The Occult Lodge: Part Six

From the Dawn to Darkness
by Midnight Freemason Contributor 
Bro. James E. Frey 32° KT, ROS

Aeister Crowley

The Ordo Templi Orientis, or the Oriental Temple of the East or the Order of Oriental Templars, was founded between 1895 and 1906 as an elite invitational group of Masons who established a more esoteric version of the Masonic Rites focusing on sexual energies. The OTO was founded by Theodor Reuss who had a long history of participating in occult and fringe masonic groups. In 1880 Reuss attempted to revive the Bavarian Order of the Illuminati of Adam Weisthaupt and again in 1888, both times failing miserably. Upon this failure he began to formulate the outline of the OTO with Carl Keller in 1895.
Reuss then sought out to legitimize his group by reaching out and becoming active in other streams of esotericism. He soon was introduced to Dr. William Wynn Wescott, leading member of the S.R.I.A and founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. At the time Wescott was the Grand Master of the Swedenborgian Rite of Phremasonry and provided Reuss with a charter to form his own lodge dated July 24, 1901 and a letter of authorization to form an S.I.R.A group in Germany February 24, 1902. Reuss was also designated an inspector with the Martinist Order in Germany by Gerard Encausse (aka Papus) who provided him with a charter June 24, 1901.

OTO Temple

Westcott and Papus assisted Reuss with establishing his order, Papus helped Reuss establish the OTO Gnostic Catholic Church and Wescott assisted Reuss in contacting John Yarker to recive chaters for the Rites of Memphis and Misraim September 24, 1902. By attaining these charters from the leading esoteric and occult leaders he became legitimized to create his own Order. Reuss based the structure of his Order around the Swedish Rite of ten degrees inspired heavily around the Templar mythos and the theoretical aspects of sexual magic.

In 1910 Reuss became acquainted with Aleister Crowley, British Occultist and Former Golden Dawn Member, while living in London. The story goes that Reuss was reading Aleister Crowley’s “Confessions” and discovered that he had published their supreme secret. He then contacted Crowley and admitted him to the first three degrees and then only two years later Crowley was advanced to the tenth degree and placed as Grand Master in charge of Great Britain and Ireland. Crowley then wrote The "Manifesto of the OTO", which described its basic ten-degree system the 7th, 8th, and 9th, degrees being Kellner’s three degree system of the Academia Masonica.

In 1914, Crowley moved to the United States and began to break away from the Masonic influences of the OTO and began integrating the concepts of his own religion of Thelema. He then wrote a religious service for this new version of the OTO called the Gnostic Mass. Reusss' O.T.O system  contained their versions of the degrees Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. The fourth degree being Holy Royal Arch and the fifth degree was Scotch Mason. Crowley attempted to work this Masonic-based O.T.O. in Detroit, Michigan which resulted in the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite declaring them to be clandestine, centered on the basis that the O.T.O. rituals were too similar to Scottish Rite Masonry's own rituals.

In a 1930 letter to Arnold Krumm-Heller, Crowley Wrote:

However, when it came to the considerations of the practical details of the rituals to be worked, the general Council of the Scottish Rite could not see its way to tolerate them, on the ground that the symbolism in some places touched too nearly that of the orthodox Masonry of the Lodges.

In 1914 Crowley then fully integrated Thelema into the OTO by rewriting the initiatory rituals and incorporating his own philosophical understanding of the grade work. By rewriting the degrees Crowley removed most of those symbolic connections to Masonry. He did not rewrite the fourth degree ritual, which remains in its form and structure related to the various Royal Arch rituals of Masonry.

Gnostic Mass

In 1920 Theodore Reuss suffered a stroke and communications between Reuss and Crowley began to deteriorate. Crowley broke ties with Reuss and proclaimed himself Outer Head of the Order. In 1925, during a tumultuous Conference of Grand Masters, Crowley was officially elected as Outer Head of the Order.

The majority of the philosophy of the OTO can be summed up by the quote that began Crowley’s involvement with Reuss in Crowley’s confessions:

It offers a rational basis for universal brotherhood and for universal religion. It puts forward a scientific statement which is a summary of all that is at present known about the universe by means of a simple, yet sublime symbolism, artistically arranged. It also enables each man to discover for himself his personal destiny, indicates the moral and intellectual qualities which he requires in order to fulfil it freely, and finally puts in his hands an unimaginably powerful weapon which he may use to develop in himself every faculty which he may need in his work.

Crowley’s new OTO system was re written into different schools of triads based on the tarot. The entire system is as follows: 0° Minerval, I° Man & Brother,  II° Magician,  III° Master Magician,  IV° Perfect Magician & Companion of the Holy Royal Arch of Enoch, and P.I.—Perfect Initiate, or Prince of Jerusalem. Then came the honorary degree of Knight of the East & West. The next school was The Lovers Triad which focused on active and passive energies of the soul. V° Sovereign Prince Rose-Croix, and Knight of the Pelican & Eagle, Knight of the Red Eagle, and Member of the Senate of Knight Hermetic Philosophers, VI° Illustrious Knight of the Order of Kadosh, and Companion of the Holy Graal Grand Inquisitor Commander, and Member of the Grand Tribunal Prince of the Royal Secret, VII°—Theoreticus, and Very Illustrious Sovereign Grand Inspector General Magus of Light, and Bishop of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Grandmaster of Light, and Inspector of Rites & Degrees. The degrees of the Hermit Triad are of sexual nature. In the VIII° of Perfect Pontiff of the Illuminati, the initiate is taught masturbation magical practices, in the IX° of Initiate of the Sactuary of Gnosis the magical techniques related to traditional intercourse, and in the XI° of Initiate of the Eleventh degree a form of sex magic involving non-traditional intercourse is taught. The final Supreme Secret is given in the X° Rex Summus Sanctissimus.


James E Frey 32° classifies himself as a gentleman of the old world, which means he is known to stand in the great forests reciting poetry to fair-haired damsels while wrestling bears for sport. He is a District Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois, a Past Sovereign Prince of the of Danville AASR, member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, Royal Order of Scotland, Quram Council Allied Masonic Degrees and initiate of the Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He is also a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry for the R.E.B.I.S Research Society.

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