Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Success Is Your Proof: One Hundred Years of O.T.O. in North America by Richard Kaczynski, & al.
Success Is Your Proof is a collection of papers and essays commemorating two different anniversaries in O.T.O. organizing–both the centennial of O.T.O. in North America (dating from the local charter issued for Vancouver, British Columbia) and the thirtieth anniversary of the headship of Hymenaeus Beta. Although the book was grown out of a set of papers first presented at a scholarly conference, not all of the papers are scholarly in their emphasis, and some were not presented at the conference. The first chapter of the book is an encomium for Frater Superior H.B. from Grand Master Shiva X° of Australia, who is very good at this sort of thing.
My own contribution is one of a several here that are concerned with a seminal O.T.O. organizer in North America, Charles Stansfeld Jones, a.k.a. Frater Achad. My paper “Bizarre Sons” is one among multiple approaches I have taken to the same research materials from different disciplinary angles, and it does give a full accounting of the relationship between Jones and literary author Malcolm Lowry. I’m happy with how it is presented in the book, but there is one curiosity in the first footnote, where someone claims to be preparing a book by Jones for publication. In the printed footnote, it appears to be me purporting to do this work, but I am not and never made such a claim. The note must have slipped in from correspondence or comments among Success Is Your Proof‘s editors, one of whom was engaged with that project, I surmise. I’m flattered to have my paper appear in the company of other excellent Jones-focused contributions such as the research on the Universal Brotherhood by Frater Taos, Frater Iskander’s “Thinking Backwards,” and Richard Kaczynski’s “Panic in Detroit.” These three were also the editors of the book.
Two of the papers in this book are not so much about O.T.O. itself as they are about A∴A∴ and its relationship to the Oriental Templar Order. Of these, the better is the one by AISh MChLMH, which includes a focus on C.S. Jones, and emphasizes the intersection of the two systems in the material of the Major Adept Grade of A∴A∴ and the Sanctuary of the Gnosis of O.T.O. I found the paper by Phanes X° of Italy disappointing. It advanced some misrepresentations with an out-of-context misreading of a statement from “One Star in Sight,” and with a tendentious and necessarily unsupported allusion to language in O.T.O. confidential ceremonies.
Although Vere Chappell’s article on the pre-Thelemic A∴A∴ and O.T.O. falls a little outside the supposed scope of the collection, it is still a valuable contribution for its well-documented clarity on an often-overlooked aspect of Crowley’s magical organizing. Likewise, the fascinating research on Leila Waddell by Cynthia Crosse has “America” in the title, but only briefly sojourns in that continent in the course of a more wide-ranging biography. Decisively outside the “North American” scope is Clive Harper’s account of the development of O.T.O. in the UK during the 1980s, but this paper contained many details I was grateful to learn. James Wasserman’s distinctive Thelemic Americanism is exhibited in his paper on “The New Aeon in the New World,” which is more polemic than scholarship. It is good to have it in this book, though, given its relevance to the topic and Wasserman’s own key involvement in the revival of the American O.T.O.
Lita-Luise Chappell’s “Historical Overview of the Rites of Eleusis” seems to demonstrate that the majority of the work with these Crowley-authored ceremonies has been done in North America, although I’m sure that wasn’t her primary purpose. While I enjoyed the pictures and the first few pages regarding the origins of Crowley’s plays and their early revivals in the US, much of the remainder is just concatenated data that could have been more simply and easily appreciated in tabular form, so it’s not surprising that she refers to a still-growing spreadsheet where she archives this information. I did see only a glancing mention of what were certainly the most ambitious and sustained presentation of the Rites to date: Scarlet Woman Lodge in Austin produced them as full theatrical pieces for the paying public, in integral month-long seasons featuring all seven rites, every year for seven consecutive years.
The book is a materially beautiful production designed by Studio 31, with a frontispiece portrait of Hymenaeus Beta by Australian artist Robert Buratti. None of the pieces in this varied mixture of scholarship, homage, and advocacy is at all boring, and taken together they exhibit important intellectual trends in Thelema today. I certainly recommend it to those interested in the history of O.T.O. and the Thelemic movement.