Ordo Templi Orientis
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Of all the open documents Aleister Crowley wrote regarding Ordo Templi Orientis, Liber CI—Book 101, "An Open Letter to Those Who May Wish to Join the Order"—is perhaps the most comprehensive and visionary. It was first published in 1919 in The Equinox III(1), which is commonly referred to as the "Blue Equinox." Half of the articles were written specifically in regards to O.T.O., and provide a large-scale structure for the Order. Liber CI is unlike the other items in the Blue Equinox, because it is not directly concerned with either governmental structure (outlined in "An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order," Liber CXCIV) or mystical provenance (as in "The Message of The Master Therion," Liber II). Rather, it constructs a vision of the Order as manifested within the social framework of fraternal principles—the expectations placed upon members regarding behavior towards the Order and other individuals—initiates and non-members alike—and the resulting benefits to be enjoyed by all.
The vision within CI is grand, to say the least. Even if we were optimistic enough to claim the benefits detailed within were each and every one possible, their full manifestation would be many years away. However, despite the fact that a system of profess-houses and universities is quite a ways off, we can nevertheless look to CI as a blueprint for what O.T.O. can be today. To this end, we shall take a close look at this important document, not article by article (which would become tiresome) but grouped by major themes, including the Law and our Mysteries, recruitment, money and property, profess-houses and other benefits, mothers and children, justice, and fraternity. It is hoped that by doing so, we can gain a deeper insight into the nature of O.T.O.
- These Regulations Come into Force in Any District Where the Membership of the Order Exceeds One Thousand Souls
What we first notice is that CI doesn't even come into effect until a "district" has at least 1000 members. But what is a district? Unfortunately, Crowley does not define it, so we must do some guesswork based on his other uses of the word. It isn't a Kingdom (i.e. a nation), because Crowley refers to such as a province in “Intimation” (CXCIV). Looking for other instances in CI we find in article #38, “...the Master of the Lodge in her district shall offer to become...” and #48, “Brethren who may be travelling have a right to the hospitality of the Master of the Lodge of the district...” He uses the word several times in his Confessions:
- He mentions that his “associations with Beachy Head possess a charm which I have never known in any other district of England.”
- “I once attended a Lodge whose Master was one of the two local bankers. [...] In this district, the clandestine Lodges greatly outnumbered the orthodox.”
- “In Mexico we used to make rather a point of practising with firearms whenever we struck a new district [...] Our next expedition was to the Colima District.”
- Speaking of Darjeeling, India: “Sir Joseph Hooker [...] made an extended survey of the district”.
Based on his use of the word, it is reasonable to conclude that a district refers to a single Valley or perhaps a group of Valleys, depending upon factors such as geography and population. Therefore, multiple Valleys like those found in the Bay Area in California or the Austin/San Antonio corridor in Texas would be districts, whereas single cities like Houston, Los Angeles, and New York would comprise their own. There is probably no way to create a clearcut definition—it would likely be determined on a case by case basis.
There is, of course, an important expectation embedded within this. CI assumes that a district is expected to reach a membership of at least 1000 members. Naturally, not every local body would obtain this, but a regional grouping of them theoretically could. Even if we extended the definition of district to be equitable with an entire US state, then ideally US Grand Lodge should have 50,000 members, minimum!
How realistic this might be is certainly a matter of debate. However, we can still look to the underlying principle embedded within this very first sentence, which is that Crowley expected the Order to be reasonably large. As we will see later in the essay, this is for two very good reasons. The first is that it is reflective of a general promulgation of Thelemic principles and the other is that the Order needs some serious numbers if it is ever going to fulfill the more institutional goals outlined within this document.
The other word in this sentence worthy of note is “Souls.” There are three possible takes on why he used this word. One is to suggest that membership is open to both sexes, and this was his way of using a gender-neutral term. Second, it could be a reference to the mystical journey of the Man of Earth degrees, which would be relevant for potential members. Third—and this is going out on a limb—he is using it based on its original etymological meaning, which is, from O.E. sawol, “spiritual and emotional part of a person, animate existence.” A theme that runs throughout CI harkens to all three elements: spirit, emotion, and animate existence. In other words, the benefits and duties of the Order are based upon promoting material and emotional well-being within the context of spiritual development.
After boilerplate greetings, Crowley offers an introductory paragraph:
- It has been represented to Us that some persons who are worthy to join the O.T.O. consider the fees and subscriptions rather high. This is due to your failure to explain properly the great advantages offered by the Order. We desire you therefore presently to note, and to cause to be circulated throughout the Order, and among those of the profane who may seem worthy to join it, these matters following concerning the duties and the privileges of members of the earlier degrees of the O.T.O. as regards material affairs. And for convenience we shall classify these as pertaining to the Twelve Houses of the Heaven, but also by numbered clauses for the sake of such as understand not the so-called Science of the Stars. First, therefore, concerning the duties of the Brethren. Yet with our Order every duty is also a privilege, so that it is impossible wholly to separate them.
This paragraph is packed with juicy information. One message is quite straightforward—members are to explain the advantages of the Order in such a way as to convince those “worthy” that it is worth joining. What makes a potential member “worthy?” There are several clues within the document, which lead to the conclusion that worthiness is determined by a combination of usefulness to the Order and having certain personal qualities. We will see that Crowley expected many members to be rich and powerful, for the dual purpose of infiltrating civil institutions with high-level Thelemites and so that O.T.O. could materially benefit from their wealth. This aside, all potential members should also display personal characteristics that imply that he or she would be willing and able to fulfill the essential duties outlined in CI. In general terms, worthy people would be described as noble and honorable, having traits such as courage, independence, generosity, loyalty, integrity, and cordiality.
There is another subtle but very important message here. Although Crowley is basing the structure of this “epistle” on the “Science of the Stars,” he is presenting it in such a way that the astrologically untutored can understand it. Stop and consider this a moment. While staying true to the context of O.T.O.’s teachings, Crowley is modifying a public tract so that it can (it least in his mind) be understood by potential members. This is an important lesson and a vital principle. Crowley is saying two very meaningful things here: (1) that “worthy” people do not need to be already learned in the magical arts, and (2) we may, to a reasonable degree, gear our Order presentations to the intended audience.
This is important enough to be repeated several times. CI suggests clearly that potential members do not need to be, and probably will not be already learned in magick. In other words, O.T.O. is not a club for people who already do ceremonial ritual. Although magick plays an important role in the course of one’s Order advancement, our central purpose is not for enthusiasts to get together to talk about magick or show off their ritual technique. Within the framework of the Man of Earth grade, magick is something that is learned along the way in service to the lessons of the degrees and the duties of ritual officers. According to CI, when considering a person for membership (i.e. sponsoring them for Minerval or First), one’s potential usefulness and character should be the priority, not their magical resume.
Finally, the phrase “concerning the duties and the privileges of members of the earlier degrees of the O.T.O. as regards material affairs” is quite telling. It insinuates that, in part, O.T.O. addresses the “material affairs” of its members. This is the first big clue that the Order is more than a narrow vehicle for teaching magick. This fits in with the final sentence saying that every duty is also a privilege. In other words, it is through fulfilling the obligations outlined in CI that the Order is able to provide the grand benefits it claims. This sets up one of the major themes of CI—that we are a family, and our success is dependant upon all of us working together, and all that that implies.
THE LAW & OUR MYSTERIES
As is appropriate, Liber CI begins with the Law:
- Duties, First
- 1. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. Yet it is well for Brethren to study daily in the Volume of the Sacred Law, Liber Legis, for therein is much counsel concerning this, how best they may carry out this will.
- Privileges, First
- 44. The first and greatest of all privileges of a Brother is to be a Brother; to have accepted the Law, to have become free and independent, to have destroyed all fear, whether of custom, or of faith, or of other men, or of death itself. In other papers the joy and glory of those who have accepted The Book of the Law as the sole rule of life is largely, though never fully, explained; and we will not here recapitulate the same.
These two clauses are very similar but say slightly different things. The first duty is, naturally, to do one’s Will. However, what might be more important is what it doesn’t say: the first duty is not to consciously accept the Law (i.e. to know about AL and to say openly “I’m a Thelemite”), to be familiar with ceremonial ritual or magical technology, or to otherwise hold any particular ideology. Rather, the clause articulates our core belief and then gives some good advice. The first clause might be translated as, “There is only one True Duty and that is to Do what thou wilt. However, it is strongly recommended that you study Liber Legis so that you can do this well.” In a subtle way, this clause sets up a primary theme of the Order, which is the primacy of the individual Will choosing to enter into an environment of guidance and discipline. Moreover, it insinuates that the Order does not and cannot know one’s Will, but that we have some really good advice on the matter.
The second clause addresses the open and full acceptance of the Law—along with certain attainments—not as a duty, but as a privilege. This is a key to a good attitude towards guests (and each other): “we don’t require that you accept the Law, but we would consider you very fortunate if you do.” Said another way, acceptance of the Law is not a prerequisite for being invited to Minerval, but is rather a wonderful gift that we want to share.
The second clause also has a dual theme: the destruction of fear and the acquisition of freedom, independence, joy and glory. Of course, this is describing an ideal state rather than normal reality. It rather sets up an ethical framework and moral context: we value courage over fear—whether of custom, faith, society, or of death—and aspire towards mastering it within ourselves. Moreover, we value personal freedom and independence, joy and glory, which is the birthright of all, and is embodied within the mystical and philosophical system which undergirds our Order.
- Duties, Third
- 4. The Brethren shall be diligent in preaching the Law of Thelema. In all writings they shall be careful to use the prescribed greetings; likewise in speech, even with strangers.
- Duties, Ninth
- 36. He should also do all in his power to spread the Law, especially taking long journeys, when possible, to remote places, there to sow the seed of the Law.
Not only does the O.T.O. member eventually come to accept the Law of Thelema, she labors to promulgate it within the world. These two clauses are fascinating, because they use language that seems to contradict the Comment of AL—however, we must recognize that CI was written about eight years before the Tunis Comment. Even so, these lines provide an important principle. While one may define “preaching” however one wishes, and we may debate the particulars of methodology, the ultimate aim is clear: O.T.O. membership, in part, requires actively spreading the Law.
Consider this for a moment—the language is unambiguous; our methods must be active, not passive. According to CI, it is not enough for us to sit back, put up a website, and wait for the Law to spread. No, it is clear that Crowley expected members to reach out to others, even strangers, to tell them of Thelema. Again, we can debate how to best go about doing this in light of the Comment and our modern cultural context, but CI insists that the Law be promulgated, and with vigor.
- Duties, Ninth
- 5. Every Brother is expected to spend a great part of his spare time in the study of the principles of the Law and of the Order, and in searching out the key to its great and manifold mysteries.
- Privileges, Ninth
- 65. The Order teaches the only perfect and satisfactory system of philosophy, religion, and science, leading its members step by step to knowledge and power hardly even dreamed of by the profane.
These two articles seek to unify the Order with the Law of Thelema. The first clause is clear—members are to study diligently the principles of both Thelema and the Order. The topmost duty within O.T.O., alongside spreading the Law, is to explore and examine the underlying ideas, formulae, ethics, tenets, and teachings found within AL and our formal ceremonies (i.e. the initiations and Liber XV). Moreover, the clause sets up a juicy carrot—not only does O.T.O. have “great and manifold mysteries” but there is a “key” to them that can and should be discovered by members.
The second clause compliments and extends the first. It explains that O.T.O. “teaches” a system composed of three essential components: philosophy (a system of thought that examines reality and establishes ideas on metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology), religion (the establishment and celebration of the sacred), and science (practical techniques for spiritual discovery and advancement). This system of teaching can eventually lead the member to the Secret of the Ninth Degree, the Jewel of the Order, which bestows incredible “knowledge and power.”
- Duties, Twelfth
- 43. The Brethren are bound to secrecy only with regard to the nature of the rituals of our Order, and to our words, signs, etc. The general principles of the Order may be fully explained, so far as they are understood below the VI○; as it is written, “The ordeals I write not: the rituals shall be half known and half concealed: the Law is for all.” It is to be observed that punctual performance of these duties, so that the report thereof is noised abroad and the fame of it cometh even unto the Throne of the Supreme and Holy King himself, will weigh heavily in the scale when it comes to be a question of the high advancement of a Brother in the Order.
Not only should initiates promulgate the Law, they should also talk to non-members about the Order, fully explaining the general principles embodied within the degrees Minerval through Fifth, the only exception being the contents of the initiation ceremonies. It is immediately explained that doing so is not only allowed, but is required, referring to it as a duty to be performed punctually. Further, the spreading of the general principles of the Order (through Fifth) will eventually play an important role in one’s future advancement.
An important question must be asked: what constitutes a “general principle”? CI does not define this term. Common sense says that it refers to the basic lessons of the degrees, especially in terms of ethics and metaphysical conceptions. Clearly, one should not say, “In my second degree, I learned...”. Rather, it seems that it is the principles themselves that are important; that it is both good and expected that members will promulgate them amongst non-members. After all, there is much wisdom in our Rites, and it would be beneficial to mankind to spread it about.
Liber CI makes it clear that a fundamental duty of every initiate is to help recruit new members into the ranks of the Order.
- Duties, Third
- 7. They shall be diligent in circulating all tracts, manifestos, and all other communications which the Order may from time to time give out for the instruction or emancipation of the profane.
This clause gives the first method for performing this task—the passing out of literature. There are two given purposes for such writings: for instruction and for emancipation (i.e. acceptance of the Law). These suggest that such writings would be designed to influence people to accept the Law and, by association, to join the Order (two actions tied together throughout CI). While we can debate the relative merits of passing out tracts to strangers, the underlying theme is clear: the Order should develop written materials designed to instruct and influence non-members.
It is arguable that this clause is no longer relevant with the Internet. After all, more people read these tracts online every month than likely did in Crowley’s entire lifetime. There is a major issue to consider, however, and that is the impact of personal contact. Reading Liber CI (or some similar document) online becomes an abstract activity, which hides the fact that it is addressing an actual group of people who are trying to manifest these principles in real life. By handing a tract to someone, it is showing that people are involved and care enough to do this work. This is not a call for Scientology-style flyer-handing on the street. Rather, it is a call to recognize that there is power in personal contact that the Internet cannot compete with. This clause requires members to make exactly that kind of contact.
- Duties, Tenth
- 40. Every Brother is expected to use all his influence with persons in a superior station of life (so called) to induce them to joint the Order. Royal personages, ministers of State, high officials in the Diplomatic, Naval, Military, and Civil Services are particularly to be sought after, for it is intended ultimately that the temporal power of the State be brought into the Law, and led into freedom and prosperity by the application of its principles.
- Duties, Eleventh
- 42. Every Brother is expected to do all in his power to induce his personal friends to accept the Law and join the Order. He should therefore endeavor to make new friends outside the Order, for the purpose of widening its scope.
Initiates are expected both to recruit new members and to influence people to accept the Law. In fact, the member is expected to go to quite extraordinary lengths, using all available influence to induce both friends and people in positions of civil influence to join. The member should even make new friends with this purpose in mind! (Interesting that neither clause mentions family).
US Grand Lodge has issued a recent statement saying that members are not currently expected to go to these lengths, saying “While we do encourage members to do their part in recruiting new members, we do not expect or encourage them to aggressively proselytize among their friends, employers, and any wealthy or powerful acquaintances they may have.” However, it is important that we not overlook two underlying lessons of these clauses.
First, CI essentially gives permission to recruit—members may labor to grow membership in O.T.O., to “widen its scope.” Second, Crowley wanted people in positions of civil authority to join, so that the principles of the Order might spread into the secular arena. The language makes it plain that Crowley wanted the Order to be highly influential, to the point of being a vehicle for bringing the civil State into the Law. Is this vision overly ambitious? Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way, there is yet another implicit lesson here: Crowley wanted there to be an interconnection between O.T.O., the community, and the State. Said another way, CI does not envision an O.T.O. disconnected or hidden from society, but rather the Order should be deeply integrated with it so that we may better promulgate the Law.
There is a grand vision here. One the one hand, there is an Order of great height filled with influential people, laboring to induce civil government to adopt the Law and the principles of O.T.O. On the other is an Order that has great breadth, with members reaching out to friends to join, thereby spreading the Law horizontally through society.
- Duties, Seventh
- 28. Members of the Order are to regard those without its pale as possessing no rights of any kind, since they have not accepted the Law, and are therefore, as it were, troglodytes, survivals of a past civilisation, and to be treated accordingly. Kindness should be shown towards them, as towards any other animal, and every effort should be made to bring them into Freedom.
This is a tricky article that has been the source of much trouble and misunderstanding. A troglodyte is literally a “cave-dweller,” although Crowley was here using it in its more modern sense of one who is a member of an extinct race. USGL’s statement addresses this clause by saying “O.T.O. does not now encourage its members to treat those outside the Order as inferiors who possess no rights.” Grand Master General Sabazius X○ also gave an address at the first notocon, saying that this clause conflicts with both Liber Oz and AL I:3 (“Every man and every woman is a star”), and called on all members to show “friendship towards all men and women who value Liberty.”
However, let’s go ahead and take this clause at face value for the moment. First, a definition: “without its pale” is a way of saying “beyond its borders.” But what is the border of O.T.O.? A straightforward reading would be simply those who are not initiated members. However, a close examination reveals it: it is defined by the acceptance of the Law of Thelema, not simple membership. After all, would Crowley believe that members of A∴A∴ are troglodytes if they are not also members of O.T.O.?
Okay, let’s go from there—anyone who hasn’t accepted the Law is a troglodyte, as it were, with no rights of any kind, and Order members are to “treat them accordingly.” But what treatment are they accorded? Crowley tells us: kindness, combined with an effort to bring them into the Law. So, even if we go so far as to accept the idea that all people who have not accepted the Law (including our mothers, spouses, children, and good friends) are equitable with animals, we are nevertheless to treat them “kindly.”
Etymologically, “kind” comes from O.E. gecynde “natural, native, innate,” originally “with the feeling of relatives for each other,” which developed into “with natural feelings,” to “well-disposed, benign, compassionate.” As Crowley was a fan of etymology, we may take his example and interpret his injunction to mean treating troglodytes as if they were related kin (if perhaps a bit backwards, Aeonically-speaking), with actions that are at least benign (i.e. gentle, not harmful) and at most well-disposed (i.e. having a positive, sympathetic, friendly attitude). When possible, members should also labor to inspire them to accept the Law generally and join the Order specifically (again, two things that CI lumps together).
So, although USGL has dismissed this clause, the general lesson is a positive one: folks who have not accepted the Law, despite their so-called lack of rights (Liber Oz, anyone?), should nevertheless be well-treated as if family, with the aim of leading them to accept the Law and perhaps even to join the Order. In other words, every non-Thelemite we meet is not an opportunity to be smug, derogatory, or rude, but is rather a chance to bring yet one more person into Freedom. This is far more likely to happen by exemplifying the noble and honorable traits outlined in Liber CI.
MONEY AND PROPERTY
- Duties, Second
- 3. All Brethren shall be exceedingly punctual in the payment of Lodge Dues. This is to take precedence of all other calls upon the purse.
- Duties, Sixth
- 22. All Brethren are bound by their fealty to offer their service in their particular trade, business, or profession, to the Grand Lodge. For example, a stationer will supply Grand Lodge with paper, vellum, and the like; a bookseller offer any books to the Library of Grand Lodge which the Librarian may desire to possess; a lawyer will execute any legal business for Grand Lodge, and a railway or steamship owner or director see to it that the Great Officers travel in comfort wherever they may wish to go.
These two clauses are together because they are the only mention of mandatory exchange from member to Order. The first clause is rather straightforward, which is based upon the Masonic model, where members paid all dues to the local Lodge, a portion of which went to the Grand Lodge. What is interesting is that it calls for dues to take the very highest priority, above all other “calls upon the purse.” Does this mean dues should be paid before rent, utilities, taxes, medical care, and food? Although a literal reading says yes, a more subtle reading gives another answer. A purse is also a bag for carrying available money. Considering the audience Crowley was intending to reach, it is reasonable that this duty refers to paying dues before trips to the French Riviera or throwing extravagant balls. Of course, as with most things, this is a relative issue—the general principle here is that dues should come before unnecessary or frivolous purchases.
The second clause is a requirement to give of one’s professional services to the Order. USGL has issued a statement saying, “Members who are professionals, tradesmen, or businessmen are not expected to donate their products or services to the Order, though such donations are gratefully received.” In these economic times this is a wise correction, since mandatory donation of such services and materials could very well mean the end of a small business, and the object of this clause is certainly not to squeeze its members. It is rather a reflection of Crowley’s attraction to the European feudal system, saying that members owe “fealty” to Grand Lodge, one definition of which is “the fidelity owed by a vassal to his feudal lord” (i.e. “Great Officers”). USGL is simply making it clear that O.T.O. members are not vassals to any lords, and therefore do not owe them professional service or materials (although they are encouraged to do so whenever possible).
However, there are several underlying principles here of useful import. The first is embodied in the word “fealty,” which also means fidelity, faithfulness, or allegiance. This word insinuates that every initiate is expected to be a steady and loyal member of their Grand Lodge. Moreover, members should strive to see that Grand Lodge is well-equipped to function smoothly and efficiently. Finally, Grand Lodge officers are due respect, and while they may not be feudal lords, they do require assistance from all Order members in the execution of their duties.
- Duties, Third
- 8. They may offer suitable books and pictures to the Libraries of the Profess-Houses of the Order.
- Duties, Fourth
- 9. Every Brother who may possess mines, land, or houses more than he can himself constantly occupy, should donate part of such mines or land, or one or more of such houses to the Order.
- 10. Property thus given will be administered if he desire it in his own interest, thus effecting a saving, since large estates are more economically handled than small. But the Order will use such property as may happen to lie idle for the moment in such ways as it may seem good, lending an unlet house (for example) to some Brother who is in need, or allowing an unused hall to be occupied by a Lodge.
- 11. (Yet in view of the great objects of the Order, endowment is welcome.)
- Duties, Eighth
- 33. Every Brother is expected to bear witness in his last will and testament to the great benefit that he hath received from the Order by bestowing upon it part or the whole of his goods, as he may deem fit.
Crowley expected a lot of generosity from O.T.O. members, including donating and even willing all kinds of property, such as books, artwork, land, halls, houses, mines(!), and money (an “endowment” is a type of donation that results in regular income). Oddly, he suggests that the Order act as a kind of property management company, explaining that it is more economical for O.T.O. to manage many properties than for an individual to manage only one or a small few. We also see a hint of Crowley’s socialist side, saying that property donated to the Order will be used where needed (i.e. a voluntary redistribution of wealth).
In large part, these clauses reflect the audience Crowley was hoping to reach—i.e. people who own mines and have spare houses sitting empty. At the same time, #10 above shows that he was aware that not every member would always be flush. We will see later on that Crowley intended the Order to offer a limited form of welfare for members going through tough times. However, we will now see the first ethical principle of fraternity addressed in CI: generosity between members.
- Duties, Second
- 2. The private purse of every Brother should always be at the disposal of any Brother who may be in need. But in such a case it is a great mischief if the one ask, and the other consent; for if the former be really in need, his pride is wounded by his asking; and if not, the door is opened to beggars and imposters, and all manner of arrant knaves and rogues such as are no true Brethren. But the Brother who is possessed of this world’s goods should make it his business to watch the necessity of all those Brethren with whom he may be personally acquainted, anticipating their wants in so wise and kindly and delicate a manner that it shall appear as if it were the payment of a debt. And what help is given shall be given with discretion, so that the relief may be permanent rather than temporary.
- Privileges, Sixth
- 60. Members of the Order may expect Brethren to busy themselves in finding remunerative occupation for them, where they lack it, or, if possible, to employ them personally.
These two clauses are unambiguous: when siblings are in financial need, members are expected to help out. They should do this either by offering financial assistance or by finding them paid employment, if lacking. In short: members should be generous with each other when need arises.
Crowley here offers some advice on the proper attitude. First, he suggests that one should not help a sibling who openly asks for it, assuming that “true Brethren” would never ask, being prevented by wounded pride. If a member helps one who actually asks for aid, then the door becomes open for beggars, imposters, arrant knaves, and rogues. Rather, siblings should keep a close eye on each other, anticipating need and stepping in with assistance before a request is even possible. Further, aid should be provided with almost a sense of obligation, as if paying a debt. Finally, the giving of aid should be done with a kindly and delicate disposition, and with discretion.
The general principle here is twofold: generosity and watching over each other. The implicit frame is one of “we’re all in this together” and that O.T.O. is a family. While members are not responsible for the well-being of others, they are nevertheless duty-bound to keep an eye out for each other and to help out when it is warranted. Assistance in times of need is to be given as if it were the payment of a debt, which suggests an attitude of kindly obligation. Such an outlook is the backbone of a noble society, which is a big part of Crowley’s vision.
There is another way of reading “it is a great mischief if the one ask, and the other consent; for if the former be really in need, his pride is wounded by his asking; and if not, the door is opened to...such as are no true Brethren.” This line is saying that one who falsely asks for assistance is not a “true Brother.” A more general principle embedded within this line states that true Brethren do not ask for that which is not their due, but rather are only motivated by what they can provide. True Brethren do not take advantage of others, do not swindle, cheat, mislead, or otherwise seek undue benefits. A True Brother does not ask what he can get but what he can give.
PROFESS-HOUSES AND OTHER BENEFITS
- Privileges, Fourth
- 49. Brethren of all grades may be invited to sojourn in the Profess-Houses of the Order by Grand Lodge; and such invitation may confidently be expected as the reward of merit. There they will be able to make the personal acquaintance of members of the higher Grades, learn of the deeper workings of the Order, obtain the benefit of personal instruction, and in all ways fit themselves for advancement.
- 50. Brethren of advanced years and known merit who desire to follow the religious life may be asked to reside permanently in such houses.
- 51. In the higher degrees Brethren have the right to reside in our Profess-Houses for a portion of every year, as shown:
- VI○. Two weeks.
VII○. Two months.
G.T. One month.
S.G.C. Three months.
P.R.S. Six weeks.
VIII○. Six months.
- 52. Members of the IX○, who share among themselves the whole property of the Order according to the rules of that degree, may, of course, reside there permanently. Indeed, the house of every Brother of this grade is, ipso facto, a Profess-House of the Order.
- Privileges, Ninth
- 66. Brethren of the Order who take long journeys overseas are received in places where they sojourn at the Profess-Houses of the Order for the period of one month.
Crowley was not always consistent concerning the details, but one thing is clear—he very much wanted profess-houses to exist, and considered them to be of high importance within the structure of O.T.O. There can be many types of profess-houses, but they share common structures, central of which was short- and long-term residency. They are to be headed by an Abbot, and should strive to develop their own character and theme involving some kind of labor.
As a point of interest, let us look at the definition of profess. Although there are several meanings, there are three that seem relevant: (1) To practice as a profession or claim knowledge of, (2) To receive into a religious order or congregation, or to take the vows thereof, and (3) To teach. The etymology of profess is to “take a vow.” Taken together, a profess-house is a house of monastic profession dedicated to learning and living the Great Work in a communal setting. In essence, they are Crowley’s attempt to manifest the “Abbey of Theleme” of Rabelais, which played such an important role in the cultural development of Thelema.
In many ways, Crowley saw profess-houses as the highest manifestation of O.T.O. society, wherein residents are free to do their Will and yet do so in a spirit of harmony and cooperation. From Liber CLXI, “Each one is free to do as he will; and the luxury of this enjoyment is such that he becomes careful to avoid disturbance of the equal right of others [...] Naturally, as it takes all sorts to make a world—and we rejoice in that diversity which makes our unity so exquisite a miracle—some Profess-Houses will suit one person, some another. And birds of a feather will learn to flock together. However, the well-being of the Order and the study of its mysteries being at the heart of every member of the Order, there is inevitably one common ground on which all may meet.”
Let us now examine the articles at hand. Crowley mentions that members of any degree might be invited to stay temporarily in a profess-house. Such an invite shall be based on merit, although those who are VI○ thru VIII○ can stay without invitation for limited periods. Two groups may live in a profess-house permanently: those of the Ninth Degree and invited geriatric members. Members traveling overseas may also stay for up to one month without invitation.
CI lays out many benefits of profess-houses. The first of course is lodging, which is reflective of one of the Order’s most cherished principles, hospitality (from CLXI, “Some are like the castles of mediæval barons, some are simple cottages; the same spirit rules in all. It is that of perfect hospitality”). The use of profess-house libraries is also available to all members. There can also be specialized profess-houses, such as for the care of pregnant sisters and mothers in need or as schools for the education of children. In Crowley’s novel Moonchild, a profess-house is modified to become a hospital.
CI also makes clear one of the core benefits of sojourning in a profess-house—it is an opportunity to network with other members, including those of the Lover and Hermit Grades. Crowley says clearly here that personal instruction in the principles and working of O.T.O. can be obtained. Such instruction, along with other activities, can assist a member in preparing for advancement. In other words, profess-houses are places for spiritual, magical, and philosophical mentoring.
There are many other details to be mined in these few clauses. One is the dual use of the word merit. While not defined, it seems common sense that it refers to showing a comprehension of the principles of O.T.O. and Thelema relative to an initiate’s degree. Merit also reflects the initiate’s ability to reside in a communal environment (i.e. displaying traits such as hospitality, respect for others, and the ability to work in harmony with members). Another issue is the socialistic #52, which mentions that Order property is owned in joint between all members of the Ninth, and that the house of a Ninth is, by default, a profess-house. USGL has issued a statement saying, “The members of the IX○ do not hold the property of the Order in common,” which, presumably, also means that a home owned by a Ninth is no longer, ipso facto, a profess-house.
Much more could be said about profess-houses and these clauses in CI, especially #52. However, the reader is invited to examine other documents that go into greater detail about profess-houses, including Concerning the Law of Thelema, Manifesto of the O.T.O., and Of Eden and the Sacred Oak, as well as my own On Profess-Houses.
- Privileges, Third
- 46. Members of the Order will be permitted to use the Library in any of our Profess-Houses.
- 47. Circulating Libraries will presently be established.
Quite simply, Crowley loved books and assumed we all would, too. Of course, this was before the days of sacred-texts.com!
- Privileges, Sixth
- 57. In sickness all Brethren have the right to medical or surgical care and attendance from any Brethren of the Lodge who may be physicians, surgeons, or nurses.
- 58. In special necessity the Supreme Holy King will send his own attendants.
- 59. Where circumstances warrant it, in cases of lives of great value to the Order and the like, he may even permit the administration of that secret Medicine which is known to members of the IX○.
Here we see a limited form of social welfare in the form of guaranteed medical care. Of course, this is balanced with aristocracy, since the King has his own medical attendants. While #57 might be unrealistic at this time, the spirit behind it is valid: members can expect that those in the Order will be willing to help them when needed. Before, we saw this spirit manifested in the form of financial aid, and now in medical care. Although this is couched in terms of a privilege, it is also an implicit duty—members are expected to offer aid and care to their siblings.
- Privileges, Eighth
- 63. All Brethren are entitled after death to the proper disposal of their remains according to the rites of the Order and their grade in it.
A simple but meaningful benefit.
- Duties, Tenth
- 41. Colleges of the Order will presently be established where the children of its members may be trained in all trades, businesses, and professions, and there they may study the liberal arts and humane letters, as well as our holy and arcane science. Brethren are expected to do all in their power to make possible the establishment of such Universities.
This grand vision of O.T.O. makes it plain that we are not to be hidden away, but of the world. As with the Scottish Rite Masons, Crowley wanted O.T.O. to have primary, secondary, and professional schools for initiates and their children. Clearly this was a priority for him, since he insists that members “do all in their power” to found such schools. There are many implied messages here, including a strong valuing of liberal education and professional training. It also implies that O.T.O. is to be wealthy enough to be able to establish and maintain such schools. Finally, it is reasonable to assume that the faculty at least would be initiates, so that the pool of Order members would have to be quite large to be able to fill all such positions with qualified teachers.
- Privileges, Twelfth
- 72. The secrecy of the Order provides it members with an inviolable shroud of concealment.
- 74. The Order exercises its whole power to relieve its members of any constraint to which they may be subjected, attacking with vigour any person or persons who may endeavour to subject them to compulsion, and in all other ways aiding in the complete emancipation of the Brethren from aught that may seek to restrain them from doing That Which They Will.
Considering that all members are expected to spread the principles of the Order and to induce friends and employers to join, it seems odd to promise an “inviolable shroud of concealment.” However, it is also possible to read this as saying that O.T.O. provides an environment wherein one may practice and celebrate the Great Work in a protected and sacred space. It is one manifestation of the protection of members, which is the subject of the next clause.
Article #74 is monumental. It claims that the Order will “relieve its members of any constraint to which they may be subjected” and will aid “in the complete emancipation of the Brethren from aught that may seek to restrain them from doing That Which They Will.” Wow! Let that sink in for a few moments.
Although this clause is largely unrealistic in practical terms, is embodies a wonderful principle that is repeated again and again in CI and other Order-related documents: we look out for our own. Absolutely anything that gets in the way of a sibling from doing his or her Will, we are there to help remove it. It embodies principles such as protection, loyalty, and unity.
USGL has issued a statement saying, “the services of our legal advisers are not available to members free of charge...the Grand Tribunal does not arbitrate disputes between members and non-members, though we can provide legal referrals to our members who require them.” Although this is probably wise in practical and legal terms in our present state, it does not negate the spirit of the clause.
- Privileges, Tenth
- 69. The Order offers great social advantages to its members, bringing them as it does into constant association with men and women of high rank.
- 70. The Order offers extraordinary opportunities to its members in their trades, businesses, or professions, aiding them by co-operation, and securing them clients or customers.
Social and professional networking, pure and simple. We are more than a club for ritualists—O.T.O. recognizes that we are of the world and that the Order is a society that should also benefit members in worldly ways.
- Privileges, Second
- 45. All Brethren who may fall into indigence have a right to the direct assistance of the Order up to the full amount of fees and subscriptions paid by them up to the time of application. This will be regarded as a loan, but no interest will be charged upon it. That this privilege may not be abused, the Grand Tribunal will decide whether or no such application is made in good faith.
- Privileges, Eighth
- 64. If the Brother so desire, the entire amount of the fees and subscriptions which he has paid during his life will be handed over by the Order to his heirs and legatees. The Order thus affords an absolute system of insurance in addition to its other benefits.
Clauses like these makes one wonder if Crowley had any understanding whatsoever of money management. USGL must wonder the same, because their statement says, “We do offer a variety of methods to relieve the financial burden of dues payment to members undergoing genuine hardship. However, dues and fees paid to O.T.O. are not refundable under any circumstances, and O.T.O. does not make personal loans to its members. Also, dues and fees paid to O.T.O. cannot be transferred or assigned at any time to a member’s heirs or legatees.”
What is of more import is the intent underneath these concepts. Essentially, these two clauses attempt to set up a kind of social safety net for members and their families. Interest-free loans and a rough outline for social security for heirs seem to reflect an attempt to reconcile independence with welfare. While the Order as an organization is willing to help a member financially, according to CI, it is only willing to do so to the extent that the member has already contributed. This limitation is, as we have already seen, balanced by the duty of individual siblings to render financial assistance wherever warranted. These clauses also reflect the principle we’ve seen already many times: we take care of our own.
MOTHERS & CHILDREN
- Duties, Tenth
- 37. All pregnant women are especially sacred to members of the Order, and no effort should be spared to bring them to acceptance of the Law of Freedom, so that the unborn may benefit by that impression. They should be induced to become members of the Order, so that the child may be born under its aegis.
- 38. If the mother that is to be have asserted her will to be so in contempt and defiance of the Tabus of the slave-gods, she is to be regarded as especially suitable to our Order, and the Master of the Lodge in her district shall offer to become, as it were, godfather to the child, who shall be trained specially, if the mother so wishes, as a servant of the Order, in one of its Profess-Houses.
- 39. Special Profess-Houses for the care of women of the Order, or those whose husbands or lovers are members of the Order, will be instituted, so that the frontal duty of womankind may be carried out in all comfort and honour.
- Privileges, Tenth
- 67. Women of the Order who are about to become mothers receive all care, attention, and honour from all Brethren.
- 68. Special Profess-Houses will be established for their convenience, should they wish to take advantage of them.
CI’s take on mothers and pregnancy is both marvelous and a bit old fashioned. The notion that pregnant sisters should “receive all care, attention, and honour from all Brethren” is admirable, and totally in line with the general theme of mutual care within the Order. On the other hand, the idea that we should recruit women based solely on their pregnancy is a bit like a reflection of nationalism that was popular during WWI (when Crowley was writing this)—akin to a “women are our most treasured national resource” thing. This attitude is reflected in #39 where he calls child-bearing the “frontal duty of womankind.” Thankfully, USGL has issued a statement saying “We no longer hold ideas of ‘the frontal duty of womankind’ as points of doctrine. Rather, we emphasize the individuality of all women and all men.” Said another way, sisters may certainly have children if they so Will, but the Order does not consider it an obligation.
There are other weird little things buried in here. If moms so wish, the Order will take in their kids to be “trained specially” as “servants of the Order.” Crowley doesn’t say what he means by this. Also, Crowley mentions that mothers-to-be who defy the “taboos of the slave-gods” shall be “regarded as especially suitable to our Order.” Crowley discusses “taboos of the slave-gods” in his new commentary to AL, regarding III:56. There he says,
- It is clear that a woman cannot love naturally, freely, wholesomely, if she is bound to contaminate the purity of her impulse with thoughts of her social, economical, and spiritual status [...] Thus we find that almost the only love-affairs which breed no annoyance, and leave no scar, are those between people who have accepted the Law of Thelema, and broken for good with the tabus of the slave-gods. The true artist, loving his art and nothing else, can enjoy a series of spontaneous liaisons, all his life long, yet never suffer himself, or cause any other to suffer.
This is to say, stated simply, that having “spontaneous liaisons” is a highly desirable trait in potential female members. There is a difference here between a woman willfully freeing herself from the strictures of Victorian-style monogamy and thoughtless, desperate, or self-loathing promiscuity. Nevertheless, Crowley is essentially claiming that “free love” is what makes a woman “especially suitable” for membership. Whatever Crowley’s intention behind this line, it is now thought that a woman’s sexual habits are none of our business, and really have nothing to do with determining her “suitability.” Rather, we can take the underlying principle and look for women (and men) who form relationships (of all kinds) based on their own Will rather than a blind or mindless conformity to old-Aeon social expectations.
- Duties, Fifth
- 14. All children of Brethren are to be considered as children of the whole Order, and to be protected and aided in every way by its members severally, as by its organization collectively. No distinction is to be made with regard to the conditions surrounding the birth of any child.
- 15. There is an especially sacred duty, which every Brother should fulfil, with regard to all children, those born without the Order included. This duty is to instruct them in the Law of Thelema, to teach them independence and freedom of thought and character, and to warn them that servility and cowardice are the most deadly diseases of the human soul.
- Privileges, Fifth
- 54. Children of all Brethren are entitled to the care of the Order, and arrangements will be made to educate them in certain of the Profess-Houses of the Order.
- 55. Children of Brethren who are left orphans will be officially adopted by the Master of his Lodge, or if the latter decline, by the Supreme Holy King himself, and treated in all ways as if they were his own.
- 56. Brethren who have a right to some especial interest in any child whose mother is not a member of the Order may recommend it especially to the care of their lodges or of Grand Lodge.
These clauses are also completely in line with the general attitude of “we care for our own,” children included. Number 15 essentially says that O.T.O. members should instruct all children, both those of members and not, in the tenets of Thelema. Crowley explains that this basically means teaching kids to be independent thinkers and actors while dissuading them from cowardice and subservience. He was simply using this as an opportunity to suggest that one of the best ways to promulgate the Law of Thelema is through promoting its principles amongst children.
Article #55 is a bit Dickensesque, but a nice sentiment. USGL has recently said, “While we offer what assistance we can to the families of members who suffer bereavement, we do not require our officers to adopt the orphaned children of members.” However, we can, I think, garner a general principle here. It is that we in O.T.O. are to regard ourselves as a family. Not only do we have brothers and sisters, of whom we are expected to care for and protect, but their children are to be considered as the children of us all.
This is another example of O.T.O. being more than a Ritualists Club—O.T.O. is to be a society, with one aspect of it acting as a kind of village, which includes the care, protection, and education of children. Crowley describes opportunities for kids to be integrated into certain profess-houses that surely are more than simple orphanages or schools. Rather, he envisioned an Order that would, from their earliest days, integrate children into both the Order and Thelema. He could not say it more clearly: “All children of Brethren are to be considered as children of the whole Order, and to be protected and aided in every way by its members severally, as by its organization collectively.”
- Duties, Seventh
- 25. Lawsuits between members of the Order are absolutely forbidden, on pain of immediate expulsion and loss of all privileges, even of those accumulated by past good conduct referred to in the second part of this instruction.
- Privileges, Seventh
- 62. As explained above, Brethren are entirely free of most legal burdens, since lawsuits are not permitted within the Order, and since they may call upon the legal advisers of the Order to defend them against their enemies in case of need.
Crowley didn’t want members burdened by legal trouble, which he sought to remedy by prohibiting between-member lawsuits and providing legal counsel for all external legal threats. This is the next area in which Crowley expected the Order to care for and protect its members.
The USGL missive states that although “our Grand Tribunal does provide arbitration for disputes between members, the services of our legal advisers are not available to members free of charge. Further, we reserve the right to waive the prohibition against law suits between members and recuse ourselves from arbitrating any particular dispute. In fact, it is our policy to do so in the case of domestic disputes.”
Article #25 is not just a technicality—it embodies another important principle, that of fraternal harmony. As we see in the next set of articles, it is a given that conflict will arise between siblings. However, such conflict should be handled within the Order, so that solutions can be based on Thelemic principles and made to maintain fraternal integrity. This is so vital that the violation of it leads to immediate expulsion.
- Duties, Seventh
- 26. All disputes between Brethren should be referred firstly to the Master or Masters of their Lodge or Lodges in conference; if a composition be not arrived at in this manner, the dispute is to be referred to the Grand Tribunal, which will arbitrate thereon, and its decision is to be accepted as final.
- 27. Refusal to apply for or accept such decision shall entail expulsion from the Order, and the other party is then at liberty to seek his redress in the Courts of Profane Justice.
These articles provide a general outline for how to go about resolving disputes. They are relatively straightforward—conflict should go to the local body master first, and if no resolution, on to the Grand Tribunal. As similar with the ban against lawsuits, refusing to use or respect the Order’s system of justice will also lead to expulsion. Clearly, Crowley isn’t fooling around with this issue.
- Duties, Seventh
- 29. Any injury done by any person without the Order to any person within it may be brought before the Grand Tribunal, which will, if it deem right and fit, use all its power to redress or to avenge it.
Translation: if any non-member does a member wrong, the wrongful action can be presented to the Grand Tribunal, who will then either agree or not to handle it legally. Not only will the GT seek reparation, it will even go so far as to extract revenge (within legal limits, presumably). Again, this is a case of “we take care of our own.”
The USGL missive states “The Grand Tribunal does not arbitrate disputes between members and non-members, though we can provide legal referrals to our members who require them.” Although this surely makes all kinds of legal sense, it is actually addressing a different issue than CI presents. A straight reading of #29 does not say that the GT will mediate between members and non-members, but that the GT will hear a member grievance against a non-member, and in certain cases will seek to remedy it, perhaps by providing legal counsel or by taking the non-member to civil court.
- Duties, Seventh
- 30. In the case of any Brother being accused of an offence against the criminal law of the country in which he resides, so that any other Brother cognisant of the fact feels bound in self-defence to bring accusation, he shall report the matter to the Grand Tribunal as well as to the Civil Authority, claiming exemption on this ground.
- 31. The accused Brother will, however, be defended by the Order to the utmost of its power on his affirming his innocence upon the Volume of the Sacred Law in the Ordeal appointed ad hoc by the Grand Tribunal itself.
Although lawsuits are forbidden, criminal cases are not. If a members feels the need to report possible criminal activity against another initiate, he may do so without penalty—although Crowley does qualify such an accusation as requiring a belief that it be made in self-defense. Although the language here makes it pretty clear that a need of self-defense is a prerequisite, that just doesn’t make much sense. What if an initiate was embezzling money from, say, the Red Cross? Since it would be hard to claim self-defence, should a member not report it? As with some clauses dealing with financial matters, this is one of those areas where Crowley seems to be writing sloppy dictums for the sake of making a point of Order principle.
The sloppiness continues—upon a valid accusation, the GT will take the side of the accused as long as he or she affirms innocence upon Liber Legis within the GT’s ad hoc “Ordeal” (which CI doesn’t define—perhaps this is Crowley’s term for an investigation or trial). Also, it seems odd that CI doesn’t mention defending the accusing member in need of self-defence “to the utmost of its power.” It seems that this is all a poorly worded way of saying that the Order will assume a member is innocent until proven guilty, and that until that point will maintain perfect loyalty and trust.
- Duties, Third
- 5. They shall respond heartily to every summons of the Lodge or Chapter to which they may belong, not lightly making excuse.
This short and straightforward article is embedded with a few key principles of fraternity. The first is the most obvious: when the local body summons the local initiates, they shall attend. But they shall do more than just show up—they shall do so heartily, which means having an attitude of vigor and enthusiasm. This implies a fundamental loyalty and sense of connection with the local body and the Order, combined with passion and discipline.
The USGL statement on Liber CI states, “while we encourage members to attend meetings of their Lodge and Chapter, such attendance is not considered mandatory except under extraordinary circumstances.” This makes sense, since it is likely that summons refers to the Masonic use of the term, which is a specific call for attendance of a special meeting, to which members are obligated to respond unless they have a reasonable excuse. However, the Order has no similar mechanism. That being said, this article provides a key principle for all initiates: if you join O.T.O., you are expected to participate regularly with energy and earnestness.
- Duties, Fifth
- 13. Every Brother shall seek constantly to give pleasure to all Brethren with whom he is acquainted, whether by entertainment or conversation, or in any other manner that may suggest itself. It will frequently and naturally arise that love itself springs up between members of the Order, for that they have so many and sacred interests in common. Such love is peculiarly holy, and is to be encouraged.
- Privileges, Fifth
- 53. All Brethren may expect the warmest co-operation in their pleasures and amusements from other members of the Order. The perfect freedom and security afforded by the Law allows the characters of all Brethren to expand to the very limits of their nature, and the great joy and gladness with which they are constantly overflowing make them the best of companions. “They shall rejoice, our chosen; who sorroweth is not of us. Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.
- Privileges, Eleventh
- 71. The Order offers friendship to its members, bringing together men and women of similar character, taste, and aspiration.
- Privileges, Twelfth
- 73. The crime of slander, which causes so great a proportion of human misery, is rendered extremely dangerous, if not impossible, within the Order by a clause in the Obligation of the Third Degree.
And here we get to the juice of fraternal behavior. Embedded within these four articles are the core principles of intra-member behavior within O.T.O. Read them carefully—they are unambiguous and well-articulated. Okay, now read them again.
What are the common themes here? We see ideas like pleasure, love, warmth, cooperation, amusement, freedom, security, joy, gladness, companionship, and friendship. Siblings are expected to constantly give pleasure to each other “in any manner that may suggest itself.” Love between members is to be encouraged. It is a common saying in O.T.O. today that we’re family not friends, but Crowley didn’t see it that way—he clearly expected members at the very least to behave like friends, saying that all should expect the “warmest cooperation” in their pleasures.
Moreover, slander is banned outright, which is important enough to be included within an initiatory obligation (so important, in fact, that he was willing here to reveal outright that it is part of a degree ceremony). There are several legal definitions of slander, but the core element is a false and defamatory statement about someone. There are those in the Order who play loose with this by claiming that their defamatory statements (such as accusing members of incompetence or cowardliness) are “true,” and therefore not slander. However, a personal belief in something along these lines do not make such statements un-false. The truth of such accusations has to be objectively verifiable, otherwise they fall in the category of character assassination, which certainly violates the spirit of article #73. At the same time, it is certainly possible to critique behaviors and ideas respectfully, without resorting to character assassination (see the first quote from CLXI below about fighting and manners).
It is perhaps tempting to think that the fraternal Duties and Privileges listed in CI are perhaps ignorable guidelines or romantic ramblings not meant to be taken seriously. Let’s listen to Crowley speak to these ideas:
- There seems to be much misunderstanding about True Will [...] The fact of a person being a gentleman is as much an ineluctable factor as any possible spiritual experience; in fact, it is possible, even probable, that a man may be misled by the enthusiasm of an illumination, and if he should find apparent conflict between his spiritual duty and his duty to honour, it is almost sure evidence that a trap is being laid for him and he should unhesitatingly stick to the course which ordinary decency indicates [...] I wish to say definitely, once and for all, that people who do not understand and accept this position have utterly failed to grasp the fundamental principles of the Law of Thelema. —The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley, p.21 [emphasis added]
He is here speaking about Thelemic behavior in general—how much more so should this be applied to Order siblings? Any excuse for treating another member with contempt, rudeness, or disrespect is exactly that: an excuse. The Master is telling us, in no uncertain terms, how initiates of O.T.O. are to treat each other. To supplement his position here, let’s bring in yet more quotes from another Blue Equinox document, “Concerning the Law of Thelema” (Liber CLXI):
- All that we ask is that the fighting should be done chivalrously, with respect to the courage of the vanquished. “As brothers fight ye!” In other words, there is only this difference from our present state of society, that manners are improved.
- It is to be noted that wherever team-work is necessary social tolerance is an essential.
- Authority and prestige in [O.T.O.] are absolute, but while the lower grades give increase of privilege, the higher give increase of service. Power in the Order depends, therefore, directly on the willingness to aid others. Tolerance also is taught in the higher grades; so that no man can be even an Inspector of the Order unless he be equally well disposed to all classes of opinion.
- You reply that this can only be by generosity, by divine charity [...] You are a thousand times right; you have understood the secret of the O.T.O.
- A fortiori, then, it must be possible to train men to independence, to tolerance, to nobility of character, and to good manners, and this is done in the O.T.O.
- [Members will not find advancement in the Order] unless they exhibit a talent for government, and this will be exhibited far more by nobility of character, firmness and suavity, tact and dignity, high honour and good manners.
If we are to take the Blue Equinox as a model for the Order, then we must also accept those statements and articles that address proper fraternal behavior. A close reading of the above material will bring to light several repeated themes. A major one is that of good manners. True, what constitutes “good manners” will vary from culture to culture, but the key principle here should not be lost—members should treat each other within the guidelines of basic social etiquette, which includes politeness and courtesy. However, Crowley demands more than that. He further requires that members behave in a way he describes as noble, chivalrous, and honorable—drawing upon principles like tolerance, respect, charity, tact, dignity, generosity, and willingness to aid others. Crowley recognizes the damage that slander causes and bans it outright, seeking instead behavior that promotes cooperation and harmony.
- Duties, Sixth
- 16. Personal or domestic attendants should be chosen from among the members of the Order when possible, and great tact and courtesy are to be employed in dealing with them.
- 17. They, on their part, will render willing and intelligent service.
- 18. While in Lodge, and on special occasions, they are to be treated as Brothers, with perfect equality; such behaviour is undesirable during the hours of service, and familiarity, subversive as it is of all discipline and order, is to be avoided by adopting a complete and marked change of manner and address.
- 19. This applies to all persons in subordinate positions, but not to the Brethren Servient in the Profess-Houses of the Order, who, giving service without recompense, are to be honoured as hosts.
- Duties, Seventh
- 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.
These articles are written to address the issue of multiple relationships between members, specifically in cases where social station or national affiliation during wartime are substantially different or even oppositional. The central principle in these articles is simple (if not always easy)—no matter what the relationship between members in the mundane world, while in Lodge all are to be treated as siblings “with perfect equality.”
It should be noted that the first sentence in #16 is indicative of the general concept of “we take care of our own,” since wealthy members are encouraged to hire siblings as servants when possible. Naturally this arrangement is reflective of a bygone time, but contains ideas that we’ve already seen: the Order should have members wealthy enough to need servants, that members should get preference in job offerings, and that even in the “workplace” members should treat each other with tact and courtesy.
- Duties, Sixth
- 23. Visitors from other Lodges are to be accorded the treatment of ambassadors; this will apply most especially to Sovereign Grand Inspector Generals of the Order on their tours of inspection. All hospitality and courtesy shown to such is shown to Ourselves, not to them only.
- Privileges, Third
- 48. Brethren who may be travelling have a right to the hospitality of the Master of the Lodge of the district for a period of three days.
Can enough be written about hospitality? It forms the social backbone of our Order, established in the very beginning. In these articles, hospitality is applied to traveling members, where siblings are to be treated as “ambassadors,” who have the right to three days of lodging within the district. Again we see embedded within these lines the concept of treating each other with respect and honor.
Crowley writes, “All hospitality and courtesy shown to such is shown to Ourselves, not to [SGIGs] only.” This is Crowley’s way of saying that treating SGIGs in an hospitable and courteous manner is the same as treating the Grand Master General as such. This can be extended to say that treating any member thusly is the same as treating all members with hospitality.
- Duties, Third
- 6. Brethren should use every opportunity of assisting each other in their tastes, businesses, or professions, whether by direct dealing with Brethren in preference to others, or by speaking well of them, or as may suggest itself. It seems desirable, when possible, that where two or more Brethren of the same Lodge are engaged in the same work, they should seek to amalgamate the same by entering into partnership. Thus in time great and powerful corporations may arise from small individual enterprises.
Again, we look out for our own, this time in the framework of business. Crowley was enamored of American-style corporations, and a few lines in CI reflect this, #6 more than others. There are a few subtle points to pick up here. One is that the first line refers to more than business—it also mentions “tastes.” It seems likely that Crowley was referring to social activities here, such as joining various clubs or cultural organizations. While not businesses per se, such organizations represent cliques that lead to social advancement, which can lead to advancement in business. The principle here is that siblings should help each other out in their worldly pursuits, whether social- or business-oriented.
This clause also reflects Crowley’s vision of a powerful Order. If small business owners have relatively little civic influence, creating “great and powerful corporations” would be one way to remedy this. Not only would this (theoretically) improve the lives of the owners, but their wealth could be used for the benefit of the Order. Moreover, the clause also reflects a more general principle seen elsewhere—Order members are encouraged to work together, since cooperative efforts can be more far reaching than “individual enterprises.”
- Duties, Sixth
- 20. In case of the sickness of any Brother, it is the duty of all Brethren who know him personally to attend him, to see that he want for nothing, and to report if necessary his needs to the Lodge, or to Grand Lodge itself.
- 21. Those Brethren who happen to be doctors or nurses will naturally give their skill and care with even more than their customary joy in service.
- Duties, Fourth
- 12. Every Brother shall show himself solicitous of the comfort and happiness of any Brother who may be old, attending not only to all material wants, but to his amusement, so that his declining years may be made joyful.
These articles are plain enough—when siblings are in physical need, we attend to them. Whether it be illness or age, they are to be given as much care, comfort, and joy as is possible. Let’s all say it together: we take care of our own.
- Duties, Seventh
- 24. It is desirable that the marriage partner of any Brother should also be a member of the Order. Neglect to insist upon this leads frequently to serious trouble for both parties, especially the uninitiate.
- Privileges, Seventh
- 61. Members of the Order may expect to find suitable marriage partners in the extremely select body to which they belong. Community of interest and hope being already established, it is natural to suppose that where mutual attraction also exists, a marriage will result in perfect happiness. (There are special considerations in this matter which apply to the VII○ and cannot be discussed in this place.)
Article #24 is just good advice. At the same time, #61 tells us that the Order is a great place to find a spouse (although there are mysterious considerations for Sevenths). A close reading will show some interesting language here, especially the phrase, “Community of interest and hope being already established.” It is possible to read this as meaning that the Order develops communities of people who share common interests within an environment of trust—certainly an excellent situation for finding potential life-partners.
- Duties, Eighth
- 34. The death of a Brother is not to be an occasion of melancholy, but of rejoicing; the Brethren of his Lodge shall gather together and make a banquet with music and dancing and all manner of gladness. It is of the greatest importance that this shall be done, for thereby the inherited fear of death which is deep-seated as instinct in us will gradually be rooted out. It is a legacy from the dead aeon of Osiris, and it is our duty to kill it in ourselves that our children and our children’s children may be born free from the curse.
This is a theme that Crowley touches on in many places in his writings. In this clause, he is bringing it directly into the Order, essentially saying that one of the goals of O.T.O. is to eliminate the natural fear of death through cultural reprogramming. This clause represents the ultimate in fraternity—the celebration and joy of knowing that a sibling’s Will has finally been Accomplished.
At the root of it, Liber CI is the document that lays out the nature of fraternity within O.T.O., underlining its dual nature of intertwined obligations and benefits. True, the document also provides a vision of what O.T.O. might offer in terms of institutional projects and services, but it does so within a very specific context. The Order’s many aspects—such as ceremonial ritual, temple building, and study of the Mysteries—all play supporting roles within this particular context, which defines O.T.O., in the largest sense, as a spiritual society.
Thelema, combined with the Supreme Secret, is certainly the core engine that powers the spiritual part of that formula. However, Liber CI is not concerned with defining the mystical components of Thelema, but rather with establishing a sacred society within which it can flourish. CI was published in the Blue Equinox, the second half of which is described by Crowley (in Confessions, pp. 840-841) as being “devoted to explaining the principles of the O.T.O. showing how men and women may work in groups publicly, and giving outlines of a social system free from the disastrous defects of our present civilization.”
In “Concerning the Law of Thelema” (Liber CLXI, also in the Blue Equinox), Crowley further explains this concept of a spiritual society, saying that “with the sudden growth of the O.T.O. from 1912 e.v. onward, [ I ] began to perceive a method of putting the Law into general practice, of making it possible for men and women to live in accordance with the precepts laid down in The Book of the Law, and to accomplish their wills.” In other words, the O.T.O. was not to be the A∴A∴—which is focused solely on individual attainment—but rather was to be a society in which initiates might learn and manifest their Wills in “general practice,” i.e. within the real-world life of work, family, and community.
This is not to say that there isn’t an individual path within O.T.O.—there most certainly is, which theoretically culminates in one of two places: the “natural stopping point” of the Fifth Degree or by entering the Sovereign Sanctuary of the IX○. However, the “training” of O.T.O. is not of the same order as the A∴A∴. Crowley writes in Magick Without Tears (ch.71), “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 disclosure of the Secret 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.”
What is this “Masonic type” of training? In the section of his Confessions which is informally titled “What is Freemasonry,” Crowley writes of his intent behind the reformulation of the degrees, saying that the “main objects of the instruction were two. It was firstly necessary to explain the universe and the relations of human life therewith. Secondly, to instruct every man how best to adapt his life to the cosmos and to develop his faculties to the utmost advantage.” The entire system of O.T.O. “puts forward a scientific statement which is a summary of all that is at present known about the universe by means of a simple, yet sublime symbolism, artistically arranged. It also enables each man to discover for himself his personal destiny, indicates the moral and intellectual qualities which he requires in order to fulfill it freely, and finally puts in his hands an unimaginably powerful weapon which he may use to develop in himself every faculty which he may need in his work.”
It is easy to read this function of the Order (that of personal attainment) without understanding the larger context that Crowley provides for it. Yes, the path of personal attainment is a core function of O.T.O., but to what end? Crowley explains elsewhere that the Order “offers a rational basis for universal brotherhood and for universal religion.” More specifically, he says that half of the degrees convey “a comprehensive conception of the cosmos and our relation therewith, and a similar number to deal with our duty to ourselves and our fellows, the development of our own faculties of every order, and the general advancement and advantage of mankind.” Finally, Crowley wanted O.T.O. to provide a system for “communicating truth—religious, philosophical, magical and mystical; and indicating the proper means of developing human faculty by means of a peculiar language whose alphabet is the symbolism of ritual. Universal brotherhood and the great moral principles, independent of personal, racial, climatic and other prejudices, naturally formed a background which would assure individual security and social stability for each and all.”
The shorthand of all this is that Crowley saw O.T.O. not only as an organization in which initiates would gain knowledge in how to discover Will, but also as a spiritual society wherein members would manifest Will together. Moreover, he saw the Order as a kind of social transformation machine for the entire world, mostly via a combination of social modeling and institutional infiltration.
Returning to CI, we see Crowley outlining how initiates are to coexist within the spiritual society of O.T.O. We’ve gone into great detail with this document, and several large themes have emerged, including promulgation of Thelemic principles, recruitment, money and property, profess-houses, education, mothers and children, justice, and member interaction. However, it is possible to extract even more elementary principles from CI, all three of which are deeply intertwined:
- The Order is a family. This is to be manifested in many ways, including the holding of expecting mothers as sacred, the education and guidance of children, developing communities within profess-houses, being highly generous with both siblings and the Order, providing a liberal education and job training, and mandating exceptional social behavior—including giving pleasure and promoting friendship, cooperation, and love between members, showing hospitality to traveling initiates, treating all members as equals while in Lodge, and the prohibition against lawsuits and slander.
- The Order takes care of its own, both as an institution and in the actions of individual members. Specific domains of need in CI include finances, business and employment, medical care, housing, legal affairs, social opportunities, and care for single mothers, orphans, and the elderly. “In short, there is no circumstance of life in which the O.T.O. is not both sword and shield” (CLXI) and “in all other ways aiding in the complete emancipation of the Brethren from aught that may seek to restrain them from doing That Which They Will” (CI).
- Expansion is a core activity, both of the Order itself and in regards to promulgating its essential principles. Moreover, although the Order welcomes all people who have the ability to fulfill the duties outlined in CI, members should labor to attract the wealthy and powerful, both to the benefit of the Order and to better promulgate the Law of Thelema within the civil arena.
Another important principle embedded in these articles is that while some services and projects are by necessity institutional (such as universities), every member is called on individually to help manifest the essential vision within CI. It makes plain that it is the duty of every sibling to put in his or her share, no matter the size, difficulty, or complexity of the project. O.T.O. is not a service organization that provides benefits in exchange for dues. Rather, it is a spiritual society with which the sibling becomes fully involved and dedicated, not only in regards to the Work, but to each and every other member (and their children!). It is this level of identification and interpersonal excellence that allows for O.T.O. to become the social template for the new Aeon.
There is one more item in Liber CI that we’ve yet to cover, and that is the final paragraph. It states:
- It is to be observed that these privileges being so vast, it is incumbent upon the honour of every Brother not to abuse them, and the sponsors of any Brother who does so, as well as he himself, will be held strictly to account by the Grand Tribunal. The utmost frankness and good faith between Brethren is essential to the easy and harmonious working of our system, and the Executive Power will see to it that these are encouraged by all means possible, and that breach of them is swiftly and silently suppressed.
This paragraph outlines two opposing behaviors: abuse of privileges and the utmost frankness and good faith between Brethren, with the latter being necessary to prevent the former. In other words, for the O.T.O. to work in an “easy and harmonious” way, every member must be open, sincere, and straightforward with each other while doing so in “good faith”, i.e. behaving in compliance with one’s oaths and with the principles outlined in CI, not just in letter but in the spirit of honesty and fairness, without any intent to defraud, act maliciously, or take unfair advantage. Frankness and good faith are so important that the Executive is assigned with the job of encouraging them “by all means possible” while also suppressing their violation “swiftly and silently.”
To close, Liber CI is a blueprint for a spiritual society founded upon Thelemic principles. This society is to balance individual efforts and the advantages that only a group can provide, leading to all the essential elements that make up an empowered culture in the new Aeon of Horus, including health care, legal assistance, education (primary, secondary, and professional), housing, economic assistance, maternal and geriatric care, and mutual assistance in all things. It is a society dedicated to creating a Thelemic culture which actively promotes the discovery and manifestation of True Will, both within the confines of the Order and in the world at large. While CI acknowledges that conflict is inevitable (and provides a means to deal with it) the general character of the Order is to be typified by things like friendship, cooperation, pleasure, joy, harmony, and love. Yes, this is a very tall order for us to fulfill. But it absolutely can come to be if we acknowledge the larger vision that Crowley provided within documents like CI, and agree to Work together to make it happen.
- Liber CI, "An Open Letter to Those Who May Wish to Join the Order"
- Liber CXCIV, "An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order"
- Liber CLXI, "Concerning the Law of Thelema"
- "The System of the O.T.O.," chapter XIII from Magick Without Tears
- "What is Freemasonry?" From The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, pp. 700â€“704.
- Liber CXXIV, "Of Eden and the Sacred Oak"
- Liber CCC, "Khabs am Pekht"
The author would like to thank those who contributed comments and corrections to the writing of this essay, especially Sr. Bishop, Br. Craig, Fr. C.U.G., Br. Gerald, Br. Jason M., Br. LeRoy, Sr. Marlene, Br. Mordecai, Fr. Omphalos, Fr. Paradoxos Alpha, Br. Rodney Orpheus, Sr. Tristan, Sr. Tzaddi, and Br. Vere. Apologies to anyone I might have missed.
Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Members of Ordo Templi Orientis have permission to reproduce this essay for Order-related purposes.