Phony Secret Societies: The Ordo Templi Orientis

From the Lecture Series: The Real History of Secret Societies

By Richard B. Spence, Ph.D., University of Idaho

Jack Parsons was a rocket scientist and a follower of the English occultist Aleister Crowley, and belonged to Crowley’s secret society: the Ordo Templi Orientis. Parsons was a founding member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and a pioneer of the American space program. Was Parson’s death connected to a struggle for power in the Ordo Templi Orientis? What happened after his death?

The photograph shows women holding candles.
Sometimes, the secret societies are formed around a cult which attracts a lot of members. (Image: OlVic/Shutterstock)

Jack Parsons and the Ordo Templi Orientis

Jack Parsons joined the Agape Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis, or OTO, in Los Angeles in 1939. At the time, it was pretty much a “love cult” for aging swingers led by a protégé of Aleister Crowley, Wilfred T. Smith. But Jack Parsons took his esotericism more seriously. To him, occultism and science weren’t at odds; they were just different ways of discovering the same truth.

When Jack Parsons climbed to the leading position in the lodge, he gave it a new direction, which was initially supported by Aleister Crowley. But after some time, Crowley called him a “weak-minded fool” and dismissed him. After the death of Crowley in 1947, Parsons took the chance to introduce himself as his successor. In the Manifesto of the Antichrist, he declared his aim to put an “end to all authority that is not based on courage and manhood.” In 1952, Parsons died at his home.

This is a transcript from the video series The Real History of Secret Societies. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

Karl Germer’s Rise in the Ordo Templi Orientis

J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director from 1924 to 1972.
J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI Director, had followed the Germers. (Image: Marion S. Trikosko/Public domain)

After Crowley and Parsons, the OTO fell into decay, leading to the end of the Agape Lodges in 1953. Crowley had designated one of his German followers, Karl Germer, as his successor and the guardian of his personal belongings. They included his books, magical equipment, and his ashes. Claiming that Crowley had deemed the OTO a mistake, Germer did not initiate any new members. Germer’s basic approach to running the OTO was to let it die.

Germer and his wife moved to remote places because they had become paranoid and thought the FBI was spying on them. They were not entirely mistaken as J. Edgar Hoover was personally following them.

Karl Germer’ Death

Germer used to work for German intelligence and was sent to Nazi concentration camps for seven months for his connections with the “English Freemason Crowley.” For him, the Gestapo and the FBI were not different. When he died in 1962, his wife hid his death from everyone until years later that it became known that the order had no leader. After that, the problems started.

One of them happened in September 1967, at the end of the Summer of Love. Sascha Germer, who was 76 at that time and lived alone near West Point, California, was attacked by a young woman and three men at her home. They beat her, tied her up, and sedated her with an injection.

When she woke up, she saw her husband’s library and some of Crowley’s belongings were missing. She was sure that the woman was the daughter of Phyllis Seckler, known as Soror Meral in OTO. Oddly, Seckler was one of the few Agape Lodge people whom Sascha had trusted. Phyllis Seckler adamantly denied any involvement in the attack.

Learn more about ancient mystery cults.

The Solar Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis

Phyllis Seckler started an investigation of her own, which led her to the Solar Lodge of the OTO and its leader, Georgina “Jean” Brayton. Initiated into the OTO without proper authorization, Brayton had established the order to be more in keeping with the 1960s atmosphere.

With around 50 members, the Solar Lodge threw parties featuring free love, drugs, and fashionable people. Brayton’s pride and joy was the so-called Ark, an isolated ranch in the Mojave Desert, which her followers turned into a shelter for an imminent apocalypse. Another cult leader in South California shared the same interest: Charles Manson, which raises the suspicion that Manson and the Solar Lodge were connected.

Learn more about Aleister Crowley, occultism, and espionage.

The End of the Solar Lodge

The end of the Solar Lodge was triggered in June 1969. A six-year-old boy who was a Solar Lodge member’s son started a fire at the Ark, which burned it down. In the aftermath, the boy was locked in a small shed that survived the blaze, which received massive media coverage. Newspapers created sensational stories about the “Boy in the Box” imprisoned by weirdo cultists.

Brayton and her husband escaped to Mexico but finally surrendered. Jean Brayton received three years’ probation and a 500$ fine. Eventually, the Solar Lodge was disbanded in 1972. Phyllis Seckler and another Crowler protégé called Grady McMurthy took over the remains of the OTO in 1969.

Alex Constantine, an investigative journalist believed that the Solar Lodge was a CIA-funded “mind control cult”, a cover for its secret MK-Ultra initiatives. He argued that the CIA established or took over occult groups and used them to test drugs and mind-control methods.

Besides, Marcelo Motta, the leader of a rival OTO sect, believed that McMurthy and Seckler made the American OTO part of a CIA-financed “ideological warfare network”. But the current leaders of OTO have dismissed all these allegations as gossip.

Common Questions about Phony Secret Societies: The Ordo Templi Orientis

Q: Who was Jack Parsons?

Jack Parsons was an American rocket engineer and an occultist. He was a follower of the English occultist Aleister Crowley and a member of the Agape Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis.

Q: Who took charge of the Ordo Templi Orientis after Aleister Crowley’s death?

Karl Germer took charge of the Ordo Templi Orientis after Aleister Crowley’s death.

Q: Who was Georgina Brayton?

Georgina Brayton was initiated into the Ordo Templi Orientis without proper authorization. She had established the Solar Lodge in keeping with the 1960s atmosphere.

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