Ordo Templi Orientis

Authored by: Christian Giudice

The Occult World

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415695961
eBook ISBN: 9781315745916
Adobe ISBN: 9781317596769


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The Ordo Templi Orientis is an occult order founded at the beginning of the twentieth century. As with most orders currently in existence, it has been very difficult to put forth a clear analysis of the structure, succession rights and main ideas of the order, but recent scholarship has allowed a much more informed and impartial point of view than previously possible. The initiatic organization arose in the backdrop of fin de siècle occultism, and its links to major personalities, such as anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), Freemason and occultist John Yarker (1833–1913) and Papus (1865–1916), are proof that the prime movers and founders of the order were well connected in the English, German and French occult milieux. The first steps leading to the foundation of the order may be found in four major figures: the first, Henry Klein (1866–1913), has only recently been reassessed as a major contributor to the future founding of the O.T.O. (Kaczynski 2012: 1–32): through contacts in the music industry, Klein, in London, March 1886, met singer, socialist and Freemason Theodor Reuss (1855–1923), a figure ‘reminiscent of Cagliostro’ (Howe & Möller 1978: 28). The third member of the triumvirate, defined by Kaczynski as ‘world-class occult authority’ (2012: 49) was Dr Franz Hartmann (1838–1912), a doctor and illustrious member of the German section of the Theosophical Society. While bonds of friendship were tighter between Klein and Reuss, Hartmann was closer to the fourth figure, without whose financial aid, the O.T.O. would have never come into existence (Pasi 2005: 898): Carl Kellner (1850–1905), a wealthy Austrian businessman, with interests as varied as alchemy, yoga and Freemasonry. His interest in yoga was manifested by an account of his many years of experience, in the 1896 booklet Yoga: Eine Skizze. The myth surrounding the early O.T.O. history also depicts pictures of Kellner studying under the guidance of three Eastern masters, who according to Crowley-biographer John Symonds, were the Arab Soliman Ben Aïssa (b. 1865), Bheema Sena Pratapa (b. 1872) and Sri Agamya Guru Pramahamsa (b. ca. 1841), and Hartmann himself, in his ‘Dr. Karl Kellner’ (1924) confirmed the yogic teachings imparted upon Kellner by these individuals. Whether or not Kellner ever travelled to the East, where he has been credited with learning techniques of sex-magic, studies have yet to find out, although it must be pointed out that reference to sexual magic appears in Reuss’s writings only after Kellner’s death (Pasi 2005: 899). Around the year 1901, Reuss obtained charters from the chief of the Societas Rosacruciana in Anglia, William Wynn Westcott (1848–1925) and from Freemason John Yarker to found various high-grade masonic rites on German soil. Reuss, Hartmann and Kellner all seem to have been involved in this masonic milieu, and a journal, Oriflamme, was launched by Reuss, in order to better coordinate the growing number of groups. An Inneres Dreieck, or Inner Triangle (König 2001: 62) seems to have existed behind the façade of the high-grade orders, presumably teaching sex-magic techniques and more advanced occult practices, in most likelihood formed by Reuss, Hartmann and Kellner themselves. In 1905 Kellner died, and Reuss lost the financial backing he had enjoyed up until then. Scandals concerning homosexual rites within his organization forced him to seek refuge in England once again. Nevertheless Reuss was undeterred, and in 1906 wrote four distinct works: The first Lingam-Yoni, followed almost verbatim the theories found in Hargrave Jennings’s (1817–90) Phallism: a Description of the Worship of Lingam Yoni (1889), according to which all religions could be elucidated by sexual symbolism. This seems to be the one of the sources of the sex-magic techniques of the O.T.O., as convincingly argued by Kaczynski (2012: 246–48). The other three were the two English and one German versions of the first constitution of the Ordo Templi Orientis: it must be noted that, because of the scandal that had surrounded Reuss, the year of publication was delayed considerably (König 2001: 63).

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