The History of SOLAR LODGE
Inside The Order
THIS TRUE STORY begins with the Ending of the Age of Aquarius.
Ray Burlingame (Frater Aquarius) was a IXº initiate of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) and a member of the A\A\(Astrum Argenteum). The OTO ceased operation [temporarily] around 1949 when it was closed "for ten years" by the Grand Master, Karl Germer (Frater Saturnus). When the ten years had elapsed, Saturnus refused to re-open the Order.
The A\A\ did not undergo a similar lapse in continuity.
It should be noted that the A\A\was [is] a system that led [leads] individuals through nine degrees of spiritual initiation; it was [is] not concerned with mundane matters such as social status, wealth or poverty, and/or other material plane considerations - each member [theoretically] knowing only that one initiate who introduced him or her to the Order and any individuals that he or she introduced after becoming an initiate.
On the other hand, the OTO essentially led [leads] groups through several degrees of initiation; it was also [and probably still is] concerned with many mundane matters, such as copyrights, health care issues, child raising issues, property ownership, etc.
OTO and Ordo Templi Orientis are ®registered trademarks of Ordo Templi Orientis. You can visit them at www.oto-usa.org .
The Rising of Solar Lodge
Georgina "Jean" Brayton (Soror Capricornus) was born in England in 1921. She had been a nurse during the Battle of Britain and after the war she married an American soldier and moved with him to Texas. The marriage went bad, primarily due to excessive alcohol use by the husband. She moved on to California where she met Richard Brayton (Frater Sol). Together, they got their act together in a small apartment in Los Angeles. Sol, a schoolteacher by profession, was ten years senior to Capricornus.
Capricornus met Aquarius' wife and they became friends. One day, she invited Capricornus to visit her home in Long Beach, California and Capricornus met Aquarius. A certain magnetism brought her back to visit with him time and time again. Capricornus was fascinated by the subject of initiation and finally asked Aquarius to initiate her, but he refused, explaining how the Order (OTO) had been closed "for ten years" by its current chief, Saturnus, and how the ten years had elapsed and still the Order was closed.
Then on a certain Thursday in 1962, Aquarius said to Capricornus, "It is time for you to be initiated! Come here next Tuesday at eight in the evening!"
A couple who had been in Agape Lodge [the OTO Lodge in Pasadena] and who had moved to Prescott, Arizona came to Long Beach for the ceremony. Capricornus appeared at the appointed time and Aquarius assumed the role of Saladin, the Initiating Officer, assisted by his wife and the man from Arizona. That evening, Capricornus received the 0° and the I°. Afterward, Aquarius conferred the II° upon the couple from Arizona, and everyone went home.
What makes this tale fascinating is the fact that on that particular Thursday when Aquarius finally decided to perform the initiation, Saturnus was dying. Before the ceremony on the following Tuesday, Saturnus had died! Yet, it was not until long after the ceremony on Tuesday that Aquarius, and everyone else involved, learned of Saturnus death.
The link had theoretically been passed to Aquarius in the spirit, so to speak, yet was without confirmation in the material world. That is, there was no Charter, written authorization, or tangible authorization. In the 1960s, there was nobody else who was publicly claiming responsibility for the Order's activities. Later (after 1970) there were several people who set forth claims to "claim the throne."
Throughout the 1970s, and later, there were several persons claiming to be the head of the OTO (Grady McMurtry, Marcelo Ramos Motta, Kenneth Grant, etc.). Each had a point to make regarding their suitability and the rationale for their claim upon the high office. We do not intend to explore this competitive situation; except to say that Grady McMurtry won the war in United States District Court on July 10, 1985; he died two days later without hearing about his victory.
Currently (1985 to today), OTO activities are international and widespread, and they are derived from the Court-recognized lineage of "McMurtry's OTO," also known as the "Caliphate."
Solar Lodge blazed brightly for ten years. Its activities were "essentially" terminated in 1972 due to the fact(s) that it ceased spiritual instruction, stopped admitting candidates for initiation, locked up the sacred texts - which were "forbidden" reading material, caused its remaining membership to work 18 hours a day without pay, and devoted itself to the pursuit of the almighty American dollar (in which it was highly successful).
Currently (the early 21st century) no members are known to be grouped together.
Although the rationale for the activities of Aquarius were, and have been, endlessly debated under various lights, the current, legally-authorized OTO holds the viewpoint that:
"Solar Lodge was ... not really a branch of OTO. We view it as an ill-advised attempt to appropriate the name and organization after Germer's death ..." - William Breeze, OTO, June 14, 2007
A few months after the 1962 initiation ceremony, Aquarius conferred the V° upon Capricornus. Even as the I° marks the entrance into the Outer Order, so the V° marks the entrance into the Inner Order. For in Thelemic prose, "There are but three grades: the Hermit, the Lover, and the Man of Earth." Aquarius was moving Capricornus rapidly through the major stages of initiation in an attempt to transfer all of the information before time ran out. In fact, time was indeed running out, as our story will soon show!
In May, 1963, Frater Shiva was a student at the dental school at the University of Southern California. At the metaphysically-significant age of 23, Shiva met Capricornus and the teaching began.
In the Summer of 1963, Aquarius passed the final "secrets" to Capricornus. One day, he asked her to come into a private room. He asked for her response to a certain gesture, and she responded automatically with the sign of the IX°. "Thats good enough for me," he said, "youre getting the ninth degree." And he promptly handed over a batch of papers, and a few books.
One day, Capricornus took Shiva to meet Aquarius. After that, regular meetings followed and the three of them would spend hours discussing metaphysics and initiation. They were sometimes joined by Aquarius' wife, but usually she was away at work. The net effect of these conferences was that they got exceedingly high on the energies invoked by their discussions. Capricornus and Shiva would drive home late at night to Los Angeles from Long Beach ecstatic and enthused. Aquarius didnt say or do anything special. He would just sit in his chair, smoking cigarettes and droning on about the spiritual path. Yet, there was an emanation radiating from him that was both relaxing and energizing. It was apparent that this old man was something special; he lived on a wavelength that was different from normal humanity. He was, of course, what we would call a "Master."
Aquarius said more than once:
"There are only three things that I believe in: The Book of the Law, the Seven Secret Chiefs, and the Attractive Principle."
Shiva expanded his magickal practices. Since it was clear that the Order (the OTO) was closed, he set out to seek initiation directly from the A\A\. One afternoon in August of 1964, he set up a complete ritual with a magickal circle, an altar, a censer with incense, a magickal record, a dagger for banishing, a magickal wand, a robe, and a crown. After banishing the circle and invoking the Aegyptian deity of Wisdom, he appealed to the Secret Chiefs and asked for Initiation.
A few months thereafter, Shiva underwent a major experience. Although the details are not herewith outlined, we can say that he perceived a vast inadequacy in his approach to life. This experience brought him into contact with his subconscious mind and he became aware that his conscious life was not well integrated with his unconscious prompting. He also became aware that his control over his life (physical as well as astral) was very poor. As a result of this almost devastating experience, he approached Capricornus and told her that he was now prepared to pursue the study of Magick on a serious basis, mainly in order to obtain greater control over his life and his aspiration toward spiritual enlightenment.
Other individuals began to be attracted by the magickal current. Informal meetings were held on Friday evenings and the whole round of metaphysical discussion and simple group practices were established. Notable among the newcomers were Shem, a dental student from USC; his girlfriend, Nephthys; The Archer - a female, occupational therapy student at USC; a female called Diana Renata; Ganesha - an obese, business management student; and a cousin of Capricornus called Asi. Even the reluctant Sol (Richard Brayton) was drawn into the meetings from time to time. In addition, there were a handful of other individuals who came around for a period of time, but who never persisted to a serious, operative level.
Some of these meetings were quite animated. Magickal ceremonies were performed and the currents were sufficiently powerful to draw negative forces to the outer edge of the magickal circle. Street hoodlums would stop their cars right in front of the house, where they would consume alcohol, make a lot of noise, hold car races, and have outrageous battles. This was merely an indication that a magickal current was being raised, for we are told that negative elements are attracted to the edge of the circle and that they are to be ignored. And ignored they were. The ceremonies would proceed inside the house with little or no thought of the noise and commotion raging outside.
One such ceremony was particularly noteworthy. It took place on a rainy, Saturday afternoon. After the initial banishing and invocation, the practitioners sat quietly and directed their consciousness inward. Soon they were all rushing into a collective group consciousness that blended their individualities into a dazzling, integrated fusion of colored lights. At the point where it seemed that each individual would forever die and merge into the central focus, a loud sound ripped the air, breaking everyones concentration. The magicians looked about and noted that the west wall of the temple had opened up along the seam where it met the roof and water was pouring in, streaking the walls like a waterfall. A few hours later, when the rain had stopped, an attempt was made to locate and patch the leak. However, no leak was found and the wall never again gave in to similar problems. The forced inward journey often produces such strains on the outer environment and similar, bizarre occurrences became commonplace in the months and years that followed.
One evening, in 1964, Capricornus and Shiva were visiting Aquarius at his home in Long Beach. The usual metaphysical conversations were in progress, but then came a short period of silence. Aquarius was puffing away on his ever-present cigarette. He spoke as if no-one were present. "There are two systems," he said. "There is the A\A\ and there is the OTO." He then looked at both of them, saying, "And its time you got to work!" He gestured to Capricornus and said, "If you will come with me . . ."
They went into a back room, and when they returned Capricornus and Shiva left. On the way home, driving in her old VW Beetle on the Long Beach freeway, she said to Shiva, "Damn! Now I have to initiate you! Ill have to clear out all the vibrations from the living room . . ." Aquarius had instructed her to proceed with Shiva's initiation, even over her protests to the effect that she "could not possibly do such a thing." He delivered initiation papers for all the degrees and gave her a certain magickal talisman.
Preparations for the ceremony did not immediately take place, for only a few days later they learned that Aquarius had been hospitalized. They visited him in the hospital twice and on a third occasion Shiva visited him alone. In the last hours of his life, Aquarius reported that his Holy Guardian Angel had appeared. But when he asked for "release," the Angel said, "No, the time is not right yet." On July 25, 1965, six hours after the Angel appeared, he was gone.
There was a wake held for him a week later. At the Long Beach apartment, an urn containing the ashes of Aquarius, and notables like Israel Regardie and Louis Culling, mingled with various visitors in tribute to the passing of a Master. Culling quoted appropriately from The Book of the Law, and everyone concurred when Aquarius' wife added the name of Frater Aquarius to the list of the Saints in the Gnostic Mass.
Capricornus knew that she must now proceed with the initiation ceremony as originally ordered by Aquarius.
In the space of a few weeks, Shiva received the 0° and the I°, with Asi and Sol following close behind and receiving the same degrees. Shortly thereafter, the 0° was conferred upon Shem, Diana Renata, and Nephthys. The Archer was the last of this original group of eight members.
Upon retiring in the evening after his initiation, Shiva had strange thoughts. He had been reading about initiation ceremonies and their effects, and he was disturbed that the traditional thunder and lightning had not manifested as one would expect in the case of a great event in the metaphysical world. His ego thus properly put in its place, he went to sleep.
At 2:15 AM the thunder awoke him. He walked out to the front yard to view the thunderstorm and watched as lightning struck again and again to the south, incidentally blowing up several huge gasoline tanks at the refinery storage yards in Long Beach.
Asis initiation also had its peculiarity. She had asked for initiation, but when the time came she put up such a fuss that she had to be dragged screaming into the temple. After the ceremony, during which she was a model, humble candidate, Asi was perfectly normal and became an asset to future activities (at least for a while).
With the addition of Asi to the I°, the group had three full initiates (the 0° being a probationary degree), permitting the quality of any future ceremonies to be truer to their design.
The ceremonies following Asis had more style and more "ceremonial correctness," but (interestingly) with less spectacular side-effects.
And then they went to Europe
In December, 1965, Capricornus announced that she and Sol were leaving on a six-month sabbatical to Europe, Egypt, and most of all: Cefalu, Sicily - the once-upon-a-time location of Aleister Crowleys Abbey of Thelema. Shiva was given the duties of looking after the rental apartments. A new house with four, cottage-type apartments in the rear had been added to the properties, making a total of three properties that held 15 separate living spaces.
The Temple was situated in the large, front, living room of a sixty year old mansion at 1241 West 30th Street (< see fuzzy photo). A high, white ceiling, rafted with four heavy beams looked down on walls of palomino beige set into wood columns and draped at the windows and doors with heavy, maroon velvet. In the east, a fireplace and mantle looked out upon a richly carpeted floor. Various couches and stuffed chairs were placed around the magickal circle - a green carpet, nine feet in diameter. In the center of the circle stood the altar - three feet high and two feet square; above the altar hung the magickal lamp.
Shiva introduced two new probationers: Taurus and Isis. Taurus had known Shiva for several years and he came to be interested out of friendship and a sense of adventure. Isis worked with Taurus and she was attracted to the Aegyptian pantheon and ceremonials; although she was intelligent and a competent astrologer, her personality was severely repressed and she possessed virtually no social skills.
Although the Order professed to teach the secrets of Sexual Magick, the usual accusations of sexual impropriety simply were not applicable. There was no free love, no orgies, nor group sexual ceremonies (and there never was, even at later dates). Some potential members became disheartened and left when they found out that yoga, ceremonies, and other disciplines were the main curriculum. The sexual "secrets" were reserved for the higher degrees and even these initiation rites did not involve actual sexual congress.
Capricornus and Sol returned from Europe in July of 1966. New members were rapidly attracted to the Order, mostly coming from students at USC. The group became infused with a youthful, optimistic energy. The wild 'sixties were well under way, but the Order went its own way, uninvolved with the general craziness of a society in transition. For one thing, the members did not have long hair, nor did they dress in the flamboyant style of the hippie generation.
Soon there were enough people to justify an organizational move. Shem and Nephthys moved to Manhattan Beach and it was there that Shem presided over regular Thursday evening meetings where the Path and the Order would be discussed with potential new members. Those who asked to enter were required to read a few, introductory books*; this was the only task of the Student level. Having passed an examination in their reading, they were allowed to request the 0° (Minerval) ceremony that was administered at the 30th Street Temple.
*The student reading list included: (1) Liber AL - The Book of the Law, (2) Astral Projection, (3) How to Contact your Inner Teacher, (4) The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali.
From this point on, anyone who was around for more than 30 days soon received the 0°. Anyone who was around for six months usually qualified for the I° and its corresponding, permanent membership. One thing is certain - The Order was not a monetary rip-off operation. The 0° had a five-dollar initiation fee. The I°, and all higher grades, were $10 each. In addition, all members paid a ten-dollar Annual Subscription to keep their membership active. There were no further fees. All the meetings, ceremonies, and expeditions were without charge or donations.
Although Capricornus was the "Master," the organizational details fell to Shiva, who arranged it so that some real work was required: The Lodge used the OTO ceremonial initiation rites, but in order to qualify for a ceremony, one had to perform the A\A\ tasks required for that [corresponding] degree.
It must be realized that the A\A\ tasks and grades are of a greater scope and magnitude. Even though Solar Lodge [rightly or wrongly] claimed to be OTO, it was, in fact, a manifestation of the A\A\. Each member was assigned a "link," a member of a higher degree, who was their tutor and guide. Each member memorized the sacred texts, performed the required meditations and ceremonies, and constructed the disk, sword, cup, and wand at the required grade level. And every member had to pass a strict examination prior to advancement.
When refering to these two Orders, Capricornus was always quick to say, "As far as I'm concerned, there's no difference between them." On the other hand, Shiva appeared to completely understand the distinction.
In September, 1966, Capricornus bestowed the Inner Order Initiation (V°) on Asi and Shiva. In November, she tested both of these Initiates and, as they could give the proper signs, they separately and individually received the desired, dreaded, final secret of the Order - the IX°.
Asi went insane almost immediately, torn between the Path and her husband - she chose to remain with the Order. However, Capricornus discovered that Asi was writing about things to Ganesha, her non-initiated husband, that were under obligation of secrecy. Capricornus evicted Asi. Shiva was instructed to drive her to the bus station. Asi was going back to her husband in Merced and was under orders not to return until she was freed from this dual loyalty. It never happened.
Meanwhile, the membership, individually and collectively, was searching everywhere for magickal books and instruments, temple furniture and trappings. Periodic trips to the booksellers on Hollywood Boulevard resulted in the purchase of virtually any available Thelemic material. A tremendous collection was gathered in a short period of time. In retrospect, it was said that this material was easily gathered as it was magickally-magnetically linked to the talisman held by Capricornus. That single item, a IX° talisman sent by Crowley via Jane Wolfe to Aquarius, and thence to Capricornus, was said to draw all the other material to it like gravity.
The silver talisman was about one-inch in diameter. One side bore the first Yi King hexagram (six unbroken lines), the other side was engraved with a yod inside a triangle.
There was also some "looking the other way" when some books and magickal items appeared they obviously came from questionable sources and through, perhaps, questionable methodology. The ethics of this phase could certainly be called "questionable." Yet, no questions were asked.
It was confirmed at a much later date that Frater Shem, and some of his fledgling students, were involved in the illegal acquisition of several OTO-related papers and texts, including the West Point, California robbery. Most of these articles were destroyed in the 1969 Solar Ranch firestorm, and Frater Shem died in 1986 - but not before he confessed the details* of his transgressions.
* See Book III - "Beyond the Veil"
As time went by, there were several desert trips. All were productive, magickly-speaking, but they were hard on the physical bodies of the participants. The group had been scouting for property where a retreat from the city could be erected and the desert ceremonies could be enjoyed with the nearness of a shower and a bed. Thus it came about that Capricornus said, "The next reasonably priced land offer we get will be accepted."
The next land offer was for ten-acre parcels of raw desert land near Vidal, California - about 40 miles north of Blythe and one mile west of the Colorado River. From this plateau above the river, one could see Arizona to the east and a mountain range to the west; the north and south were bare desert. These parcels sat one mile to the east of the highway. Solitude. Cheap land. Buy!
A single ten-acre parcel was purchased. An old travel trailer was transported and set on the site. A protective roof was built overhead and Solar Lodge had its retreat. To start things off, Capricornus, Sol, Shiva, and Isis went out for a 30-day shakedown in July, 1967.
The heat, of course, was intolerable at close to 120° each afternoon, so further construction was initiated. A framework of 4x4s and 2x4s was erected and carpets were stretched over the framework to provide about 700 square feet of shade directly in front of the trailer.
During the construction the daily pattern was always the same: Get up early, eat, work fast until 10:30 AM. Then go to the river and sit in it until 4:00 PM. Then gather water into tanks, go back to work in the late afternoon, and keep working into the evening. After the shade was erected, a kids plastic bathing pool was added and the daily trips to the river ceased.
The new routine then became: Work all Day! Ten minutes of work followed by twenty minutes under the shade while dripping water on ones head and over the body. Everyone got a golden tan, a healthy constitution, and accustomed to the heat.
The next ceremonial gathering, held in the third week of the adventure, brought forth an idea - a great concept dealing with expansion. One week later, several members came out from Los Angeles and heard the announcement. It was stated that (according to the rules) anyone reaching the VII° was expected to donate some real property to the Order. It was suggested that each pair of members purchase an adjoining ten-acre parcel and donate it to the greater whole. This was not a way to buy the seventh degree, merely an "advance" toward that grade. Only a very small handful of members ever actually reached the VII°.
That same evening, Shiva took a break and walked away from the camp for a few minutes. He looked out to the southeast - across the desert at far-away cities. He was engulfed with a certain premonition. Returning to the camp, he announced that, "They are going to come out here and get us, and they are going to crucify us!"
Capricornus replied by sharply asking, "What makes you think youre so important?" This reply stifled the original message, one that she simply didnt want to hear. Later in this tale we will see that Shiva was being truly prophetic.
The various pairs of members took well to the land purchase idea. After all, it wasnt very expensive. Eventually eighty acres were held by the Order. The land was not legally donated, but merely donated in spirit. Each pair paid $40 down and $40 a month for their ten-acre parcel of land. The total price was $10,000 per site, or $1000 per acre.
After the shakedown retreat, several things happened within a few months. First, a new member called Apollo wanted to get into business for the Order - and with its backing. He suggested getting an Atlantic Richfield service station (now called ARCO). Capricornus agreed and the Order put up funds for the franchise. Soon the grand opening came - the women were dressed in Egyptian costumes (purchased from the wardrobe of the film Cleopatra) and helium balloons filled the sky over the corner of Flower and Jefferson streets. The station provided jobs for a few members plus wholesale gasoline and free repairs for the Orders vehicles.
Capricornus then decided to open an occult bookstore that Shiva would manage. An office was rented right across the street from the USC dental school on Jefferson Blvd., and after a paint job and stocking, The Eye of Horus stood forth among the bookstores of Los Angeles. It carried Crowleys works, of course, and all manner of other metaphysical and spiritual literature. Magickal daggers, incense, jewels, astrological consultations, lectures, and posters added to the fun.
< CLICK THIS BUTTON to continue