October 16th, 2004

From"Decoded" The arrival


If you've heard rumors about one or two order members, of relatively high degree, either being expelled or quitting the order, in my traditional neck of the woods, you have heard wrong. Neither has quit, neither has been expelled, either from the body concerned, nor from the order.

Everybody wants to make their point--this is reasonable. But people get involved in offices, and they resign from offices in bodies for a variety of reasons, no reason at all, conflict of interest, etc. Both of the brothers concerned did indeed step down from certain local body offices recently, but, IMHO, for very different reasons. I would not feel comfortable discussing their reasons here, but they stem, IMO, from quite different origins.

As a general comment, I should say that I have observed over the years that people who join in the expectation that it will be an extended family or social circle are often disappointed, often bitterly so. Whether the order fulfills all that it represents itself to do or not is an *entirely* different question.

I don't think "fraternity" as it is understood in fraternal organizations is the same thing - at all - as personal friendship. Americans in particular are so footloose and dysfunctional as families, that they seek substitute families in everything from biker gangs to blogging. They are in most cases likely to be disappointed. In an anecdotal comment elsewhere today, I commented on the Elks Club (BPOE) in two cities offering to pay my wife's airfare to see her dying father. He was an Elk, she is not, they were precisely not her "friends" but they saw to it she could see her father once more in this life. It seems to me there is something to be learned in the fact that these generous members of a "lightweight fraternal order" could be so generous to a total stranger.

I gave my take on "Fraternity" to a packed room at NOTOCON several years ago:

... I want to ask you to think of a situation out of your own OTO experience, past or present, where fraternal issues have come to the fore. This may be an altogether pleasant experience; stories of someone new coming into a local body with lots of ability and drive and who volunteers for everything. Perhaps you have questions about whether a person is being "taken advantage of" or merely want to express your delight that we sometimes find such people. Perhaps you made a new personal friend that you would have never found were it not for the OTO, and you just want to share this....

Other situations could be called "logistical" in nature. An example would be the development of a strong personal relationship within a local body. You or the other party then take on a service obligation to the order , body master or whatever , and you have concerns about "overlap" (for lack of a better term) between your responsibilities to a friendship and your responsibilities to the Order....

The third category I sincerely hope some of you have never experienced and cannot imagine. But I am certain that some of you have. The reality is that the OTO is a high energy organization devoted to personal and social growth. To this pressure cooker are attracted many high energy types - some of the first order and with the highest caliber potential for initiation and service, others - perhaps not lacking in energy but very troubled and ultimately troublesome. At other times there may be disagreements among brothers and sisters in which there is no real "right" or "wrong" party, but which needs resolution for the sake of the peace of the Temple and the work of the Order. Sometimes, one encounters problems which are even more serious - problems involving addiction, violence or other forms of criminality. Our task here is to decide the limits of fraternity, to know what can and can't be worked out within the OTO ...

Let me also stress something else here at the outset: The OTO is bucking the odds as an occult body. As the author of several books and various essays on aspects of the modern magical revival, no aspect is clearer than the tendency for most bodies of manifestation - even some of the most outstanding - to fracture into splinter groups and disappear. The historian of magick Martin Starr once expressed to me that such organizations seldom survive the death of their founder....

I believe a lot of this has to do with the sense of fraternity - to which we owe a profound debt to historical Freemasonry - built into our Order from its earliest days. Our most basic documents express it. The Prophet, during his tenure as OHO , extolled it repeatedly. For example, in Liber CI which is to be implemented when an OTO region consists of at least 1000 souls - Crowley dwells at length on the virtues and obligations within the Order in a fraternal context. 101 was published in Detroit in 1919, as part of the famous Equinox III 1 - perhaps the supreme flowering of Crowley's "American period".

I want to look at one provision in particular. Let me quote it in its entirety:

"7th House, Duties, Clause 32. Public enemies of the country of any Brother shall be treated as such while in the field, and slain or captured as the officer of the Brother may command. But within the precincts of the Lodge all such divisions are to be forgotten absolutely; and as children of One Father the enemies of the hour before and the hour after are to dwell in peace, amity, and fraternity."

On first glance, this may strike some of you as Crowley at his broad, sweeping best. Let me assure you that he is merely being straightforward. Crowley came to America on the Cunard liner Lusitania in 1914, later sunk by Germany and an immediate precursor of America's entry into World War One. Let me remind you that at the time he wrote these words Crowley was Grand Master of the Order in the English Speaking World. His superior in the Order, the then OHO, was Theodor Reuss, a presumably loyal German subject. America, where Crowley spent the war, was at war with Germany from 1917 until the Armistice. His native land, Britain, had been at War with the Kaiser and his allies since the early days of the conflict. Crowley's formula was, therefore, no small or idle matter. In theory - and probably in practice - OTO members met on the battlefields of France with orders and intent to kill one another. Yet, they were expected, should they find themselves in the community of an OTO Lodge, to deal with one another as brethren. This was indeed serious business. If OTO was a "social club" for the metaphysically minded dilettante, obviously during wartime one should put aside childish things. Yet Crowley makes abundantly clear that the OTO and its central mystery are themselves of the utmost importance and potential power. Shortly after the Great War he writes:

"I may say that the secret of the O.T.O has proved to all intents and purposes the simplification and concentration of the whole of my magical knowledge. All my old methods have been unified in this new method. It does not exactly replace them,, but it interprets them. It has also enabled me to construct a uniform type of engine for accomplishing anything I will."

More to the immediate point, he tells us:

"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."

But neither did his sense of purpose cause him to abandon what in the end can be seen as his rather ardent British nationalism. His views on the subject are more complex than most, and merit a talk or paper or book on the subject, but suffice to say that his personal admiration of German civilization never blinded him to his national identity and duty, and one need only read his diary entry for February 2nd, 1917, written on his way to Florida during his "Great American Tour": "My 2 1/4 years work crowned with success. U.S.A. breaks off relations with Germany. " to get the picture of both the mystic and the patriot.

But we needn't go this far back to see how deadly serious this matter is. Just before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the general fall of Marxist regimes around the world, the OTO began to experience a remarkable surge of growth. Now, I am not talking about the surge of growth that has taken place in this country since the 1970s. That is rather well known, and rather less remarkable than what I refer to here. In Southeastern Europe what was then Yugoslavia rather suddenly became a "hot spot" on the OTO map of the world. There are various rumors about the reasons for this growth, which would be out of place here. All you need to know is that, relative to other European countries and relative to the size of former Yugoslavia itself, this was a remarkable event. Those of us who follow OTO demographics followed this with far more than a casual interest.

With the fall of the Communists in most places in Europe, Yugoslavia, like the Soviet Union, split apart. Bloody conflict ensued, and we need not follow too closely to be aware that, despite something of a crackdown on the Order by the Serbian government in the 1990s, if we add up our membership figures from what once was all Yugoslavia, we find the largest number of OTO members of any European country, by far: 262 by this year's count. Presently, they are divided up this way: Croatia. 92; Serbia 84; Slovenia 78; Macedonia 8.

My sisters and brothers of the OTO, you have doubtless noticed that the last ten years has brought bitter ethnic warfare to this region. Bosnia, which was once on the OTO map, is no longer listed; I understand that all OTO members there have survived the fierce bloody conflict in that nation and have made there way elsewhere - as far as Canada, in fact. Serbia and Croatia, where the largest number of OTO members live, also fought a bloody war. And you may have observed, my fellows under the most excellent jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the United States, that our country and its NATO allies just waged a war with Serbia, and American military forces, along with Britains, Germans, Italians, a few Russians and others, now occupy the whole of Kosovo Province. I don't know if any members of our Order were directly involved, but I do know that OTO members in the military are hardly a new phenomenon. With these factors in mind, let me read the same passage from Book 101:

"7th House, Duties, Clause 32. Public enemies of the country of any Brother shall be treated as such while in the field, and slain or captured as the officer of the Brother may command. But within the precincts of the Lodge all such divisions are to be forgotten absolutely; and as children of One Father the enemies of the hour before and the hour after are to dwell in peace, amity, and fraternity."

It is the most extreme example of a call for fraternity under difficult circumstances, perhaps, but I trust it both makes the point as to what is expected of us, and may possibly will help us all put our local problems in perspective...
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