My first interest in the Ordo Templi Orientis sprang from my unquenchable thirst for knowledge - in March 2011, I had acquired the Thoth Tarot deck (having gone through several different 'paths' previously), and having blazed through all the literature that I could find on it, I sought more.
Certainly, I may have not understood much at the time, but I had an insatiable curiosity within me as to where the cards could lead me. I read about the O.T.O., saw that it was in possession of all of Crowley's texts and publications, and I made contact.
My first meeting was with two members of the local camp. They seemed rather knowledgeable, although declined to reveal much about the inner workings of the order, alluding to some 'greater' mystery, as I recall it. They also refused to speak of numbers, as they probably knew that nobody would be interested in joining a 2-man group (as they then were). Not knowing better, I bought this story, and sought initiation.
It has to be said that in Poland, where I live, the O.T.O. is a rather small (by comparison) outfit. Still, even though my expectations weren't much, I did expect at least some sort of temple, adequate knowledge and studies being made, as well as work being done (in the form of rituals, publications, you know, magic -- after all, that's what the O.T.O. is about, the IX°). It is important to note this, since my attitude towards those issues is key in understanding why I took the path I did, and what pushed me to inquire further.
I was initiated as Minerval on the 19th of November 2011 e.v., in a house rented specifically for this function, far out of any decently populated areas. Without exception, everything was set up very nicely, however I do have to admit that I expected much more from an outfit which proclaims war on the status quo and revolution. Here's a quote from the back of the Centennial Liber AL edition:
Life and Liberty are threatened everywhere.
We need a Watchword and a Banner for the battle.
We need a Principle on which to reconstruct.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
If you want Freedom you must fight for it.
If you want to Fight you must organize.
If you want to Organize, write to:
[OTO USA address]
I'll be damned if that isn't a call for revolution, especially considering the Third Chapter of Liber AL.
Still, I took the initiation, digested it as well as I could at the time, and in its spirit decided to read further into the O.T.O., its history, current leadership and what I have gotten myself into. After all, it's only reasonable for a newcomer, a guest (and "honored" at that), to want to know more about the group he is about to join with a life-long commitment.
As it turned out, the O.T.O. proper, which was the one Crowley had lead in his time, had died alongside it's last leader, Karl Germer. Then in 1969, Grady McMurtry re-established the Ordo Templi Orientis as Caliph. Without going into the complex politics which followed, namely the lawsuits between McMurtry and Motta as to the legitimacy of their O.T.O. and copyright claims, I found that the O.T.O. I was told I joined simply wasn't it. In fact, it was so much not it that I began questioning how I even got there.
Here's Thelemapedia (which is maintained by O.T.O. folks, by the way):
Germer died in 1962 without himself naming a successor. In 1969, Grady McMurtry invoked his emergency authorization from Crowley and assumed the title of Caliph, which Crowley had granted him. He began performing intiations in 1970.
As you can see, the O.T.O. as such didn't exist outside of the minds of a few people once Germer was gone. Lineage was broken, and McMurtry wasn't even a proper O.H.O., but only a "Caliph". Therefore it is folly to treat the Caliphate as identical to the "original" Crowley O.T.O. in any but the most loose terms.
Asking around in my camp got me nowhere, as nobody was willing to talk about these issues (and as I found out later, I was being reported to the national executive (meaning, FSR) for asking these questions). But I reached further, and made contact with two initiates from the states. One of them proved to also be a dear friend and brother within the A∴A∴ who has helped me immensely with my understanding of kaula cults, and later authored the "Fair and Just Inquisition" post on this blog.
The other person wasn't quite as helpful for me personally, however provided valuable information about the spiritual foundations on which the Caliphate was built, and introduced me to it's history by means of the "Black Lodge of Santa Cruz".
There also exists a Thelemic Discussion Group on Facebook which I frequented over this time, finding more and more proof that the Caliphate Ordo Templi Orientis was in fact inept and impotent, both magically and politically.
Some examples of this are found in the lack of property, the dissonance in the philosophy of high-grade members, the extremely weak publishing program, and the very loose approach to the founding documents of the Order (Liber 194 in particular).
Sure, the initiation I got was amazing, and it had a profound impact on me. However what it also did was, it awoke a certain feeling of duty, zeal, towards the Order, which later took the form of resentment and bitterness with time, as nothing was done with these crucial issues. After all, I got involved because I wanted to learn, not because I wanted to pretend to learn.
But I pressed on. I took my time with my own projects. I studied the Tarot in as much depth as I could, and I kept on asking about the A∴A∴, as I by then knew that the O.T.O. didn't have anything to offer me in terms of actual, tangible knowledge or understanding. All I got was a P.O. box address from the back of a publication. That didn't really work for me, as I wanted real people, not some P.O. box with no information about who operates it, and no way to see if the person on the other side is in any way legitimate.
So I kept on searching, and I joined the Ray Eales' A∴A∴ Lineage in April 18th 2012. Without much fuss, I was accepted as a Probationer, and began work. In the meantime, the O.T.O. was (in my eyes) at the verge of breaking down, as information about a Donald Ray Wallace and David Taylor began surfacing. Apparently these fine gentlemen were involved with the Ordo Templi Orientis (I am not certain as to their membership status). I won't go into the details, however it is important to note that they were both convicted of inhumane crimes, while the Leadership of the O.T.O. simply ignored them.
Here's a few sources on those two gents:
This brought hurt on the part of several persons within the order. And yet, the leadership didn't even acknowledge it's failure in filtering out the bad apples until it was really, really pushed by media attention. This really got me started on the way of analyzing the O.T.O. on a deeper level. What I found was rather unpleasant to behold.
First of all, the O.T.O. has a membership of less than ten thousand, which, for an organization which is revolutionary in it's nature, and is supposed to be all about political power, is rather disappointing. Especially when you consider that it's been around for over what, 40 years now?
Secondly, it later turned out that the “Caliph”, who goes by the motto Hymenaeus Beta, decided to change Liber AL vel Legis sf 220. Yes, that's right. The guy who swore not to change the book, is in the process of changing it, essentially on a whim. You can find his (rather weak in my opinion) justification on the O.T.O. IHQ website.
Personally, I have huge doubts about his decision, especially since there is no reason given beyond “the secret chiefs said so”. Which, given the weak financial state of the Order, forces me to assume that it's just a cop-out in order to make a precedent to re-write the Book, and make money from its sales. No to mention that the fact that Liber AL (which itself strictly forbids being changed) now goes around with a paper slip saying that it's being "updated" is just ridiculous.
[pictures coming later, once I manage to get ahold of some OTO people]
Anyway, the months went by, and I focused more on my own work, as there was nothing else I actually could do without my conscience saying "hey dude you're being a doormat".
Now, to give you an example of how certain members of my local body were, just so you know how dedicated most of them are to the goals of the O.T.O.. I won't even go into the issue of no temple space, as that's just incidental to what I perceive as a lack of investment.
First, there were the guys who were initiated alongside me. One broke off almost instantly, stopped showing up at meetings just after a few months, and the other got instantly hooked on the ideas of the O.T.O., and I'm pretty sure he'd do anything for the Order regardless of it's ethical connotations.
Regardless, the latter often proved to be rather inept and immature in terms of daily devotion to his practices, and all I ever heard from him was how the idea of “fraternity” was so “awesome” &c. And then he'd hit me up on Facebook drunkenly and whine about how he had a row with his girl, how he got drunk blind and his buddy was possessed by demons, and all sorts of otherwise irrelevant stuff. Not to mention all the times we'd arrange to meet and do some evocations, and he would either forget or be unavailable. And those were not few at all.
Secondly, there was the Local Body Master. To give you an idea of how disappointing my experience with my local O.T.O. camp was, here's some more on that guy; although fun to be around, the actual work being done in regards to growth and progress was at most minimal.
For one, he always somehow relied on the very bare-bones basics of everything, which was always troubling to me. I'd say something obvious, as a support for my further thoughts, then move on, and when I asked the important questions, I'd just get to hear the obvious part which I had already said, as if that was the conclusion. Mirroring only goes so far when one pursues new knowledge.
I've no doubt that leading a body of the O.T.O. is hard work (provided it grows; ours didn't), however I do have doubts about the efficiency of the LBM. Each and every time I asked about making the camp grow, I would get some crappy cop-out like “now is not the time” or “the camp doesn't grow because a certain persons' attention is elsewhere” – this in reference to the Frater Superior Representative. As if the officers making the camp prosper isn't the idea at all.
There is one thing however, that struck me as odd. When he was preparing his lecture on the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, he basically gleamed over it in 20 minutes, and that was it (he went to a party the prior evening and "worked" over the LBRP lecture overnight -- not a good way to do a good job). However later, while we were loosely talking, it came up that “banishing” is in fact just invoking the opposite force (which, although might sound nutty, holds water in most cases – I'll write an article about this later on). This struck me very hard, and I am grateful for this idea to him, but wouldn't it be easier to just, you know, make it part of his talk? After all, that's what this is about, no?
Thirdly, there was the yogi. The most hard-working guy of us all, at least as far as I am aware. He was the guy who researched astrology, and with whom I finally got to do some actual magic. We worked the Goetia for several months, and got to discuss the fundamental issues in the politics of the O.T.O. as we actually saw it. I am very glad to be able to still call him my friend. As far as I am currently aware, he has retired from the O.T.O. in recent months for one reason or another.
And then there's the FSR appointed for Poland. From what I gather (he was my initiator), he's a rather busy man, with a lot of work on his hands - translating Crowley, publishing Crowley, giving lectures on the O.T.O., preparing conferences, and all that other stuff he does. Which is wonderful, no doubt about it.
The main problem I see with this set-up that he has is, that it makes him rather unreliable when it comes to dealing with low-level, Man of Earth level stuff. It's like the King forgetting his robes one day, without even realizing it.
One of those compromising situations was, that the lamen of our local body was transliterated to Greek for some reason (a Latin anagram in Greek lettering? Nope, doesn't work). I remember talking to the LBM about this twice, and I was assured that it'd be fixed. However this never happened. Two weeks later, lo and behold, the messed up lamen on Facebook.
Anyway, time passed, and in early June I was going through a phase of deep disappointment in the state of the O.T.O. Suffice to say that a discussion on some rather touchy and uncomfortable (to OTO people) topics began on the Polish Thelema Group on Facebook, with me and few others asking rather simple questions, and getting insulted in return.
The discussion took place here:
The topics discussed were really, really basic and fundamental to the philosophy of Thelema - among them was the issue of authority, the import of the A∴A∴ within the context of changing the Book of the Law, and other such important issues which have been well covered by Crowley in his time.
Then, astoundingly quickly I was contacted by the aforementioned FSR, who essentially asked me to explain my stance on these issues, which I did, in what I hold to be a reasonable and rational manner. I was notified of a report on my case being filed immediately, as well as being put on bad report and expelled from the O.T.O. globally.
Holding the FSR to be competent in at least this extent (I mean, come on, he's a high-grade member, for Christs sake), I assumed the report was filed, and awaited my copy of the report, as well as a request for more information from the IHQ. After two months of hearing nothing from the Order, I sent a request for a status update to the Secretary General. To my surprise, nothing was filed against me, which means that I was still on good report. This, as it turns out, isn't all that uncommon a way of getting rid of 'inconvenient' persons.
I confronted the FSR and LBM with this issue. What's funny is, Here in Poland, there is no such thing as a “Man of Earth Triad Representative”, because of the insignificant membership. And the LBM apparently had no idea what to do, as he himself admitted that he's waiting for the FSR's directions. Which means, that the average Man of Earth member of the O.T.O. (in Poland) has no actual way of legally (by O.T.O. rules and regulations) defending himself in such a position.
On the 22nd of August I filed a charge of slander against the FSR in question, given that I was excluded from Order activities without being given any actual reason for it. As the FSR was attending NOTOCON, he replied to me on the 24th, saying that he just finished a 14 hour long trip, and would reply once he rested. Finally, on the 18th (that's one hell of a rest) of September I was notified that I am being "properly" expelled, “on grounds of [my] unfraternal behavior and open hostility regarding the Order, as exhibited in his blog and email exchanges with [the FSR]”.
Pretty interesting, don't you think? But let's re-view this: over the whole course of this exchange, not one time did anyone bring up a proper definition of “unfraternal behavior”. If bringing up facts about the O.T.O. (which have been published for years now, and should be common knowledge among the membership in order to avoid similar screw-ups), and asking questions about the direction it has taken is considered "unfraternal", how can one take this organization seriously at all?
It's not like the O.T.O. addresses the issues that are brought up in any official capacity, ever, either. I wonder whether this isn't because that would force them to acknowledge that these are in fact problems to take care of. But apparently saving face and churning through members by the dozen is the better option, at least from their perspective.
P.S. The attached zip file contains the complete e-mail exchange concerning my 'case' in the O.T.O., save for one e-mail to the LBM which went without reply (it was mentioned in one of the e-mails however). Some of them are in Polish, which shouldn't be too big of a problem if you use Google Translate, or a similar application; there aren't many linguistic subtleties in the language used, rather unsurprisingly.
Well, that escalated quickly.
This is brilliant and exposes the sordid underbelly of the O.T.O. It reminds one of the views held by T. Allen Greenfield, then treasurer of the O.T.O. and his disgust at the financial improprieties and lack of ethics exhibited by William Breeze. But of course, this exposé goes beyond even that.
business as usual for a corrupt hierarchical organization. as always, corporate mindset and dont care about the little guy as long as they spit up the money.
Many around the world are calling for the OTO to shape up and get with the program & deliver what it says it will. Instead of just being a ladder climbing ego inflating old boy network.
people who actually do the Work dont need orgs anyway.
we must Occupy Thelema and build better associations which will serve the needs of the members rather than the top mutts. 93s
Thanks for sharing your account. I was disappointed in the order as well, and outlined my grievances here, if you’re interested: http://www.spiralnature.com/magick/left-ordo-templi-orientis.html
I met some great people, but the system – and the order – is fundamentally flawed.
@Psyche: Cute, however the arguments you make are rather weak and uninformed; I do not see at all why an order dedicated to specific tantric teachings, which center upon the relationship of a man and a woman in particular roles, should adopt other views than these.
It makes no sense, and it would be entirely counter-productive, given that the union can be very well described as the uniting of Chokmah and Binah, from which Kether springs into view, and then the ingestion of that Kether by the participants. This simply cannot happen without the function of the man, and the form of the woman, which you seem to be arguing against.
My point is: there is no place for Social Justice bullshit within any serious mystical and/or magical system. Nobody is going to cater to you, and if you don’t like something, it’s your responsibility to either change it, or get over yourself.