1 P.B. Randolphe
NOTES ON P.B. RANDOLPH AND THE HERMETIC BROTHERHOOD OF LIGHT
based on a talk by Allen Greenfield prepared for
presentation at Eulis Lodge, March 13, 1992 e.v.
“ The footprints here and there are of mortals, but of
those who have beheld the hidden mysteries of Eulis, who
are familiars of the Cabbala, who have raised the veil
of Isis, and revealed the Chrishna, the YEA or the A.A.”
P.B. Randolph, EULIS, 1873
The mythological story of Pascal Beverly Randolph (18251875) can be summarized very briefly: Randolph was an American mulatto by birth, became a medical doctor, traveled extensively in Europe and the Near East, where he was instructed in Rosicrucian and Tantric ideas. He formed the Brotherhood of Eulis in 1870, and wrote a book, Eulis, which gave rise to a number of occult organizations, including the Ordo Templi Orientis, which lays claim to being the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light today.
Revisionists have often attempted to dismiss Randolph’s “Eastern contacts” as the standard `pious fraud’ so familiar in occult circles, and are apt to attribute the sexual component of his ideas to his own invention. This view is not confined to detractors, but includes many practitioners and admirers of Randolph’s ideas.
Indeed, in late years, Randolph himself bitterly claimed that most of his ideas were his own. Yet it is widely rumored that in his travels he was initiated into the Egyptian Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, which `went public’ in 1870, the same year as Randolph initiated the Brotherhood of Eulis half a world away in Boston. The latter is alleged to follow a classical Masonic three degree `blue lodge’ system, with rituals and the introduction of sexual magick.
Randolph did not likely appear in a vacuum. In Eulis he stated:
“One night - it was in far-off Jerusalem or Bethlehem, I really forget which - I made love to, and was loved by, a dusky maiden of Arabic blood. I of her, and that experience learned - not directly, but by suggestion the fundamental principle of the White Magic of love; subsequently I became affiliated with some dervishes and fakirs of whom, by suggestion still, I found the road to other knowledges; and of these devout practicers of a simple, but sublime and holy magic, I obtained additional clues - little threads of suggestion, which, being persistently followed, led my soul into labyrinths of knowledge themselves did not even suspect the existence of. . .”
Although forms of sexual spirituality appear in a number of early American religious communes - the Oneida Community being the most prominent example - it seems possible that variants of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light have existed in Europe and North Africa for centuries, and that a number of nineteenth century occultists including Randolph, but hardly confined to him, were members and/or influential exponents of their teachings, but not by any means the originators.
Although Kenneth Mackenzie was well known in his time as a literary historian of occultism and esoteric freemasonry, the influence of this associate of Rosicrucian Robert Wentworth Little and the great magus Eliphas Levi, who was called Frater Baphometus in occult circles is both underestimated and misunderstood today. Wynn Westcott and A.E. Waite both considered him a major influence on the Golden Dawn, if not its true originator.
Mackenzie claimed to be in contact, prior to 1874, with six adepts of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Egypt. Although rather specific at that time, when he subsequently published his famous Masonic encyclopedia, he appears to have made some effort to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of these individuals. The questions has been raised as to whether Randolph and Hargave Jennings were influenced by earlier groups such as the HBL.Max Theon, a/k/a Aia Aziz, a/k/a
Louis Maximilien Bimstein and possibly (as in Paul Johnson’s IN SEARCH OF THE MASTERS) a `Secret Chief’— was the H.B. of L.’s one-time Grand Master.
The H.B. of L. appears to have inducted a number of Western Adepts, including Madame Blavatsky, during the 1870s, and this led to a subsequent dissemination of knowledge by various individuals, some allegedly acting under Charter.
We shall get to these `modern adepti’ of the H.B. of L. momentarily, but the 1870 date is clearly one where Westerners were introduced to various Brotherhoods of Egyptian extraction with names such as “Brotherhood of Light” “Hermetic Brotherhood of Light” or, simply,” H.B. of L.”—all teaching much the same thing in much the same manner. This only confirms the testimony of Mackenzie, Blavatsky and Henry Olcott, the latter two certainly no friends of the H.B. of L. after the formation of the Theosophical Society.
In any case, it is this H.B. of L. that seems to have coincidently arisen at the same moment as P.B. Randolph’s Euro-American Brotherhood of Eulis version,foreshadowing the later, more organizationally efficient H.B. of L. under the leadership of Peter Davidson and Thomas Burgoyne, a/k/a Thomas Dalton. Davidson published The Occult Magazine in Britain, and later founded a utopian colony in Loudsville, Georgia, under Max Theon’s influence, while Burgoyone influenced the founders of the Church of Light in Carmel, California. Davidson continued to publish The Morning Star (successor to The Occult Magazine) as late as 1910 in Loudsville, and became a representative of Papus’ Martinist Order. Davidson and his children became the publishers of the Cleveland, Georgia COURIER from 1897, which continued in his family’s hands until its demise in 1975. He used the printing of the small-town newspaper for publication of the H.B. of L. journal for some twenty years.The whole H.B. of L. scheme became something of a family secret among Davidson’s relations. Much of Davidson’s literary work appears to have been burned in a bonfire after his death, though material survives in the Cleveland, Georgia area among his descendants.
P.B. Randolph and his follower F.B. Dowd influenced both Clymer’s Rosicrucian Fraternity and, through H.B. of L. member Karl Kellner, the OTO.
Of all of these organizations, as far as is known the sexual teachings have been kept intact only by the OTO. This does not mean, however, that this aspect was not influential with Davidson and the others mentioned here. The curriculum of the H.B. of L. after 1880 included Randolph’s Eulis and more obscure works on sexual magick; the Brief Key to the Eulian Mysteries or Eros was an unpublished piece by Randolph edited by Burgoyne. Concepts such as the magical will focused through sexual magick and various eugenic precursors of the concept of the `magical child’ and longevity theories come from this source, and resemble pristine Indo-Tibetan Tantric Yoga in many respects. That Davidson “softened” the sexual aspect of the Work in accord with late Victorian tastes, however, is beyond dispute.
Although Mackenzie informs us that the Hermetic Brothers of Egypt are “an occult fraternity which has endured from very ancient times, having a hierarchy of officers, secret signs and passwords. . .” the relationship between this, the European Fraters Lucis or Brothers of Light and the post 1870 H.B. of L. remains speculative.
One intriguing question, apart from intimations of antiquity, is the source of the H.B. of L.’s authority, knowledge and wisdom. As with the Theosophical Society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the OTO, we arrive once again at the claim that the Brotherhood is guided by “Secret Chiefs” or “Hidden Masters” or “Mahatmas” or the “Inner Order,” call it what you may.
In December, 1884, Davidson, speaking for the editors of the H.B. of L. OCCULT MAGAZINE stated:
We know, personally, that the Adepts and the Mahatmas have a PHYSICAL OBJECTIVE existence and, in fact, we have had knowledge of their personal existence for the last fourteen years. It has been said, in the columns of THE THEOSOPHIST, if we are not mistaken, that `while all the Mahatmas are Adepts, not all Adepts are Mahatmas.’ We share completely in this view, since the Adepts who guide the inner circle of the H.B. of L., ALTHOUGH MEMBERS OF THE SAME SACRED COHORT OF THE HIMALAYA—are not Mahatmas, and are not in relation WITH THAT SECTION OF THE ORDER to which belong the Mahatmas and Hierophants of the Buddhist cult. . .”
It has been suggested that P.B. Randolph derived his ideas and his version of the H.B. of L. from the same illuminated sources. Clearly, Randolph was not so much an isolated genius as an initiate of the Adepts, who transmitted the light of the gnosis to his successors and his heirs. The later Davidson H.B. of L. regarded Randolph as a betrayer of oaths and one who distorted sexual concepts, but his prescriptions were clearly more in line with ancient sources, and his own account suggests direct Eastern contacts which sparked an interior illumination.
At this point I should reintroduce the name of Louis Maximilian Bimstein, born the son of a rabbi in Warsaw August 5, 1847. He is better known by the name “Max Theon” (“Supreme God”), and was, as mentioned, the Grand Master of the Egyptian H.B. of L. during the 1870s at the time the future leaders of the Theosophical Society were members. He later journeyed to Europe and may have recruited Peter Davidson into the H.B. of L. He lived in Algeria under the name “Aia Aziz” until his death in 1927. The revisionist Theosophical historian Paul Johnson suggests that “Theon” may be the original of one of Madame Blavatsky’s secret masters. What did the H.B. of L. teach? In Randolph’s version, there is, as stated, a three degree system, in the second of which a system of sexual magick is introduced, similar to that later taught by Aleister Crowley’s A.A., Louis Culling’s Order G.B.G., and Michael Bertiaux’s Monastery of the Seven Rays. Peter Davidson appears to have relied on an educational curriculum leaning heavily on Randolph’s work, including Eulis and Eros, both of which teach sexual magick, along with Symbolic Notes for the First Degree based on Hargrave Jennings’ and Thomas Inman’s work. Randolph summmarized the teaching thusly: “ 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 first 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. . .” This suggests the sexual MASS OF THE HOLY GHOST. As another Theosophical historian puts it,
“one is left with the intriguing question of whether Jennings and Randolph themselves acquired their ideas, in some degree from earlier initiatic orders of the H.B. of. L. type . . .” Elsewhere the same writer, Joscelyn Godwin, states the suggestive belief that “Paul Johnson’s researches into Egyptian Freemasonry are highly relevant to this operation, with its agents in Cairo, Paris and New York.” If the H.B. of L. teachings constitute, through Karl Kellner, the left pillar of the OTO, Egyptian Rite Freemasonry, through Theodor Reuss, constitutes the right. Ultimately, they may be the same thing.
We are left, also, with a curious coincidence. When H.B. of L. chief Dr. Davidson began to agitate for a utopian agricultural community in North Georgia, he picked an area rich in Cherokee Indian legends of an entrance to the fairy kingdom, of the “little people,” and the like. At the time, he lived near Findhorn, Scotland, famed in our own century for the new age agricultural commune which is said to be a haven't for the denizens of otherwhere, which grows (we are told) impossibly large vegetables and fruit in the most unlikely soil and the most unlikely climate. The hand of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light reaches right into our own time, and our own backyard.
Even more curious, the founder of Eulis Lodge, Frater Excolare Visionem, in Atlanta chose the name after finding a copy of Randolph’s EULIS in his father’s library. His father had no occult connection or interest, nor knowledge of how the book got there. But the Past Master of Eulis Lodge comes from a small town near Peter Davidson’s Loudsville, Georgia retreat, and the old volume may well have come through Davidson’s organization. But until very recently the Past Master of Eulis Lodge HAD ABSOLUTELY NO KNOWLEDGE of Davidson or his colony.
There is some mystery on each end of the career of P.B. Randolph. He appears to contradict himself as to his sources of knowledge, and the later connection between Randolph’s Brotherhood of Eulis and the H.B. of L. in its various guises remains elusive as well.
“On PBR in general,however,” says historian John Patrick Deveney, “I think it is fair to say that almost everything anyone has been able to come up with over the years is derived directly from his own writings . . . His supposed relationship with the H.B. of L. rests on the works of Rene Guenon and on a few references in French occultists at the end of the 19th century.”
The coincident founding of the Brotherhood of Luxor and the Brotherhood of Eulis in 1870, however, is itself suggestive. In 1885 the H.B. of L. under Davidson stated that “there is a section of our Order, who have certain Lodges in the United States, who are under control of a Committee of Seven. But there are other Orders in the States, entirely distinct from ours, whose Lodges also consist of a Committee of Seven.” Randolph’s Brotherhood was presided over by a Committee of Seven members. Incontrovertibly, the later H.B. of L. curriculum drew heavily upon Randolph’s work. By this time Randolph was dead by his own hand, after having asserted, shortly before his passing, “If I die there is another - a selected chief of Eulis - who, in time will finish what I leave undone - at least, such is my hope.” His reference was to John Blakey Pilkington, and ultimately his son Osiris Budha Randolph, who was to assume the office of Grand Hierarch March 30, 1896; that is, upon becoming 21, as P.B. Randolph himself had done September 5, 1846.
It appears in retrospect that Osiris Randolph was an intentional magical child. His father stated that “ . . . said child is the only being now on earth who by organization is wholly capable of entering the Penetralia and esoteric realms of the Eulian sustem.”
As to sources, in his last years Randolph tended to downgrade his earlier reputed Rosicrucian and Ansairetic direct connections, feeling (rightly, I suspect) a good deal of racial bias in dismissing his original contributions. He caustically protested a mystery-hungry market “which gladly opened its doors to that name (Rosicrucian - AHG), but would, and did, slam to its portals in the face of the tawny student of Esoterics.”
Yet he alludes to his former position as “Grand Master of the only Temple of that Order on the globe . . . “ and asserts that the “Rosicrucian system is, and never was other else than a door to the Grand Temple of Eulis. It was the trial chamber wherein men were tested as to their fitness for loftier things. And even Eulis, itself, is a triplicate of body, spirit, soul. There are some in the outer, a few in the inner crypts.” Randolph sets himself, despite protests of originality, as a member on an “august brotherhood represented by adepts in Europe, Asia and myself and confreres in this country . . .” Thus, in his last writings Randolph is still suggesting high-level affiliation with a world wide hermetic fraternity, the essential repository of occult wisdom.
Dowd, Clymer, Davidson, Kellner and later Reuss, Crowley and Michael Bertiaux; even Sri Auribindo—all have some claim to the mantle of P.B. Randolph.
POSTSCRIPT - The H.B. of L. Colony in Georgia
In April, 1992 e.v. Frater James Baker and I visited Cleveland, GA and spoke with J.D.L., who provided us with much food for thought on the Peter Davidson branch of the H.B. of L.
After coming to the remote North Georgia foothills, Davidson in some ways `toned down’ the H.B. of L. work, but continued to operate on at least three and possibly four fronts: He published THE MORNING STAR, which, beneath a slight “new age” Christian veneer, continued to advocate the H.B. of L. program for an international network of subscribers; more locally, he `proselytized’ among the local populace with a series of `Mountain Musings’ that were really quite progressive spiritual documents; Dr. Davidson, who was not a physician, continued to advocate and practice what today would be called “alternative medicine” for which he was once arrested. Relatives recalled his sending ginsing hunters foraging in the wild woods on his behalf, and he distributed an elixir of life not unlike that advocated earlier by Randolph and much later by Crowley. There is some evidence that he, in fact, did at least attempt to implement the ideas of the agricultural commune, enlisting some locals in the effort.
Davidson maintained a huge occult library, which was apparently sacked and burned to a large extent after his death, but fragments of which survive among his many relatives. He was remembered by grandchildren as having gone daily into his library “to meditate or something” and was regarded with a mixture of awe and mistrust by other residents. He also attained a certain fame and respectability, and his son, grandson and great grandson were all editors of the local newspaper. All were also freemasons, a family tradition which continues today.
EULIS - P.B. Randolph - 1873 - edition of 1896 quoted
THE BOOK OF THE TRIPLICATE ORDER - P.B. Randolph - 1875
IN SEARCH OF THE MASTERS - Paul Johnson
THE ROYAL MASONIC CYCLOPAEDIA - Kenneth Mackenzie
“Aims of Rosicrucian Science” - Mackenzie - The
Rosicrucian - April, 1874
“The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor” - Theosophical
History - Joscelyn Godwin
Paul Johnson, personal communications, 1991 White County
(GA) Board of Commissioners, personal communication,
Habersham County Commissioners, personal communication,
March 4, 1992
Personal contact, Davidson family, 1992 John Patrick
Deveney, personal communication, March 9, 1992
[Special thanks go to Frater Excolare Visionem, VIo OTO, who provided me with the Randolph Publishing Company Third Edition of EULIS.]