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 fundraising
concerts organized by the British Social League (of
which he was an executive member) while acting as an undercover
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
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
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.