Formally joining O.T.O. requires participating in a physical ceremony of initiation called the Minerval Degree or 0°. It is the initial ceremony in the six-stage journey of the first cycle of initiations known as the Man of Earth (0° thru P.I.). At the same time, it offers the participant a perfect chance to experience our mysteries as a guest without any long-term membership commitment. The following questions and answers were written to help you decide if taking the Minerval Degree is right for you.
First off, what is an initiation?
The word initiation implies a beginning or an introduction. In O.T.O., it refers to one of a series of physical ceremonies, also called Mysteries, in which a candidate is admitted into a particular level of participation, or Degree, in our Order. Our initiations take the form of ritual drama, which is similar to a play in which the initiatory candidate is the central actor. These dramas make use of symbolism, narrative (i.e. story-telling), and discourse to introduce various philosophical principles, to establish fraternal bonds, and to provide a sacred environment wherein the candidate can choose to undergo spiritual transformation.
What does “Minerval” mean?
The word is derived from the name of the Roman goddess Minerva, the equivalent of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. A Minerval, then, may be considered a seeker of wisdom. In our system, the Minerval initiation is the first of our Mysteries, and is given the number zero in our numbered system of Degrees. It is an introductory, probationary Degree, which does not establish any permanent fraternal bonds with our Order.
Why would I want to be initiated?
Everyone has their own reason for taking an initiation…there is no single or right answer to this question. However, here are some common reasons:
- To become a member of the Order and one of its local bodies.
- To gain greater insight into the system of Thelema.
- To gain greater insight into the symbolism of the Gnostic Mass.
- To seek a deeper level of fellowship with members of the community.
- To help further your journey along a Thelemic spiritual path.
As a Minerval, do I have to obey a guru or spiritual leader?
No. O.T.O. does not have gurus of any kind, and members are responsible for their own spiritual development. The Order does have many people who are qualified to offer guidance and education in spiritual matters, but such interaction is solely at the discression of each member.
Are O.T.O. initiations anything like those at college fraternities?
From what we know of them, probably not. We are a serious spiritual organization and our initiation ceremonies are intended to be transformative, instructive, and inspiring.
What are the benefits of becoming a Minerval?
- Minervals may attend other Minerval initiations as guests (at any O.T.O. body in the world). This is highly recommended.
- Minervals are eligible to begin novitiate training for the Diaconate and/or Priesthood of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.).
- Minervals are eligible to participate in many local body activities not open to non-members.
- Minervals receive Agapé (the U.S.G.L. newsletter), The Magical Link (the international O.T.O. newsletter), and the Oriflamme (books of interest to Order members).
Are there any requirements for taking Minerval?
Yes, there are several requirements for eligibility:
- You must be at least 18 years of age
- You may not be incarcerated, or under probation which limits your ability to travel
- You must be capable of taking & keeping a binding oath to the Order
- You must never have been previously initiated in O.T.O.
- You must be vouched for by two members holding the I° or higher (your sponsors)
How do I go about getting initiated?
It begins by filling out and turning in a Minerval application. You can request one from the local body Master. Remember that one of the requirements is the signature of two sponsors in good standing that are at least I°.
Okay, how do I get two sponsors?
Before you can be initiated, you will need to develop a level of personal familiarity with at least two members. We conduct many activities that are open to non-member guests at which you can meet such people. You can contact a body officer or look at the local body calendar for information on upcoming events that are open to the public. One of the best ways is to start attending celebrations of the Gnostic Mass.
Who can sponsor me for Minerval?
Any member of O.T.O. in good standing of at least the First Degree.
Will they be at my initiation?
While your sponsors are strongly encouraged to attend your Minerval initiation, it is not strictly required. Further, it is your responsibility to inform them of the date of your initiation.
Should I wait for a Minerval to be scheduled before I turn in my application?
No. Often initiations are scheduled based on the number of applications, so go ahead and turn in your application as soon as you have completed it. You can give your completed application to a local body officer.
Once I turn in the Minerval application, what can I expect?
You will be contacted telling you the date and time of the ceremony and where to go. It might be a few months before an initiation is scheduled. Patience is appreciated.
What if I can’t do it, or I change my mind after I turn one in?
No problem, simply let the body master know. If necessary, you can ask to skip the current ceremony and be put into the next. Keep in mind that if a year passes, then you will have to fill out a new application.
Do I have to pay the fees when I turn in my application?
Not generally. You can normally pay them at any time up to the day of the ceremony (although the sooner the better). Currently, the standard Minerval fee is $42 and one year’s dues to Grand Lodge is also $42, for a total of $84. There may be additional, local fees and dues to pay; ask the local body master or treasurer for details. Blazing Star Oasis has a local application fee of $20 due when you turn in your application.
What should I plan to bring to my Minerval?
You do not need to bring anything other than yourself. If you have not yet paid the initiation fee, then please bring that with you.
How should I prepare for my Minerval?
There is no one correct answer for this—it depends on you. Practically speaking, you do not need to do anything to prepare. Looking over the U.S.G.L. website might be a good idea to educate yourself about the organization you are about to join.
After I take my Minerval, how long do I have to wait until I take my First Degree?
There is no minimum waiting period—you could actually take your First Degree on the same occasion (with special dispensation). However, we don’t normally recommend this. The Minerval Degree is a self-contained initiation and is best experienced for a while on its own. A common waiting period is about nine months.
Will I be expected to take the First Degree initiation?
Absolutely not! Taking the First Degree is a serious decision, and no Minerval should feel pushed into it. Some take their First right away, some after many years, and it is equally honorable to spend your entire life as a Minerval initiate. The choice is entirely yours.
So, am I joining a cult, or what?
Although some members like to joke about us being a cult, in reality we are not. The following are common elements one might find in a “noxious” cult (e.g. Heaven’s Gate or The People’s Temple):
- Brainwashing— Although O.T.O. does purport to instruct candidates in certain secret teachings, we do not use “mind-control” methods, such as “love bombing,” sleep deprivation, dietary limitations, or any other methods of coercive manipulation.
- Blocking exit— In no way do we ever prevent members from leaving the Order.
- Renunciation— At no time do we ask any member to renounce their current or past beliefs, associations, activities, or lifestyle. Neither do members confess “wrongdoing.”
- Isolation— We do not cut off anyone (directly or indirectly) from their family, friends, work, or society in general.
- Financial manipulation— Although there is language in our constitution about upper members giving up their property, in reality and practice, no member is expected to give over all their possessions or wealth to the Order. Further, we are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and Order income does not go towards enriching its leaders.
- Charismatic leaders— While O.T.O. certainly has leaders, they typically maintain a relatively low profile and are not considered “infallible,” meaning that the Order is not a “cult of personality.” Rather, it is an enduring institution—it does not exist based on any individual.
- Control of Behavior— No one in the Order will ever tell you how to live your private life or what you can and can’t do or enjoy. We do take oaths regarding certain behaviors, but it is up to each individual to interpret and fulfill them—no one in the Order polices members regarding their initiatory oaths. However, we do have rules regarding the fraternal and public conduct of our members in general, and these rules are enforced. These rules are generally set forth in the Minerval Guide, which you will receive after your initiation.
- Disallowing questions— We promote critical thinking and do not prohibit questions or criticisms about the Order.
After my initiation, who will have access to my legal name?
We take confidentiality very seriously—this is a secret Order, after all. Full civil names are given out to Order members solely on a need-to-know basis. Within the local body, that means the Master, Secretary, and Treasurer will need to have your full civil name on record. Grand Lodge also keeps records according to civil names. However, under no circumstances will the Order voluntarily identify you as a member of O.T.O. by your civil name to a third party, without first obtaining your permission.
I’ve heard that as a Minerval, I will be a “guest” of the Order. Does that mean I’m not a full member?
A Minerval is considered a guest because you can, at any time as a Minerval, back out of the Order completely—whereas in the First Degree a lifelong Bond with the Order is established, which cannot be severed (even though you may resign at any time from the organization). At the same time, Minerval initiates are eligible for all the general benefits of O.T.O. membership.
If I join O.T.O. does that also make me a Mason?
O.T.O. membership does not, of itself, confer any status in Freemasonry. At one time the Order was allied with European Freemasonry, but those ties were cut by Aleister Crowley in 1918. Although there are many similarities, the O.T.O. system is independent from Freemasonry and is specifically designed to reflect the teachings of Thelema.
What is the M.M.M. ?
The initials M.M.M. stand for Mysteria Mystica Maxima. Originally, it was the name of the O.T.O. National Section in Great Britain, then headed by Aleister Crowley (the international head of the O.T.O. was Theodor Reuss at the time). When Crowley became the international head of O.T.O., his M.M.M. degree system, comprising the degrees from 0° (Minerval) through VII° (Seventh), became the international standard for the entire Order, and the name M.M.M. now refers to those degrees within the O.T.O. system.
If I take my Minerval, does that automatically make me a member of the local body where I was initiated?
By taking a Minerval, you automatically become a member of M.M.M. and O.T.O. under the jurisdiction of the U. S. Grand Lodge (as are all members within the United States), but not necessarily the local body where you were initiated. At Blazing Star Oasis, we have our own requirements for membership, including payment of regular dues ($20/month) and involving oneself in service-oriented events. For more information, please contact the Oasis Master.
Do I have to believe in some particular dogma to join?
If you decide to pursue full membership, as a I°, you will be stating that you accept The Book of the Law as written, without wishing to change it. Even in the Minerval degree, you will be expected to make a commitment to uphold the ideals of freedom set forth in The Book of the Law. Of course, how you interpret The Book of the Law and its significance is largely up to you.
As a Minerval, what dues do I have to pay?
All members in the U.S. must pay annual dues to the U.S. Grand Lodge (U.S.G.L.). At Minerval, annual dues are currently $42 a year. When you pay your $84 for your Minerval initiation, you are then paid up at U.S.G.L. for one year. Within the following year, you will receive a letter from the U.S. Grand Treasurer General which will explain how you may pay your future dues. At this point, they can be paid with a check or online with a credit card. Also, Minervals are encouraged to pay local dues of $20/month to help support Blazing Star Oasis.
Is Ordo Templi Orientis Satanic or anti-Christian?
O.T.O. makes no claims or representations to be either Satanic or anti-Christian. We find that these characterizations serve no real purpose in describing what we are about, or our vision for humanity. Rather than being anti-Christian, we are in fact pro-Thelema: we support the Thelemic ideals of freedom of religious and personal self-expression; emancipation from superstition and social oppression; and the development of a world view which supports and encourages the age-old vision of the Universal Brotherhood of mankind.
If I take the Minerval initiation, will I have to kill a goat or do anything else I don’t want to?
First, it is important to explain that during our initiations, at no time will you ever be forced to do something against your will. You may, in fact, withdraw from an initiation ritual at any time during its performance (although you will not receive a refund). We can also say that none of the initiation rituals of O.T.O. involve animal sacrifice (although we do not condemn this time-honored religious practice). Finally, it should be said that for some candidates, the Minerval ceremony can be a fairly intense experience—it is designed to be challenging, but not degrading or painful. Rather, the aim is to instruct, illuminate, welcome, and enhance the lives of initiates.
But…but…I have more questions!
You are strongly encouraged to ask questions of active O.T.O. members. There are also many online resources, such as the U.S.G.L. website as well as many local body sites. You may also contact the local body master at Blazing Star Oasis or the U.S.G.L. Correspondence Secretary or write to:
Attn: Correspondence Secretary
P.O. Box 11386
Berkeley, CA 94712-1386