The Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O) (‘Order of the Temple of the East’ or ‘Order of Oriental Templars’) is an international fraternal and religious organization established at the beginning of the 20th century. Famous author and occultist Aleister Crowley has become the best known member of the order.
The organization was originally intended to be modeled after European Masonry, such as the Masonic Templar organizations, but under the strict leadership of Aleister Crowley, the Ordo Templi Orientis was reorganized around the Law of Thelema as its central principle. The Law – expressed as “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and “Love is the law, love under will” was made known with the writing of “The Book of the Law”. This book is the founding text of the religion of Thelema, and was dictated to Crowley in Egypt in 1904 by what he described as a “praeterhuman intelligence.”
Similar to most secret societies, O.T.O membership is based on an initiatory system with a series of degree ceremonies that use ritual drama to establish fraternal bonds and impart spiritual and philosophical teachings. O.T.O. also includes the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) or Gnostic Catholic Church, which is the ecclesiastical arm of the Order. Its central rite, which is public, is called Liber XV, or the Gnostic Mass.
The early history of the O.T.O is difficult to trace back reliably, but what is known is that it originated in Germany between 1895 and 1906 and was established by its founder Carl Kellner. Shortly after, his collaborator, Theodor Reuss met Crowley and in 1910 admitted him to the free three degrees of O.T.O. Within just a few short years, Crowley was placed in charge of Great Britain. He was promoted through the ranks very quickly because of his ritual experience and contacts made with the spiritual world in Egypt, even introducing homosexual sex magick initiations for high degree members.
Crowley inevitably manipulated and positioned himself into the reigns of power and by 1925, was officially elected as Outer Head of the Order (or O.H.O) by the administrative heads of the O.T.O.
The Ordo Templi Orientis has had a long, and extensive history since then and still stands today. Currently, the US Grand Lodge is the governing body of O.T.O. in the United States of America. The U.S. National Grand Master is Frater Sabazius X°, who was appointed in 1996.
According to its website, the Mission Statement of U.S.G.L. is as follows:
Ordo Templi Orientis U.S.A. is the U.S. Grand Lodge (National Section) of Ordo Templi Orientis, a hierarchical, religious membership organization. Our mission is to effect and promote the doctrines and practices of the philosophical and religious system known as Thelema, with particular emphasis on cultivating the ideals of individual liberty, self-discipline, self-knowledge, and universal brotherhood. To this end, we conduct sacramental and initiatory rites, offer guidance and instruction to our members, organize social events, and engage in educational and community service activities at locations throughout the United States