Ben Fernee, the Caliphate OTO, and the “Black Magus of Manchester” affair
Ben Fernee made public his expulsion from the Caliphate oto in the spring of 1999 for supposedly selling the Order’s secrets. Fernee, as a secondhand book dealer specialising in occult books, had put together a book list announcing a number of rare Crowley items from a private collection. Three items were singled out for special attention by Bill Heidrick and Soror Helena of the Caliphate Supreme Council: a handwritten variant by Crowley of De Natura Deorum (a secret sex magick instruction of the seventh degree) significantly different from that found in Francis King’s Secret Rituals of the OTO and in the original manuscript at the Warburg; Koenig’s book How to Make Your Own OTO; and an early typescript version of the fourth degree (Lodge of Perfection) with a handwritten note by Gerald Yorke saying this version of the ritual was abandoned because of objections from freemasons that it was too close to their own Royal Arch rite. On that last item, incidentally, it might be noted that the penalty in the published 4° ritual—“having my skull sawn off and my brains exposed to the searing rays of the Sun”—is a direct rip-off from freemasonry. It is the explanation of the symbolism of the skull placed in the temple during the installation of a candidate as a member of the masonic Order of Knight Templars.
In March 1999 Fernee publicly laid open at length on the Internet the Caliphate OTO’s persecution of him and stressed that he had never sold any materials obtained through his membership of the oto, but in a post on alt.magick, May 31, 1999, he reported that he had just been expelled. Fernee’s statements were a powerful indictment of the petty politics at the heart of Bill Breeze’s Caliphate. In my own considered opinion, it was probably the significantly different variant of the seventh degree sex magick instruction by Crowley that they couldn’t bear the thought of being available, let alone advertised for sale to all bidders by one of their own. Had they acted with the dignity befitting a magical Order pursuing the Great Work they might have just quietly purchased it themselves, as it turned out to this day they do not know what it contains nor do they know its new owner. Fernee, on the strict instructions of the private collector who was selling these items, allowed no-one to view them, regarding the information as being for the new owner alone. I might also add that a copy of Francis King’s Secret Rituals of the OTO that I borrowed from the British Library’s Boston Spa facility has an interesting pencil annotation specifically appended to De Natura Deorum, with no further pencil marks anywhere in the book. I considered rubbing it out, but no, it is still there, for all I know it may be of historical importance. What does it say? Now that would be telling. Ask me in the pub.
Ben Fernee was involved as the Caliphate’s “Inquisitor” of David Rietti (“Frater Prospero”, formerly “Fr. Thanatos”) in 1995, who oldtime KAOS readers will remember as the pompous oaf who once threatened me with a libel suit for an attack on his good name and reputation, upon which a barrister at Gray’s Inn I asked to comment said after studying the relevant documents: “It would be difficult to lower Mr Rietti’s reputation further in the eyes of right thinking people.” Rietti, now the “Black Magus of Manchester” and another reincarnation of John Dee (in the 80s he used to be Aleister Crowley, who himself claimed to be the reincarnation of Dee’s magical partner Edward Kelly, so that posits some intriguing questions), was expelled from the Caliphate OTO along with his wife Irene Fraenkl-Rietti (“Soror Phoenix”) at the end of January 1996 for a catalogue of misdemeanours hard to fathom in their entirety (frankly, I can’t be bothered) but on a cursory glance at the evidence it seems to involve them garnering business for their tattoo parlour—“Tattooed Lady Body Art”—from oto initiates (the fifth degree, in particular, requires the candidate to get tattooed). The entire transcript of Fernee’s Inquisition of the Riettis is quite hilarious, particularly the first line by David Rietti, and is on the web at: https://www.parareligion.ch/dplanet/inquisition/trans.htm
As a result of this expulsion, Rietti set up the “Ordo Templi Orientis Foundation”, complete with a Panamanian registry like many a rustbucket shipping line. He announced his new oto on April 22, 1996, on various magical newsgroups on the Internet, primarily to piss off the Caliphate OTO. The actual foundation of the oto Foundation is quite intriguing and raised an interesting question about “hidden lineages”. A mysterious magus known as “Master Scorpio” claimed to possess the “Pentalpha” authority of the Fraternitas Saturni, giving him the power to bestow upon Rietti his very own oto, and a whole gaggle of Manchester Caliphate OTO groupies fell for it hook, line, and sinker and defected or were similarly expelled. It is said that being of the 18th degree of the Fraternitas Saturni gives one the power to create an oto. And because few people in the occult possess the confidence to declare this a load of cobblers, lest they look like uninitiated fools, yet another oto dangles by a slender thread of credibility. Thus David Rietti is now the Supreme and Most Holy King of the oto Foundation, and his grand palace is c/o New Aeon Books, Manchester.
“Master Scorpio” is in fact Ralph Tegtmeier, currently a software developer in Belgium who is better known as Frater U∴D∴ (who was Frater V∴D∴ before he changed his magical name on being published in America, it wouldn’t have done his sales any good on his sex magick book). Frater U∴D∴ has the rare distinction of being expelled from the German iot (Illuminates of Thanateros)—which has the motto “...Everything is Permitted”—for “abusing his position and membership of an ultra right-wing mind- control cult” as the mild-mannered Pete Carroll put it, referring to Tegtmeier’s “Ice Magic Wars” and the formation of RIOT.