A Statement Regarding the Ordo Templi Orientis
At the end of February, 2006, after much consideration and ample notification of the present management of U.S. Grand Lodge, I resigned from all positions of management held by me at that time in Ordo Templi Orientis. The following statement is an effort to explain my actions, further elaborated upon in my anthology, The Roots of Magick.
"Civilization is crumbling under our eyes and I believe that the best chance of saving what little is worth saving, and rebuilding the Temple of the Holy Ghost on plans, and with material and workmanship, which shall be free from the errors of the former, lies with the O.T.O." Aleister Crowley, The Confessions.
"... the really vital matter is the gradual progress towards disclosure of the Secret of the Ninth Degree... I didn't invent the system; I must suppose that those who did knew what they were about." Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears
"The O.T.O. declares that Brotherhood of All Things Created is a fact of Nature ... The principal purpose of the O.T.O. is to teach True Brotherhood, and to make it a living power in the life of humanity." OTO Constitution, Article II, Sections 1 and 2
The Charter of "Scire".
For my parents and their generation, coming out of the toughest raw times of the Great Depression, the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 by forces of the Japanese Empire was a defining event in their lives, reframing all that had gone before in their lives, and profoundly influencing all subsequent events. For those of us born into the postwar world, there have been many profound events, but perhaps none has so comparably reframed our thinking as the fateful morning of September 11, 2001 when Islamist fanatics attacked the mainland of the United States, killing thousands of persons, most of them innocent civilians.
In my case the attack itself was not unexpected; indeed before the second plane struck the doomed World Trade Center in New York, I already pretty well knew who had likely launched the attack and why. But that fact did not lessen the impact of the event itself, and what it implied. It raised questions for me about what is, and is not, important and meaningful in my own life, and in the life's blood of civilization, which I consider to be under attack. It raised questions about the implications of any variety of religious fundamentalism and any variety of authoritarianism. OTO has always been rather blasé about its top-heavy autocratic structure, and has gradually moved from the Scientific Illuminism that informed its initiation rituals, and its celebratory ritual, The Gnostic Mass, towards a set of what I see as superstitious beliefs and tendencies. Was this something I could support in the wake of 9/11? I had had doubts before, but now it seemed a legitimate question in the context of what has been called — rightly, in my view — a clash of civilizations.
At the time I write this memorandum, the world population is 6,477,451,000. OTO membership is, perhaps, 3000. The population of the United States, where OTO has enjoyed its greatest success to date, is at least 298,444,062. (Reference: http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html) OTO membership is, possibly, 2000 and not growing appreciably — at the highest levels, essentially not growing at all. There is an argument that goes that this is as it should be, that the membership needs to be "few and secret" that it may "rule" (ill-defined) "the many and the known" — but in a world of 300 billions, an organization not appreciably larger than, say, the Socialist Workers Party and much smaller than, say, the followers of Rastafarianism is not just small, but hardly around at all.
The world membership of OTO is only slightly larger than that of, say, The New York Society for Ethical Culture (http://www.adherents.com/Na/Na_470.html) of which it is tellingly said, "The New York Society for Ethical Culture grew steadily until it reached its present membership of 1150 persons." The notion that thirty-five years after McMurtry initiated the revivification of OTO that this is becoming the "chief organization for world reform" is an embarrassing absurdity. Add to this the likely fact (OTO upper management seems highly resistant to any comprehensive demographic research) that most OTO members seem to be marginalized, essentially powerless individuals, and the absurdity becomes a farrago of nonsense. In the post 9/11 world, it may even be said to be a dangerous nonsense. Islamist fanatics have had far more influence on world events than the OTO has had in all of its history since McMurtry's activation of his emergency powers. It is not competitive in either the world of ideas or the world of practical activities. It has become not so much an evil as an irrelevancy under its present upper management.
I had already served the OTO in its current incarnation for nearly twenty years at the time of the attack, first as a private individual invited by the local body master to organize the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica in the Southern United States, virtually from scratch, then as a Lodge Secretary, sole consecrated resident bishop for many hundreds of miles around, then as Lodge Master, and eventually, for the past decade, as Sovereign Grand Inspector General and Most Wise Sovereign of one of a handful of Chapters of Rose Croix in the world. When the individual elevated to the office of U.S. Grand Master General, Sabazius, chose to make his first VII° full tripartite member, I was the member he chose. I was for some time on good — even intimate — social terms with the Acting Outer Head of the Order, known as Hymenaeus Beta. I have been a guest in the homes of both of these men, as they have been guests in mine. It is thus not without hesitation that I have come to view their efforts at doing the particular Work uniquely charged to the OTO in its founding and most basic documents, as being a dismal, ill-conceived and ill-executed effort that has brought, under their leadership, the sort of near total failure that has characterized many marginalized societies with pretensions to occult knowledge. The decision to transform an eccentric and radical form of Freemasonic School in the very heart of the authentic esoteric tradition into a rather conventional religious society with an extremely narrow base and zero societal impact was a gradual one, and has had its critics at each level of its deviation from the core program of the society.
In the middle years of the 1980s I was already deeply involved for many years in metaphysical work, but equally in radically progressive political work that I saw as a necessity for the very survival of civilization. I came to a point where I perceived that I needed to devote my energies in one direction or the other. After a major confrontation between activists and the police in Chicago, and between activists and one another, I decided that a conceptual basis for radical social change was a necessary prerequisite to worthwhile change, and I chose to devote my life — essentially full time — to the radical program of the OTO.
At the time I was wrestling with this decision, the OTO was undergoing a substantial transformation. After having virtually evaporated in the early 1950s, the Order had undergone a profound and vigorous revival under the acting leadership of Grady Louis McMurtry. A veteran of the Normandy Invasion and the conquest of Nazi-occupied Europe, Major McMurtry served in both World War Two and the Korean Conflict, and having trained and been initiated directly under the greatest remaining luminaries of the OTO system, including Crowley, McMurtry was nevertheless a somewhat haphazard eccentric by the time he began to pull the strands of the OTO back together in the 1970s.
Notwithstanding this, he took very seriously what he considered the basic essential documents of the Order as published in The Equinox III (1), grasped its essential evident purpose as a specialized engine of the Authentic Tradition and its far-reaching message, and with unconventional but largely effective organizing skills reinvented the OTO, without deviating from its core curriculum. He rightly saw both the spiritual implications of what was essentially a Masonic system, and the danger of calling what he was doing a "religion" in anything but the most technical legal definition of the concept. Had his Teacher not admonished against calling it "a new religion... I fail to see what you will have gained by so doing," Crowley told a student, "and I feel bound to add that you might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief." Crowley had written the Gnostic Mass with the idea of building a spiritual structure without recourse to superstition and blind faith-based beliefs as the chief celebratory ritual of the Order.
In his own fashion, and well aware of his own limitations, including his own advancing years, McMurtry attempted to preserve the core Mystery of OTO, the initiations, the advantages of civil law protections, and the division of the "spiritual" and "fraternal" functions of the Work, without introduction of any fundamental changes in the system he inherited which were not dictated by the exigencies of "war-time" survival conditions. Under his leadership, a tiny knot of seven or so became about seven hundred in perhaps fifteen years, at the time of his death, with studies under way to more fully explore and implement the ideas expressed in the basic documents. His successor was drawn up from the ranks of the intelligent younger members, committed to sticking to and clarifying the essential program, but his successor was a compromise candidate picked by an irregular college, and it was just not to be.
The principal mistakes that I cite below are not exhaustive. I have attempted to avoid failures on a personal level by persons in upper management, though such mistakes have, in my opinion, been at times exceptionally glaring and telling.
- INCORPORATION: The move towards incorporation was something I always viewed as in conflict with the radical postulates of the essential program of OTO. Incorporation, it is true, does offer certain tax-related benefits and, more questionably, legal protections, but it makes the organization a part of the very social paradigm its program seeks to supplant. By placing itself within the System, a body tends to become absorbed into the system. The OTO program, its central gnosis and conceptual framework are not amenable to social conformity. It might — it might — be able to be a "legal entity" without gradually compromising itself into being a part of the very paradigm it postulates as that of an antequated "Aeon" but this would require extraordinary and clear-headed management. It has not had that, and seems to consist largely of socially marginalized members attracted to the essential program which has been gradually gutted into a hollow shell of its intended realization.
- LITIGIOUSNESS: Without discussing the legal merits or tactical usefulness of any individual legal cases the OTO has involved itself in, by so involving itself repeatedly the upper management appears to have blurred the line between the essential purposes of the Order as described in the basic documents and its legalistic objectives. No efforts to control the flow of information, confidential or otherwise, has resulted in any true controlthe Internet has more or less made a mockery of any such efforts, even supposing that the restriction of the flow of information is advantageous to the purposes of the Order, itself a debatable proposition. Further, the upper management has seemingly in the process of conducting itself as what appears to some — myself included — a litigious corporate entity, fallen into an excessively self-conscious body, unduly worried about potential legal actions against it, including concerns that are, in my view, inconsistent with the Orders history and any legal precedent. This, in turn, has weighed down the operative local bodies of the Order with a mass of bureaucratic rules, a mountain of paperwork, and even a presumptuous gutting of both the initiation rituals and the Order's primary public interface, The Gnostic Mass. As one rather ranking member observed to me, "The OTO is now run by its lawyers." This is utterly unacceptable in that it is completely incompatible with the numinous and progressive goals and methodology described in the basic documents.
- HUBRIS AND CAPRICIOUS INNOVATIONS: The present upper management does not consist of the founders of the OTO. It was inevitable, of course, that this would eventually be the case. But under an acting Frater Superior with no established prior reputation, even within the narrow community of metaphysicians, and little to recommend his breadth of knowledge or skill, the initiation rituals have been changed in fundamental ways, according to his personal perceptions, for example, of the relationship to Freemasonry of the Order. I consider, and have so told him, that these perceptions are unwarranted and certainly not necessary. They may have irreparably disrupted the original intent of the system. Certain degrees and ritual practices have been completely made up by the present acting outer head of the Order or his designated managers, while other established rituals have been radically altered. This is not based on new archival discoveries nor upon any practical necessity but, rather, upon the personal perceptions of the acting Frater Superior. Even (rather thin, in my opinion) legalistic considerations have dictated one radical and a number of lesser changes in the conduct of The Gnostic Mass as a public ritual of OTO for which it was designed. The Frater Superior and his inner management team have also seen fit to change the clear intent of the basic documents of the Order. Book 194, which includes a set of checks and balances on absolute power, has been undermined by modifications in practice which effectively guts the authority of the Grand Tribunal in provision 16 ("All members of the Order, even of higher grades, are subject to the Grand Tribunal"), the "independent Parliament of Guilds" of provision 21, which makes such guilds self-organizing, and they are to "... prosecute their own good in all matters relating pertaining to their labour and means of livelihood" — each guild choosing its own representative, rules, et al. Current policy effectively turns this on its head, entirely missing the point, and organizes the guilds from upper management down; provision 25, etc. Book 194 is clearly designed to act, among other things, as a check upon Authority. Present upper management has seen to it that this is not possible based on nothing I can see other than its own interests.
- FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS: While demands by upper management upon the local chartered bodies are ever increasing, including financial demands of a direct and indirect nature, a careful reading of the OTO annual budget will show that much of the money raised goes to pay a de facto salary to the acting Frater Superior. The OTO being a rather small organization, the majority of its members being, insofar as I can assess, of relatively modest means, it would seem that this essentially all-volunteer body should remain such until and unless its size and material income become much larger than it presently is. Local body officers, Grand Lodge officers and scores of ordinary members without special portfolio do their work for the Order — the vast bulk of the Work of the Order, on a volunteer, gratis basis. There is every reason that this should be true for the Acting OHO as well, and no reasonable justification for such being otherwise. The same funds could serve the very policies (such as free-standing no-residential local meeting space and insurance for such spaces) advocated by U.S. Grand Lodge and many local body officers. If any funds should be devoted to paid services, perhaps the most effective and best use of such funds would be for a transparent, outside audit of the financial ACTIVITIES OF Grand Lodge, both National and International.
- INITIATION: Most damning is the failure to initiate by the present upper management. A study of the statistical breakdown of degrees shows nearly flat growth, if it can be so called at all, in recent years, and virtually no growth at all in the highest degrees. If, as Crowley indicated, the evident purpose of the Order is to prepare individuals for initiation, the present management is a failure and should step down. Aleister Crowley stated that "... the really vital matter is the gradual progress towards disclosure of the Secret of the Ninth Degree". If one discounts those acting ninths conferred by Major McMurtry prior to the mid 1980s, of the several thousand members who are or have been in OTO under the present Acting Frater Superior, only a tiny fraction of 1% have been so elevated on his watch. It is statistically nearly impossible to become a Ninth Degree in the OTO, and the grounds for conferring it are, at best, subject to close questioning and scrutiny.
- FRATERNITY: The fraternal spirit which informed the OTO body which I first joined, and the Order in general in theory, has gradually been eroded. Until it is restored, I cannot, in good conscience, serve an upper management which has presided over the undoing in the last twenty years of the promising, if faltering beginning of the revivified Ordo Templi Orientis initiated by Major McMurtry.
- SUPERSTITION: In the McMurtry era, an emphasis began to be placed upon the "churchy" aspects of the EGC, even a move to separate it out from OTO but, as it were, under the same management. This itself may have been a profound error, simply because OTO then and, as far as I can tell, now, tends to attract to its ranks spiritually disaffected people — firstly, from "New Age" counter-culturalists of the 1960s-70s era, and, increasingly, disaffected Wiccans, Neopagans and others of similar ilk looking for something more in the Western tradition. Many of these people are sincere, but they came to OTO alienated from a particular superstition, not from superstitious values per se.
- The present upper management moved from considering OTO pragmatically a "religious" entity (in the technical, legal sense) to being a religious entity proper. See Crowley's dire warning about this from Magick Without Tears quoted elsewhere in this memorandum. I know the individuals involved, but I obviously can't know their innermost hearts. My perception is that some upper managers are utterly cynical about this, others are sacred humanists of a sort, while still others have drifted into being believers in their own mythos.
- I always regarded the "church" aspect as, arguably, a form of empowerment, as with all things magical ... a working with that energy variously referred to as Od, Orgonne, Chi, Prana, et al. As a Scientific Illuminist, for me, each aspect of this, including the premise itself, should be something amenable to, and subjected to, scientific investigation, not credulous awe nor belief. The "churchy" aspects, in which I have been deeply involved, was not my "religion" but, as Crowley put it,
"Human nature demands (in the case of most people) the satisfaction of the religious instinct, and, to very many, this may best be done under the influence of appropriate ritual ... I resolved that my Ritual should celebrate the sublimity of the operation of universal forces without introducing disputable metaphysical theories, I would neither make nor imply any statement about nature which would not be endorsed by the most materialistic man of science ... On the surface this may sound difficult; but in practice I found it perfectly simple to combine the most rigidly rational conceptions of phenomena with the most exalted and enthusiastic celebration of their sublimity."
- The ritual referred to is Liber XV, "The Gnostic Mass" of the OTO.
- Whether the present upper management encourages an illogical interpretation of what essentially is an expression of the radical concept of the union of sexuality and spirituality, or whether it merely presides over it, EGC has become just another church, another "religion" (and a miniscule one at that) in a world increasingly dominated by "Christianists" in America and Islamists virtually everywhere, in a dangerous fundamentalism. In the post 9/11 world, "Thelemists" are no more acceptable than Islamists, but upper management of OTO has utterly failed to address and underscore the original purpose of EGC aspects of OTO at a time when such is of extreme urgency.
8. PURPOSE: The program of the OTO is, properly, continuation of the Authentic Tradition of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, to which it is legitimately (if not uniquely) heir, in the service of effective world reform in what is rightly assumed to be a New Aeon for humanity. It is neither a religious superstition nor a social club. Since the present upper management either does not understand this, or does not have a serious clue as to how to go about its proper Work, twenty years is enough; it is time that the Acting Frater Superior, the U.S. Grand Master General, and any other putative national grand masters under this regime to do the honorable thing, and step down.
POSTSCRIPT: The world of magical practice, of esoteric metaphysics and self-realization through initiation and empowerment remains a rich one. Its potential for serving as a source for the revivification of Western Civilization in the face of a grim medievalist onslaught based in superstition, fanaticism and authoritarianism remains a real one, and I continue the Work on a number of fronts. It is not a belief system, but an experiment. It is unfortunate that the current leadership of OTO has dropped the ball, if it ever had it, but it has, and the first thing that needs doing is to acknowledge this without ourselves putting The Great Work aside. I have stepped down from management, not from the Work. It is part of that Work to resist the forces of superstition, tyranny and reaction. This memorandum is a part of this Work.