My Life With The Sex Cult

I’d been curious about Aleister Crowley since my early days as a Pagan.

Hell, even before that, I was a Led Zeppelin fan and knew that Jimmy Page was such a fan of Crowley’s that he bought his house on Loch Ness in Scotland. Also, I knew that Crowley had been on the cover of the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s” album. I’d figured out by then that a large portion of the original form of Wicca created by Gardner had quoted Crowley liberally.

At that point, many signs indicated that this was someone worth understanding. (Which was silly, because I would never fully understand Crowley.) Finally, what inspired me to check him out directly was the writings of Robert Anton Wilson.

I’d first come across Wilson in Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and was fortunate to live near an excellent used bookstore with a terrific occult section. I loved his humorous yet skeptical take on occultism. They had Wilson’s Illuminatus! trilogy, Cosmic Trigger, and even Quantum Psychology. Cosmic Trigger dealt extensively with Wilson’s opinions on Crowley and work with his magick.

Shortly after that, I found some local occultists through America Online’s Magick section. I ended up dating a woman who had connections to the local OTO camp. Through her, I met with the now defunct Serpent In Balance (SIB) Camp in Orlando, Florida.

Up until then, I’d been really dissatisfied with much of the Pagan community I’d found. Though there were some intelligent folks, overall there seemed to me to be a lack of intellectual curiosity when it came to their Paganism or magick. In the mid-90s, the vast majority of people I’d encountered where I lived were Wiccan or Wiccan-influenced and had read only a handful of Llewellyn books on the subject. They were into candle magick or “kitchen witchery” and a great deal of New Agey stuff but few had an interest in the history of Wicca, let alone magick or occultism. Many were outright frightened by mentions of Crowley or even chaos magick without even trying to understand it.

This is why I resonated so much with the SIB group. They were intellectually curious and well-read. They had a sense of humor and a joie de vivre. There was sexuality but it wasn’t sleazy or orgiastic. Many were fans of hard rock and heavy metal, like I had been. In short, they were everything that the New Agey fluffy-bunny Wiccans were not. These were my people.

Though for a time, I embraced Crowley and his teachings, largely, it was about finding a community in which I felt I belonged to. SIB felt like a second family which I had never really felt with any Pagan group I’d belonged to.

Since then, I’ve attended functions at other OTO groups and learned that OTO bodies vary widely. The warm familial vibe from SIB was very much their own thing. Other OTO bodies are not nearly as warm and fuzzy, emotionally.

Another element I enjoyed was the romantic element of OTO. I loved the initiations (which the leaders of SIB put a great deal of time and effort into, to make sure they were done well). I loved the feasting. There was always a great deal of Middle-Eastern food and often belly dancing associated with our group…(including one evening where an exotic dancer that belonged to our group did the “Dance of the Seven Veils” for the head of the Order as a form of hospitality). I loved the Gnostic Mass and especially loved that there was a Priestess on the altar calling to Babalon.

Of course, there was the magick. Crowley’s writing was dense and often difficult to parse. It helped to have various people also interested in the subject to figure that sort of thing out. We would discuss Qabalah, attributions, perform the Star Ruby or Liber V vel Reguli or discuss finer points regarding the Book of the Law. We didn’t have to come to the same conclusion. Our interpretation was our interpretation.

An important element to also address was drug use. There was a great deal of pot smoking in our group, but it was always done responsibly. The OTO had specific policies against drug use at official events. So when we were “officially” done with business and on personal time, weed would come out. It was also through people I knew through OTO that I had my first experiences with hashish and MDMA (though not at once!). One particular night with some OTO brothers and sisters on MDMA and psilocybin stands out as one of the best experiences of my life.

My first experience with Sri Ganesha was at the house/temple of the SIB Body Master, I was probably high at the time, but I felt an overwhelming sense of love while looking at an image of the Lord hanging on the wall. This later moved me to buy my own image and give Him offerings.

Additionally, my first real concept of devotional polytheism came from reading Crowley’s Liber Astarte. Though Crowley did not ascribe agency to the gods he worshipped in this way.

When my mother was dying of lung cancer, I felt very happy to have a supportive community such as the one at SIB around me.

Ultimately, life happened. The couple that ran SIB moved. Drama involving an OTO higher-up caused friction among our group. I moved from Florida to Connecticut. At one point, I was approached to open an OTO chapter in Connecticut but it turned out that my interest in OTO was fairly limited to my experience with Serpent In Balance. When Serpent In Balance folded, so did my interest in OTO and Crowley. I am still friends with the majority of people that I met during that period in my life and hope to remain so, despite my lack of interest in Crowley or OTO politics.

What I take away from my experience with OTO is the importance of building community, of making real connections. If I start a religious group at some point, part of its goal will be to provide a real spiritual home for people like I was when I joined SIB: disenchanted with Paganism, unsupported emotionally by the people in my life, looking for a place to be myself.

I wouldn’t find that again until I moved into Beacon Hill Friends House in 2012, which will have to be another blog.



~ by R.M. McGrath on 04/09/2016.

2 Responses to “My Life With The Sex Cult”

  1. Thank you for sharing these narratives in recent posts about how you’ve gotten where you are today; I think this sort of account is very helpful for people in grasping how some of these concepts gain value from their place in lived experience, which requires some biography, I think, to really get across.


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