As I was talking with one of the patrons on our official Discord server recently (yes we have one! And yes you should join it!), the curiosity about O.T.O. came up once again and they asked me to talk more about it, and about Magical Orders in general. I suppose this is indeed a topic that will require more and more articles before being fully exhausted.
But since I wanted to give it a newer, fresher spin, I decided to try a different approach… and so let’s talk about yet another O.T.O. conspiracy theory!
As some of you might know, from Crowley’s days till the Satanic Panic era Ordo Templi Orientis always had a sinister and notorious reputation. Accusation of child sacrifice were the most damning of them all, tied to a superficial reading of The Book of the Law:
“The best blood is of the moon, monthly: then the fresh blood of a child, or dropping from the host of heaven: then of enemies; then of the priest or of the worshippers: last of some beast, no matter what.”Liber AL vel Legis III.24
In this paragraph, the Voice of the Third Chapter, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, speaks of the method of preparation of the Cakes of Light, one of the two eucharistic elements in the Gnostic Mass and a central concept in the sexo-alchemical Secret of the IX Degree – in case you are wondering, we are talking of menstrual blood and of semen. So much for child sacrifice!
Another conspiracy theory wanted O.T.O. somewhat tied to Charles Manson, the Family, and the Tate Murders – but in this case the connection is not so much with O.T.O. as it was reformed by Grady McMurtry and how it’s surviving in this day and age, but the clandestine and illegitimate Solar Lodge. It’s alleged that members of the Solar Lodge were also members of the Family, and while it’s never been fully proven, you can read more about it all here. Or if you are willing to spend some cash, you can get one of the most sought-after “rare” titles in Thelema: “Inside Solar Lodge – Outside the Law – True Tales of Initiation and High Adventure” by one Frater Shiva. Definitely a must-read.
And yet, these allegations – coupled with the Satanic Panic craze – inspired several ulterior conspiracies, and even respected authors such as Peter Straub used O.T.O. as the namesake for the evil satanic cult of his bestseller “Ghost Story”, believing the group to be long defunct: but after the hardcover came out, he was sued by just reformed “Caliphate”, and it was changed to the X.X.X. (Xala Xalior Xlati – now that’s an evil sounding name, right?) in the paperback edition.
As an ex O.T.O. I can genuinely say that absolutely nothing of these allegations are real: Crowley was a horrible, horrible man, but he was not a child-eating Satanist. And the contermporary O.T.O., or “Caliphate” as I said above, it’s just the worst example of American-style corporatism applied to spirituality, harbouring abuses similar to those you would see the Catholic Church being accused of, but surely not a cabal of evil Illuminati bent on world domination, something out of a Leo Taxil hoax. To me what’s really crazy is to realise that in 2019 there are still people, like Dr. Lynn Brunet, that once invited to academic conference (in this case, the Folkore on Screen at Sheffield Hallam University), keep arguing of alleged abuse hidden in the artistic output of painters such as Peter Booth – all while presenting no evidence apart her intuition, and all while labelling those who ask for proof as non-believers.
But let’s indulge a little more in the world of conspiracies, putting our tinfoil hats on and channeling our inner Alex Jones, and consider this: what if those very abuses perpetrated by O.T.O. I just mentioned – and that I have written already extensively about here and here – were not just a symptom of an aimless organisation that simply is unable to efficiently discipline its membership, but also a long-winded plan to turn the very organisation into a neofascist group?
The original aim of O.T.O. never truly manifested: the founding documents left behind by Crowley, such as Liber 194, were never truly put into action with the excuse that the reformed Order was still in its infancy (please notice that it’s been in such infancy for almost 40 years now). But while the membership waited for such infancy phase to finally pass, all while paying yearly dues to the leadership, the leadership propagandists keep stating that promulgation of the Law of Thelema through publication of good edition of the Thelemic corpus would be the focus of the Order.
Still, the last time O.T.O. published something relevant to Thelema (no, Crowley’s collections of fiction does not matter…) was in 1998. That’s 21 years ago, at the time of me writing this article. In the intervening time, O.T.O. also pushed heavily towards convincing those interested in the subject that Thelema was in fact a religion through and though, and William Breeze, aka Hymenaeus Beta, the Outer Head of the Order, went any length to make sure that the ecclesiastical arm of O.T.O., Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, would become tied to advancement in O.T.O. proper.
None of this was Crowley’s plan, and none of this makes much sense if you really understand the Law of Thelema. It might be actually interesting to quote Uncle Al himself on the matter, writing in one of his last books:
“To sum up, our system is a religion just so far as a religion means an enthusiastic putting-together of a series of doctrines, no one of which must in any way clash with Science or Magick. Call it a new religion, then, if it so please your Gracious Majesty; but I confess that I fail to see what you will have gained by so doing, and I feel bound to add that you might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief.“Magick Without Tears
The Caliphate spent the best part of its existence to try and turn Thelema exactly into that… another religion. And even more so, with several of its members arguing online why so many others were’t happy with the megachurch model the leadership wanted to impose.
But I am digressing, and I promised another conspiracy theory, so there we go: what if eventually William Breeze realised that the megachurch model was not going to work? Too much hassle, to much herding cats, too many ultra-liberal members impossible to discipline and turn into obedient servants waiting forever to reach those Secrets of the IX Degree that Crowley states clearly are eventually available to those who put the (Great) Work into O.T.O.
What if he himself never obtained such Secrets, with all the relevant documents having gone in flames with the remnants of the Solar Lodge – yes, the same we discussed earlier on?
What if, listening to his old pal and ultra-reactionary far-right fanatic James Wasserman, decided to resurrect from obscurity a certain J.Daniel Gunther, another of his friends from the old group that aspired to the Motta-led A∴A∴ but dramatically failed, and worked for almost two decades to put him on the pedestal, slowly but surely moving away the focus from O.T.O. (now a failed project) and back into a new kind of Order, one where authority and obedience would not be questioned anymore?
What if switching the focus away from O.T.O. became even easier the moment the copyrights for Crowley’s material started to enter in the public domain, robbing him once and for all of the chance to keep profiting from them?
What if Wasserman ill-hidden attempts to recruit more and more neofascists and alt-righters into their own version of Thelema was in fact a way to secure a steady influx of new blood that would like an environment where authority and obedience were the absolute demands – something anyone who truly understands Thelema would scoff at? You know, the kind of people who would take the time to pen a very well-written eulogy to Liberal Thelema.
And there you go: yet another O.T.O. conspiracy theory. No demon-worshipping, child-eating monsters, just a bland group of ex-hippies whom, in their old age, didn’t want to let go of feeling “important” and “relevant”… no matter the costs.
So, maybe, an even worse kind of monster.