Over the last few years since I first published this piece and resigned from O.T.O. it has become my most-read article thus far, restarting once again the discussion on whether or not Ordo Templi Orientis Inc. — all that’s left of the Initiatory School promised by Crowley in the Blue Equinox — has any magico-mystical validity at all, and brought back to the forefront other stories of ex-members, such as Gerald Del Campo and Allen Greenfield, as well as the scathing critique on Peter König’s website.
I have also been the target of a constant stream of abuse by my ex-Brethren, culminating in what effectively amounts to doxxing and death threats in December 2018 e.v. — I wrote about it at length in the companion piece to this one, The Aftermath, and so once you finish here, you might want to continue there.
In August 2023 e.v., almost five years to the date, one of the key players in this tragedy publicly recanted her own version of the story, changing it dramatically. I’ve added a commentary and links to further reading where appropriate.
This article was originally posted on marcovisconti.org in August 2018 e.v. and moved to Medium in November 2020 e.v. after a denial of service attack on my website.
The Wasteland is a Celtic motif that ties the barrenness of the land with a curse that must be lifted by a hero. It occurs in Irish mythology and French Grail romances, and hints of it may be found in the Welsh Y Mabinogi.
An example from Irish literature occurs in the Echtrae Airt meic Cuinn (Echtra, or adventure in the Otherworld, of Art mac Cuinn). Recorded in the 14th century but likely taken from an older oral tradition, Echtrae Airt meic Cuinn is nominally about Art, though the adventures of his father Conn of the Hundred Battles take up the first part of the narrative. Conn is High King of Ireland, but his land turns to waste when he marries the wicked Bé Chuma, an unacceptable action for the king. He searches for a way to restore his country by sailing towards the mystical western lands, and eventually washes up on an island inhabited by the niece of the sea god Manannan and her husband. He attends an otherworldly banquet, and when he returns, his wife is banished, presumably lifting the curse.
In the Arthurian Grail material, the Wasteland’s condition is usually tied to the impotence of its leader. Often the infirmity is preceded by some form of the Dolorous Stroke, in which the king is injured tragically for his sins but kept alive by the Grail. In Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the Fisher King has been wounded in a misfortune that is not revealed in the incomplete text, and his land suffers with him. He can be healed only if the hero Perceval asks the appropriate question about whom the Grail serves, but warned against talking too much, Perceval remains silent. In the First Continuation of Chrétien’s work, the anonymous author recounts how Gawain partially heals the land, but is not destined to complete the restoration. Over the course of time, romances place less emphasis on the Wasteland and more on the king’s wound. In the Lancelot-Grail Cycle the link between the devastated land and the wounded king is not absolute, and in the Post-Vulgate Cycle much more emphasis is placed on King Pellehan’s injury by Sir Balin than on the devastation this causes to his kingdom.
Scholars of the early 20th century devoted much study to the Wasteland motif. In one of the more popular works on the subject, From Ritual to Romance, author Jessie Weston suggested that the origin of the motif lies with an otherwise unattested pagan fertility cult. The book is mostly disregarded today, though T. S. Eliot credited it as the source of the title and the largest single influence on his famous poem The Waste Land.
WHY I LEFT ORDO TEMPLI ORIENTIS
If you were to do a Google search for the title of this article, you would find at least two more pieces apart from this one. I remember distinctly bumping into them over my years of active membership and, at the time, not fully grasping why someone would want to leave such an excellent Order.
And I had a lot of great time in the O.T.O.
Sure, the Order is absolutely not what it says on the tin while you apply to join, especially if you, like me, are already an experienced Thelemite who read the Blue Equinox and is expecting a fully functional structure. But, of course, if one reads Frater Sabazius X and Frater Hymenaeus Beta XII corollaries to the various Libri in the Blue Equinox, it is clear that the O.T.O. makes no claim for that model to be fully implemented: what I did discover, however, that not only it isn’t, but there is no properly strategic plan to ever implement it — unless in the Grand Lodge of United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, or UKGL as it is commonly known.
Still, I enjoyed learning and performing Liber XV: the Gnostic Mass in all the roles open to me and going through the degrees of the Man of Earth Triad, the ones that Crowley revised quite nicely for them to fit the New Aeon’s formulae: being also a Freemason, it was a great intellectual exercise to see what he kept and what he got rid of, and how everything came together quite elegantly when you properly study them and place them in the proper context.
On your own, of course, because in my 5 years at AMeTh Lodge (where I would serve as Treasurer and on-and-off webmaster), never once I was given a Degree Explanation, i.e. the lecture your Chartered Initiator should provide after the experience proper, going through the finer points of the ceremony and distilling its wisdom in simpler terms: the Master of the Lodge always said that she was never given a syllabus to learn it from and that in the end, it was about each individual to “make sense” of the rituals — which I always found problematic, since those rituals have one and one only way to interpret them, and one that is not immediately obvious to a newbie who did not have the Masonic experience, for instance.
I cannot say if this is something common in the O.T.O. as a whole. However, my interactions with members of Italy, the U.S.A., and other countries make me believe this absolute lack of instruction is unique to UKGL. Back in Italy, for instance, the Master of Khem Lodge provided explanations and lectures for the two Degrees I took there, before moving to London.
It was certainly something that at some point made me question what I was even doing in an Order that, at least in the country where I was experiencing it, provided no beautiful temples, no tremendous intellectual interaction, and indeed no initiatic and magical growth. And still, that was not what prompted me to leave: after all, I did make a handful of very good friends in it, and attending or celebrating the Gnostic Mass every month (AMeTh Lodge would not run it more than once, due to its lack of permanent temple space) was something I enjoyed a lot — maybe the value of O.T.O. was in the real sense of fellowship, camaraderie, and “brotherhood” it provided.
No, what prompted me to leave was the systemic abuse (both sexual and otherwise) and misconduct I unearthed, and the fact the people running UKGL, especially one person in the Electoral College (Soror Agape, but more on her later throughout this diary) worked to constantly silence the victims and to sweep under the rug every proof of it. Something that had been going on for years before I joined and that climaxed with a series of events I was a direct witness of. While this is genuinely something limited to UKGL, or a symptom of a more internationally widespread problem, I will try to spotlight it. For now, suffice it to say that the first reaction by one of those tasked with controlling and preventing abuse in the Order — a woman, no less — was, “oh my, this is going to be our own #metoo isn’t it?!”.
But let’s take a step back in time and space: the setting is Glastonbury, the year 2013. August. My first Summer in the UK after moving in. I was still adapting to the significant change, moving countries and all. Since spending weekends by the seaside like I used to do back in Italy was not on the cards anymore, I decided to go and finally visit the Tor, something I always wanted to do. Moreover, I was going to meet with the local O.T.O. members there — what a great thing to finally belong to an Order with actual people around the world!
See, up until this point (I was 35 at the time), my magical path had always been more or less a solitary one. The A∴A∴work is one you do with your Superior, and the other groups I had been involved with were always something that existed more on paper, and personal gnosis, than anything else. Remember the Blue Equinox model? Yeah, I definitely did join for that, and back in August 2013, while still a Minerval, it really felt like I was joining something “real” at long last.
Glastonbury wasn’t my first contact with O.T.O.
I had been initiated a few months before back in Rome, but somehow the experience there was different: I knew most of the people present for the ceremony already, either having been friends with them for years before, or having met them at social gatherings for several months before signing my papers — something that I appreciated, as I showed a sincere interest in getting to know each other first, and see if both parties were indeed a good fit for each other. And while the experience was intense, and very well performed, the temple itself was nothing more than a basement in the outskirts of Rome. Somehow, I knew there was bound to be more out there, especially since the few times I did work with others over the years as a lone wolf, I did catch a glimpse of grandeur visiting other Traditions: surely, the mighty Ordo Templi Orientis, the real deal, would have had those temples of marble one reads about in Liber XV.
I think it is important to stop for a moment now and tell you why I even decided to join O.T.O. in my mid-thirties: as I mentioned above, I had been a Thelemite most of my adult life already. I was an Aspirant of the A∴A∴. I worked with Michael Bertiaux on his multifaceted system. I ran my own group, loosely based on the AMOKOOS practices. I had been in touch with Kenneth Grant and the Typhonian Order. And, most of all, I did think of approaching O.T.O. already at the tail end of the ’90s, only to find the people running the Lodge in Rome at the time not very welcoming… in that they were heavily into heroin use and had worrying ties with neofascism. Something that will come back to haunt me, eventually.
Fifteen years later, everyone at Khem Lodge was new, and some of my closest friends were members. But that’s not the full reason as to why I joined. It was a very dark time in my life, and I needed to belong somewhere. Desperately.
My mother died of cancer, over the course of 2 mere months, just 2 years before. She passed away on the day of my birthday, no less. And right after that, my father almost died of septic shock after complications from an untreated stomach disease. All of this, right after I made the decision that it was time to leave my music career behind and reinvent myself completely. For two years, I was stuck in Rome, with no real way to put that plan into action, and taking care of my family while the rest of Italy slowly but surely kept crumbling apart under the weight of draconian austerity plans and incompetent governments.
That’s when O.T.O. appeared on my horizon once again, and that is when I thought it was time to give it a spin, since not only it offered promises of high initiation, exciting rituals, and intellectual growth, but also a community. A Brotherhood, with the capital B. Somewhere to belong.
The reason why I am placing the emphasis on this is due to the fact I am now absolutely certain that this need to belong is what moves the vast majority of people who come to Ordo Templi Orientis. And that is inherently problematic, because for the most part O.T.O. attracts broken men and women, people that need mending, comfort, support. The people I would go and meet over the years, in person as well as online, almost invariably came to the Order looking first for community, and only as an added bonus to initiation and teaching.
O.T.O. can offer none, because the Blue Equinox model I mentioned before is simply not in place. If at this point you have not read about it, go back, follow the links I provided, and become acquainted with it: it is fundamental for you to understand how the whole system is supposed to work, at least according to Crowley’s plans, to fully appreciate why without it the whole system falls down like a house of cards.
In a nutshell: O.T.O. evolved from the upper-middle-class Masonic circles that were truly popular in Crowley’s time: he thought something along the lines of, “hell, look at all those rich and powerful people, they can help me establish the Law of Thelema!”. It was a system made by rich white men steeped in imperialism and colonialism for other rich white men from the same background — and with some women on top because, well, the Adepts of the time strongly believed that you do need a woman if you wanted to work sex magical rituals.
It aimed to further modify them by creating a system that almost bordered on socialism, with those invested with the duty of government truly enlightened Women and Men who proved their worth in many different fields, fully supported by the rest of the Order. And the Order would also provide for childcare, healthcare, money troubles, and so on. A model for a new, Thelemic society. At the very top, the ideal of the Philosopher-King, a Saint on Earth, the epitome of justice and fairness, the King Solomon of Masonic Myth. And yet, a King constantly kept in check by two Revolutionaries, initiates of the highest calibre and them, too, members of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis, able to fully make use of all the Secrets they learnt to assure the rest of the Order of the strength and enlightening guidance of the one called to serve at the highest.
Down below, the Man of Earth Triad: those who joined looking for Brotherood and for Teaching, knowing of their humble position but also fully aware that, by pushing through, by truly investing in their own personal growth, according to their Wills, they could push to the next stage.
I don’t know about you, but all of this sounded absolutely perfect to me: a true meritocratic and Thelemic society. It existed!
Or so I thought.
And I kept wanting to believe it for the years I served as Officer at AMeTh Lodge, in the Valley of London. Even when the reality of things started to become clear, even when I realised the nowhere in the world the Blue Equinox model was truly in place: only in the USA there was something loosely reminiscing of it, but elsewhere the other Grand Lodges (or Kingdoms), were already getting rid of concepts like the social support, or the Revolutionaries — thus enabling a despot to stay forever at the top.
Grand Master ad vitam it said on the tin and you could be certain that’s what you were going to get.
In the first chapter of this diary, I already stated that the instruction I received was lacking, too. And that then, maybe, the takeaway one could get from this whole experience was that of Brotherhood. But what about the fact, then, that the Order seemed to attract those broken people looking for mending? Simply put, the egregore keeps attracting them, keeps milking them for dues (which are, admittedly, incredibly cheap), and keeps avoiding any responsibility when the proverbial shit hits the fan.
And now it is time to go back to Glastonbury and to introduce one of the main characters of this story.
A man that, for the sake of this particular narrative, we will call Len Golem.
Len Golem is a very tall, very big man. In the Summer of 2013 e.v. was in his late 20s, but looked 10 years older easily. He is incredibly outgoing, brash, loud, and constantly boasting about this or that. On the first day we met, he acted like a good host, and yet he kept reminding me every other second that he was the Master of the Camp and that he was well-versed in all things magical. I am not very impressed with the function room at the pub he books to run a class on the Minerval Degree symbolism, nor with the other people that attend it… but I bite my tongue, and I try to kill my innate elitism, at least this once.
Mr. Golem will become somewhat of a familiar face over the years. Right after we met, he would be stripped of his Mastership for various kinds of misdeeds, but he would always play it down, saying that the powers that be had a vendetta against him for being successful and for being friends with a persona non grata: truth be told, at the time the Glastonbury community was indeed thriving, and Mr Golem was indeed good friends with the ex-Deputy Grand Master, a fine individual if someone very vocal, very opinionated, and very anti-establishment. In case you did not realise yet, this is a tale of many factions, all at war with each other.
The loss of Mastership will, however, prove a pivotal point because stripped of it and of the spotlight it provided (something, I argue, he needed badly to keep his own emotional balance — since he also kept saying he was locked in a life that did not make him happy), our Mr Golem starts to become a real wild card. At the various gatherings, he would boast that he, in fact, was an Angel Incarnate, not a common human being. And, more privately, that he truly understood the Secrets of Sex Magick (with capital letters, no less) and that through sex, he could make any woman whole again, healing away all her woes and sorrows: an Angel and a Knight. Stories of his inappropriate conduct towards other Sisters, and towards women in general, start to pop up: and the real tragedy turned out to be that everyone would just shrug them off because, in the end, we all knew that Mr Golem was a bit of an idiot, but an innocuous idiot, the village idiot, someone with a proven record of being a bit of a slimy perv, but nothing more, nothing else… surely?!
We were wrong.
Three years pass, and like every wound left to fester for too long, sepsis takes over, and the body starts to fall to true illness: the Dolorous Blow, however, was not struck by Mr.Golem. It was another one who did so, and to meet him, we must travel to a land far away, a swampy terrain on the other side of Atlantic.
Enter our second character: Augustus Sol Invictus.
I think some of you are now wondering: that must be another name he is using to mask the real identity of the person involved, right?
Or rather, Augustus Sol Invictus is the real, current, legal name of Austin Gillespie. If you are starting to wonder if Thelema attracts, for the most part, unstable people with desperate delusions of grandeur, you might be on the right track.
Still, it is undeniable that Gillespie stands out in a crowd made mostly by middle-aged underachievers: he is young, handsome, well-read and well-spoken, and clearly very intelligent. As well as totally deranged.
In the Summer of 2013 e.v. Gillespie, at the time a Perfect Initiate of O.T.O., decides to leave it all behind, embarks on a mystical Pilgrimage on foot from Florida to the Mohave Desert (if we have to believe him), slaughters a goat as a sacrifice in the most inhumane and amateurish way, records it and puts it on YouTube (just to prove he has no clues how animal sacrifice is correctly handled), declares himself Ipsissimus of the A∴A∴ and the Prophet who will bring a true Revolution that will re-energise the Dying West (his capitals, for that Evolian touch we all clearly needs in our lives)… and gets expelled from the Order.
Our tragic hero, however, was clearly expecting something along these lines, because he immediately sends a copy of his memoirs to each and every O.T.O. Masters around the world, no matter if they oversee a tiny Camp or a mighty Lodge. Let’s read from its incipit:
To the Holy King Sabazius,
& to the Kings of the Earth:
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.
Several members of the OTO & several aspirants to the A∴A∴ have hoped for an apology from me regarding recent events, as though the conduct of my renunciation & Pilgrimage were any concern of theirs. The explanation that follows is as close as I will ever come to fulfilling that hope, so please do pay attention.
What you have now in your possession is a Class A Publication of the A∴A∴ This is the Record of an Enochian working spanning thirty days from the New Moon of the Tenth of April to the New Moon of the Ninth of May. Many of you will be outraged by this publication just as you were outraged by my Beltane publication of The Tower, or War, as it is common knowledge that no one, especially when a 29-year-old boy, may claim the Grade of Ipsissimus, and, therefore, the use of the A∴A∴ Seal must be either a juvenile provocation or some sort of practical joke. Be it known that these are published as Class A documents because I, who have reached the pinnacle of the A∴A∴ system, decree them to be such. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
It is of no concern to me whether you read this Record or not; I have simply been commanded to publish this unto you. Neither is it my concern whether you believe the account recorded, though I doubt that any sane person who knows me would question my integrity where Magick is concerned. It is, however, incumbent upon me to detail the events leading up to this working, that for the sincere reader a context may be provided for the information contained in the Record.
And if they are still capable of shame, then should this Record weigh upon the conscience of each of them: for in reading this will you all soon discover that far greater events were in motion than could justify my condescension to participate in petty local politics or to defend myself against the hysteric slander of fools & cowards. Neither will I defend myself now: for having witnessed the vastness of God & having suffered the ordeals of the Wilderness, I will be damned before ever I stoop to the level of contending with simple-minded bureaucrats. The time for politics is over; the time for Revolution has come.
I am the successor of Aleister Crowley, a second Prophet of Thelema, here to purge by fire those of you who would call yourselves Thelemites. May the myth be destroyed that this is an Aeon in which we make a feeble attempt to swap one Saviour for another: This is the New Aeon, & a New Vision shall reign. This shall be an Age of oracles & demigods, of heroes & god-emperors, of bards & sorcerers. Think not that the old gods sent one Prophet that the world may so easily fall back into the worship of a single idol to the exclusion of truth; but rather strive for godhood yourselves, that together we may bring forth the Renaissance, the Great Resurrection of the Ancient Ways.
Love is the law, love under will.
War Be unto the Ends of the Earth.
Now read it again, but this time try to do it with the mock accent he uses in his videos, for added comedic value.
I think this is enough to showcase the level of derangement reached by Gillespie. And yet, if you think this was the Dolorous Blow I was mentioning above, you would be wrong. Yes, I believe it is him who kickstarted the domino effect that brought the Wasteland to the Kingdoms of Ordo Templi Orientis, but not because he fancied himself the literal Second Coming™ of Crowley, but because the leadership of the Order failed to truly stamp him down — and it is my firm belief they did not do it because Gillespie still served a greater plan at work behind the scenes.
Gillespie/Invictus would go on in the years to come to become a minor celebrity in the Alt-Right, attempting a Senate run (failed), trying to become a political agitator by publishing his own media outlet, “The Revolutionary Conservative” (failed), and then leaving politics first, and Thelema second behind to rebrand himself as Odinist (no surprises there!) and hustling to raise the funds for his “Thornton Park Adventure Club”, a survivalist group where men can come together and revitalise masculinity, learn how to fight, swim, and generally do all those things you can read in a “Conan the Barbarian” novel. I think at this point is needless that I add that this project, too, failed. At the moment of writing this piece, July 2018 e.v., his platform is reduced to posting fascist imagery and quotes on Instagram, and speaking on YouTube about fatherhood: the fact this man has 8 children, all home-schooled, is worrying.
UPDATE JANUARY 2020 e.v. : eventually, Gillespie would end up in jail on several incredibly serious criminal charges. At the time of writing this update, he’s awaiting trial. Read more here.
He did succeed however in one thing, and before moving onward to the next part of this multifaceted narrative, I think is important to address it: he managed to embolden a group of disaffected, disenfranchised, and disempowered youths that the current system, both spiritual and not, completely left behind. One of these was a fellow O.T.O. brother, Matthew Lyons (he’d tell me he took the name of a well-known antifascist writer, used in irony, but that turned out to be one of his many lies): a 23 years old kid that spent months online as a troll, and even more as MAGA activist and Gillespie’s puppet as a member of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK), spouting all sorts of abuse against “the lefties”, getting involved with truly shady characters such as Gavin McInness and his Proud Boys, and eventually dying of overdose alone: I had countless private exchanges with this person, and while it is evident he was on the wrong side of history, he was so because people like Gillespie manipulated him. You know when you hear of those Islamic youths being radicalised by mullahs and caliphs? Same story. And same tragic outcome.
UPDATE JANUARY 2021 e.v. : the photo above, which became one of the iconic shots of the Unite The Rally neofascist event in Charlottesville, picture Matthew Lyons sporting a Thelemic hoodie while acting as McInness bodyguard. This very photo here was the catalyst of this entire string of events, and likewise the Charlottesville’s rally was ground zero for the intervening 3 years of madness that eventually led to Trump’s coup attempt on January 6th 2021 e.v.
“Ok, wait a second” I hear you say, “Why blaming the leadership of O.T.O. for Gillespie’s downward spiral? In the end they expelled him, that is all they could have done!”
There are two problems with this line of thinking: first and foremost, you must suspend your disbelief for a second and realise that we are talking about the leadership of a mystical, initiatory Order that promises you not certainty in Attainment, but at least the (mystical) sustenance needed to proceed on the path of Attainment. O.T.O. is not supposed to be an idle game for grown-up children, but a true School of the Mysteries: those who reach IX Degree, the Sanctuary of the Gnosis, are to be addressed as “Thrice Holy, Thrice Illuminated and Thrice Illustrious”, and along the whole experience full emphasis is put on the fact these are not empty words, but, as opposed to Freemasonry and every other system of the Old Aeon, in O.T.O. you truly can reach those exalted highs. And if you do, surely you do not let a third rate Swamp Mussolini ran amok, and get other, younger, impressionable members down that spiral with them.
But that’s not the only issue, and with the next bit of information we truly start to show how the Emperor truly has no clothes: because in 2008 e.v. another figure starts to come out under the spotlight of the wider Thelemic community — J.Daniel Gunther. He styles himself as the Preamonstrator of the A∴A∴, but not just any A∴A∴, but the One & True Great White Brotherhood™, and in doing so breaking years of accepted convention that, since the Work of the Aspirant is done in private, one cannot truly debate which temporal manifestation of that Order is legit and which not. I won’t go into further details about it, but if you are curious you can take a deeper dive here: personally, I do not agree with all that is written there, but it makes for a very compelling argument.
Still, Mr. Gunther arrives on the scene (or at least, lets the spotlight hit him), and strong of a fairly decent book (especially given that almost none of the aforementioned members of the Sovereign Sanctuary has been publishing anything else but primers), but even more so of the support from the O.T.O. (the Outer Head of the Order, Frater Hymenaeus Beta, as well as the Grand Master of the Australian Grand Lodge, Shiva, are well-known students of his), and out of sudden is open season for everyone who does not conform to the gospel of the new World Teacher: and I use the word gospel for a reason, because one worrying trait of a great deal of his followers is the virulent neo-reactionary attitudes and worldviews, reminiscing of the worst American Dominionism and bearing very little resemblance to Thelema: it’s like if Crowley had a demented offspring with Evola, with Hitler winning WWII and giving the USA to the Ku Klux Klan — that’s the kind of image you get when trying to discuss magick, religion, politics, or philosophy with the average Guntherite.
Now, I have met Mr. Gunther twice: in May 2013 e.v. and in June 2017 e.v., both times attending his lectures. He appeared to me as a man clearly lost in his guru delusion, always distant and aloof as if he was trying very extra hard to look and act “legit”, and a lot of his theories should be debated fully without the usual clique of sycophants trying to shut down every discourse, but somehow I wanted to believe him to be a serious Adept. The World Teacher, the Praemonstrator of the One & Only Great White Brotherhood™? Hell no. Surely he never publicly acted in the demented way his followers do online — albeit a lot can be said for him enabling them. It might even be that some of them were convicted, and sentenced, murderers… chilling.
However the problem arises when we consider “Guntherism”, or rather, “Duplexity”, a term coined by Dathan Biberstein in order to give credence to the theory (retracted officially multiple times, but still peddled “behind closed doors”) that there is only one true A∴A∴, that the O.T.O. must be in its service, and that the people who ran both are infallible and worthy of adoration and worship, like in the worst cult conceivable.
Because one of those people is the actual villain of this narrative, the longa manus who has been trying to destabilise the Thelemic community for years now, the person who first enabled, and then expelled, Gillespie, thus being indirectly the cause of the year-long attempted Alt-Right takeover of Crowley and his legacy, and whose minions are behind the silencing of abuse that has recently surfaced here in the UK.
Many would argue that Ordo Templi Orientis as we know it today would not exist without the efforts and ingenuity of James Wasserman: he told the story himself in “In the Center of the Fire: A Memoir of the Occult 1966–1989”, a book that I consider fundamental for everyone who wants to truly understand the contemporary Thelemic milieu. In an incredibly candid and honest way, the author spins a tale of “daring excesses of sex and drugs and rock n roll — along with the personal transformations and penalties such a lifestyle brought forth”. Throughout the book, a clear message is constantly pushed to the reader, and that is that drugs and sex are bad and that the way of the Adept is one of moderation and balance: I have wondered many times what Crowley himself would have thought of it, because surely he was big on Balance, but only by constantly plunging yourself in the Highs and the Lows of Experience. Perhaps one can frame Wasserman’s guilt about his past “daring excesses” by understanding how overdose took the life of one of his best friends and Brothers: the narrative stops with this dramatic event, in 1989 e.v., and ever since he has become the main voice of ultra-reactionary conservatism inside Thelema.
On that note, let’s take a detour to show the analysis that Peter Koenig offer on his website dedicated to the wider O.T.O. Phenomenon. In the chapter “The Slaves Shall Serve”, titled not only after a line in Liber AL vel Legis but more critically after another of Wasserman’s book, we read:
For practical purposes we should explicate only the statements of high degree members, since they possess a model character. The two books of the joint founder of the ‘Caliphate’, James Wasserman, which are advertised even on the official web page of the ‘Caliphate’, are particularly remarkable. Wasserman also wrote the text which is attached to Crowley’s Tarot set. We will discuss however his two politically-oriented works: “The Templars and the Assassins” and “The Slaves Shall Serve”.
On the back of “The Templars…” from the year 2001 William Breeze (chief of the ‘Caliphate’) and Michael Aquino (once chief of the Temple of Set) express their recommendations; the work therefore receives a special meaning for all members. Wasserman undertakes therein a Tour de Force through the history of the old Knights Templars and constructs, like many O.T.O. — Thelemites, a historical continuity up to the O.T.O. The book brings the old Assassins, the Hashishim, into the drama. The Assassins of Hasan i Sabah were Muslim, politically-motivated killers who eliminated their political enemies selectively.
Following 9/11, such statements have now naturally become problematic. As a sequel, Wasserman penned his second book in which he reports on the current situation. In “The Slaves Shall Serve” of 2004 he calls for readers to reach for weapons: “Buy guns” and “You MUST join the National Rifle Association”.
Many Thelemites maintain a preference for many kinds of martial arts, including Ninjutsu, the Japanese art historically associated with assassination and occult practices. Such pursuits they gladly justify from Liber AL which constantly promotes fighting, war and all kinds of Armageddon scenarios.
Wasserman goes now much further and propagates a “militarism, patriotism”, “a strong military, decisive national self interest” and the “concept of the self-reliant citizen-soldier”. What are his motives?
Wasserman’s cry for combat and his call for weapons goes hand in hand with the religious fundamentalism which at present cripples America — or propels the country, depending upon one’s point of view. Wasserman holds that America is the freest country in the world, currently threatened by dark powers and can be released only by Crowley’s teachings . In view of real and chimerical threats, the Thelemic faith becomes again an unbroken, combative confession. Wasserman compares evil powers which attack or threaten America with the Thelemic version of Satan = Choronzon, who stands for everything that blocks the magician on his way to perfection. Choronzon can be therefore everything, a woman, an idea, the own Ego, whatever the Thelemite wants. For Crowley, Choronzon was even a completely manifest demon which could be ceremonially evoked. Wasserman proves quite clearly that many Thelemites seem to be religious fanatics who see themselves as do-gooders and a type of master race. And that leaves the question: what now is Evil for Wasserman?
He denounces the U.S. government as a police and monitoring state, the FBI as infiltrated by “psycho-fascists” and he is also afraid of the global rule of “Islamo-fascists” and the United Nations. He not only is anti-European but in his opposition to Communism even defends the Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy. Wasserman is for reinstating public school prayer, as if one can simply replace the word God by a Thelemic divinity (Ra Hoor Khuit, perhaps?). He refers continuously to the John Birch Society, a Right-wing organization opposed to a “global conspiracy”, and appoints himself as a sort of Birch role model.
And contrary to all Thelemites and O.T.O.- members I know, Wasserman completely openly proclaims: become active, write to politicians and newspapers, purchase and stash weapons.
But note: Wasserman sees a line of descent from the O.T.O back to Muslim assassins and warns at the same time of “Islamo- fascists”? Here he must be careful or he will shoot himself in the foot. He must make a distinction between the selective killing of the Assassins and the random killing of Bin Laden. But this distinction may be lost on some, although selective murdering of specific enemies deemed to be threatening does not seem to worry Wasserman.
He appeals to the American Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, furthermore throwing in the “Charter of Human Rights” (a.k.a. Crowley’s Liber OZ) , in which the right to free expression of one’s will is not only required, but likewise the authorization to kill those who refuse this right is “granted.”
Although Wasserman does not write it explicitly, the reader may gather the impression that he compares the ‘Caliphate’ with the Waco group, which he defends. You remember? A small farm of cultists, up to their neck in weapons, besieged by the FBI. Women and children almost all killed. Wasserman seems to use this tragedy to foment paranoia and imply that the ‘Caliphate’ might become a similar “noble victim” unless the members stash guns as high as the chimney.
To be fair, not all Thelemites support such positions. I actually met some high degree members who feel embarrassed by Wasserman and consider his books terrible. Nevertheless, his book defending Islamic assassination (“The Templars and the Assassins”) is sold on the ‘Caliphate’s U.S. Grand Lodge website through their online bookstore.
I would have never thought that the day would come where I would realise that a good deal of what Koenig posted on his website, a monstrous collage of anti-Thelemic material, was actually a serious cry of warning.
Reading “In The Center of the Fire…” and the successive books makes it evident how there are two distinct James Wasserman: the idealistic thelemite hippie that took great risks to move away from his previous, crazed Superior, Marcelo Ramos Motta, to help establish the modern O.T.O., and the bitter man that believes America to have the undeniable, god-given right to oppress the rest of the world. And looking at the socio-political climate of these last years of the 2010s, one could rightfully argue that Wasserman’s lunacy was one of the first evident seeds of the crazed legions of Trump supporters plaguing the crumbling United States of America nowadays. In time, his constant rants on social media made also evident how he delights in his role of leader of the ever-growing Alt-Right cult inside Thelema, one should be again honest and admit he did have prophetic skills, after all.
We might now be able to understand how the appearance on the scene of someone like Augustus Invictus could have been seen as an unexpected boon to someone with Wasserman’s outlooks. Invictus was initiated in up to Third Degree in Florida, the area that Wasserman oversees as Bishop of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, and the person who acted as Initiator was a certain Frater Teleios, secretary to J.Daniel Gunther and close associate of Wasserman — this, a piece of information I gathered from Teleios himself, when a year ago he felt compelled to take me by a side after a Lodge meeting (he recently moved to London to marry Soror Agape — remember the one I mentioned at the beginning of this long narrative? We are getting there) to try and bully me into stopping criticising his mentors. When I asked how it was possible for a Chartered Initiator of experience, mentored by two of the so-called Adepts of the Current, not to see the worrying arc Invictus was following, Teleios quickly dismissed me by saying that “he seemed fine at the time, maybe just a bit weird”.
NOTE: in the weeks and months after the original publication of this article, Teleios took his Facebook profile to call me a liar, since he could have never been a Chartered Initiator at the time, being a mere Second Degree. He did so before promptly removing my comments, and banning me from his page, while letting his Brethren showing support and calling me “mentally unstable”. I think that, for the sake of truth, I have nothing to offer more than I simply believe what he told me in private at the time, and that I believe he did so thinking I would just accept his word and be done with it. I have ever since learned to record conversations that might be of interest.
Interestingly, right after this attempt at defamation, Teleios would go on penning a critically-derided book titled “One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy” — yet another feeble attempt at establishing the party line.
For the sake of Truth, I must report that it was allegedly Wasserman himself behind Invictus’ expulsion from O.T.O. in 2013 e.v., but I have been long wondered if the real reason for that was that Invictus claimed the Grade of Ipsissimus in the A∴A∴, thus putting himself above everyone else, including all the actors of this narrative — something clearly unacceptable for the uber-narcissist Wasserman.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2020 e.v.
James Wasserman passed on 18 November 2020 e.v. — few days after his idol Donald J. Trump lost the presidential election and started to attempt a coup to undermine democracy and freedom. Oh the irony.
It is time to wrap up this rather depressing tour of the Wasteland, but not before coming back a full circle: after all, back at the beginning, I stated my reason for leaving Ordo Templi Orientis was my inability to comply with the systemic silencing of abuse perpetrated by the leaders of the Order.
After years of idyllic relationship with O.T.O., serving it in various official roles and even being short-listed as potential next Master of AMeTh Lodge (only for a moment, because I was already deemed too problematic, too opinionated, and too strong-willed by a Fisher King that only allowed sycophants around his throne), I came to experience such abuse twice in the span of a mere six months, between August and December 2017 e.v. — and I realised my code of ethics simply could not coexist with the Order’s complete lack of the same.
The first instance was the huge backlash online after a picture of Matthew Lyons and Gavin McInness, courtesy of Getty no less, surfaced right after the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, with Lyons sporting a Thelemic hoodie and proudly boasting on social media how Thelema should be in support of those odious ideologies and people: this would lead Wasserman side with Trump’s incoherent rants about “blaming both sides”, and months of debate inside O.T.O. that showed the true colours of at least half the membership, outing itself as an ultra-reactionary and ultra-right wing as Wasserman himself, while the various governing bodies of the Order did absolutely nothing to address the situation — effectively proving that Wasserman and his lemmings were either untouchables, or, worse, actually supported by the Hymenaeus Beta and the Sovereign Sanctuary.
No matter how virulent the attacks from so-called “Brethren” actively espousing neo-fascist ideologies or even acting as nazi-apologists, the leadership of O.T.O. did nothing at all. The attacks continue to this day, as well as the absolute silence and lack of action from those Thrice Holy Thelemic Saints who should be endowed with Solomon’s wisdom.
Only a few tried to stem the tide: the Supreme and Holy King of the Grand Lodge of the United States of America, Sabazius X, and Rodney Orpheus IX. I will get back to them later.
And even still, this was not rock bottom. The full extent of the Order’s unwillingness to deal with serious issues became crystal clear through the ordeals of Sister Georgia, which she recounted in a series of articles on the Thelemic Union website. She first came to me for support, and naively I convinced her to put her trust in the Order’s justice, to restrain her righteous fury and let the Grand Tribunal of UKGL do its work because I could vouch for the goodwill of those people.
UPDATE AUGUST 2023 e.v. : five years later, Georgia van Raalte completely changed her story and recanted her accusations. You can read my statement here.
While this tragically puts the events to follow in a different light, in no way it changes the reality of an Order that is unable to offer sanctuary to its members. It certainly doesn’t change the issue regarding the ultra-reactionary tide inside of it.
I was wrong.
The Grand Tribunal took six months to just fiddle their fingers, and then eventually allow our first actor, Mr. Golem, to resign — so that they wouldn’t have to actually pass a guilty verdict on him.
In all this time, Georgia was contacted only twice by the Grand Tribunal’s secretary through two very informal emails. One female Sovereign Grand Inspector General, and one member of the Electoral College, did offer her a point of contact, but never once checked up on her or were proactive in offering pastoral care. All of this while another Sister — who has elected to keep her privacy absolute — told me of another abuse by the same man, and while the entire Glastonbury community was kept in the dark as to why their Oasis was first suspended and then closed down for good.
Through all these months, both Georgia and I were at the centre of a smear campaign perpetrated on social media by various actors, all connected to the usual Wasserman cliques. No one in the Order did anything to stop it, even when asked to help in any form: one of these buffoons was contacted and replied he could not give a damn about stopping his online chattering… and that was it.
The end of the line was a disgusting, holier-than-thou post on a public Facebook forum by that very Soror Agape that has been looming in this narrative since the very beginning, like the shadow of an evil hag. She commanded silence, slut-shamed, victim-shamed, and gaslighted Georgia in front of thousands of people reading online while rabble-rousing the British members to do the same. To add insult to injury, an official communication from the Supreme and Holy (Fisher) King Hyperion would follow via email, doubling down on the command for absolute silence and complacency. You do not speak of abuse in UKGL — if you do, you are undesirable and will be ostracised by the community.
That was my last straw: there was no justice to be had in this Order, no hope for progression through the system unless you were a yes-man and a sycophant, and, even worse, the one faction that was shown to have the most political power was the one trying to reframe Thelema as a neo-fascist philosophy.
I may have forgotten to add: Soror Agape is, obviously, one of Wasserman and Gunther’s most loyal lapdogs. A person who, while Master of Amarantos Camp years ago, would have her Charter removed for enacting rituals showcasing bits and pieces from higher Degrees she did not have at the time (a MAJOR no-no in O.T.O., even if all the rituals are out there for everyone to read and put in action), and yet a few years later she would come back, get invited to V Degree and given a seat on the Electoral College. Rigged much? Yeah, I thought so as well. And there is absolutely nothing to do about it.
One of the ways the people in O.T.O. try to shame those who leave is by accusing them of being “quitters” — and that truly shows how this Holy Order is becoming nothing else than a cult, where an increasingly dumb membership, deprived of any coherent teaching, is led to believe some exalted Adepts are at the helm, where in fact at the top sits a Fisher King who is unwilling to accept the reality: his inaction made him wounded, and thus the Land is suffering.
Some people will read this and dismiss it all as the words of someone who hates the O.T.O., who wants to bring it into disrepute, who has all sorts of nefarious agendas.
Yet I felt the need to write this because I absolutely love the ideals behind Ordo Templi Orientis and Thelema, and it hurt me beyond words to see the pits both are being dragged into. I loved my time in it, and I hoped I could add my skills and abilities to its legacy. I made some true friendships through it and forged bonds of true Brotherhood. I did meet some real Adepts: Frater Spiritus, the current Grand Secretary General of UKGL — the one I hope will heal this Land in due time. Frater A., and Frater B., both members of the Sovereign Sanctuary, offered a glimpse of what true leadership could be like. Frater W., the Most Wise Sovereign of Ararita Chapter, is the only one who truly stayed true to our friendship and Brotherhood, but also to the duties of his Office, offering real support through the past year. Frater KB, my Initiator in Minerval and First Degrees. These are the kind of people I hoped the Order would be made of — instead of the nasty crowd of maladjusted grown-up children both running it and being enslaved by it.
So here I am, a quitter. Or, possibly, someone who is doing his Will.
Then in the might of the Lion did I formulate unto myself that holy and formless fire, קדש, which darteth and flasheth through the depths of the Universe.
At the touch of the Fire Qadosh the earth melted into a liquor clear as water.
At the touch of the Fire Qadosh the water smoked into a lucid air.
At the touch of the Fire Qadosh the air ignited, and became Fire.
At the touch of the Fire Qadosh, O Lord, the Fire dissipated into Space.
At the touch of the Fire Qadosh, O Lord, the Space resolved itself into a Profundity of Mind.
At the touch of the Fire Qadosh the Mind of the Father was broken up into the brilliance of our Lord the Sun.
At the touch of the Fire Qadosh the Brilliance of our Lord was absorbed in the Naught of our Lady of the Body of the Milk of the Stars.
Then only was the Fire Qadosh extinguished, when the Enterer was driven back from the threshold,
And the Lord of Silence was established upon the Lotus flower.
Then was accomplished all that which was to be accomplished.
And All and One and Naught were slain in the slaying of the Warrior 418,
In the slaying of the subtlety that expanded all these things into the Twelve Rays of the Crown,
That returned unto One, and beyond One, even unto the vision of the Fool in his folly that chanted the word Ararita, and beyond the Word and the Fool; yea, beyond the Word and the Fool.
Liber DCCCXIII vel ARARITA
sub figûra DLXX
Zenit of London, July 2018 e.v.