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Various: History of OTO & Thelema

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.magick.order,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: Various: History of OTO & Thelema
Date: 23 Dec 1997 21:47:54 -0800

Tim Maroney :

>Quite a lot of Masonry, continental style. Peter Koenig's site contains
>a treasure trove of pre-Crowley OTO material for the historian.

Yes, and in his dispute with Sabazius he only goes off a few times -- 
they both come across looking reasonable (or Koenig almost so) but there 
is no clear resolution of issues. Each side has to admit to each other 
that there is not a lot of the necessary documentation to prove key 
points of their version.

The first time I heard about possible irregularities of this sort was not 
from Koenig but from a historically-minded source in the O.T.O. These 
matters have been discussed for years, and not at his instigation. In my 
eyes there is not a basic problem with the Koenig hypothesis, if by that 
one means the successions from Kellner to Reuss and Reuss to Crowley are 
both irregular and have probably been retold in self-interested and 
misleading ways. That is Masonic history in a nutshell. It has always 
been forgiving of certain irregularities and stern toward others based on 
political issues of the leadership. The question is not whether there are 
irregularities, but which ones are going to be considered, and who is to 
rule on them?

My understanding of these "fringe Masonic" groups (as Ellic Howe would 
rather uncharitably have us call them) and of O.T.O. history leads me to 
believe that an accurate characterization would be as follows. The O.T.O. 
arose as one of many experimental Freemasonic groups in the broad 
movement of 19th century esoteric Freemasonry, related to the SRIA, to 
Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Southern USA, to John Yarker's projects, 
to Memphis-Mizraim and other "Egyptian" Freemasonic movements, and to 
other forms of high-degree Freemasonry incorporating various occult and 
mythological systems. The O.T.O. quickly diverged from being a Masonic 
group though traces of the original symbolism remained evident in its 
rituals and degree structures.

Control passed into Crowley's hands largely on the basis of his assertion 
of personal authority rather than by any succession chosen by Reuss. It 
seems likely Reuss did not choose Crowley as his successor and so perhaps 
the Reuss O.T.O. and Crowley O.T.O. should be considered two different 
groups, though with a close family relationship. The Crowley O.T.O. 
existed organizationally and continues to exist. It has had three 
successions consented to by the governing council of the IX*, even if 
barracks-room lawyers care to insist that a Tau wasn't crossed on an 
official title from an old draft constitution or some such. While an 
argument could be made that the Kellner and Reuss successions were 
especially regrettable, the three since then have not been, at least from 
the paperwork and ethical perspectives.

And then my question has to be, so? Religious groups are like this. 
Irregular is just another word for winging it. Whatever Kellner learned 
about sex from wherever it was seems irregular in the extreme. 
Freemasonry's own origins are entirely irregular and it has never been 
able to form consensus on a historical view of its birth; the historical 
accounts are wildly differing and incompatible even among its scholars. 
What then is Neo-Paganism, descended from Gardner and O.T.O. -- an 
irregular descent of an irregular descent of how many chains of irregular 
descent? Would this make it in any way less valid as a religious movement 
or as it exists organizationally? I would not think its spiritual value 
would be damaged.

I do not understand what all the fuss is about in this argument. Koenig 
is not really challenging the O.T.O. but he seems to want to. Harping on 
irregularities is a political tactic but I still don't have a very clear 
idea of a political agenda here. The competitive credentials posted 
didn't seem to square with Koenig's own account. In fact I think the 
exposure of so much historical material is a good thing for the O.T.O., 
copyright considerations aside for the moment....


Kjetil Fjell :

Dear Michael, 93.

> ' That's no answer. The question is whether:
> ' 
> ' 1. ...Yarker did in fact confer a M&M charter (? do I mean 'patent?')
> ' upon Crowley;
> Actually, I believe Yarker sold a charter to Reuss, who was a Mason, before 
> Crowley entered the picture.  Even though the Rites of M&M were considered to
> be a "diploma mill", it is inconcievable that Yarker would have sold a 
> charter to a non-Mason.

And even though he was running a diploma mill, which apparently is
not the opinnion of John Hamill in his article about John Yarker
in the A.Q.C., he still had the right to give out the degrees.

It seems to me that even the abreviated Antient and PRimitive Rite
of Masonry (where the 96* of Memphis were reduced to 33*), wasn't
worked to the extent that one perhaps would have wished it to 
have been.  It's the same story with the Ancient and Accepted
Rite in England, where only the 18* and 30*-33* are worked (the
Royal Arch (13* in that rite) being worked under another jurisdiction.
The degrees in between are conferred on the Candidate.

Even if Crowley or Reuss or anybody else for that matter did not
go through the degrees, it was still Yarker's right as the
head of that rite to give away the degrees as he wished.  It
was enough that Yarker recognised Crowley's credentials in the
Craft (even though they were not considered regular by U.G.L.E.,
but then so wasn't much else either in France at that time either).
Even to this day the Grand Master of a Grand Lodge in the U.S.A.
have made candidates Master Masons on sight, so whether one has gone
through the rituals or not is not the matter here.  Whatever
else one may think of this kind of operations, it is still legitimate.

A transcript of one of the certificates from Yarker to Crowley
may be found at this link:

It is for the Ancient and Accepted Rite (UK equivalent to
A.A.S.R.), though it is based upon the Cernau Rite, which
many masonic scholars consider to be fraudulent.

> ' 2. ...Yarker had a right to do so;
> >From what I understand (and I may be wrong), Yarker sold said charter *after* 
> he had sold the rights to the Rites, so it would appear that the OTO charter 
> was invalid.

And to whom did he sell it to?

If this is true it would in effect sever a lot of various
claimants to the Memphis-Mizraim degrees, including those from
France which others have refered to on this list before.

I have not heard this story before, not even by people who have
gone out of their way to prove the claims of Reuss and
Crowley to be wrong.

> ' 3. ...that gave Crowley the right to work M&M.
> Question #2 answers question #3.  When most (all?) Grand Lodges (at least in 
> the US) do not recognize the Rites of M&M, having a "legitimate" charter 
> would do little in gaining official Masonic recognition thereof.  

I refer the interested reader to the article about John
Yarker in the A.Q.C., where he tell us that when the "legitimate"
Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, went to
the U.G.L.E. together with John Yarker, both whom complained
about the others lack of rights for working the rite in
question, the people in question at U.G.L.E. simply adviced
that it was not of their concern, being as it was out of
their jurisdiction (which only includes the Craft).

The world of Freemasonry is a strange one, and there is
a huge line drawn between the Craft (the first three degrees)
and the other side degrees (as the masons like to call them,
in order not to draw the wrath of a Grand Lodge in proposing
that their degrees are higher than the Craft).  As far as
Craft is concerned, masonry proper is only the Craft.
What lies outside is side degrees, and is governed by
whatever governing body that is governing them.

In short the G.L. only cares if an Order claims to
make Master Masons, not if it makes them a Knight
Kadosch or S.G.I.G.

A Supreme Council of the A.A.S.R. or A.A.R., may
consider the Cernau Rite as fraudulent, and may
rule that any person who joins the Cernau Council
is forbidden to join their Supreme Council.  But
it has no concern with the Memphis Mizraim etc.

Wether a body who claims the Memphis Mizraim
degrees is legitimate or not, is not ruled
by acceptance of various masonic bodies around
the world, but rather if it is in fact a proper
continuation of the body that founded and
practised this rite.

At times, mainly out of considerations of
competition, some masonic bodies have swallowed
manifestations of various rites (including the
Memphis Mizraim).

In reality the only legitimate saying that
a Supreme Council of the A.A.S.R. or A.A.R.
have in the matters of the Memphis Mizraim
is whether the degrees in thsi rite is to
be considered equivalent to certain degrees
in their rite.  This setting up of friendly
relations (which the A.A.S.R. and A.A.R. have
done with the Swedish Rite), is not a ruling
of the legitimacy of the said rite.

As far as the continuation of the Mempis
Mizraim matrix headed by John Yarker, there
is a report of that in the last numbers of
the Equinox Volume I, as well as the Oriflamme.

Here is what Hymenaeus Beta has to say
about the subject:

"22 Given in The Oriflamme as J. Villarino delVillar 33* 90* 96*, head of
the Antient and Primitive Rite in Spain. His being considered for
world head of the Rite shows that its ultimate leadership was a
separate question from that of O.T.O. (led by Reuss atthis time). It is
not clear whether del Villar succeeded Yarker directly. It is possible
that the headship went to Gerard Encausse(Papus) after Yarker.
Crowley gave the succession order as Yarker-Encausse-del
Villar-Crowley in an unpublished letter to W.B. Crow dated June 21, 1944."

You may find the whole document, with lots of typos etc. ;)
at:, or in the
Magical Link volume IX no 1 (New Series)


Bill Heidrick : wrote:

>Bill wrote:
><< Brother Max Schneider
> used to go up there with Jean, later his wife.  It's mentioned in his
> diaries from the late 1930's, and he did occasionally do things like the
> Star Ruby up there.  Just a quiet place in the wilderness, mainly. >>
>This paragraph brought a couple of questions to mind for me, the first being
>Max Schneider is.

Max was one of the regulars at Agape Lodge from near the time of it's
founding in the mid 1930's.  He was a jeweler and crafted both the Nuit
ring Crowley used to seal documents and a Tree of Life pin for Crowley,
with precious stones corresponding to the Sephirot.  His wife, Jean,
survived Max and lived with Aleister Attaturk MacAlpine for some years in
California.  A.A.MacA. was Crowley's only surviving son, and OTO had
agreeded to look after him.

>However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized
>that he may not have been anyone of note, but this brings up another
>question:  does the O.T.O. frequently receive/aquire the diaries and whatnot
>of the members who have passed on?

It happens sometimes, not often.  Max was unusually dilligent in that respect.


Bill Heidrick : wrote:

>I found at least one photo that was reprinted in
>b/w rather than the rusty color (I don't know if there's a word for this) in
>which it appears in the Weiser edition.

In the first edition _Equinox_, most monocrome color plates were done by 
collotype process; but those were reproduced by half-tone in the Weiser 
reprint, not always in the same color tone.  Collotype gives an almost 
infinitely better reproduction than half-tone, but it's really an art 
method rather than a mass-production method.  Collotype uses a thick gel, 
doped with chromate instead of silver.  On exposure to light through a 
transparency, the gel hardens variably.  It is developed by washing in 
ordinary water and dried.  The result is an image made up varying 
thicknesses of gel.  Ink is applied in the selected color, with more ink 
being taken up where the gel is thickest.  When an impression is pulled 
from the gel-plate to paper, the result from a collotype is in esssence a 
photo print.  Detail in those 1st edition _Equinox_ plates is only 
limited to the clarity of the original photo and the fiber size of the 
paper itself.  Half-tone uses dots of different size and density to 
approximate an image.  There is no approach to the quality of collotype 
in a half-tone.  A half-tone would require 750 to 1,000 dots to the inch 
to even resemble a collotype at arms-length.  "Carbon print" is similar 
to collotype in this respect.  Collotype is still used for commercial 
postcard printing in some parts of Europe, but the process is too costly 
for book work these days.

>   Also, I'm basing this on the cloth set which I owned, I haven't seen the
>trade-paper edition, but I am assuming that identical signatures were used in
>both sets.

The Weiser reproduction eliminated or altered some of the 
advertizements.  Also, in the Ist edition, I, 7, a fold-out plate of the 
MS of Liber AL with the sheets pasted top to bottom and right to left was 
reproduced as separate pages in the Weiser edition.  That original plate 
was used as the "sacred scroll" in OTO ritual until the extra print run 
was exhausted.  After that, separate codex bound Liber AL's were used, 
sometimes with a certificate blank rolled up in addition to provide "a 
scroll".  When the AL-Scrolls ran out, a copy of Vol. I, No. 10 _Equinox_ 
was used in old Agape as the VSL, with the codex paper copy of just the 
type set text handed out on the side.  Back in the 1940's some 
self-dedicated "enemy" of OTO systematically went about buying and 
destroying I,10 first editions in southern California in the mistaken 
belief that this would cause OTO initiations to die out -- many 1st 
edition Equinox sets are missing the last number only.


Bill Heidrick :

 "Oz Mendes"  wrote:

>I was flipping through Eq IV no 1 and noticed something in part of the 
>last few pages, regarding the sources for this commentary.
>One source was a commentary formerly owned by Marcelo Motta, given to 
>him by Karl Germer. My question is, how was it acquired by the editors 
>of the Equinox?

This would be a photocopy of that, made available to Motta's A.'.A.'.
members back in the late 1970's to early 1980's.  Reference is for
completeness, not uniqueness.  Quite a few former SOTO and Motta A.'.A.'.
members are now OTO members or friendly to OTO -- including high ranking
OTO officers.  Although I do not know the actual source of the reference to
this particular document, I reckon that this is basically it.


Bill Heidrick :

Without prejudice to A.'.A.'. or OTO, my personal speculations only:

  Christeos Pir  wrote, quoting me:

>>Nonsense.  Motta was in the A.'.A.'., never the head of it.
>Was he not Praemonstrator of that branch? (Don't know what authority that
>gives, but I do recall he himself saying that this precluded him from become

Motta "advanced" himself after the death of Frater Saturnus.  Motta
declared himself Praemonstrater of A.'.A.'., failing to distinguish between
branches and the central organization.  This in turn gives rise to other
issues.  Crowley set forth the procedure for replacing the paramount leader
of A.'.A.'. in his "Constitution of the Order of Thelemites".  I am not
aware of any attempt by Motta to follow this procedure, although I am aware
of Germer (Fr. Saturnus) at least going as far as announcing intent to
follow that procedure after Crowley's Greater Feast.

There is absolutely no prohibition on being OHO of OTO and Praemonstrator
of the A.'.A.'. at the same time -- viz. Crowley himself.  However, there
may be an apparent constructive prohibition of being both from the same
persona.  OTO and A.'.A.'. are essentially unrelated organizations, aside
from accidents of common interest and a mutual support tradition following
1923 e.v.

"A.'.A.'. branches" approaches a contradiction of terms similar to the
notion of Christianity being divided absolutely.  There are at present
"lines" of A.'.A.'., in the sense of descended from particular members of
A.'.A.'. taking students.  There are denominations of Christianity, in the
sense of different "lines" and styles.  Both A.'.A.'. and Christianity
attempt to be "Catholic" in the sense of universal and unitary in the sense
of being a common state of affiliation to something absolute and
indivisible.  In Christianity, we see this in the denial of "true
Christian" between denominations -- that there is some invisible standard
of what is a Christian, not subject to structure and hierarchy of mortal
humans.  In A.'.A.'., there is a central structural model, but there is a
tendency to make self-agrandizing claims of authority in public which I
find to be contrary to the nature of A.'.A.'. in some ways.

All A.'.A.'. historic lines (excluding. for this point only, the novel
re-creations of A.'.A.'.) of which I am aware are from individuals who
attained to a grade below Adeptus before the death of their mentor.
Obviously (to me, anyway), such individuals can bring in other members up
to the grade below their own.  One can take the pledges and do the work of
Liber 185, calling the gods to witness as Crowley did himself, thereby
advancing to higher grades -- subject to the rule of bringing up their own
students as they go.  I am not aware of Motta doing the latter as he
claimed higher grades.  Although I contend that A.'.A.'. members of
historic lineage can indeed bring others into A.'.A.'., I am not satisfied
that any now living have the power to expell another from A.'.A.'. based on
the grade that they themselves attained under a living, human mentor.

Those who call the gods to witness cannot produce their witnesses for the
purpose of mundane credential.  Grades claimed in that manner cannot be
universally recognized in the world of mortals, unless A.'.A.'. follows a
procedure like that set down by Crowley, last generally recognized head of
A.'.A.'., for restoring central authority to A.'.A.'.  There are efforts to
do this very thing, but that is none of my business to either attest or to
know in any detail.

In summary, Motta could induct new members into A.'.A.', although I do not
know if he followed the procedures of the initiation rituals and readings.
Motta's ability to expell from A.'.A.'. does not appear to have existed, in
my opinion.  Motta did not achieve the standard for mudane recognition of
his grade beyond Zelator and did not follow the procedure for
re-centralizing the leadership of A.'.A.'., also in my opinion.


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