California is home to a great deal of well-known landmarks and attractions, such as Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, and of course, Hollywood. The state is also home to two significant meeting places for members of two different secret societies – the first being the Order of the Temple, and the second, the Rosicrucian Order – both of which were modeled after or had ties to Freemasonry, and have past connections to occultist Aleister Crowley.
Ordo Templi Orientis – Bay Area Thelemic Temple
Oakland, California is where you will find the Bay Area Thelemic Temple, which was a meeting place for members of the Order of the Temple of the East. Founded between 1895 and 1906, it is believed that the Order of the Temple (or OTO, for short) originally got its start with the help of wealthy industrialist, Carl Kellner, who supposedly started the group as part of a religious movement.
However, many people are aware of the OTO because of the ties it has with the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley. His association with the OTO and his contributions to the group is what elevated the allure and mystery surrounded the secret society. To this day, the Temple is decorated with a mural of Crowley at the Abode of Chaos. Freemasonry played a role in the development of OTO, and because of Crowley, the society embraced his self-created belief system, which he referred to as Thelema.
The practices and beliefs associated with Thelema are illustrated in a book titled ‘The Book of Law,’ and promotes a core belief of ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.’ The group would evolve to include pieces of occultism, as well as Eastern and Western mysticism.
OTO would become a highly secretive group. The members were known to undergo a collection of rituals and ties in order to move up in the ranks. Completing the different initiations signified achieving a new level and title, such as Master Magician, Illustrious Knight, and even, Grandmaster of Light. Some say that OTO performed magic rituals, astral projection, and attempted to call upon demons and angels.
The city of Oakland is home to the meeting place referred to as the Bay Area Thelemic Temple – just one of the many different places of worship that members of the OTO used. This location is a smaller site, and was referred to as an oasis. Larger places of worship for the OTO were called camps or lodges. A weekly mass was held at the Oakland temple, which displayed a décor of candles and Egyptian features.
The Rosicrucian Order – Rosicrucian Park
In San Jose, California, Rosicrucian Park is another place with ties to Freemasonry, as well as with the occultist Crowley. The Park covers a city block and is home to a handful of interesting structures and features, such as the headquarters for AMORC (Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, or more commonly referred to as the Rosicrucian Order). In addition to an eye-catching garden, research library, planetarium, and temple, the park grounds is also the location of a shrine that holds the ashes of AMORC founder Harvey Spencer Lewis.
Walk about the park, and you will encounter the influence of ancient Egyptians, such as ram-headed sphinxes and hieroglyphics decorating the outside of Lewis’ shrine. The secret society has been connected to early tales of mysticism, alchemy, and the Order of the Temple of the Rosy Cross, which dates back to the 17th century. However, the AMORC claims a history that includes pharaoh Thutmose III, who lived around 1477. The society is known for incorporating alchemy, symbolism, and mysticism into their belief system. Representatives claim that they direct their energies to the ‘study of elusive mysteries of life and the universe.’