Paschal Beverly Randolph
Sexual Magick in the 19th Century
By T Allen Greenfield
Copyright © 2000 T Allen Greenfield. All rights reserved.
“… I am not in a position to affirm that Paschal Beverly Randolph produced the first putative Order of the Rosy Cross in America, but I have failed to trace anything anterior to his date, and he will answer as the first witness in a line of occult adventurers who are typically characteristic of their place and circumstance.”
– A.E. Waite
“What seems to be clear beyond a doubt is Randolph’s great originality and status as the vehicle for sex to (re?)enter the esoteric field. But once a person gets the mere idea (and what an initiation that must have been in the 19th century!), they may well develop theoretically and practically on their own. It is the conceptual bringing together of sex and spiritual development, which the Church had so separated, that is the spark that lights the fuse…”
– J. Godwin
“Remember O Neophyte… that I am not dealing in mere philosophical formulae, ‘recipes,’ or trashy ‘directions,’ but in, and with fundamental principles, underlying all being. Fix this principle firmly in your memory, and roll it under the tongue of your clearest understanding; take it in the stomach of your spirit; digest it well, and assimilate its quintessence to, and with, your own soul. That principle is formulated thus: LOVE LIETH AT THE FOUNDATION (of all that is); and Love is convertibly passion; enthusiasm; affection; heat; fire; soul God. Master that.”
– P. B. Randolph
Dr. P. B. Randolph is either the author or the key Western transmitter of the core magical teaching of the Ordo Templi Orientis. Either way, the only thing remarkable at this point is why his name did not appear initially among the list of Saints read out in The Gnostic Mass. His elevation to the Order of the Lion by U.S. Grand Lodge of the OTO has done much to redress this omission. His contributions to the core teaching of the Western Magical Tradition are difficult to measure but very substantial–essential, in fact.
Paschal Beverly Randolph was born in New York, September 5, 1825 EV. He is sometimes described in the literature as a “mulatto” which is technically correct, but considering Randolph was born in the America not only before the 13th 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but before the Abolitionist Movement even came into being, his life will not be understood unless we place the matter in context, for P.B. Randolph was an Afro-American born into a society that had yet to confront its own soul as a nation on the question of black slavery.
It should come as no surprise that he spent a great deal of time, particularly in his youth, traveling the world. According to his own account, he became Supreme Hierarch of The Brotherhood of Eulis upon attaining his majority, that is, on the 5th of September, 1846. However that may be, he soon became involved in spiritualism, seances and the occultist fad of that period, utilizing magic mirrors, so-called, for obtaining visions. Occasionally, he himself avers, “magnetism” was mixed with such mind-altering drugs as were available in that time. Though he seems to have had great success , he later came to a bitter disillusionment with both drugs and spiritualism as such. By 1850 he was beginning to map out a book on trance channeling with magical mirrors, published as Seership a dozen years later on the eve of the American Civil War. In the late 1840s he embarked upon a European Tour which brought him into contact with the great occult notables of that period, including Kenneth R.H. Mackenzie, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Eliphas Levi and two men who proved to be lifelong friends of influence, the English Rosicrucian writer and professed adept Hargrave Jennings, and, the American General and mystic Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who he met in Paris. Hitchcock facilitated contact with Napoleon III, the mystically inclined French Emperor whose life seems so connected with Randolph’s. General Hitchcock later introduced Randolph to Abraham Lincoln.
While in Paris, Randolph apparently made a deep impression as a seer, and was a welcome guest and seer at the lively Parisian Rosicrucian Lodge meetings of the period. According to Mackenzie, the Magistri of the Rosicrucian Order met in Paris every nine years. According to Swinburne Clymer, “the seance was so successful, that shortly thereafter he was made the Supreme Grand Master of the Rosicrucians of the world who derived authority from the Supreme Grand Lodge in France.”
The point here, of course, is not how closely to credit Mackenzie, and far less Clymer, but the notion that Randolph did attend such meetings, did make an impression, and did walk away with some sort of charter to do Rosicrucian work under French auspices – perhaps even with a nod from government officials of that turbulent period- is not at all without credibility. Certainly, Randolph’s subsequent claims where the Brotherhood of Eulis is concerned, and his actions from this period onward, suggest that he felt empowered to do so. In 1858 a first Temple of Rosicrucia was founded under Randolph’s patronage in Boston. This was the precursor of the Brotherhood of Eulis as such in its public phase, the dawning of the so-called “Rosicrucian Rooms” – a type of profess house that proliferated across America under Randolph in the succeeding decades, and which at once represented the practical crown and the eventual ruin of P.B. Randolph.
Before all this, however, came Randolph’s eye-opening “journey to the East.” From Paris he traveled to “Egypt, Tunis, Arabia, Syria and many other less traveled lands” according to Allan Odell, to “Egypt, Palestine, and Turkey as far as the border of Persia…” according to the far more reliable Godwin, Chanel and Deveney. The impact of this pilgrimage should not be underestimated. In Eulis, written a decade later, he attempted to put the Rosy Cross in perspective:
In Palestine, as he later wrote, he came into a growing understanding of the inner mysteries. He was discovering sexual magick, pure simple and straight forward:
Early in 1861 Randolph made a highly successful California lecture tour. He formed a Grand Lodge of Eulis in that state, perhaps his most successful effort in organizing. Subsequent years were characterized by meetings with celebrated persons, forming of local bodies, organization of the so-called “Rosicrucian Rooms” and publication of a number of metaphysical works, in which he places great emphasis on the importance of Will, concentration, and a magick of sexuality is hinted at. In privately circulated manuscripts, including “The Ansairetic Mystery – A New Revelation Concerning Sex” and “ The Mysteries of Eulis” Randolph was to make plain to his growing cadre of followers a system of sexual magick.
The man was not altogether unaware that he was living in the middle of the Victorian Era, and Randolph’s public pronouncements were phrased with some caution. “The entire mystery can be given in very few words,” he tells the readers of “The Mysteries of Eulis,”
Randolph’s caution was not enough to avoid arousing the eventual wrath of the Theosophical Society. Randolph is even bolder in the privately circulated “Ansairetic Mystery – A New Revelation Concerning Sex!”:
Throughout, he places emphasis on the union of love – sexuality – and will. “We proclaim the OMNIPOTENCE OF WILL!” he was to say in his last public address. After the U.S. Civil War concluded, Randolph consolidated his organization in the U.S. especially, and released through his own Ohio-based publishing house a rich treasure-trove of works on scrying, sexual magick and related topics, coincident with a proliferation of lodges under his direction. The Brotherhood of Eulis began openly proselytizing in 1870EV, coincident with the public debut of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, or Light, usually called simply “HB of L” in Europe and North Africa, under the leadership of Max Theon, Peter Davidson and others. The latter were organized in an identical manner to the Brotherhood of Eulis, and used Randolph’s works as their primary teaching texts.
Randolph, in conjunction with the Brotherhood, also organized a number of “Rosicrucian Rooms” which seem to have added to the popularity of the Order a great deal, but also attracted the attention of the police. Certainly, these intriguing institutions taught the outer and inner teachings of Dr. Randolph, but they appear to have overlapped from “magick in theory” to “magick in practice.” With incomprehension, the ponderous voice of A.E. Waite gives us a tantalizing glimpse:
Randolph, in his mid forties, with a worldwide literary and organizational following, should have been hitting the peak of his powers as man and teacher, but it was not to be. The Rosicrucian Rooms were raided by the authorities, Randolph seems to have involved himself in a difficult marriage, was himself briefly jailed for distribution of “free love” pamphlets, and his depressive nature began to assert itself. He published his masterwork, Eulis, in 1873, but felt profoundly growing bitterness at a perceived willingness to credit ideas labeled “Rosicrucian” or “Ansairetic” but ”…would and did slam to its portals in the face of the tawny student of Esoterics.“ In other words, Randolph felt that his Afro-American background in the end proved more important to the admirers of his ideas than the man and his work. In what may well be – and hopefully is, an apocryphal story concerning Madame Blavatsky’s exclamation at the time of Randolph’s death, she is said to have exclaimed: “He’s shooting at me, the Nigger. Ah, now the Devil’s got him.” The source of the legend appears to be an introduction to a German edition of one of Randolph’s works, written by Gustav Meyrink in 1922EV. If nothing else, it shows the level of bitterness that had grown up between the Theosophical Society and the groups formed around Randolph’s ideas.
In February of 1875 a meeting of the Brotherhood was held in San Francisco, presided over by Randolph. An account of the Order at that time published by Randolph shortly after the meeting reveals an organization with considerable structural soundness, solid vision, and ample membership. A list of officers is published, and a procedure for carrying on the organization after Randolph’s death are enshrined in print. On March 29th a son was born to Randolph, named Osiris Budha. On July 20th he wrote his friend S.S. Jones “now that I am on the thither side of the to be fated 29th of March, 1875, I feel that I can work and win new victories, no longer afraid of a lack of greenbacks, friends, or faith in God.” Nine days later he committed suicide in Toledo Ohio. He was 50 years of age at the time of his death.
Randolph’s influence – often unacknowledged – has been widespread. The HB of L certainly acknowledged his work, while toning down the sexual magical element somewhat. The Beverly Hall Corporation and its ancestor “Rosicrucian” bodies established contact with Kate Courson Randolph, his widow, and eventually claimed heirship to the Brotherhood, though Kate Randolph is definitely not named in the documents issued by the Order as to succession just before Randolph’s death, and bearing his full imprint and approval. Dr. Kate Randolph, M.D. continued in New York to distribute Randolph literature, elixirs and the like into the 20th century. She was even contacted by John Yarker, the Grand Master of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Freemasonry. James Webb speculates upon a Randolph influence on the 20th Century mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, and there is certainly an indirect influence on The Church of Light, The Sri Aurobindo movement (through Mirra Alfassa and Max Theon), and, without question, on the OTO.
Of all of these, as I noted in my book, The Story of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, only the OTO has carried forward the core ideas of Randolph, the unique amalgam of love and will. It is asserted by the late Grand Master Reuss that OTO is the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light. Certainly Papus was influenced by Dr. Davidson of the HB of L, as was Max Theon. Whether Aleister Crowley received a direct influence from Randolph, would be useful to speculate upon, but is beyond the scope of this essay.
What is clear is that the core ideas which make OTO unique came from Randolph, directly or indirectly. Whether they originated with Randolph, were modified by him from Eastern thought, or can ultimately be traced to a teacher or teachers Randolph himself encountered is unknown. But P.B. Randolph was an American Master of the very current central to the magick of the New Aeon. Coming to realize this both expands our knowledge of the roots of contemporary magical tradition, and redresses the long neglect of a true genius who profoundly influenced the core of that tradition in its earliest form.
Burgoyne, Thomas H., The Light of Egypt , see especially
“The Mysteries of Eros”
Greenfield, T Allen, The Story of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light (Looking Glass, 1997)
Godwin, Joscelyn, Christian Chanel and John Deveney, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (Weiser 1995)
Hitchcock, Ethan Allen, Alchemy and the Alchemists
Jennings, Hargrave, The Rosicrucians – Their Rites and Mysteries (Kessinger reprint consulted)
Johnson K. Paul, The Masters Revealed (SUNY Press, 1994) (privately published edition of 1994 consulted)
–, Initiates of Theosophical Masters (SUNY Press, 1995)
Randolph, P.B., Eulis! The History of Love, Randolph Publishing, 1873 (edition of 1896 consulted)
–, Seership (1870 edition of 1930 consulted) see especially
Introduction by R. Swinburne Clymer
Preface by Allan F. Odell
–, Soul! edition of 1931 consulted, see especially
Introduction by R. Swinburne Clymer
–, The Book of the Triplicate Order, 1875
–, “The Ansairetic Mystery” privately published
–, “The Mysteries of Eulis” privately published
Waite, Arthur Edward, The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross (edition of 1993 consulted)
I acknowledge the indispensable access to materials given me by the OTO Frater Superior, Hymenaeus Beta XII°, The U.S. Grand Master General, Sabazius X° , the library of Eulis Lodge OTO, and the understanding of Dr. Randolph I gained from private correspondence with Joscelyn Godwin, John P. Deveney, Paul Johnson, Friar George Benner, Dr. Gerald E. Posesnecker and others.
With the intentional exception of “The Mysteries of Eros” I have avoided consulting or referencing works by later authors who may have modified Randolph’s original work substantially.