Gnostic Mass Heresy: Breaking OTO’s Binary

The following is a post by Sibling AYIN, reposted by permission of the author. It originated on the author’s Facebook page and was reposted on Thelemic Union.

For background: In October of 2019, the O.T.O. revised their manual to enforce gender binary on their clergy – non-binary people are now excluded from serving as a Priest or Priestess if the role doesn’t match their sex/gender assigned at birth.

Head of OTO: Gnostic Mass is from a Male Perspective 

At the 1996 O.T.O. Women’s Conference, the Sovereign Patriarch/O.H.O. (Outer Head of the Order of Ordo Templi Orientis), Hymenaeus Beta XII°, decided to give his remarks on the topic of the Gnostic Mass. Of all the things in Thelema about empowering women in the New Æon, I wonder why he chose that topic? 

My guess is he may have wanted to explain things to the ladies before they started questioning things like why there are no female Saints in the Gnostic Mass, and other androcentric aspects of it under the E.G.C. policies that govern it. (Why a “Patriarch” would be the keynote speaker at a Women’s Conference is beyond me, but OK…)

Before they spent the conference discussing things on their own, the O.H.O. explained to the women that the intentional reason there were no women listed in The Saints Collect was because the Gnostic Mass should be understood as being “from a male perspective, having been written by a man.” 

Was it though? I’ve heard this explanation used 1,000,000 times by men in the O.T.O./E.G.C., assuming that since the Patriarch said it, it must be the gospel truth. Let’s dissect that a bit.

Did Aleister Crowley exclusively identify as male and understand himself to be a man “in his daily life as well as in his spiritual practice”?

Aleister Crowley identified as a Bisexual Androgyne 

I hate to break it to those who think otherwise, but: Aleister Crowley was a bisexual androgyne who took the name BAPHOMET XI° for his O.T.O. motto as the Outer Head of the Order.

This is how Crowley described himself in his autohagiography “Confessions” (this is in Ch.2 of a 96 chapter book, so he wanted his readers to understand this about him early on, and how it informed his life):

“It is probable that these peculiarities are connected with certain curious anatomical facts. While his masculinity is above the normal, both physiologically and as witnessed by his powerful growth of beard, he has certain well-marked feminine characteristics. Not only are his limbs as slight and graceful as a girl’s but his breasts are developed to quite abnormal degree. There is thus a sort of hermaphroditism in his physical structure; and this is naturally expressed in his mind. But whereas, in most similar cases, the feminine qualities appear at the expense of manhood, in him they are added to a perfectly normal masculine type. 

The principal effect has been to enable him to understand the psychology of women, to look at any theory with comprehensive and impartial eyes, and to endow him with maternal instincts on spiritual planes. He has been able to philosophize about nature from the standpoint of a complete human being; certain phenomena will always be unintelligible to men as such, others, to women as such. [He is “complete” by being male-female; man-woman in *one*; he just happens to prefer “he/him” pronouns] He, by being both at once, has been able to formulate a view of existence which combines the positive and the negative, the active and the passive, in a single identical equation. [0 = 2: (–1 / ⚋) + (+1 / ⚊) = 0 / ] 

Finally, intensely as the savage male passion to create has inflamed him, it has been modified by the gentleness and conservatism of womanhood. Again and again, in the course of this history, we shall find his actions determined by this dual structure. Similar types have no doubt existed previously, but none such has been studied. The present investigation should be of extraordinary ethical value, for it must be a rare circumstance that a subject with such abnormal qualities so clearly marked should have trained himself to intimate self-analysis and kept an almost daily record of his life and work extending over nearly a quarter of a century.”

Confessions, Ch. 2, p.45

Aside from his writings, there is further evidence Crowley is androgyne (not just a man/male) in some of his artwork:

Aleister Crowley’s self-portrait “The Master Therion” (1918) — note the use of both straight and curved crosslets on the crosses
Close-up detail of straight and curved crosslets
“Hierophant” (1920). Note he is holding both straight crosslets in his right hand and curved crosslets in his left hand

These images were created just a few years after he wrote Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass (1913). This O.T.O. context helps to analyze the “male” and “female” symbolism found in Crowley’s self-portraits: Crowley wrote: 

“The signature of members of the Supreme Grand Council and higher degrees is prefixed by the triple crosscrosslet, or “elevenfold cross” (female members of these degrees may use the triple cross with curved crosslets).”

O.T.O. Official Forms of Address:

Both the male and female versions of the “Elevenfold Cross” are on the talisman in Crowley’s self-portrait as “The Master Therion” (1918), so what might this suggest about his gender identity and sense of self as a “man” or a “woman”?

Then in his “The Hierophant” (1920) painting, why is he holding two Elevenfold Crosses, one with triple cross crosslets on a Wand (male) and one with curved crosslets on an Ankh (female)?

If Crowley is portraying himself with the imagery of the “male” Hierophant Tarot card (Osiris/Bull ♉/Vav/Patriarch), then why is he also sitting between two countercharged Black (Yin) and White (Yang ) Pillars? Isn’t that the imagery found on the “female” Priestess Tarot card (Isis/Moon ☽/Gimel/Matriarch)? Isn’t that also the position of the E.G.C. Priestess, enthroned between the two Black and White Pillars “upon the summit of the Earth” in the Gnostic Mass?

Was Crowley trying to symbolize that he is both a Hierophant/Patriarch (Osiris) and a Priestess/Matriarch (Isis) in One (Horus), as the Λογος (Logos) of the New Æon?

But didn’t a Patriarch say that Aleister Crowley created the Gnostic Mass “from a male perspective, having been written by a man” according to Hymenaeus Beta, head of OTO…?

Queer Erasure in EGC by Cisgender Authorities

This is why diverse points of view are important. Cisgender men usually see Crowley as a cisgender male like them, completely overlooking (or ignoring) anything he writes or paints that explicitly shows he understood himself to be just as equally female: a “complete human being.”

Authorities and experts on Crowley who ignore, overlook, and downplay these aspects of his identity are the cause of his Queer erasure (the heteronormative cultural tendency to remove queer people from record, or to dismiss or downplay their significance).

Aleister Crowley was not a cisgender straight man. 

Aleister Crowley was a Queer Bisexual Androgyne. 

Consider the following references:

Notice that Osiris, Isis, and the Child Horus all appear on the Thoth Tarot card for The Hierophant.

“It is impossible at the present time to explain this card thoroughly, for only the course of events can show how the new current of initiation will work out.” – The Book of Thoth (Egyptian Tarot), V. The Hierophant (p.78-80)

The Book of Thoth, “The Hierophant”

“Now it is a condition of Initiation that its keys are to be communicated by those who possess them to all true aspirants. This card is thus very peculiarly a glyph of the work of the A∴A∴ Some idea of the formula is given in this other chapter of the Book of Lies: 

“The Brothers of A∴A∴ are Women; the Aspirants to A∴A∴ are Men.”

The Book of Thoth, The High Priestess

Oysters are symbolic of the womb, aphrodisiacs, fertility, sexual excitement, pleasure, and the creative force of the feminine principle, widely recognized for its production of the pearl. Note that oysters are protandric animals (having male sex organs while young, and female sex organs later in life), meaning that they can change back and forth from male to female over the course of a lifetime. Often, their reproductive organs contain both eggs and sperm. Consider also:

“Know naught! All ways are lawful to innocence. Pure folly is the key to initiation. Silence breaks into rapture. Be neither man nor woman, but both in one. Be silent, babe in the egg of blue, that thou mayest grow to bear the Lance and Graal! Wander alone, and sing! In the King’s palace his Daughter awaits thee.

The Book of Thoth, “The Fool”

Every Magician must complete themselves by becoming Two Sexes in One Person

Literally everywhere you look in Crowley’s writings about the sexes/gender, he keeps saying to not see yourself as being either a “man” or a “woman” but “both in one”… maybe there’s something to that? 

I also like that in this quote it says: “That thou mayest grow to bear the Lance and the Graal!“… The “magical weapons” of the Priest (Lance) and Priestess (Graal) in the Gnostic Mass. How does one “grow” (change/transmute) to bear both the Lance and Graal when a Priest can only be a man “in their daily life” and a Priestess can only be a woman “in their daily life” under the current E.G.C. Manual, even though Aleister Crowley never wrote that specification anywhere in the rubric of the Gnostic Mass/Liber XV? Herein lieth a Mystery.

These are some of Crowley’s tips advising Magicians on the need to complete themselves to accomplish the Great Work:

“There is a single main definition of the object of all magical ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore to the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or in the language of Mysticism, Union with God.

All other magical rituals are particular cases of this general principle, and the only excuse for doing them is that it sometimes occurs that one particular portion of the Microcosm is so weak that its imperfection or impurity would vitiate the Macrocosm of which of which it is the image, eidolon, or reflection.

For example, God is above sex; and therefore neither man nor woman as such can be said fully to understand, much less represent, God. It is therefore incumbent on the male Magician to cultivate those female virtues in which he is deficient, and this task he must of course accomplish without in any way impairing his virility. It will then be lawful for a Magician to invoke Isis, and identify himself with her; if he fail to do this, his apprehension of the Universe when he attains samadhi will lack the conception of maternity. The result will be a metaphysical and – by corollary – ethical limitation in the Religion he founds.”

Liber ABA, Book 4, Part III, Chapter I, “The Principles of Ritual”

Do you want your apprehension of the Universe when you attain samadhi to lack the conception of maternity/paternity? Because neglecting to obtain this completeness is how you get your apprehension of the Universe when you attain samadhi to lack the conception of maternity/paternity.

This is written in Chapter 1 of Magick in Theory & Practice, so there is likely some importance to it. 

This all seems kind of queer, though. Where is he going with this? Do men have to “complete” themselves by “invoking Isis” and becoming equally feminine to “unite the Microcosm with the Macrocosm,” transcending their binary sense of gender duality, thereby becoming “Two sexes in one person”: 0 = 2 ☯️

Æon of Isis – Matriarchal Age. One sex.
Æon of Osiris – Patriarchal Age. Two sexes.
Æon of Horus – Two sexes in one person.

Liber ABA/Book 4, Part III, Ch. V: The Formula of I.A.O.:

“The time has come for the administration of the Sacraments of the Æon of Horus to those capable of comprehension. The sexes are equal and complementary. ‘Every man and every woman is a star.’–AL 1:3. The priestess must now function as well as the priest.The expression of the above thesis in public ritual has begun with the establishment of the Gnostic Mass which, while adhering to the vital elements of the most ancient and true tradition, fixes its attention on, and aims most firmly in, the Future.

Manifesto of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (1944

The sexes now being understood as “equal and complementary,” couldn’t the new thesis also be read: “The priestess must now function [also] as the priest”? Consider also this quotation from the commentaries on a Holy Book of Thelema:

“Verse 44. This constitutes a profound Riddle of Holiness. Those only understand it who combine in themselves the extremes of Moral idea, identifying them through transcendental overcoming of the antinomy. They must have gone further yet, beyond the fundamental opposition of the sexes. The male must have completed himself and become androgyne; the female, and become gynander. This incompleteness imprisons the soul. To think “I am not woman, but man,” or vice versa, is to limit one’s self, to set a bar to one’s motion. It is the root of the “shutting-up” which culminates in becoming “Mary inviolate” or a “Black Brother.””

Equinox IV:1, Commentaries on the Holy Books, Liber Cordis Cinti Serpente vel LXV, described as “An account of the relations of the Aspirant with his Holy Guardian Angel,” for Ch. V, verse 44

This seems somewhat important, even essential, to Thelema’s system of Magick. I wonder if Crowley ever wrote a central ritual that men and women could use to “perfect” themselves and obtain completeness in the spiritual parts of themselves in which they are “deficient”?

It would have to have two powerfully polarizing magical aspects, representative of both the Positive ( + ) and Negative ( – ), Active and Passive, Yin (⚋) and Yang (⚊) forces of Nature, and require stepping out of one’s comfort zone to develop the qualities of that which you know you’re deficient in, rather than only sticking within the comfort zone of the half you already are.

As above, the E.G.C. Manifesto (1944) states that “The sexes are equal and complementary” in the New Æon (“Every man and every woman is a star.”). The things men expect only women to do, and the things women expect only men to do (from the Old Æon point of view), should now be entirely fluid and interchangeable, including their “equal and complementary” roles in a Gnostic Mass.

What Tarot card has the male-female Androgyne Baphomet on it? Atu XV (15): The Devil, Ayin, The Eye of Hoor. 

What number is the Gnostic Mass? 15 (Liber XV). 

Isn’t it Liber XV, the same as The Devil Card, which has to do with the male-female symbolism of the Androgyne archetype? Given all the heavily restricted gender essentialism on the roles of the officers under the current E.G.C. policies, you would think that it must be a total coincidence that The Gnostic Mass just so happens to be numbered “Liber XV”… after some genderqueer demonic Androgyne that was idolized by Templars.

But, of course, Liber XV is, in practice of the current OTO, actually all about keeping the Holy Patriarchal “Traditions” of Gender Essentialism: the unequal, androcentric, male vs. female “two-gender” fixed binary (exemplified in Christianity and other Patriarchal religions), to “administer the Sacraments of the Æon of Horus” to the public by showing them how Thelema represents the bold, subversive, cutting-edge, avant-garde, and evolutionary magical formula of the New Æon… by maintaining Crowley’s “male-perspective” of there still being an unequal, incomplete, fixed binary of only 2 opposed male and female genders, exactly the same as they were in the Old Æon. 

Florals? For Spring? Groundbreaking.

We are to believe that Crowley was a man, and the Mass was written from a male’s perspective, and it is all about men.

A New Mass? A New Excuse

As the Patriarch and some men in the O.T O./E.G.C. have suggested, maybe one day a woman will come along and make a new Mass for women (with the Patriarch’s approval, of course); then maybe one day “A Gay” will come along and make a new Mass for “The Gays” (especially needing the Patriarch’s approval on this one). And who knows, maybe one day “A Trans” will have the genius to create a Mass for “their people” as well. Apparently we all need to write our own “new” Masses if we’re not cis-heteronormative men.

But don’t dare touch the Men’s Liber XV Gnostic Mass!

Anything that looks mildly queer or effeminate must be denounced as heresy for “changing the rubric” (even though not a single letter of the rubric is changed; just rejecting the arbitrary restrictions placed on the officer’s gender in the E.G.C. Manuals). There’s no room for anything effeminate or queer or gender subversive in Liber XV. The Great Manly Beast 666 intended it that way, and no heretics better question it, right? 

Being illuminated and all-knowing, a Patriarch or IX° couldn’t possibly have a cisgender-straight-male-bias on how they might interpret a ritual or anything, right?

For reference, below is the excerpt from Mystery of Mystery (written by the head of OTO in United States) describing the O.H.O./Patriarch’s address:

“In his address to the Women’s Conference in 1996 (see The Magical Link, Fall 1997 c.e.), the Patriarch Hymenaeus Beta described the Gnostic Saints as a “celebration of the sexual polarities and their cosmic and natural interplay” from a male perspective, having been written by a man.

With regard to the list of Saints, he said, “It is a list of the small handful of men and man-gods who, in the opinion of the author of the Mass, understood the divinity of woman. … Someday, perhaps not soon, but who knows, a woman adept of the Sovereign Sanctuary will manifest the genius to compose a Mass in which the female takes the more active role, and the male the more passive (as with siva and sakti in Hinduism) — in which the Deacon, speaking for the Priestess, can claim communion with the women in history that have perceived the divinity of man.” –

Mystery of Mystery (p.82-83)

Why people think everything has to be binary and separated (male-centric vs. female-centric; straight-centric vs. queer-centric) is beyond me, especially for a ritual numbered “XV” alluding to BAPHOMET, “The Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of Arcance Perfection,” equally both Male and Female, the Idol of the Knights Templar (O.T.O.).

Why do we need to write a “Women’s Mass” or a “Gay Mass” or a “Trans Mass” (for whatever imaginary superstitious “formula” you might think these variants on human diversity may have), when The Gnostic Mass is Universal (“Catholic”), encompassing the Beauty and Diversity of all Mankind.

The new official E.G.C. Manual (Revised Oct. 15, 2019 e.v.) states:

“The role of Priest shall be filled by a man, and the role of Priestess shall be filled by a woman. For purposes of this document, “man” means an individual who was assigned the male gender at birth, or a transgender person identifying as male; and “woman” means an individual who was assigned the female gender at birth, or a transgender person identifying as female. ‘Identifying’ herein means the transgender individual identifies as that particular gender in their daily life as well as in their spiritual practice.” (p.15)

Restrictive gender essentialist E.G.C. policies, policing officers’ gender based on other people’s opinions of which binary gender they think somone “looks” like “in their daily life as well as in their spiritual practice,” should be abolished and amended for all the reasons listed above.

Let people be & become who they truly are. Transmutation is the Miracle of the Mass.

“Transmutation is the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form; The changing of one element into another; The conversion or transformation of one species into another.”

“Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.”

“In my mouth be the essence of the life of the Sun!” (male essence) + “In my mouth be the essence of the joy of the earth!” (female essence) = “Male-female, quintessential, one. Man-being veiled in Woman-form.” 

“There is no part of me that is not of the Gods” (Unity) = A complete human being, in whom is God (Gnosis)

“Remember that unbalanced force is evil; that unbalanced severity is but cruelty and oppression; but that also unbalanced mercy is but weakness which would allow and abet Evil. Act passionately; think rationally; be Thyself.”

Liber XXX – Liber Librae

Love is the law, love under will.

🌈 Guess what? I wrote a book on Queer Qabala, and you can buy it now! 🌈

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2 thoughts on “Gnostic Mass Heresy: Breaking OTO’s Binary

  1. Thank you for a fascinating post! I have read several biographies of Crowley and cannot recall ever seeing any discussion of his gender identity, or any of the quotations referenced above; I wonder if that was because all of his biographers thus far have been cis het men? *removes tongue from cheek* Again, thank you both, Major A. and Sibling AYIN.

  2. Rough draft

    This all seems kind of queer (Strange), though. Where is he going with this? Do men have to “complete” themselves by “invoking Isis” and becoming equally feminine to “unite the Microcosm with the Macrocosm,” transcending their binary sense of gender duality, thereby becoming “Two sexes in one person”: 0 = 2 ☯

    “The answer is no.”

    This would be a greater burden and against Gnostic Catechism for the better understanding of 0 = 2 is better references within the writings of Dr. Carl Jung in his writings of the Albedo and the representations of the polarity, or existence of the collective unconscious being female (Not sexual in anyway shape or form).

    This is the overall expression of the Æon of man in binary 2 = 0 completed per individual by integrating or uniting with that primordial self (Shadow Aspect); which eventually makes (S)he whole thus exiting duality in thought forms etc etc, having developed the androgynous within a mental square and no longer being subdivided par three but has properly evoked in order to complete the seventh through the four remaining, and thus entering their God Head ( Kether), and the proper invocations will have revealed, or 0 = 2 found in the mystery of whose number is 0888 her true eleven, his bride according to Master Therion.

    Aarron Lewis Michael McMahan

    Hopefully these statements are of no heretical short comings or down right ignorance.

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