The Minerval Degree (0°) is the introductory Initiate degree into Ordo Templi Orientis. It is said to symbolize the first step in the journey of the Self in Eternity, where the Ego, a wandering God, is attracted to the Solar System. The following questions and answers were written to help guide someone considering joining the Order by taking the Minerval Degree. Any questions not answered here may be directed to the Oasis Secretary.
Q. First off, what is an initiation?
A. Generally, an initiation implies a beginning or an introduction. In O.T.O. it is a physical ceremony that usually serves several purposes. In the Minerval degree, it introduces the candidates, using dramatic allegory and symbol, to the Mysteries of Thelema.
Q. Why would I want to be initiated?
A. Everyone has their own reason for taking an initiation…there is no single or right answer to this question. However, here are some common reasons:
- to sample what the Mysteries of Thelema might be in a non-binding way (since a Minerval does not establish any permanent bonds with the Order)
- to become a member of the Order and the Oasis
- to become eligible to participate in the Gnostic Mass as a child or ritual officer
- to seek a deeper level of fellowship with members of the community
- to become an initiate of our Mysteries
Q. Are there any requirements?
A. Yes, there are several requirements for eligibility to the Minerval degree:
- at least 18 years of age
- not incarcerated
- capable of taking & keeping a binding oath to the Order
- never previously initiated in O.T.O.
- vouched for by two members holding the I° or higher
Q. How do I go about getting initiated?
A. It begins by filling out and turning in a Minerval application, you can request one from a Oasis Officer at an OTO event. Remember that one of the requirements is the signature of two sponsors that are at least I°.
Q. Okay, how do I get two sponsors?
A. Before you can be initiated, you will need to develop a level of personal familiarity with at least two members. The Oasis conducts many activities that are open to non-member guests at which you can meet such people and introduce yourself. You can contact the Oasis Secretary or look at our calendar for information on upcoming events that are open to the public. The members of the Oasis are actually quite friendly and welcoming of guests.
Q. Will they be at my initiation?
A. While your sponsors are strongly encouraged to be there, it is not strictly required. It is important to note that it is your responsibility to inform your sponsors of the date of your initiation.
Q. Should I wait for a Minerval to be scheduled before I turn in my application?
A. No. We schedule initiations based upon the number of applications that we receive. If we do not have applications, we do not schedule initiations. So turn in those applications! You can give your application to the Oasis Master or Secretary.
Q. Do I have to pay the fees when I turn in my application?
A. No. You can pay them at any time up to the day of the ceremony.
Q. Once I turn in the Minerval application, what can I expect?
A. An interview to determine suitability for initiation is typically conducted before the application is processed. Once the interview has been completed and the application processed you will contacted by the Oasis telling you the date and time and location of the ceremony. It might be a few months before the ceremony is scheduled, please be patient.
Q. What if I can’t do it, or I change my mind after I turn one in?
A. No problem, simply let the Oasis Master or Secretary know. If you need, you can ask to skip the current ceremony and be put into the next. Keep in mind that if a year passes, then you will have to fill out a new application.
Q. What should I plan to bring to my Minerval?
A. You do not need to bring anything except for your fees if you have not yet paid them.
Q. How should I prepare for my Minerval?
A. There is no one correct answer for this. Practically speaking, you do not need to do anything to prepare. Looking over the U.S.G.L. website might be a good idea to educate yourself about the organization you are joining, and reading Liber AL, The Book of the Law, is strongly encouraged.
Q. After I take my Minerval, how long do I have to wait until I take my First Degree?
A. The waiting period between Minerval and First Degree is one month in Canada. However, the Minerval degree is a self-contained initiation and should be experienced for a while on its own. A common waiting period is about nine months.
Q. So, am I joining a cult, or what?
A. Although we like to joke sometimes about being a cult, in reality we are not. Even though the strict definition of a “cult” is a group of people who share similar beliefs and religious practices (which makes every religion a cult), we know what you mean. There are several common practices that go into making a “noxious” cult (quotes from Liber OZ):
- Brainwashing—Although O.T.O. does purport to instruct candidates in the Mysteries of Thelema, we do not use “mind-control” methods, such as love bombing, sleep deprivation, dietary limitations, or any other methods of coercive physical or psychological manipulation to trick people into our belief system. Such techniques are anathema to Thelema.
- Blocking exit—In no way do we prevent members from leaving the Order. “Man has the right to move as he will on the face of the earth.”
- Renunciation—At no time do we ask any member to renounce their current or past beliefs, associations, activities, etc. Neither do members confess “wrongdoing.”
- Isolation—We do not cut off anyone (directly or indirectly) from their family, friends, work, or society in general.
- Financial manipulation—Although there is language in our constitution about upper members giving up their property, in reality and practice, no member is expected to give over all their possessions or wealth to the Order.
- Charismatic leaders—While O.T.O. certainly has leaders, they are not “charismatic” or “infallible,” meaning that the Order is not a “cult of personality.” Rather, it is an enduring institution—it does not exist based on any individual.
- Control of Behaviour—No one in the Order will ever tell you how to live your life or what you can and can’t do or enjoy. We do take oaths regarding some behaviours, but it is up to each individual to interpret and fulfill them—no one in the Order polices members. “Man has the right to live by his own law.”
- Disallowing questions—We promote critical thinking and do not dissuade questions or criticisms about the Order. “Man has the right to think what he will.”
Q. As a Minerval, what can I do in the Oasis?
- Attend future Minervals as a guest (at any O.T.O. body in the world). This is highly recommended.
- If you are also baptized in the E.G.C., you may participate as an officer in the Gnostic Mass (as a “Child”).
- You can begin novitiate training for the Diaconate and/or Priesthood.
- You can volunteer for many events and non-initiation rituals.
- You can produce events like classes, workshops, study groups, or original rituals. If you wish to do something along these lines, contact the Oasis Secretary.
- You will also receive The Magical Link (the international O.T.O. newsletter), and the Oriflamme (books of interest to Order members).
Q. What does “Minerval” mean, anyway?
A. In general, a Minerval is a Seeker of Wisdom, Truth or Light (or all three). The word is likely derived from the Roman goddess Minerva, the equivalent of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Minerva was also considered to be the goddess of warriors, poetry, medicine, commerce, crafts, and the inventor of music. You may draw your own conclusions over the time you spend in the Order.
Q. What is the M.M.M.?
A. The initials M.M.M. stands for Mysteria Mystica Maxima. Originally, it was the name of the O.T.O. degree system in Great Britian, then headed by Aleister Crowley (the head of the O.T.O. was Theodor Reuss at the time). Eventually, his M.M.M. was absorbed into the regular system of the Order. It now includes the degrees from O° to VII°.
Q. Do I get to know who my initiator will be?
A. Nope. You’ll just have to wait and see.
Q. After I take my Minerval, will I be expected to take the First Degree initiation?
A. No. Taking the First Degree is a serious decision, and no Minerval should feel pushed into it. Some take their First right away, some after many years, and it is equally honourable to spend your entire life as a Minerval initiate. The choice is entirely yours.
Q. After my initiation, who will have access to my legal name?
A. We take confidentiality very seriously—this is a secret Order, after all. Full civil names are given out to Order members on a need-to-know basis. Within the Oasis, that means the Oasis Master, Secretary, and Treasurer will need to have your full civil name on record. Grand Oasis also keeps records according to civil names. However, under no circumstances will the Oasis or the Order voluntarily give out your civil name to a third party without your permission.
Q. I’ve heard that as a Minerval, I will be a “guest” of the Order. Does that mean I’m not a full member?
A. (From the U.S.Grand Oasis Website) The Minerval Degree (0°) is an introductory Initiate degree in which the aspirant is considered an “honored guest” of O.T.O. rather than a full member. The Minerval degree is designed to allow the aspirant to decide whether or not to pursue full membership, and to allow potential sponsors the opportunity to decide whether to support the aspirant’s application for full membership. Minervals may begin preliminary novitiate training under an E.G.C. Bishop towards ultimate ordination to the Diaconate and/or Priesthood in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, but they are not eligible for ordination or for service as an officer of a Local Body.
Q. If I join O.T.O. does that also make me a Mason?
A. O.T.O. membership does not, of itself, confer any status in Freemasonry. At one time the Order was allied with European Freemasonry, but those ties were cut by Aleister Crowley in 1918. Although there are many similarities, the O.T.O. system is independent and designed to reflect the teachings of Thelema.
Q. If I take the Minerval initiation, will I have to kill a goat or do anything else I don’t want to?
A. First, it is important to explain that during our initiations, at no time will you ever be forced to do something against your will. We can also say that none of the initiation rituals of O.T.O. involve animal sacrifice in any way (although we do not necessarily condemn this religious practice). Finally, it should be said that for some candidates, the Minerval initiation can be a fairly intense experience. The Minerval ceremony is designed to be challenging, but never degrading or painful. Rather, the aim is to instruct, illuminate, welcome, and enhance the lives of initiates.