W. P. Phelon

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W. P. Phelon

Dr. W. P. Phelon (September 28, 1834 - December 29, 1904) was an English-American occultist associated with the Ramayana Theosophical Society of Chicago and of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. He founded the Hermetic Brotherhood of Atlantis, Luxor and Elephanta.

Personal life and career

William Pike Phelon was born September 28, 1834 in England to Benjamin and Sarah Phelon. His father was a clergyman. The family, including a brother Benjamin, emigrated to the United States and by 1850 was settled in Rhode Island. William married Ruth Lamira Morse, known as Mira or Myra, who was born in Vermont on April 1, 1831. She was the niece of Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph.[1]

The early 1860s found the couple living in Dorr, Illinois, with William working as a printer for a time. In 1862, during the Civil War, Phelon served in a medical role in the 95th lllinois Infantry, but was discharged with a disability.[2][3] A son, William A. Phelon, was born around 1870. In the early 1870s, William and Mira Phelon were employed as school teachers in La Porte, Indiana. In 1874 they moved to Chicago.[4][5] He became established as a physician in the central business district of that city.[6] After his wife Mira died on February 23, 1896 in Chicago, Dr. Phelon moved to San Francisco.[7][8]

He died in San Francisco on December 29, 1904, and his role as head of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Atlantis, Luxor and Elephanta was prominently featured in his obituary.

Theosophical Society involvement

Both William and Mira became members of the Theosophical Society on November 11, 1884.[9] They were active in the Chicago Branch, of which Dr. Phelon was Corresponding Secretary. It was one of the first Theosophical lodges formed in the United States. The Phelons helped to form the Ramayana Theosophical Society on July 27, 1887.[10] Both Phelons sponsored L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, and his wife Mrs. Maud G. Baum, when they joined the Ramayana branch on September 4, 1892.[11][12]

Dr. Phelon served as president of the Ramayana TS, and its meetings took place at 629 Fulton Street, which also served as the doctor's office, the editorial office of The Hermetist, and business address of the Hermetic Publishing Company. Mira was actively engaged in Theosophical activities as well. She gave lectures at the lodge, such the poetic presentation "A Fragment" given on June 24, 1888.[13] When the American Section of the Theosophical Society held its annual convention in Chicago in 1890, she read a paper called "The Narrow Path."[14]

Hermetic Brotherhoods

Dr. Phelon and Mira founded the Hermetic Brotherhood of Atlantis, Luxor and Elephanta around 1875.[15] He headed that organization until his death in 1904. He was also editor of its periodical, The Hermetist, published 1887-1899 in Chicago.

The Phelons also seem to have been members of the similarly named and better-known Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor that was founded in 1884.

Writings

The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 12 articles by or about the Phelons.

  • The Future Rulers of America: A Physician's Adventure. 1887.
  • Three Sevens: A Story of Ancient Initiations. With Mira M. Phelon. 1889.
  • A Witch of the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: Hermetic Publishing Co., 1893.
  • Our Story of Atlantis: Written Down for the Hermetic Brotherhood. San Francisco, Calif.: Hermetic Book Concern, 1903.

Notes

  1. "No Mourning or Words of Sorrow" New York Times February 26, 1896. Reproduced in Find A Grave Memorial 106902964.
  2. U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865.
  3. U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865.
  4. 1870 United States Federal Census.
  5. "Rogers Park Items" Daily Inter Ocean [Chicago] 3.172 (September 13, 1874), 8.
  6. U.S. City Directories, 1922-1995 for the years 1875-1877, 1882, 1888, 1890.
  7. "No Mourning or Words of Sorrow" New York Times February 26, 1896. Reproduced in Find A Grave Memorial 106902964.
  8. 1900 U.S. United States Federal Census.
  9. Theosophical Society General Membership Register, 1875-1942 at http://tsmembers.org/. See book 1, entries 3051 and 3052 (website file: 1B/6).
  10. Charter date per The Theosophist, April, 1888.
  11. Per John Algeo: This information was kindly supplied by Grace F. Knoche and Kirby Van Mater, of the Theosophical Society headquartered in Pasadena, California. The Baums’ membership is recorded on Register 1, page 561, and Matilda Gage’s on the same Register, page 49.
  12. Membership dates for the Baums are confirmed by the Theosophical Society General Membership Register, 1875-1942 at http://tsmembers.org/. See book 1, entries 8508 and 8509 (website file: 1C/65).
  13. M. M. Phelon, "A Fragment" Lucifer 2.12 (August, 1888), 471-472.
  14. "Theosophical convention held in Chicago, April, 1890" Lucifer 6.31 (March 15, 1890), 345.
  15. "No Mourning or Words of Sorrow" New York Times February 26, 1896. Reproduced in Find A Grave Memorial 106902964.