Ordo Templi Orientis

From Academic Kids

Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) (Order of the Temple of the East, or the Order of Oriental Templars) is an international fraternal and religious organization. For its teachings and principles of organization, it has accepted the Law of Thelema, which is expressed as “Do what thou wilt.” Thelemites believe that this Law was established with the writing of the Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley in 1904 in Cairo, Egypt. Its structure is similar to that of Freemasonry, with a series of graded initiations. The O.T.O. also includes the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica or Gnostic Catholic Church, which is the ecclesiastical arm of the Order. Its central rite, which is public, is called Liber XV, or the Gnostic Mass. O.T.O. claims over 4000 members in 58 countries.


Philosophy of O.T.O.

O.T.O. was described by Crowley as the "first of the great Old Æon orders to accept The Book of the Law". O.T.O. was originally affiliated with European masonic organisations, although Crowley eventually cut all formal ties with Freemasonry—largely because of the integration of the Law of Thelema and the Order's equal acceptance of women. Although some masonic symbolism and language is in use, their context is no longer that of Freemasonry, but of Thelema and its tenets. "The Order offers esoteric instruction through dramatic ritual, guidance in a system of illuminated ethics, and fellowship among aspirants to the Great Work of realizing the divine in the human" [1] (http://oto-usa.org/about_oto.html). O.T.O. has two core areas of ritual activity: initiation into the Mysteries, and the celebration of Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass. In addition, the Order organizes lectures, classes, social events, theatrical productions, artistic exhibitions, publishes books and journals, and instruction in Hermetic science, yoga, and magick.

Crowley wrote in his Confessions, "the O.T.O. is in possession of one supreme secret. The whole of its system [is] directed towards communicating to its members, by progressively plain hints, this all-important instruction." Of the first set of initiations, "the main objects of the instruction [are] two. It [is] firstly necessary to explain the universe and the relations of human life therewith. Secondly, to instruct every man [and woman] how best to adapt his [or her] life to the cosmos and to develop his faculties to the utmost advantage. I accordingly constructed a series of rituals, Minerval, Man, Magician, Master-Magician, Perfect Magician and Perfect Initiate, which should illustrate the course of human life in its largest philosophical aspect." The initiation rituals after the V° are such that "the candidate is instructed in the value of discretion, loyalty, independence, truthfulness, courage, self-control, indifference to circumstance, impartiality, scepticism, and other virtues, and at the same time assisted him to discover for himself the nature of [the supreme] secret, the proper object of its employment and the best means for insuring success for its use."

Of the entire system of O.T.O., Crowley wrote in Confessions:

It offers a rational basis for universal brotherhood and for universal religion. It puts forward a scientific statement which is a summary of all that is at present known about the universe by means of a simple, yet sublime symbolism, artistically arranged. It also enables each man to discover for himself his personal destiny, indicates the moral and intellectual qualities which he requires in order to fulfil it freely, and finally puts in his hands an unimaginably powerful weapon which he may use to develop in himself every faculty which he may need in his work. (P. 703) [2] (http://www.hermetic.com/crowley/confess/chapter72.html)


O.T.O. uses a graded system, similar to that of Freemasonry. There are thirteen numbered degrees and twelve un-numbered. They are divided into three grades or "triads": the Hermit, the Lover, and the Man of Earth. The ultimate goal of initiation in O.T.O. is "to instruct the individual by allegory and symbol in the profound mysteries of Nature, and thereby to assist each to discover his or her own true Identity."[3] (http://oto-usa.org/init.html) The entire system is as follows:

  • The Man of Earth Triad
    • 0°—Minerval
    • I°—Man & Brother / Woman & Sister
    • II°—Magician
    • III°—Master Magician
    • IV°—Perfect Magician & companion of the Holy Royal Arch of Enoch
    • P.I.—Perfect Initiate, or Prince of Jerusalem
  • Outside all Triads
    • Knight of the East & West
  • The Lover Triad
    • V°—
      • Sovereign Prince Rose-Croix, and Knight of the Pelican & Eagle
      • Knight of the Red Eagle, and Member of the Senate of Knight Hermetic Philosophers
    • VI°—
      • Illustrious Knight (Templar) of the Order of Kadosch, and Companion of the Holy Graal
      • Grand Inquisitor Commander, and Member of the Grand Tribunal
      • Prince of the Royal Secret
    • VII°—
      • Theoreticus, and Very Illustrious Sovereign Grand Inspector General
      • Magus of Light, and Bishop of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica
      • Grandmaster of Light, and Inspector of Rites & Degrees
  • The Hermit Triad
    • VIII°—
      • Perfect Pontiff of the Illuminati
      • Epopt of the Illuminati
    • IX°—Initiate of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis
    • X°—Rex Summus Sanctissimus
    • XI°—Initiate of the Eleventh Degree (This degree is technical, and has no relation to the general plan of the Order)
    • XII°—Frater Superior, and Outer Head of the Order


The governing bodies of O.T.O. include:

  1. International Headquarters
    • Presided over by the Outer Head of the Order XII° (OHO—also known as Frater Superior)
    • Supreme Council
    • Revolutionaries
  2. The Sovereign Sanctuary of the Gnosis of the IX°
  3. The Secret Areopagus of the Illuminati of the VIII°
  4. The Grand Tribunal of the VI°
  5. The National Grand Lodge
    • Presided over by the National Grand Master
    • Executive Council
  6. The Supreme Grand Council
  7. The Electoral College


1. International Headquarters is the body that governs O.T.O. worldwide. As a ruling body, it is known as the International Supreme Council, which consists of the Outer Head of the Order (OHO—also known as Frater Superior), the Secretary General, and the Treasurer General.

2. The Sovereign Sanctuary of the Gnosis consists of members who have reached the IX°. Their prime duty is to study and practice the theurgy and thaumaturgy of the degree, consisting of the Supreme Secret of the Order. However, as a ruling body, they have the authority to

  • ratify and overturn the rulings of the Areopogus
  • act as representitives of the OHO and National Grand Masters when need arises
  • fill the office of Revolutionary
  • vote within the Secret Areopagus
  • have some powers over the installation and removal of the OHO and National Grand Masters

3. The Secret Areopagus of the Illuminati is a philosophical Governing Body comprised of those who have reached the VIII°. It has the authority to reverse the decisions of the Grand Tribunal.

4. The Grand Tribunal is composed of members of the degree of Grand Inquisitor Commander (a sub-degree of the VI°). Their primary duty is to hear and abritrate disputes and complains not resolved at the level of Chapters and Lodges.


1. At the national level, the highest body is the Grand Lodge, which is ruled by the National Grand Master. Within the Grand Lodge is an Executive Council, which consists of the Board of Directors, who are the National Grand Master, the Grand Secretary General, and the Grand Treasurer General.

2. The Supreme Grand Council consists of members of the VII° appointed by the National Grand Master X°. They are charged with:

  • the government of the whole of the Lovers Grade
  • Hearing and deciding appeals of the decisions of the Electoral College
  • Hearing reports of the Sovereign Grand Inspectors General VII° as to the affairs of the Initiate members of the Lovers Grade

3. The Electoral College consists of eleven members of the V° and is the first of the governing bodies. Its primary duty is to oversee the affairs of the Man of Earth Grade.

O.T.O. has a federally recognised tax-exempt status in the USA under IRS section 501c(3). It also has California charitable corporation status.

Current Grand Lodges

The US Grand Lodge is the governing body of O.T.O. in the United States of America. The U.S. National Grand Master is Fr. Sabazius X°, who was appointed in 1996.

According to their website, the Mission Statement of U.S.G.L. is as follows:

"Ordo Templi Orientis U.S.A. is the U.S. Grand Lodge (National Section) of Ordo Templi Orientis, a hierarchical, religious membership organization. Our mission is to effect and promote the doctrines and practices of the philosophical and religious system known as Thelema, with particular emphasis on cultivating the ideals of individual liberty, self-discipline, self-knowledge, and universal brotherhood. To this end, we conduct sacramental and initiatory rites, offer guidance and instruction to our members, organize social events, and engage in educational and community service activities at locations throughout the United States." [4] (http://oto-usa.org/mission.html)

The UK Grand Lodge is the governing body of O.T.O. in the United Kingdom. The U.K. National Grand Master is Fr. Hyperion X°, who was appointed in 2005 (93 years after the last Grand Master for the UK, Aleister Crowley, was elevated to that office).

The Gnostic Catholic Church

The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, or Gnostic Catholic Church, is the ecclesiastical arm of O.T.O. It's central activity is the celebration of Liber XV, The Gnostic Mass. In recent years, other rites have been written and approved for use within the church. These include Baptism, Confirmation (into the Laity), and Ordination (for Deacons, Priests & Priestesses, and Bishops), and Last Rites. There are also several "unofficial" rituals that are celebrated within the context of E.G.C., including Weddings, Visitation and Administration of the Virtues to the Sick, Exorcism, and Rites for Life and Greater Feasts.

O.T.O. bodies

At the Man of Earth level, there are three levels of Local Body, which are Camps, Oases, and Lodges.

1. Camps tend to be the smallest and are not required to perform intiations. They are encouraged to celebrate the Gnostic Mass.

2. Oases are the next largest, and should be able to initiate through the III°.

3. Lodges are the largest local body within the Man of Earth Grade, and are expected to celebrate the Gnostic Mass on a regular basis, work towards establishing a permanent temple, and have the ability to initiate through IV°/P.I.

4. Chapters of Rose Croix are bodies established by members of the Lover Grade. A Chapter is headed by a Most Wise Sovereign. They are generally charged with arranging social activities, such as plays, banquets, and dances. They also work to promote harmony among the members by tact and friendliness.

5. Guilds are groups recognized by O.T.O. International designed to promote a profession, trade, science or craft. Subject to approval by the Areopogus, they make their own regulations and coordinate their own efforts. There are currently three Guilds: the Psychology Guild, the Translators' Guild, and the Information Technology Guild.

6. The term Sanctuary is sometimes used to indicate a group of initiates organized for E.G.C. activities. This designation currently reflects no formal chartering process or official standing within the Order.


The beginnings

The founding of Ordo Templi Orientis began with a wealthy paper chemist, Carl Kellner (1851-1905). A student of the occult and familiar with several modern secret organizations, he had come to believe that he had discovered a “Key” to the symbolism of Freemasonry and to the Mysteries of Nature itself. He then aspired to create an Academia Masonica that would unifiy the various systems of Masonry. Kellner, along with an associate, Theodor Reuss (1855-1923), decided to call it the Oriental Templar Order. In 1902, Reuss, along with Franz Hartmann and Henry Klein, purchased the right to perform the Scottish, Memphis and Mizraim rites of Freemasonry, the authority of which was confirmed in 1904 and again in 1905. These rites, along with the Swedenborgian Rite, formed the core of the newly established Order. When Kellner died in 1905, Reuss assumed full control, becoming the first Outer Head of the Order.

O.T.O. and Aleister Crowley

Ruess met Aleister Crowley and in 1910 admitted him to the three degrees of O.T.O. Only two years later, Crowley was placed in charge of Great Britain and Ireland, and was advanced to the X°. The appointment included the operation of the Masonic degrees of O.T.O., which were called Mysteria Mystica Maxima. Within the year Crowley had written the Manifesto of the M.'.M.'.M.'. which described the basic ten-degree system—which was still principally Masonic—with Kellner’s three degree Academia Masonica forming the VII°, VIII° and IX°.

In 1913, Crowley composed the Gnostic Mass while in Moscow, which he described as being the Order’s “central ceremony of its public and private celebration.” In 1914, soon after World War I broke out, he moved to America. It was around this time that he decided to integrate Thelema into the O.T.O. system, and in 1915 had revised rituals prepared for use in his M.'.M.'.M.'.. He revised them again in 1918, and in so doing removed the rituals' ties to Masonry.

Crowley wrote that Theodor Reuss suffered a stroke in the Spring of 1920. In correspondence with one of his officers, Crowley expressed doubts about Reuss's competence to remain in office. Relations between Reuss and Crowley began to deteriorate. The two exchanged angry letters in November of 1921. Crowley informed Reuss that he was availing himself of Reuss's abdication from office and proclaiming himself the Outer Head of the Order. Reuss died on October 28, 1923. Crowley claimed in later correspondence that Reuss had designated him as his successor.

During WWII, the European branches of O.T.O. were either destroyed or driven underground. By the end of the war, the only surviving O.T.O. body was Agapé Lodge in California, although there were various initiates in different countries. Very few initiations were being performed. At this time, Karl Germer, who had been Crowley’s representitive in Germany, came over to America after being released from Nazi confinement. In 1942, Crowley appointed him as his successor as OHO, the office he filled after the death of Crowley in 1947.

O.T.O. after Crowley

Under Germer, O.T.O. activity dropped to near extinction. He died in 1962 without naming a successor. It was not until 1969 that anyone stepped into the void when Grady McMurtry invoked his emergency authorization from Crowley and assumed the title of Caliph. He began performing initiations in 1970. O.T.O. was incorporated under the laws of the State of California on March 26th, 1979. The corporation attained Federal Tax exemption as a religious entity under IRS Code 501(c)3 in 1982. Grady McMurtry died in 1985, having successfully saved the O.T.O. from extinction.

McMurtry requested that members of the Sovereign Sanctuary (members of the Ninth Degree) elect the next Outer Head of the Order, which they did in 1985. William Breeze was elected to become the next OHO, taking the name Hymenaeus Beta, and he continues in that office today. In 1996, Sabazius X° was appointed as National Grand Master General for the U.S. Grand Lodge.

Schisms in the Thelemic community

Several competing factions currently claim to be the legitimate heirs to Aleister Crowley. After McMurtry revived O.T.O. in California, three others came forward to claim the title of OHO. Hermann Metzger had been a member of the early Swiss O.T.O. under Reuss. However, his claims were ignored by everyone outside of his country and he never pressed the issue. He died in 1990.

The other two were Kenneth Grant and Marcelo Ramos Motta. Grant had been expelled from O.T.O. in 1955 by Germer, but claims that Germer was never the legitimate OHO, and therefore the expulsion was void. He went on to found the organization known as the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, which still claims a devoted following. Motta was never initiated into O.T.O. at all, but claimed that Germer’s wife, Sasha, told him that Karl’s last words stated that Motta was “the follower.” He sued for ownership of Crowley’s copyrights, which were denied to him by the U.S. District Court in Maine. Motta died in 1987, although various small groups calling themselves Society O.T.O. (S.O.T.O.) continue to exist. Both of these groups are quite different in structure and teachings from Crowley's O.T.O. as it exists today.

The O.T.O. as revived by McMurtry has won two court cases regarding its legitimacy as the 'real' O.T.O. of Aleister Crowley. The hallmark cases were:

  1. 1976: the Superior Court in Calaveras County, California recognizes Grady McMurtry as the authorized representative of O.T.O.
  2. 1985: in the 9th Federal District Court in San Francisco, McMurtry is found to be the legitimate head of O.T.O. within the United States, and that O.T.O. under McMurtry is the continuation of the O.T.O. of Aleister Crowley, and the exclusive owner of the names, trademarks, copyrights and other assets of O.T.O. This decision is appealed and upheld.

The following case is also significant in the Order's history, though it does not have any bearing on the issue of legitimacy:

  1. 2002: The United Kingdom High Court finds that O.T.O. as revived by McMurtry is the sole owner of the copyrights for all of the works of Aleister Crowley. It should be noted that this case was fought and won on a basis of the copyrights having been purchased from the Official Receiver following confirmation of Crowley's bankruptcy and not as a result of the organisation being recognised as the legitimate continuation of Crowley's O.T.O. and thus the rightful beneficiary of his will. The issue of the organisation's legitimacy is thus not affected at all by the 2002 decision, as the matter was not relevant to the proceedings; there is therefore no way to know whether, had it been tested, it would have been confirmed or denied. At any rate, it is misleading to point to this case as indicative of the organisation's legitimacy, since that alleged legitimacy was never a factor in the case's resolution.


The teachings of O.T.O. include:

Alternative views

Aleister Crowley and O.T.O. are frequently described as evil. Several Christian churches consider O.T.O. to be Satanic (although the tenets of Thelema do not include Satan or his worship).

There are those, including occultists and Thelemites of other organisations, such as members of Grant's Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, who do not agree that O.T.O. as revived by McMurtry is the sole legitimate continuation of the Order as headed by Aleister Crowley. Those who hold such views tend to refer to the O.T.O. as revived by McMurtry as the "Caliphate" O.T.O. (based on McMurtry's title of Caliph) so as to distinguish it from other organizations that use the name "Ordo Templi Orientis". There are even members of the O.T.O. as revived by McMurtry who refer to the organization as the "Caliphate", though this is discouraged.

Other organizations that use the O.T.O. name and consider themselves to be legitimate continuations of O.T.O., are O.T.O. Foundation (http://www.gnarledoak.co.uk/thelema.htm), Albion O.T.O. (http://www.uk-oto.org/oto_main.htm), The Parzival XI° O.T.O. Foundation (http://members.ozemail.com.au/~realoto/pf.html), and Ur-O.T.O. (http://members.aol.com/UROTO/index.html).

In 2002, an ex-member writing under the pseudonym Satyr published on the web 'The Black Lodge of Santa Cruz', a detailed account of events from his viewpoint in O.T.O., Inc. [5] (http://www.biroco.com/kaos/lodge.pdf)

See also


  • Crowley, Aleister (1979). The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. London;Boston : Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Satyr (2002). The Black Lodge of Santa Cruz (http://www.biroco.com/kaos/lodge.pdf). Retrieved April 7, 2005.
  • Thelemapedia (http://www.thelemapedia.org). (2005). Ordo Templi Orientis (http://www.thelemapedia.org/index.php/Ordo_Templi_Orientis). Retrieved January 11, 2005.

External links


Other organizations

Reference sites


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools