Tuesday, November 22, 2016

From Cefalu to Sacramento Part 2: Enter Marcelo Motta

Picking up where we left off in the previous installment, Aleister Crowley and Karl Germer both served as superiors to Jane Wolfe within the A.'.A.'., and Wolfe served as superior to Phyllis Seckler until her health failed. Germer gradually took over as Seckler's de facto superior and, along the way, recognized her as a 5=6 in 1952. At his death, without declaring a clear successor (more on this later), the leadership of the Order was in question. It is reasonable to assume that leadership should pass to someone with significant spiritual “seniority," in terms of their actual grade, and also someone who could ably bear the authority of V.V.V.V.V., as evidenced by their own interior linkage to this spiritual source, as well as the fruits of their work in the world. As we will demonstrate, the person most qualified to inherit this mantle of leadership was Phyllis Seckler.

However, at this time, a man already exhibiting the symptoms of mental illness that would echo throughout his lifetime chose to declare himself the head of the A.'.A.'., and later attempted to claim that the O.T.O. was also his inheritance. As we will see, his self-declaration of achievement, and demand of recognition in his self-proclaimed roles set the pattern of events that continue to echo through to today.

This man was Marcelo Motta. Among many other roles he carved out for himself in his lifetime, he became a thorn in the side of the modern O.T.O., the catalyst of our legal recognition as the sole continuation of Aleister Crowley's O.T.O., and perhaps one of the least mentally stable sources of the current state of affairs related to the number of "administrative bodies" claiming to represent the A.'.A.'. created by Aleister Crowley

Marcelo Motta was apparently initiated as a member of the Fraternitas Rosicrucianus Antiqua (FRA) in Brazil at the ripe old age of 17. He left Brazil under political pressure to travel to Europe and the United states, and later he portrayed this voyage as being part of a mission assigned to him by the leadership of the Brazilian FRA, to meet the head of their order at the time, one Parsifal Krumm-Heller. Parsifal was the son of Arnold Krumm-Heller, who had written a novel about the Rosicrucians that inspired young Motta.

Arnold Krumm-Heller was a German fascist sympathizer and Hitler apologist who spent much of his adult life in Central and South America, serving as a military advisor, mercenary, and aiding various governments in their wars as he saw fit. One of the first ex-O.T.O. members, he was initiated into the O.T.O. as a contemporary of Theodore Reuss. He met with Aleister Crowley, and thought highly of his works in the esoteric communities. He went on to form the FRA based on his own understanding and ongoing study of the occult arts.

Marcelo Motta, years later, found his way to the teachings of Aleister Crowley through the writings of John Symonds, specifically the book The Great Beast. Initially nervous about accepting the teachings of the Wickedest Man in the World, it was Parsifal Krumm-Heller, the legal leader of the FRA, who managed to convince Motta that there was something of value to be found in Thelema.

Motta was born in 1931, and Symonds' book was published in 1951. Parsifal Krumm-Heller eventually went on to introduce Motta to Karl Germer in 1953. When Motta was first introduced to the ideas, teachings, and philosophies of the Great Beast, he would have been between the ages of 20-22 years. He would have been studying the FRA teachings for 3-5 years at this point, with, we presume the same level of intent he showed later in his life as a Probationer.

I can only imagine what it was like moving into Crowley's work from the perspective of a person trained in the esoteric arts by a German fascist sympathizer and Hitler apologist who created his own Rosicrucian Order when extant Orders failed to provide him with the education he thought they should teach. Later events indicate the cognitive dissonance between his early exposure to the occult sciences and the liberating truths presented in the A.'.A.'. and the O.T.O. were in conflict throughout Motta's occult career.

In 1953, Parsifal introduced Motta to Karl Germer, and Germer offered Motta initiation into the O.T.O. or the A.’. A.'.. Motta chose the A.'.A.'., having no interest in the O.T.O.

I've looked for some documentation that indicated the Motta actually signed a Probationer's Oath and took on the Work officially under Germer. That documentation doesn't exist. Germer was not as interested in keeping track of signed Oaths as I sometimes wish he were.

It makes sense--it's not like he signed the Adeptus Minor's Oath in a concentration camp before he attained K&C of the HGA. These were the "pioneer" days, as Crowley commented in Jane Wolfe's diaries, the days when the active leadership members were also the active Candidates pursuing the Work with all their hearts, minds, and spirits.

Motta's A.'.A.'. career is difficult to track, as a result. All we have are the records of what he claimed publicly, and some correspondence between himself and Germer. From these records, I've managed to put together the following:

  • 1953 - Karl Germer accepts Marcelo Motta in the A.'.A.'.. I would hope that Germer gave him the list of Student Materials, told him to go study them, and let him know when he was ready for the student test. I doubt that happened in real life though. What we do know is that, according to Motta, in ....
  • 1960 - 7 years after his initial acceptance into the A.'.A.'., Motta claims to have completed the Probationer Work. I personally find it fascinating that it took him 7 years to complete the Probationer Work. Rumor has it that C.F. Fuller took 4 years to finish the Student Test. I've taken it, and I understand, it's an ordeal. But in 7 years, Motta went from Student to the completion of Probationer Work, by his own claims. Seckler was 5=6 in 12 years. 
  • 1961 - A year after he claimed he completed the Probationer Work, Motta published a copy of Liber Aleph. In the Imprimatur of that work, his symbol appears with the indication he is a 6=5. While this might be considered an “honorary” grade of Adeptus Major, it would only have been so in the same way that JFC Fuller was noted as a 5=6 on various Imprimaturs published while Crowley lived. In reality Fuller still remained a Probationer. This Imprimatur might have established him as a member of the administration of the A.'.A.'., if it were in fact recognized and supported by anything written by Germer. Instead, correspondence shows that Germer had a completely different response after Motta began making certain claims:
  • 1962, June - In response to some megalomaniacal and disturbing claims made by Motta, Karl Germer responds unequivocally and clearly as his superior in the A.'.A.'. that Motta is "a Neophyte, at best*."
  • 1962, July - To which Marcelo Motta responded... "Yea, you're right, I renounce any claims to anything higher." I'm paraphrasing, but Motta agreed with Germer that he was nothing more than a Neophyte.
  • 1962, October - Karl Germer dies, without naming anyone to follow him as the leader of the O.T.O. or the A.'.A.'. in writing. There are claims that Sascha said Germer named him “the Follower” on his death bed, but these fail to hold much water in full context. While there is no clear paper trail validating claims to Motta’s succession as head of the A.'.A.'., even those groups who claim he was the heir to the A.'.A.'. recognize and support the fact that Motta was suffering from multiple mental illnesses. These mental illnesses effectively left him incompetent to administer anything at the time of Germer’s death. 
  • 1963, January – Motta writes a letter to Sascha Germer in which he signs off as a 2=9, effectively claiming his status as Zelator.

Motta's A.'.A.'. Path to Zelator

So at the death of Karl Germer, Marcello Motta acknowledged he was a Neophyte, at best. Some sources indicate he completed the Zelator work shortly before the death of Germer, but I haven't seen anything other than his own writings that indicate his superior in the Order acknowledged his claims in any way.

Again, this only matters because people, mostly Motta at the time, but later others, claimed that Motta was somehow the legitimate successor to the A.'.A.'. and the O.T.O. Though Sascha Germer later noted to Motta that he was named “the Follower” on Germer’s death bed, the veracity of this claim, the context, and the state of mind of Germer at the time is unknown. When combined with the mental state of Sascha, as shown in her correspondences with Motta, this claim seems likely spurious. Motta himself expressed confusion about what this “Follower” business meant, in a letter to Sascha after Germer’s death. Regardless, the obvious deterioration of Motta’s mental state, as attested to by his own writings and the reactions of his disciples, students, co-workers, and everyone else who worked with him makes it abundantly clear that he was mentally incompetent to lead anything at the time of Germer’s death or beyond.

Following Karl Germer's death, Seckler maintained correspondence with Sascha Germer, Marcelo Motta, Gerald Yorke, and many others as she sought to figure out what should happen next. Reading through the old letters between Seckler and Motta, it becomes pretty clear that she was already aware that he had reached the disconnection with sanity later noted by Wasserman in In the Center of the Fire. In her letters, she would placate his more extreme statements, while continuing to strive to accomplish the best interests of the Orders. Her dedication to the preservation of fraternity and peace at the time continues to impact the circumstances we find ourselves in to this day.

Looking back, I really wish she had been more strident about the administrative succession of the A.'.A.'.. I appreciate that she wanted to keep peace for the good of Thelema, but she had a right that she never chose to exercise because she didn't want to make trouble. She was a woman in a male-dominated world, and we can see how the men treated her in the 1970s through the 1980s in Wasserman’s account, and how the men she was inspiring to re-form Thelema and the O.T.O. treated her personally, esoterically, and professionally. She chose the honorable route, laying down her rights so that people would focus more on rebuilding the O.T.O. rather than being yet another divisive voice in the crowd. While I respect her choices, I regret that they were necessary.

Seckler did, however, leave us an important document detailing her concerns about claimant groups opportunistically attempting to claim A.'.A.'. as their own, as well as her views of her own grade status, and that of Marcelo Motta.  This document, drafted in 2000 e.v. near the end of her life, was her commentary on the Constitution of the Order of Thelemites.  While this document doesn’t pertain to successorship in A.’.A.’. per se, it does make clear her views on relevant matters such as those mentioned above.  Reprinted here in its entirety:

From The Kabbalah, Magick, and Thelema, Selected Writings Vol.II

* The context of this quote is:

"If one tried to go into refuting or arguing your recent letters one would run the risk of getting contaminated by the demonic forces that have got a hold of you. What I will do is give you the benefit of my experience. It has been my privilege or misfortune to have to watch at least a score of “experts of delusion” in the last more than thirty-five years of my connection with Thelema!)

"What you claim – the title of BEAST – is only minor, i.e. a repeat of another title. (Yet Crowley assumed the grade only 15 years after he had become M.T., while you are at best a Neophyte!)"

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The authors of Horns of Cerastes are happy to share their insights, opinions, and interests in all matters Thelema. Anything uncited is probably an informed opinion, but there are times when we have been known to just have fun. Do be careful, it might get on you. Also, all comments are moderated.