Magick Without Tears
Chapter 13: System of O.T.O.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
You inform me that the Earnest Inquirer of your ambit has been asking you to explain the difference between the A∴A∴ and the O.T.O.; and that although your own mind is perfectly clear about it, you find it impossible to induce a similar lucidity in his. You add that he is not (as one might at first suppose) a moron. And will I please do what I can about it?
Well, here’s the essential difference ab ovo usque ad mala; the A∴A∴ concerns the individual, his development, his initiation, his passage from “Student” to “Ipsissimus”; he has no contact of any kind with any other person except the Neophyte who introduces him, and any Student or Students whom he may, after becoming a Neophyte, introduce.
The details of this Pilgrim’s Progress are very fully set forth in One Star in Sight; and I should indeed be stupid and presumptuous to try to do better than that. But it is true that with regard to the O.T.O. there is no similar manual of instruction. In the Manifesto, and other Official Pronunciamenti, there are, it is true, what ought to be adequate data; but I quite understand that they are not as ordered and classified as one would wish; there is certainly room for a simple elementary account of the origins of the Order, of its principles, of its methods, of its design, of the Virtue of its successive Grades. This I will now try to supply, at least in a brief outline.
Let us begin at the beginning. What is a Dramatic Ritual? It is a celebration of the Adventures of the God whom it is intended to invoke. (The Bacchae of Euripides is a perfect example of this.) Now, in the O.T.O., the object of the ceremonies being the Initiation of the Candidate, it is he whose Path in Eternity is displayed in dramatic form.
What is the Path?
- The Ego is attracted to the Solar System.
- The Child experiences Birth.
- The Man experiences Life.
- He experiences Death.
- He experiences the World beyond Death.
- This entire cycle of Point-Events is withdrawn into Annihilation.
In the O.T.O. these successive stages are represented as follows:—
|5||IV°||(Perfection, or Exaltation)|
Of these Events of Stations upon the Path all but 3 (II°) are single critical experiences. We, however, are concerned mostly with the very varied experiences of Life.
All subsequent Degrees of the O.T.O. are accordingly elaborations of the II°, since in a single ceremony it is hardly possible to sketch, even in the briefest outline, the Teaching of Initiates with regard to Life. The Rituals V°–IX° are then instructions to the Candidate how he should conduct himself; and they confer upon him, gradually, the Magical Secrets which make him Master of Life.
It is improper to disclose the nature of these ceremonies; firstly, because their Initiates are bound by the strictest vows not to do so; secondly, because surprise is an element in their efficacy; and thirdly, because the Magical Formulae explicitly or implicitly contained therein are, from a practical point of view, both powerful and dangerous. Automatic safeguards there are, it is true; but a Black Magician of first-class ability might find a way to overcome these obstacles, and work great mischief upon others before the inevitable recoil of his artillery destroys him.
Such cases I have known. Let me recount briefly one rather conspicuous disaster. The young man was a genius—and it was his bane. He got hold of a talisman of enormous power which happened to be exactly what he wanted to fulfill his heart’s dearest wish. He knew also the correct way of getting it to work; but this way seemed to him far too long and difficult. So he cast about for a short cut. By using actual violence to the talisman, he saw how he could force it to carry out his design; he used a formula entirely alien to the spirit of the whole operation; it was rather like extracting information from a prisoner by torture, when patient courtesy would have been the proper method. So he crashed the gate and got what he wanted. But the nectar turned to poison even as he drained the cup, and his previous anguish developed into absolute despair. Then came the return of the current, and they brought it in “while of unsound mind.” A most accurate diagnosis!
I do beg you to mark well, dear sister, that a true Magical Operation is never “against Nature.” It must go smoothly and serenely according to Her laws. One can bring in alien energies and compel an endothermic reaction; but—”Pike’s Peak or bust?” The answer will always be BUST!
To return for a moment to that question of Secrecy: there is no rule to prohibit you from quoting against me such of my brighter remarks as “Mystery is the enemy of Truth;” but, for one thing, I am, and always have been, the leader of the Extreme Left in the Council-Chamber of the City of the Pyramids, so that if I acquiesce at all in the system of the O.T.O. so far as the “secret of secrets” of the IX° is concerned, it is really on a point of personal honour. My pledge given to the late Frater Superior and O.H.O., Dr. Theodor Reuss. For all that, in this particular instance it is beyond question a point of common prudence, both because the abuse of the Secret is, at least on the surface, so easy and so tempting, and because, if it became a matter of general knowledge the Order itself might be in danger of calumny and persecution; for the secret is even easier to misinterpret that to profane.
Love is the law, love under will.
* Lat., “Read! Judge! Be silent!”