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OTO and Thelema

To: alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: OTO and Thelema
Date: Sun, 09 Jul 2000 22:50:48 GMT wrote:
> catherine yronwode  wrote:
> > hooramentii wrote:
> > > [someone wrote]
> >
> > > > is it [the O.T.O.] very similar to the Golden Dawn?
> > >
> > > Vaguely.
> >
> > The Golden Dawn teaches a *Complete Integrated System of Hermetic
> > Rip-Offs and Finger-Painting!* from *Several Well-Known Exotic
> > Cultures!* and *All Past Eras!*  with *Extra!* *Added!* *Spicy 
> > Jewish Bits!* It predated the O.T.O. by a number of years. Crowley 
> > was a member, but a young and not-too-influential one who was booted 
> > out during an internal power struggle when he sided with the losing
> > faction. The group itself disbanded, but its papers existed, which 
> > led to thecurrent situation in which a number of self-made nouveau 
> > G.D. groups co-exist with more or less cordiality.
> >
> > The O.T.O., on the other hand, is basically a poor, pale imitation 
> > of Templaristic Freemasonry with *Extra!* *Added!* *Egyptian!* 
> > *Titty- Show Bits!* It was founded by a Swiss man named Theodor 
> > Reuss; Crowley joined and rewrote some of the rituals for him. Like 
> > the G.D., the O.T.O. lapsed into non-functionality at one point, 
> > which paved the way for its reorganization under a number of 
> > different and competing leaders,some of whom are currently fighting 
> > legal battles over ownership of copyrights to Crowley's material.
> While it's refreshing to hear a different viewpoint, [and] I owe the 
> GD and Crowley nothing in particular myself except a headache or two, 
> don't you think you're being just a little hard in your assessment?

I was being flippant, but the intention was not entirely mean-spirited. 

I personally enjoyed learning the G.D. material (and the similar
B.O.T.A. material) many years ago, and i still fall back on the G.D.
system of correspondences when i want to access something cross-cultural
without treating it in depth or with respect to primary sources. The
G.D. system is, to me, a sort of "Cliff Notes" to the world of magic. 

The O.T.O., on the other hand, has never been my cup of tea. Like
Theosophy, it just leaves me cold. In both cases, it has been my dislike
for the *personal activities* of key founding and supporting members
(Blavatsky and Leadbeater in Theosophy and Reuss and Crowley in the OTO)
that has led me to choose other paths for myself. My husband is a member
of the O.T.O., by the way, and two of my daughter's ex-boyfriends were
members at one time as well, so i am not a stranger to it and i do not
speak from prejudice, rather from considered negative opinion.  

> I mean people *do* apparently find the GD and OTO useful, and some of
> these people are demonstrably reasonably sane and successful magicians
> by anyone's reckoning. Of course there are the *freaks* but it's not
> like Thelema, the GD, or OTO has a monopoly on them.

I appreciate that. I also appreciate your subtle distinction between
Thelema and the O.T.O. -- a distinction that has been much on my mind of
late, as i watch from the sidelines the legal and personal disputes that
are tearing the Caliphate OTO wide open all over the internet. 

I think that for the serious student of "the Western Esoteric
Tradition," a familiarity with the G.D. material is a must, although i
also hope that modern-day teachers of this material will deal frankly
with its limitations within the context of the colonialist British
Victorian era in which it arose. It is important, in my opinion, to
defuse the intensity of the G.D.'s system and its hold upon young minds
by explaining a priori that for each tradition and era from which the
G.D. writers appropriated a fragment of magical knowledge, there is an
entire CULTURE's magical tradition that deserves deeper notice and

The same colonialist-mentality limitations hold true for Crowley's
Edwardian-era materials, but i find his writings so fraught with factual
errors, bigotry, misanthropy, misogyny, and racial prejudice that i
would caution anyone against studying his books *as a system of magic.*
They read, to me, more like a case-study in mental illness and drug

Negativity is not my major interest here, however, so, confining my
comments only to the writers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras who
were members of the G.D. and/or the  O.T.O., i will risk public
amusement one more time by stating that as the years go by, my respect
for Arthur Edward Waite only increases. No, Waite was not a splashy
personality (far from it) and he was not given to amusing his readers
with scurrilously funny put-downs of his colleagues, but as far as i can
tell, he was a practicing magician in addition to being a scholar, he
did his research well, and he told the truth insofar he knew it. If i
can fault the man at all, it is for his reliance upon and
popullarization of the work of Eliphas Levi, which he should have
discarded for the strangely alluring rubbish that it is. 

But Waite, a staid classicist at heart, spawned no nouveau-religion to
bark after him like a stray puppy, and his texts are dense enough that
one may need a high school education to read them, hence he is gradually
becoming the Forgooten Man of Magic, while the Crowleyan fife-and-drum
corps marches on, a source of amusement or alarm to onlookers, depending
on one's mood and whether one thinks children may be harmed by its
robotic Gnostic jigs and its second-hand Thelemic dervish-whirls.   

cat (more's the pity) yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice --

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