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 FreeKeely
Motor Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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masonry (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.
Sources
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. httpwww.cyberlink.chükoenig. April 28,
2000.

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