AMORC, as you may know, is the biggest ceremonial magic group in the U.S. With a friendly, New Agey vibe, this Thelemish (but not exactly Thelemic) order attracts many traditional Christians, Jews and Buddhists as well as avowed magicians.
However, things are not as cool as they seem. As you can see from this nonprofit report, http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/95-4562324/ancient-mystical-...
a single lodge raked in almost 60,000 in 1998. In today's money, that's roughly 80,000. Shockingly, only about half of this went to actual expenses. The lodge master is probably raking it in hand over fist, just like in Marcelo Motta's SOTO - and considering that this lodge might have 150 active members at a maximum, they're probably paying upwards of $40 a month for the 'privilege' of obtaining all the pleasures of Donald Michael Kraig's "Modern Magick".
AMORC is also the only group that makes you show a dues receipt at the door. It even says so on their schedule. When I visited their lodge as a prospect many years ago, I noticed that the only events at which non-initiates were welcome were low-level chats about mystery schools, mysticism and the basic makings of a public library book club. We were only allowed in the anteroom, which was small in comparison to the true size of the lodge (which we were not allowed to see).
Compare this to the OTO, which has a panoply of events open to non-members. Cool stuff too, like how to make spagyrics, scrying Liber Arcanorum, and Enochian evocation. Sometimes even a lowly rodent such as myself teaches workshops. You can do that - it's chill like that. People can mill around freely and grab a soda from the fridge. More than 90% of our events are open to non-members, and the remaining 10% consist of people's initiations, and tiny little masses with shy novice priests/priestesses. Cool writers come around a lot: I got to chill with Lon Milo Duquette. It's like Pagan Pride Day all year 'round.
BOTA, Builders of the Adytum, has a good program as well. Theirs is more of a workshop format, geared toward folks who want to learn Hermetics in a classroom setting. Temple of Thelema does much of the same with a more explicitly Crowleyan vibe. The OTO is more of a Pagan YMCA where you get to play around with new rituals and hang out with your homies while learning at the same time.
Moreover, most OTO lodges do not charge heavy dues. Not only are non-members considered "honorary members" after a while, but the average member pays roughly 40 bucks- tax deductible - a year to be allowed at all events held by the lodge, including awkward debuts of deacons, lol. A small group of people pay around $100 - 150, but they are usually management / administrative personnel who make sure your lodge is running right. This might sound expensive, but keep in mind that OTO lodges are required to have permanent temple spaces that are not: people's houses, rented dance halls, and basements of occult stores. They're also usually in centralized locations near highways and public transportation, so that everyone can get there without problems.
Joining a lodge is a wonderful experience. For those who dare, it's a learning experience on how to run your own occult group. There are libraries, workshops, potlucks, and other resources present at the lodge, and it's a chill space where you know your friends are around - without having to deal with consumerism, bad weather, muzak, weird people in your personal residence, or unruly hordes in city squares. When you go to lodge, you know why you're there, and you're always free to bring friends. At least, that's how I feel, and that's why I'm part of the OTO.