A cursory glance at the relationship existing between the Orders O.T.O. and A.˙.A.˙.

by Brother AISh MLChMH

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

On the Equinox, March 21st , 1915 e.v., at 11:30 pm, Aleister Crowley, as Baphomet X°,[1] wrote the following in his Magical Record:

Weather cool and cloudy. Lights of temple (four small).

The true moment of Equinox was 4.51 p.m.

Frater Perdurabo in manu illius.

Object: To obtain The Word of the Masters for this Equinox following.

The Operation was most extraordinary, being done in full open Temple of Neophyte A.˙.A.˙. in the Ceremony of the Equinox.

The orgasm and ejaculation were double, as it were twins, and in the instant between the two, the word DUPLEX was placed in my mind with a clarity and certitude that I have never previously known. The Elixir was abundant and excellent.

Result: As above recorded, great success. Very remarkable all this; it is a word of mystic marriage of A.˙.A.˙. and O.T.O.

4 June. It is clearly the right word. [2]

A Friend recently asked me to consolidate my thoughts for this article.[3] He had heard me voice my perspective one time too often, and this may sum up my viewpoint at this juncture.[4]

Notions concerning what comprise the A.˙.A.˙. and O.T.O. are legion.[5] Too often, these conceptions are formulated without a basis in the foundational documents of either Order, and rely heavily upon faulty information, sometimes confided by a trusted superior or self-appointed expert. Any accurate information that manages to exist behind such views is usually fragmentary and may result in actions that aren’t particularly thought out. For example, I am aware of an individual in the O.T.O. who publicly took, what he believed to be, the Oath of the Abyss,[6] without having even taken the initial Student Grade within A.˙.A.˙. A possible parallel in the O.T.O. would be someone coming across an IXth degree document, and then proceeding to claim that degree to others without having undergone the introductory Minerval degree. In both cases, some piecemeal instruction is not understood and misapplied, with the aim of seeking public approbation.[7]

However, even a few people widely held as authorities within Thelemic circles, hold perspectives pertaining to either Order that conflict significantly with the material defining these Orders.[8] Perhaps a certain allowance-- say, an entertainment value -- could be ascribed to a few of those divergent views that have resulted from a lack of available information or organization at the time such outlooks were formulated. Admittedly, much of the Thelemic corpus was in disarray or simply unavailable following Crowley’s death, and this may help explain to a certain extent some of the more bizarre notions that periodically rise to surface regarding either Order.

On the other hand, there are also those who, having the documentation at their fingertips, choose to ignore it; are simply too lazy to read what is there; read their own personal predilections into the text; or in a nod to some savage new-age mysticism, proclaim that the written record is no longer of any account (a willed avidya). Fortunately, for those of us who regard Crowley’s teachings as authoritative[9], and who acknowledge that some basic reading skills and clear thinking are necessitated in order to accurately comprehend what he wrote, we are currently at a significant advantage in understanding and implementing both systems.

However, demanding a certain amount of literacy doesn’t mean that there aren’t spiritual or transcendent aspects inherent to both systems -- quite the contrary. Both the O.T.O. and the A.˙.A.˙. claim a unique and universal spiritual heritage and existence above, but not necessarily apart from the Zelator[10] and his Task, or the aspirations of the newly initiated Master Magician. This link to the numinous may be understood by an examination of the structure of either system. For example, while the A.˙.A.˙. is the name of the Order as a whole, it is also the name of the 3rd Order proper, the place of the Supernals on the Tree of Life, from which It is ultimately governed[11]. Relatedly, it is hardly coincidental that a version of the eye in the triangle[12], the symbol of the A.˙.A.˙., forms the upper portion of the O.T.O. lamen.

Moreover, both Orders assert a connection to the past that is not dependent on whether such persons, real or no, were ever technically members of the O.T.O. or A.˙.A.˙. For example, there is no historic record of Eliphas Levi as an Adeptus Major, and the hymns of Arcadia make no mention of the pastoral Pan as a Saint of the Gnostic Catholic Church. However, this kinship is illustrative of how the transcendent is made manifest through true action, and the chain that binds them both.

Over the years, there have been claims of contact with some of the more other-worldly aspects of both Orders. It seems obvious that should an experience with the numinous occur outside the framework of a given system, that its effect upon that system would be nugatory. The structure of the A.˙.A.˙. consists of a methodical “pilgrim’s progress,” on the Tree of Life, from the Grade of Neophyte (1°=10▫) to the Grade of Ipsissimus (10▫=1°). The person who is active in another system(s), claims to have had contact with the Secret Chiefs,[13] and then declares authority regarding the Great Order may be in need of professional help. On the other hand, if one is recognized as having methodically progressed through the Order to a point where changes to the system fall into place, then adjustments may occur.[14] In the same vein, being the equivalent of a Grade in the A.˙.A.˙. is not the same thing as holding the Grade itself. This is readily apparent when considering the number of people who claim to be a 5º=6 ▫, who have yet to master a simple asana.[15]

For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.[16]

Aleister Crowley is the primary source for information on both the O.T.O. and the A.˙.A.˙., and I will be referring extensively to the writings of both the Prophet and to those who have followed.

I. What are the O.T.O. and A.˙.A.˙. exactly?

Crowley notes repeatedly in Magick Without Tears that “One Star in Sight tells you everything that you need to know” concerning the A.˙.A.˙. In a note to The Revival of Magick, Hymenæus Beta writes that in “the Outer College of the A.˙.A.˙., the Imperator governs, the Præmonstrator teaches, and the Cancellarius records.”[17]

To understand the O.T.O. it is recommended that one study Liber LII, (The Manifesto of the O.T.O.), Liber CXCIV (Intimations with Reference to the Constitution of the Order), and particularly Magick Without Tears Chapter 13. [18]

II. Are there similarities between both Orders?

The curriculums of both Orders have their foundation in the writings of Aleister Crowley. Crowley was also the founding Imperator of the current manifestation of the A.˙.A.˙. with George Cecil Jones,[19] and the creator of the O.T.O. in 1912 e.v.[20] with Theodore Reuss.[21] Likewise, Crowley became the head of both Orders,[22]and remained so until his death.

Both Orders have formalized rituals of Initiation. However, there do not appear to be formal Initiations past the grade of Zelator in the A.˙.A.˙., which may suggest that Initiations beyond this grade do not necessitate the participation of other initiates. Both Orders are also composed of degrees or grades within a larger Triadic structure. Additionally the names indicated by the initials of both Orders (the A.˙.A.˙. and the O.T.O.) are considered secret.

Each Order also has a component that stresses Rosicrucianism. In the A.˙.A.˙., the 2nd Order is called the Order of the R.C. or Roseae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (“Red Rose and Golden Cross”). Concerning Rosicrucianism in the O.T.O.:

Aside from an intermediate neo-masonic Rose-Croix degree, the O.T.O. also has an upper-degree body termed the Esoteric Rosicrucians.[23]
From the 12th Æthyr of The Vision and the Voice:
And this is the secret of the brothers of the Rosy Cross; and this is the heart of the ritual that is accomplished in the Vault of the Adepts that is hidden in the Mountain of the Caverns, even the Holy Mountain Abiegnus.
And the note to this: “All these Mysteries are taught in the O.˙.T.˙.O.˙. .”[24]

Furthermore “Many works published late in Crowley’s life were issued under joint A.˙.A.˙. and O.T.O. imprimaturs, and are official publications of both Orders.”[25] There were also eight unpublished works never published by A.C. that have a dual imprimatur. Additionally, “The Equinox publishes all instructions and pronouncements of the A.˙.A.˙. and O.T.O.“[26]

III. What are some differences between both Orders?

The O.T.O. is a temporal religious organization, whereas the system of the A.˙.A.˙. is not – the A.˙.A.˙. is sempiternal.[27]

Thou wilt note that We have written unto thee more as a member of the O.T.O., than in thy capacity as of the A.˙.A.˙., for the former organization is coordinate and practical, and concerns itself with material things. But remember this clearly, that the Law cometh from the A.˙.A.˙., not from the O.T.O. This Order is but the first of the great religious bodies to accept this Law officially, and its whole Ritual has been revised and reconstituted in accordance with this decision.[28]
However, simply because the O.T.O. is temporal, this in no way diminishes its importance at this time:
Civilization is crumbling under our eyes and I believe that the best chance of saving what little is worth saving, and rebuilding the Temple of the Holy Ghost on plans, and with material and workmanship, which shall be free from the errors of the former, lies with the O.T.O.[29]
Another difference is that the A.˙.A.˙. advises against “contact of any kind with any other person except the Neophyte who introduces him, and any Student or Students whom he may, after becoming a Neophyte, introduce.” In contrast to this, the O.T.O. is a social Order that “trains groups by way of progressive initiation.”[30]

Differences also exist in respect to their respective curriculums:
While the curricula of the A.˙.A.˙. and O.T.O. interpenetrate at points, this is more by nature than design, and the exception, not the rule. The respective systems and their methods are distinct. The O.T.O. does not teach or initiate in the same sense as the A.˙.A.˙., nor does it have a definite curricula or set examinations in most degrees…[31]
Additionally, the case for a distinct division between A.˙.A.˙. and O.T.O. Libri is also made by the editor of Book IV:
…in most if not all instances, one paper clearly pertains to A.˙.A.˙. and the other to the O.T.O. This is indirect but persuasive evidence of intent on Crowley’s part. It will be necessary to review source material to help distinguish A.˙.A.˙. libri from those pertaining to O.T.O.
One possible point of contention concerning the O.T.O. is whether or not it teaches magick or mysticism. The current position of the U.S. O.T.O. is that magical and mystical instruction form part of its mission. For example, there is an education committee that promotes a curriculum teaching these subjects at the Grand Lodge level,[32]as well as a number of classes on these subjects regularly occurring at the local body level. However, I contend that the particular type of Magick and Mysticism taught within the O.T.O. is distinguishable to a certain extent from that taught within the A.˙.A.˙. The first early quote, published in 1912 e.v., appears to be straightforward enough:
The aims of the O.T.O. can only be understood fully by its highest initiates; but it may be said openly that it teaches Hermetic Science or Occult Knowledge, the Pure and Holy Magick of Light, the Secrets of Mystic attainment, Yoga in all forms, Gnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakta Yoga and Hatha Yoga, and all other branches of the secret Wisdom of the Ancients.[33]
Years later, in 1986 e.v., Frater Ad Veritem IXº provides another list that expands upon the above:
The O.T.O. practices yoga, meditation, ceremonial magick, qabalah, divination and related disciplines of the Western Mystery Tradition.[34]
However, without looking too far, we encounter an apparent contradiction:
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.[35]
In my opinion, the key to the above quote by Crowley is “the Secret of the Ninth Degree.” This “final” Secret is a particular method of Magick, which distinguishes it from “ceremonial” or “astral” Magick proper, but may very well be identical with “the Pure and Holy Magick of Light.” I believe that the following quotes support this assertion:
On the Mass of the Holy Ghost …And thou shalt bless also the Name of our Father Merlin, Frater Superior of the O.T.O., for that by Seven Years of Apprenticeship in His School did I discover this most excellent Way of Magick…[36]
I had been working on the theory of the magical method of the O.T.O., and we decided to test my conclusions by a series of invocations.
And the note to the above:
I may say that the secret of the O.T.O. […] has proved to all intents and purposes the simplification and concentration of the whole of my magical knowledge. All my old methods have been unified in this new method. It does not exactly replace them, but it interprets them. It has also enabled me to construct a uniform type of engine for accomplishing anything I will.[37]
Lastly, chapter 0 of Part III of Book IV notes that: “Considerations of the Christian Trinity are of a nature suited only to Initiates of the IX° of O.T.O., as they enclose the final secret of all practical Magick.”

IV. Are the O.T.O. and A.˙.A.˙. connected? How so?

In the first entry of a minute book, called the Golden Book, which documented the early activity of the O.T.O. in England, Crowley wrote on June 30th, 1913 e.v.:

Here followeth an account of the establishment of this most arcane, most illuminated and most Omnific Order in partibus gentium Britannicorum. The O.H.O. approached me as a VII° of the O.T.O. by right, and subsequently induced me to the VII°. After various negotiations he conferred upon me and upon Lady Laylah I.N.B. Waddell the IX° and last of all crowned me with the X° Supremus Rex by his charter of the first of June 1912 e.v. I accordingly obtained permission from the A.˙.A.˙. and proceeded to recognize the Order on lines suited to the present Era.[38](emphasis mine)
This entry provides evidence of Crowley establishing a connection between the O.T.O. and the A.˙.A.˙. at a very early juncture. But why would he need to obtain permission from the Great Order known as the A.˙.A.˙.? An answer may be found in the standard reference for the structure and system of the A.˙.A.˙., One Star in Sight. Although written in 1921 e.v., years after the entry from the Golden Book, we find under the heading, The Order of the S.S.:
Members of the Order are each entitled to found Orders dependent on themselves on the lines of the R.C. and G.D. orders, to cover types of emancipation and illumination not contemplated by the original (or main) system. All such Orders must, however, be constituted in harmony with the A.˙.A.˙. as regards the essential principles.[39]
In 1913 e.v., Crowley was the Grade of Master of the Temple,[40]a Member of the Third Order, which is also called the Order of the S.S. It therefore follows that the O.T.O. is an Order which was formulated in line with the conditions set forth in One Star in Sight, created in part, as it was, by a Member of the S.S. Crowley’s statement that he had received permission from the A.˙.A.˙. ensured that his work with the O.T.O. was in harmony with the “essential principles” of the A.˙.A.˙. , recognizing the Order “on lines suited to the” New Æon.

Consider also this quote from the O.T.O.’s central ceremony, The Gnostic Mass, also written in 1913 e.v.: “THE PRIESTESS. Should be actually virgo intacta, or specially dedicated to the service of the Great Order” (emphasis mine). The Great Order is what Crowley referred to specifically as the A.˙.A.˙.[41]

Additionally, the O.T.O. is “specially charged and consecrated to the religious and humanitarian mission of promulgating the Law of Thelema.”[42] If we acknowledge the practice of preaching as a means of promulgating, the subsequent quote furnishes an easy connection: “All this preaching is of supreme A.˙.A.˙. importance.”[43]

An additional alliance between the two Orders exists at the A.˙.A.˙. Adeptus Major grade:[44]
It is highly desirable that Aspirants to this grade should have attained the 9th degree of O.T.O., in which case much secret knowledge is offered them besides that openly published.[45]
That the task of this Grade “is the attainment of full Magical Power” is more than a little curious in respect to what has already been quoted concerning the 9th degree (see section III above).[46] Along the same lines we read:
[The Pramonstrator of the A.˙.A.˙. permits it to be known that there is not at present any necessary incompatibility between the A.˙.A.˙. and the O.T.O. and M.˙. M.˙. M.˙., and allows membership of the same as a valuable preliminary training.][47]
With the idea of the O.T.O. as “valuable preliminary training” for the A.˙.A.˙., it is not particularly surprising that the former draws quite extensively from the curriculum of the latter. In a letter to Charles Stransfeld Jones, A.C. writes: “All books recommended for A.˙.A.˙. suit O.T.O.” Recently, this recommendation appears to have been refined based on the stated “mission” of the O.T.O.:
It therefore follows that all A.˙.A.˙. Class publications (Liber CCXX and the other Holy Books), and the Class AB publication of Liber 418, should also form a part of the O.T.O. Curriculum. Publications of A.˙.A.˙. in Class E are also included, as promulgations of the Law.[48]
Perhaps this refinement is the result of what could be perceived as an overreliance on the Curriculum of the A.˙.A.˙.? Regardless, I believe that it is important to keep in mind what A.C. wrote concerning the use of the ninth degree secret: “To use that secret to advantage involves mastery both of Yoga and of Magick.” The A.˙.A.˙. is also recognized in the U.S. O.T.O. Bylaws as the Order from which the Law emanates:
Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) ….is the first of the Great Orders of antiquity to accept the Law of the New Aeon emanating from the A.˙.A.˙. , which is: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, recognizing in accordance therewith.
The source for this statement is from the 1912 e.v. O.T.O. Manifesto: “…It does not include the A.˙.A.˙. , with which august body it is, however, in close alliance.”[49] Please also note that there are additional connections between the two Orders that I am unable to go into in this piece.

Together with the Curriculum, one could argue that there is a certain amount of dependence on the part of the O.T.O. in respect to the A.˙.A.˙. In fact I would argue that, by design, the O.T.O. is in service to the A.˙.A.˙.[50] However, this dependency appears to be balanced to some extent by which organization the copyrights were bequeathed to – namely, the O.T.O.

Historically, cross-membership between both organizations was commonplace up until Crowley’s death. For example, Leila Waddell was a 4°=7▫ member of the A.˙.A.˙. as well as a IX° member of O.T.O. However, as Brother James Wasserman recounts in his excellent book, In the Center of the Fire, there was a break between both organizations that occurred in the eighties. Since then, some significant effort has gone into healing this wound. It also follows that the O.T.O. would not recognize duplicate copies of the A.˙.A.˙. any more than it would recognize duplicate copies of itself. Ultimately, it is in the best interests of both Orders, to work in “harmony” with each other.

Love is the law, love under will.


[1] National Grand Master General of Ordo Templi Orientis in Britain.

[2] Kenneth Grant and John Symonds, The Magical Record of the Beast 666 (20-21).

[3] This has happened once more.

[4] This article is edited from the original 2003 e.v. version published in a local O.T.O. body publication. Currently, there is much less confusion regarding the legitimacy of the O.T.O. than there was at the time of this writing. Since 1994 e.v., the O.T.O. has consistently provided information for contacting the A.˙.A.˙. See http://www.outercol.org/. Additionally, the O.H.O. has written in a number of places his position regarding this matter. See in particular Hymenæus Betas recommendation of J. Daniel Gunther’s Class B A.˙.A.˙. text, Initiation in the Æon of the Child.

[5] Simply conduct a web search for either Order; the amount of garbage that emerges is extensive.

[6] The Grade in the A.˙.A.˙. that is the bridge between the Supernals and the Sephiroth below Binah.

[7] On an aside, what also underlies such actions is a psychological need for power, as similar claims involving grades or degrees at the less exalted end of either system are virtually nonexistent. Both Orders exist within a Fraternal framework, and this in turn suggests a certain amount of responsibility with what it is we communicate regarding them.

[8] See the initial Typhonian triology of Kenneth Grant, which is full of references to his own nuanced version of what he claimed for many years to be the O.T.O. (and is now known as the Typhonian Order). See also Angels, Demons & Gods of the New Millenium by Lon Milo DuQuette, where Bishop DuQuette questions the legitimacy of the existing “A.˙.A.˙. pedigrees” and as a result of this assessment ascribes “the post-Crowleyan A.˙.A.˙. “ to a “a subtle and mystical plane” (7).

[9] “Our Thelema is that of the Book of the Law and the writings of Aleister Crowley—the Master Therion, the Prophet of the Aeon of Horus.”- Sabazius X°. 2007 e.v. NOTOCON address (http://hermetic.com/sabazius/SbSpeech6.htm).

[10] Corresponding to the Sephira Yesod on the Tree of Life.

[11] Similarly, while the O.T.O. is the name of the Order in general, one is not an initiate of the O.T.O. proper until the VIIth degree. Until that point, one is a member of the M.˙. M.˙. M.˙.

[12] The Eye of Hoor (the English transliteration of the Egyptian Horus). See Liber AL I:49.

[13] Crowley letter to Charles Stransfeld Jones on July 20, 1916 e.v.: “You should not declare your 8=3 to people, nay, not by any means.” – quoted from The Unknown God by Martin P. Starr (10).

[14] Personally, I see this as much more of a possibility within A.˙.A.˙. than O.T.O., in that one of the O.T.O.’s functions is to preserve that which “is worth saving.” See section III.

[15] The only exception to this would be claiming the grade of 8º=3▫ from the Grade of Neophyte. According to Crowley, writing to W.T. Smith: “Now the rule is that if you claim to be 8º=3▫, you are 8º=3▫! And God help you!” – Starr (50).

[16] Crowley. Liber LXI vel Causæ

[17] Note that Crowley functioned primarily as the “Head” or Imperator of the A.˙.A.˙.

[18] From the edition edited by Israel Regardie.

[19] Frater D.D.S., the first Præmonstrator of the A.˙.A.˙.

[20] This is based on a general consensus within modern esoteric scholarship (Bogdan, Pasi, etc.).

[21] Frater Superior Merlin Peregrinus X°

[22] Of the O.T.O. in 1922 e.v.

[23] Crowley, The Heart of the Master with introduction by Hymenæus Beta (xii). The source for this quote is Article XV of the O.T.O. Constitution, by Theodore Reuss.

[24] The Vision & the Voice with Commentary, The Equinox IV:II.

[25] Book IV, second revised edition, Appendix I: O.T.O. Curriculum, (476).

[26] Crowley. The Equinox III: 10. Editorial.

[27] Everlasting, eternal.

[28] Crowley. Khabs Am Pehkt – from The Equinox III: 1.

[29] Baphomet XI ˚”What is Freemasonry? – An Excerpt on the Reconstituted O.T.O., from his Confessions. The Equinox III: X.

[30] “I should like to remind you of my experience in London. Although I was doing my work very strictly according to the programme of the A.˙.A.˙. , it was not very long before I found that people were meeting each other. This, of course, is most undesirable. Now if you cannot prevent people from meeting, the only solution is to treat them as groups, and to avoid trouble by discipline. It is principally for this reason that the O.T.O. seems to me so valuable, and there is no doubt in my mind that the head of the organization was sent to me at the right time by the right people.“ Crowley to C.S. Jones, February 7, 1919 e.v. - Starr (28). The “right time” followed the bad publicity Crowley encountered with the public performance of the Rites of Eleusis, which resulted in Reuss seeking out Crowley.

[31] Book IV, Appendix I: O.T.O. Curriculum, (476).

[32] http://education.oto-usa.org/

[33] L. Bathurst IXº. Liber LII – Manifesto of the O.T.O.

[34] Frater Ad Veritem IXº, An Introduction to the History of the O.T.O. The Equinox III: 1.

[35] Crowley. Magick Without Tears. Morality (2), Chpt. 71.

[36] Crowley. Liber Aleph, Chpt. 85. The Equinox III: 6.

[37] Crowley. The Paris Working with note from Confessions, abridged ed., (708). The Equinox IV: 2.

[38] Quoted in Baphomet & Son, A Little Known Chapter in the Life of the Beast 666 by R.A. Gilbert, (6).

[39] Book IV, second revised edition, (490).

[40] Corresponding to the Sephira Binah on the Tree of Life.

[41] This very significant discovery is not my own.

[42] Book IV, Appendix I: O.T.O. Curriculum, (476).

[43] Baphomet XI ˚This is the Word of Baphomet to All Members of the O.T.O. – Thelema. – The Equinox III: X.

[44] Corresponding to the Sephira Geburah on the Tree of Life.

[45] Crowley. Book IV, Appendix I. A Syllabus of the Offical Instructions of the A.˙.A.˙.

[46] “With O.T.O. you only become a magician, and a priest of the Holy One – a very fine and balanced 6 º =5▫, but no more.” Crowley to Charles Stransfeld Jones, July 10, 1916 e.v.

[47] Crowley. I.N.R.I. British Section of the Order of Oriental Templars O.T.O. M.˙. M.˙. M.˙.. The Equinox I: IX.

[48] Book IV, Appendix I: O.T.O. Curriculum, (476).

[49] L. Bathurst IXº. Liber LII – Manifesto of the O.T.O. – The Equinox III: 1.

[50] This is particularly noted to be the case in respect to “practical matters:” http://oto-usa.org/thelema/aa/