Kellner, Karl (1851-1905)

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Kellner, Karl (1851-1905)

Karl Kellner, cofounder of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), an initiatory magical order later made famous by Aleister Crowley, was born on September 1, 1851, in Austria. He obtained some wealth as a chemist in the paper industry, and he traveled extensively throughout Europe, North America, and Asia Minor (the realms of the Ottoman Empire). In 1885, Keller met Dr. Franz Hartmann (1838-1912), like himself a student of Roscrucianism and the esoteric. However, their immediate concern ran in another direction as Hartmann headed a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients (tuberculosis was still an incurable disease). Utilizing Kellner's chemical skills, the two developed what was termed the "lignp-sulphite inhalation therapy" for use in the sanitarium.

As a student of the esoteric tradition, Kellner claimed later that he had come into contact with three high adepts (a Sufi, Solomion ben Aifa, and two Hindus who taught tantric practices, Bhima Sena Pratapa of Lahore [then still in India] and Sri Mahatma Agamya Paramahamsa). No independent verification of the existence of these three masters has been located. He also founded an organization called the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light. Such an organization did exist in England and later the United States. However, in his travels, Kellner claimed that he had discovered the key that explained the complicated symbolism of Freemasonry, and decided to create a Masonic academy that would assemble information on all of the different Masonic orders.

In 1885, Kellner initiated conversations with his friend Theodor Reuss (1855-1923) concerning the setting up of the academy. They decided to call it the Oriental Templar Order. It would be organized at two levels, an outer and inner circle. The outer circle would teach basic magic and occultism. The inner order would be patterned on the higher degrees of Freemasonry (specifically the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim) and would teach the combined wisdom of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light and the new key to Masonic symbolism that Kellner had learned from the reputed adepts. Admission to the inner circle was limited to Masons who possessed the higher degrees. That meant that since only men could be Masons, the inner circle would not be able to admit women.

The early conversations between Reuss and Kellner did not bear fruit. Reuss was distracted by another project, to revive the old Order of Illuminati in cooperation with his friend Leopold Engel. Kellner disapproved of the revived order and disliked Engel. Thus, only when Reuss and Engel separated in 1902 did Kellner and Reuss begin work on founding the OTO. Unfortunately, Kellner was able to enjoy the fruit of his many years of research for only a short time as he passed away on June 7, 1905. Reuss carried on as outer head of the order for the remaining years of his life.


King, Francis. Ritual Magic in England: 1887 to the Present Day. London, 1970. Reprinted as The Rites of Modern Occult Magic. New York: Macmillan, 1971.

O.T.O. History.ükoenig/. April 28, 2000.

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Kellner, Karl (1851-1905)

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