The ecclesiastical body of Scarlet Woman Lodge is Circle of Stars Sanctuary, the operative expression of our local clergy and laity. The Sanctuary baptizes and confirms individuals into the laity, confers diaconal orders on qualified ordinands, and hosts sacerdotal ordinations. The Sanctuary serves to administer and celebrate the rites of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.) or the Gnostic Catholic Church— the ecclesiastical arm of Ordo Templi Orientis. The E.G.C. is a Thelemic religious environment, dedicated to the advancement of Light, Life, Love, and Liberty through alignment with the Law of Thelema.
The central activity of the E.G.C. is the celebration of the Gnostic Mass, as set forth in Liber XV, composed by Aleister Crowley in 1913. Lay membership in E.G.C. is available through baptism and confirmation. Members of II° and higher are eligible for ordination as Deacon, and those who have reached K.E.W. are eligible for ordination as Priest or Priestess. Rites of affiliation in E.G.C. are public ceremonies.
Aleister Crowley wrote Liber XV ("Book 15"), The Gnostic Mass, in 1913 in Moscow. In many ways it is similar in structure to the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. However, the comparison ends there, as the Gnostic Mass is a celebration of the principles of Thelema. It is a eucharistic ritual, and congregants are expected to “communicate” by partaking of the sacrament, which involves consuming a Cake of Light, drinking a glass of wine (water is available as an alternative), and then proclaiming, “There is no part of me that is not of the gods!”
The officers do not act as mediators between congregants and their god(s), but rather illustrate a process by which anyone may come to their own direct knowledge (gnosis) of the divine. No part of the Mass requires devotion to any individual, historical or mythological (i.e. Jesus or Aleister Crowley). The Mass does not include a sermon or any ethical instructions beyond the summary of the Law of Thelema.
Crowley writes in Confessions, “Human nature demands (in the case of most people) the satisfaction of the religious instinct, and, to very many, this may best be done by ceremonial means. I wished therefore to construct a ritual through which people might enter into ecstasy as they have always done under the influence of appropriate ritual.”
You can read the Gnostic Mass in full, and you may also read “A First Look at the Gnostic Mass” for an excellent introduction to this beautiful ceremony. We celebrate the Gnostic Mass at least once a month. Please check the calendar to check for scheduled Masses.
Membership in E.G.C.
There are three recognized subclasses of Church membership:
Baptism is open to any person at least 11 years old. Baptism by itself does not confer Lay Membership. Confirmation is open to any person who has been baptized and who has attained the age of puberty. Baptism and/or confirmation for any person less than 18 years of age requires the prior written consent of a parent or legal guardian. Baptism and confirmation are public ceremonies. Initiation within O.T.O. is not required to establish Lay membership in E.G.C. (and visa versa). Both rituals can be administered by a bishop, or an ordained priestess or priest.
The rite of baptism is a short public ritual that is usually given before the celebration of a Gnostic Mass. Thelema rejects the concept of original sin—for us, baptism is a symbolic entrance into the Thelemic community of worshippers, as well as a commemoration of the individual’s “Baptism of Wisdom” or physical birth. The oaths taken are strictly between the participant and their god or gods, and no duties or obligations are promised in service of the church or any individual.
The baptized child or adult joins the community at what is essentially a probationary level. It is a time for exploration, study, asking questions, and a chance to participate in the Gnostic Mass. The recitation of the creed by the congregation during the baptismal ceremony represents the instruction of the child in the essential tenets of the church. The individual is not a full member of the community until he or she has learned these tenets and has made a conscious, informed decision to accept them.
Confirmation is the rite that confers formal Lay membership in E.G.C., which is usually performed just after a Gnostic Mass. Within this rite, the individual confirms that it is their True Will to join the church. The recitation of the Creed from memory shows that they have learned the essential tenets of the church and that they are willing to be an active participant in our spiritual community. The Church accepts the new member as a Thelemite, one of its own, a rightful claimant to the heirship, communion and benediction of the Saints. The cuff on the cheek represents an awakening to the reality of Thelema and all its implications, as well as to the life-consciousness of puberty.
As in the rite of baptism, no duty or obligation is laid on the new member regarding the Church or any individual. However, with confirmation the individual is specifically charged with serving the Law of Thelema and Ra Hoor Khuit. The manifestation of this duty is strictly determined by the individual’s understanding of their true will, and is not subject to any other authority. Although there is no other charge, it is hoped that the new Lay member will continue to study the Creed and the Gnostic Mass, as well as other Thelemic holy books—most especially The Book of the Law.
Becoming Baptized & Confirmed
candidate for baptism must be at least 11 years old.
Becoming a candidate for baptism/confirmation involves filling out a short petition, which can be obtained from the Lodge Master or a member of the clergy. After it is filled out, it should be given to the bishop, priestess, or priest that you wish to perform the ceremony. If you do not know who you want to administer it or do not have a preference, then the petition can be returned to the Lodge Master or put into the temple drop box. The time it takes to schedule your ceremony is variable, and can potentially take up to a few weeks. Once it is scheduled, you will be notified of the date.
You can find out more about participating in the Sanctuary here.