THE FALL OF OTO & THE RISE OF CONGREGATIONAL ILLUMINISM PART TWO OF TWO
Copyright © 2007. Allen Greenfield. No reprint without permission.
THE VIEW AFTER THE MILLENIUM: WHAT KIND OF ORDER?
I have discussed this matter in modest public forums in response to the concerns of long-time order members, but everyone reading this white paper hasn’t necessarily seen these essays, and I thought I’d briefly go into where I stand and why. I joined OTO late, at nearly forty, well over ten years into a formal magical career, but having joined no other organized body of manifestation. This was over twenty years ago, and it was, by anyone’s account, a very different body of manifestation in 1982.
For one thing, it was effectively decentralized, almost feudal in its structure. The local body master set the tone and was likely to be the only ranking OTO member one knew, and “ranking” at that time could be a IIIo “Master Magician” with a Camp Charter and a primary charter to initiate. The EGC ecclesiastical arm was a connected but distinct body of manifestation, and seemed for a time headed towards becoming more so. If you did not live in New York or San Francisco, the ambiance of the body was largely determined by the local body master. In the case of Eulis Camp, which was my affiliation, it was very ‘Masonic’ and mystical, intellectual and rather nakedly sexual in its tone. I liked it, but had reservations about the “top heavy” management structure, and found myself doing EGC work for years before taking initiation. I had, as mentioned, significant doubts about the “top heavy” structure of the organization, and still do. I saw it as a fraternal and spiritual body of manifestation, with an emphasis on initiatory personal growth towards the central secret gnosis.
I call myself a “minimalist””. Others use the term “Congregationalist” which will do as well. I have absolutely, positively no affinity for the “small tent, highly intellectual, extremely authoritarian and structured” opposition that has formed around the people I call “Thelemists”—as many who adopt Crowley’s philosophy, termed “Thelema” call themselves, though their absolute right to boldly advocate such is, for me, a given. They give no indication of having themselves either special credentials, abilities, or specific ideas that are not covered by elementary general principles of management in any organization or corporation. They claim to be “Thelemites” (not a favorite term of mine either), but Thelemists bear the relationship to Thelemites as Islamists do to Islamic adherents. Nonetheless, their critiques of the present upper management are often right to the point. One may reject their solutions while giving serious attention to their analysis of the failure of present management.
On the other hand, I have little sympathy with the nihilistic, superstitious non-members and failed members who have created a mythical order with a fundamentalist core and a bunch of would-be gurus—what I call the “shadow order”. This must be distinguished from those inspired by Kenneth Grant or Michael Bertiaux who merely take a more radical view of the magical tradition than the orthodox. Unfortunately, there are present members who have become “faith-based Thelemites” as well, and they are perhaps Upper Management’s biggest failure. Beware those who thump Bibles or copies of Liber AL. Both are superstitious, both tend to the fanatical.
I am certainly not in sympathy with the paper-pushing bureaucrats, PDA grasping office cubicle types currently in control. They substitute rule-and-paperwork expansion and legalistic and respectability-hungering elements that seems to run the present top of the top-heavy structure; I sarcastically designate this the “Thelemic-Rotary Club” and I fear this above all, because that is where I see things headed. I never set out to be a Methodist or Elk or Moose Club member, and those honest charitable and social bodies all do this sort of thing better than OTO ever could, in any case. It spells the death of a Manifestation of the authentic tradition if unchecked from top to bottom in the fraternity, I think, and the death of spirituality in the end for sure.
TOWARDS A MINIMALIST PROGRAM – A CASE STUDY
“God would prefer to suffer the government to exist no matter how evil, rather than allow the rabble to riot, no matter how justified they are in doing so.”
“They intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.”
For ten years Eulis Lodge No.10 OTO, Inc. was, as far as I was concerned, the OTO, period. Raucous, bawdy, intense, experimental, irreverent, it attracted the worst and best minds in occultism. At its peak, circa 1987-1992 it was exactly what the OTO should be – the Gnostic Mass was worked (by the standards of the day) with excellence, always seeking greater excellence. The initiations were performed as written, with little regard for the folk-folly of the outside world. The social order was that of an unofficial “profess house”. The Acting Frater Superior later – much later – told me he had never chartered Eulis, or *any* profess houses, but the members were given to understand that it was such; a residential facility for accelerated magical growth under house rules based in “Thelemic ideas”. The members were so individual that all they held in common were these rituals, and a kind of polymorphous perverse palpable sexuality that became legendary.
During the decline and fall period that followed, the then-Lodge Master began to delegate responsibilities, cancel events, and rail against the legalist and fundamentalist tendencies that he saw lurking in the foreshadows of the future. Already clearly in decline, by the beginning of my Watch as Lodge Master, he once told me behind closed doors that there were, really, no rules in OTO. Then he told me something about his own work with the Lodge by way of illustration that made my jaw drop. He had initiated without authority to do so. I thought, “sour grapes” and vowed to myself to play strictly by the rules, and that on my watch no event would ever be cancelled. Eventually, the Past Master turned his back on me forever for trying to continue the very program he had inculcated in me. He was disillusioned, I was – illusioned.
On one occasion, we had scheduled a Mass and we ran out of luck; many people there, but not a single person qualified to be – I forget which office, but something essential. “Well!” I said to my trusty and long-suffering Tyler, the Exorcist James B., “let’s put something together, a kind of communing, we’ll pass bread and wine, read verses from the Holy Books, sing songs, we’ll get through this—we don’t cancel events.” He looked at me enigmatically, but said nothing.
James often looked at me enigmatically—it was part of his job. Undeterred, we proceeded just as I had decreed, sitting in a circle below the steps in front of the altar, its candles lit for a Gnostic Mass that was not held.
Afterwards, I was pretty pleased with myself. It went well, everybody seemed happy and, in a manner of speaking, spiritually bonded. “You know what that was?” James asked, answering himself, “the first meeting of the Gnostic Protestant Church.” He seemed somewhere between amused and disdainful. I thought about what I knew about Protestant Churches, from snake handling holy rollers to high middle church TV ministries – Billy Graham on TV, stuff like that. I had been in a fundamentalist church – once, for a wedding, my then sister-in-law’s somewhere out in North Jesus Georgia. The preacher had made the couple apologize for “living in sin” (something to do with sex, I gathered; for the most part Christianity seemed to be about enjoying feeling guilty about sex stuff) before the wedding, which I though truly bizarre and ugly. I knew the historical stuff very well, but mine has been an odd life—from the other side of the ghetto wall, if you count the gilded ghetto of Northwest Atlanta as a ghetto. Anyhow, I could quote John Wesley, Luther, Calvin, Knox, or the New Testament chapter and verse, had been to the Vatican, to Greek Orthodox monastic communities, I can sing maybe a hundred traditional black spirituals, but my knowledge was in stone and print and folklore and song, not much in practice.
However, I grasped what James had said, and I felt a bit odd. Not – guilty – not even bad, just novel. Yeah, songs and readings and bread and wine or better still grape juice. Eucharist without soul, but a certain fraternal sense. It made a certain kind of decentralist sense – even without the draw of a naked priestess. On Planet Druidia (as Mel Brooks would have it), where I came from, Druish people would find this a bit – out to lunch - but, then, this was Eulis Lodge No. 10 OTO, and I did not cancel events.
It hadn’t really been the Gnostic Protestant Church, but I sometimes think the ghost of John Calvin must be smiling on the humorless crowd presently in power, and the even more humorless crowd of Thelemo-Rotarians who dream of replacing them; who pile bureaucracy on bureaucracy, rule upon rule, exhort us to work, work, work. They drone on and on and on about “being serious” and the “serious people” versus the alleged sweaty throng of lazy underclassmen who Don’t Really Understand the Work, though I see no especial spiritual or magical or even charismatic quality in their ranks either – perhaps a bit of ambition, but not really much difference from the current crop of regulators and managerial types who top the chart. Their fantasy is the “do it yourself godhood” not unlike the “works righteousness” approach of the Book of James in the New Testament – a veritable anomalous approach to the Pauline “salvation by faith alone” that came to be Christianity. It is the Work of the Golden Dawn or the A.:A:…..not of the OTO.
The early Protestants were, curiously, embarrassed by The Book of James. They debated throwing it out of the canon with the apocrypha, but then the Calvinist-Puritanical element began to find its place in the world with the dreaded “work ethic” and wound up pretty much in the boat with James. You are saved by believing, but, having said so, work your ass off, bud.
How odd. The “managerial model” of the OTO is said to be in line with Crowley’s vision of what the OTO was supposed to be like. Never mind AC’s perception that a ‘leisure class’ (ill-defined) was a prerequisite to Doing the Work. They are for that, too, somehow. It is kind of the Gnostic Protestant Church for real. You are a leisure class, they say to their mirrors, now work work work. Not realizing that work is not The Work, not at all. They go on endlessly about effective leaders, but they will not tell you who. Certainly not the guys doing it now, who, they inform us, have it all wrong. Maybe I say, but who has it right? I ask them.
In the authentic tradition The Work is not “work”. The Work is more about undoing than doing. “Work is the refuge,” Oscar Wilde once remarked, “of people who have nothing better to do.”
I am not one of those people who goes all glazed over when someone says, “But CROWLEY SAID…” I give the purported prophet of the Aeon his due as a creative spiritual thinker, but management, personal finance or relationships are not areas I would be especially inclined to take advice from him on. Having said that, though, and lightning having once again failed to strike me dead at the blasphemy, the way I read AC, his approach to the OTO was really quite modest.
It amounted to adapting the pre-AC OTO program for understanding the efficient utilization of the central gnosis of the order, that is, sexual magick, as an engine of personal and social change, the thing that makes it unique, to a context one might call, for lack of a better term, “Thelemic”. A few quotations, from the period of transition from National Grand Master to OHO, and then again reiterated to students post World War II, towards the end of his life:
“Now the O.T.O. is in possession of one supreme secret. The whole of its system at the time when I became an initiate of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis (IX*) was directed toward communicating to its members, by progressively plain hints, this all-important instruction…
“I therefore answered the question ‘How should a young man mend his way?’ in a series of rituals in which the candidate is instructed in the value of discretion, loyalty, independence, truthfulness, courage, self-control, indifference to circumstance, impartiality, skepticism, and other virtues, and at the same time assist him to discover for himself the nature of this secret, the proper object of its employment and the best means for insuring success in its use…” (from “The Confessions of Aleister Crowley” Chapter on “Freemasonry”)
“The O.T.O. is a training of the Masonic type; there is no ‘astral’ work in it at all, nor any Yoga. There is a certain amount of Qabalah, and that of great doctrinal value. But the really vital matter is the gradual progress towards the disclosure of the Ninth Degree. To use that secret to advantage involves mastery both of Yoga and of Magick; but neither is taught in the Order. Now it comes to be mentioned, this is really very strange. However, I didn’t invent the system; I must suppose that those who did knew what they were about.
“To me it is (a) convenient in various practical ways, (b) a machine for carrying out the orders of the Secret Chiefs of A:.A:. (c) by virtue of the Secret a magical weapon of incalculable power…”
(“Magick Without Tears” ) (Quotations copyright (c) Ordo Templi Orientis. All rights reserved.)
That is much, but that is all. Essentially, programmatically and thematically, along with The Gnostic Mass written as a celebratory ritual for public and private use in the same vein, this is the entirety of the OTO program as Crowley saw it. It is not the A:.A:. program, as Crowley is at some pain to say repeatedly. Elsewhere he offers us his conception of how to manage this rather direct and straightforward agenda, and that can certainly be profitably discussed. Too much? Too little? Just right? Totally counterproductive? These are legitimate questions. But for either the bureaucracy currently attempting to follow the managerial features and for the critics who would change leadership, but emphasize leadership, any discussion must be referred, clearly, to the straightforward and not overly ambitious programmatic and thematic agenda outlined (I believe fairly) above. For me, this suggests that the austere Calvinistic work agenda, excessive centralization and vesting too much authority in too few hardly serves these purposes, but rather impedes it.
Of course, one could say that the Crowley program is not sufficient, or appropriate. It was, in his lifetime, largely a “paper entity”. The “absolute autocrat” concept is probably best left with the “Old Europe” it grew out of. “Autocrat” – in any case – does not necessarily mean “tyrant”. Incompetent autocrats become tyrants.
“au·to·crat n. A person with unlimited power or authority: a corporate autocrat.”
“ty·rant n. A ruler who exercises power in a harsh, cruel manner. An oppressive, harsh, arbitrary person.
A rotational management with a light touch seems more in keeping with a program of personal and social development. The present point is that neither the present leadership nor the “Thelemist” opposition wants to depart from the Crowley program. The question then becomes, for them, and to them, how can a maximum management regime serve what is clearly a minimalist agenda?
The statistics damn the present management. From the appointment of the present Acting Outer Head, who admits of no magical link to the inner order that I am aware of, if the evident purpose of the system is to initiate IXth Degree members, then the administration of the program is a total failure. The percentage of the total membership (which appears to have little real sustained growth, though a “revolving door” in the primary degrees, has kept the gross number of members, mostly at the low end of the initiatory cycle, fairly stable, and has, of course, enriched the treasury) that has gone through the complete cycle of initiations is a tiny fraction of 1%, and, in reality, though the exact number is an (embarassing) secret, in single digits over the last twenty years, since Hymenaeus Beta came to head the organization. In 1994, the OTO initiate membership was listed as 2213, with .6% IX Degrees (including about a dozen McMurtry appointees over twenty years ago; in 2005, with 3056 initiate members listed worldwide, only .7% were IX Degree members, a net increase of .1%--essentially none.
Its sheer lack of productivity raises serious questions as to whether such management should stay or step down. But, more than this, it calls for an examination of the 19th Century structure which vests absolute authority over the organization in one person for life.
By contrast, what is an Order Minimalist? I see great advantages to a “big tent” in which all kinds of people of various races, religious backgrounds, political views and lifestyles can feel comfortable, if for no other reason than the human resource pool and material means this provides. I would exclude no interested party so long as they observe the Peace of the Temple. In fact, I would advocate, as stated, a rotational high administrative management, and more emphasis on service than authority at the highest levels, and more emphasis on making people comfortable from day one with the Order. Certainly, there is no theoretical reason why the existing leaders of all existing chartered bodies and councils could not meet in convention and elect an interim board of supervisors until a less authoritarian constitution is drafted.
To me the Order is this, and only this: (A) The Initiation Rituals – and whatever the individual derives from these. (B) The Gnostic Mass and related life-passage rituals, and (C) whatever minimum structure – administrative, financial and regulatory – necessary to carry out (A) and (B) with joy and beauty, with liberal room for a variety of artistic interpretations. That is it. I also have said I accept the implicit in all this of a social structure – optional and informal, that acts as a kind of support group in a growth-oriented initiatory system. However, that is informal, and should be viewed as such. The obvious mission is to find, initiate and promote on merit as many IX Degree members as possible. Failure to find virtually any is an indication of failure. Success is measured in terms of how many successful qualified individuals are so advanced. Against this, what, in fact is happening right now, and is to be welcomed, are relatively small, largely local Congregationalist bodies loosely connected by affinity and communication and common cause, in effect, Congregationalist Templar Autonomous Centers. If the organization does not reform, the individual bodies of integrity must take it upon themselves to uphold the essential core of the entire Work.
This failure began with the election of a relatively uninitiated archivist as the absolute autocrat for life, incorporation (hence complex obligations to the existing social paradigm) and excessive litigiousness, leading to self-consciousness and undue fear about answerability to the profane state and to lawsuit…a kind of projection which apparently caused willful bowdlerization of the initiation rituals, a sycophantic power structure built on fear of dissent and rewards for capricious favorites of the prevailing management, and, inevitably, a decline in the numinosity and authenticity of the essential Work of the Order. By the Twenty First Century, it had become, essentially, a shell of its former self.
I would frankly like more input into fundamental policy, but for reasons best not gone into here, do not expect this to ever happen to me directly. Those who heard policy from me head it as policy, and I represented the decisions of authority as I had agreed to do. There are many policies I disagree with, profoundly. None of them existed in fact when I was first approached to build the EGC for Eulis Camp in 1982. But the initiations are profound, Liber XV, the Mystery Play, is beautiful, and I have met a few really wonderful men and women I am proud to call brothers, sisters, lovers and friends. That’s why I stayed so long, why I did my job, and that’s why I’m saying what I’ve just said.
1 The author has a letter from Crowley, on OTO business, dated September 21, 1947, which he signs “Baphomet 33o 90o 97o XIo. This indicates his continued use of Masonic Dignities as OTO titles within less than three months of his death. Accounts late in life indicate Masonic affiliation to still be a primary question asked by Crowley of new students, including a very young Kenneth Grant. Crowley disclaimed unjust encroachment upon the just privileges of the English Grand Lodge, but not just claims on being the academia masonica (school of freemasonry’s true wisdom) that was a founding principle of OTO.
2 Others included Bishop W.B. Crow, Gerald Gardner and Kenneth Grant.
3 McMurtry grew the Order from roughly five to 500 members, elevating a group of “temporary” Ninth Degree members, to secure continuity of the Order in the event of his own death.
4 The “Intimation” was published when Crowley was still answerable to Reuss. An example of how Crowley “softened” the absolute authority of the OHO (Outer Head of the Order) is the contrast between the absolute authority given in the 1917 Constitution (Articles IV, V, XVII), and provisions 16 and 27 of the Intimation, published two years later, which provide means for both accountability and removal of the OHO.
5 However, note that the corporate rules under HB follow the Constitution of 1917 and the Intimation of 1919 very selectively, and arguably are protectionist towards HB’s own authority. For example, the Grand Tribunal is explicitly given authority over all members of the Order in the Intimation, but under HB, it is in practice an internal function of national grand lodges subject to superior review. The guilds are clearly intended to be autonomous trade-based self-organized bodies of OTO members that represent themselves to the OTO as they see fit in AC’s scheme. However, they have been more like committees under HB, and must be approved by upper management.
6 Book 101 indicates that a ‘district’ normalizes its rules when a thousand members in its territory exist. The USA had reached this goal at the time of the establishment of U.S. Grand Lodge. UK & Australia Grand Lodges were chartered with a small fraction of this number.
Note - If we take Crowley at his word, “the really vital matter is the gradual progress towards the disclosure of the Ninth Degree…” then, subtracting the somewhat irregular initiation of so-called ‘battlefield IXths” remaining from McMurtry’s time (about a dozen), the present management has succeeded by its practices, either of judgment, politics, initiatory methodology or some combination of these, in fullfilling its central purpose in almost no cases at all, between the irregular appointment of Hymenaeus Beta as Acting OHO on September 21, 1985, and the present time as this is being written in 2007, twenty-plus years later.
Continued from Part One
SUPPORT CONGREGATIONAL ILLUMINISM
The Sanhedrin met by night,
Black velvet, blacker robes;
Sneak it in, without a fight
Break the rules and meet
Totally out of public sight.
O, we know we are so so right
They're in it for their wretched fun.
They'll be no more when we are done.
O, Nuit, continuous one,
Don't worry, like the loyalest son,
Your faithful inquisition
Will have made that predetermined decision.
It is our faith, no superstition, that
Justice is best in darkness served;
These radicals have their screwed-up nerve
To speak against your Sacred King
Who can do any thing.
In your name, our fame doth spread
From Waco down to Jonestown
We'll burn the heretics, bring um
Our Tribunal meets by night.
Darkness is our Holy Weapon.
Set all these dissenters to their flight
We learn to step on
What we hate that they hold dear
Free expression, free to fear.
We are the Army, Serpent's Tooth
We define the total Truth.
Our Sanhedrin meets by Night.