You are here
Home > Thelemic Philosophy > 8 Things I Wish I Knew as a Newbie in the OTO

8 Things I Wish I Knew as a Newbie in the OTO

8 Things I Wish I Knew as a Newbie in the OTO

by Illuminating Shadows

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

1. OTO is first and foremost a social group

I’m not sure how many people fully realize this before they join. People know that OTO is a “fraternity” but they don’t realize its primary function is to bring together Thelemites socially. The vast majority of people who come through OTO’s doors view it and treat it as basically a hangout for occultists.

You may find some cool people, or you might not and feel ostracized — even the highest initiates are not immune from groupthink and scapegoating. Just because one OTO group in one place is good also doesn’t mean they’re all good — each place is basically its own social group with its associated cliques. You may or may not fit in.

2. OTO is not composed of hooded scary people, orgies, and drugs

I don’t know what I was expecting the first time I went to a temple. What I remember is that I surprised that everyone looked like normal people. It’s understandable that people who have never been to a temple would be nervous to go, especially when you don’t know anyone there.

There are so many rumors, however some are founded on fact. Back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, there were indeed orgies and drugs. But weren’t those everywhere anyway? Still, the OTO gained a false reputation amongst those that don’t know any better as a Satanic cult that sacrifices children and has LSD orgies for days.

I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but it’s not true. Since those fun hippie days, the OTO has developed in many ways. At the very least, they are much more in line with basic laws, and hold 501c3 status so would not do anything to threaten that. To say the least, orgies and drugs are no longer allowed at OTO events — at least officially. However this is not to say that these things are looked down upon by any means.

3. The OTO is not all about rituals and occult stuff

This may be a controversial point to make, but the fact is that there are numerous Thelemites and OTO Members who are not big on personal ceremonial rituals or occult topics/symbolism. OTO itself does not necessarily teach Magick nor occult subjects. They are most definitely present in the majority of Local Bodies and are of interest to many, but not all Thelemites.

Even people of higher degrees often treat OTO as most social, a time to be around each other and share stories and thoughts.

That being said, there are many significant and essential rituals that form an important part of the organization, such as the Gnostic Mass and the M∴M∴M∴ Initiations. Some Thelemites are of course primarily attracted to the philosophical and practical aspects of what Thelema and the OTO have to offer. There is currently not much official curriculum behind these things, and so each location is often different in its quality.

Not everyone is into ceremonial magic — a lot of people are into related occult fields and ideas. Magick of course can be more widely understood as Crowley stated as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”

4. The Gnostic Mass is not supposed to be sexy time

Due to our society, for many people, to see a naked woman in public is a little jarring. Even if we’re “cool with it,” often times there is still a part of us that may be uncomfortable. At least it was for me. It stirred up a lot of my personal issues and took me a long time to realize that, yes the Mass has immense amount of sexual symbolism and energy, but it’s not just erotic energy.

The Priest and Priestess don’t have to be physically attracted to each other nor do they have to be dating/married. In fact at my home temple, it is encouraged that all celebrants’ work together and for us this works well to break that myth.

One viewpoint of having a naked woman on the altar is to “get back to our roots” and break the taboos of society. It is not about getting naked and showing off the goods, it is not about ‘oogling at a naked bod, it most certainly  isn’t just for young attractive women. I have begun to understand the beauty and empowerment of this ritual as I begin considering to train as a Priestess.

It is truly a shame that some continue commentary in an inappropriate manner and degrade the Priestess. Sex and the naked body are natural and powerful elements of our Nature. They should not be shunned or demeaned.

5. Aleister Crowley wasn’t so bad. Even if he was…so what.

When people walk into our temple out of curiosity only to find out Aleister Crowley is our prophet, I now internally giggle when I see their initial reaction. One hears and reads many horrendous things about Crowley and begins to wonder…what could good could he have contributed? I was wary of Crowley and his dick jokes at first.

Eventually the Beauty of Thelema washed upon me. The Beauty being that Crowley was a man. A flawed, imperfect, human being simply finding his Will and stirring up some shit. What’s so wrong with that?

The big issue with religion and really relationships in general, is that of idealization. We idolize prophets, gurus, Dalai Lamas, our partners, only to get disillusioned when we realize they are not perfect.

We fail to realize the humanness in people even if they claim to be enlightened or have wisdom. The thing I love about Crowley is that he was unapologetically human. He followed his True Will, tried to figure out life like the rest of us, and had some good things to say along the way.

6. There’s a lot of information and knowledge which can be overwhelming, but it’ll all sink in over time.

I remember thinking there was no way I’d ever learn as much as the people around me. A lot of people certainly acted like they knew it all and it all came easily. There’s a wide variety of topics and perspectives and the experts were often sitting right next to me. Many people have been in the OTO for decades and have been studying Thelema for just as long. However, after a little while of being around, attending classes, talking with people, I found that I had been slowly picking up things all along. No one knows everything anyhow (no matter what they say).

And the beauty of Thelema is that much of it is to be interpreted by you. I by no means consider myself an expert. It does amuse me that now when new people come into the temple, they see me as an expert. But some day, if they dedicate themselves, they’ll know just as much if not more. There are no real “experts” in OTO in the same way as other traditions, just people who have spent a lot of time in the Order and refined their particular fields of interest.

7. Yes, there’s some Catholic elements of the Gnostic Mass 

When I first saw the Gnostic Mass I thought to myself, why am I at a Mass that uses the word “Lord” so frequently? It felt too Catholic and Judeo-Christian to me and didn’t quiet fit in with what I knew as Thelema. It was a strong, negative reaction. Some people feel that and never come back. People often find comfort in Thelema because of the negative experiences they’ve had with various religions and don’t like the idea of organized religion at all. I’m one of those people.

It took me a while to realize that the Gnostic Mass does take a lot from the Catholic Mass, however most the aspects of the Gnostic Mass would be considered blasphemous. Thelema and the Gnostic Mass are uniquely their own. Eventually I began to see the Gnostic Mass for what it is…a beautiful ritual healing division and expressing the bliss of union. Thelema also has many Christian elements to it that need to be reinterpreted by the individual.

8. OTO is a not a perfect order.

I imagine that there is an unconscious assumption that because OTO produces what we call “Magicians,” somehow OTO is free from flaws. However, we are all human and that leaves plenty of room for flaws, disagreement, and chaos. At the end of the day, OTO is still a hierarchical organization run by humans.

Sometimes people disagree, some people don’t like each other, some don’t like decisions made by their local Body or Grand Lodge. Such is life. As mentioned above, it is primarily a fraternity, a group of people who are promulgating Thelema in a certain way. But it is composed of humans. Even the highest initiates are prone to make mistakes, be malicious, cause conflicts and so on — everyone is human.

I’m sure there may be disagreements on some of these points. There are as many options as there are Thelemites. However, this is my personal experience of the Order over the past few years. It is rapidly changing and growing. I welcome any questions about the OTO or Thelema.

Love is the law, love under will. 

Related articles:

Enjoying the articles? Support the Thelemic Union and help us keep our site running, ad-free, and hacker-free by pledging $1+ on Patreon:

5 thoughts on “8 Things I Wish I Knew as a Newbie in the OTO

  1. 93 I. Shadows- my name is Christopher Fleites and I am currently serving as Swirling Star Lodge’s Acting Master and Chartered Initiator. I enjoyed your article and think it does a great job in distilling the basics in an easy to understand manner (although i do have a different perspective on the point made in the section on Catholicism related to my personal experience on the matter)- either way im writing to ask permission to use the article’s photo in a FB message i plan on posting sometime this week. Im not sure if its copyritten but dont want to step on any toes. Please email me at

  2. Thank you so much for your wonderful article. I am brand new and having difficulty with direct source material. I feel entirely too stupid to move forward. Surely, there must be more rudimentary study materials out there? I keep confusing my desires with my will and I feel like a dog chasing her tale…

  3. What do you mean? Crowley used stimulant narcotics during Hieros Gamos rituals. Your religion doesn’t practice this anymore? Cocaine was used by our breed in Ancient Egypt for that exact reason – Tantra. What right do you have to deny our legacy? Aside from being personally prudent and afraid of legal ramifications from the tyrannically prudent. Are you saying the Oracle of Delphi is a criminal for use of atropine and Jenkem?

  4. Great article thank you. Do members keep their personal life completely separate from their O.T.O membership if they desire so? Is this possible even? I can imagine many situations in which partners may not be interested in these subjects and even see them with antipathy.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.