Ordo Templi Orientis
Sacred River explores spirituality grounded in religious naturalism & progressive ethics that is both non-theistic and non-supernatural.
- Disclaimer: In no way does this article assume undue authority or any communication of explicit USGL policy. The opinions herein are fully my own.
Aleister Crowley wrote that "natural stopping-place of the majority of men and women" lies at the Fifth. From this point of view, the Man of Earth degrees (0○—P.I.) can be seen as a period of training for reaching Fifth. As such, the career of a Prince or Princess of Rose Croix begins not at K.E.W. or III○ but indeed at I○. Therefore, the initiate cannot begin too early to develop the skills, knowledge, and character to reach this place of honor.
In the USGL newsletter, AgapĂ© V:3, there is printed a detailed list of what is expected of initiates for eligibility to the invitational degrees. In that article, Fr. 117 writes:
Minimum Desired Characteristics and Skills for Prince & Princess of Rose Croix:
- 1. Exemplify the qualities set forth in Liber LII:
- a. Devotion to the Order
- b. Intelligence in apprehending the nature of its teachings
- c. Zeal in spreading the principles of the Order so far as they understand them, though always with the discretion inseparable from the due guarding of the secrets
- d. Courage
- e. Honor
- f. Virtue
- 2. Knowledge
- 3. Leadership
- 4. Dependability
- 5. Harmony
- 6. Helpfulness
- 7. Self-Control
- 8. Knowledgeable of matters of the history, policies, and administrative & initiatory structure of the O.T.O. & E.G.C.
- 9. Knowledgeable of matters of the theory and practice of both Magick and Yoga
- 10. Knowledgeable of matters of the history and literature of Thelema
- 11. Good general knowledge of such fields as history, philosophy, comparative religion, and critical thinking
This is a good list, and I have no argument against it (not that it would matter if I did), especially as it comes more or less directly from Liber LII and other relevant documents. However, I think the topic is deserving of expansion.
And so, one of my central hopes with this more detailed list is to provide a model for pre-Fifth initiates to plan their Order career. While no guarantees for advancement can be given, attaining to this model will certainly insure that one can become an initiate of great worth.
A large percentage of early work for many initiates is knowledge acquisition. This section refers to explicit knowledge, not necessarily skill or experience (don't worry, we'll get to that). By Fifth degree, a member should be able to address each of these areas in detail either in conversation or (hypothetically) essay or test form.
- Knowledge of OTO and EGC
- Principles, oaths, and tyling of the degrees (up to one's current)
- EGC ceremonies (e.g. a conceptual understanding of Liber XV)
- Structure (initiatory and governmental)
- Policies and procedures
- Knowledge of Thelema (i.e. an understanding of Thelema as written by Crowley and other relevant theorists and writers)
- Core doctrines
- Philosophy and ethics
- History, both antecedent and modern, including relevant personalities
- Knowledge of Magick (Magick is addressed separately)
- General knowledge of related topics
- Psychology & sociology
One of the core functions of OTO is the creation of a sanctuary wherein members can engage in their own Great Work of discovering and manifesting True Will. Advancing to Fifth requires evidence that the candidate has and continues to practice spiritual disciplines towards this end. To be clear, advancement does not require evidence of any specific level of spiritual attainment, but rather that the initiate is dedicated to the Work.
Traditionally, this Work has entailed learning and employing the ritual technologies found within the A∴A∴. The central argument for this is two-fold: (a) that mastering those techniques are necessary for the later FLH degrees (VII○—IX○), and (b) that Thelemic attainment is dependent on the A∴A∴ school of practice, and OTO being a Thelemic order in "alignment" with A∴A∴ intrinsically means that OTO members should adopt that praxis. In other words, to be a Thelemite means to be doing the ritual work of A∴A∴.
While a good argument can be made against this position, learning the A∴A∴ system can certainly be very useful for some, and many OTO initiates would be well-served to become familiar with magick as outlined in Crowley's Book 4. Moreover, many members do accept the position above, and so it is reasonable to suggest that advancement to Fifth will probably require some evidence of mastery of core A∴A∴ practices, with less weight given to spiritual practices drawn from other traditions, regardless of their personal effectiveness. In the opinion of this author, the specific path to Will is the personal business of the individualâ€”we should be looking for the obvious markers of spiritual advancement (as observed, say, within OTO ritual participation) that can only come from dedicated, effective practice, and leave the details of practice to the initiate.
That being said, getting to Fifth does and should involve at least a familiarity with published A∴A∴ practices, since many members naturally find those practices to be useful, and Fifths should be able to lend guidance when appropriate. Also, some detailed knowledge of the Tree of Life is necessary to get to IV○. Finally, if a member is involved in formal ceremonial duties, such as officering in MMM initiations or the Gnostic Mass, then certainly the initiate must show competence in fundamental ritual technique.
- Familiarity with and some mastery of thaumaturgy and theurgy
- Scholarly knowledge
- Principles of attainment
- Basic Hermeticism
- Theories and methods of willed change
- Qabalah and the Tree of Life
- Yoga (a la Eight Lectures and Part I of Book 4)
- Banishing (e.g. LBRP, Star Ruby)
- Invocation (e.g. Resh, Israfel, Reguli)
- Evocation (e.g. Goetia, Enochian)
- Eucharist (e.g. The Gnostic Mass, the Mass of the Phoenix)
- The Body of Light and astral travel
- Divination (as in spiritual data gathering, not "fortune telling")
- I Ching
- Keeping a magical record
- The Guide to the Study of Thelema provides many sources for studying the above outline and some for the topics of Thelema and OTO.
A significant aim of OTO is the personal development of its members. Although a lot of attention is given to spiritual theory and activity, of no less import is one's character. The essential measure of excellent personal character within OTO is the faithful fulfillment and embodiment of one's initiatory oaths, obligations, and principles. Since those are secret, I offer instead an outline of general traits that can be extracted from them, as well as from other OTO documents (e.g. CLXI, CI, CXCIV, and LI).
- Excellent fraternal character
- Ability to acknowledge, face, and overcome one's fears
- Willingness to step into the unknown and take risks
- Strength to face failure, to be vulnerable, and to admit mistakes
- Honesty (with self and others)
- Trust in self
- Sincere good-will
- Openness to new experience
- Good humored
- Ability to inspire and be inspired
- Seeks the sacred
- Embodiment of core fraternal principles
- Fidelity to one's obligations, siblings, and the Order
- Acts in good faith
- Accepts accountability
- Offers due aid to siblings in need
- Mutual support
- Just and fair in one's dealings
- Service (see Leadership below)
- Harmony (a core element of the Fifth)
- During conflict, avoids contempt, animosity, and hostility
- Respect for multiple points of view
- Celebrates individuality
- Dignity and self-respect
- Confidence without arrogance
- See also: The Four Ideal Character Traits and The Principles of Fraternity
By the time one nears the end of the MoE cycle, members are expected to have developed into excellent leaders with a history of steady service to a local body. For the most part, members who have begun to master the fraternal character traits and principles listed above will likely already be de facto leaders. Ideally, those items will become fully integrated as personal traits, manifested in all areas of one's life. However, to get to Fifth, we will want to see that the member is willing to apply her leadership skills within the context of the Order.
As a quick aside, understand that leadership and authority are two different things. Some leaders have no formal authority and some with authority have little leadership skill. Authority-seeking (i.e. power over others) has generally become an undesirable aspiration for members. Rather, we want people who can inspire, encourage, and assist others to accomplish their goals.
- Traits of OTO leadership
- Shows initiative
- Accepts accountability
- Aids others to succeed and prosper
- Creates opportunities
- Seeks improvement for future members
- Other general leadership traits
- Catalytic (gets things going; inspires people to act)
- Ability to develop and articulate a vision
- Invites participation
- Good decision-making
- Gets input from others
- Thoughtful decisiveness
- Willing to make decisions that will make some unhappy
- Works well with others
- Regular communication
- Can give (and take) honest feedback
- Empathy; good listening
- Thoughtful risk-taking
- Aims for ever-higher quality and competence
There are many ways to manifest leadership within OTO, and members are certainly not expected to fulfill all of the options listed below. However, these are excellent ways to establish one's reputation as a leader with the Order:
- Leadership options
- Project producer (can be anything: plays, festivals, gatherings, music, etc. Remember that members at Fifth are expected to arrange "social gatherings, banquets, dances, the performance of plays, and similar pleasures.")
- Local body officership (e.g. secretary, treasurer, etc.)
- Teaching or facilitating classes or workshops
- Ordained EGC priest or priestess
- Chartered initiator
- Volunteer for USGL projects
- Possibly useful essays: Paths to Leadership and Making It Happen
Devotion to the Order
All of the above is wrapped up in devotion to OTO. Devotion does not mean blind obedience or being a thoughtless follower. Rather, it means having pride in one's association with OTO. It means being true to one's oaths and obligations, not only to oneself, but equally to all our brothers and sisters. It means working to make the Order a vibrant, vital, and virile organization.
It is possible to see the OTO as having three interconnected functions:
- A system of initiation that provides a fraternal, philosophical, and mystical path for individual members
- Creation of a spiritual society based on OTO/Thelemic principles
- Promulgation of the Law of Thelema
As such, a devoted member will find ways to help manifest all three as far as his or her understanding and talents allow. These are very large aims, and no member is expected to put all her time and energy into all three at the same time. It is a sensitive balancing act, moving through each as one advances through the Man of Earth triad. However, by the time one is nearing Fifth, one should be able to look back and see actions that have furthered each of the three.
The shorthand of devotion: Get involved! Make things happen! Show up!
You do not have a right to the Fifth, and you will likely meet resistance if you choose to believe otherwise. The attitude of entitlement clashes harshly with the spirit of the Rose Croix. No member has the right to the Fifth Degree. This can be frustrating, especially for those at KEW who don't understand why they haven't been invited up.
It takes a lot to earn that invite. I will echo the wise words of Fr. 117 from his original essayâ€”the knowledge and traits above are indeed difficult to obtain, and one who wants to advance will need to take a good, hard look at where they are in respect to this outline. This requires a level of self-examination that is not easy, and can in fact be quite challenging and painful (although it is not explicitly listed above, the ability and willingness to self-examine is also an implicit requirement to advance).
It isn't enough to go down the checklist, marking off all your accomplishments. Use your powers of observation to see what personal obstacles you might have. For example, you might ask yourselfâ€”do I often complain without offering (or implementing) solutions? Do I commonly find ways to make the topic of conversation about myself? Do I inspire anger, frustration, or divisiveness in the local body? Am I inconsistent or too narrow in my Order activities? Do I talk behind the backs of others? Do I tend to be highly defensive when hearing feedback given in good faith? No one of these things alone are enough (perhaps) to prevent advancement, but might be indicative of deeper problems. Although it might be unpleasant to face such things, that is the only way to grow. We do not expect perfection, but we do want initiates who are willing to look at and improve upon their weaknesses with humility (without giving up self respect).
At the end of the day, the thing to ask yourself is, "Am I embodying the oaths and principles of all my degrees?" By the time one starts approaching Fifth, this is no small question. But by doing so, and by aspiring to and manifesting high personal standards, you will very likely continue to assure that our Chapters of Rose Croix are populated by Princes and Princesses of true Excellence.