A.P.R.M.M. and Ordo Templi Orientis


Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis Misraim (A.P.R.M.M.) or Memphis Mizraim is a significant part of the Ordo Templi Orientis phenomenon.
In reality, the O.T.O. had included the Rite of Memphis-Misraïm. 

Allegedly, the Aegpytian Rite of Mizraim [or Misraim] was founded in Milano/Italy in 1805 and transferred to France in 1814. But the Misraim-Rite was (and still is) as a rule not accepted by so-called “Regular Freemasonry”. In 1862, another “irregular” Rite, the Memphis-Rite took hold in the US. "The Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry", that is Rite of Memphis, which sometimes also was called "Oriental Order of Memphis".

On 4th June 1872, the ex-mason John Yarker bought the permission to introduce the Memphis-Rite in England. Under his jurisdiction, Memphis and Misraim came together [now called The Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim, or Memphis-Misraim, M.M. Allegedly, on 24th September 1902 the German Theodor Reuss bought the permission from Yarker to install the Scottish Rite (A.A.S.R., 33º degrees) and the "irregular" M.M. Rites (90º and 97º degrees) in Germany although Yarker has been expelled by order of the Supreme Council on recommendation of a Sovereign Tribunal held 1870.

One of the basic pillars of the Ordo TemplI Orientis, founded by Theodor Reuss at the beginning of the 20th. century, were the charter he'd received (bought) from JohnYarker of the Antient and Primitive Scottish Rite, and the Memphis-Misraim Rite. Many O.T.O. members consider themselves to be Freemasons. The 3º degree (Master Magician) is in the O.T.O system compatible to the Master Mason degree of general Freemasonry (Blue Lodge). Reuss published an alleged transcript of his Charter in his private magazine "Oriflamme" (the issue of December 1902 mentions the 33°, 90° and 96°), the original Charter extant mentions the degrees 30°-33° (without M.M.) only for which Reuss has permission to give. Nevertheless, Reuss assumed making regular Freemasons through his compilation of Orders. In 1917, he would render some A.A.S.R. and M.M. degrees into the O.T.O., founded in 1906.

Reuss, an Anglo-German Freemason who was and still is regarded by historians and Freemasons alike as a swindler, imported the "fringe-masonic" organization of French origin, "Alte und Primitive Ritus von Memphis und Misraim" (henceforth M.M.) and the "Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite" (A.A.S.R.) via England to Germany in 1902. At that time the German organizations had no definite name (they altered according to Reuss’ mood or growing collection of Orders), but was declared to be founded on Harry J. Seymour’s Cerneau charter (a 33° rite) of 21 July 1862. Theodor Reuss was busy selling and buying masonic charters. Clearly, potential members want to associate with an "authentic" Order or Lodge.

"Authenticity" means "regularity": permissions, charters, successions, constitutions and the like. In order to be called "regular" one needs a permission of a "regular" superior Mother or Grand Lodge. Until 1900 there were over 70 so-called High degree systems pretending to be continuations or extensions of the regular Craft Masonry. The only difference between all these systems was the 400 or more different names of the various degrees. This environment is the dwelling ground for those who abused their masonic powers by selling charters etc. (in a similar way to the current trade in minor ‘artistocratic’ titles).

Reuss invented several new Orders, and basically made little more than a confused mess with all of them. He was responsible for the construction of the O.T.O. between 1906 and 1912, a clone of Craft Masonry, A.A.S.R., M.M. and Tantra. He also invented a new "Order of the Illuminati" and several rosicrucian societies. Reuss turned his collection of Orders into a huge non-transparent turmoil where every organisation seemed to be interweaved and linked. Its names varied according to the time of day, some members were co-members of several Reuss-Orders, others weren’t. Neither Reuss or his self-styled heirs have ever appeared to be interested in clarifying the confusion. Therefore, at the time it became widely accepted (and still is today by some) that membership in one of Reuss’ Orders equates to membership in all the others as well. Regular freemasonry rejects all of Reuss’ activities, especially the O.T.O. which accepts women in its lodges: impossible in traditional masonry.

In 1904 and it is probably around this time that Reuss’ decided to recruit from several A.A.S.R. (33° degrees) and M.M. (90° and 97° degrees) members as a ‘chosen few’ for his new emerging Order, the later O.T.O. (11 degrees). There was no proper name at this time — sometimes he spoke of the "Oriental Freemasons" or "Order of Old Templar Freemasons" (expressions also used in the A.A.S.R. context). The Memphis-Rite alone was sometimes called "Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry", or even "Oriental Order of Memphis". When Reuss founded the "Order of Oriental Templars" there was a further confusion just around the corner — who was in which of Reuss’ Orders? And wasn’t the Memphis-Rite alone called "Oriental Templars"? How were they linked? Was an O.T.O.-member automatically an M.M.-member?

Between 1906 and 1913 [following the death of John Yarker, world-wide head of M.M., in 1913 the position was confused] the O.T.O. unequivocably was distinct from all of Reuss’ other Orders. When Reuss spoke of "Our Order" it remained completely unclear which Order he meant. But it is historically senseless to assume the O.T.O., which at this time, was a sort of collective Order which siphoned its members from A.A.S.R., M.M., Order of the Illuminati, regular Masonry, the Gnostic Catholic Church, the Rosicrucians, the Golden Dawn, etc.. It was not until 1917, when Reuss and his self-proclaimed heir, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) considered the O.T.O., M.M. and the A.A.S.R. as linked, for example 33°, 90°-95°, which were equal to the IX° O.T.O. [this is substantiated with Crowley's "Synopsis of Degrees" in his handwritten version of his IV°. O.T.O. Today, all this masonic background is mirrored in the O.T.O.'s rituals: in its language, passwords and grips.

The researcher will find a choice of Reuss' original O.T.O. initiation rituals (Scottish Rite, Cerneau, Royal Arch, Rose Croix, and Memphis-Mizraim derivations) that have been altered by Aleister Crowley for his English branch. Reuss never used Crowley's rituals re-modelled between 1912 and 1918) and wanted the Ordo Templi Orientis and Crowley's concept of to be kept strictly separated: there is evidence that consider Crowley was expelled from the O.TO. in 1921. Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) was originally founded by Carl Kellner [1850-1905], Heinrich Klein [-1913] & Franz Hartmann [1838-1912] around 1895. Albert Karl Theodor Reuss Willsson [1855-1923] succeeded Kellner as chief in 1902, and not until this point did it become a real operative order. While Kellner had travelled in the Orient, and brought back with him Tantric knowledge and such, Reuss was more a typical continental occultist and fringe-Mason. Among else, he was chartered by Westcott of H.O.G.D., John Yarker [1833-1913] of the Memphis-Mizraim, and a co-founder of Leopold Engel [1858-1931] in the revived Illuminati Order. Reuss energic efforts spread the O.T.O. throughout the world. Many famous occultists of the time were in one way or the other linked to Reuss or the O.T.O., as for instance; Papus, Rudolph Steiner, Jack W. Parsons, Ron L. Hubbard, Gerald Gardner, George Plummer, Israel Regardie, Ben Kadosch (Carl Willhelm Hansen) [1872-1936], Heinrich Traenker, Friedrich Mellinger [1890-1970] and many many more.

In 1905, the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis-Misraim was introduced into Germany from England by John Yarker, 97°, who was then the Grand Hierophant of the Rite. The first German leaders were K. Kellner and Theodor Reuss, who created a magical order known as the Ordo Templi Orientis by means of a reduction of the magical grades of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim from 97° to 9°, with a 10th grade, which was purely administrative. In 1902, the Theodor Reuss established the Sovereign Sanctuary of Memphis-Misraïm in Germany and in 1913, after the death of Yarker, he became the International Head of the Rite. In 1924, T. Reuss passed to Eternal East and the succession was interrupted, except in the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis), the neotemplar order founded by Reuss, in 1905, in Germany. In reality, the O.T.O. had included the Rite of Memphis-Misraïm, although in a reduced version of 33° degrees, where its principals degrees were incorporated. In 1908 Krumm-Heller received the Memphis-Misraim grades of 90° and 95° from Theodor Reuss in Paris. He was a disciple of Bishop Clement (under Bricaud's aegis), and of the Martinist Girgois (in Buenos Aires), Papus, and the American Peter Davidson of the H.B. of L, Krumm-Heller would later set up a number of Memphis & Mizraim Temples in South America under Papus' jurisdiction. Krumm-Heller not only befriended Reuss, but also Franz Hartmann and the high-grade Mexican freemason Don Jesus Medina.

In 1909, Theodor Reuss delivered a licence to the famous martinista Gerard Encauss (Papus). Encausse never became a regular (Grand Orient) Freemason. Despite this, he organized what was announced as an "International Masonic Conference" in Paris on June 24, 1908, and at this conference he first met Theodor Reuss, and the two men apparently exchanged patents. Reuss elevated Encausse as X° of the Ordo Templi Orientis as well as giving him license to establish a "Supreme Grand Council General of the Unified Rites of Ancient and Primitive Masonry for the Grand Orient of France and its Dependencies at Paris." For his part, Encausse assisted Reuss in the formation of the O.T.O. Gnostic Catholic Church as a child of l'Église Gnostique de France, thus forming the E.G.C. within the tradition of French neo-gnosticism.


To the Glory of the Sublime Architect of the Universe.
Do unto others whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you.
Grand Orient of the Scottish, Mizraim and Memphis Rites.

In the Name and under the auspices of the Sovereign Sanctuary of the
Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry, in and for Great Britain and Ireland.

Salutation on all points of the Triangle, Respect to the Order.
Peace, Tolerance, Truth.

To all Illustrious and Enlightened Masons throughout the World.
Union, Prosperity, Friendship, Fraternity.

 Know Ye that We the Most Illustrious Sovereign Grand Master General of
 the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry in and for the United Kingdom
 of Great Britain and Ireland, having received a Petition from a
 Constitutional Number of Masons in Antient and Primitive form, stating
 that they have the interests of our beloved Rite at heart, and that
 they desire to propagate and extent its Sublime Teachings by forming a
 Sovereign Sancutary, 33°-95°, in and for the Empire of Germany by the
 distinctive names and titles of the beforesaid Rites.

 Now Therefore, We, believing that there are good reasons for granting
 the prayer of said petitioners, do by virtue of the powers in us vested
 and derived through the Charter of the Sovereign Sanctuary of America
 from the Sovereign Sancutary and Grand Lodge of France, issue this our
 Warrant empowering our Illustrious and Enlightened Brothers: Theodor
 Reuss 33° 90° 96° to act as Most Illustrious Sovereign Grand Master
 General, Franz Hartmann 33° 90° 95°, Thrice Illustrious Grand
 Administrator General; Henry Klein, 33°-95°, 90°, Tc. Ill. Grand
 Keeper of the Golden Book, etc, with power to appoint the other
 necessary officers of a Sovereign Sanctuary etc. to be holden in the
 Valley of Berlin or other german city, aforesaid by the name and title
 of the "Sovereign Sanctuary 33°-95° in and for the Empire of Germany"
 with the customary power to Charter or Warrant subordinate Lodges,
 Chapters, Senates, Sublime Councils, Mystic Temples, and Grand Mystic
 Temples, Councils General, 32.°-94.°, according to the Several Rituals,
 in any or all of the degrees of the A. and A. Scottish Rite 33°; the
 O.R. Mizraim, 90°; the A. and P. Rite, or of Memphis 95°, and we
 furthermore do authorize the said Illustrious and Enlightened Brethren
 to confer the several Degrees of our Antient and Primitive Rite from
 the First to the 33°-95° A. and P., 90° Mizraim and 33° Antient and
 Accepted, according to the Constitutions, Ordinances and General Rules
 of the Sovereign Sanctuary 33°-95° and last Degree, and in no other
 manner, and this our Warrant shall continue in force until the same is
 revoked by Us or by our successors.

 Done in our Sanctuary where reign Peace, Knowledge, and the Plenitude
 of all that is Good, this the 24. day of the Egyptian Month Shamenah,
 answering to the 24th day of September 1902 E.V.

 Witness our hand and Seal of office

 (Seal.) John Yarker 33° 90° 96° Gr. Master General Ad Vitam.

 (Seal.) Richd. Higham, 33°-95° 90° Grand Chancellor General.

 (Seal.) Hy. Hawley, 33° 95° 90° Grand Secretary General


In 1902 Theodor Reuss applied for a Warrant for the Rite of Memphis and Misraim to John Yarker, Sovereign Grand Master of the combined Rites of Memphis and Misraim in England.

Memphis and Misraim already had a long and chequered history in France and the before Yarker acquired it from a American source in 1872. Yarker was willing to give Reuss a Warrant for the Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim, also for the Cerneau (New York, 1807) version of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. In connection with his prospective 'High grade' operation Reuss recruited two gentlemen who had not previously been associated with his masonic manoeuvres in Germany. They were his old friend Heinrich Klein and Dr. Franz Hartmann. In order to give them the necessary status in or about September 1902 Yarker appointed all three of them to high office in his Sovereign Sanctuary, the body which ostensibly controlled all the variegated High-grade rites in his possession. The Warrant, dated 24 September, followed immediately. It authorized Reuss (as Sovereign Grand Master General), Hartmann (as Grand Administrator General) and Klein (as Grand Keeper of the Golden Book) to establish a Sovereign Sanctuary in Berlin.

According to Reuss in the December 1902 issue of Oriflamme: 'Thus the Sovereign Sanctuary for the German Reich [i.e. for the M & M Rite] is entitled to found, accept and consecrate Masonic Lodges in the whole of Germany and to work the collective degrees from the first (1° degree) to the last, the degree of Grand Inspector General (33°-95°), and to accept candidates for Initiation and advance them.' The important factor was that Reuss now claimed authority to initiate Freemasons and work the Craft degrees in Germany. As might be expected the German Grand Lodges who were members of the Grosslogenbund (Union of Grand Lodges) did not recognize either Reuss or his Rite.

Reuss took the obligation as Grand Master General at a ceremony held at Berlin on 11 November 1902. The new Sovereign Sanctuary proceeded to found new Lodges. Reuss was also able to report that the Sovereign Sanctuary had already exchanged representatives with various Sovereign Sanctuaries, Grand Orients, etc., in Italy, Spain, Rumania, Bulgaria, Argentine, Cuba and Egypt. Needless to say, none of these bodies exchanged representatives with the United Grand Lodge of England or the German Grand Lodges. In this context we encounter a curious Memphis and Misraim "underworld". According to the Sovereign Sanctuary’s Constitution, published in Oriflamme (December 1902), its Craft lodges were to use the Pilgrim Lodge’s by-laws and the 'Hamburg (Schroeder) ritual as adopted by the Pilgrim Lodge in 1852'.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that there was a rush of applicants for Reuss’s motley collection of High degrees. A year after the receipt of Yarker’s Warrant the total membership of the Sovereign Sanctuary’s lodges and chapters amounted to no more than 132 brethren. However, at least a few of them were members of Lodges which belonged to recognized German jurisdictions. Whether there was already an 'Inner Occult Circle' at this time is not known, although it existed in 1905. Nevertheless the Sovereign Sanctuary had an official Patron in the person of Reuss’s friend Dr Karl Kellner, who was a dedicated occultist.

It was typical of Reuss’s persuasiveness that in the spring of 1904 he was able to stage-manage the alleged regularization of an unrecognized masonic body which had a far larger membership than his own. This was the Grosse Freimaurer Loge von Deutschland which had about 30 daughter lodges and 700 members. Its headquarters were at Leipzig. The GFLvD had its origins in the irregular Allgemeine Burgerloge which was founded at Berlin in 1896. A number of ABL lodges broke away in April 1899 and founded an independent ABL at Leipzig. The latter, with 21 lodges, changed its name to the Matthai Logenbund in July 1900. There was another change of title in July 1903 when the MLB became the GFLvD. By 1904 its aims and the work of its lodges appears to have been regular in everything but name.

In 1914 A. P. Eberhardt, the GFLvD’s Grand Master, explained why he and his colleagues had approached Reuss. There had been frequent resignations by individuals who had realized that they were not 'proper freemasons'. Reuss offered a solution. For a fee of 800 Marks on 12 May 1904 he'rectified' the Grosse Freimaurer Loge von Deutschland and 29 daughter lodges with 702 members and declared them to be 'regular'. A week later he wrote to the Grosslogenbund to the effect that the Sovereign Sanctuary and Grand Orient of the United Scottish and Memphis and Misraim Rites in Germany now included 35 craft lodges and 845 members. This communication did not attract even an acknowledgment.

In 1904 Reuss published a 32-page pamphlet with the title Historische Ausgabe der Oriflamme ('Historical Edition of the Oriflamme'). It was addressed to 'all who want to learn the truth and real facts of Masonic historical research'. His intention was to demonstrate the historical authenticity of his collection of Rites on the basis of documentary evidence. We now learn of a direct connection with the original Knights Templar. In this context, according to Reuss, no documents could be published because the initiated were well aware that masonic bodies which cultivated the Templar and Rosicrucian traditions had been forbidden to make written records. 'Proofs of our connection with the Templers are available,' he wrote, 'but they are not of a documentary nature. They are only communicated to the initiated.' Finally: 'Our Order not only provided the opportunity for acquiring a knowledge of all existing masonic systems but also of the secret knowledge and cults of all ages.' He included an article on 'the Secrets of the Occult High Degrees of our Order' but did not reveal anything. The fact that there was an inner occult group was announced in 1904. In March 1905 it was reported that Dr. Kellner was in Egypt and that his convalescence was progressing satisfactorily.

In August 1905 Reuss intended to go to London and remain there for an apparently indefinite period. In the event his departure was delayed until 8 January 1906]. In view of his impending absence a number of important decisions were taken at an Extraordinary General Meeting of ’Sovereign Sanctuary of the Order of Ancient Templar Freemasons of the Scottish, Memphis and Misraim Rites for the German Reich' held at Berlin on 27 August 1905. The designation 'Templar' now appears for the first time in connection with Reuss’s activities.

The main outlines of the scheme of reorganization arranged in August 1905 were roughly as follows. The Sovereign Sanctuary was to receive specific fees for granting the 'High degrees' but otherwise the day to day running of the Order was to be delegated to the Grand Orient of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite which had its headquarters at Hamburg and the Symbolical Grand Lodge of the Scottish Rite for Germany at Leipzig. The latter was the former Grosse Freimaurer Loge von Deutschland which Reuss had rectified in 1904.

The Hamburg organization, with Franz Held as Grand Commander General, had two subsidiary Grand Councils: one at Hamburg under Held and another at Munich under Maximilian Dotzler. The Hamburg Grand Orient was granted virtual autonomy as far as the control of four chapters and seven craft lodges were concerned. The Sovereign Sanctuary (i.e. Reuss) no longer received a capitation fee but was to charge 40 Marks for an individual member’s first 'High degree' certificate and 10 Marks for all subsequent certificates up to 300. The ratification of these new arrangements was made conditional upon the Hamburg and Munich branches' refunding certain funds which had previously been advanced by Reuss.

However, the Munich members refused to pay the 2,079 Marks which Reuss claimed was due to him. Furthermore, the heads of the Grand Councils at Hamburg and Munich (Franz Held and Maximilian Dotzler) were at loggerheads. The Hamburg branch dissolved itself in December 1905 (only four months after it was formed). Many of its members found their way into regular lodges under the Obediences of the Grand Lodge of Hamburg and the 'Old Prussian' Grosse Landesloge at Berlin. Their path in the direction of regularity had been distinctly tortuous.

In the course of winding up his affairs in Germany Reuss also had to deal with an unpleasant financial problem at Munich. When the Sovereign Sanctuary met at Berlin on 25 September 1904 it was briefly reported that a certain Bro. Hugo Hoffman had made the Order a gift of some real estate at Munich. No further information about this generous action was published until a year later. Reuss was in Munich on 4-5 September 1905 and discovered that the house which Bro. Hoffmann had so kindly presented was worth 173,000 Marks but saddled with a mortgage which would cost at least 241,000 Marks to redeem. Thus Reuss was obliged to take legal action to renounce the gift and avoid paying interest on the mortgage.

Reuss moved to London in January 1906. He was now employed by the Central Press news agency and appears to have been in charge of its German wire service. Although he scarcely acknowledged the fact in Oriflamme it is evident that his masonic operation had been a failure. Furthermore he had quarrelled with many of his followers. However, in 1906 when his masonic empire had practically ceased to exist he grandiloquently described himself as ’Sovereign Grand Master General ad vitam of the United Orders of the Scottish, Memphis and Mismaim Freemasons in and for the German Reich, Sovereign Grand Commander, Absolute Grand Sovereign, Sovereign Pontiff, Sovereign Grand Master of the O.T.O. Freemasons, Supreme Magus Soc. Frat. R.C., S I 33°, Termaximus Regens I.O. etc.'

The Absolute Sovereign Grand Master, was able to publish only two numbers of Oriflamme during 1906. Their contents are not of great interest although they throw light upon his disputes with his former disciples. They also indicate that he was now anxious to admit women to Memphis & Misraim, that he was preoccupied with ’sexual yoga' (for want of a better expression), and that his Order of the Templar of the Orient (O.T.O.) would in due course take the place of his other rites.

He issued a warrant for a 'mixed' Memphis & Misraim Lodge in the spring of 1906. The recipient was Dr Rudolf Steiner who had been Secretary General of the German branch of the Theosophical Society since 1902. Steiner was never a Theosophist in the Blavatsky-Adyar tradition and was already on uneasy terms with Annie Besant. He and many of his followers broke away from the Theosophical Society in 1912 when he founded the subsequently influential Anthroposophical Society. Bro. Dr. Rudolph Steiner, 33°, 95°, of Berlin and the Brothers associated with him have been granted permission to form a Chapter and Grand Council under the title 'Mystica Aeterna' in Berlin. Dr Steiner has been appointed Deputy Grand Master with jurisdiction over members already received or to be received by him. Sister Marie von Sievers (later Steiner’s wife) has been appointed General Grand Secretary for the Lodges of Adoption. In his posthumous autobiography The Story of my Life, 1928 Steiner went to great lengths to minimize the significance of his previous connection with Reuss and claimed that 'this symbolic-cultural section of the anthroposophical movement came to an end in the middle of 1914.'

Reuss publish books in connection with the so-called 'inner teachings' of the Order of the Templars of the Orient. Much connected with the early history of the O.T.O. is obscure. Reuss stated in 1914 that 'the constitution of the reorganised O.T.O. dates from January 1906', also that there had been an engraved brass plate with the inscription ’sovereign Sanctuary of the Order of the Templars of the Orient' outside the street level door of his home in the Belle Alliancestrasse, Berlin, in December 1905. He also explained (in 1914) that the O.T.O. was Dr Kellner’s projected 'Academia Masonica' although the 'organisation' never had any connection with Freemasonry. It seems unlikely that the O.T.O. was in any sense active as early as 1905-6 and we believe that it was not effectively launched until 1912 when Aleister Crowley became involved.

International Masonic Conference held in Paris on 9 June 1908 was organized by Dr. Gerard Encausse ('Papus'), who was not even a Grand Orient freemason. In the course of a lengthy discussion it was established to the satisfaction of those present — they were all of French nationality with the exception of Reuss — that neither the United Grand Lodge of England nor the Grand Orient could prove their masonic regularity. Papus & Co. then decided to constitute a Supreme Grand Council and Grand Orient of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim in France and happily accepted a Warrant supplied by Reuss.

In the meantime the Grosse Freimaurer Loge von Deutschland which, having paid 800 Marks for its 'rectification' in May 1904 had pursued an independent existence. According to its Grand Master, Paul Eberhardt, even then there were some who had their doubts about the authenticity of any Warrant supplied by Reuss and it was decided to achieve an even greater measure of independence. This was effected on 24 June 1905. It involved a further payment of 600 Marks and a change of name. Thus the GFLvD now became the Symbolical Grand Lodge of the Scottish Rite in Germany, Orient of Leipzig. On 24 June 1909 Reuss cancelled its warrant and transferred it to a Dr. Carl Lauer, of Ludwigshafen am Rhein. After lengthy discussions the former GFLvD liquidated its affairs on 31 March 1911 and many of its members found their way into recognized German lodges.

The contents of the 1912 'Jubilee edition' of Oriflamme were almost entirely devoted to the O.T.O. Indeed, it was described as the 'Official Organ of the Order of the Oriental Templars and the Sovereign Sanctuary of Ancient Freemasons in Germany'. From this we learn that about 500 members had been recruited in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and that two National Grand Lodges had been constituted on 1 June 1912: one for Great Britain and Ireland and the other for 'the Slav countries' (Rumunia, Bulgaria). The Head of the O.T.O. for England was 'the Most Holy, Most Illustrious, Most Illuminated, and Most Puissant Baphomet, X degree, Rex Summus Sanctissimus 33° degree, 90° degree, 96° degree, Past Grand Master of the United States of America, Grand Master of Ireland, Iona, etc.' who could be contacted at 33 Avenue Studios, 76 Fulham Road, Kensington, London, SW. The Most Holy, Illustrious and Illuminated gentleman was none other than Crowley. He proceeded to issue a printed Manifesto of the M.M.M., in which he explained that 'the M.M.M. (Mysteria Mystica Maxima) is the name of the British section of the O.T.O.

We also read: 'The O.T.O., although an Academia Masonica, is not a Masonic Body so far as the craft degrees are concerned in the sense in which that expression is usually understood in England, and therefore in no way conflicts with, or infringes the just privileges of the United Grand Lodge of England.' Readers of Oriflamme (jubilee edition, 1912) were informed that 'our Order is not a masonic order, pure et simple ... but every member of our Order,... must proceed through the craft degrees of Freemasonry, also those of high-grade Freemasonry, before they can be illuminated and initiated members of our Order.' Now comes the great revelation: 'Our Order possesses the KEY which embraces all masonic and hermetic secrets. It relates to sexual magic and this teaching completely explains all Masonic symbolism and religious teachings.'

Reuss left London at the last possible moment before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and immediately reported for service with the Red Cross at Berlin. After a brief period spent working for German Counter-intelligence on the Dutch border he moved to neutral territory at Basel where he worked as a newspaper correspondent and taught English at the local Berlitz School.

One of the strangest features of his Swiss period, which lasted for six years, was the organization of an international 'Anti-National' Congress under O.T.O. auspices at Henri Oedenkoven’s extraordinary establishment close to Ascona on Lake Maggiore. 'Monte Verita' had originally been founded during the early 1900s as the contemporary equivalent of a vegetarian 'hippy' commune. The Congress lasted for 10 days during August 1917. There is a reference to it in Gottfried zur Beek’s notorious Die Geheimnisse der Weisen von Zion (known in its English translation as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) which was an immediate best-seller when it was first published in Germany in 1919. This congress is to bring together land reformers [meaning people interested in rural communal settlements], vegetarians, Theosophists, pacifists from Spain, Italy, Holland, Russia, France, etc. and convert their hitherto poisonous anti-German sentiments into something more fair to Germany. The 'Anti-Nationalist Cooperative Congress' flag and the draft programme are naturally merely a camouflage. Germany should send two masonic representatives who are men of the world and know the true (not the orthodox) history of Freemasonry and its secret political working. According to Robert Landmann’s lively (but not always accurate) annals of the 'Monte Verita' phenomenon Reuss’s Congress assumed almost orgiastic qualities. An O.T.O. lodge was founded, there were 'initiations' and Reuss pocketed the money received from the sale of successively Higher degrees.

In 1918 Reuss published his translation of Crowley’s Gnostic Mass. This was issued under O.T.O. auspices and copies of Ecclesiae Gnosticae Catholicae Canon Missae: Die Gnostische Messe could be obtained from Prof. T. Reuss-Willsson. The Professor was identified as the 'head of the Gnostic Neo-Christians and Oriental Templars: Carolus Alberrus Theodorus Peregrinus, Sovereign Patriarch and Primate of the Gnostic Catholic Church, Vicarius Solomonis et Caput Ordinis O.T.O.' The source of the Patriarch’s ecclesiastical preferment is unknown. In 1919-20 Reuss resumed his former 'masonic' activities and on 25 May 1919 founded a ’swiss Grand Orient for the Ancient and Accepted Scottish 33° degree Rite (Cerneau, New York 1807)' at Zurich. Daughter lodges were soon constituted at Bellinzona, Bern, Chiasso (two) and Mendrisio. After Reuss’s departure some of them were regularized.

Reuss was also involved in the Congress of the International Masonic Federation held at Zurich in 1920. It is unlikely that a single regular freemason was present. The proceedings appear to have been dominated by the notorious Matthew McBlain Thomson, of U.S.A. Two years later he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for illegally using the U.S. mails for the sale of spurious masonic degrees. Thomson subsequently wrote a lively account of his visit to Zurich. It was published in his periodical The Universal Freemason (September 1920): "I also met Bro. Reuss — he is a typical German, wanting his own way or spoil things. I found that he had a patent from Bro. Yarker, empowering him to establish the Rite in Germany, and on the strength of this had been charging a royalty on every candidate entered. He wanted me to endorse this way of doing things, and on my refusing, got mad and said he would allow no Englishman or Scotchman to interfere with his private affairs. He then wanted to have two bodies separately in Switzerland recognised as members of the Federation, viz.: The Grand Orient (from which he had been drawing a royalty), and what he was pleased to call the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Memphis Rite. As the latter consisted of himself, I said that we could not recognise any body unless it had a regular organisation". Reuss took no further part in the proceedings after the first day (17 July). The current story was that McBlain Thomson paid him 3000 Swiss francs to stay away.

Reuss returned to Germany in September 1921 and settled at Munich. He died on 28 October 1923.

The O.T.O. is a body of initiates in whose hands are concentrated the wisdom and the knowledge of the following bodies:

in Sovereign Sanctuary of O.T.O.

The following is a list of the Degrees of the Ancient or Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Mizraim as reduced to 33º Degrees practiced in OTO.


4º. Discreet Master.
5º. Sublime Master.
6º. Sacred Arch.
7º. Secret Vault.
8º. Knight of the Sword.
9º. Knight of Jerusalem.
10º. Knight of the Orient.
11º. Rose Croix.


12º. Knight of the Red Eagle.
13º. Knight of the Temple.
14º. Knight of the Tabernacle.
15º. Knight of the Serpent.
16º. Knight of Kadosh.
17º. Knight of the Royal Mystery.
18º. Grand Inspector.
19º. Sage of Truth.
20º. Hermetic Philosopher.


21º. Grand Installator.
22º. Grand Consecrator.
23º. Grand Eulogist.
24º. Patriarch of Truth.
25º. Patriarch of the Planispheres.
26º. Patriarch of the Vedas.
27º. Patriarch of Isis.
28º. Patriarch of Memphis.
29º. Patriarch of the Mystic City.
30º. Sub. Master of the G. W., P. P.

Section 4.- OFFICIAL.

31º. Grand Defender of the Rite.
32º. Sublime P. of Memphis.
33º. Sov. Grand Conservator of the Rite

O.T.O. and Freemasonry

Karl Kellner and Theodore Reuss, both high-ranking Freemasons founded the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). Kellner sought to create a "Academia Masonica" by collecting together the various high degrees of Masonry so they could be administered by a single institution. Kellner decided that the Academia Masonica should be called the “Oriental Templar Order”.  The occult inner circle of this Order (O.T.O. proper) would be organised parallel to the highest degrees of the Memphis and Mizraim Rites of Masonry, and would teach the esoteric Rosicrucian doctrines of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light and Kellner’s “Key” to Masonic symbolism.  Both men and women would be admitted at all levels to this Order, but possession of the various degrees of Craft and high-grade Freemasonry would be a prerequisite for admission to the Inner Circle of O.T.O.  Reuss stated that O.T.O. “...is not a Masonic order, pure and simple, but every member of our Order, man or woman…must proceed through the Craft degrees of Freemasonry, also those of high-grade Freemasonry, before they can be illuminated and initiated members of our Order.” Unfortunately, due to the regulations of the established Grand Lodges which governed Regular Masonry, women could not be made Masons and would therefore be excluded by default from membership in the Oriental Templar Order.  This may have been one of the reasons that Kellner and his associates resolved to obtain control over one of the many rites, or systems, of Masonry to reform the system for the admission of women.

In early years, the O.T.O. was affiliated with Freemasonry, and attepted to combine the various masonic rites. The O.T.O. is in sympathy with the traditional ideals of Freemasonry but O.T.O. membership does not, of itself, confer any status in Freemasonry. Nearly one hundred years ago, when O.T.O. was established in Germany, it was closely allied to several rites of European Freemasonry. However, in 1918, Aleister Crowley determined it appropriate for O.T.O. to assert its own unique identity as an independent system. At that time, while retaining the use of certain convenient customs and terminology used in early Freemasonry, Crowley revised the O.T.O. rituals, insignia and modes of recognition to avoid infringing upon the legitimate privileges of the established and recognized authorities of modern Freemasonry. Crowley's O.T.O. has not claimed to "make Masons" since that time. O.T.O. was created by and emulates to this day, regular Freemasonry; then one can assume it continues to respect certain aspects, and rejects others that don't comply with its other esoteric values.

In 1912, the O.T.O. cut it’s formal ties with Masonry, since the United Grand Lodge of England, to whom Crowley technically owed Masonic allegiance, objected to the performance of the Craft Degrees in England outside of its jurisdiction, and objected to the admission of women into Freemasonry. In 1915, Crowley rewrote the largely masonic Mysteria Mystica Maxima
(M.·.M.·.M.·.) degree system to reflect and embody Thelemic priciples. In 1919, Crowley attempted to work this Masonic based O.T.O. The result was that he was rebuffed by the Council of the Scottish Rite on the basis that O.T.O rituals were too similar to orthodox Masonry. He described this in a 1930 letter to Arnold Krumm-Heller: "However, when it came to the considerations of the practical details of the rituals to be worked, the general Council of the Scottish Rite could not see its way to tolerate them, on the ground that the symbolism in some places touched too nearly that of the orthodox Masonry of the Lodges.” O.T.O. began seeking to distinguish itself from Freemasonry, especially as the Order was initiating women. They were also very careful not to infringe on the rights of Freemasonry with these condensed degrees. However, O.T.O. still played nice with the Freemasons. Around 1920, Reuss sought (unsuccessfully) to convince Masonry to adopt the Gnostic Mass as the official religion of the Rose Croix (18°).

In 1917, Reuss wrote a Synopsis of Degrees of O.T.O. in which the third degree was listed as "Craft of Masonry" and listed the initiations involved as "Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason" and elaborated on this with "Full instruction in Craft Masonry, including the Catechism of the first three degrees, and an explanation of all the various Masonic systems." The same document shows that the fourth degree of O.T.O. is also known as the Holy Royal Arch of Enoch. It was summarized by Reuss as the Degree of "Scotch Masonry", equivalent to "Scotch Mason, Knight of St. Andrew, Royal Arch", and he described it as "Full instruction in the Scottish degrees of Ancient and Accepted Masonry." In 1917, Reuss issued a charter to Rudolf Laban de Laban-Varalya (1879–1958) and Hans Rudolf Hilfiker-Dunn (1882–1955) to operate a III° O.T.O. Lodge in Zurich, called Libertas et Fraternitas.  De Laban became the Grand Master of the Anational Grand Lodge Verita Mystica.  Later he closed Verita Mystica and moved his centre of operations to Zurich.

In 1919, the Libertas et Fraternitas Lodge dropped its O.T.O. connections and became strictly a Masonic Lodge. It later became regularised under the Swiss Grand Lodge Alpina.  Although no O.T.O. bodies remained in Switzerland, Reuss continued to confer O.T.O. degrees upon individuals.  While Reuss persisted in asserting the Masonic authority of O.T.O., Crowley continued to move
M.·.M.·.M.·. further from Freemasonry.  In 1918, Crowley prepared another substantial revision to the Order’s initial rituals, this time altogether abandoning the term “Masonry” and the characteristic emblems, signs, grips, etc. of the Craft degrees.  He presented his revised rituals to Reuss for order-wide adoption. On 17th July 1920, Reuss attended the Congress of the “World Federation of Universal Freemasonry”, held at the Libertas et Fraternitas Lodge in Zurich.  This conference3 was intended to take up the work of Papus’ “International Masonic and Spiritualist Conference” held in Paris in 1908.  Reuss, with Bricaud’s authorisation, advocated the adoption of the religion of Crowley’s Gnostic Mass as the “official religion for all members of the World Federation of Universal Freemasonry in possession of the 18th degree of the Scottish Rite”.

O.T.O. is an international fraternal and religious organization founded at the beginning of the 20th century. Originally it was intended to be tied to and modelled on Freemasonry, but under the leadship of Aleister Crowley was reorganized based on the Law of Thelema as its central religious and organizational principle. Crowley subsequently rewrote the initiation rituals of the first three degrees, and in doing so removed most of those rituals' ties to Masonry. He did not, however, rewrite the fourth degree ritual, which remains in its form and structure related to the various Royal Arch rituals of Masonry. O.T.O. is not Freemasonry in any way, shape, or form, and is an entirely separate organization.

The origins of O.T.O. lie in Austria where (it is said) founding Frater Superior Carl Kellner resolved to found an Academia Masonica around 1895. But the real organizational birth of the Order came in 1902 with a charter issued to its founders by John Yarker, the head of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis. The O.T.O.'s founders also received authorizations to work the Rite of Mizraim and the Cerneau Scottish Rite. They had a universalist vision of unifying and correlating all masonic rites under the Aegis of the O.T.O., which became a sort of inner order, and made the masonic 33° a prerequisite for membership in the O.T.O. proper. Although O.T.O. recognized and affiliated members from regular Craft, Royal Arch and Scottish Rite Freemasonry, the Yarker charters provided a basis for forming a complete synthesis under their sole authority. Just as all of these component rites had and have their own governing authorities in their regular forms, so did they in their irregular forms. It is confusing, but in the early days of our history the Antient and Primitive Rite, and other rites,were discussed and worked as if synonymous with O.T.O., even through their ultimate leadership was different. The higher O.T.O. degrees were rarely mentioned.

These independent masonic rites no doubt seemed perfectly suited to the purposes of the O.T.O.'s founders, but their continued existence was only due to the tremendous energy, endurance and influence of John Yarker, who battled with established Freemasonry through most of his career. While alive, he managed to hold the interest of a small group of enthusiasts around the world-tiny by comparison to regular rites of Freemasonry - but on his death his rites soon fell into terminal decline.

Coincidentally with Yarker's death theGrand Lodge of England (which governs I°-III°Craft Freemasonry) seems to have adopted a more stringent policy concerning masonic regularity. The letters published here refer to an Grand Lodge circular letter terming Co-Freemasonry irregular or clandestine, both technical masonic terms that have serious implications formasons, as fraternal dealings with irregular or clandestine lodges can result in disfellowship. Crowley tried to interpret this as applying only to the Theosophical Co-Freemasonry, but this is unlikely, since Crowley and Reuss also admitted women, and derived their authority from the same source as the Theosophists.

Crowley quickly realized that the post-Yarker era meant change. He was not rebellious by reflex, at least where old British institutions were concerned. He undoubtedly believed O.T.O. had authority from Yarker to work the Antient and Primitive Rite's equivalent to the Craft degrees in England, but once made aware of the issue of regularity when having his own French masonic credentials declined,he was not defiant and on his own made changes to the O.T.O. to avoid conflict. He inserted notices into the last number of The Equinox to the effect that the O.T.O.did not infringe upon the just privileges of the Grand Lodge of England.

During WWI Crowley worked slightly revised English Craft rituals in America, but despite the absence of a central Grand Lodge, he met with objections from masonic authorities. He then rewrote the O.T.O. rituals for I° - III°so that they no longer resembled Craft Freemasonry degrees in language, theme or intent.

Thus the O.T.O. under Crowley, in English speaking countries (the Mysteria Mystica Maxima), long ago ceased to claim to "make" masons. Crowley eventually dropped any reference to the Rites of Memphis or Mizraim, and as shown laterin this issue, he telescoped their complex systems into the degree structure of the O.T.O. He also tacitly dropped the requirement in the O.T.O. Constitution that members be masons, but he would still, years later, award O.T.O. degrees by affiliation to masons, as is discussed in papers in the Equinox iii; although masonic authorities declined to recognize O.T.O.'s degrees, O.T.O. continued to recognize theirs. Even this last vestige of equivalence after Crowley's death, as the Mysteria Mystica Maxima rituals designed by Crowley have a very different intent, philosophy and initiatic import than their distant masonic ancestors. The situation on the Continent under Reuss and others was different, as no central masonic authority with the standing ofthe English Grand Lodge had sole jurisdiction. The O.T.O. took root in German-speaking countries, but elsewhere the fact that O.T.O. did not emerge from its Memphis-Mizraim-Cerneau matrix meant that they shared the same fate. The O.T.O. thus died out in France, Spain and Italy.

The situation with the O.T.O. and Freemasonry today is somewhat different than in Crowley's time, but the spirit of fraternity and respect is the same. We have taken several steps to avoid even the appearance of infringement on masonic privileges. An increasing number of O.T.O. members are masons-many having taken their initiations in masonic lodge with The Book of the Law as the volume of the sacred law.These members feel no conflict with their masonic vows in being members of O.T.O.

Masonic rules and customs vary from country to country. In some Continental countries we have had a
O.T.O. Lodge Master invited to a master's meeting at the recognized masonic hall, and O.T.O. can count the Vice Grand Master of a major Grand Lodge as a member. O.T.O. still maintains the Masonic structure of Lodges and initiations, but very little else of it. Regular Masonic initiations of O.T.O. members have accommodated members to the extent of using Liber AL in place of the Bible for taking the oath, but most O.T.O. members have little interest in joining the regular masons. Crowley's O.T.O. initiation rituals somewhat resemble those of Scottish Rite Masonry. O.T.O. was founded by German and Swiss Masons near the end of the 19th century, and although the original idea was to create a "reformed" Freemasonry, according to the principles they felt Masonry of the time no longer lived up to, this is merely historical at this point, but this is no cause for emnity today. In fact, most O.T.O. initiates have high regard for Masonry as being part of their own heritage.

Masonic Foundations of O.T.O.

Theodor Reuss, in addition to being the head of his revival of the Order of Illuminati, was also the Grand Master of the Swedenborgian Rite of Freemasonry in Germany (charter dated 26th July 1901 from W. Wynn Wescott), Special Inspector for the Martinist Order in Germany (charter dated 24th June 1901 from Gérard Encausse), and Magus of the High Council in German of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (letter of authorisation dated 24th February 1902 from W. Wynn Wescott).  With Kellner’s assistance, Reuss applied to English Masonic scholar John Yarker (1833–1913) to purchase charters to operate three systems of high-grade Freemasonry known as the Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis 97°, the Ancient Oriental Rite of Mizraim 90° and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite 33° (Cernau Council of New York, 1807).

Reuss received letters-patent as a Sovereign Grand Inspector General 33° of the Cernau Scottish Rite from Yarker dated 24th September 1902.  According to a published transcript, Yarker issued on the same date a warrant to Reuss, Franz Hartmann and Henry Klein to operate a Sovereign Sanctuary 33°–95° of the Scottish, Memphis and Mizraim rites. Yarker issued a second charter confirming Reuss’ authority to operate said rites on 1st July 1904 and Reuss published a transcript of an additional confirming charter dated 24th June 1905.

These rites, along with the Swedenborgian Rite, were adopted as integral elements within the overall scheme of the Order.  The Swedenborgian Rite included a version of the Craft degrees, and the Cernau Scottish Rite and the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim provided a selection of the workable “high grades” as nearly complete as had ever existed.  Together, they provided a complete system of Masonic initiation at the disposal of the Order.  With the incorporation of these rites, the Order was enabled to operate as a completely independent Masonic system. Many are thinking that the O.T.O. is not in the extended family of Freemasonry, but with its use of symbolism in much the same way blue lodge Masonry does, and its origins as an Academy of Freemasonry, it’s hard to say that they are wholly different from one another, and even less so removed from its Masonic vestige. Freemasons could affiliate directly in O.T.O. at the level corresponding to their own degree in Masonry.

Aleister Crowley and The O.T.O. Freemasonry

In 1912, while holding the rank of 33rd degree Mason, Aleister Crowley became the head of the British O.T.O. The teachings and the practices of the O.T.O. were amazingly disgusting. A very brief description of their degrees is as follows:  "Today's literature about sex magic relies heavily on practices which were already common in the O.T.O. or in its later development b y Aleister Crowley . . . The division is as follows: VIII degree O.T.O. = autoerotic practice IX degree O.T.O. = heteroerotic practice XI degree O.T.O. = homoerotic practice This is the traditional sex-magic practice as performed under Crowley. Thirty-third degree Aleister Crowley proudly called his cult of the O.T.O. 'true Freemasonry.': "I claim for my system that it satisfies all possible requirements of true Freemasonry. It offers a rational basis for universal brotherhood and for universal religion."

How close is the connection between Freemasonry and the O.T.O.? Masonic Historian Francis King reveals a closer connection than most Freemasons would ever dare to admit.  "For the O.T.O. not only had, as we shall see, connections with spurious and clandestine Masonic groups but functioned as a recruiting office for one of these for in the 'Classification of Members by Degrees' appended to Ruess's document is clearly stated that 'candidates are made Freemasons by the Directing Members (Fratres Superiores) of the O.T.O.” Despite his earlier disclaimer about the Craft Degrees in the Manifesto of the
M.'.M.'.M.'., Crowley remained uncomfortable with the Masonic character of the O.T.O., for a number of additional reasons.  In contrast with Reuss, Crowley believed that women could not be initiated as Freemasons, though he thought that they ought to be able to be initiated into O.T.O.

He was frustrated with the elaborate preparations required to stage Masonic initiations, and with the length of the Masonic rituals and their excessive wordiness.  Crowley perceived these factors to be impediments to successful implementation among modern working people.  He believed that the symbolic content of the Masonic rituals had become garbled nearly to the point of uselessness, and he wished to use the system of O.T.O. to help spread the teachings of Thelema. For these reasons, Crowley undertook to prepare revised rituals which would convey the significance of the Craft and high degrees concisely and dramatically, which would be suitable for the initiation of both men and women.

The fact that Crowley was the head of the O.T.O. while holding the rank of 33rd degree Mason should forever explode the myth that Freemasonry is a Christian organization. Crowley spoke openly and candidly about his Masonic honors: "This view was confirmed when The Arcane Schools of John Yarker came to me for review. I wrote to the author, who recognized my title to the 33rd degree and conferred on me the grades of 95
° degree Memphis and the 90° degree Mizraim. It seemed as if I had some how turned a tap. From this time on I lived in a perfect shower of diplomas, from Bucharest to Salt Lake City. I possess more exalted titles than I have ever been able to count. I am supposed to know more secret signs, tokens, passwords, grandwords, grips, and so on, than I could actually learn in a dozen lives. An elephant would break down under the insignia I am entitled to wear.”

In Aleister Crowley's book, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, he spoke with great admiration about the Royal Arch degree: "I supposed myself to have reached the summit of success when I restored the Secret Word of the Royal Arch. In this case, tradition had preserved the Word almost intact.” It is perfectly understandable that this hater of Christianity would love the Royal Arch degree of Freemasonry. In this degree, Freemasons blaspheme the God of the Bible by uniting God's name with pagan gods. The secret word of the Royal Arch that Crowley is referring to is : Jah-Bul-On. The Jah represents Jehovah, Bul represents the pagan god Ba'al, and On represents the Egyptian sun god.

© 2009 Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis Misraim, Sovereign Sanctuary for Bulgaria