Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) (Order of the Temple of the East, or the Order of Oriental Templars) is an international fraternal and religious organization founded at the beginning of the 20th century.
Originally it was intended to be modelled after and associated with Freemasonry, but under the leadership of Aleister Crowley was reorganized based on the Law of Thelema as its central religious principle along with the The Book of the Law.
Similar to many secret societies, O.T.O. membership is based on an initiatory system with a series of degree ceremonies that use ritual drama to establish fraternal bonds and impart spiritual and philosophical teachings.
O.T.O. also includes the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) or Gnostic Catholic Church, which is the ecclesiastical arm of the Order. Its central rite, which is public, is the Gnostic Mass.
Aleister Crowley served as outer head of the Order of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), until his death in 1947, when he was succeeded by Karl Germer.
Germer died in 1962 without naming a clear successor, and among the people who emerged to succeed him was Kenneth Grant.
Germer had given Grant a charter to begin a lodge in London to work the first three of the nine degrees of the OTO system, and in 1955 he founded New Isis Lodge. However, when Grant began working the higher degrees using his own material, Germer expelled him from the order.
After Germer died in 1962, there was no one in England to challenge Grant’s authority, and for a decade he operated unchallenged. In 1969 Grant co-edited The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, and in 1973 he published Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, the first of a series of books on the thelemic magical tradition.
As these books appeared, they described his work with the Kabala (the Hebrew system of magic that became very popular in western magic in the twentieth century).
He described his experiences exploring the Qliphoth, the negative side of the kabalistic work. While some accused Grant of flirting with black magic, other magical students were drawn to his work. Grant also brought out new editions of the work of the eccentric artist and magician Austin O. Spare.
Grant’s OTO practiced a program similar to other OTO groups. Its goal was the establishment of the Law of Thelema (Will) in the world. New members had to have been practicing magic for at least nine months prior to being accepted in the order and had to agree to disseminate Liber LXXVII, the brief statement of thelemic principles written by Crowley.
Grant also dropped the masonic initiatory degree system found in most magical groups, including the American OTO. Members are expected to seek their own true will (destiny) by their magical work.
Under Grant, the OTO dominated the British ritual magic scene into the 1970s. Over the last two decades a number of other thelemic magical groups have arisen in Great Britain and Grant’s OTO has come to the United States, though it has remained small.
Last updated: May 17, 2015 at 22:33 pm
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