The most frequent questions about Ordo Templi Orientis




How old is O.T.O. ?

 By tradition, O.T.O. traces its spiritual origins to the foundation of the Order of Knights Templar in 1108. More historically, its immediate antecedents (according to Aleister Crowley) were the 18th-century Rosicrucian Orders. The initial conferences that actually led to the formation of O.T.O. as a modern organization were held in 1895 in Europe. These conferences led to the launching of The Oriflamme, a journal that would later become the official journal of O.T.O., in 1902. The Constitution of O.T.O. was published in 1906, and its Manifesto was first issued in the U.S.A. in 1919.

What is M.˙.M.˙.M.˙. ?

M.˙.M.˙.M.˙. (Mysteria Mystica Maxima), was originally established as the British section of the O.T.O. under Crowley as National Grand Master. As currently understood, M.˙.M.˙.M.˙. represents the aspect of O.T.O. that administers the initiatory degrees of O.T.O. from 0° (Minerval) through VII°.

What is the relationship between Ordo Templi Orientis and Freemasonry ?

O.T.O. was originally associated with certain European rites of Freemasonry, but long ago separated itself from Masonry altogether. O.T.O. membership is not incompatible with membership in most Masonic organizations.

What is the O.T.O. structure like ?

The structure of O.T.O., like that of Freemasonry and the ancient mystery schools, is based on a staged series of initiations or degrees. In the rituals of these degrees, O.T.O. seeks to instruct the individual by allegory and symbol in the profound mysteries of nature, and thereby to assist each initiate in discovering his or her own true identity. Initiation can be conferred only in a physical ceremony conducted by a properly chartered initiator.

What is the relationship between Ordo Templi Orientis and Wicca ?

O.T.O. is not a Wiccan or Pagan organization. However, O.T.O. membership is not incompatible with Wicca or Paganism. Gerald Gardner, who is commonly credited with establishing modern Wicca and coining that term, was deeply influenced by Crowley's work and was an initiate of O.T.O. A number of members of O.T.O. also consider themselves Wiccans.

What is the relationship between O.T.O. and A.˙.A.˙. ?

O.T.O. has formal relations with A.˙.A.˙.

How is the Gnostic Catholic Church related to O.T.O. ?

Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.) or the Gnostic Catholic Church, was incorporated into the O.T.O. structure in 1908. Crowley wrote the Gnostic Mass (Liber XV) for the E.G.C. and O.T.O. in 1913. The E.G.C. formally accepted the Law of Thelema in 1920. As currently understood, the E.G.C. represents the aspect of O.T.O. that administers the Gnostic Mass and associated ecclesiastical rituals.

Do I need to be a member of the O.T.O. to participate in the Gnostic Mass ?

Membership in O.T.O. is not a pre-requisite for attendance at the Gnostic Mass, in most locations. The Gnostic Mass is generally referred to as "the central ritual of the O.T.O. both public and private" and often serves as a contact point for those interested in finding out more about the Order and its practices. Some local bodies do prefer to have some kind of initial contact before inviting new individuals to attend the Gnostic Mass. It is also generally expected that those attending the Gnostic Mass participate in the eucharist offered at the end of the ceremony.

 Do I have to believe in some particular dogma to join O.T.O. ?

If you decide to pursue full membership, as a I°, you will be stating that you accept the Book of the Law as written, without wishing to change it. Even in the Minerval degree, you will be making a commitment in the strongest terms to uphold the ideals of freedom set forth in the Book of the Law. However, how you interpret the Book of the Law and its significance is largely up to you.

I'm a Buddhist, Wiccan, Catholic, Baptist, Druid, etc., can I stay one if I join the O.T.O. ?

O.T.O. does not impose restrictions on members' beliefs, or on their affiliations with other organizations that do not attempt to infringe on the rights and operation of O.T.O. However, higher-degree members are expected to avoid allowing their participation in other groups to unduly limit the time and energy they can devote to their O.T.O. obligations.

Will I learn Magick in the O.T.O.?

The principal purpose of O.T.O. within the Man of Earth Triad is to administer the Mysteries (initiation rituals) and the ecclesiastical rites of the E.G.C., not to actively teach any particular system or practice of Magick. However, properly understood, these rituals offer significant instruction themselves, in the form of allegory and symbolism, that is of both practical and theoretical value to the serious student of Magick. In order to assist initiates to discover and understand some of the lessons of their initiations, U.S. Grand Lodge issues degree-specific self-study guides, which are provided by the local bodies to members on their initiation to each degree. In addition, many local bodies offer introductory classes, seminars, practical workshops, and instructional and reference materials on a variety of systems and techniques of Magick, traditional and non-traditional, as well as on such related topics as Qabalah, Yoga, meditation, divination, mythology, symbolism, and comparative religion.

Which persons are welcome as the candidates to O.T.O. Initiation ?

All the true aspirants who seek the Great Work and have the need for the informations, brotherhood and work upon themselves, as well as to help the other brotherly aspirants and serve the humanity.

How do I join O.T.O. ?

For most people, "joining O.T.O." means "becoming an initiate member of O.T.O." Initiate membership is available to every man and woman who is free, at least 18 years old, and of good report. O.T.O. initiations are conferred through a physical ceremony conducted by a chartered initiator. Initiations are almost always held at O.T.O. local bodies, most commonly Oases and Lodges. The introductory initiation into O.T.O. is known as the "Minerval" or 0°.

Therefore, the path to becoming an initiate member of O.T.O. involves contacting a nearby or otherwise convenient local body which conducts Minerval initiations, obtaining an application for initiation from that body, and submitting it along with the appropriate dues and fees.

In order to establish "good report", your application must be signed by two sponsors who are already I° initiates of O.T.O. Prospective sponsors will generally want to get to know you before signing your application, which may involve your attendance with them at several local body events, or time spent with them privately.

Was Aleister Crowley a satanist, and is O.T.O. some kind of the satanic sect or the black magick organization ?

Aleister Crowley was a systematic and scientific explorer of religious practices, techniques, and doctrines. As such, he performed devotional exercises to Satan as well as to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, to various deities from the Egyptian and Hindu pantheons, to Jehovah as well as to Allah, and to the divine personifications that are unique to the system of Thelema. At one time or another Crowley was an Atheist, a Polytheist, a Monotheist, and a Pantheist, a Satanist and a Christian, a Hindu Yogi, a Hebrew Qabalist, a Muslim Mystic, a Buddhist, and a Pagan. In 1904, he became the Prophet of the New Aeon and the founder of the religious magical, and philosophical movement called Thelema, through his reception of Liber AL vel Legis, the Book of the Law.

O.T.O. makes no claims or representations to be either Satanic or anti-Christian. We find that these characterizations serve no real purpose in describing what we are about, or our vision for humanity. Rather than being anti-Christian, we are in fact pro-Thelema: we support the Thelemic ideals of freedom of religious and personal self-expression; emancipation from superstition and social oppression; and the development of a world view which supports and encourages the age-old vision of the Universal Brotherhood of mankind.

Do your rituals involve animal sacrifice?

None of the initiation rituals of O.T.O. or ecclesiastical rituals of E.G.C. involve animal sacrifice in any way. No O.T.O. member is ever required by O.T.O. to perform or participate in animal sacrifice. However, O.T.O. takes no moral or religious stand against the practice of animal sacrifice, per se. Animal sacrifice is an ancient and legitimate religious tradition that has historically been practiced by many established religious systems, including Classical Paganism, Judaism, Islam, and many African and Afro-Caribbean religions.

Is the O.T.O. a "Secret Society"?

O.T.O. is a California tax-exempt, not-for-profit, religious corporation. It does hold the details of its initiatory rituals and initiatory documents to be secret, and it considers the identity of its members to be private and confidential. O.T.O. policy requires it to comply with all applicable laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates.

Do members of your Order practice "black magic"?

"Black magic" is commonly conceived as a type of "sorcery" or "diabolism" intended to cause harm to other beings. Crowley's conception of "black magic" represents a refinement of this common understanding of the term: he defined black magic as magical work which does not serve the aspirant's True Will; and he also held that it could not be the True Will of any being to oppose the True Will of another. The spiritual practices of O.T.O. are intended to enhance the lives of its initiates, not to harm anyone. No one is instructed by O.T.O. in curses, hexes, or any other kind of magic designed to harm another person. Further, in his classic work Magick Without Tears, Crowley defines the three distinct "schools of Magick" as being yellow, white and black, yet posits these schools in a very different way than what one might first imagine; and the Magick practiced by the Black School is distinct from either conception of "black magic" described above. O.T.O. encourages a thorough understanding, by its members and non-members alike, of the definitions of the three schools as given by Crowley.

What if it's your True Will to do (some bad thing) ?

This is the philosophical puzzle at the core of Thelema, and like most puzzles, it resists easy solution. One school of thought considers "Do what thou wilt" to be a descriptive rather than a normative law, similar to the distinction between the speed-of-light limit imposed by the physical nature of the Universe and a posted highway speed limit. Given that your having carried out a given act indicates that you both intended it to occur and successfully made this intention manifest, it is evident that you have conformed to the laws governing such actions; q.e.d. The other school argues that the Law should be seen as a goal to be achieved, and that it is very possible to act against your (true) Will. In this view, it is posited that were all to do their own Wills and nothing else, there would be no strife.

If I may inject my own experience, I have found that both views appear to be 'true' in differing situations and for different purposes. In many ways this debate is similar to (perhaps even the same as) the debate over predestination and free will; however intriguing the possibility of the former, in practical reality it feels like I have free will, and in the end, for practical purposes, that is what matters. Much the same argument can be applied to the descriptive and normative senses of the Law of Thelema. —C.B.

What is Thelema ?

The religion known as Thelema was founded in 1904 by the English poet and mystic Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947), who is regarded as its prophet. Those who follow the path of Thelema are called Thelemites.

Thelema emphasizes individualism, and the uniqueness of each person's Will. As a result, it is very difficult to make blanket statements about its nature or (still more so) the natures of its adherents. Even the label "religion" fits Thelema awkwardly in some contexts — it is in other senses a philosophy and a way of life, while also overlapping with the set of practices and symbols commonly called "Magick".