For most people, "joining O.T.O." means "becoming an initiate member of O.T.O." Initiate membership is available to every man and woman who is free, at least 18 years old, and of good report (see below). As described on our initiation page, O.T.O. initiations are conferred through a physical ceremony conducted by a chartered initiator. Initiations are almost always held at O.T.O. local bodies, most commonly Oases and Lodges. The introductory initiation into O.T.O. is known as the "Minerval" or 0°.
Therefore, the path to becoming an initiate member of O.T.O. involves contacting a nearby or otherwise convenient local body which conducts Minerval initiations (see our local bodies page), obtaining an application for initiation from that body, and submitting it along with the appropriate dues and fees.
In order to establish "good report", your application must be signed by two sponsors who are already I° initiates of O.T.O. Prospective sponsors will generally want to get to know you before signing your application, which may involve your attendance with them at several local body events, or time spent with them privately.
There are two primary types of membership: initiate membership and E.G.C. membership.
As discussed above, initiate membership requires a physical ceremony performed under the auspices of an O.T.O. local body. Information on the initiatory structure of the OTO and the dues and fees schedule for membership are also available.
Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.) is the ecclesiastical arm of OTO. It offers lay membership conferred through the ceremonies of baptism and confirmation. Lay membership confers no special privileges. To find out about E.G.C. rituals in your area, see the local bodies list and contact a body near you.
Privacy: Membership in O.T.O. is private. Names and addresses of members are kept confidential from the general public and from the bulk of O.T.O. members. O.T.O. officers (including local body officers) are provided with information about members on a need-to-know basis. For example, a member wishing to attend an initiates-only event at a local body may have her membership status confirmed by Grand Lodge in response to a query by the local body master; similarly, Grand Lodge officers in the Treasury and newsletter offices will have access to the member information required to do their jobs.
Non-discrimination: There shall be no consideration of race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation when considering the fitness of candidates for admission, advancement, or appointment to office within Ordo Templi Orientis U.S.A.
The structure of O.T.O., like that of Freemasonry and the ancient mystery schools, is based on a staged series of initiations or degrees. In the rituals of these degrees, O.T.O. seeks to instruct the individual by allegory and symbol in the profound mysteries of nature, and thereby to assist each initiate in discovering his or her own true identity.
Initiation can be conferred only in a physical ceremony conducted by a properly chartered initiator. See the membership page for information on how to apply for initiation.
Initiate membership is subdivided by degree. There are a total of 21 initiate degrees in O.T.O., including thirteen numbered degrees and eight un-numbered, intermediate degrees or sub-degrees. The degrees of O.T.O. are divided into three Grades or "Triads": the Hermit, the Lover, and the Man of Earth, as follows:
The Third, or Man of Earth, Triad
I° Man and Brother
Woman and Sister
III° Master Magician
IV° Perfect Magician and companion of the Holy Royal Arch of Enoch
Perfect Initiate, or Prince of Jerusalem
Outside all Triads
Knight of the East and West
The Second, or Lover, Triad
V° Sovereign Prince Rose-Croix, and Knight of the Pelican and Eagle
Knight of the Red Eagle, and Member of the Senate of Knight Hermetic Philosophers
VI° Illustrious Knight (Templar) of the Order of Kadosch, and Companion of the Holy Graal
Grand Inquisitor Commander, and Member of the Grand Tribunal
Prince of the Royal Secret
VII° Theoreticus, and Very Illustrious Sovereign Grand Inspector General
Magus of Light, and Bishop of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica
Grandmaster of Light, and Inspector of Rites and Degrees
The First, or Hermit, Triad
VIII° Perfect Pontiff of the Illuminati
Epopt of the Illuminati
IX° Initiate of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis
X° Rex Summus Sanctissimus
XI° Initiate of the Eleventh Degree (This degree is technical, and has no relation to the general plan of the Order)
XII° Frater Superior, and Outer Head of the Order
The Minerval Degree (0°) is an introductory Initiate degree in which the aspirant is considered an "honored guest" of O.T.O. rather than a full member. The Minerval degree is designed to allow the aspirant to decide whether or not to pursue full membership, and to allow potential sponsors the opportunity to decide whether to support the aspirant's application for full membership. Minervals may begin preliminary novitiate training under an E.G.C. Bishop towards ultimate ordination to the Diaconate and/or Priesthood in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, but they are not eligible for ordination or for service as an officer of a Local Body.
The First Degree (I°) bestows full membership upon the initiate. A First Degree initiate may retire from active participation in O.T.O., but the spiritual link forged between the initiate and the Order during the ceremony of the First Degree will remain throughout the initiate's life. An initiate of the Second Degree is eligible for ordination as a deacon of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica.
Beyond the degree of P∴I∴, advancement is by invitation only. Initiates of the intermediate degree of Knight of the East and West (K∴E∴W∴) are eligible for formal ordination to the Priesthood in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. Episcopal consecration in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica is conferred as part of the Seventh Degree. The Tenth Degree (X°) is held by the National Grand Master General of O.T.O. in a particular country.
The Man of Earth degrees follow a pattern based on the symbolism of the Chakras and the stages of Kundalini Yoga; and represent, in dramatic form, the Individual's Path in Eternity. In the 0°, the Ego, a wandering God, is attracted to the Solar System. In the I°, the Child experiences Birth. In the II°, the Man or Woman experiences Life. The III° represents the Death of the individual, and the IV° represents the world beyond Death, the glorified state of the Initiate. In the P∴I∴ Degree, the Initiate symbolically achieves ultimate Perfection (Completion), and the entire cycle is withdrawn into Annihilation.
Of these Events or Stations upon the Path, all but the II° represent single critical experiences. We, however, are concerned mostly with the varied experiences of Life. All subsequent degrees are therefore elaborations of the II°, a progressive instruction in how to live, since in a single ceremony it is hardly possible to sketch, even in the briefest outline, the Teaching of Initiates with regard to Life.
The V° - IX° rituals and teachings are therefore instructions to the Initiate in the Mastery of Life; there is instruction in Hermetic Philosophy, Qabalah, Magick and Yoga, all aimed at preparing the Initiate for the revelation and application of one Supreme Secret.
Every man and woman of full age (18 or more years old), free, and of good report, has an indefeasible right to the first three degrees of O.T.O. (but not according to any particular time schedule). These "first three degrees" actually include all the degrees in the Man of Earth Triad (the Minerval is considered a prologue to the First Degree, and the Fourth and P∴I∴ Degrees are considered pendants to the Third Degree).
Progress of the O.T.O. initiate toward the Fourth and P∴I∴ Degrees is usually a matter of years. A certain amount of time is usually required to allow full maturation of the effects of the O.T.O. initiations, although under some circumstances the Minerval and First Degrees may be taken on the same occasion.