Paschal Beverly Randolph

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Paschal Beverly Randolph

Paschal Beverly Randolph (October 8, 1825 – July 29, 1875) was an American medical doctor, occultist, Spiritualist, trance medium, and writer. Randolph is notable as perhaps the first person to introduce the principles of sex magic to North America, and, according to A. E. Waite, establishing the earliest known Rosicrucian order in the United States.

H. P. Blavatsky's Collected Writings vol. 3 published the following biography:

Randolph, Paschal Beverly. American Negro, b. in New York City, October 8, 1825. His mother, Flora, was said by him to, have been the granddaughter of “a born Queen of Madagascar”; she died in the Bellevue almshouse in New York about 1832. His father is said to have been William Beverly Randolph “of the Randolphs of Virginia.” Paschal was raised for a time by his half-sister Harriet, then fell into the hands of “a ci-devant English actress” and “her husband--on the European plan--who drove her to the sale of her charms to supply the domestic exchequer.” He received less than a year of formal schooling before fifteen; in his seventeenth year “got religion at a revival meeting” and “lost it that same night for a pretty girl . . .” Went to sea for about five years; then entered apprenticeship as a dyer; worked also as a barber, and became a convert to Roman Catholicism. Investigated Spiritualism in its earliest stages and became a trance medium. Went to England in 1853 and again in 1857 where he delivered addresses allegedly inspired by Sir Humphrey Davy and other illustrious men. Became acquainted with Hargrave Jennings who introduced him to such students of Rosicrucianism as Bulwer-Lytton and Kenneth R. H. MacKenzie. In 1858 he announced his “conversion to Christianity” and denounced Spiritualism and mediumship as “slavery worse than Southern bondage.”

In 1861, Paschal visited Paris where he became acquainted with a few reputed Rosicrucians and “after sounding their depths found the water very shallow and very muddy--as had been the case with those I met in London--Bulwer, Jennings, Wilson, Belfedt, Archer, Corvaj a and other pretended adepts . . .” He studied for a while with Eliphas Lévi and became a mesmeric subject for the great magnetist Baron Dupotet; so remarkable were these experiments in clairvoyance, that he was summoned to the Tuileries by command of Napolen III. The same and the following year, he visited Asia Minor and the Middle East. “I have,” he wrote, “been over Egypt and Syria and Turkey; on the borders of the Caspian and Arabia’s shores, over sterile steppes and weltered through the deserts--and all in search of the loftier knowledge of the soul that could only there be found . . .” In Egypt, according to his own claim, he became a neophyte and entered the “Gate of Light,” beyond which stood the “Door of the Dawn,” and beyond it “The Dome” or what “in the Orient is known among its members as The Mountain.” He declared his spiritual “Chief” to be a Persian.

At this point, Randolph settled in Boston, assuming the title of “Dr.” and entered into the practice of medicine, in which he had done “much reading.” On the side, he put his energies into the propagation of his “Rosicrucian doctrines.” His first published work appears to have been The Grand Secret, a treatise on “the Affectional Nature” published under the pseudonym of “Count de St. Leon.” His next work, Pre-Adamite Man, Demonstrating the Existence of the Human Race upon this Earth 100,000 Years Ago, claimed more attention and went through three printings in the first eight months (2nd ed., New York, 1863; 4th ed., 1869). Other books embodying his ideas are: ‘Dealings with the Dead, etc. Utica, 1861-62, pp. 268; Ravalette, the Rosicrucian’s Story, Utica, 1863, and Quakertown, 1939; After Death, or Disembodied Mare, 2nd ed., Boston, 1868; 4th ed., 1873; Love and its Hidden History, etc. (under the pseudonym of Count de St. Leon), 4th ed., Boston, 1869; 5th ed., 1870; Seership, Boston, 1870, and Toledo, 1892 & 1930; Eulis, etc., 2nd ed., Toledo, 1874; 5th ed., Quakertown, 1930.

In his writings, despite all the chaff and fantastic claims, one finds evidence that Randolph was an American pioneer propagandist in reasserting the power of the Will, the validity of Magic and of ancient philosophies over the chaotic burgeoning of mid-Nineteenth Century psychism. He dwells at length on the perfecting of conscious control in the phenomena of “mental telegraphy,” the projection “of an image of oneself” and detection of the “images” of others. He writes of spiritual beings from other planets, of creatures of the elements, the mysteries of the human aura, and alludes to seven universes, each with seven counterparts, making forty-nine in all. Throughout all of these there is progress, transmigration and reincarnation, not only of the “inhabitants of the countless myriads of worlds in this material or aromal universe, but also the material and aromal worlds themselves . . . By aromal worlds I mean the aerial globes that attend each planet . . . Every world and assemblage of worlds is periodically reduced by exhaustion, but at enormously long intervals, into chaos, and is then reformed or created anew . . .” Though calling these ideas “Rosicrucianism,” Randolph said that he borrowed “nothing from anyone,” and that the system was his own.

Aside from his literary endeavors, Randolph sought to spread his beliefs by “initiation work” in “lodges,” styling himself “Supreme Hierarch,” “Grand Templar,” “Hierarch of the Triple Order of Rosicrucia, Pythiana and Eulis, for North America and the Islands of the Seas.” This “Third Temple” he declared to be a successor to the “Second or Oriental Temple” which had fallen into decay, and traced this line of centers back to 5,600 B.C. After a number of similar efforts, all his lodges were dissolved in 1874 “by reason of treason.” At a later date, some of his organizational work was revived for a time by a Dr. W. P. Phelan as the “Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor,” which H. P. B. warned against.

In 1861, Randolph had experienced some remarkable trance visions which were to determine the future course of his life, and his death. Ever afterwards he claimed to be attended by “visible and invisible shapes,” representatives, on the one hand, of what he called “the Order of Light,” and, on the other, of “the Order of the Shadow”--contesting for his allegiance, “tempting, nearly ruining, and as often saving me from dangers worse than death itself.”

On July 29, 1875, this erratic genius died at Toledo, Ohio, and the coroner’s verdict was suicide.[1]

Additional resources

  • Deveney, John Patrick. Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician (Suny Series, Western Esoteric Traditions). State University of New York Press, 1996.
  • Bennett, Chris. "The Hidden Hash Master of the 19th Century: Paschal Beverly Randolph," in Cannabis Culture website. November 12, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2017.

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. III (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 518-521.