Germer, Karl Johannes (1885–1962)
Karl Johannes Germer, successor to Aleister Crowley as
outer head of the order of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO),
was born January 22, 1885, in Germany. His college career at
the Sorbonne, University of Paris, was interrupted by World
War I, when he was drafted into the German army. He served
as a reserve officer and was awarded the Iron Cross, both first
and second class, possibly for intelligence activity in regards to
After the war Germer joined the publishing firm Barth Verlag
in Munich as a manager. In the early 1920 he worked with
Tränker, a member of the OTO in the publication of several
short works by Crowley, including Der Meister Therion Eine biographische
Nachricht (1925). By this means Germer became acquainted
with Crowley and moved to England, where he
worked publishing Crowley’s writings. Also with the help of
Martha Küntzel, a former Theosophist, he founded ThelemaVerlag
in Leipzig to publish German translations of Crowley’s
books. In 1935, on a visit to Leipzig, he was arrested by the Nazi
government, which was in the process of suppressing occult
work. Germer was confined at Alexanderplatz prison and Esterwegen
concentration camp for ten months and kept his sanity
by reciting the Thelemic Holy Books, the essential writings
of thelemic magic as taught by Crowley. Shortly before his release,
he was given a vision of his Holy Guardian Angel, a major
early magical step for all thelemites. (The word thelema, the
central concept of Crowley’s magic, is derived from the Greek
word for will.)
Germer then moved to Brussels and tried to keep in touch
with the scattered OTO groups, but all of these were finally
closed in 1937. In 1941 he was arrested again and spent ten
months in an internment camp before he was allowed to get out
of the country. He migrated to the United States, and Crowley
named him the Grand Treasurer of the order. Germer concentrated
on raising money to continue the fragile publication program
of the OTO. He wrote an account of his experiences in
prison but was never able to find a publisher. Among his duties
as the highest ranking officer in the United States was mediating
a dispute in the Pasadena lodge concerning the magical
work of Jack Parsons. Germer worked through Grady McMurtry
as his representative.
Crowley named Germer his successor as head of the order,
then died in 1947. Germer lived quietly in rural California and
seemed unwilling and uninterested in carrying out his duties
as chief administrator of the OTO. In 1955 he chartered a
lodge in England under Kenneth Grant, who formed the New
Isis Lodge with instructions to limit his work to the first three
of the eleven OTO degrees. When Grant began to work higher
degrees, Germer withdrew his charter. He also chartered a
Swiss lodge, but otherwise remained aloof from the members,
many of whom were unaware for several years of his death on
October 25, 1962.
Germer died without naming a clear successor or establishing
a process for appointing a successor. His work was carried
by several claimants, including Metzger in Switzerland, Kenneth
Grant in England, Marcelo Ramos Motta in Brazil, and
eventually Grady McMurtry in California, each of whom would
head a separate branch of the OTO.
King, Francis. Sexuality, Magic, and Perversion. Secacus, N.J.
Citadel Press, 1972.