Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 14, Vol. 2. Vernal Equinox 2008
Excerpts from Paschal Beverly Randolph’s Eulis!, and an Introduction to His Work
by Teresa Burns
Of all the magicians and esotericists associated with the nineteenth century occult revival, few were more simultaneously flamboyant, mysterious, villified, and popular than Paschal Beverly Randolph. His father may have been Edmund Randolph, the slave-owning governor of Virginia who was George Washington’s first Attorney General; or he may have been William Beverly Randolph of the same wealthy Virginia family; or an unknown “William Randon,” and/or a descendent of Pocahontas. His mother Flora Clark, depending on when the story is told, may have been a Black princess from Madagascar, a native-American, an abandoned African-American mistress of a wealthy white man, or all of the above.Orphaned at an early age, he grew up on the streets of New York City in the 1840s before re-emerging as part of the early American spiritualist movement. Soon an “M.D.” appeared after his name and the spiritualist became a physician whose specialty was sex. By the late 1860s he was “The Rosicrucian” who wrote about magic mirrors and founded the oldest Rosicrucian order in the United States, the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis; by 1873, after surviving a series of personal disasters, he published The New Mola, where he declares he will reveal the secret of the Ansairah priesthood of Syria.
The very next year, 1874, Randolph published his most famous work, Eulis!, which included a long treatise on “Affectional Alchemy.” The excerpts here are all published from that work. Randolph seemed to be trying to revive a “Brotherhood of Eulis,” styled after an initiatory process he likened to the Eleusinian Mysteries. His final two works, The Ansairetic Mystery and The Mysteries of Eulis, were distributed privately, presumably to Brotherhood members, but were published for the general public in 1997.
In his tour de force intellectual history of the eighteenth and nineteenth century occult revival in English-speaking countries, The Theosophical Enlightenment, Joscelyn Godwin says:
Randolph’s books, taken as a whole, contain the nineteenth century’s fullest compendium of practical magic: not the ceremonial kind found in Barrett’s Magus, nor the Ficinian and Kabbalistic kind compiled by Eliphas Levi, but magic presented without antique jargon as a way for modern men and women to increase their happiness and to control their lives. The essentials of his practical teaching are contained in Seership, which is on the use of magic mirrors to develop clairvoyance and other psychic powers, and in The Ansairetic Mysteries and Eulis, which is the longest of his sexual treatises. Both books would become fundamental documents of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.
John Patrick Deveney, in his preface to Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician, says:
In occult circles, where his name and works continue to be known, Randolph has become more of a myth than a man, the subject of much misinformation and vast conspiratorial theories. From the early 1860s on he was ‘The Rosicrucian,’ associated in the popular mind with crystal gazing, drugs (especially hashish), secret Oriental brotherhoods, and sex. He was infatuated with women from his earliest years, and also spent most of his mature life trying to improve the lot of women trapped in Victorian marriages by teaching his notions of true sexuality. Beyond this, however, and fundamentally he was a practical occultist and a sexual magician, with a coherent and imaginative view of the universal role of sexuality. His work stands out strongly from the antiquarian compilations of the armchair occult theoreticians of the era and from the secondhand platitudes of the spiritualist movement from which he emerged. He was the forerunner of modern occultism and it was to him more than to anyone else that the transformation of the occult world from the 1870s through the 1890s is due.
Why, then, did he wind up nearly forgotten? Certainly his race was one reason—even while the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor used and revised some of his writings, Madame Blavatsky and others referred to him as the “Nigger.” Gustave Meyrink, who thought enough of Randolph to translate one of his novels into German, used the same term. Randolph himself said that much of what he knew was dismissed until he labeled it “Rosicrucian”: “Early in life I discovered that the fact of my ancestry on one side, being what they were, was an effetual estopa1 on my preferment and advancement, usefulness and influence. I became famous, but never popular. I studied Rosicrucianism, found it suggestive, and loved its mysticisms. So I called myself ‘The Rosicrucian’, and gave my thought to the world as Rosicrucian thought; and lo! the world greeted with loud applause what it supposed had its origin and birth elsewhere than in the soul of P. B. Randolph.”
Through the 1860s, Randolph was heavily involved in the Abolitionist movement; he dedicated a book to Abraham Lincoln and was, according to some, Lincoln’s friend. After Lincoln’s assassination he was one of those accompanying the body west on the train, but was asked to get off because of his race. For all of Randolph’s struggles against injustice, one might suppose he would appear in history books only a few lines below Frederick Douglas, and arguably Randolph was the second most well-known African American man in the United States. Like Douglas, he was an Abolitionist; like Douglas, he sought to improve the economic status of southern Blacks through education; like Douglas, he spoke up for women’s rights.
The Abolitionist movement and spiritualism went hand-in-hand, so the problem for those closest to him wasn’t Randolph’s occult beliefs. It was that he seemed to make enemies very easily, even among the communities he was trying to help. Also, while both men were writers, today Douglas’s prose, in works like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, sounds very modern compared to that of Randolph, and most readers’ views of race and gender today are more similar to that of Douglas. While Randolph was a fiery anti-slavery speaker, he prose is full of whole passages discussing the innate differences between people based on their race, nationality, hair color, or eye color; his attitudes in these cases often seem more similar to those of the whites who made racial slurs against him than those of his political allies like Douglas. He is at pains to say he is a descendent of the “Queen of Madagascar” and “not a drop of continental African, or true Negro blood runs through me,” though he quickly adds that it wouldn’t matter if there were.
Similarly, while Randolph’s defense of women runs throughout his work, and while his celebration of love and sexuality as a cure for all ills seems a revolutionary thought for white Victorians, he has very fixed ideas about gender roles. Though he came of age in the New York spiritualism communities where views on the spirit world were intermingled with ideas ranging from free love, socialism, feminism, vegetarianism, natural cures, and tax reform, he would recant spiritualism and free love by the late 1850s, after journeying through the English and French occult circles. (Frederick Douglas, meanwhile, would be nominated by another spiritualist feminist, Victoria Woodhull, to be her vice-presidential candidate when she became the first woman to run for U.S. President in 1872.)
In England, as Randolph performed as a spiritualist and public trance speaker, he says he “became acquainted with a few reputed Rosicrucians” who included Hargrave Jennings, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Kenneth McKenzie and others. He became interested in crystal scrying, and became the correspondent of many others who would revive a “Rosicrucianism” based on arcane European and English texts in ways Randolph’s never would be. He met and for many years corresponded with Frederick Hockley, who had his own John Dee and Edward Kelley style of scrying set-up; he befriended Emma Harding Britten, who later formed the “Orphic Circle.” Then Randolph went to France, where depending upon the account, he met everyone from Eliphas Levi to Napoleon III.
Looking for a moment of the different accounts of his encounter with Levi will show the problem with trying to piece together a history of Paschal Beverly Randolph from the accounts of other esotericists. R.S. Clymer, in his colorful but hard-to-swallow history entitled The Rosicrucian raternity in America (1928), devotes many pages to Randolph’s time in France, and informs us that during this time, “Napolean ruled over the life F of the nation, while Levi ruled its mind. In his own right Randolph himself was a ruler. His knowledge was frequently considered incredible for a mortal. He was aware that the three—Napoleon, Levi, and himself—were to meet in order to fulfill the Karma of previous incarnations.” And indeed, says Clymer, this happens. Soon Clymer relays an amazing story reputedly from Levi, where Levi recounts a series of accurate predictions about his life given by Randolph, and Randolph’s vision of Levi as Appollonius of Tyana.
Unfortunately, this almost certainly never happened. Levi’s reported evocation of Appollonius of Tyana occurred in England in 1854, while Randolph was still in the United States.
But before we dismiss all of the rest of the Randolph stories with this one, consider the problem Randolph presents: he mixes with almost all of the men and women associated with starting different esoteric secret societies in the United States. He writes the only detailed book on magic mirrors in his time period; ties scrying with sex-magic, then shifts to another topic before anyone catches up. Most of the late nineteenth century esoteric orders, save those he founded, don’t claim him, and its nearly impossible to separate out what is due to racism and what is due to Randolph’s erratic behavior or how much the first caused the second. Most of what we have in writing is sheer gossip, most of it full of errors. For instance, no one knows for sure why Randolph and Madame Blavatsky developed a sudden, pointed hatred for each other. Some say they had a telepathic connection Blavatsky detested; many recount their “magickal duel” that supposedly caused Randolph’s death by suicide. Writers from Meyrink to Ayton – but notably, all white writers -- recount the ways this duel took place: usually it involves a magickal pistol and Blavatsky turning Randolph’s “Black Magic” back upon himself so he commits suicide. Yet in many other places Randolph writes against “Black Magic.”
In his biography of Randolph, John Deveney recounts different versions of this “occult duel” that supposedly led to Randolph’s shooting himself, and says that “even in the kindest light” many of the details must be wrong, such as reports of Blavatsky actually “firing” the pistol from India (she was not in India until several years after Randolph died.) Meanwhile, when later HBL writing warns against using sexual magic for power and suggests it will drive one to delusion, one manuscript adds that Randolph’s suicide was an example of “the calamitous consequences of imperfect initiation.”
Yet beneath the swirl of personality, it is easy to see clear connections between Randolph and those orders who are not comfortable with him. Writers from Rene Guenon to Deveney to Godwin have suggested that one of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor’s primary antecedents was Randolph’s “Brotherhood of Eulis.” When Randolph begins writing on love, “affectional alchemy,” and sexual magic in the 1870s and claims to have found the true secret of Eulis in an initiatory society in the near East, he ads: “Many will suspect from our true name — BROTHERHOOD OF EULIS —that we really mean “Eleusis,” and they are not far wrong. The Eleusinian Philosophers (with whom Jesus is reputed to have studied) were philosophers of Sex; and the Eleusinian Mysteries were mysteries thereof.” The word Eulis seems to most likely come from Greek êôs—meaning, depending on context, dawn, daybreak, life, the East, or even Êôs, the Goddess of Dawn, whose name is hidden in Christian “Easter.”
The first grade of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor Order was Grade of Eulis, and the HBL circulated Randolph’s manuscripts, even while warning that Randolph himself was only “half-initiated.” The Brotherhood of Luxor as Blavatsky describes it, “with all its Near Eastern echoes, appears to bear a closer resemblance to Randolph’s Rosicrucians than it does to her own later Indian or Tibetan mahatmas.” The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor’s close resemblance to the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light has been noted by many; because of this, and because of OTO co-founder Karl Kellner’s association with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, Francis King suggests that the most “immediate source” of Kellner’s rituals seems to have been a group of European followers of the American occultist P.B. Randolph.”
Having Randolph’s “Mysteries of Eulis,” rather than a collection of antiquarian texts, as one of the bases of revived Rosicrucianism, calls many of Rosicrucianism’s very definitions into question. If Paschal Beverly Randolph was indeed the "Supreme Grand Master" of the Rosicrucian Order, as he and later Clymer said he was, doesn’t that make Rosicrucianism “descend” from the Eleusian, or Anserietic, or some other Mysteries, rather than from a mystical Christian Rosenkreutz or three European manifestos. . . or does his Rosicrucianism “descend” from anything in the physical world at all? The argument is most bizarely illustrated by the early twentieth century battles between the two main American Rosicrucian groups, headed by H. Spencer Lewis and Reuben Swinburne Clymer. Clymer, as we’ve seen, considers Randolph the Supreme Grand Master, and attacks Lewis’s Rosicrucians for, among other things, their connection to the O.T.O. Meanwhile the Societas Rosicrucian in Anglia, many of whose early members were one-time Randolph correspondents, stays conspicuously silent, though its one-time head, Golden Dawn co-founder W.W. Westcott, moved in the same circles as Mackenzie, Hockley, Yarker, and of course, Randolph. The only surviving copy of Randolph’s Mysteries of Eulis comes from Jonathan Yarker.
Where does “The Rosicrucian” say about the origin of his Order? Here is Randolph’s answer, from the “Affectional Alchemy” section of Eulis!:
I am induced to say thus much in order to disabuse the public mind relative to Rosicrucianism, which is but one of our outer doors—and which was not originated by Christian Rosencrux; but merely revived, and replanted in Europe by him subsequent to his return from oriental lands, whither, like myself and hundreds of others, he went for initiation.
Clymer, RS 1935-1936, The Rosicrucian Fraternity in America; Authentic and Spurious Organizations .. Library edn, Pa., Rosicrucian Foundation, Quakertown.
Cranston, SL 1993, HPB : The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement, Putnam, NY.
Deveney, JP 1997, Astral Projection or Liberation of the Double and the Work of the Early Theosophical Society, Theosophical History, Fullerton, CA.
Deveney, JP 1997, Paschal Beverly Randolph : A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY.
Godwin, J, Chanel, C& Deveney, JP 1995, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor : Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism, Weiser Books, York Beach, Me.
Gutierrez, C 2005, The Occult in Nineteenth-Century America, Davies Group, Aurora, CO.
Hermes Trismegistus & Randolph, PB 1871, Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus; His Divine Pymander. Also, the Asistic Mystery, the Smaragdine Table and the Song of Brahm, Rosicrucian Pub. Co., Boston, MA.
King, F 1970, Ritual Magic in England, 1887 to the Present Day. Spearman, London.
McIntosh, C 1997, The Rosicrucians : The History, Mythology, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order, 3rd rev. edn, Weiser Books, York Beach, ME.
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Monroe, JW 2008, Laboratories of Faith: Mesmerism, Spiritism, and Occultism in Modern France, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.
Randolph, PB 1992, Magia Sexualis : Die Sexualmagischen Lehren der Bruderschaft von Eulis, Dt. Erstausg edn, Ed. Ananael, Wien.
Randolph, PB 1969, Magia Sexualis, Le Prat, Paris.
Randolph, PB 1874, Eulis! the History of Love, Randolph Pub. Co, Toledo, OH.
Randolph, PB 1873, The New Mola! The secret of mediumship; a hand book of white magic, magnetism and clairvoyance. The new doctrine of mixed identities! Rules for obtaining the phenomena, and the celebrated rules of Asgill, a physician's legacy, and the Ansairetic mystery, P.B. Randolph, Publisher, Toledo, OH.
Randolph, PB 1869, Love and its hidden history. A book for man, woman, wives, husbands, and for the loving and the unloved .. 4th ed. entirely rewritten edn, W. White and Co, Boston, MA.
Randolph, PB & Clymer, RS 1930, Seership, guide to soul sight; a practical guide for those who aspire to develop the vision of the soul; the magic mirror and how to use it, The Confederation of Initiates, Quakertown, PA.
Randolph, PB & Clymer, RS 1930, Eulis! Affectional alchemy; the history of love: its wondrous magic, chemistry, rules, laws, moods, modes and rationale. Being the third revelation of soul and sex and a reply to "Why is man immortal?", The Confederation of Initiates, Quakertown, PA.
Randolph, PB& Meyrink, G 1922, Dhoula Bel; ein Rosenkreuzer-Roman, Rikola, Wien.
Scarborough, S. 2001, "The Influence of Egypt on the Modern Western
Mystery Tradition: The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor", Journal
of the Western Mystery Tradition, vol. 1, no. Autumnal Equinox 2001.
 Randolph, Rosicrucian Confession.
 See "Join Brotherhood of Eulis".