Ordo Templi Orientis
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA
April 2001 e.v. at Thelema Lodge
Lodge Members and Officers
Lots of us at this lodge have been communicating in the gnostic mass together for many years, and have come to share a deep familiarity with the gnostic ritual. Last year, for example, we had nine priestesses (two of whom were visitors), ten priests, and twenty-five different deacons working in Horus Temple, which gives an idea of how many of us are actively learning and working to celebrate the ritual. In many ways the phrases of Liber XV tend to become part of our shared language together as a lodge community. Working in so vital a tradition, it is a challenge we must all assume to maintain the purity of Baphomet's original text of the mass. Paradoxically, as our confidence develops in the offices of the mass and we come to appreciate our significance as living repositories of the text, we can begin to invest authority in our own memories, sometimes without ready reference to the exact (printed) text. Recently someone was overheard wondering outside the temple whether celebrating mass is more like playing Beethoven - where the music is there on the page in its staff notation, and the performer must render it as perfectly as possible in order do it justice and get it right - or whether doing ritual might not be more like playing jazz - where the music is generated in the very process of playing it, with chord charts used only as a guide to the potential performance. There are of course aspects of both these stances in the workings of our temple, since no canon rubric could ever contain truly complete specifications for all of the movements and attitudes and tones of the live mass. On the other hand, any specific departures from the phrases or the gestures of the mass as provided in the text, when such things occasionally do occur, are almost always conspicuous as unfortunate accidents or as stylistic difficulties.
The most common accident is when enthusiasm momentarily swamps the memory in performance, and some word fails upon the tongue of one of the officers, perhaps to be replaced extemporaneously with the nearest available synonym in order to preserve the celebratory flow. This can happen to even the most practiced and experienced officer once in awhile, and so long as one avoids a self-conscious over-reaction to it (which will certainly interrupt the delicate complex of forces being inter-related in the ritual), no harm is done to the mass. In fact, so long as they are kept minimal and executed with respectful confidence, small verbal errors in celebration can serve the useful purpose of reminding us how much more meaningful and apt is the authentic language of our mass in contrast to almost any of the variations upon it that one encounters. Once in awhile an officer in the early stages of coming to grips with one of the roles will perversely adopt some (often seemingly arbitrary) verbal variation as a kind of personal trademark. Usually after a few stubborn repetitions of such a variation it begins to seem like obvious vandalism and the maturing officer has the decency to put it right. Occasional variations, however, can be made unconsciously, and sometimes repeated without any awareness on the officer's part, whose concerns in performance are often after all quite manifold. They may persist until someone takes the person aside privately away from the temple and provides an objective account of the phenomenon, and even then some persistent effort may be necessary in order to correct unconsciously developed habits of inaccuracy.
This celebratory dynamic in working with the canon of the mass in performance is an ongoing aspect of our temple experience together, and one we will do better to learn from than to ignore. The gnostic mass in Liber XV is a complex and difficult liturgy to which we give spontaneous life, and its language presents us with a number of specific challenges for which each novice in the role must find some personal solution. There are some terms in the mass which for a number of reasons tend to trip and worry and confuse many celebrants. Our mass was written by the Patriarch Baphomet while staying in Moscow during the summer of 1913 e.v., and like any text -- however masterful and inspired -- it is bound and determined by the linguistic context out of which it arose. All texts are generated and take form in time, and as time passes they recede somewhat, escaping us bit by bit as their language becomes strange to our own time. In addition, Baphomet did not intend to make the language of this gnostic liturgy simplistic and trite for us, building instead complex formulas and profound truths into the mass, which may take years of growth to be able to comprehend and explain. Furthermore, if we accept that the concepts and styles known as gnosticism function for us as a medium to organize the meaning of our work in the mass, then this we must recognize has been a changing medium which seemed quite different for Crowley's generation than it has become for us over the ensuing fifty years. These and other factors can tend to remove us from the mass, and we all develop strategies to cope with them. A few specific phrases seem to snag at the attention of many celebrants, and these are the most likely to be altered in our voices. The problem may be as simple as the use of archaic English pronouns in the mass, which are easy to mistake if one ignores their special grammar: the second person usage of "thee," "thou," and "thine" is invariably singular in reference, which is not too strange or difficult, but some tend to neglect the fact that even one instance of these obsolete singular forms in a text will make all of that text's usages of the more familiar forms of "you" and "your" into plurals. One cannot mix the old "thou" singular with the modern singular usage of "you" without producing obvious nonsense, such as is heard when a priest tells the invoked "all saints of the true church of old time" that "of thee we claim heirship;" it must be "of ye" that we make the claim.
Other challenges are not so simple, and arise from our developing understanding of the ritual in relation to its unfamiliar constructions. In his solo part in the anthem, for example, where the priest may seem to be neglecting the centrality of the feminine role in the mass by the phallic emphasis of his lines, an occasional priest will convert "vehicle am I" to "vehicle are we," encouraged by the additional confusion of the archaic rhyme on that line. No modern speaker is going to employ the old pronunciation "mysterye" in order to preserve the rhyme, but in converting "I" to "we" more is lost than is gained: not only the meaning of the words, which apply in one sense to the phallus and are thus gender-specific, but one of the central strands of imagery running all the way through the text is casually interrupted by such a change. Patterns of "I" and "one" in the speeches of the mass are consistently interplayed with patterns of "O" and "none" (zero), and we are unlikely to make the text more meaningful by obscuring this complex symbolism for the sake of an easy (or egalitarian) line.
The challenge presented by "the children of the Prophet" in the Deacon's speech is even more difficult. Crowley three times had the canon of the mass printed without ever altering this line, although it does seem to "misquote" the Book of the Law (where the "child" is singular). Efforts of some recent editors to change the mass in order to impose a posthumous orthodoxy upon our Prophet have been lamely justified with the assertion that it is "unlikely" that Baphomet intended the plural "children" which he repeatedly published, simply because the editors believe he ought not to have intended it. Such a "correction" to the text upon dogmatic grounds simply falsifies Baphomet's authorship, and establishes a precedent (which is lazy if not dangerous) for homogenizing or "fixing" the Prophet's heritage in order to simplify its meaning for us.
The mass also contains a number of difficult or complex terms which can puzzle our clergy, leading sometimes to variations in the ritual. One such troublesome word is "heathen" in the Collects of the mass, which an occasional deacon is loath to pronounce (presumably claiming it somehow as a badge of brave dissent from the corruption of established "religious institutions" left over from the old aeon). "Heathen" here is sometimes converted to "unenlightened," or to "Christians" or even -- as we have once or twice heard -- to "nogoodniks!" Apart from the distracting vulgarity of such substitutions, what is questionable here is the larger notion that the work of the officers in the mass is to provide solutions for the congregation at the expense of honestly presenting the problems of the text for all to engage with. The word "heathen" may be present in the mass to suggest the concept of our gnostic church as an established institution from which the ignorant and untrained find themselves excluded. There are other indications in the canon of the mass that Crowley hoped the E.G.C. would become a wealthy and powerfully organized church, able for example to afford the precious ornaments and vestments mentioned in the text. We have a perfect right to be suspicious of such aspirations, and to prefer a brass crown to the expense and trouble of preserving a golden one, but it still seems false to alter the wording of the mass as a way of making such an argument.
The following section of Crowley's travel diary is reprinted from Vanity Fair
(London: 17 February 1909), page 201. Picking up close to where the preceding article left off in these pages last month, this piece covers ten days of travel in Burma, ending in a reunion between Crowley and his beloved friend Allan Bennett. Suffering and feverish with malaria part of the time, Crowley had nevertheless departed from Calcutta (where he was living at the end of 1901, sharing a house with three other Englishmen and their servants) to visit Bennett. As a traveling companion he brought one of his Calcutta house-mates, Edward Thornton, along with one of their Indian house boys, who was called Peter because he had converted to Christianity (without, however, improving his honesty, as Crowley quickly discovered). Allan Bennett, the one-time Frater Jehe Aur, Adeptus Minor of the Golden Dawn, was now living in a remote Buddhist monastery as Bhikkhu Ananda Metteya. Their meeting as described here took place on (or about) Thursday 14 February 1902, beginning a visit which lasted nine days. Readers will be interested to compare this 1909 article with chapter 32 in Crowley's Confessions, prepared a dozen or so years later, portions of which seem to have been closely adapted from the same travel diary from which the present essay was prepared. The verses quoted in this piece are Crowley's own, written on the trip he is describing, first available in a variant version entitled "Rondel" in his 1903 collection Ahab and Other Poems (London: privately printed), and subsequently published in Crowley's Collected Works volume 2, page 121.
from the note book of
By palm and pagoda enchaunted, o'er-shadowed, I lie in the light
Of stars that are bright beyond suns that all poets have vaunted,
In the deep-breathing amorous bosom of forests of Amazon might
By palm and pagoda enchaunted.
By spells that are murmured, and rays of my soul strongly flung, never daunted;
By gesture and tracery traced with a hand dappled white,
I summon the spirit of earth from the gloom they for ages have haunted.
O woman of deep red skin! Carved hair like the teak! O delight
Of my soul in the hollows of earth -- how my spirit hath taunted --
Away! I am here, I am laid to the breast of the earth in the dusk of the night,
By palm and pagoda enchaunted.
The early hours of the morning in the winter are bitterly cold, and the river is covered to a height of several feet with a dense white mist which does not disappear till well after sunrise.
I kept very quite the next day, for repeated attacks of fever had begun to interfere with my digestive apparatus. Just at nightfall, however, two deer came down to drink at the riverside. It was rather dark for a shot, and the deer could hardly be distinguished from the surrounding foliage, but the men very clearly and silently held the boat, and I let fly. The result was better than I expected. I hit exactly where I had aimed, and the deer dropped like a stone. Needless to say we had a first-class dinner. We slept at Singoun that night. There were a great many jungle fires during this day and the next. The next morning we started again early, and I resumed my bird shooting. On the first day I had several times missed a Brahman duck and was somewhat anxious to retrieve my reputation. Quite early in the morning I got a very fair shot at one; it shook its wings in derision and flew off, landing about a hundred yards down stream. We floated down, and I had another shot with the same result; for the next shot I went on shore and deliberately stalked the animal from behind the low bank and got a sitting shot at about ten yards. The disgusted bird looked around indignantly, and flew solemnly down stream. I, even more disgusted, got back to the boat, but the bird was a little too clever this time; for he made a wide circle and came flying back right overhead. I let fly from below and it fell with a flop into the river. The fact is that these birds are so well protected that it is quite useless to shoot at them when the breast is not exposed, unless a lucky pellet should find its way into the brain. So on the next occasion, having noticed that when disturbed they always went down stream, I went some distance below them, and sent two boys to frighten them from above. The result was excellent right and left, and I consoled myself for my previous fiascos. We stopped the night at Toun Myong.
After a delightful night, we went off the next morning and got to Kama on the Irrawaddy, whence we signalled the steamboat which took us back to Prome, where we stopped the night. The next day we spent in visiting the Pagoda, Thornton doing some sketching and I writing a couple of Buddhist poems. We went off in the evening for Rangoon. The next day we drove about the town but did little else; and on Monday we paid off Peter. The principle on which I had dealt with this man was to give him money in lump sums as he wanted it, and to call him to give an account of all he had spent. He made out that we owed him 37 rupees by this said account. I made a few trifling corrections; reducing the balance in his favour, and including the wages due to him (which he had not reckoned) to 2 rupee, 4 annas. He was very indignant, and was going to complain to everyone from the Lieutenant-Governor to the hotel- keeper, but I think he was rather staggered when I told him that as he had been a very good servant in other respects I would give him as backsheesh the bottle of champagne and the three tins which he had already stolen. He appeared very surprised at my having detected this theft. Whereby hangs a tale. On leaving Rangoon I gave him a list of all the provisions, with the instructions that when he took anything from the store he was to bring the list to me and have that thing crossed off. Needless to say on the second day the list was missing; he, of course, swore that I had not given it back to him. Equally needless to say I had kept a duplicate list, which I took very good care not to show.
That evening I was again down with fever, and found myself unable to take any food whatever. I called in the local medico, who fed me on iced champagne, and the next day, I was pretty well again. Thornton in the meanwhile had gone off to Mandalay. I was very sorry not to be able to go there with him, but my time was very short: as I did not know when I might be summoned to join Eckenstein to go off to Kashmir.
On the 12th February I went on board the Komilla for Akyab, where Allan was now living. In the course of the day the sea air completely restored me to health. On the 13th we were off Sandaway, which did not appear fascinating. On the next day we put in at Khyoukpyu, which I had so vainly hoped to reach overland. It has a most delightful bay and beach, its general appearance recalling the South Sea Islands; but the place is a den of malaria. We had not time to land as the captain was anxious to get into Akyab the same night. We raced through the Straits, and cast anchor there about 8 o'clock -- just in time.
I went ashore with the second officer and proceeded in my usual casual manner to try and find Allan in the dark. The job was easier than I anticipated. The first man I spoke to greeted me as if I had been his long- lost brother, and took me off in his own carriage to the Monastery (whose name is Lamma Sayadaw Kyoung) where I found Allan, whom I now saw for the first time as a Buddhist monk. The effect was to make him appear of gigantic height, as compared to the diminutive Burmese, but otherwise there was very little change. The old gentleness was still there.
interviewed regarding his
upbringing and early life
by Glenn Turner
In Berkeley, 7th April 1981 e.v.
Here are the annual demographics of the O.T.O. from International Headquarters. These membership totals have been obtained from active central accounts at the end of February 2001 e.v.: 3,895 all, 2,960 of which are initiates.
In the list which follows, all data is drawn from the International mailing list. Accordingly, the membership counts here are less than the actual total count, owing to changing and lost addresses.
Known OTO member addresses by regions at end February 2001 e.v.
(Associates and initiates both) Total: 3,629 in 55 countries.
|(North Cal: 176)||New Jersey||41|
|(South Cal: 196)||New Mexico||19|
|Dist. of Columbia||5||Ohio||35|
|IVORY COAST||1||SOUTH AFRICA||16|
---- International OTO Treasurer General (Bill Heidrick)
|4/1/01||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple|
(Feast of Fools)
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/7/01||Full Moon in Libra 8:22 PM|
|4/8/01||Feast of Liber AL Chapter I 6:00PM||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/8/01||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/9/01||Feast of Liber AL Chapter II 7:30PM|
at Cheth House in Berkeley
|(510) 525-0666||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/10/01||Feast of Liber AL Chapter III 7:30PM|
at Cheth House in Berkeley
|(510) 653-3244||Sirius Oasis|
|4/11/01||Magical Forum with Nathan 8:00PM in|
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/15/01||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/16/01||Section II reading group with|
Caitlin: The Odyssey of Homer
8PM in the library
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/21/01||OTO initiations. Call to attend.||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/22/01||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/23/01||New Moon in Taurus 8:26 AM|
|4/25/01||Magical Forum with Paul 8PM in the|
library: Book of Thoth Study Circle
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|4/29/01||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
The viewpoints and opinions expressed herein are the responsibility of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of OTO or its officers.
Ordo Templi Orientis
P.O. Box 2303
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA
Phone: (510) 652-3171 (for events info and contact to Lodge)
Internet: email@example.com (Submissions and internet circulation only)