Monday, August 25, 2008

OTO Matters

OTO Matters

For those of you who missed it then you may be interested to know that the various incarnations of the O[rdo] T[empli] O[rientis] have been again skirmishing in the UK courts, one (the Caliphate) having just succeeded in establishing a OTO religious symbol (The Rose Cross Lamen) as a UK trademark; as well as the initials OTO. The other, (the Typhonian) had un-successfully opposed this. I've not seen the actual court ruling, just various press releases, which naturally enough tend to spin in favour of this or that organisation. For the record, let me say, that IMO, there are indeed several OTO organisations and neither of them is spurious, although some, such as the Caliphate, seem to be newer, more brash players on the scene. Aleister Crowley died in 1947 leaving his particular dispensation to Karl Germer, who on his death bed and knowing all of the candidates - plumped for Marcello Motta's (Societas) OTO. Again naturally enough - this is disputed by some - who point out that the only witness to Germer's last will and testament, was his wife, and she was after all "just a woman and not even a member".

I should say that I was a sometime member of Kenneth Grant's OTO, and was expelled for reasons not too relevant here, although I still regard myself as a Typhonian. So I have some sympathy for their refusal to lay down and die. I suspect that justice is never blind, but takes into account the relative size of competing organisations and that as the Caliphate was the bigger, richer organisation, it might have had more clout with the legal officers. But there again, when has the law ever been the friend of secret societies? Caliphate types are already swaggering that they are now the only one, but few reasonable people will agree. I read their press release on what appears to be a Caliphate friendly site, and a comment appended by a "Rodney", reveals part of their motivation is to "lessen the confusion many new people feel when they enter the world of Thelema…" Which I interpret as meaning that the world needs just one view of Thelema. As a pagan, I'm very nervous of attempts to block and negate other approaches to magick and enlightenment. So "Rodney" (whoever he might be) now thinks its safe to "assume . . . that there will only be one Order calling itself O.T.O. in future." Well that would truly be a shame but there again, I really doubt it somehow.

The Caliphate press release ends with the very encouraging remarks that they will "continue — now with fewer distractions — [their] publications program." Which includes the completely restored “Confessions” . Which is to say - the Caliphate is currently engaged in a programme of re-editing various Crowley works and at the same time suppressing what it sees as aberrant approaches to the "master". Bit of a shame I think. For me, Symonds and Grant's edition of "Liber ABA" is a handy little volume and the Caliphate's new "unabridged" version, the so-called "blue brick", is no great improvement. But there again, I'd say there is room for both. But in the interests of "avoiding confusion" - that cannot be allowed. After all, one person's "diversity " is another's “confusion". Adding deleted scenes, and "footnote fodder" has it place, but is it really that important? Roll on the expiration of the Crowley copyright - just a few more years "my people". [Mogg]


In an elist discussion of the above events I asked the question as to whether there was any mechanism by which the Caliphate's own membership might bring its leadership to account, should they find themsevles not totally in agreement with their Order's approach to other Thelemic groups. I received the following interesting reply:

"Although I've heard OTO members put out different interpretations, I myself believe, and have had members of US Grand Lodge confirm, that the only "secrets" within OTO are those directly related to initiations. So, I consider myself free to talk about anything but the specific contents of initiations, and perhaps specific confidential bits of information I may be privy to that would be a violation of another persons privacy--but the latter is just basic ethics.

There really is no direct mechanism within OTO for the general membership to hold the leadership accountable. Ostensibly, they could rally others within the higher grades to take up their cause, but that's pretty much it. Lacking that, the only recourse a member unhappy with actions not directly related to them has one course--leaving. In this way, OTO is truly hierarchical, and I wouldn't want to suggest otherwise. When I made my point earlier I only trying to suggest that it is not monolithic (just as the Catholic church is not really monolithic despite its centralization around the Vatican). My own observation has been that members within the lower grades who have issues with the leadership's actions usually are able to gain a voice in policy, if at all, through informal channels, as there is no formal channel for doing so.

Now, if a member feels that they have a grievance that relates directly to them, there are formal channels for addressing that through an Ombudsman's office, at least within US Grand Lodge. So, if you feel directly harmed, you can seek to bring the leadership to account for that through specific formal channels. But if you simply disagree with the direction, all you can really do is make your disagreement known.

One potential exception, of course, is the office of the revolutionary, whose job it is to depose the current sovereign within a grand lodge. So, if one is in strong disagreement, one could potentially secretly join the cause of the revolutionary. There are supposed to be two revolutionaries within any grand lodge. I think US Grand Lodge is the only lodge that currently has an appointed revolutionary (there is only one, and it is a recent appointment), and the identity of that revolutionary is secret. Based on my conversations and interviews, I'd say that some members do seem to hold the belief that if they are in strong disagreement with the present leadership, it is not merely their right, but their duty, to try to topple that leadership--either from without or within. I'd have to go back into my notes and transcripts to really get specifics on this--I don't have time for that kind of detailed work, but this is one of the questions I do hope to address in formal writing in the future.

Let me add, though, that my own knowledge is primarily based on local body participation and observation of actions on the grand lodge level in the United States. I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the specific workings of the International Leadership or about other grand lodges. When I set out my project as a researcher, I constrained myself to the specifics of looking at the order on a local body level, and really only concerned myself with even grand lodge issues as they affected the local body. Of course, I have my own knowledge of those workings because I've been a member for quite some time and because I work as editor of Agape, the US Grand Lodge newsletter.

I hope that helps address your questions. The institutional mode of management is definitely one of my areas of interest, and I hope to specifically address in my future writing some of how members understand the hierarchical structure of the order to integrate with the seemingly individualist ethos of Thelema. Again, though, a responsible account of that requires a kind of detailed work I won't be able to do for some months.

Regards, Grant Potts (

PS: the Caliphate "Press Release", with its not so thinly veiled warning, is posted on

PPS: Caliphate annual report: for the USA lodge, the largest with a membership of approx 1500, a growth of 40% since its founding in 1996. So a relative small organisation compared with other neopagan groups and its membership seems according to its report to be fairly static.

Turning in his grave?

Frater Hymenaeus Alpha 777 aka Grady Louis McMurtry who shed his earthly vehicle and died twenty-three years ago in California on July 12, 1985. He was lying in his hospital bed at Brookside Hospital in San Pablo, discussing forms of meditation with a friend when he softly said, “I think my path is more the Sufi Path.” When questioned what he meant, he simply looked up and said, “I don’t know.” He then closed his eyes and quietly passed away. Grady once wrote that; “The moment of ultimate self-embarrassment is when you die. That is when you wake up.” In other words, you get to review your whole incarnation for all its good and bad, shake your head and then prepare for the next. On July 15th, his body was prepared at the Apollo Crematory in Emeryville, California. He was dressed as Saladin, in a turban with his favorite red robe. A bouquet of roses was placed in his arms shortly before he was cremated. Grady’s ashes remained in the possession of the O.T.O. for almost a year. Then, on July 12th 1986, a large group of individuals boarded a boat rented at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. About three miles past the Golden Gate Bridge, with help of the Neptune Society, his ashes were spread out across the Pacific Ocean. It was written, “From the fire of cremation to the waters of the great sea, by formula and verse did we rejoice him on his way.” A single rose was then tossed into the water, cut from the same bush as the bouquet that had been placed in his hands when he was cremated. As his ashes slowly vanished beneath the waters, one of Grady’s poem was read to send him off on his last voyage -The Redeemer That is in the Waters.


O who will go with the mermen bold
With the mermen, wild and free
O who will rule from the castle old
In the Chasm of the sea
And who will brave the abyssal cold
For all eternity?

O I will go with the mermen bold
With the mermen, wild and free
And I will rule from the castle old
In the Chasm of the sea
And I will brave the abyssal cold
For one eternity!



Blogger Gordon said...

Does anyone know if Grady L McMurtry is the father of this person?

Dr Grady McMurtry

It seems possible, but if so, its an interesting juxtaposition.

5:56 AM  

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