Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)- What You Always Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

One of things that Ankhie loves about working at Weiser is the access to incredible reading material. The upstairs library in this office has copies of every Weiser Book (as well as Hampton Roads, Conari, Witches Almanac, Ibis, etc.) currently in print. The downstairs library has these plus the out of print oldies –  guarded by the indomitable Judi, who knows Ankhie well enough to give me the stink-eye should I linger too long near these tempting tomes.

Now, I willingly admit that I am an Ankh of great ignorance. My esoteric education is incomplete at best, and one of the problems with such envious access to material is – where to begin.  For this reason I greet each new Weiser Field Guide, Encyclopedia and Concise Guide with a joyous heart. These books have proven invaluable introductions to subjects that I often didn’t even know existed.  So when Daniel Pineda’s The Book of Secrets came across my desk I couldn’t wait to jump in and, of course, share some of it with you! It doesn’t publish until March, but a wee preview is definitely in order.

The OTO is something that I do know a little bit about. But for those of you who want to know more and are reluctant to ask, this excerpt is for you. OTO 101.

from The Book of Secrets by Daniel Pineda (March 2011)

Ordo Templi Orientis

Ordo Templi Orientis—the Order of the Oriental or Eastern Temple—was founded in the late 19th century by an Austrian paper chemist Carl  Kellner after returning from his travels in Asia. He and Theodor Reuss, the head of the revival of the Bavarian Illuminati, organized OTO in order to transmit what they called the Key to all Masonic rituals and occult sciences. This, they taught, was the initiated understanding of sexuality, symbolism, and the spiritual path. OTO’s structure was modeled on various Masonic rites such as the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim, Scottish  Rite, and the Swedenborgian Rite.

Reuss initiated Aleister Crowley into the preliminary degrees of OTO in 1910 and appointed him National Grand Master of Great Britain and  Ireland in 1912. It was not long before Crowley’s teachings on Thelema, the philosophy and spiritual method whose aim is summarized in the  phrase “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” became an integral part of the new order. After Reuss’s death in 1923, Crowley became the Head of OTO, continuing to align the order with Thelema and its principle document, Liber AL vel Legis, sub figura CCXX or The Book of the Law.

The modern OTO is an international Thelemic organization comprised of men and women dedicated to the study of its mysteries in preparation  for the discovery and use of its Central Secret. In a similar fashion to Freemasonic and other fraternities, OTO instructs its members through  dramatic ritual in the form of initiations and the celebration of the Gnostic Mass, which Crowley described as the “central ceremony of its (OTO)  public and private celebration.”

The first three degrees of OTO as well as their prologue (0°) and pendants (IV° and P.I.), represent the six stages of incarnation and existence  known as man’s Path in Eternity. This section of the Order is known as Man of Earth Triad and in some ways corresponds with the Ancient and  Accepted Scottish rite of Freemasonry. The scheme of this Triad is as follows:

  • 0° Minerval: The ego or soul is expressed as a single point with no relation,  or as the circumference of a circle, being a prologue to I°.
  • I° Man and Brother or Woman and Sister: Birth is experienced as the reception of light.
  • II° Magician: Life is studied as a chain of cause and effect.
  • III° Master Magician: Death is voluntarily chosen as an
    extension of what is known as life and the unveiling
    of one’s true self.
  • IV° Perfect Magician: Truth is seen as a perfect relationship—
    balanced, complete, and exalted.
  • P.I. Perfect Initiate: Truth is experienced as the annihilation
    of difference, all of which is drawn to a point and

According to Crowley, “All subsequent Degrees of the OTO are accordingly elaborations of the II°, since in a single ceremony it is hardly possible  to sketch, even in the briefest outline, the Teaching of Initiates with regard to Life.” The other two triads, known as the Lovers and the Hermit,  are concerned with the government of the order, service to the lower degrees, and the development of the Magic of Light.

Other resources:

U.S. Grand Lodge, OTO

Ordo Templi Orientis  International Headquarters

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