Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.), or the Gnostic Catholic Church, is the ecclesiastical arm of Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). 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 written by Aleister Crowley for O.T.O. and E.G.C. in 1913. Lay membership in E.G.C. is available through baptism and confirmation. Serpent & Lion celebrates the Gnostic Mass on a regular basis. In most locations, no formal affiliation is required to attend the Mass.

History of E.G.C.

The Gnostic Catholic Church was founded in 1907 e.v. by Jean Bricaud, Gérard Encausse and Louis-Sophrone Fugairon; the latter two having been bishops of Jules Doinel’s Gnostic Church (1890) before Doinel’s abdication as Patriarch. In 1908 e.v., Theodor Reuss appears to have received episcopal consecration and primatial authority in the Gnostic Catholic Church from Encausse, Bricaud and Fugairon in gratitude for his issuance to Encausse of a patent for the Masonic Rites of Memphis and Mizraim. The same year, Encausse, Bricaud and Fugairon changed the name of their church to the Universal Gnostic Church, leaving Reuss exclusive authority in the Gnostic Catholic Church. As with all his other affiliations, Reuss incorporated the Gnostic Catholic Church into the system of O.T.O.

Crowley adopted the Latin name Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.) for use in Liber XV. Bricaud had used this name in the title of a Mass he circulated around 1908, but it was not generally used prior to Crowley’s use of it in Liber XV. Reuss translated the Gnostic Mass into German and published it in 1918 e.v., adopting it as an official rite of the Gnostic Catholic Church; and proclaiming himself “Sovereign Patriarch and Primate of the Gnostic Catholic Church,” as well as Gnostic Legate to Switzerland for Bricaud’s Universal Gnostic Church. Reuss’s publication of the Gnostic Mass constituted the formal acceptance of the Law of Thelema by the Gnostic Catholic Church, and its formal declaration of independence from Bricaud’s Universal Gnostic Church.

Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica is an inseparable part of Ordo Templi Orientis; and the Gnostic Mass is one of the official rituals, more specifically the central ritual, of Ordo Templi Orientis.

While E.G.C. traces its historic origins to the French Gnostic revival of the turn of the century, which was a movement within Christianity, it has since accepted the Law of Thelema. It has declared itself independent from the Christian Universal Gnostic Church and its successors, and is no longer considered to be a Christian Church. E.G.C. does not administer Christian Sacraments. Its ecclesiastical powers are founded on a spiritual succession from the Master Therion and the constituent originating assemblies of O.T.O., rather than on Christian Apostolic Succession.

The theology, doctrines and sacramental theory of E.G.C. are based on the principles of the Thelemic Religion. Its rites and ceremonies are eclectic in form (drawing upon the sacerdotal practices of a wide variety of cultures and historical religious systems), but are fundamentally Thelemic in character. The traditional doctrines, theology, canon law, and insignia of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Jacobite Churches do not operate within E.G.C.


The Gnostic Mass

Aleister Crowley wrote Liber XV in 1913 in Moscow, the year after he was appointed as the X° Head of the British Section of O.T.O. by Theodor Reuss. According to W. B. Crow in A History of Magic, Witchcraft and Occultism (Aquarian Press, London 1968), Crowley wrote it “under the influence of the Liturgy of St. Basil of the Russian Church.” Crowley published the Gnostic Mass three times during his life: in 1918 in The International, in 1919 in The Equinox, Volume III, No. 1 (the “Blue Equinox”), and in 1929 in Appendix VI of Magick in Theory and Practice.  It was first publicly celebrated on Sunday, March 19, 1933 e.v. by Wilfred T. Smith and Regina Kahl in Hollywood, California.

Public and Private Celebration

A public celebration of the Gnostic Mass is one which is open to members of the public; or which is noticed in any official O.T.O. publication under the name “Gnostic Mass,” “Gnostic Catholic Mass,” “Liber XV,” or equivalent names. A private celebration of the Gnostic Mass is one at which the individual participants are all initiate members of O.T.O. of at least 0°. Private celebrations of the Gnostic Mass may be held for initiates of higher degrees as well. Serpent & Lion currently hosts semi-private Gnostic Masses which are open to initiate members of O.T.O. of at least 0° and through invitation, by attending one of our events, for non-O.T.O. individuals.

Celebrations of the Gnostic Mass are held to the highest standards of performance and fidelity to approved texts of Liber XV. .

Liber XV may be modified for Requiem Masses by including a brief mention of the deceased at the eleventh Collect.

Further information

Sabazius X°, Primate of E.G.C. and National Grand Master General in the U.S.A., maintains a website called The Invisible Basilica of Sabazius which offers essays, rituals, and other material pertinent to E.G.C.