Please note that this FAQ deals very briefly with some extremely complex topics and as such leaves out many nuances, exceptions, and interesting details. We strongly encourage those interested in OTO and Thelema to conduct more thorough research to gain a more complete understanding of these issues.
Questions about Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)
How do I join OTO?
Do I have to join a Lodge/Oasis/Camp?
Is there a curriculum with exams/test/ordeals?
How old is OTO?
What is Aleister Crowley’s relationship to the OTO?
What is the difference between OTO and M∴M∴M∴?
How is the Gnostic Catholic Church related to OTO?
Is OTO a “Secret Society”?
Do I need to be a member of OTO to participate in the Gnostic Mass?
Is Ordo Templi Orientis Satanic or anti-Christian?
Do your rituals involve animal sacrifice?
What is the relationship between Ordo Templi Orientis and Wicca?
What is the relationship between Ordo Templi Orientis and Freemasonry?
What is the relationship between Ordo Templi Orientis and the A∴A∴?
Is OTO a religion?
Do members of your Order practise “black magic”?
Do I have to believe in some particular dogma to join?
I’m a [Buddhist|Wiccan|Catholic|Baptist|Druid|etc]. Can I stay one if I join the OTO?
Will I learn Magick in the OTO?
Why does OTO charge dues?
What do I get for my dues?
Questions about Secret Flame Oasis
How do I join Secret Flame Oasis?
If I take my Minerval Degree at Secret Flame, am I a member of Secret Flame?
What activities does the Oasis offer?
I’m not an OTO member, can I attend some Oasis events?
Where does Secret Flame Oasis meet?
Is there another local body nearby?
What’s the difference between a Lodge, Oasis and a Camp?
Questions about Thelema and Aleister Crowley
What is “Thelema”?
What is a Thelemite?
How do I become a Thelemite?
What if it’s your True Will to do [some bad thing]?
Was Aleister Crowley a Satanist?
Did Crowley really sacrifice children?
How do you pronounce ‘Thelema’?
What does the “e.v.” I see after dates in Thelemic writings mean?
What does “93” mean?
Questions about Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)
To summarize, initiate membership requires a physical ceremony, which in turn means that you must find and contact an OTO local body near you to apply for initiation. You cannot be initiated ‘at a distance’ (email/post/phone, etc.)
All membership enquiries for Secret Flame Oasis should be directed to the UK Grand Lodge Membership Secretary in the first instance.
No. In order to be a member of OTO you must take initiation provided by a recognized Lodge, Oasis or Camp, however there is no requirement to join that group or any other.
It is possible to be a member of OTO by just taking initiation and paying yearly dues, however since it is a social fraternal organization you would be missing out on a lot, so it may be worth also joining your local group.
OTO is not a “testing” organisation per se, however Local Bodies can provide activities which include workshops or tutorials, and much can be gained merely by socialising with like-minded and knowledgeable individuals. It is best to contact the Body in question regarding its activities (Secret Flame events can be found here).
The initiations are the core of the Order’s teaching and then it’s upon the individual to develop their discipline and do any work they wish to do. No-one will be standing over them with a stick! The criteria for progression are minimal, but like most things – you gain in proportion to what you put in.
If you are looking for more direct training in spiritual or magical matters you may wish to consider contacting A∴A∴
By tradition, OTO traces its spiritual origins to the foundation of the Order of Knights Templar in 1108. More historically, its immediate antecedents (according to Aleister Crowley) were the 18th-century Rosicrucian Orders. The initial conferences that actually led to the formation of OTO as a modern organization were held in 1895 in Europe. These conferences led to the launching of The Oriflamme, a journal that would later become the official journal of OTO, in 1902. The Constitution of OTO was published in 1906, and its Manifesto was first issued in the USA in 1919. More information on it’s history can be found here http://www.oto-uk.org/history.
Aleister Crowley was admitted to the OTO in 1910. He was appointed National Grand Master X° for Britain and Ireland in 1912, and assumed worldwide leadership as OHO (Outer Head of the Order) in 1922. He completely revised the Order’s rituals and structure, conforming them to the Law of Thelema.
MMM (Mysteria Mystica Maxima), was originally established as the British section of the OTO under Crowley as National Grand Master. As currently understood, M∴M∴M∴ represents the aspect of OTO that administers the initiatory degrees of OTO from 0° (Minerval) through VII°.
Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) or the Gnostic Catholic Church, was incorporated into the OTO structure in 1908. Crowley wrote the Gnostic Mass (Liber XV) for the EGC and OTO in 1913. The EGC formally accepted the Law of Thelema in 1920. As currently understood, the EGC represents the aspect of OTO that administers the Gnostic Mass and associated ecclesiastical rituals.
OTO could be considered an ‘order with secrets’ rather than a ‘secret order’. It does hold the details of its initiatory rituals and initiatory documents to be secret, and it considers the identity of its members to be private and confidential. However, the OTO is a public-facing organisation and does not aim to ‘hide’ itself. In the US and Australia the OTO operates as a non-profit, religious corporation. OTO policy requires it to comply with all applicable laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates.
Membership in OTO is not a pre-requisite for attendance at the Gnostic Mass in most locations. The Gnostic Mass is generally referred to as “the central ritual of the OTO both public and private” and often serves as a contact point for those interested in finding out more about the Order and its practises. Some local bodies do prefer to have some kind of initial contact before inviting new individuals to attend the Gnostic Mass. It is also generally expected that those attending the Gnostic Mass participate in the Eucharist offered at the end of the ceremony. We encourage those interested in attending the Gnostic Mass to familiarize themselves with the text of the ritual (Liber XV) before deciding whether to attend.
No. OTO makes no claims or representations to be either Satanic or anti-Christian. We find that these characterizations serve no real purpose in describing what we are about, or our vision for humanity. Rather than being anti-Christian, we are in fact pro-Thelema: we support the Thelemic ideals of freedom of religious and personal self-expression; emancipation from superstition and social oppression; and the development of a world view which supports and encourages the age-old vision of the Universal Brotherhood of mankind.
None of the initiation rituals of OTO or ecclesiastical rituals of EGC involve animal sacrifice in any way. No OTO member is ever required by OTO to perform or participate in animal sacrifice. However, OTO takes no moral or religious stand against the practise of animal sacrifice, per se. Animal sacrifice is an ancient and legitimate religious tradition that has historically been practised by many established religious systems, including Classical Paganism, Judaism, Islam, and many African and Afro-Caribbean religions.
OTO is not a Wiccan or Pagan organisation. However, OTO membership is not incompatible with Wicca or Paganism. Gerald Gardner, who is commonly credited with establishing modern Wicca and coining that term, was deeply influenced by Crowley’s work and was an initiate of OTO. A number of members of OTO also consider themselves Wiccan.
OTO was originally associated with certain European rites of Freemasonry but long ago separated itself from Masonry altogether. For further information, please see the history and membership pages on the OTO UK Grand Lodge website. OTO membership is not incompatible with membership in most Masonic organizations.
OTO 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. OTO and A∴A∴ have jointly issued the journal The Equinox since 1912e.v. Although they are distinctly separate organizations, OTO has historically assisted A∴A∴ with practical matters that lie outside its primary mission, which is purely spiritual in nature.
No. OTO is a social organization and magical fraternity that works within the wider context of the spiritual philosophy known as Thelema, which technically could be considered a religion, but that is down to the opinion of the individual.
“Black magic” is commonly conceived as a type of “sorcery” or “diabolism” intended to cause harm to other beings. Crowley’s conception of “black magic” represents a refinement of this common understanding of the term: he defined black magic as magical work which does not serve the aspirant’s True Will; and he also held that it could not be the True Will of any being to oppose the True Will of another. The spiritual practises of OTO are intended to enhance the lives of its initiates, not to harm anyone. No one is instructed by OTO in curses, hexes, or any other kind of magic designed to harm another person. Further, in his classic work Magick Without Tears, Crowley defines the three distinct “schools of Magick” as being yellow, white and black, yet posits these schools in a very different way than what one might first imagine; and the Magick practised by the Black School is distinct from either conception of “black magic” described above. OTO encourages a thorough understanding, by its members and non-members alike, of the definitions of the three schools as given by Crowley.
If you decide to pursue full membership, as a I°, you will be stating that you accept the Book of the Law as written, without wishing to change it. Even in the Minerval degree, you will be making a commitment in the strongest terms to uphold the ideals of freedom set forth in the Book of the Law. However, how you interpret the Book of the Law and its significance is largely up to you.
OTO does not impose restrictions on members’ beliefs, or on their affiliations with other organizations that do not attempt to infringe on the rights and operation of OTO. However, higher-degree members are expected to avoid allowing their participation in other groups to unduly limit the time and energy they can devote to their OTO obligations.
The principal purpose of OTO within the Man of Earth Triad is to administer the Mysteries (initiation rituals) and the ecclesiastical rites of the EGC, not to actively teach any particular system or practise of Magick. However, properly understood, these rituals offer significant instruction themselves, in the form of allegory and symbolism, that is of both practical and theoretical value to the serious student of Magick. In order to assist initiates to discover and understand some of the lessons of their initiations, UK Grand Lodge issues degree-specific self-study guides, which are provided by the local bodies to members on their initiation to each degree. In addition, many local bodies offer introductory classes, seminars, practical workshops, and instructional and reference materials on a variety of systems and techniques of Magick, traditional and non-traditional, as well as on such related topics as Qabalah, Yoga, meditation, divination, mythology, symbolism, and comparative religion.
Financial support is necessary to run a large multinational organization, even one staffed by volunteers. Our financial records are open to members.
Order members receive national and international newsletters, which are typically published on an irregular basis. In addition, being dues current entitles you to attend initiations and other events that are only open to members in good standing. It allows you to apply for initiation to the next degree, as you feel ready to advance. It gives you the prerogative of sponsoring other applicants for initiation, once you are a I° or higher yourself.
Questions about Secret Flame Oasis
First you would need to be an initiate member of OTO in good standing (please see above). If this is the case and you wish to join Secret Flame Oasis, please contact the Lodge Secretary secretary@secret_flame.oto-uk.org.
No, you would be a member of OTO (or more properly M∴M∴M∴), you would need to actively join Secret Flame Oasis (and we’d be glad to have you!)
You could also choose to join a different Body entirely, or none at all.
The Oasis organises several different types of activity, from celebrations of the Gnostic Mass, workshops on practical and theoretical aspects of magick, mysticism and Thelema to social occasions such as meals to celebrate feast days.
Please see the Oasis events page to get an idea of what’s going on.
Most Oasis events are for members only. However some social events and performances of the Gnostic Mass are open to invited non-members. If you wish to attend an event as a non-member please contact secretary@secret_flame.oto-uk.org.
The Oasis meets in central Manchester for social events and has a standing Temple in the surrounding area.
These are the three categories of OTO Local Body (i.e. group). Camps (or sometimes ‘Encampments’) tend to be the smallest and are restricted in their ability to initiate. Oases are larger and can initiate through to Third Degree. Lodges are generally the largest and can initiate through to Fourth and P∴I∴ Degrees. One can glean an idea of progressive stability or differing purpose via the name of each.
There are also various responsibilities appropriate to each Body type, such as regular performance of the Gnostic Mass.
Questions about Thelema and Aleister Crowley
In brief, Thelema is the religious-magical-philosophical system founded when Aleister Crowley received the Book of the Law in 1904. Its principal tenets can be summarized by the brief phrases, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and “Love is the law, love under will.”. It should be noted that “Do what thou wilt…” does not mean “Do what you want…”
The term “Thelemite” is subject to several different interpretations. The term itself was coined by Francois Rabelais in 1534 e.v. Crowley used the term to refer to someone who “accepts the Law” (i.e., the Book of the Law) and actively works within the Three Grades of the system of Thelema. Herein, we follow Crowley’s usage.
By deciding that you are a Thelemite, and accepting the Law of Thelema. Accepting Liber AL as a spiritual and magical focal point is implicit in this idea, in the sense that it would be paradoxical to claim to be practising Thelema without this acceptance. What you do beyond that is entirely up to you (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”). There is no requirement to join any particular organization, to associate with (or shun) other Thelemites, or to follow any specific course of study, meditation, or ritual practise. Many Thelemites do find that membership in a Thelemic organization proves useful in furthering their own Work. There are numerous such organizations to choose from, with OTO being perhaps the largest and best-known among them.
This is a philosophical puzzle that cannot be covered sufficiently here. To offer some thoughts:
If one adopts a deterministic stance, and ‘Do what thou wilt…’ is seen as a descriptive law, then others will also be acting according to that law. Therefore all shall be as it is, and you can expect the results as they currently manifest in your society.
If you adopt a free will stance and it is therefore possible to go against your True Will, part of ‘inhabiting’ that Will would be how it interacts with other ‘Wills’. In other words you would not be doing your Will if it is opposing another’s Will, and although it may be impossible to verify what another’s Will is, as an illustration it is a fair guess that (unless they are indicating otherwise) it is not another’s Will to have you hit them.
‘Bad’ is a difficult term to use when talking of the Law of Thelema as in a sense it can be seen as ‘Beyond Good and Evil’. But it should be pointed out that it is generally believed ‘Do what thou wilt…’ when followed, should not result in unwise, cruel or wanton behaviour.
As stated, this is a complex philosophical puzzle that should not be over-simplified, one might devote a lifetime to the study of this single question. Associating and talking with like-minded Thelemites (or even joining the OTO and your local body) could be a great way of exploring the issue.
No. Aleister Crowley was a systematic and scientific explorer of religious practises, techniques, and doctrines. As such, he performed devotional exercises to various deities from various pantheons and to the divine personifications that are unique to the system of Thelema. At one time or another Crowley ‘was’ a Polytheist, a Monotheist, a Christian, a Hindu Yogi, a Qabalist, a Muslim Mystic, and a Buddhist among others. In 1904, he became the Prophet of the New Aeon and the founder of the spiritual, magical and philosophical movement called Thelema, through his reception of Liber AL vel Legis, the Book of the Law.
No. Crowley never performed or advocated human sacrifice. His much-quoted allusion to frequent “child-sacrifice” (Magick In Theory & Practise, Chapter XII) was a metaphor for a specific practise of sexual magick that did not involve harm to any individual, but diverted the energies of sexuality from physical reproduction to other purposes. The ‘child’ or ‘Bud-Will’ that is sacrificed in such a practise is a particular manifestation of the magician’s Will, and not a physical, human child. Human sacrifice in any form would be incompatible with the principles of Thelema, as a violation of the right of every individual to live as he or she wills.
One hears both “thuh-LEE-muh” and “theh-LAY-muh” commonly, and other variants now and then. The original Greek is θέλημα. This word is pronounced “theh-LEE-mah” in modern Greek, and would have most likely been pronounced “teh-LAY-mah” in ancient (Attic) Greek—so take your pick.
Thelema has its own calendar, but at present it is used largely for ceremonial purposes. In common with many religions, for many practical purposes we use the Gregorian calendar instead. In Christian practise, the years after the traditional birth of Christ are identified as “A.D.,” or “Anno Domini,” which means “Year of Our Lord.” Scholars wishing to use the Gregorian calendar without that sectarian attribution adopted the practise of using “C.E.,” short for “Common Era,” instead. Some used the Latin equivalent, which is “E.V.” (“Era Vulgaris”). Crowley established the tradition of using the latter form when referring to Gregorian dates in Thelemic materials, and this tradition has been maintained into the present day.
The old Hebrew and Greek languages had no separate system of numerals; the symbols of their respective alphabets stood for both numbers and letters. Therefore, a numeric value can be derived from any word or phrase spelled in either Greek or Hebrew. The study of these numeric values and their meanings is termed “gematria”. The Greek words (Thelema — Will) and (Agape — Love) both enumerate to the number 93. Therefore, the number 93 serves as a concise, symbolic expression of the principles of Will (Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law) and Love (Love is the law, love under will). Crowley recommended the use of these phrases as Thelemic salutations of greeting and departure; modern Thelemites frequently use “93” as a shorter and more casual equivalent.
Should you have any further questions about OTO, Thelema, Aleister Crowley or related subjects, please feel free to contact the appropriate person at Secret Flame Oasis.
Love is the law, love under will