On any casual glance of Crowley’s writings regarding OTO, it is clear that one of his central goals for the Order was the establishment of profess-houses, which he also referred to as Retreats or Collegium ad Spiritum Sanctum. It is possible that the Liber LII “CaSS Retreats” mentioned here are completely unrelated to profess-houses. Until hard data is brought to light, please take my assumption of their being in alignment with a grain of salt.
In the O.T.O. Manifesto, it is claimed that one should exist “in every important centre of population” and that their exact location would be secret, known only to those who are entitled to use them. In Liber CI and LII it is stated that Grand Lodge may extend an invitation to a member of any Grade to stay in a profess-house as a “reward of merit.” However, in “Eden and the Sacred Oak” Crowley suggests that an Abbot may receive “at least one person every night who is not a member of the Order, should such an one apply,” suggesting that the location is not necessarily to be secret and that even non-members may know of it and enter therein. The decision to make the profess-house known to strangers is up to the “Viceroy of the Province.”
CI also declares that the home of any member of the Hermit Triad “is, ipso facto, a Profess-House of the Order.”
Functions of the Profess-Houses
Crowley gave several descriptions of what profess-houses are for, including:
A place where members may “members may conceal themselves in order to pursue the Great Work without hindrance” (LII)
“They are also temples of true worship, specially consecrated by Nature to bring out of a man all that is best in him.” (LII)
“These houses are secret fortresses of Truth, Light, Power and Love” (LII)
Education for “Children of the Order” (CI)
Special profess-houses will be established for the convenience of Sisters who are pregnant or mothers “so that the frontal duty of womankind may be carried out in all comfort and honour” (CI)
They should store Libraries, which are to be open to all members (CI)
In “Of Eden and the Sacred Oak” Crowley goes into great detail concerning profess-houses and how members should behave there. Some of his central points—which he describes mostly as “suggestion only”—are:
Each house should develop its own unique character and “should develop strongly its own specific tradition”... “the model may be a madhouse or a university, a nunnery or a brothel.”
The Abbot has absolute authority in his/her house
An ideal profess-house would “enshrine four or more dedicated ministrants to the O.T.O.” who would have absolutely no say in governance
“Dignity and etiquette are to be strictly observed”
The central theme of every house should be some sort of labor and every one is “in some sort a work-house.”
Exalted pleasure should also be a central theme, and that the “Abbot of every Profess-House is therefore expected to be an Epicurus, a master of pleasure, an instructor in delight; and he is to know how to obtain all joy, and to be able to teach others to obtain it, by means that are within the reach of all men, excite no envy, and beget no selfishness.”
The Abbot may take in one non-member a night to stay, and may offer assistance gladly if needed, which “should not be regarded as charity, but as a tribute to the heroism of one who has incarnated in a world whose view is veiled from the uninitiated by the hoodwink called ‘Suffering.’”
All residents should perform Resh regularly
“All residents in the Profess-Houses of the Order are expects to cooperate in the service of the house to some extent, according to their capacity and bent.”
Regarding length of stay
Only CI gives details on rules regarding length of stay at profess-houses:
VI○. Two weeks.
VII○. Two months.
G.T. One month.
Overseas travellers of any Grade: One month.
S.G.C. Three months.
P.R.S. Six weeks.
VIII○. Six months.
"Brethren of advanced years and known merit" may retire at a profess-house.
However, in “Eden and the Sacred Oak”, Crowley writes that a “guest” has the right “to enter a Profess-House for the appointed period of three days, when the Lodge of the guest is in the same province as the Profess-House, or one month, when it is in a different province, is paramount, and overrides the rights of the Abbot to close his door.”
Will profess-houses ever be a reality? Crowley certainly wanted them to be. Of course, there are some things we would have to clear up eventually, such as rules regarding length of stay, authority and governance, and how the hell we’re going to pay for them. Nevertheless, when I study our foundational documents regarding long-term goals, profess-houses keep coming to the fore, and seemed to be of far greater value (or at least interest) to Crowley than local bodies. I get the impression that the entire goal of Man of Earth bodies was to “train” members to a point where they would be able to reside in profess-houses, and that the Great Work of the Order would come from them.
I have been told that profess-houses are still very much in the program over at Grand Lodge, and that they will materialize after local bodies learn how to successfully establish and maintain their own spaces. Will these come to pass? Time will tell...