My First Real Life Encounter with the O.T.O.

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

As I decided to pursue my adolescent interest in the occult I was simultaneously made aware of the Ordo Templi Orientis. There is probably not a single occultist out there who doesn’t know about the O.T.O.

The O.T.O. is an organization dedicated to the occult teachings of Aleister Crowley, who is difficult to summarize. Essentially all modern, new age, wicca, etc. concepts of magic (Magick) come from Crowley. Crowley’s life happened at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Crowley’s whole trip was the will. To understand your will. To manifest your will. And to balance your will with the reality you lived in. He was also a well known advocate for sexual revolution, including feminism and gay rights. He was also notoriously a scoundrel. a reputation he did not always oppose.

Like I said Crowley is hard to summarize, and as I write this I am beginning to realize that I probably need to devote several posts to this historical character and the resonance of his ideas in modernity. This is a task left for the near future.

What I am truly fascinated by is his followers: the O.T.O. Many of my favorite musicians, writers and artists are either in the O.T.O. or are loosely tied to it and its activities.

I don’t know exactly when my interest in the O.T.O. emerged but it came pretty much at the same exact time as my current fascination with the occult.

The O.T.O. is a modern day order of wizards. Most of the occultism attributed to freemasons is actually practiced with fervor by the O.T.O.

I have been studying the O.T.O for several months. Mostly by listening to their two podcasts:

Thelema Now! Podcast and Speech in the Silence Podcast.

To put it bluntly, anyone who has any interest in the occult whether passive, serious, or critical you should listen to the Speech in the Silence Podcast. It will give you the Crowlean perspective.

Thelema Now! does more to capture the cultural impact of the O.T.O., which has certainly been interesting for me. For example I have heard many of my favorite musicians interviewed on this show, even though I didn’t know anything about their connection to O.T.O.

Jarboe was on Thelema Now! She is the female singer of the great band The Swans and she had once given me permission to use her music on my militant atheist podcast, she has a wonderful interview on Thelema Now!

I have had many internal debates about O.T.O. and luckily these podcasts along with many other online resources I have been able to weigh in both my own naturalist (materialist) metaphysics versus the magickal metaphysics of the O.T.O. After my delving I have found that these two approaches have many points of consilience.

I am also highly impressed by the cultural effects that the O.T.O. has had. Its central philosophy is: “Do what though wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law. Love under will.” These little sentences have filled tomes of O.T.O. philosophy and its hard to do it justice, but its ultimately a spiritualized version of the desire to find yourself, do what you want once you have found yourself, and not to get in other people’s way of doing the same thing.

So I decided I needed to check these folks out in real life.

I live in the Dallas area so I went to Bubastis Oasis.

In my imagination I had constructed something like a Mormon church with a big golden angel up top. What I found was a tiny storefront which you could easily miss, with a card that said “Bubastis Oasis OTO.”

Today was a public ceremony. It was the Thelemic New Year, which I did not realize until later.

What met me inside was a small group (at first) with techno music playing and really awesome looking food piling up on the side.

The conversation was awesome. Everyone was interesting, they had a very awesome collection of books.

I was very upfront with my hardline atheism and skepticism, and how I view occult stuff through this filter. The Bubastis Oasis folks were extremely cool and understanding, and for all I know some of them wholeheartedly agreed.

Everyone was very knowledgeable about art and philosophy, and to be honest it kind of reminded me of the crowd I encountered at the Center for Inquiry conference I attended a few years ago. The Center for Inquiry is a really wonderful humanist think tank which advocates issues related to atheism, humanism and skepticism.

Freethinkers?

Hours passed rich in conversation and good company before the ritual began.

I felt very lucky to get to see an O.T.O. ritual because of all the occult practices ritual is the one that makes the most sense to me. Ritual being performance art, if nothing else, and I am highly responsive to performance art.

The name of the ritual performed is The Supreme Ritual.

Since the O.T.O. has some deliberate secrecy I will abstain from going into too much detail about what I saw. Though I will say that it had more in common with a band practice or a meditation group than it would with the high ceremony of a church. It was intimate and done in good humor. Thats for sure. Though the crowd definitely sought empowerment in the ceremony.

I think so far I have not described anything controversial from a naturalistic (materialist) point of view.

So this first encounter was totally positive. I am looking forward to more encounters with these folks, especially since these are cool people in my neck of the woods.

One of the things that fascinates me about the occult in general and the O.T.O. in particular is its propensity to draw artists into its fold.

One fundamental premise to what I am trying to achieve with this blog is to try to show what is useful and appealing to folks in occultism from a naturalist (atheist/materialist) perspective and also to try to show occultists all the points of consilience they may have with atheists and skeptics.

The Bubastis crew definitely had a strong artsy side and from my conversations I learned quickly that I was in the company of at least a few artists and musicians.

I am looking forward to learning from these Thelemites how they link up their magic(k)al work and their artistic lifestyles.

My guess is that “magical thinking” is no different than artistic thinking. It is precisely the same thing, and that one of the appeals of occultism is to keep the artistic mental furnace stoked with fuel.

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Comments
  1. Very interesting.
    I had no idea the O.T.O. had public events.
    Wanted to see if they operate in my area (Montreal, Quebec) but I’m having trouble finding that information.
    Did you have any listings or resources you could share that might help me find them?

    Thanks for the blog by the way, I’ve read a few articles here already and it seems very promising.

  2. mindcore says:

    Thanks for the compliment on the blog Gretar.

    I am also having a hard time finding an OTO in Montreal by doing online searches. I will check my directory that I got from Bubastis Oasis and see if they have anything on there. I will find out for you what the nearest location is one way or another.

  3. mindcore says:

    Grétar, It seems OTO is only in British Columbia and Vancouver. Which sucks. Here is my source, but my guess is there are a ton of Thelemites in the Montreal area, they just may be hard to sniff out.

  4. Sister in Austin says:

    93! I’m very happy to hear about your positive experience at Bubastis! Please know that if you are ever in Austin, you are welcome at the Scarlet Woman Lodge for any public Mass or open lodge night or any other public event we may be having. Our calendar is updated regularly, and we are always available to answer any questions you might have.

    http://www.scarletwoman.org/

    93, 93/93

  5. Apocryphon says:

    Many O.T.O events are public, they problem is they don’t tend to openly advertise in places you are likely to see. But more and more local bodies are putting up an events calendar, which if you know the name of the local body you want to attend, you can find their website.

    As far as I know there are only 3 Bodies in Canada and I think one may have shut down. If you can gather enough local interest, you may be able to charter your own camp, but you have to find people of the right grade to do so. Also I am not sure if Canada is under the US Grand Lodge or the UK Grand Lodge. If you ask around you can probably find out.

    My best advice to start out, is take a long trip to a body that is holding the Gnostic mass for the public, you should RSVP and take a trip there. If you call a head, they should be able to accommodate a large group as well.

    Fr. αποκρυφον

  6. Maegdlyn says:

    All of magick is science that we do not yet understand…..Crowley

  7. Malaclypse3 says:

    93

    I’ve been a member of the OTO for about 4 years now, and I think this blogpost is very interesting to read, since I share a lot of the same thoughts.

    93/93

  8. Russell Kirkby says:

    You should look into the order Crowley founded himself.

    A.:A:. Astra Argentum (The Silver Star).

    OTO gave themselves to Crowley and he said – “sure I’d love to be your supreme and Holy King”. A.:A:. was his actual invention.

    • 93,

      Pre-Crowley OTO and Post Crowley OTO are barely recognisable as the same Order.
      Crowley re-wrote the rituals, Thelemized the order and re-wrote the constitution.

      AA was based on the Golden Dawn (albiet a higher octave). Crowley himeself admits he didnt invent the AA. If you read the preliminary lecture it s clear the AA has a;ways existed.

    • mindcore says:

      Hey Russell,

      I appreciate your comment, but I have to be honest. My reading and personal admiration for Crowley was not my primary motive for going to the O.T.O. I know there is a great deal of love for Crowley as a person and everything he touched, but I do not share this passion at this point in my life.

      I was attracted to the O.T.O. because of the O.T.O. I find that the people who currently make up the O.T.O. are extremely cool people, mostly artistic intellectual types, and I also feel like the way they run and promote their organization and ideas is extremely admirable. I tend to hear about the A.:A:. from O.T.O. people and with an O.T.O. backdrop.

      I will look into it, because thats part of the occult skeptic project, but I am not exactly chomping at the bit. From what little I have heard its a rigorous program of initiations tested by an instructor. Sounds like something I would hate personally. I am pretty fucking picky about who I let tell me what to do.

      I am far more impressed by what has been accomplished in the present than somethings origins in the past.

  9. tortugo23 says:

    Magick Art and Shamanism

  10. Lon Milo DuQuette says:

    I enjoyed your article very much and thought you might enjoy my little ‘movie’ I’ve been in the O.T.O. since 1975 and know the good folks in Dallas very well.

  11. mindcore says:

    Mr. DuQuette,
    I am honored. I have listened to two interviews you have given on your book Low Magick, which I am planning on reading soon. And I also enjoyed your lectures on the miracle of the mass. Though I thought the production quality of Speech in the Silence made you sound like Casey Kasem .

  12. Lon Milo DuQuette says:

    Well … I DID get my start in radio. 😉

  13. Walter Five says:

    Glad to hear that you had such a positive experience. I live in Texas (Houston) and have had association with Bubastis events and initiations for over 20 years.

    Nice too to see the Archbishop of the EGC, T. Lon Milo DuQuette here; Lon’s a very personable and approachable fellow, I’ve attended several of his lectures and classes over the years, at the now-closed Betwixt and Between Community Center.

    • mindcore says:

      I lived in Alief for much of my adolescence, which is a suburb of Houston. I also had my first introductions to the occult there and many of my childhood friends grew up into serious practice.

  14. Froztwolf says:

    Thanks for the information everyone.
    There is a chapter Rose Croix close to me but it’s French-speaking, which would be a barrier to me. I’m going to contact them and see if there are English-speaking chapters in the city.

    Read Low Magick myself last week and I can definitely recommend it 😉

    Mindcore, is there a way for me to contact you privately. I’d love to shoot you a couple of questions off-topic if you wouldn’t mind.

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