OTO AKA Ordo Templi Orientis AKA Order of the Temple of the East AKA the Order of Oriental Templars
3 essays, BC - Before Crowley, CE - Crowley Exalted and AD - After Death of the Beast, Aleister Crowley
BC - Before Crowley:
is a co-ed Fraternal Order based on both Western and Eastern Spiritual traditions. In the late 1800s a successful chemist, Carl Kellner, studied with the European Rosicrucian scholar Franz Hartmann, with whom he helped develop a gas "ligno-sulphite" inhalation therapy for tuberculosis; His commercial success with treating wood to create a cheap paper made him wealthy, and inspired by Hartmann's admiration for Madame Blavatsky, he set off on a tour of India, Egypt and across Europe, seeking Occult contacts and knowledge.
In his travels, being a Freemason opened many doors both in the British Raj of India and Egypt's Colonial government. He studied under several teachers, of whom he named Sufi Soliman ben Aifa of Egypt, Bhima Sena Pratapa of Lahore, India and Sri Mahatma Agamya Paramahamsa, India. From them he learned Tantric philosophy and practice, which he made more understandable by applying it to a structure he was already familiar to, Freemasonry.
He also was initiated into the Masonic offshoot the Rite of Memphis and Misraim by it's founder, John Yarker in 1902. This was an invitation into many quasi Masonic and secret groups not under the control of the United Grand Lodges of England. His idea was to incorporate his new understanding of the Eastern teachings he had learned in a familiar structure to the learned Masons of Europe and named it the Academia Masonica. No one would be admitted unless they were a Master Mason, and the 3 additional degrees the Academia Masonica would confer were the VII, VIII and IX degrees of the OTO as it existed in 1975.
However, when he shared his plans with another German Freemason and Occultist, Theodor Reuss, a middle triad of degrees were added to fill in some of the more or less standard Occult teachings of the day, and the first triad of degrees were reworked from the Masonic beginnings into something more suitable to a co-ed Order rather than all male Fraternity, and to further distance the emerging Order from the control of any Grand Lodges.
Then, the whole plan was put on hold as Theodor Reuss, whose fertile mind and empty pockets kept him moving, decided to revive the Order of Illuminati which Brother Adam Weishaupt had tried to use as a Masonic front for his political activities in 1776. Reuss' partner in this venture, Leopold Engel, a Goethe scholar fond of the Faust legend, set up the unrecognized Ludwig Lodge, and Kellner disavowed any relationship with either of them until it dissolved in 1902.
Theodor Reuss wanted to revive Carl Kellner's Academia Masonica idea, but as a co-ed Order emphasizing the Eastern origins of their secret teachings, and emulating the legends of the Templars, a well known motif used by the upper Organization of the York Rite of Freemasonry, the Knights Templar. Thus the Academia Masonica descended from the realm of Ideas into an actual organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) or Order of Oriental Templars.
One mystery is, who was the third Top Officer? All quasi Masonic Lodges have three top Officers (for reasons not relevant here) so who joined Carl Kellner and Theodor Reuss in completing the Triad? Although both Rudolph Steiner and Papus were both well known and respected authorities in esoteric Masonic circles, it seems more likely that Kellner's teacher Franz Hartmann was tapped for the role.
But Kellner's dies 3 years later, and the older Hartmann follows several years after, leaving Reuss as the only active OTO Chief actively initiating members and granting Charters, often in exchange for similar charters from other Occultists to their own groups.
All of this describes the landscape in what may be called the OTO B.C....that is, before Crowley.
On a trip to England, Theodor Reuss initiated Aleister Crowley Into the first triad of degrees in the OTO in 1910. Two years later, perhaps in admiration of Crowley and George Cecil Jones's curriculum for their post Golden Dawn group the A∴A∴ or Argenteum Astrum (the Silver Star), Reuss gave Crowley an OTO Charter and appointing him National Grand Master General X° of O.T.O. for Great Britain and Ireland, with permission to initiate English speaking Occultists into the first triad of degrees only. Crowley formed the "Mysteria Mystica Maxima," or M∴M∴M∴ to pursue these goals, and arranged Charters for North America for 1st his student in Canada, Charles Stansfeld Jones AKA Frater Achad, and later Karl Germer.
TO BE CONTINUED....
Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordo_Templi_Orientis; http://www.oto-usa.org/history.html#reuss; there is much conflicting information on this Organization on the web and in books, partially based on it's many splinter groups. This is merely one point of view, seek others for a broader perspective.