De successione in O.T.O. et A∴A∴

A great deal of wind has been expended concerning the matter of the true Thelemic succession of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), a dependent order of the A∴A∴ with no independent authority over the Law of Thelema at all. We will not even refer to the admissions criteria of the Caliphate O.T.O., nor do the decisions of the courts of the slave gods have any bearing on the question from the perspective of the A∴A∴. It is also quite possible that the C.O.T.O., as I will denominate the Caliphate O.T.O. so-called, acquired the Crowley copyrights, the last of which will expire at the end of 2017, from the British Crown. It might even have some sort of corporate relationship with an historical lodge of the O.T.O., although it appears that Germer himself closed the Agape Lodge on Sept. 7, 1953 from which the C.O.T.O. appears to be descended (“Meetings with Remarkable People,”, retrieved Dec. 2, 2011).[1] Again, the veracity of these claims matters not one whit in assessing the claim of the C.O.T.O. to represent the true Thelemic succession of the O.T.O., which is necessarily tied in with the identity of the O.H.O., as the unitary holder of the corporate authority of the O.T.O. in his person. The latter is an altogether different matter. Even the current head of the C.O.T.O. does not dare to lay claim to this. As for the title of “Caliph,” there is no such role, title, or office referred to in the Constitution of the O.T.O., the A∴A∴, the Holy Books of Thelema, or the writings of Aleister Crowley.

Document #1

I believe it is universally accepted by all parties that Aleister Crowley’s legitimate spiritual representative was Karl J. Germer (1885-1962). In any case, the documentary evidence proves that Crowley appointed Germer as the chief of both the O.T.O. and the A∴A∴ in 1941.

All persons in authority under me in connection with the A∴A∴and O.T.O. are to recognize him as their chief.

Crowley never revoked this authority and in fact he confirmed it in his Last Will and Testament. Consequently, so far as the A∴A∴ and the O.T.O. are concerned, Germer was the chief of all until his death in 1962.

Document #2
The Caliphate O.T.O. bases its entire authority on a rather peculiar letter that Aleister Crowley wrote to Grady Louis McMurtry (1918-1985) on April 11, 1946, in which he writes:

These presents are to appoint — Frater Hymenaeus Alpha — Grady Louis McMurtry, IX° O.T.O. — as Our representative in the United States of America, and his authority is to be considered as Ours, subject to the approval, revision, or veto of our Viceroy Karl Johannes Germer IX° O.T.O. of 260 West 72nd St., New York City, N.Y.

There are several other letters in which Crowley ruminates upon the possibility that McMurtry might be called upon to exercise authority over the O.T.O. in the future, but this is the only letter which grants any actual authority. Note the language: “subject to the approval, revision, or veto of our Viceroy Karl Johannes Germer”. Indeed. McMurtry’s Thelemic authority is entirely subordinate and subject to the approval of Karl Germer! Since no one has provided any proof whatsoever that Germer ever approved of McMurtry’s plan to assume control of the O.T.O., and, in fact, Germer specifically vetoed McMurtry’s desire to revive the Agape Lodge (see Keith Readdy, One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy [Lk. Worth, FL: Ibis Press, 2018], pp. 162f.), the conclusion is inescapable: McMurtry’s authority, whatever it might be construed to have been, expired worthless upon Germer’s death in 1962. Therefore, McMurtry’s attempt to “reactivate” these letters as the basis for his subsequent attempt to revive the moribund O.T.O. in the 1970s must, ipso facto, be entirely rejected. Therefore, the C.O.T.O. has no actual authority at all and cannot claim the true Thelemic succession to the O.T.O., whatever its status in other regards might be.

Document #3

On December 4, 1951 Karl Germer further executed a Last Will and Testament in which he stated the following:

As regards the property of the Order Ordo Templi Orientis, of which I am the Head, I direct that this is passed to the Heads of the Order, but that my wife, Mrs. Sascha E. Andre-Germer, has to be the executor of this part of my Will, together with Frederic Mellinger IX° of the O.T.O.

Three things that are noteworthy about this document are that: (1) Germer refers to himself as the Head of the O.T.O. Therefore the suggestion that Germer renounced his authority over the Order, or even the Order itself, is disproved. (2) Germer recognized at least two Heads of the O.T.O. besides himself. (3) Germer did not appoint a successor, but rather devolved this responsibility to these Heads, one of which might have been Frederic Mellinger.[2] In any case, McMurtry is nowhere named or alluded to.

Some people have interpreted Germer’s direction that Mrs. Germer is to be the executor of this part of his will as giving her the authority to recognize Germer’s own successor. It appears that Mrs. Germer herself initially recognized Mellinger, then preferred Mr. M.R. Motta. One may doubt whether in fact such an assignment is possible, involved as it is with the question of her occult qualification to act in this capacity. Be that as it may, she never recognized McMurtry either. I would argue, however, that Mrs. Germer’s authority only extends to her responsibility to surrender the property of the Order to the Heads of the O.T.O. as directed, in her capacity as executor, and that in fact her opinion as to the successor’s identity is completely irrelevant, especially since it appears that she was not even a Thelemite.

Two conclusions arise from the foregoing: (1) that the McMurtry succession from Aleister Crowley to the C.O.T.O. is invalid, and therefore the C.O.T.O.’s claim to represent that succession is also invalid, and (2) the question as to the succession should have been resolved by a meeting of the Heads of the O.T.O. upon Germer’s death. That this meeting was not held (Metzger’s claim to have done this is a complete farce) and no O.H.O. appointed means that the office of O.H.O. is vacant and therefore there is no O.T.O. succession.

With respect to the A∴A∴ (with which the Caliphate claims to be in association) the matter is even more serious. It is clear that with Germer’s death in 1962 the A∴A∴ succession came to an end. Even if individual members of the A∴A∴ survived him, none of them occupied a grade sufficient to carry on or reconstitute the work of the Order. Such an individual would have to be an Adeptus Exemptus at least, which would arguably entitle them to assume the function of Praemonstrator (e.g,, S.L. Mathers held this post in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn without attaining the grade of Magister Templi). Aiwass predicted this possibility in the Book of the Law. Crowley originally founded the A∴A∴ in 1907, based on the Cairo Working and his attainment of the grade of Magister Templi in China in 1906, which was acknowledged by George Cecil Jones, an Adept of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. To reconstitute the A∴A∴ now would require the same threefold authority. So far no serious claimants have arisen. Hence, any claim of any order to represent the A∴A∴, including the C.O.T.O., which I believe claims to be in communion with such an order, is bogus. In fact, Crowley quite clearly states that he was not chosen to represent the A∴A∴ because of his mystical and magical attainments, but for other, quite exoteric reasons. Therefore, it is not quite clear if advanced magical and mystical attainments are a requirement, but judging from the constitution of the A∴A∴, they appear to be. If the Masters of the A∴A∴ have chosen not to act, it may be because no suitable person exists at present, or perhaps they have adopted another, more covert, strategy, which will be revealed in due course. Certainly the total failure of the C.O.T.O. to create a genuine initiatory system is the final nail in their self-built coffin. Perhaps the real members of the true A∴A∴ are amongst us now, pursuing their work in secrecy. Who can say?

With respect to the future direction of the O.T.O., the following quotations from Crowley and Germer respectively are certainly relevant:

Crowley, in a letter to Germer dated March 14, 1942 e.v., wrote:  “I shall appoint you as my successor as O.H.O. [i.e. Outer Head of the Order of O.T.O.], but on special terms.  It is quite clear to me that a complete change in the structure of the Order, and in its methods, is necessary”.

Such a change was never implemented.  Germer later wrote of Crowley:  “He suggested to me that I may either drop this form or system of working, or devise my entirely independent method”.  He apparently chose the former option, as he ceased all initiations and dropped the work entirely, choosing to focus on publishing Crowley’s works alone.  Germer is often criticized for this; but it was his prerogative. (“Thelemic Saints: Karl Germer’s Greater Feast,”, retrieved Dec. 2, 2011).

And in a letter dated Nov. 24, 1941, Aleister Crowley expatiated on these points as follows:

Note that the O.T.O. will probably have to be completely reconstructed. The temper [sic] of the New Aeon seems unfavourable for Lodges, and the “Secrets” are unintelligible to anyone who has not made a long study of the system. At present there are really two sections: the rituals – up to Rose Croix; and the essays of instruction dealing with the one real secret. The ritual corresponding with these were never written, except the Templar. So I rather expect that it will be up to you to devise some totally new method of communicating the real secret. … you, not I, are the axle of the wheel.” (, retrieved Dec. 2, 2011)


[1] I have recently discovered two letters from Crowley to Jane Wolfe castigating the Agape Lodge of the O.T.O., from which the Caliphate claims descent (

“A letter addressed by Crowley to Jane Wolfe dated 4th May 1943, commenting upon Agape Lodge’s attempted relaunch of The Oriflamme (the old European-O.T.O. journal), had this to say:

[…] I cannot see the point of this at all. It is the most amateurish production I have ever set eyes on. You give absolutely not one word of the information which people expect when they pick up a new magazine.  Why don’t you print the Constitution of the O.T.O. perhaps in an abridged form? You have got to show who you are, what you stand for, and what you are doing. […] I cannot imagine any more stupid way of wasting money. Then, in case anybody ever should see the thing-which God forbid!-you print those verses of Jack’s; which are not bad in themselves in their way, but you could hardly have found anything in the whole world more objectionable from our point of view. What could have been better calculated to revive the ancient stories about drug-traffic, and so on? Incidentally, he not only misquotes the Law, but gives it that very interpretation of all others which we are most anxious not to give.  When I saw them I said: “This cannot be plain idiocy; this must be malignant design! Then when your letter came and said that you were editing the thing, I saw that it must have been plain idiocy after all!

§ […] You say nothing about the course of initiation; in other words, I simply cannot imagine what you are after. I can see nothing but distraction, dispersion and waste, and colossal stupidity beyond the power of the human imagination to conceive.
You ask for help or criticism; and this is it.  It is much milder than I should like. Anyhow, for the future, please print nothing of mine in any such rag-bag of imbecility! It is perfectly ridiculous to express a hope that I may sit under your vines and fig-trees when you do nothing whatever to help the work at Headquarters. […]

“Five days later, Crowley rattled off another letter to Wolfe which stated:

[…] it is quite obvious that you [Agape Lodge] are not running 1003 [Orange Grove Avenue, Agape lodge Headquarters] on business lines.  Smith once sent me a batch of photographs of some of the inhabitants. They looked to me like hoboes!  Sluttish, slattern, no trace of birth or breeding: I was aghast.  How does this go with the quality of the literature?  You seem to take no steps at all to attract the right kind of people – altogether, it’s a mystery.”

[2] Peter Koenig lists nine individuals who were National Grand Masters of the O.T.O. in 1923, at the time of the death of Theodor Reuss. Technically these should have elected a new O.H.O. at that time. All of these died prior to Karl Germer’s death in 1962. Since Crowley essentially seceded from the Reussian O.T.O. in 1923, it is uncertain who Germer was referring to when he refers to “the heads of the O.T.O.” in his Last Will and Testament.

  • Hans Rudolf Hilfiker-Dunn (d. 1955)
  • Arnoldo Krumm-Heller (d. 1949)
  • Heinrich Traenker (d. 1956)
  • Charles Stansfeld Jones (d. 1950)
  • Carl William Hansen (d. 1936)
  • James Thomas Windram (d. 1939)
  • Frank Bennett (d. 1930)
  • William Henry Quilliam (d. 1932)
  • Czesław Czyński (d. 1932)

Listen to the “caliph” stammering his way through an interview. He also discussed the Law of Thelema at least twice, thus violating the Comment; by the rules of his own order, therefore, McMurtry should have been shunned and was clearly unfit to lead the O.T.O. In any case, he clearly had no authority to do so.