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Reuss, Theodor (1855-1023)

Reuss, Theodor (1855-1023)

German occultist who recruited Aleister Crowley to the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis). Reuss was a mysterious and many-sided man. He was born on June 28, 1855 and lived in Britain during the 1880s and earned a living as a music-hall singer under the name Charles Theodore. He sang at fund-raising concerts organized by the British Social League (of which he was an executive member) while acting as an under-cover agent for the German Secret Service, spying on the Karl Marx family. Eleanor Marx considered him a vulgar and dirty man, and he was expelled from the league when his spying was discovered.

In 1902 Reuss was one of the three people named on the charter given by John Yarker for the establishment of a German Masonic lodge, which later emerged as the OTO. Reuss, then residing in England, most likely served as liaison between Yarker and Karl Keller, the German founder and leader of the order. Reuss became head of the OTO in 1905 after the death of Karl Keller and was from then on known by his occult name, Frater Merlin.

The most closely guarded secret of the OTO was that of sex magic, the use of sexual energy for occult purposes. In 1912 Crowley published The Book of Lies, which Reuss read and from one passage inferred that Crowley had discovered and was writing about this secret. Soon thereafter Reuss visited Crowley in London and begged him to conceal the secret, inviting him to enter the OTO as head of a British branch. The British lodge was duly launched under the name Mysteria Mystica Maxima.

In 1916 Reuss chartered a North American branch, which was organized as the Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosicrucians (AMORC), headed by H. Spencer Lewis. In the legal battles between the several American Rosicrucian groups, the connection with the OTO became a matter of great embarrassment to AMORC, but while denying any connection with Crowley or sex magic, it has continued to publish its charter from Reuss.

After World War II Reuss resided in Switzerland, where he claimed to be a grand master of a Masonic order. He became friendly with Heinrich Tränker, a member of a Rosicrucian society, who had links with other German occult groups such as the Fraternitas Saturni. Reuss retired as outer head of the order in 1922, a year before his death, and nominated Crowley as his successor.


King, Francis. Sexuality, Magic, and Perversion. Secaucus,N.J.: Citadel Press, 1972.

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