WHEN IT’S TIME TO LEAVE YOUR MAGICAL ORDER
There is a way out. Climb off the wheel. What do you have to lose?
Since I first published the article about leaving behind Ordo Templi Orientis, I have received dozens of messages and emails, all asking a version of the same question. This one:
“I maintained membership of the O.T.O. because I was advised to complete initiations. Do you think that it is worth it?”
This refers to the often repeated, in fact, almost drilled-in narrative you are presented by fellow O.T.O. members since you first joined the Order. That is, if you decide to progress past the first or introductory Degree, called Minerval, you will form an indelible bond with the Order, and you really should stick around to complete the Man of Earth Triad — the Degrees from Minerval to Perfect Initiate — so that the “93 Current can permeate your Body of Light by activating each of the main seven chakras”.
This is most certainly what Crowley had in mind when reformulating the Degrees of O.T.O. and adding Thelema to the original mix of Masonic symbology. Besides notes regarding the Degrees of Minerval and First, Crowley didn’t invest much time developing these ideas further. Several hints can be found throughout his vast corpus, often hidden in plain sight — if you know what to look for — in publications like Book of Lies, Liber Aleph, or even his poetry published in The Equinox. But we never got a definitive manual of the inner workings of Ordo Templi Orientis from Crowley, and those who claimed heirship since winning a copyright case in the USA almost 40 years ago have consistently failed to do it, too.
There is also another issue, one of magical nature. All the original rituals of O.T.O. claim the lineage and source of initiation to stemming from the Grand Master Baphomet — identically to how, in Freemasonry, all of the initiatory steps are granted in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe (or some iterations of the same concept). Nowadays, the O.T.O. you can join by just sending an email to your local body (if they bother replying, that is) will present you oaths to swear to this or that National Grand Master or to the International one — Bill Breeze, aka Hymenaeus Beta — if you reside in a country without a national infrastructure (hint: most of them).
This is crucial. Initiation comes from something other than a human being. And while “Baphomet” was also the name and title chosen by Crowley as Grand Master of O.T.O., Baphomet as an egregore represents something other than Crowley the man. In Thelema, this happens several times, with other egregores such as V.V.V.V.V. or Phoenix in the A∴A∴, for instance. And this is also precisely why, behind closed doors, the current leader of the A∴A∴ lineage strictly tied with the O.T.O. declared himself to be the incarnation of V.V.V.V.V. . There is an attempt to de-secularise Thelema, returning to its mystical roots. Still, unfortunately, it’s a simple appeal to a prophetic authority that exists only in these people’s minds.
And so, is there even a true lineage to be passed on anymore? Is there a source of initiation outside the machinations of boomers still clinging onto ill-perceived power, 40 years and counting? No, there isn’t.
The O.T.O. you can join today — the O.T.O. I joined and wasted precious years working for it — it is nothing but a reconstruction group. It’s glorified cosplay. There isn’t any “93 Current” that activates your chakras, even besides the fact most of these initiations are done in shabby community centres or someone’s basement by folks badly reading from a photocopied paper.
What is missing is something way more important: the very source of initiation itself.
I always found it incredibly ironic how Crowley himself denounced the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as something that eventually lost the ability to initiate because all its rituals became empty, and everyone only progressed due to who they knew, not their merit. And yet, this is exactly how his own Order ended up, too. Maybe this is, in fact, the curse of every hierarchical structure.
So, if you find yourself asking if you should leave again and again because you are getting nothing from this particular experience, and maybe because you never fit with the “in-group” (disclosure: I did, and that’s what made me waste all those years), then just leave. You aren’t going to lose anything from a magical and initiatory standpoint because there’s nothing there, to begin with.
And even from the reconstruction standpoint, you are much better off reading the rituals in Francis King’s book (available for the past 50 years already) and imagining them in your head rather than attending yet another ill-organised reconstruction in Bob’s basement.