O.T.O. FAQ

 oto-lamen

Ordo Tem­pli Orientis

Peace, Tol­er­ance, Truth,

Salu­ta­tion on All Points of

the Tri­an­gle; Respect to the Order.

To All Whom it May Con­cern, Greet­ing and Health.

 

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Some Fre­quently Asked Questions

 

Please note that this FAQ deals very briefly with some extremely com­plex top­ics, and as such leaves out many nuances, excep­tions, and inter­est­ing details. We strongly encour­age those inter­ested in O.T.O. and Thelema to con­duct more thor­ough research to gain a more com­plete under­stand­ing of these issues.

 

Ques­tions about Ordo Tem­pli Ori­en­tis (O.T.O.)

 

How old is O.T.O.?

By tra­di­tion, O.T.O. traces its spir­i­tual roots to the foun­da­tion of the Order of Knights Tem­plar in 1108. Accord­ing to Aleis­ter Crow­ley its imme­di­ate antecedents were the 18th-century Rosi­cru­cian Orders.

The ini­tial con­fer­ences that 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 Aleis­ter Crowley’s rela­tion­ship to the O.T.O.?

Aleis­ter Crow­ley was admit­ted to the O.T.O. in 1910. He was appointed national Grand Mas­ter X° for Britain and Ire­land in 1912, and assumed world­wide lead­er­ship as O.H.O. (Outer Head of the Order) in 1922. He revised the Order’s rit­u­als and struc­ture, in accor­dance with the Law of Thelema.

 

What is the dif­fer­ence between O.T.O. and 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°.

 

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

As cur­rently under­stood, the E.G.C. rep­re­sents the aspect of O.T.O. that admin­is­ters the Gnos­tic Mass and asso­ci­ated eccle­si­as­ti­cal rit­u­als. 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.

 

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 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 pre­req­ui­site 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. We encour­age those inter­ested in attend­ing the Gnos­tic Mass to famil­iar­ize them­selves with the text of the rit­ual (Liber XV) before decid­ing whether to attend.

 

Is Ordo Tem­pli Ori­en­tis a cult?

The O.T.O. is not a cult; no demands of belief what­so­ever are made of any mem­bers other than agree­ment to respect the Law of Thelema. Mem­ber­ship fees are nom­i­nal (less than $50 per year in the lower degrees). The O.T.O. is offi­cially rec­og­nized by the United States gov­ern­ment as a non-profit 501c(3) reli­gious organization.

 

Any­one inter­ested in our activ­i­ties is encour­aged to spend time with us and see that we are a close-knit asso­ci­a­tion of inde­pen­dent, free-thinking, lov­ing human beings who share a spe­cial bond of ini­ti­a­tion in the Law of Thelema and revel with the Child in the com­ing of the New Aeon.

 

Is Ordo Tem­pli Ori­en­tis Satanic or anti-Christian?

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.

 

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 Wiccan.

 

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. For fur­ther infor­ma­tion, please see our his­tory and ini­ti­a­tion pages on the O.T.O. U.S. Grand Lodge web­site. O.T.O. mem­ber­ship is not incom­pat­i­ble with mem­ber­ship in most Masonic organizations.

 

What is the rela­tion­ship between Ordo Tem­pli Ori­en­tis and the A∴A∴?

O.T.O. has long worked in close alliance with the AA, which first pro­claimed the Law of Thelema to the world. The AA is a teach­ing, test­ing, and ini­tia­tory sys­tem ded­i­cated to the per­sonal spir­i­tual advance­ment of its indi­vid­ual mem­bers. Within AA all ser­vices are ren­dered free of charge, and no social activ­i­ties are held. O.T.O. and AA have jointly issued the jour­nal The Equinox since 1912 ev, now in its fourth vol­ume. Although they are dis­tinctly sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tions, nei­ther includ­ing nor sub­or­di­nate to the other, O.T.O. has his­tor­i­cally assisted AA with prac­ti­cal mat­ters that lie out­side the latter’s pri­mary mis­sion, which is purely spir­i­tual in nature.

 

Is O.T.O. a religion ?

No. O.T.O. is a reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion and mag­i­cal fra­ter­nity that works within the wider con­text of the spir­i­tual phi­los­o­phy known as Thelema, which tech­ni­cally could be con­sid­ered a religion.

 

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. 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.

 

How do I join O.T.O.?

This ques­tion is answered at length on the mem­ber­ship page of the U.S. Grand Lodge web­site (oto-usa.org). To sum­ma­rize, ini­ti­ate mem­ber­ship requires a phys­i­cal cer­e­mony, which in turn means that you must find and con­tact an O.T.O. local body near you to apply for ini­ti­a­tion. The U.S. local body or con­tact pages on the web­site may be use­ful in locat­ing the clos­est local body in your vicinity.

 

Do I have to believe in some par­tic­u­lar dogma to join?

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|Christian|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.

 

Why does O.T.O. charge dues?

Finan­cial sup­port is nec­es­sary to run a large multi­na­tional orga­ni­za­tion, even one staffed by vol­un­teers. Our finan­cial records are open to members.

 

What do I get for my dues?

Order mem­bers receive national newslet­ters, which are typ­i­cally pub­lished on an irreg­u­lar basis. In addi­tion, being dues-current enti­tles you to attend ini­ti­a­tions and other events that are only open to mem­bers in good stand­ing. It allows you to apply for ini­ti­a­tion to the next degree, as you feel ready to advance. It gives you the pre­rog­a­tive of spon­sor­ing other appli­cants for ini­ti­a­tion, once you are a I° or higher yourself.

 

Ques­tions about Thelema and Aleis­ter Crowley

 

What is “Thelema”?

This ques­tion is answered at length in the Thelema sec­tion on our web­site (oto-usa.org). In brief, Thelema is the religious-magical-philosophical sys­tem founded when Aleis­ter Crow­ley received the Book of the Law in 1904. Its prin­ci­pal tenets can be sum­ma­rized by the brief phrases “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and “Love is the law, love under will.”

 

What is a Thelemite?

The term “Thelemite” is sub­ject to sev­eral dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tions. The term itself was coined by Fran­cois Rabelais in 1534 ev Crow­ley used the term to refer to some­one who “accepts the Law” (i.e., the Book of the Law).

 

How do I become a Thelemite?

By decid­ing that you are a Thelemite and accept­ing the Law of Thelema. Accept­ing Liber AL as a spir­i­tual and mag­i­cal focal point is implicit in this idea, in the sense that it would be para­dox­i­cal to claim to be prac­tic­ing Thelema with­out this accep­tance. What you do beyond that is entirely up to you (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”). There is no require­ment to join any par­tic­u­lar orga­ni­za­tion, to asso­ciate with (or shun) other Thelemites, or to fol­low any spe­cific course of study, med­i­ta­tion, or rit­ual prac­tice. Many Thelemites do find that mem­ber­ship in a Thelemic orga­ni­za­tion proves use­ful in fur­ther­ing their own Work. There are numer­ous such orga­ni­za­tions to choose from, with O.T.O. being per­haps the largest and best-known among them.

 

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.

 

Was Aleis­ter Crow­ley a Satanist?

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.

 

Did Crow­ley really sac­ri­fice children?

No. Crow­ley never per­formed or advo­cated human sac­ri­fice. His much-quoted allu­sion to fre­quent “child sac­ri­fice” (Mag­ick In The­ory & Prac­tice, Chap­ter XII) was a metaphor for a spe­cific prac­tice of sex­ual mag­ick that did not involve harm to any indi­vid­ual, but diverted the ener­gies of sex­u­al­ity from phys­i­cal repro­duc­tion to other pur­poses. Human sac­ri­fice in any form would be incom­pat­i­ble with the prin­ci­ples of Thelema, as a vio­la­tion of the right of every indi­vid­ual to live as he or she wills.

 

How do you pro­nounce ‘Thelema’?

One hears both “thuh-LEE-muh” and “theh-LAY-muh” com­monly, and other vari­ants now and then. The orig­i­nal Greek is Θελημα.This word is pro­nounced “theh-LEE-mah” in mod­ern Greek, and would have most likely been pro­nounced “teh-LAY-mah” in ancient (Attic) Greek—so take your pick.

 

What does the “ev” I see after dates in Thelemic writ­ings mean?

Thelema has its own cal­en­dar, but at present it is used largely for cer­e­mo­nial pur­poses. In com­mon with many reli­gions, for many prac­ti­cal pur­poses we use the Gre­go­rian cal­en­dar instead. In Chris­t­ian prac­tice, the years after the tra­di­tional birth of Christ are iden­ti­fied as “A.D.,” or “Anno Domini,” which means “Year of Our Lord.”

 

Schol­ars wish­ing to use the Gre­go­rian cal­en­dar with­out that sec­tar­ian attri­bu­tion adopted the prac­tice of using “C.E.,” short for “Com­mon Era,” instead. Some used the Latin equiv­a­lent, which is “E.V.” (“Era Vul­garis”). Crow­ley estab­lished the tra­di­tion of using the lat­ter form when refer­ring to Gre­go­rian dates in Thelemic mate­ri­als, and this tra­di­tion has been main­tained into the present day.

 

What does “93” mean?

The old Hebrew and Greek lan­guages had no sep­a­rate sys­tem of numer­als; num­bers were instead sig­ni­fied by the use of the let­ters of their respec­tive alpha­bets, each of which had a spe­cific numeric value assigned to it.

There­fore, a numeric value can be derived from any word or phrase spelled in either Greek or Hebrew. The study of these numeric val­ues and their mean­ings is termed “gema­tria”. The Greek words Θελημα (Thelema — Will) and Αγαπη (Agape — Love) both enu­mer­ate to the num­ber 93. There­fore, the num­ber 93 serves as a con­cise, sym­bolic expres­sion of the prin­ci­ples of Will (Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law) and Love (Love is the law, love under will). Crow­ley rec­om­mended the use of these phrases as Thelemic salu­ta­tions of greet­ing and depar­ture; mod­ern Thelemites fre­quently use “93” as a shorter and more casual equivalent.

 

Should you have any fur­ther ques­tions about O.T.O., Thelema, Aleis­ter Crow­ley or related sub­jects, please feel free to address them directly to the Pub­lic Infor­ma­tion Offi­cer care of the U.S. Grand Lodge web­site e-mail address at: pio@oto-usa.org or to a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the local O.T.O. body in your area.

 

Love is the law, love under will.