After decades of incomplete media reports and propaganda efforts by
partial parties regarding Rudolf Steiner's alleged membership in
Theodor Reuss' German lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis, for the
first time, the archive of Rudolf Steiner's probate opened its vault
(for the book "Der Grosse Theodor Reuss Reader"),
thereby giving historians the ammunition needed to finally put the
matter to rest (extant are 4 letters of Reuss to Steiner
and 21 of Reuss to Marie von Sivers. Steiner's letters to Reuss are
missing or never existed; 4 drafts of Sivers to Reuss survive.
Reproduced in "Der Grosse Theodor Reuss Reader" is the Contract,
the Edict of Reuss to Steiner, and two letters concerning Franz
The Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and MisraimAllegedly, 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) not accepted by 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, MM]. Allegedly, on 24th September 1902 the German Theodor Reuss bought the permission from Yarker to install the Scottish Rite (AASR, 33 degrees) and the "irregular" MM-Rites (90 and 97 degrees) in Germany although Yarker has been expelled by order of the Supreme Council on recommendation of a Sovereign Tribunal held at Manchester, 18 November 1870.
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 MM) only for which Reuss has permission to give. Nevertheless, Reuss assumed making regular freemasons through his compilation of Orders. Soon he will render some AASR- and MM-degrees into the O.T.O.
Pre-Events regarding Rudolf SteinerIn 1875, the Theosophical Society was founded by H.P. Blavatsky, H.S. Olcott, W.Q. Judge, John Yarker, and others. After Blavatsky died in 1891, the TS splintered and in 1900 consisted of three groups.
In the autumn of 1900, Rudolf Steiner was contacted by the members of the Berlin Theosophists and was asked to give lectures in their library. He commenced giving lectures in Winter 1900/01 and 1901/02 which led to the constitution of the German section of the Theosophical Society (Adyar) on 20 October 1902, with approx. 100 members and Rudolf Steiner as its General Secretary.
In 1904 Steiner starts to build up his own Esoteric School. On 10 May 1904 the then leader of the Esoteric School of Theosophy, Annie Besant, makes him National Leader of the E.S. for Germany and Austria. This E.S. was constituted in 1888 by Blavatsky independently from the T.S.
For the setting up of his own E.S., Steiner wants to link with symbolic-ritual effects of existing masonic traditions, for "absolute truthfulness and maintenance of continuity". Steiner's E.S. consists soon of three departments. (1) the Esoteric School of Theosophy, (2) the Misraim-Dienst [service] and (3) of a failed attempt to gather 12 pupils, about whom nothing is known.
Theodor Reuss and Rudolf SteinerIt is difficult to pinpoint the date when the first contact between Steiner and Reuss took place.
9 December 1904: In a lecture on the history of Freemasonry in Berlin, Rudolf Steiner quotes a Manifesto by Carl Kellner and Theodor Reuss of 1904 (Steiner: "Die Tempellegende und die Goldene Legende" = Complete Edition [CE] volume 93, 91ff.). This is not an O.T.O.-Manifesto and only a slightly different version from the one published in Reuss' Oriflamme #6 of 1903. The expression "Ordo Templi Orientis" does not yet exist.
There is no evidence for assuming that Carl Kellner (the alleged supplier of the O.T.O.-principles of Hatha Yoga) would have heard of, let alone used, the term "O.T.O.". Kellner probably led the German-language branch of one "Brotherhood of Light", which he had brought as one of the 12 founders from Boston/Chigaco in 1895 to Europe.
7 June 1905: Honorary Grandmaster Carl Kellner 33*, 90*, 96*, "director" of the "inner triangle", the "occult circle" consisting of Franz Hartmann, Reuss, Kellner, dies.
24 June 1905: John Yarker 33*, 90*, 96* gives Reuss 33*, 96*, Franz Hartmann 33*, 95*, and Heinrich Klein 33*, 95*, the grant to work the degrees from the first to the 33*, 90* and 95*. Obviously, Yarker is unaware of the quarrell between Hartmann and Reuss.
In August, Reuss is also sued by the co-founding Swedenborg Rite-members for publishing his magazine "Oriflamme" in 1902 as a purely private concern (i.e. AASR and MM were independently from Reuss' other Orders) with the member's money.
24 November 1905: Rudolf Steiner and Marie von Sivers each pay 45 Marks to Theodor Reuss for their membership in Memphis-Misraim.
The negotiations over the modalities for the guidance of an independent working group still aren't complete.
The following day, 25 November 1905: Steiner writes to Mrs. von Sivers: "Yesterday, you have seen how little has remained from the former esoteric institutions" and he plans to use "the medium of the religion" in its sensual-beautiful form: Religion as "subsequent experience of science and art." (Nevertheless, the later developed Anthroposophical Society is not a body of beliefs - which would have gone against Steiner's expressed intentions, but a body of ideas.)
30 November 1905: "Reuss is not a man who can be trusted ... We have to deal with "a framework" only and not with more [substance] in the reality. Presently nothing at all is behind the thing. The occult powers COMPLETELY withdrew themselves from it."
2 January 1906: For the first time, Steiner gives a lecture to men AND women at the same time and calls "Masonry" (by which he possibly means the irregular AASR and MM rite) "a caricature" "with snoozing forces to be woken up again"; which is "our work to do". Steiner considers it as his "duty to save the Misraim-Dienst for the future." The Misraim-Dienst is to combine Terrestrial with Celestial, Visible with Invisible and to again renew the Eleusinian Mysteries.
3 January 1906: Reuss signs a contract with Steiner making the latter a 30*, 67* and 89* for Berlin. His Misraim-Service is now called "Mystica aeterna". Marie von Sivers is authorized for the accommodation of women. "The exaggerations of the male culture must be back-drawn by the occult forces of the woman" (according to Steiner).
8 January 1906: Reuss travels to London where he intends to build up a "Hermetic School of Science". He is followed by his bad reputation as a freemasonic swindler, an inventor of Orders and merchant of Charters. There also is rumour about alleged indecency.
22 January 1906 is the date which can be read in the alleged first O.T.O.-Constitution, in English, which only in 1912 gets generally known. Emil Adrianyi and Paul Eberhardt, both high degree members of MM at that time, think that O.T.O. was not founded before 1912. This constitution demands that application for O.T.O.-membership must be in writing. It seems that O.T.O. is starting to get developed from some AASR- and MM-degrees.
17 March 1906: In a letter from Theodor Reuss to Franz Hartmann (1838-1912), Reuss complains about Hartmann's assumption that Reuss has "nothing to do anymore with the signing of diplomas etc. etc ..." and "From all this I concluded that you had withdrawn from my M.+M. F.M.Order".
Similarly, Reuss expresses on 27 March 1906, that Emil Adrianyi likewise spreads the "false message"; that the Grandorient and Sovereign Sanctuary of Berlin no longer exist.
On 27 March 1906 Steiner receives a letter from Reuss, in which he is addressed as 33* (AASR) and 95* (Misraim).
Oriflamme issue January-June 1906: Reuss publishes that Steiner is a 33* and 95* of Berlin and Deputy Grandmaster of "Mystica aeterna" with jurisdiction over the members he's able to gather. Marie von Sivers becomes General Grand Secretary for the Lodges of Adoption (MM).
Steiner also uses the expressions "Mystica Eterna" (M.E.) and "Misraim-Dienst" (M.D.). According to their context, these abbreviations refer to the organisation or the content.
Both, Steiner and Reuss make use of the freemasonic terms "Royal Arch" and "Knight of the Eagle and the Pelican" (CE 265, 217). The nine (ten) O.T.O.-degres are not at all the model of the theoretical nine degrees of "Mystica aeterna". "Mystica aeterna" is not an actual organisation similar to an Order or a lodge (although Steiner uses this term in his lesson on 28 October 1911): there are no affiliated foundings, no diplomas, no warrants and the rituals are celebrated in the presence of Rudolf Steiner only, and for and by members of the Theosophical Society, only.
In Steiner's vision, no "Master" supervises outer "Orders", but only the "Esoteric School" is supervised. The "Mystica aeterna" now is considered as second department in Steiner's Esoteric School (also called "Erkenntniskultische Abteilung" = ceremonial realization/gnosis department). The Theosophical department refers more to the idealistic and studying aspect; the masonic rituals more to the practical aspect of the Esoteric Working Group.
21 June 1906 is the date which can be read on the alleged first German O.T.O.-Constitution. Again, every application for O.T.O.-membership must be in writing.
24 June 1906: Since it appears that Steiner's "Mystica aeterna" soon will have more members than Reuss' Order, Reuss separates Memphis from Misraim and also from the 33*; he signs this with the expression "Oriental Templar Freemasons" and uses the templar calendar: "A.O.788".
15 August 1906: In a letter to A.W. Sellin, Rudolf Steiner distances himself from Reuss' activities (if he took note of them at all). For Steiner the person "Reuss" does not play any role, but his transmission of the Misraim rite, i.e. a formal-historical-legally documented tying, in order to create an independent symbolic-ritual reestablishment does. In Reuss' letters to Steiner, Reuss does not give a single acknowledgement of a discussion or writing of Steiner. Steiner makes it "the condition that the Order [that is Reuss' AASR and MM] does NOT communicate ANY of its rituals to me."
"I constituted what has to be constituted, without Mr. Reuss ever being present ... I however IGNORED essentially the Order [Reuss' AASR and MM] completely." Admission to Steiner's Misraim-Dienst is refused to members of Reuss' Order.
On 22 September 1906, Reuss complains to von Sivers that he has not yet received an answer to his letter from one month ago. 1 October 1906, 9 February 1907 and 12 March 1907: Reuss asks for a meeting with Steiner, in vain. In his letter dated 9 February 1907: Reuss confirms that there is no mutual communication between him and Steiner in writing and that he is accepting this.
Pentecoste 1907: The first department of the Esoteric School of Steiner separates from the Esoteric School of Theosophy as Steiner pursues another teaching system. He complains on one hand about Annie Besant's Americanism, i.e. worldliness and on the other hand on her adjustment on Indian traditions which would not have any effect in the West. For Steiner, the breathing is not to be controlled by physical body-exercises, but the bodily effects are to be consequences of the Intuition exercises. Steiner's path does the opposite of what the ancient Yogi did when he blended the thinking and breathing processes.
15 June 1907: Reuss sends Steiner an Edict making Steiner a 33*, 90* and 96* of Berlin and independently acting General Grandmaster of the Sovereign General Grandcouncil of the Mizraim-Rite of Germany. The stationary bears the expressions "Memphis and Mizraim Rite of Masonry. Order of Oriental Templars and Esoteric Rosicrucians".
Reuss signs a.o. with the seal "SOTOM". This paper does not make Steiner either a member of the O.T.O. or its Grandmaster. However, Reuss continues to call himself Grandmaster of Misraim.
From 1907 onwards, his O.T.O. (appearing as "League of International Brotherhood") seeks affiliation to several foreign gnostic and rosicrucian organisations.
24 February 1908 and 17 July 1909: again Reuss bitterly complains that Steiner never answers his letters. The same in 1910.
Since 1906 Reuss does not list Steiner any more in his frequent Order schemas.
1909: Steiner is not specified in the Order schematic of the Oriflamme magazine.
11 February 1910: Reuss informs Steiner that Franz Hartmann "has not been inside a Masonic lodge room since he saw mine at Berlin in 1904, and in fact he is no authority on it anyhow." Except Max Heilbronner and Heinrich Klein, allegedly no one knows about the "actual relations" between Steiner and Reuss.
In March 1910, Aleister Crowley's mexican 33* (of 1900) gets confirmed by Reuss in London as VII* O.T.O.. In November of that year John Yarker also re-activates Crowley's 33*, although Yarker's authorisation to do so has already been cancelled by the Supreme Council of AASR in 1870.
21 April 1912: Crowley becomes Xth O.T.O. of England and Ireland.
1 June 1912: official founding of the National Grandlodge of the O.T.O. in England and Ireland. Regarding Crowley, Reuss calls this "a thing with a juicy taste". Although never a regular freemason, Crowley now considers himself to be the "sole and supreme authority in Freemasonry." The fact of the existence of a Xth O.T.O. in England in 1912 is evidence to the assumption that the O.T.O. in 1912 is considered independent from AASR and MM, which are run by John Yarker at the same time at the same place. Only after Yarker's death in 1913 do Reuss and Crowley think that AASR, MM and O.T.O. are equal and that they have supreme authority over the first.
7 August 1912: Hartmann dies.
Steiner does not appear in the family tree of the O.T.O. heroes in the "Jubelee Issue of the Oriflamme" in 1912, where Carl Kellner and Franz Hartmann, posthumously of course, are brought into the context of Reuss' O.T.O..
In the course of the Krishnamurti affair of the TS, on Christmas 1912
Steiner creates the Anthroposophical Society in Cologne/Germany and separates it
from the TS at the turn of the year 1912/13. Up to this time he
collected approx. 2500 members. Another 1000, withdrawing from the TS in Europe
and America, join soon after.
Starting from 1917, Steiner categorically refuses to give private esoteric advice. In future, everything must happen in the light of the democratic public (away of isolation and mental elitism).
Summer 1920, at the International Freemasonic Congress in Zuerich it is decided by the Freemasons that O.T.O. definitely has to be considered irregular and that every connection with Reuss (living in Basel) has to be "treated as a thing of the past".
1921: On the occasion of his visit in Oslo, Rudolf Steiner gathers all members of "Mystica aeterna", without rituals and without ceremonial habits and although two or three new members are accepted [as a sign that the old form of the Misraim-Service definitely is left], declares the work of the "Erkenntniskultische Arbeitskreis" (= Misraim Dienst) solemnly dissolved (CE 265, 451).
Because Spencer Lewis (1883–1939) (leader of the A.M.O.R.C.) threatened Theodor Reuss (1855–1923) (founder of the O.T.O., in 1906) that A.M.O.R.C. would stop paying its O.T.O. subscriptions if Aleister Crowley remained a member of the O.T.O.; and because Crowley was upset at Reuss granting (on 13th June, 1921 Charles S. Jones the highest U.S. degree (the X°), in the autumn of 1921, Reuss distanced himself from Crowley, turning towards the A.M.O.R.C. and to Arnoldo Krumm-Heller’s Rosicrucian organisation, the Fraternitas Rosicruciana Antiqua (F.R.A.). After receiving his honorary diploma from Reuss, Lewis sent a telegram, dated 24th August, 1921, asking “What connection has Crowley with your organization.” To which Reuss replied “Dissolved.” In October, 1921, Reuss informed Lewis that he had cut the O.T.O. connection between Reuss and Crowley, adding that whatever Crowley might happen to do about it in the U.S.A. was now his own business and no longer any concern of the O.T.O.. On 9th November, 1921, Reuss wrote to Crowley: “the ‘O.T.O.’ is not in any way an annex or even in any way connected with the ‘AA’ [Crowley’s Argenteum Astrum, A.·. A.·.] and [...] the Teachings of these Two independent Bodies must rigorously be kept separate and distinct.” To which Crowley replied (on 23rd November, 1921) that it was his “will to be O.H.O. and Frater Superior of the Order and avail myself of your abdication — to proclaim myself as such.” Several days later, on 27th November, 1921, Crowley noted in his diary: “I have proclaimed myself O.H.O. [Outer Head of the Order] Frater Superior of the Order of Oriental Templars.”
From then on, in Rosicrucian circles it was considered that “During the last two years of [Reuss’s] life he was not active in teaching the Crowley doctrines and practices and regained the respect previously accorded to him in occult and fraternal circles.”
For discussionFrom whence and by whom are some of the AASR and MM degrees equated with some of the O.T.O. degrees (e.g. 90*, 95* = IXth O.T.O.)?
In accordance with Reuss' and Aleister Crowley's AASR-MM-O.T.O. schematism, already in 1914 Steiners 30*, 67* and 89* could have been placed somewhere between the VI* and VII* O.T.O. [handwritten schematic of Aleister Crowley, dated 1914, facsimile in: "How to make your own McOTO", 59].
This seems for the time being irrelevant regarding Steiner, but could be a reason for the fact that Steiner later was thought to be member of the O.T.O.: his 90*, 96* could be regarded as X* O.T.O.. -- There is evidence that from at least 1917 onwards, that Reuss and his allies equated MM with O.T.O.. [See my "Der Grosse Theodor Reuss Reader", p. 246.]
Is 1906 the founding year of the O.T.O.? Were the two 1906 O.T.O.-Constitutions been written later?
Regardless, the Reuss-Edict to Steiner of 1907 contains the term "Order of Oriental Templars". Likewise, the term "Ordo Templi Orientis" is found in French Gnostic-Church magazines by 1911 while it is 1912 which is the date which some O.T.O. historians claim as the founding date of the O.T.O.. [Facsimile in "Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica", Munich 1998]
Did Steiner know about the O.T.O.?
It is quite obvious that Steiner's "worldview" is ascetic, i.e. "is sensual-free" ("only what is communicated with pain has a value") and he would have deeply rejected Reuss' version, if he had actually taken note of it. Steiner is against the attenuation of consciousness, against oaths of secrecy and a personality cult (although he appears in certain "Esoteric Hours" as messenger of the "Masters", e.g. Zarathustra).
He repeatedly states that esoteric training should be based on thinking, and not bodily forces (as in the O.T.O.). In this, Steiner is most obviously referring to hypnotism, mediumship, and Yogic breathing, but also, presumably, to sexual energies. Nevertheless, Steiner's student should "do as much as possible, whatever his position, to further the health of body and soul" -- with the exception that sometimes duty may stand higher than health, or life itself. The crucial point is whether consciousness is controlled by bodily forces or whether the body is controlled by the spirit-consciousness of the individual Ego. "Eurythmy" and "Speech-Formation" are later artistic applications of the initiation-knowledge gained by Steiner, as ways of bringing the spirit into the physical, not the physical into the spiritual.
Advocating the Christian way of the Rosycross, Steiner opposes any ceremonial magic (20 June 1912, GA 133), although he uses Eliphas Levi's apocalyptic seals and the Tarot symbolism. Even text passages from Levi's "Dogma and Ritual of High Magic" are found in Steiner's Misraim rituals.
Steiner considers the Misraim rituals building the bridge between the Invisible and the Visible: "downwards" and not "upwards" as with the libertine gnostics. Steiner's Chakra exercises operate from above downward. It is the heart which is vedantically considered as the main chakra and not, yogically, the solar plexus.
Is there a continuation/metamorphosis of "Mystica aeterna" after 1923 (e.g. the ceremonial activities for the Rudolf Steiner School developed in the 20's, or those for the Christian Community created in 1921, although Steiner said about the latter that it would be out of the question)?
There are two contradictory accounts of a lecture that Steiner gave in Oslo in 1923. One says that in May 1923 Steiner held a "M.E.Versammlung", another one explicitely says that this is not a "M.E." at all. (CE 265, 451, 452). However, the "Wachsmuth-Lerchenfeld-Group of 1923 is mentioned by Steiner in context with the expression "M.E." (CE 265, 455, 468)
Here the data for the Esoteric Hours after 1918:
9 February 1920 in Dornach (headquarter of the AS in Switzerland)
17 February 1920 in Dornach
4 December 1921 in Norway
December 1921 in Oslo
two 1922 in London, autumn
1922 in Stuttgart for the Esoteric Youth Circle
27 May 1923 in Dornach for the Wachsmuth Lerchenfeld Group
13 July 1923 in Stuttgart for the Esoteric Youth Circle
30 September 1923 in Vienna
23 October 1923 in Dornach for the Wachsmuth Lerchenfeld Group
30 December 1923 in Dornach for the Esoteric Youth Circle
3 January 1924 in Dornach for the Wachsmuth Lerchenfeld Group
Some rituals written after 1918:
1918/19 Steiner writes a ritual for funerals
1919 a re-translation of the Roman Catholic Mass
1920: the ritual of the "Sundays Activites" and the "Christmas Activities"
1921 a baptism and a marriage ritual, the "Youth Celebration"
1923 the "Sacrifical Celebration", ritual for the installation of the "Arch Leader", the child funeral ritual.
In conclusion, whatever edicts, charters and papers Reuss sent to Steiner, Reuss also could have made the Pope a member of the O.T.O.. As long as there is no documentation providing evidence that Steiner accepted any alleged O.T.O. membership, no one can pretend that Steiner was a member of the O.T.O..
SourcesTranscripts of some mentioned documents in: P.R. Koenig: "Der Kleine Theodor Reuss Reader" (ARW, Muenchen 1993). Worldwide for the first time, facsimiles of pertinent Steiner-Reuss-documents are published in: P.R. Koenig: "Der Grosse Theodor Reuss Reader" (ARW, Muenchen 1997). Rudolf Steiner's rituals can be found in: Rudolf Steiner: "Zur Geschichte und aus den Inhalten der erkenntniskultischen Abteilung der Esoterischen Schule 1904-1914" (Dornach 1987 = CE 265). Reuss' O.T.O.-rituals in: P.R. Koenig: "How to make your own McOTO" (ARW, Muenchen 1996). Reuss' O.T.O.-system in: P.R. Koenig: "Materialien zum OTO" (ARW Muenchen 1994). Aleister Crowley's O.T.O. rituals in O.T.O. Rituals and Sexmagick (Thame 1999). Hartmann about Kellner, in: Theosophische Rundschau: "Dr. Karl [sic] Kellner, ein Opfer des Okkultismus", XII;6, 1924. Steiner and Magick: Klaus J. Bracker: "Anthroposophische Esoterik und die hermetische Tradition des 19. Jahrhunderts", in "Novalis" 4/1996, Schaffhausen. Hella Wiesberger: "Rudolf Steiners esoterische Lehrtaetigkeit" (Dornach 1997).
This article was a paper read for C.E.S.N.U.R. at the University of Turin in 1998.
Online facsimile documents regarding Reuss and Steiner
More about all this in: Andreas Huettl and Peter-R. Koenig: Satan - Jünger, Jäger und Justiz