On Church and State

Thelema lives today through echoes in larger culture, many trends and schools of thought being deeply influenced by Crowleyana. But in concert with the general human milieu there are several organizations that Crowley designed or hijacked (or somewhere in between) to champion Thelema. Two of these are now believed defunct, the Order of Thelemites and the Lamp of Invisible Light. The latter of these was a pre-Thelema initiatory society that is suspected to be practiced Sub Rosa (secretly) in Mexican masonic circles today. Then there is A∴A∴, Crowley's advancement of the Golden Dawn, which is not social in nature. Lastly and most relevantly, there are OTO and EGC.

OTO was not of Crowley's invention. It was initially the baby of Carl Kellner and Theodor Reuss who had a bouquet of degrees, lineages and teachings that they wanted to bring together in their own pseudo-Masonic initiatory order. Kellner died and Reuss was left with very little to go on – just a Central Secret and some grand concepts. When Reuss met Crowley, the ambitious polymath had a lot to say and do. In short notice he rewrote the degrees of OTO, bottom up, from what was originally quite rough, and it became very un-Masonic very quickly. OTO maintains organizational similarity to Freemasonry and there's some overlap of terms and clap-trap, but neither do they recognize us as Masons nor we them as Magicians. Indeed, while the III° in Masonry is the Master Mason, the III° in M∴M∴M∴ (what we call our first seven degrees in OTO) is the Master Magician; thence the term “Master,” for this is the degree one must attain to run a local body.

There are ten numbered degrees in OTO, but twenty two degrees in total when you include the initiations betwixt. Crowley believed the V° to be the natural stopping place for most people, that being the eighth initiation. Initiation into OTO is therefore not an ambitious pursuit of the highest grades, for beginning with the V° one enters into the government of OTO and, quoting Crowley, “with us Government is Service, and nothing else.” Where one then ends up in the higher grades is based upon the nature of one's Will and how it might service in the Order.

The 0° to the IV° (and its appendage, the PI) are referred to as the Man of Earth Triad, followed by the Lovers Triad that begins with the V° and the Hermit triad, which begins at the VIII°. We concern ourselves only with the Man of Earth Triad. The “MOE” operates through what is commonly called a “Local Body.” There are three grades of a Local Body in order of the services they provide: Camp, Oasis, and Lodge. The Lodge is the ultimate goal for a Local Body, as it provides all the services necessary to the MOE Triad; namely, initiation to the IV°/PI. All Local Bodies seek to provide initiations, sacraments and classes.

At Pelican Camp in Baton Rouge, our proximity to Alombrados Oasis in New Orleans frees us from the trouble of having to perform initiations on our own. Because of their excellent initiatory facilities, it's much easier for us to send our local candidates to them. We have no goal in the near future to offer local initiations, but as we acquire facilities, membership and resources such would become a goal and, being accomplished, we would be in line to become an Oasis.

Another requirement to become an Oasis, and a more immediate goal of Pelican, is the performance of the Gnostic Mass. This ritual was written by Crowley while he was working as a pimp in Russia. He writes:

During this period the full interpretation of the central mystery of freemasonry became clear in consciousness, and I expressed it in dramatic form in "the Ship". The lyrical climax is in some respects my supreme achievement in invocation; in fact, the chorus beginning:

Thou who art I beyond all I am ...

seemed to me worthy to be introduced as the anthem into the Ritual of the Gnostic Catholic Church which, later in the year, I prepared for the use of the O.T.O., the central ceremony of its public and private celebration, corresponding to the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church.

While dealing with this subject I may as well outline its scope completely. Human nature demands (in the case of most people) the satisfaction of the religious instinct, and, to very many, this may best be done by ceremonial means. I wished therefore to construct a ritual through which people might enter into ecstasy as they have always done under the influence of appropriate ritual. In recent years, there has been an increasing failure to attain this object, because the established cults shock their intellectual convictions and outrage their common sense. Thus their minds criticize their enthusiasm; they are unable to consummate the union of their individual souls with the universal soul as a bridegroom would be to consummate his marriage if his love were constantly reminded that its assumptions were intellectually absurd.

I resolved that my ritual should celebrate the sublimity of the operation of universal forces without introducing disputable metaphysical theories. I would neither make nor imply any statement about nature which would not be endorsed by the most materialistic man of science. On the surface this may sound difficult; but in practice I found it perfectly simple to combine the most rigidly rational conceptions of phenomena with the most exalted and enthusiastic celebration of their sublimity. (This ritual has been published in The International, New York, March 1918, and in The Equinox, vol. III, No. 1.)

Crowley's motivation to write a Mass in the first place came from OTO having in its lineages the EGC, or Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. This organization came about during France's fin de siecle as French-Catholic Masons were being excommunicated and thusly denied the Eucharist. This Gnostic-Catholicism was the religious labor of a krewe of French intellectuals and esotericists who were beginning to engage some of the first literature of the “Gnostics” to be discovered since their excising from continental Christianity. Their Church, l'Église Gnostique Catholique, had much overlap with Masonic circles, but found a special kinship with the early OTO. This aside, Crowley also held a special interest in this apostolic succession and the magick transmitted by this initiatory lineage that dated back to Melchizedek and boasted such initiates as Moses, Jesus Christ and Cesare Borgia.

As the Church of Rome is to the Roman Empire so too is EGC entwined with OTO. Like the Roman Catholic Church, EGC has its sacramental system, including Baptism and Confirmation, which are open to all and available upon request. There are also Holy Orders, including that of the Deacon, the Priest/Priestess and the Bishop. However, one must be of certain degree in OTO to be ordained a Deacon (II°), a Priest or Priestess (KEW), or a Bishop (VII°). Likewise, the King (X°) of a Grand Lodge is also the Primate of that Grand Lodge's country's Church. And, the Outer Head of the Order, the top dog, is the Patriarch of the EGC. This relationship is less that of the Roman Church and the Roman Empire, where Pope and Emperor were twain, and more reminiscent of the Anglican Church, where the King is the head of the Church.

Lastly, and most importantly, is the paradox of the hands. Which hand started drawing which hand first? The answer is that there was a third hand, the hand of the artist who, with wand and disk, created the two to tango. This third hand is that of the aforementioned A∴A∴, whose august body is absolutely devoted to the two great initiations of this Aeon, the Angel and the Abyss, wherein they achieve knowledge and conversation with their Holy Guardian Angel and then achieve Annihilation in that Apocalyptic union. Without such initiates, the world is lost, just as culture crashes when artists withdraw their favor or how academia fails when philosophers are hushed for the sake of progress. Without this initiation, OTO and EGC are lost in the fog like all else. Therefore forget not this Duplexity by which the wheel is set in motion. More on this relationship:

O.T.O. has long worked in close alliance with the A∴A∴, which first proclaimed the Law of Thelema to the world. The A∴A∴ is a teaching and initiatory system dedicated to the personal spiritual advancement of its individual members. Within A∴A∴ all services are rendered free of charge, and no social activities are held. O.T.O. and A∴A∴ have jointly issued the journal The Equinox since 1912 ev, now in its fourth volume. Although they are distinctly separate organizations, O.T.O. has historically assisted A∴A∴ with practical matters that lie outside the latter’s primary mission, which is purely spiritual in nature.