On 5 June 2018 e.v., I resigned from Ordo Templi Orientis.
Actually, at the time I only “went inactive”, which is what the vast majority of people do when they don’t want to keep being a member anymore, or simply just stop paying the yearly fees the Order requires to consider you a member.
It would be some weeks later, after a good talk with the Grand Secretary General of the Grand Lodge I belonged to, that I decided to fully resign: surely, this step would make it very difficult for me to ever change mind and go back to the fold, if I ever wanted to, but as I discovered it would also stop O.T.O. from adding one more number to the worldwide membership count it claims: that 4000 members number you can read on their promotional material is really something like 2000/2500, but apparently counting inactives (that is, let me state it again, people who never engage and most of the time simply forgot O.T.O. even exists) is the way to go in every self-respectable cult, and a practice the Order learned from much successful once such as the Catholic Church, and Scientology.
And it’s exactly the many not-so-subtle ties between O.T.O. and Scientology that I was forced to experience and accept over the last year that I will be talking about today. In case you want to read the story of why I decided to leave (and to an extent, why I even decided to join back then), you can do it here — in fact, it might give you even further perspectives.
This article was originally posted on marcovisconti.org in August 2019 e.v. and moved to Medium in November 2020 e.v. after a denial of service attack on my website.
First of all, some of you might know how Scientology finds its very reason of existence in Thelema: the story of how L. Ron Hubbard became secretary and assistant to Jack Parsons when the latter was the head of Agape Lodge II of O.T.O. is out there for everyone to research and read themselves, as is the tale of how the former robbed the latter of wife, yacht, money, and most importantly of those magical and alchemical secrets that led to the creation of Dianetics, the “science” and core practice of the Church of Scientology.
While I never had any formal contacts with Hubbard’s cult, I studied an evolved version of Dianetics between 2003 and 2005, as I helped facilitate back in Italy the Spiritual Technology workshops by Zivorad Slavinski, a one-time Scientologist and a lifetime member of Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian Order, as well as a close collaborator of one my own mentors, Michael P. Bertiaux. Eventually, I would be Ordained as Priest in Slavinski’s Ecclesia Gnostica Alba, another strand of the neo-gnostic and thelemic milieu I am steeped into.
While I was never really sold on what, at the time, felt to me like a system that was robbing magick of its mythical underpinning, in time I came to realise how incredibly effective it was, going at the core of the alchemical ordeal of annihilating polarity and thus Duality. I also learned first-hand how incredibly dangerous is to do such work without the proper preparation, that is the balancing of the Four Elements so many esoteric systems and mystery schools stress over — but that’s a story for another time.
This little preamble is needed to point out that I know for a fact Dianetics works, and possibly works way better than ceremonial magick for contemporary society — with some caveats I will expand upon later on. And since I never cared to join a cult (or so I thought for most of my life…), I also always stayed very clear of Scientology and only kept tabs on it during my studies in Anthropology: that is to say, I never really realised the extent of nastiness the Church lashes out on those members who decide to leave, and especially towards ex-members of the Sea Org, the “ecclesiastical” branch.
Everything changed over the past 12 months.
I genuinely never expected the level of aggression and psychological violence I received after resigning from O.T.O. and speaking out about my experience. As I completed The Wasteland, I penned another short article on Thelemic Union (now hosted also on my website) pointing out, Vice-style, the 5 things to expect after leaving the Order: but even then I was still in denial about the fact that I just resigned from a cult.
See, when you grow up in the very Catholic Rome, and when you happen to have a high-ranking lay member of the Vatican as godfather, the idea of “joining a cult” is true anathema. Even more so when you study Anthropology at University, right when people like Prof. Massimo Introvigne is kickstarting CESNUR and all the literature you can find in your backwards country is authored by the likes of the late Cecilia Gatto-Trocchi, someone that sees the Devil in every shadow and that wishes to go back to some sort of medieval, inquisition-driven theocracy: Italy, such a wonderful country!
And so most of my life I tried to avoid doing just that, even as I deepened my interests in esotericism and received initiations in various Thelemic organisations: when it came to finally giving the O.T.O. a try, despite having studied at length all the criticisms towards the reconstructions done by McMurtry, I managed to convince myself that I was not doing the dreaded thing.
And of course, I was going to be proven wrong.
I love intermissions. I guess it comes down to the fact I like to wander around, either in the mind palaces of memory or along the corpse-lanes of Hookland, like a modern-day flâneur. Students that come to my workshops know that very well, and every time the slides of my presentation say intermission, they know it’s time for a weird diversion: so, let’s go.
It was around the time my articles started to gather steam online, with my website averaging 1M hits per day (yes, you read that right), mostly thanks to some key figures in music and esotericism picking it up and resharing it to their following, that I chanced upon Leah Remini’s “Scientology and the Aftermath” series on YouTube.
As I said above, up until that moment I never really looked into Scientology beyond the praxis of Dianetics, and learning of Hubbard’s history, especially in conjunction with my people — Crowley, Parsons, Smith…
I obviously heard, if only in passing, of the many horror stories of those who escaped the cult, but I never really gave it all much attention, since, after all, I was never going to end up in the same deep waters as those too stupid to end up in such a repulsive and abusive environment.
If you haven’t watched the series, do yourself a favour and do so: while the are many good documentaries to be found on Netflix, Prime Video, et similia — and I especially recommend Louis Theroux’s “My Scientology Movie”, the only one which gives a glimpse on how auditing works, something the magicians and esotericists amongst my readers will find rather interesting — it’s Remini’s series that firmly put the spotlight on the worst of the practices of the Church of Scientology, the one called “Fair Game”.
As I watched the series, driven to it to try and understand what was happening in my life as I was being targeted by my ex-Brethren in exponentially more extreme ways — and I will speak about it in full in due time — I learned that Hubbard himself composed this policy to deal with perceived enemies of the Church.
Established in the 1950s, in response to criticism both from within and outside his organization, it targeted individuals or groups who, one made “Fair Game” are judged to be a threat to the Church and, according to the policy, can be punished and harassed using any and all means possible. In 1968, Hubbard officially canceled use of the term “Fair Game” because of negative public relations it caused, although the Church’s aggressive response to criticism continued.
Applying the principles of Fair Game, Hubbard and his followers targeted many individuals as well as government officials and agencies, including a program of covert and illegal infiltration of the IRS and other U.S. government agencies during the 1970s. They also conducted private investigations, character assassination and legal action against the Church’s critics in the media.
It was through Remini’s series that I learned that the policy remains in effect and has been defended by the Church of Scientology as a core religious practice.
Starting in the 1980s, for their major branch in Los Angeles, California, the Scientology organisation largely switched from using church members in harassment campaigns to hiring private investigators, including former and current Los Angeles police officers. The reason seemed to be that this gave the church a layer of protection in case embarrassing tactics were used and made public.
As I started to fully realise the extent of religious fundamentalism all of this entailed, I also started to accept that a very similar practice existed within Ordo Templi Orientis, and that I was now a target to those very policies myself.
At this point I think most of you want to see the gruesome proof of my claims above, and experience what kind of fair gaming I have been subjected to.
To do so we must go back to December 2018 e.v., a moment where I believed all the ruckus of the past year and a half, from denouncing the rising neo-fascism inside the Order post-Charlottesville and fighting a hopeless fight against sexual abuses here in the UK Grand Lodge, was finally starting to subside.
And again, I was wrong, and the worst was still to come. It started on Facebook, on the now-defunct “sarcastic” (read: willfully abusive) OEO131 Page, a sort of Thelemic Daily Mail put together by a cabal of individuals gravitating around James Wasserman, the same white nationalist high ranking member of the Order I spoke about in the previous article. In the intervening times this group, made of current- and ex-members of O.T.O. alike, all banded together in their hatred for “liberals, feminists, and other cancers” in a secret (or so they thought) Facebook group called Thelemic Confederacy — yes, like the Southern Confederacy, just in case someone could have a reasonable doubt about the nature of this association.
From the public Page they kept launching all sorts of abusive attacks against me, against Georgia, the Sister who denounced the rape she suffered while a member of the Order, and against a number of figures in the Thelemic milieu they deemed unworthy: Lon Milo DuQuette, Frater Sabazius X, Frater IAO131 — basically everyone who tried to warn against the rising neofascist tide.
And one day in December, this pops out:
Now, I have a thick skin. I grew up on the alt.music communities of the 90s and early 00s, which were basically a cesspit of anonymous bile constantly thrown in everybody’s face. You had to be ready for that to survive, and promoted your band.
So I was ready, somewhat, to the allegations of money soliciting, drug use, and teenage fishing on the Facebook post: I wasn’t even too worried about some Sicilians to come and whack me. What I wasn’t ready for was what I found on the 8chan link the owner of the page, one American O.T.O. member going by the name of Ut Vinceret decided to post right after my mocking comment.
In case you don’t know what 8chan is, let me tell you: it’s like 4chan, but worse. So bad that Google itself refuses to index it, and you can only reach it if you have a direct link, like in this case.
And in the event you are so blessed to be ignorant about 4chan: remember those anonymous forums of the 90s and early 00s, full of hatred and bile, I just told you about? Well, they never went away, they just got a fancy millennial name.
So I clicked, and I found a thread over 300 comments long, where they try to frame me as the leader of a Pizzagate-like cult, and actively try to get people from this alt-right neofascist online forum to come over and “do something about it”: when asking my lawyers what that actually meant, they were crystal clear in stating that this was undeniably to be classed as inchoate offense, that is, in criminal law, incitation to commit a crime where harm is intended but may or may not have actually occurred.
If you want you can read the entire thing here, as I saved it all in a .zip file.
Let me tell you: it does not make for a pleasant read, but it will give you precisely the scope of what these people thought it was ok to do to silence a dissenter — and in doing so, trying to damage also my family, my friends, the people I used to work with.
Exactly like Hubbard advised in his Fair Game policy.
It would be dishonest of me to say I wasn’t honestly worried, possibly for the first time in my life: despite everything, I simply never saw this level of hatred coming.
Of course, I had been naive, because there have been those who tried to sound the red alert for me. For instance, this is one of the many warnings I received since the day I started to talk publicly about this whole mess:
Here this person is trying to make me realise the actual nature of the people behind the OEO131 Page, and the Thelemic Confederacy group, already in July 2018 e.v. — six months before the 8chan debacle.
The reason I did not listen is, honestly, because I could not believe it. Surely we could have disagreements online, even vocal ones, but to go these lengths, to be violent even… certainly this kind of terrible behaviour only happens in abusive cults, right? And the O.T.O. wasn’t one… right?
Again, I was wrong. And again, I proved to myself how naive I had been, because this Ut Vinceret individual even took the time to contact me, more or less post-Charlottesville (September 2017 e.v.), while at the time I was being vocal about the neofascist behaviours of Wasserman and his coterie of rednecks, by telling me that I better stop “because I was living in a glass house”. Unfortunately I cannot provide a screenshot this time, because the person proceeded to block me, possibly deleting his profile, and thus I am unable to go look in the messaging history.
But now those words did assume a completely different tone.
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King Jr.
The silence of my friends still in the Order was deafening. Even those who supported me during all the previous months of heated debate online and not, even those I went an arm and a leg to defend, just disappeared.
And that was a wake up call that me realise the full extent of the cult-like mentality you find in Ordo Templi Orientis nowadays, exactly the same as Remini and Rinder speak about in their programme about Scientology: the fear of ever doing anything right against the many wrongs, else being the target of this kind of abuse.
You could argue that there is no solid proof that these people, of which I have names, addresses, and proof of involvement in trying to orchestrate a violent action against me, my family, and Treadwell’s Books, were actively employed by the leaders of O.T.O. — but it is undeniable that those very leaders know exactly who these people are, and what they were doing, thus either have been using them indirectly, or are in fact unable to stop them — and that is without doubt the worst scenario.
Over the next six months from these events I reached out for many of those who, before me, left the Order and voiced their dissent against it: Jerry Cornelius, Gerald Del Campo, and others that are less known. It was harrowing to realise that I was just the last in a list of victims that dates back to the 80s, the moment Bill Breeze took over the reins.
So what to do next? I have some ideas, especially thanks to the many hours I spent talking to some of the IX members who left in disgust in the past year. But those will wait a little more.
Let’s now take a time machine and go back to a year ago, in Barcelona, Spain: a good number of lovers of Thelema and of Art are gathered for a conference under the banner of Academia Ordo Templi Orientis on the occasion of the exhibition Black Light: Secret Traditions in Art since the 1950s at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània.
Behind the scenes, the annual meeting of the Aropagus of O.T.O. was also on-going, with the people at the top discussing strategies, receiving reports, and presenting solutions to the ever-growing list of problems: the constant lack of publications (despite publishing materials on Thelema was literally one of the fundamental reasons for the Order to exist), the shrinking number of members (no matter how much the Treasurer, and most quoted to be the next leader Vere Chappell , kept doctoring the values), and last but surely not least finally addressing all the infractions perpetrated by James Wasserman and his cabal of neo-fascists — the same who would turn to abuse me as described above — by putting together a much expected policy for online interaction between members.
But that never happened, with the Outer Head of the Order, Hymenaeus Beta aka the aforementioned Bill Breeze, deciding to adjourn any decision regarding that to next year.
In case you’ve forgotten, or haven’t read all the links I provided so far: this decision was crucial, because in the times after Charlottesville, with many members of the Order being active in the same circles feeling finally vindicated and uniting under the banner of an incredibly abusive and yet “respected” member of the old guard, the fractions in the Order were at an all time high. And yet, the answer from the top was, once again, to disregard the abuses, to cover up, to let the perpetrators just go free to keep abusing for another year.
It’s not by chance that a few days after this meeting, right when yet another storm explodes online as Georgia publishes a very poor review of the event just to be immediately attacked in every possible way by those unable to take criticism, the Supreme and Holy King of the UK Grand Lodge (the same Fisher King of The Wasteland) sent out an email where he made very clear that no O.T.O. member should ever speak publicly about any abuse, because “…the reputation of O.T.O. is clearly damaged by this salacious chatter, which can be in nobody’s interest but those of our critics and detractors.”
Speak about having your priorities straight.
There is an Italian word for that: omertá. It places importance on silence in the face of questioning by authorities or outsiders; non-cooperation with authorities, the government, or outsiders; and willfully ignoring and generally avoiding interference with the illegal activities of others (i.e., not contacting law enforcement or the authorities when one is aware of, witness to, or even the victim of certain crimes).
As all of this kept unfolding, several key members of the Sovereign Sanctuary (the highest collective in the Order) resigned as well, and some of them started speaking to me.
A key moment in Leah Remini’s programme on Scientology is explaining how nothing it promises can actually be achieved. Yes, at the beginning of this article I said quite clearly that Dianetics works, but it’s important to expand on it now: it works in destroying polarities, and it does without caring if the person receiving treatment is ready for it or not, and in this it’s fundamentally different from Magick, which puts extreme emphasis on building up to critical experiences with discipline and focused will.
However, Hubbard wrote extensively on how the technique would eventually cure every illness, extend life, unlock superhuman abilities, and so forth. None of it is true, and the programme does a fantastic job in showing off how people will still stick to the program and remain inside the abusive cult even when, after reaching the highest level possible in the system and having spent up to half a million dollars to do so, it turns out they are still nothing but simple human beings.
In my years in O.T.O. I begun to realise something similar myself: as I wrote before, in my Lodge here in London, UK there was no real authority that could teach me, or anyone else, anything on the rituals of initiation or on the intricacies of the Gnostic Mass apart from what anyone could find published: things might be different elsewhere, but that’s my experience — and I can testify it was the same across the UK.
The Study Materials after each Degree were nothing but cheap photocopies of general essays, no more than 10 pages each, with the final one in the Man of Earth Triad being just one page.
A defining moment was receiving the one for the IV and Perfect Initiate Degrees: during the ritual you are conferred, by name only, with a host of Masonic degrees (a vestige of the times of O.T.O. as Academia Pan-Masonica, and a testament that Crowley never got around to truly rework those as he did for the previous), and yet right after the ceremony you read in the Study Paper that the O.T.O. does not have them in full detail, and in fact asks you to provide them should you be able to.
But it was only when I started speaking with those members of the Sovereign Sanctuary that resigned that I fully realised there was next to nothing at the very top either. The VIII Degree ritual does not exist, those admitted to it are just read this “secret instruction” by Crowley which has been freely available online for decades. Things seem to be different from the IX Degree ritual, as one does exist: however it was heavily inferred by those I spoke with that only a handful of the few ever admitted to it know what to do with it, which is painfully obvious given the state of utter disrepair the Order is in, and the fact such exalted knowledge should grant the full accomplishment of “…the Great Work, Summum Bonum, True Wisdom, and Perfect Happiness”.
Another fact that was communicated to me is that as of June 2018 e.v. only 32 members of the Sovereign Sanctuary of the IX Degree existed, in stark contrast with the way Crowley used to recognise those able to do its Work, and a paper was passed to me by Tau Merlin (one of the resignees) denouncing the inability of the Order to truly initiated anyone past the VI Degree, and mostly due to the leadership’s unwillingness to recognise people’s advancement (in a classic David Miscavige’s style) or, worse still, because those able to deliver such initiations were simply disinterested in travelling and taking an active part in the Order’s ritual work, something I witnessed directly here in the UK.
In the end, it turned out that Ordo Templi Orientis and Scientology had much more in common than anyone would be comfortable admitting.
This long and distressing experience made me realise that the whole Thelemic milieu could be hypothetically divided in two groups: the first is made of those zealots blind to O.T.O.’s misgivings and that will go to every possible length to defend it, turning a blind eye when not actively perpetrating abuses on behalf of it. I have tried, and failed, to understand the level of cognitive dissonance that is going on inside their mind, because it must truly must be devastating, and sooner or later it will eat them alive. They are the Black Brothers, and are those who will read this article, and others like mine, and will just scoff at it, dismiss it, try to nitpick every minor inaccuracy, when not going on to engage actively on abuse against the dissenter.
The second group is made of those curious about Thelema, and perhaps are blissfully unaware of everything I have recounted here and elsewhere, or are still desperately clinging on the ideal of “Thelemic Brotherhood”, O.T.O. promises and fails to actually deliver. To them I can only ask to find the strength to open their eyes, accept that the time for Orders is over, that the idea of trickle-down Gnosis is surpassed since in the Age of Information everything, everything can be found if one is willing to earnestly look for it, beyond the need for gatekeepers of any sort — because it’s too common for such gatekeepers to turn into despots and wrongdoers.
And that the last thing one would want is to be seen as complicit.
Thelema exhorts you to be the Hero of your own story, but to do so you have to muster the Courage of the Gods and learn how to fight against injustice, tyranny, and superstition — which is, incidentally, what you swear as a Minerval.
Avery good friend of mine, and a mentor in everything arcane, taught me that re-enchantment is resistance: that is the true motto of Hookland, that place you visited one and yet you can never find it on any map.
And so this has been my Work in the past twelve months: I could have easily let all the bile thrown at me get me, and engage into all sorts of fights and nastiness both online and out there, in the so-called real world. But instead I elected to laugh in their faces, live my best life, stop wasting every free time I had into working for an organisation that never did anything for me and instead return to produce music, art, and real, actual magick.
One year later I have once again found Love, I have re-established an alternative to their restrictive vision of Thelema through Ecclesia Gnostica Universalis, thanks to the help of mentorship of yet another IX Degree resignee, and I have met dozens of beautiful people and honest seekers through my many workshops here in London and through online classes.
I could have easily made this article twice as long, posting screenshot after screenshot, and showing you who’s who and what they did or said in all the gruesome detail, but to what end, truly? The documentation is all there, safely stored away, and you never know… it might come a day when I will have to go back to it.
What is important is to never shy away from the good fight:
“Always takes sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
In conclusion, one can only hope, exactly as Leah Remini and Mike Rinder wish for their own community of Scientology survivors, that the blind can finally see — that would be indeed a feat of Magick.