persecution. The Great Raid Debacle. Late at night, on September 29th, the Berkeley Police
From: Josh Gordon To: All Msg #85, 20-Oct-89 09:48am Subject: OTO
The Great Raid Debacle.
Late at night, on September 29th, the Berkeley Police raided
O.T.O. They hit Merkabah House first, entered a detached dwelling
behind Merkabah House, and then went off to break up Thelema
Lodge. Yes, that's right, Berkeley PD raided a church in
There was a search warrant, and the objects of the search were
major drugs, paraphernalia involved in drug sales and use, and
records of drug dealers. One would therefore characterize this
effort as a connected series of "Crack House Raids". Of course,
there was no crack, no dealing and no point to the raid. I
understand that rolling papers were taken, pipes and something
identified as a "bong". The rolling papers included Drum Brand,
only sold with Drum Brand Tobacco and taken from beside a partly
filled can of Drum Tobacco. Several people were listed on the
search warrant as residents to be given special attention,
including one person who actually lives in San Francisco, and
yours truly, Bill Heidrick. I was listed as living at Thelema
Lodge, a place I have been able to visit to teach classes about
six hours a month on average. I would like to be there more
often; but my home has been in San Anselmo since 1971 e.v., and
Grand Lodge duties spare me little time to enjoy the many events
at Thelema. Since I was not there, I had to learn all this
indirectly. These are my opinions of that happened, based on
accounts of the witnesses and from documents.
The raid commenced with a knocking at the Merkabah house door.
A resident opened it, and seventeen police with drawn guns burst
in on a Hermetics class. Our members and guests were thrown down
and cuffed without further preamble. Two were released after
questioning (didn't live there and weren't on the list). The
others were told that they had to give urine samples then and
there or face 90 days in jail. A document purporting to justify
this violation of civil rights was flashed, and mention was made
of a new state law no one there had heard about. Copies of the
document have been recovered from the police report and related
papers. Bye bye, 5th amendment! It was nice knowing you, 4th
amendment! I should note that more than seventeen officers
seemed to be present, but only seventeen names of officers appear
on the police report.
All remaining in the house were charged with narcotics
intoxication, pending urine test results, I suppose. A couple of
hypodermic syringes were produced by an officer, alleged to have
been found in a sink that had just that day been cleaned. None
of the people at the house recognized the syringes, and none used
intravenous drugs. Other items of a similar nature were found by
the police in locations where nothing was seen before the raid.
These syringes were not charged against anyone at arraignment,
according to the charges I have read. Two of the people taken to
the Berkeley station were released that night, one being told
that the reason for his arrest had been forgotten, the other
being held until it was clear that no matron was available to
assist in her incarceration. Six in all were charged from
Merkabah house, and after the charges finished dropping at
arraignment only narcotics intoxication (urine tests were not
back yet) and smoking paraphernalia charges were maintained (as
best I can determine). There were illegal weapons charges
earlier, with the ritual daggers and swords torn from religious
shrines in the house giving that dubious base. The illegal
weapons charges were dropped.
Most of the officers appeared confused. Remarks of "why are
we here?" have been reported by witnesses. The officer leading
the raid and some others made themselves busy, tearing out and
emptying drawers and the like. They trashed the place. A little
humor was evidently not lacking, and several books on occultism
were arranged in a little display on one of the beds to make a
nice picture. A baby photograph was seized and described in the
police list as "showing infant white male child w/ black cross
across front of body." This was a photo recently sent to a
friend by the mother. The black cross was a creative
interpretation of the straps of the car seat shown in the photo.
One officer was interested enough to offer criticism of a
painting on erotic themes, but it was too large to fit in the
van. Two of the people in the house were making love in a bed
room, and they were taken naked from the house and thrust into
the police van. A couple of O.T.O. members from Thelema Lodge
went over to the site during the raid, were questioned and
Off the jolly crew went with their involuntary guests to visit
Thelema Lodge (in Oakland, remember). There were word games and
similar entertainments: "Who's got the warrant? Do you have the
warrant? ... Ah' we forgot the warrant" --- a copy was found in
Merkabah House a few days later, in a spot where nothing had been
seen after the raid. The Thelema Lodge copy of the search
warrant was also discovered several days later, crumpled up in a
cat box. Since it was Rosh Hashana, seasonal anti-semitic
remarks were demonstrated by the officers for the edification of
any prisoners who might chance to be Jewish.
On reaching Thelema Lodge, the two Thelema Lodge inhabitants
who were not detained at Merkabah house were seen to drive up to
park at their home. The police dragged both out of their car and
hustled them into the house. The police gained entry by being
admitted and by crashing in several interior and at least one
exterior door. The exterior door was described as not being
seriously damaged in the police report, but the frame was
smashed. The rush, floor, and cuffs procedure was repeated. Two
members of the O.T.O. were questioned and largely ignored. The
others were given the full treatment; urine samples and the like.
One of these refused the urine test, and he alone appears to have
been charged with the syringes that mysteriously appeared by
spontaneous generation at Thelema Lodge --- again never before
seen by any of the folks who live there. One person was charged
with the infraction of having less than a 1/4 ounce of marijuana.
Several rooms were trashed downstairs in a vigorous but
inconsistent fashion. There was some breakage that does not
appear in the police reports. It is rather difficult to
understand what training led to the techniques in evidence.
Photos show clothing and papers all over the place, but there
seems to have been little effort to look behind the thousands of
shelved books or under seat cushions and the like. Some rooms
were given a minimal look; others ended up like an earthquake in
a thrift shop.
The situation upstairs took some additional turns. Our Temple
was broken up and generally desecrated, making it difficult for
the Gnostic Mass to be held two days later. One of the members
is a student of pyrotechnics (safe and sane style fireworks). He
had a room rented upstairs for storage of his materials,
colorants, tubes and chemicals --- all obtained legally. This
presented a new option to the officers. A call was made to the
judge who issued the original search warrant, and a verbal
extension was given to include bomb making supplies. We do have
a list of the chemicals and "Fire Works Components" (yes, the
police did identify the components as fire works), including at
least two substances that cannot exist. Possibly that sort of
error can be excused by misreading bottle labels, but really ---
"flowers of sodium"! The name of the owner of the fire-works
chemicals was identified by the police and written into the
report. His name was also on the door to the room. It would
appear, however, that this brother was not in the target list.
The two brothers who had been pulled out of a car in front of the
house were charged with possession of these materials. The
actual owner of the materials was identified by the police, was
in the house and was not charged. These two brothers therefore
have felony charges for possession of materials not in their own
rooms and known to be the property of a person released without
arrest. Naturally we are glad that our brother was not charged
for his legally owned property, but it is a bit much to see
others charged who had nothing to do with the material.
Chemicals were spilled and not cleaned up during the raid.
There is no doubt in my mind that the officer in charge knew
he was visiting desecration on a church. He characterized the
Temple as "temple" in his report. He knew that the place was
known as "Thelema Lodge", and he used the term of opprobrium
"cult" to describe the group. I really must take exception to
that term "cult". We have been in existence for more than eighty
years, have more than 1500 members in 26 countries, and the word
"cult" does not appear on our letters of religious tax exemption
from the Federal Government and the State of California. I don't
recall our being called a "cult" in the case we brought and won
in the IXth District Federal Court in 1985 e.v., and our
religious status was noted in that decision. The discriminatory
language got worse.
When the six arrested at Thelema Lodge were brought with the
six from Merkabah House over to the Berkeley Jail, it became
immediately apparent that religious persecution was the name of
the new game. Our members were called "devil worshipers"
consistently by the jailers. These remarks were spread beyond
the jail. Abusive language appears to have been used in an
attempt to prejudice. There are Satanists in the world, but for
an officer to use the language "devil worshiper" to characterize
the religion of a person in custody is in no way different from
an officer calling civil rights marchers "niggers". This
language is used to dehumanize and to deny due process. It has
no place in public, let alone on the lips of arresting officers
and jailers. O.T.O. has it's own religion, and does not give
place for the Christian "Devil" to exist outside metaphor. Quite
frankly, this "devil worshipper" tag is not even ethical if
applied to real Satanists of education much beyond grammar
school. I have met several over the years, and most could not be
said to worship the "Devil". For non-Christians, Satan is more
often the symbolic hero of John Milton's "Paradise Lost" than a
foolish mental disorder with a pitch-fork.
In jail our members and friends were subjected to the verbal
abuse already mentioned, but there were other things. No one had
been read their rights, and only after the arrest papers became
accessible did anyone learn of a very fine print statement of
civil rights on a paper that had been signed under pressure
without time for reading. Ordinary requests made by prisoners
were honored by the jailers, but not identical humanitarian
requests made by our folk. One of our people had suffered an
injury when he was allowed to tumble down stairs during the raid.
He had lost sensation in his right arm, and was experiencing an
increasing loss of motor function. His requests for medical
examination were refused to his face. With persistence, he was
finally heard by an officer from another part of the building.
When the matter was brought to the attention of a judge, this
brother was immediately released on "OR" (own recognizance).
This was on the third day of his incarceration, and he had been
denied his first phone call for about 60 hours.
Arraignments were held Monday and Tuesday, with everybody
still in custody being released on "OR" following arraignment.
Most charges had been dropped, and further court appearances are
scheduled later this month.
At this writing the homes are still in great disarray, but
enough clean-up has taken place to discover over $380 missing
from Merkabah House and almost $500 missing from Thelema Lodge.
That's rent money, personal cash and temple furbishment funds.
Some of it may have been lost in the street during hasty
searches, but there is no explanation for most of it vanishing
from boxes, drawers and the like. Also missing are initiation
reports plainly marked the property of Grand Lodge (with
address!) and being readied for forward.
While I sat typing this account, a call came in. The
affidavit that led to issuance of the search warrant had
surfaced. This entire raid was based on the verbal assertions of
one individual, with the complicity of another. I will restrain
myself from describing the mental and moral qualities of that
person. Suffice it to say that the lurid details offered to the
ear of the officer were so absurd that I cannot imagine anyone
crediting them for a moment. I was accused of conducting
something unfathomable called "a black baptism" in the yard
behind Thelema Lodge. Preposterous nonsense about minors, drugs,
and the like abounded in the document. The officer entered
Merkabah house a few days before, posing as a plumber. He
wandered about the rooms trying to "smell" amphetamines. He had
to be instructed before entry on how to pour a can of cleaner in
a drain and how to soap a gas line joint. When he was asked to
snake a blockage, he had no answer. For heaven's sake!
Education in the public schools is a disaster, but ...! I would
also like to know why Oakland PD appears not to have been
contacted about the Thelema Lodge address. It seems only natural
that Berkeley PD would consult Oakland PD before doing Elliot
Ness impressions in Oakland. What would have happened if someone
in the house had called 911 before identifying the intruders?
I can't help wondering what impact the big cocaine seizure in
southern California and the Night Stalker trial sentencing may
have had on this decision to go so far on so little. It's too
bad the news about the Oklahoma sheriff didn't attract as much
attention. That guy is on trial for allegedly trying to kidnap a
suspected drug dealer out of Texas to drag back to Oklahoma for
torture with a hot curling iron. Could it be that the admitted
drug problems in this country have induced hysteria? Has the
fundamentalist hate literature that has been flooding police
agencies and service magazines actually been believed? Some of
that trash lists the Star of David, the Star and Crescent of
Islam, the Peace Sign, the Pentagram from the American Flag and
the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States as "Satanic
Devices." Several years ago I wrote a piece on the revival of
"The Blood Libel"; this blithering nonsense is full of it.
By all accounts, most of the officers drawn into this exercise
were reasonable and professional individuals. It seems to me
that only a few of the officers were responsible for abuses,
although those were very serious indeed. I wasn't there. All I
have to go on is what the officer wrote in his reports and what
the witnesses said. Pray to the deities you still are allowed
that you can continue to say the same.
The folks at these locations need personal help to replace
losses and repair damage. If you can help, please contact the
Grand Lodge needs donations (tax deductible) to build up the
legal fund. Attorneys have to be paid, and civil rights cases
Contributions to the O.T.O. Legal Fund should be made out to
"O.T.O." and sent to:
Ordo Templi Orientis
Fairfax, CA 94930 USA
Classes and meetings will continue. Attend at your own risk,
but please check to determine changes in location and the like.
We hope enough of our friends and confreres will stand with us in
the free exercise of the Thelemic religion and the ordinary
rights of speech, but we will understand if folks would rather
stay home. The people at Merkabah House and Thelema Lodge share
rent and have their own rooms. Those places are home. It did
From: Joseph Teller
To: Jack Of Shadows Msg #109, 20-Oct-89 02:27pm
Jack, we've heard nothing in the press about these O.T.O. raids
you've spoken of, and neither has the Boston O.T.O. members I know.
Please post your sources on this matter (newspaper, magazine,
newsletter) as we do not charge in to support a cause without proofs.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank