Elbridge Gerry Brown

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Elbridge Gerry Brown (April 15, 1849 - August 28, 1928) was an American Spiritualist and editor of the Spiritual Scientist of Boston, Mass.

Biographical data

Elbridge Gerry Walter Channing Brown was born on April 15 (or 19?), 1849, at the residence of his parents, Thomas W. and Sarah D., at 34 Hanover St.; Boston, MA. Later in life he dropped two of his names and was known as Elbridge Gerry Brown.

On July 21, 1875, he got married to 22 years old Hannah M. Fluker in the Town of South Abington. In 1874 he founded and edited a weekly Spiritualist newspaper titled, the Spiritual Scientist. In 1880 census he was living in Boston, listed as Gary E. Brown, with wife Hannah L., daughters Alice G. and Jennie C.

He died on August 28, 1928, and was buried at Colebrook Cemetery, Whitman Plymouth County, Mass.[1]

Theosophical involvement

Young E. G. Brown, editor of the Spiritual Scientist, was interested in understanding the occult laws behind Spiritualistic phenomena. In November of 1874, after reading a defense of the genuineness of this phenomena that H. P. Blavatsky had published in the Daily Graphic, Mr. Brown sent her a sample of his own Spiritualist newspaper with a note of appreciation for her article. This gave rise to a correspondence that got him close to Blavatsky's work. In fact, in early letters from Egyptian Masters of Wisdom to Col. H. S. Olcott, it is evident that they had thought Mr. Brown could become the third main Founder of what would be the Theosophical Society. Master S. wrote:

This cause—in your country—depends entirely on the closest unity between you three—our Lodge’s chosen Triad—you, verily so, you three so utterly dissimilar and yet so closely connected to be brought together and linked in one by the never-erring Wisdom of the Brotherhood.[2]
Mr. Brown began to publish many of Blavatsky's letters. He was educated but very poor; for, to become a Spiritualist and editor of his paper, he had quarreled with his family.[3] During his cooperation with the the Founders, they supported him and his paper financially. However, in 1876, as they started striving to wean the public mind away from Spiritualism, Brown decided to keep his belief in "Spirits" and go his own way, eventually turning against the Founders.[4] This was shortly after the birth of his first child, after accusing HPB of trying to psychically harm his wife and cause the death of his then unborn child.[5]

HPB wrote in her first scrapbook the following remarks:

Several hundred dollars out of our pockets were spent on behalf of the Editor, and he was made to pass through a minor "diksha" [initiation]. This proving of no avail — the Theosophical Society was established. . . . The man might have become a POWER, he preferred to remain an ASS. De gustibus non disputandum est.[6]
The Editor and Medium Gerry Brown has thanked us for our help. Between Col. Olcott & myself, H.P.B., we have spent over a 1000 dollars given him to pay his debts & support his paper. Six months later he became our mortal enemy, because only we declared our unbelief in Spirits. Oh grateful mankind . . . H.P.B.[7]

In her third scrapbook, HPB includes a bankruptcy notice for Brown summarized in this way by Mary K. Neff:

Creditors list includes Col Olcott ($590), Mme. Blav. ($150), to which HPB has red pencilled a note: "And several hundred more given without asking for a note. HPB." Also: "A constant shower of abuse and sneering in his paper against us, and in other papers too, and bankruptcy to end the whole without a single line of acknowledgment, excuse or regret. Such is Gerry Elbridge Brown, the Spiritualist." (Total debt of Brown: $3710)[8]

Other references to Brown exist in Blavatsky's letters to Hiram Corson and in Olcott's Old Diary Leaves.

Notes

  1. Elbridge Gerry Brown, Sr at Findagrave.com
  2. Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom Second Series No. 6 (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 17.
  3. Josephine Ransom, A Short History of The Theosophical Society (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1989), 68.
  4. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 221-222.
  5. See Elbridge Gerry Brown, Sr at Findagrave.com
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. I (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 888.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. I (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 95.
  8. Mary K. Neff, "H.P.B.'s Scrapbooks," a summary of the scrapbooks written about 1934. Quoted from Boris de Zirkoff Papers, Records Series 22, Theosophical Society in America Archives.