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5 Ways to Revitalize OTO in a Post-COVID World

5 Ways to Revitalize OTO

by Soror Şoim

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on organizations around the world, and the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) has been no exception. In recent years, OTO has struggled to maintain membership and engagement, and the pandemic has only exacerbated these issues. However, there are concrete steps that OTO can take to revitalize and reinvigorate the organization, ensuring that it remains true to the original intent of being a blueprint for a new Thelemic society. In this article, we will explore seven ideas for revitalizing OTO in the era since COVID shutdowns, and discuss how these ideas can help the organization evolve and adapt to the changing times while remaining true to its core values.

1. Reconnect with the original principles

Organizations can lose their way over time, and it’s important to reconnect with the original principles that guided the formation of the group. Reconnecting with the original principles of an organization can be a powerful way to revitalize and refocus its mission. For Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), this would mean revisiting the founding principles and practices of Thelema, the philosophy and religion created by Aleister Crowley, which is the foundation of the organization. It would also mean a return to the original documents of MMM, EGC, and the founding documents of the Blue Equinox. Here are three actionable ideas for OTO to reconnect with its original principles:

  1. Have experts apply the original texts to the organization: OTO could organize study groups by higher-degree initiates to delve deeply into the original texts of Thelema, including both Holy Books and OTO organizational texts such as Liber 101, as well as other works by Crowley and his contemporaries. These initiates could then formulate their understanding of the intent of OTO and applications of Thelemic philosophy to its various organizational aspects. It is very rare to hear upper degrees opine on how we can improve organizational structures and processes.
  2. Encourage membership to read Blue Equinox materials: The OTO is based around the Blue Equinox model but not many members actively know of its components nor are excited to work together toward attaining its goals. This could also help members gain a deeper understanding of the core principles and practices of the philosophy and religion that inspired OTO’s creation .
  3. Create educational resources: OTO could create centralized educational resources, such as online courses, podcasts about Thelema, and webinars to teach the principles of OTO, to help members and the general public learn more about the history, philosophy, and practices of Thelema and OTO. This could help OTO promote its original principles and attract new members who are drawn to the organization’s core values.

2. Foster a culture of intellectual rigor

Encouraging members to engage in challenging conversations and debates can help promote a culture of intellectual rigor, which is essential for the development of new ideas and the growth of the organization. By fostering a culture of intellectual rigor, OTO could help its members develop a deeper understanding of Thelema and its principles, as well as strengthen their analytical and critical thinking skills. This could help the organization evolve and adapt to the changing times while remaining true to its core values. Here are three actionable ideas for fostering such a culture within OTO:

  1. Host regular intellectual discussions by experts: OTO could host regular intellectual discussions by upper degree initiates and other Thelemic experts on topics related to Thelema, OTO, philosophy, and spirituality. These discussions could be facilitated by members with expertise in the subject matter and encourage a respectful and open-minded exchange of ideas. It can ideally demonstrate to younger members a certain kind of intellectual strength and curiosity that will serve them in all walks of life.
  2. Organize debates: OTO could organize formal debates on controversial topics related to Thelema or spirituality in general. This could help members learn how to construct and defend arguments, and gain a better understanding of opposing viewpoints. It can also help develop an understanding of parts of OTO’s philosophy that may need more development.
  3. Encourage critical reading: OTO could encourage members to critically read and analyze texts related to Thelema and other spiritual traditions. Developing the powers of critically interpreting and carefully reading the founding texts is a skill that must be shared and taught by those with experience. This could be done through book clubs or reading groups where members are encouraged to share their interpretations and critiques of the texts.

3. Rebranding and Marketing

Rebranding and marketing could help OTO shed any negative associations or perceptions and attract new members who share its values and principles. By successfully rebranding and marketing itself, OTO could attract new members who share its values and principles, and help the organization grow and evolve in a positive way. Here are three actionable ideas for OTO to successfully rebrand and market itself:

  1. Develop a clear brand identity: What does OTO stand for? What kind of people are in it? Why would you join? What is it really for? OTO needs to develop a clear and consistent “brand identity” that reflects its values and principles. This could include creating a new logo (perhaps a unified logo that all bodies use locally), developing brand guidelines, and creating marketing materials that reflect the organization’s mission and purpose. Like it or not, your public image matters!
  2. Host public events: OTO could host public events, such as lectures, workshops, and rituals, to introduce its philosophy and practices to the wider community. We can use more publicly-facing Thelemites to host events in person and online. This could help demystify the organization and make it more accessible to those who may be interested in joining.
  3. Use targeted advertising: OTO could use targeted advertising to reach potential members who are interested in Thelema, spirituality, or other related topics. This could include advertising on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as targeted ads on Google. If you are not using these resources, you’re leaving a powerful magical weapon on the table!

4. Increase transparency and communication

By improving transparency and accountability within OTO, the organization could increase trust among its members and create a more democratic and participatory organization. This could help the organization evolve and adapt to the changing times while remaining true to its core values.

  1. Publish detailed financial reports: OTO could publish financial reports to its members, detailing the organization’s income and expenditures. This could help increase transparency and accountability and provide members with a clear understanding of how their dues and donations are being used. There are annual financial reports given by USGL but not by IHQ, and the reports given by USGL are particularly vague and un-detailed. How much of our dues are going toward what? Why would someone invest their material resources in an organization that is not open about what they are using their resources on?
  2. Create a transparent member feedback system: OTO could create a member feedback system that allows members to provide feedback and suggestions to the organization’s leadership. This could help create a more participatory and democratic organization and ensure that members have a voice in the organization’s decision-making. Right now the Path of Mediation is a kind of straw man: the actual “justice system” of OTO is highly complex and opaque, Kafka-esque even, and suffers from a complete lack of oversight. Regular members, even those of higher degrees, often have no idea how the system works or what kinds of complaints should go to whom and how they should be done. A coherent, consistent, and transparent system would go a long way to develop trust.
  3. Leaders must be more open about their intentions and values: Leaders on the local, national, and international levels must speak up and let both the public and their members know where they are steering the sheep. They must be clear about what values they hold and what they will not tolerate It is otherwise murky and unclear how individual members should behave.

5. Improve outreach and communication

Improving outreach will ensure there are new members to help sustain the organiation. Improving communication within OTO could help ensure that members are informed and engaged with the organization’s activities and decision-making.

  1. Create new forms of media : OTO could create videos, documentaries, podcasts, mailing lists, and so on. A deliberate effort around formalizing the intent and guidelines for outreach should be started, and the most suitable members with relevant capacities selected to start these projects. Not all of them will succeed but any organization that believes in itself is going to try to bring others in to join.
  2. Use social media platforms: OTO could use social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to communicate with its members and share information about upcoming events and initiatives. This could help reach a wider audience and engage younger members who may be more active on social media.
  3. Hold town hall meetings: OTO could hold town hall meetings where national and international leaders speak about the organization to its members. This could allow members to engage in open discussion with the organization’s leadership. This could help ensure that members have a voice in the organization’s decision-making and provide an opportunity for constructive feedback.

In conclusion, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to struggles in maintaining membership and engagement. However, there are concrete steps that the organization can take to revitalize and reinvigorate itself while remaining true to its original principles. By implementing these ideas, the OTO can adapt and evolve to changing times while remaining true to its core values, attracting new members who share its principles and values, and growing the organization in a positive way.

Love is the law, love under will.

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7 thoughts on “5 Ways to Revitalize OTO in a Post-COVID World

  1. I found the article full of great ideas and do hope some if not all can be investigated and brought forth, I am as yet not a member of O.T.O or any organisation other than support to T.U. and Lon Milo Duquette on Patreon I practice alone . the Thelemic Union has been a great boon throughout the past few years on the educational front and also bringing so many solitary practitioners into contact with each other. I actually zoomed Thelemacon for the last 2 years and enjoyed the fellowship of Thelemites for the first time in my journey. I do agree that in this age of media the O.T.O and all groups need a presence on all systems but I do not want to see anymore loony fringe money grabbers claiming wonders for dollars. I suppose what I am saying is yes to all ideas but with reservations. 93s

  2. Someone played “Mo Money Mo Problems” for OTO top brass, and they decided “no problems.” Not that that’s worked out well.

  3. This is an important post. Organizations, especially, I have noticed, various spiritual and occult groups, seem to have largely been mired in these issues, having more trouble adapting than many other groups. That is a bit perplexing. It would appear that practicing occultists, as individuals and even as freely-associating groups, are far more active drivers of change and progress than the organizations they tend to fall into.

    One speculates that, on one level, this has to do with the type of person who feels the need to be part of the “official” group in order to “authentically” participate in a given current, vs. the type of person who takes their work into their own hands.

    So, to some degree, these problems are and will remain perennial ones.

    However, having worked for The Theosophical Society’s “Internet Face Committee,” as its first incarnation was rather tellingly called, I am glad to see renewed calls such as this being issued by leaders in the Thelemic community.

    While biased, I do think the last two points are very important:

    Regarding increasing transparency, one thing that comes to mind is this: In this day and age, prominent occult organizations like the O.T.O. have very few secrets. As such, secrecy will no longer be the cash cow it used to be, nor the watchword. The watchword will very much be “transparency,” because we are at a point where many individuals can “see into” these secrets anyway. It is simply foolhardly to pretend much of this is “secret” at all.

    Tradition will make that change very difficult. Some older folks will need to pass away before certain waves of progress in this domain are allowed to roll through. But the time is coming.

    Improving outreach and communication is an extension of this.
    One piece of advice I have is for leaders of these organizations to stop thinking about this stuff in terms of how they can “manage” and “control” the currents related to their organizations. That will be difficult because such a desire is often the very thing that draws a person to occultism…and if they then find enough success to have made it to the top of these organizational hierarchies, they will be very predisposed to preserving the status quo upon which they stand.

    There are no pretty solutions to that particular problem.

  4. Some very good ideas. The O.T.O. as any other organization needs to move with the times, but at the same time, remain true to the organization’s founding principles

  5. While there are some good ideas buried here, it definitely shows a huge lack of research or understanding of the OTO’s purpose. Let’s go point by point:

    1.1. What qualifies someone as an “expert?” Just because someone is a higher degree doesn’t ipso facto make them an expert, and there have been higher degree members over the years espouse decidedly un-Thelemic ideas, politics, etc.
    1.2 It’s kind of impossible to be an organization that encourages the discovery and doing of one’s Will while making members do things. No one is discouraging anyone from reading the Blue Equinox, but to make anything “required reading” goes against what the OTO is all about. Also, as a point of history, the OTO was around before the formal founding of Thelema, so it wasn’t a creation of Thelema.
    1.3 The OTO already produces educational materials that are available just by asking for them, and there’s an entire Education Committee just for that. They also have a podcast, Thelema Now, and blog, 0=2.

    2.1. OTO regularly hosts lectures and discussions on all these topics. Just take a look at any body’s events calendar.
    2.2. If you don’t know how to construct and defend an argument by this point, you’re not going to learn it from watching Thelemites debate. As we see all around us, debates don’t encourage the free exchange of ideas but further entrench people in the positions they already hold.
    2.3. Do you think the OTO is discouraging critical thinking? I don’t think there’s any active initiate that isn’t a critical thinker. This sounds like you have some bias or had a bad experience and are applying it to everyone in the OTO.

    3.1. OTO IS NOT A BRAND! What the OTO stands for is clearly laid out in its values and mission statement. When it comes to “what kind of people are in it,” the answer is that the Law is for All. The Lamen of the OTO isn’t simply a logo, and to reduce it to just a corporate image is to demonstrate a profound lack of knowledge of what it is. (Maybe you should take your Step 2.3 to heart.) I also don’t know why you would want to change the Lamen to begin with. The Masons have been using the same symbol for centuries, and they’re doing just fine. Also, while individual bodies are under the umbrella of USGL, they’re actively encouraged to develop their own local culture, which includes naming of the body, lamen, etc.
    3.2. OTO bodies host tons of public events. What made you think they weren’t?
    3.3 OTO USGL already uses Google ads. Search for OTO, Crowley, Thelema, et al. in Google and you’ll see the Google ad for OTO USGL. Google ads aren’t cheap (they cost a good amount to host, and you’re charged for each click), and they’re also not demonstrably effective, so I honestly wish USGL wasn’t dumping money into it. Also, especially in the US, there’s a safety risk for being too out in public, especially if you’re in a religious conservative area (for example, look at the bomb threats against TST). While active advertising looks good on paper, it also lets the heavily armed conservative fundamentalist who sees it as his divine mission to “fight Satan” know where you are too.

    4.1. This is the one point I agree with you on. The USGL report is plenty detailed, but I’ve noticed people get really squirrelly when you start asking about the expenses and the amounts. Even with a Google ad running, there’s no way we’re spending $4,731 for “Internet” for hosting just the USGL sites and google ads. There’s also just “Administration,” listed at $17,041 which makes no sense if we’re all volunteer. As for IHQ, that money goes to pay the OHO, so it’s one of those “mysteries everyone knows the answer to.”
    4.2. The Path of Mediation is hardly a straw man, nor is it opaque. There’s a pretty clearly laid out flow chart of how it works, but in reality, most things are able to be solved on the lower levels of the Path. There’s also 4 MOE Delegates that anyone can contact that can take questions or concerns right to Sabazius.
    4.3. “Leaders on the local, national, and international levels must speak up and let both the public and their members know where they are steering the sheep.” Glad to see you have such a high opinion of OTO members! Again, the values statement of the OTO covers this.

    5.1. OTO doesn’t proselytize by design. Media is also a double edged sword: STRANGE ANGEL is a perfect example of that: while it got Thelema on the airwaves, it was so exaggerated and sensationalized that it probably does more of a disservice than anything.
    5.2. OTO does use social media, so again, not sure how much research you put into this, if any. It would be nice if there was an official OTO Facebook group that enforced its code of conduct for in-person meetings online. As it is now, there are a bunch of unofficial groups on Facebook and Instagram, and they’re all pretty toxic.
    5.3. If you remember the Blue Equinox, the Man of Earth Triad takes no part in government, so town halls would be useless. The people actually taking part in OTO government are already connected, and we have the EC for policy debate.

  6. The (c)OTO has NEVER abided by the Blue Equinox materials. When Dave Scriven opts to place fat college drop outs on the EC in violation of the mandate in Liber 194 that they display exceptional academic and athletic abilities, then the organization is doomed by it’s own “king’s” hand.

    “But we’re a volunteer organization” the upper echelons whine.

    Fine. I volunteer not to abide by my oaths and to ignore the empty curses attached thereunto. When the “leaders” can’t recognize what problem the EC requirements solve (Think Descartes–think about a certain duality–then add a third term and it balances out) then the organization will fail and drag down with it all who defend it, worship it, and think it valid.

  7. Some good stuff here but creating a more “democratic organization” would, it seems to me, run quite counter to the OTO’s “original principles” by my reading of Liber CXCIV 10, especially with the first three degrees open to anyone.

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