; for without wisdom no man can be wise. We all study only one book, the book of nature, in which the keys to all secrets are contained, and we follow the only possible method in studying it, that of experience. Our place of meeting is the Temple of the Holy Spirit pervading the universe; easily to be found by the elect, but for ever hidden from the eyes of the vulgar. Our secrets cannot be sold for money, but we give them free to every one capable to receive them.”
As to the external organization of that Society, it will be necessary to give a glance at its history, which has been one and the same in all times. Whenever that spiritual Society manifested itself on the outward plane and appeared in the world, it consisted at its beginning of a few able and enlightened people, forming a nucleus around which others were attracted. But invariably, the more such a Society grew in numbers, the more became attracted to its elements, such as were not able to understand or follow its principles; people who joined it for the purpose of gratifying their own ambition or for making the Society serve their own ends obtained the majority over those that were pure. Thereupon the healthy portion of it retired from the field and continued their benevolent work in secrecy, while the remaining portion became diseased and disrupted, and sooner or later died disgraced and profaned. For the Spirit had departed from them. For this reason the external organization of which we speak has resolved not to reveal its name or place to the vulgar. Furthermore, for the same reason, the names of the teachers and members of this society shall remain unknown, except to such as are intimately associated with them in their common work. If it is said that in this way the society will gain only few members, it may be answered that our society has a spiritual head, and that those who are worthy of being admitted will be guided to it by means of their intuition; while those who have no intuition are not ripe for it and not needed. It is better to have only a comparatively small number of capable members than a great many useless ones.
From the above it will be clear that the first and most necessary requirement of the new disciple is that he will keep silent in regard to all that concerns the Society to which he is admitted. Not that there is anything in that Society which needs to be afraid of being known to the virtuous and good; but it is not necessary that things which are elevated and sacred should be exposed to the gaze of the vulgar and be bespattered by them with mud. This would only impede the Society in its work.
Another necessary requirement is mutual confidence between the teacher and the disciple; because a disciple who has no faith in his master cannot be taught or guided by him. There may be things which will appear strange, and for which no reasons can be given to the beginner, but when the disciple has attained a certain state of development all will be clear to him or her. The confidence which is required will also be of little service if it is only of a short duration. The way of the development of the soul, which leads to the awakening of the inner senses, is slow, and without patience and fortitude nothing will be accomplished.
From all this it follows as a matter of course that the next requisite is obedience. The purpose of the disciple is to obtain the mastery over his own lower self, and for this reason, he must not submit himself to the will of his lower nature, but follow the will of that higher nature, which he does not yet know, but which he desires to find. In obeying the will of the master, instead of following the one which he believes to be his own, but which is in reality only that of his lower nature, he obeys the will of his own higher nature with which his master is associated for the purpose of aiding the disciple in attaining the conquest over himself. The conquest of the higher self over the lower self means the victory of the divine consciousness in man over that which in him is earthly and animal. Its object is a realization of true manhood and womanhood, and the attainment of conscious immortality in the realization of the highest state of existence in perfection.
These few preliminary remarks may be sufficient for those who desire information concerning our order; to those who feel themselves capable to apply for admission, further instructions will be given.
|Synopsis of Grades|
|Memphis (A & P)||Misraim|
|III°||Master Magician||Master Mason||M.M.||M.M.|
L of P
|Perfect Magician||Royal Arch Mason
|C.P.I.||Perfect Initiate||15°—16°||8°—9°||[34°—38°, 45°]|
|L. of K.E.W.||Knight of the East and West||17°||10°||1|
|V°||Sov. Prince of Rose Croix||18°||11°||44° [qy 46° 2]|
|[Senate 3]||[Knight of Red Eagle]||19°—29°||[12°—17°]||[?39°] [47°—64°]|
|VI°||Knight Kadosch, Comp of Holy Grail||30°||[18°]||65°|
|Holy Inquis.||Grand Inquisitor Commander||31°||66°|
|[Consistory]||Knight [Prince] of Royal Secret||32°||[19°]|
|VII°||[Sovereign Grand Inspector General]||33°||20°||[77°]|
|VIII°||[Epopt / Pontiff of the Illuminati]||——|
|IX°||Perfect Illuminate||——||33° (95°)||90°|
|X°||Sovereign Grand Master General||——||(96°)||——|
|XII°||Outer Head of the Order||——||(97°)||——|
All additions in square brackets to this table are by the Frater T.S., based on correlating (a) various published documents of O.T.O. and (b) degree lists of the Antient & Primitive Rite and the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim.
In the table, the degrees from 4° to 33° of Memphis refer to the Reduced Rite (Antient and Primitive) of 33 degrees; the 95° to 97° to the full rite of 97 degrees, the top two of which are administrative for the ruling council and chief of the rite. In the 97 degree rite, the first 33 parallel AASR and the rest are frankly a mess and have varied wildly between different juridictions and over the history of the rite (one modern Memphis working has 99 degrees, with the 96° being national heads, the 99° the world Chief of the rite and the 97° and 98° some kind of intermediate trans-national chiefs).
Minerval is a probationary degree with no real Masonic equivalent.
XI° O.T.O. is a “technical” degree outside the general scheme of the Order and has no connection or correspondence with any degree of any known Masonic rite, unless one is willing to credit the wilder flights of fancy of anti-Masonic propaganda.
It should be noted that while this table lists an XII° for the O.H.O., it does not appear that Crowley himself ever used this number when signing as Outer Head from 1923 on, and it may have been dropped in a later revision of the degree scheme.
In 1917 Reuss issued » his own elaboration of the O.T.O. degree system « which ignored all of Crowley’s innovations including the 0°, XI° and a separate XII° for the Outer Head, instead describing a system of nine operative degrees I° to IX°, with the III° identified with Craft Masonry and the IV° to VI° with 4° to 33° AASR. The VII° and VIII° were subdivided into 3 and 4 respectively. Current practice in the O.T.O. as manifested under the Caliphacy adopts Reuss’ threefold division of the VII°, but only has two sub-degrees to VIII°.
 There is no degree with this title in the Mizraim degree list I consulted.
 The version of the Mizraim degree list I consulted has 46° as Rose-Croix; 44° is “Architecture of the Sovereign Commanders of the Temple.” However there was wide variation between workings of the precise arrangement of degrees in the full rites of Memphis and Mizraim, so 44° may be correct here.
 In Crowley’s Liber LII (1919), and the earlier “Manifesto of MMM” (1912), “Knight of the Red Eagle” is identified with membership of the “Senate of Knight Hermetic Philosophers,” an intermediate degree between V° and VI° from which, according to Liber CXCIV, the Electoral College of the Order is drawn. In the Antient & Primitive Rite, the degrees from 12° to 20° are collectively known as the Senate of Hermetic Philosophers (this series is further subdivided into two; the “Hermetic” degrees from 12° to 17° form the Senate proper, the 18° to 20° are Templar degrees and collectively known as the Consistory). In English workings – and it was from John Yarker’s English Memphis-Mizraim body that Reuss and colleagues obtained their A & P charter – the 12° is called “Knight of the Red Eagle” and the 17° is “Hermetic Philosopher.” In How’s Freemason’s Manual, a 19th-century work whose author appears very positive towards the Antient and Primitive Rite (far less so towards the full 90+ degrees of Memphis-Mizraim) it is said that this degree is concerned with further explanation of the Hermetic cipher I.N.R.I., previously expounded in the Rose-Croix degree. The 18° of A&P is called “Knight Kadosch” , the 19° “Royal Master” and the 20° “Grand Intendant.” The 39th degree of Mizraim is called Knight of the Red Eagle; however O.T.O. Senate may also be identified with the 47° to 64° of Mizraim as the degrees between Rose-Croix and Knight Kadosch.