Gnostic Catholic Church
The Gnostic Catholic Church is a contemporary occult
church generally associated with the Ordo Templi Orientis
(OTO) and the thelemic magical tradition. It exists as one faction
of the Nouvelle Église Gnostique Universelle founded in
1890 by Jules-Benoit Doinel (1842–1902). Around 1890 Doinel
had a mystical encounter with the Virgin Mary and was consecrated
as a bishop by Jesus Christ. He in turn assumed the
role of patriarch of the new church. In the four years remaining
in his life he consecrated four bishops, each of whom began as
the head of separate lineages and from which several dozen
small jurisdictions have sprung, most teaching a form of Gnostic
In 1892, Gerard Encausse, known publicly as Papus, accepted
consecration as a bishop in Doinel’s church. Through
Papus, the church entered the milieu of the German and British
occult orders. While Papus remained loyal to one faction of
the church following its initial schism in 1908, as a bishop he
possessed authority to consecrate others as he saw fit. It is
claimed by some that he in fact consecrated both Theodor
Reuss and Aleister Crowley, the Outer Heads of the Order of
the Ordo Templi Orientis, but documentation is lacking.
What is known is that Crowley wrote a Gnostic mass that embodied
thelemic teachings in a liturgy that while following
much of the form of the Roman Catholic Mass was definitely
not Christian in any perceptible manner. In 1917 Reuss translated
that mass into German. At that time he described himself
as the Head of the Gnostic Neo-Christians. He also spoke of
himself as the Swiss legate of the Église Gnostique Universelle,
the faction of Doinel’s original church to which Papus was
aligned. That church was headed by Jean Baptiste Bricaud
(1881–1934), reportedly consecrated by Papus in 1911. He
would later accept several additional consecrations. Bricaud
also advocated the use of Crowley’s mass in Freemason circles,
but his efforts were turned back.
Toward the end of Crowley’s life and during the years of the
leadership of the Ordo Templi Orientis by Crowley’s successor,
Karl Johannes Germer, the order dwindled almost to the point
of nonexistence. The issue of the Gnostic Catholic Church and
the performance of the Gnostic mass was put aside. Then in
1957 in Switzerland, Hermann Joseph Metzer, a local leader
in the OTO, accepted consecration as a bishop of the Gnostic
Catholic Church from Herbert Fritsche (1911–1960) of the
Doinel factions. He succeeded Frische as patriarch of that
church in 1960. In 1963, following Germer’s death, he held an
election among the German OTO leaders and proclaimed
himself as the new international Outer Head of the Order of
the OTO. He then moved to create an integrated system that
included both the OTO and the Gnostic Catholic Church.
In the 1970s, the OTO in America revived under the leadership
of Grady McMurtry as its caliph. It was asserted that the
Outer Head of the Order was also the patriarch of the Gnostic
Catholic Church and that McMurtry had an implied consecration
through the same emergency documents by which he assumed
leadership of the American OTO after Germer’s death.
This assertion made McMurtry’s role as head of the church extremely
tenuous, being based on both an undocumented consecration
of Crowley by Papus and the unstate consecration of
McMurtry by Crowley. McMurtry’s successor, William Breeze,
has largely laid the controversy over the church to rest by his
reception of the consecration of Jack Hogg, a bishop of the
Gnostic Church of Thelema, whose lineage can be traced to
Doinel. However, it has also been enriched by the lineage of Joseph
René Vilatte through the American Catholic Church. The
American Catholic Church adopted a theosophical theological
position in the middle of the twentieth century. All ninthdegree
members of the American OTO are now considered
bishops in the Gnostic Catholic Church and its head as the
church’s patriarch.
Anson, Peter. Bishops at Large. London Faber and Faber,
Koenig, Peter R. ‘‘Hermann Joseph Metzger—OHO of the
O.T.O. and Patriarch of the Gnostic Catholic Church.’’ http April 23, 2000.
———. ‘‘Stranded Bishops.’’
~koenigbishops.htm. April 23, 2000.
Gnostic Association of Cultural and . . . Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
Ward, Gary L., Bertil Persson, and Alan Bain, eds. Independent
Bishops An International Directory. Detroit Apogee Press,
Gnosticism, from the

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