"It was my original idea that the O.T.O. would be a sort of training ground for the A∴A∴. It was still in my mind that the A∴A∴ represented, so to speak, the only thing worth doing. But recent initiations have changed my views considerably. But the O.T.O. has a perfectly definite function in connection wirh the new Aeon.
At a time like the present, when individual liberty is threatened in a way to which history offers no parallel, a strong and vigorous order is required to guard humanity. The A∴A∴ does this, it is true, but in a manner so beyond even your present conception, that I think it only fair to give even the most commonplace of men a chance to co-operate actually."
- Letter from A.C. to Charles S. Jones, dated Oct. 4th 1919 e.v.
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"Observe O.T.O. = 540 + A.'.A.'. 2 = 542. 418+666/2 therefore the number harmonizes these two. But of course you understand that the A.'.A.'. is the serious Order for individual progress.
With O.T.O. you only become a magician, and a priest of the Holy One - a very fine and balanced 6=5, but no more."
- Crowley to Achad, ~July, 1916
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“The O.T.O. is, so to speak, the quintessence of Freemasonry, and is run on strictly Masonic lines. There is no question of spiritual advancement as in the A.'.A.'.. It teaches nothing but theoretical and practical philosophy of life and death. There is no question of the attaining of higher states of consciousness.
It is true that some of the practices involves what might, on analysis, turn out to be supernormal conditions, but it is not mystical in any ordinary sense of the word. Further, it works almost entirely in groups, and this is what makes the attitude towards money entirely different.”
- Crowley to Gerald Yorke, Oct. 27, 1928
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“The difference between the A.'.A.'. and the O.T.O. is very clear and simple. The A.'.A.'. is a sempiternal institution, and entirely secret. There is no communication between its members. Theoretically, a member knows only the superior who introduced him, and any person whom he himself has introduced. The Order is run on purely spiritual lines.
The object of membership is also entirely simple. The first objective is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The next objective, omitting for the present of the [6=5] and [7=4] Grades, is the crossing of the Abyss, and the attainment of mastership of the Temple. This is described very fully especially in Liber 418 (“The Vision & the Voice”). Much less is written about the [5=6] Grade, i.e. the Knowledge and Conversation, because it is too secret and individual. It is impossible to lay down conditions, or to describe the experiences involved in detail.
The O.T.O. has nothing to do with this, except that The Book of the Law and the Word of the Aeon are essential principles of membership. In all other respects, it stands by itself as a body similar to Freemasonry, but involving acceptance of a social and economic system which is intended to put the world on its feet. There is also, of course, the secret of the IX° which is to say, the weapon which they may use to further these purposes.
To show you the difference, Theodor Reuss was Supreme Head of the O.T.O., but was not even a probationer of the A.'.A.'..”
- Letter from Crowley to Karl Germer dated Sept. 16, 1946, as an official statement to American O.T.O. members