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Le Défi magique, volume 1

François Laplantine
Jean-Baptiste Martin

Aux origines de l'ésotérisme Américain

Paschal Beverly Randolph: America’s pioneer occultist

J. Gordon Melton


Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) est le pionnier et théoricien américain de l’Occulte. Pendant le troisième quart du XIXe siècle, il a écrit plus de vingt livres et a développé une nouvelle forme de Rosicrucianisme. Dès sa jeunesse il a développé sa perspective unique d’un engagement dans le spiritualisme et la magie. Sa pensée occulte était basée sur un concept de Volonté et il a rejeté l’emploi des médiums parce que celui-ci se fait au moyen d’une perte de volonté d’un médium passif. Randolph est plus connu cependant pour avoir développé une théorie de la sexualité occulte qui a son origine dans sa vie professionnelle de médecin qui se spécialisait dans les désordres sexuels. Ses opinions mûries ont été intégrées dans une compréhension de l’anatomie occulte de la nature triple de l'être humain comme Ame, Esprit et Corps. Dans le procès de l’attraction sexuelle, le corps produit un liquide, qu’il a nommé l’Amour Physique, qui est le secret de la santé sexuelle et du bonheur. Les dernières années de la vie de Randolph sont ponctuées de désastres - un procès, pour l’amour libre, un incendie dévastateur, et enfin un suicide. Ces événements, surtout le suicide, ont été cause que beaucoup de ses contemporains ont dénigré ses contributions, malgré le fait que sa pensée se soit continuée dans le travail de la Fraternité Rosicrucienne, la plus ancienne des organisations rosicruciennes actives en Amérique du Nord.

Texte intégral

1Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875), now almost totally forgotten, was the pioneer occult theorist in North America. During the third quarter of the nineteenth century, he authored more than 20 hooks in which he developed the basic perspective of Rosicrucianism, the first modern magical/occult system in North America. Randolph grew to maturity just as the initial tide of Spiritualist fervor swept across the United States. He began involved in Spiritualist experimentation and then used the new movement as a foil against which to articulate his system as an alternative. The popular response his writing received led to the building of the first Rosicrucian movement in North America and provided a base upon which Theosophy would later develop. A contemporary of French occultist Eliphas Levi, Randolph occupies the same position in North America that Levi has in Europe vis-a-vis the development of the modern occult perspective.

2This paper is offered as a report of research in process. It represents an initial attempt to put together the biographical fragments of Randolph’s life into a coherent picture and to begin the exploration of some of the primary themes in Randolph’s writings. To date no real biographical work on Randolph has been done, and apart from copies at the headquarters of the Fraternity he founded, no set of his writings has yet been assembled. The few who have written upon him have left behind a morass of contradictory observations about his life and work, a situation even more complicated by the issuance in the 1930s of a book purporting to be by Randolph.

1. Early life

3Randolph was born on October 8, 1825, in New York City, the product of a liaison between Edmund Randolph, of the Virginia Randolphs, and Flora Beverly, a black woman. Paschal’s mother had previously married and at the time of the affair with Randolph was raising a daughter by her husband. He had left home, however, and disappeared years before young Paschal’s birth. She developed a relationship with Paschal’s father believing her husband dead. Shortly after Paschal’s birth, her husband reappeared for a time, very much alive, but seemingly not ready to assume his fatherly role. Paschal’s parentage presented him with the first obstacle in his life. Defined as a Negro by society, he continually had to find ways around the social ostracism to which he was subjected. While binding under the yoke of his social assignment to a low racial status, at times he gave yeoman services to his race as when he spent three years in New Orleans teaching recently freed slaves, but for the majority of his life he simply denied his African heritage, claiming a radically mixed parentage and his mother’s background in Madagascan royalty. In his autobiography he offers a typical apologetic:

  • 1 The Rose Cross Order (Allentown, PA: The Philosophical Publishing Co., 1916): 36. Most of the biog (...)

My peculiar characteristics have usually been attributed to a strain of blood not a drop of which flows in my veins for I, being tawny of hue, am taken for half-breed Indian, Lascar, East India man, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, and I know not what else. The facts are that on one side directly, the blood of the Randolphs bounds, – a fiery torrent, along the veins; Caucasian, aboriginal, and the darker side strain mingling therewith is the royal blood, fresh from the veins of the Queen of Madagascar. Not a drop of continental African, or pure Negro blood runs through me. Not that it were a disgrace were it true, but truth is truth1.

  • 2 Paschal Beverly Randolph, Ravalette: the Rosicrucian’s story (Quakertown, The Philosophical Publis (...)

4At other times he suggests his mother was of Moorish lineage, a descendent of the Cid2.

  • 3 Ibid., 80.

5There is no reason to believe that Randolph ever met his aristocratic father. He was raised by his mother at the lower end of the economic scale in Manhattan. Unfortunately, his mother died from the small pox when he was around seven3 and the young Paschal was cared for briefly by his older half sister Harriet before being taken in by Harriet Jennings Whitehead, part-time actress and occasional prostitute. His unhappy years in the Whitehead household only came to an end when at the age of 16 he left home and took to the sea on the Phoebe out of New Bedford. He had attained little formal education but learned to read and write and supplemented his meager learning by avid reading.

  • 4 Eclectism was the outgrowth of the system of natural remedies originally proposed by Samuel Thomps (...)

6Randolph briefly flirted with Christianity during his seventeenth year, but dropped it in favor of his first mature relationship with a young woman in which he lost his virginity. His sea carer ended in 1846 when an accident forced him to return to land. He made his living for a time as a barber while attaining some medical training and settling down as an eclectic physician4.

7Spiritualism was born during Randolph's years at sea and spread quickly across a nation already familiar with the phenomena of the magnetists. In 1847 Andrew Jackson Davis, whose thought dominated the movement in the nineteenth century, released his first book, The Principles of Nature, and launched his periodical, The Univercoelum. The first volume of The Great Harmonia, the volumes of which defined Spiritualism intellectually, appeared in 1850. Davis relied heavily upon the books of Swedish seer Emanuel Swedenborg, the one person other than the alchemists who had constructed a popular esoteric system. Swedenborgians had established churches across antebellum America and the Church of the New Jerusalem provided an initial core of people to respond to the new Spiritualist impulse.

2. Randolph as Rosicrucian

8The 1850s was both the most important decade and a somewhat obscure period during which time Randolph satured himself with the occult teachings available to him and began to construct his own mature occult system. The period was punctuated by two trips to Europe first in 1854 with a return visit in 1858. On the 1854 trip he claims to have met Eliphas Levi and began his relationship with the European Rosicrucian. In 1858 he was made Grand Master of the Western World, and following his return to the United States, in 1861 he founded the First Grand Lodge of Fraternitas Rosicruciania, the first of the modern open-membership Rosicrucian groups. The Rosicrucian Fraternity thus predates the masonic Rosicrucian Society in Anglia founded by Robert Wentworth Little in England by four years.

  • 5 Paschal Beverly Randolph, The Book of the Triplicate Order (San Francisco, CA: Woman's publishing (...)
  • 6 The Rose Cross Order, op. cit., 189.

9The exact history of Randolph’s flirtation with Rosicrucianism is not clear. In his last book, Randolph claimed that he became the Supreme Hierarch of the Rosicrucian Fraternity on September 5, 1846, the year he was forced to retire from his life as a sailor5. This claim would push its founding to essentially the same time Spiritualism began. At one point, his twentieth century successor, R. Swinburne Climer, claimed the order was founded as early as 18526. It is more likely that he became familiar with the idea of Rosicrucianism quite early and flirted with the idea through the decade, but only in 1861 did he take steps to formally organize the Fraternity. It is also the case that the order was dissolved and became moribund on several occasions. It had to be reorganized after Randolph settled in Boston in 1871 and again in 1874 in San Francisco.

  • 7 Later reprinted as Soul! The Soul-world: the Homes of the Dead (Quakertown, PA: the Confederation (...)
  • 8 Paschal Beverly Randolph, The Unveiling, or what I think of Spiritualism (Newburyport, MA: the aut (...)
  • 9 Paschal Beverly Randolph, Eulis: Affectional Alchemy (Quakertown, PA: Confederation o Initiates, 1 (...)
  • 10 Randolph edited some of the Hermetic writings in Hermes Mercurius Trimegistus; His Divine Pymander (...)

10In his early book, Dealing with the Dead7, Randolph also suggests that through the 1850s he was still very much in the period of his intellectual growth. He experimented with Spiritualism and devoted his time to consideration of questions of the afterlife (the subject of his first independent publication, a pamphlet on Spiritualism8) At the same time he flirted with a host of philosophical options and only settled on Rosicrucianism following an intense and disturbing vision that occurred on the evening of February 3, 1861. On that evening, as he had done on many occasions, he entered a transe-like state. Only this time he found himself amid a «vast and boundless Chaos». A skeleton hanging from a pole appeared before him and claimed to be the result of Randolph’s childhood intense if fleeting desire to hang a storekeeper who had reacted angrily at the actions of Randolph and his childhood friends. The skeleton condemned Randolph a murderer, the thought of crime being as great as doing in for the soul of the perpetrator. Randolph understood the spectre to be the result of his never forgiving the shopkeeper. The vision took its place beside the other incidents from his life from which he derived a strong belief in the accepting personal responsibility for his own actions. In any case, his relatively brief meetings with European Rosicrucians and occultists offered little content with which to work. One looks in vain, for example, for hints of Levi’s unique thoughts, or the influence of the other Europeans who had taken the same Rosicrucian outlook. Randolph, himself, reflecting on these years notes, «Very nearly all that I have given as a Rosicrucian originated in my Soul; and scare a single thought, only suggestions, have I borrowed those who in ages past called themselves by that name»9. That is to say, while Randolph met and possibly derived his authority from the French Rosicrucians, he constructed his Rosicrucianism from his own experience and the materials available to him in North America (including Swedenborg, the Spiritualists, and the Hermetic writings10) and drew less than might at first be thought from any prior Rosicrucian wisdom.

11In September of 1861, as the Civil War raged, Randolph arrived in California for a two-month lecture tour. An outstanding orator, he amazed his audience by allowing them to suggest topics upon which he would then extemporize for the next hour. While there, on November 5, he founded the First Supreme Grand Lodge of the Rosicrucian Fraternity. During his months in San Francisco, he earned his living as a physician. With his long-time friend John Pilkington, he published his next two books, The Grand Secret, his first book on sexuality, and Dealing with the Dead (later issued as Soul, The Soul World), in which he proposes his alternative to Spiritualism. Immediately following his stay in California, he left on a foreign tour that took him to a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East. His stay in Palestine would be the intellectual highlight of the visit abroad. He made contact with the Ansariah, a mystical Middle Eastern sect which he frequently mentions as a source of his teachings.

12Upon his return in 1862 he settled in Boston and recruited black soldiers from the Union Army. The immediate literary product of his trip was PreAdamic Man (1862) in which he suggested an alternative to the traditional biblical history. It was soon followed by Ravelette, the Rosicrucian Story, a semi-autobiographical account of his visit to France and encounter with the Rosicrucians there. The appearance of Ravelette, provides the first public documentation of his carer as a Rosicrucian.

  • 11 Paschal Beverly Randolph, Eulis: Affectional Alchemy (Quakertown, PA: Confederation of Initiates, (...)

13In Ravelette, Randolph recounts the story/legend of «Dhoula Bel, the King and the Stranger»11. At first, it seems a simple children’s story, or possibly the outline for a romantic movie. A king of ancient Madagascar had a beautiful daughter. He had decided that only the man who would answer a riddle he had concocted would be allowed to marry her. Suitors were asked, «What are the three most desirable things beneath the sun, that are not the sun, yet dwell within the sun?» Those unable to give the correct answer were put to death. A young man heard the riddle propounded and meditated upon it for many months. His place for contemplation was near the palace, a spot where he could be observed without his knowing it by the princess. The young man would break his contemplations on the riddle with songs he composed about the princess. The singing of the songs not only created an intense infatuation within him, but the princess secretly observing him and hearing the songs also fell deeply in love.

14One day the young man dropped into a deep sleep during which three bits of information appeared. First he saw an inscription with the word «Try». At the same moment he heard the words, «There is no difficulty to him who truly wills». Finally, he was also given the solution to the riddle. Thus when he awoke he presented himself as a candidate for the princess’hand. He told the king that the three desirable things where Life, Light and Love and the king accepted his answer as correct. A wedding feast was announced.

  • 12 Ibid., 86.

15However, as soon as the king was alone, his vizier, Dhoula Bel, who had been hoping that his own son might one day marry the princess, soured the king against the young man by pointing out that the young man had solved the riddle by sorcery. The king, enraged, plotted with the vizier to have the young man arrested and quietly killed. The execution occurred that very evening. In the wake of his death, spectral voices appeared to pronounce a curse on the king and vizier. The voice suggested that they and the young man would continually reappear (reincarnate) on the earthly scene. It will be job of the vizier to tempt the king in some manner in each life and be foiled when the young, designated the stranger, would appear to foil the plot. This drama would be replayed until «a son of Adam shall wed with a daughter of Ish (i.e., one not of Adam’s race), or thou, king, in one of the phases of thy being, shall love, and be truly, fully loved again, and for thyself alone»12.

16The story had several important consequences for Randolph. He adopted the inscription «Try» as the watchword of the Rosicrucians, while the sentence heard the by the young man became the Rosicrucian motto, «There is no difficulty to him who truly wills». The story also confirmed Randolph's belief that what today are called «altered states of consciousness» had an important role in assisting one’s contact with the invisible realms of life.

17Most important for his mature thought, Randolph was convinced that the story was literally true and that he was a participant in this story. He believed himself to be the reincarnation of the king, and felt that the vizier Dhoula Bel still haunted him and that his only hope was his union with a daughter of Ish, a non-human. The story, while supporting his work as a Rosicrucian, provided an explanation for most of the difficulties he experienced in life. Though he constantly railed against those who hurt him throughout his life, the story provided him with a reason to submit to his fate.

18At some point in his life Randolph had made the acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln, and in 1864, at Lincoln’s request, he traveled to New Orleans and took up work educating the many recently freed slaves. He was dedicated to his work though facing the hostile occupied white residents proved a traumatic experience. His life was threatened on several occasions and he slept with a revolver on his bed. He finally resigned in July of 1866 to return to his writing, the first product being After Death, his next book on Spiritualist themes. He also continued his public work by becoming a delegate to the 1866 Southern Loyalist Convention, a gathering of anti-Andrew Johnson forces who favored more radical, less conciliatory policies towards the defeated South. However, at the convention and especially in the symbolic trek across the North to Lincoln’s tomb following the convention, Randolph ran squarely into the racial prejudice of the other delegates who treated him as a black man. His experience drove him out of politics and back into medicine. He returned to Boston and opened a practice specializing in sexual disorders. He also open a Rosicrucian center on Boyslon Street, though he did not reorganize the Grand Supreme Lodge until 1871 (presumably with the students he trained during his Boston years).

3. Randolph’s Alternative to Spiritualism

19In his earliest writings, especially Dealing With the Dead (1861-62) and After Death (1868), Randolph spelled out some of his differences with the Spiritualists, whose literature formed a significant part of his self-education. He did so as somewhat of a family quarrel, in that many of the people who bought and read his books were those who had been swept up in the enthusiasm of the movement and were participating in its activities. His own views, growing out of psychic experiences that began in childhood, would eventually lead him away from Spiritualism to a totally different view of human life, its origins, purpose and destiny, but in his early works he enunciated some of the more compelling points of difference.

  • 13 Ibid., 89.

20Randolph’s differences with Spiritualism began with his critique of mediumship, through which Spiritualists claimed to make their contact with the afterlife. To Randolph, Will was a central concept and the exercise of the Will basic to the life he was advocating. However, he found trance mediums successful to the degree that their «Will is vacated»13. They functioned as an impersonal machine, and were subject to the changing influences around them at any given moment. As a result their teachings were inconsistent and their life energy was easily vampirized by both the living and the dead. He proposed in its stead the practice of blending, which he thought of as active mediumship. Randolph described blending one soul approaching another soul and identifying with that soul through an intense desire and volition. This process allows one to know, see, feel, and act from the position of the other. He developed and tested his abilities at great length in this regard with the spirit of one Cynthia, a young woman of whom he was quite fond, who had died at an early age. Through the process of blending he allowed her to give an account to his readers of the true nature of the afterlife.

  • 14 Soul!, op. cit., 106-107.

21As a detailed picture of the afterlife emerged, it differed greatly from the popular Spiritualist heaven, and Randolph put aside the Spiritualist idea of Summerland, a place in which spirits were believed to survive and which was seen as very much like earth. In contrast he asserted, «... the two worlds – earthly and spiritual – were in scarce any one thing alike, as had been taught by those books upon the subject I had lost so much valuable time in reading...»14. They are so different, in fact, that language must be stretched to the limit to communicate the reality of the spiritual world.

22Randolph’s works would range over the broad field covered by Spiritualism and psychic experience. He described the afterlife in great detail and explored the process of clairvoyance. He also tried to relate various psychic processes to the body and its health. Hovever, the teachings for which Randolph is most remembered were his observations on sexuality. These were taken up into the inner core of the advanced teaching of the Rosicrucian Fraternity. Looking back, in the light of the emergence of newer sexually-oriented occult groups, Randolph’s teachings become of outmost importance as one of the fountainheads of modern occultism.

4. Occult sexuality

  • 15 Paschal Beverly Randolph, After Death: The Immortality of Man (Quakertown, PA: Philosophical Publi (...)

23A popular writer in his own day, Randolph was best known for his work on sexuality. His perspective brought together his physician’s concern for the well-being of his patients, many of whom suffered from what he described as sexual disorders, and his maturing Rosicrucian system. He dates his concern with sexual problems to 1854 and his discovery of the problems which follow the practice of masturbation. Said practice «saps the vitality of soul, body, mind, and morals...»15. At that time he noted that «respectable practitioners» would not touch sexual disorders in spite of the fact that many suffer them.

  • 16 On the controversy see Taylor Stroehr, Free love in America: A Documentary History (New York: AMS (...)

24Randolph’s concern with sexuality must be understood against the background of the mid-nineteenth century «free love» controversy16. Free love ideas were effectively placed before the public in 1852 with the publication of Marx Edgeworth Lazarus’Love and Marriage. Lazarus, writing against a context of communalist experiments in alternative family patterns, argued that monogamous marriage had degenerated into a system of legalized slavery and prostitution. His option to monogamy was a multiplicity of loves. Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune published an initial favorable review which drew a hostile reply from the Presbyterian Observer and launched a most entertaining debate between the two papers. The book called attention to Modern Times, a free love community on Long Island founded in 1851, a member of which, Stephen Pearl Andrews, joined the debate.

  • 17 Andrew Jackson Davis, Answers to Ever-Recurring Questions from the People (Boston: Banner of Light (...)

25Quite early in the debate, some Spiritualism were identified with free love, and many in the public began to brand tar all Spiritualists with free love feathers. The convergence of the two movements had been set up by the life and writings of Andrew Jackson Davis. Early in his career, Davis had proposed the concept of spiritual affinities, the idea that men and women should seek a mate who was their spiritual counterpart. Davis advocated a thesis about spiritual affinities based upon an understanding of love as a «higher and more tranquil bliss, when heart communes with heart; when two souls unite in one, like mingling dew-drops on a rose, that scarcely touch the flower, but mirror the heavens in their little orbs, when perfect love transforms two souls, either man’s or woman’s, each in the other’s image; when one heart beats in two bosoms, one spirit speaks with a divided tongue...» He adds that when, «...the same soul is eloquent in mutual eyes – there is a rapture, deep, serene, heartfelt, and abiding, in this mysterious fellow – feeling with a congenial soul, which puts to shame the cold sympahy of Matter, and the ecstatic but short-lived bliss of Genius in his high and burning hour»17.

  • 18 Andrew Jackson Davis, The Harmonial Philosophy (Chicago: Advanced Thought Pub. Co.,n.d.): 300.

26Building on the idea of spiritual affinities, Davis reached the notion of true marriage based upon the «mutual conjugal attraction between two souls». In such attraction there would be perfect satisfaction. He believed every individual was born married, that «every male and female has a true and eternal companion, depending upon the spontaneous conjunction of affinities, of principle with principle and spirit with spirit»18. Observing the society around him, however, Davis concluded that rarely were his contemporaries married to their spiritual counterpart. It proved to be the case of his own situation. He found his true mate in the person of a married woman, Mary Robinson Love. Their relationship, her divorce and loss of custody of her children, and their eventual mariage in 1855 became a public scandal for Spiritualism and cost Davis the friendship of several colleagues, including that of Thomas Lake Harris, and some of his popular support. In the wake of the scandal, Davis felt called upon not only to defend his own ideas but to go further and distinguish that part of the movement he represented from the small groups who supported free love. He argued against multiple partners with much the same passion he decried the unhappy marriages he saw around him. The first dissipated the self, the later killed love. He held out, instead, for the discovery of one’s true spiritual affinity with whom one could have an eternal (and monogamous) marriage.

27Davis also began to examine questions of sexuality and to articulate an occult sexuality within the larger perspective on love and social relationship between the sexes. Davis was a pantheist. As he put it, «The outer universe is a visible manifestation of the Indwelling Deity. Nature is the body, God is the soul». Nature manifests at all levels on the principles of Male and Female, even to the atomic level. Every element, every atom, is integrally positive (male) and negative (female). The male is equaled by the female. They are different in constitution, but equal in essentials and attributes.

  • 19 Andrew Jackson Davis, The Harmonial Philosophy (Chicago: Advanced Tought Pub. Co., n.d.): 300.

28Davis’ attempt to distance himself from the free love movement kept him from dealing with many of the questions central to the debates. He only began, for example, to construct an occult anatomy. In a somewhat obscure passage in The Harmonial Philosophy19, he tied sexuality to the blood. Within the blood (of both men and women), suggests Davis, there is an essence which, spiritualized by the action of the mind acting upon the nervous system, is transformed into the ultimate «spermatic essence» which becomes on the one hand the source of intellectual creativity and on the other leads to the propagation of the race. He considered the improper expenditure of this love essence as great sin, an opinion which not only undergirded his opinion about various types of sexual activity, but made him an early opponent of abortion.

29Through attention to the sexual problems of his patients, Randolph found his calling in life. Through the 1850s he had made his living as an eclectic physician. He le moved towards his specialization in the first instance from his negative reaction to the free love idea. He believed that many of the practices advocated by the free love movement actually led to the dissipation of the physical body and indirectly promoted masturbation, that most evil of vices. He equally opposed the Shakers, who renounced physical sex, claiming lack of sexual activity did much the same kind of physical harm as libertinism. He also found that most of his colleagues were reluctant to treat the numerous sexual disorders they encountered and that the few who did treat them were incompetent. To assist in his practice, Randolph developed a line of botanical elixirs and, for his day, a unique and forward-looking understanding of sexual problems. His practice provided the content of his early book, The Grand Secret; or, Physical Love and Health and Disease, published in the winter 1861-62 by his colleague Dr. Pilkington, another eclectic physician with whom he briefly shared a practice in California in the early 1860s, and who became an early adherent of the Rosicrucian Fraternity.

  • 20 Eulis!, op. cit., 58.

30Randolph’s interest in sexuality was accelerated at some point in one of his trips abroad, probably in 1861-62, he recounts an occurrence, in the Middle East during 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». He then discussed his discovery with some local wise men and learned a little more, but he also pursued the subject by himself, and eventually discovered on his own «the ELIXIR OF LIFE: the Universal solvent, or celestial Alkahest; the water of beauty and perpetual youth, and the Philosopher’s Stone»20.

  • 21 Grand Secret, op. cit., 29.

31Randolph’s discoveries gave him insight that the problems of the bedroom were largely due to physical illness, a malfunctioning in two organs, the male’s prostate gland and the female’s glands of Duvernay. He believed, there being nothing which could be called scientific verification, that from the arterial blood and the nervous fluids the two organs secreted a particular fluid. That fluid, which he named Physical Love, was the secret of sexual health and happiness. Any obstacle to the production of the Physical Love fluid by either male or female produces problems in their relationship. If the production of Physical Love fluid was a widespread problem among the populous (which he believed he was) the moral of the whole community was jeopardized. As a physician, Randolph prescribed his herbal medicines to treat the conditions blocking the production of Physical Love. He also used what he termed «Love Cure» a practice mixing massage with mesmerism, and not unlike a mother holding and stroking a hurting child21.

32As a maturing Rosicrucian, Randolph’s integrated his ideas about sexuality into an occult anatomy which both reflected upon his practice and became embodied in the inner teaching of the Rosicrucian Fraternity. Randolph taught that humans had a triplicate nature as Soul, Spirit and Body and in each action is moved by impulses from each aspect of the self. All three are needed, especially in the sexual realm. Squelching one or the other led to the excesses of the Oneida on the one hand or the Shakers on the others. In both cases Physical Love is wasted. However, properly produced, Physical Love changes from a fluid to an aura which radiates from the body much as heat radiates from a stove. In the sick, the Love aura is lacking and ultimately they become psychic vampires, sucking up the energy of others.

  • 22 Ibid., 54-55.

33The proper production and use of Physical Love had one significant problem. Its regular production in the marriage bed led to unwanted pregnancies. The primary alternative used at the time, coitus interruptus, proposed a generation earlier by Robert Dale, wasted the Physical Love fluid, thus Randolph proposed a second alternative. While denouncing the social system at Oneida, Randolph had to admit they had discovered an important secret, coitus reservatus (later reappearing under various names such as Dianaism, magnetation, and karezza). The practical aspect of the «grand secret» starts with the separation of the amative aspect of sexual relations from the propagative22. He le argued that it was a simple technique to learn, as Oneida and the British members of the Abode of Agape had demonstrated. While not publishing the details of the technique (because of legal restraints) he would give or mail instructions to any individual asking for them. Randolph thus may have been the first to actually publish and circulate instructions on coitus reservatus to the general public.

34Randolph carried his teachings through a decade of writing. Sexuality was the central theme of Love and Its Hidden History (1869) and Love! At Last! (1870), both written during his years as a physician in Boston, but some further reflections upon it appear in almost every volume he wrote. In 1872 this lifetime of work encountered the growing reaction in the culture to the open discussion of sexuality and the advocacy of alternative sexual practices. On February 24, a Saturday afternoon, with a warrant to seek copies of written materials in «free-love», four men searched Randolph’s appartment, took copies of his books and unpublished manuscripts, and arrested him. He was charged with being the author of obscene literature. The judge who examined the literature declared it not obscene and released him on the following Monday. However his troubles were not over. Several weeks later he was arrested again and charged with debauching and demoralizing the country by publishing books leading people to adopt free love perspectives. In April, he stood trial, and unable to afford an attorney, defended himself. His eloquence proved decisive, and he was found not guilty. Among his defenders were Sheldon Beaumont, a prominent advocate of free-love, who testified that Randolph had never been considered a fellow-traveler of the movement.

35While hurt by the trial and several bad business deals associated with it, Randolph was financially ruined by the Boston Fire in November 1872 in which he lost what remained of his material possessions. He moved to Toledo, Ohio, and returned to his medical practice, later spending some time in San Francisco. In 1874 he published his most important book, and final statement on sexuality, Eulis! The History of Love, and later in the year, in San Francisco, he and John Pilkington reorganized the Rosicrucians for the third time.

36Eulis! (republished in the twentieth century as Affectional Alchemy) represents his final public statement of his Rosicrucian sexual teachings. Over the years he had altered his views on some topics, for example he now condemned coitus reservatus as a practice and offered other methods of birth control, including the rhythm method. In Eulis! he would set forth his understanding of the Elixir of Life, though in somewhat veiled words. His revelation, if that is the proper term, was that magnetism was the subtle connecting link between body and Soul. He pictured the Soul as a glowing diamond-like sphere located at the center of the encephalon, the area of the brain where its three parts come. The Soul’s power is Love, and comes directly from God.

  • 23 Eulis!, op. cit., 101.

37To Randolph, while the Soul is located in the brain, its active seat is in the prostate gland of the male and the uterus for the female. Properly performed, the sexual act is a mingling and exchange of the female and male magnetic energies23. Essential to the sexual act, is the realization of the triplicate nature of humanity as Soul, Spirit and Body. The action of all three aspects keeps the act from becoming merely a moment of lust or a boring duty.

5. Randolph's fate

38In his many books, Randolph painted a picture of himself as a man victimized from birth. Despised for his parentage, orphaned as a child, no formal education, victimized by unscrupulous partners, he continually overcame obstacles to rise again. However, in the end despair overcame him and on July 29, 1875, he took his own life with a single shot through the head. He had been married just the year previously and it was his hope that their infant son Osiris Budha Randolph would someday become the new Hierarch of the Supreme Grand Lodge. His son remained in Toledo, eventually graduated from the local medical college, and established a practice in town. He continued to live with his mother for many years. There is no evidence that he participated actively in the organization. The order, reorganized again in 1895, was revitalized early in the twentieth century under the leadership of R. Swinburne Clymer.

  • 24 See the introduction to the 1932 edition of Randolph’s Soul! The Soul World: The Homes of the Dead (...)

39Having pioneered so much, however, did his ideas survive outside of the relatively small group of members of the Fraternity he founded? That remains an unanswered question. There have been claims that his sexual teachings spread through Europe and provided material for the development of several of the magical orders, most importantly, the Ordo Templi Orientis. There has been, to date, no document presented to substantiate that claim. That Randolph’s teachings were known in Europe is demonstrated by the publication in 1931 of a book under Randolph’s name, Magia Sexualis. The volume was immediately denounced by Clymer24, who claimed that it took a little of two of Randolph's books Eulis! and Seership (especially the section on magic mirrors) and added large portions from other sources. Clymer claimed that the sources of the sexual teachings were, in fact, taken from a book published in India entitled Sexual Happiness. In any case, the sexual teachings in Magia Sexualis are quite foreign to Randolph.

40At the very least Randolph’s teachings, like many Rosicrucians, flowed into the Theosophical Society founded the year of his death. Blavatsky used the unfortunate circumstances of his death to denigrate his teachings, even as she took over many of them. Bits and pieces of his works would provide material for other occultists. Randolph was the first to publish details on the construction of the magic mirror and others would later write their own descriptions based upon his. It is suggested that, as the process of examination of nineteenth and twentieth century occult writing continues, Randolph’s works will proved to be the hidden source of a significant percentage.


1 The Rose Cross Order (Allentown, PA: The Philosophical Publishing Co., 1916): 36. Most of the biographical materials in this article, except where otherwise noted, come from The Rose Cross article which reprinted Randolph's brief autobiography along with other material on his life.

2 Paschal Beverly Randolph, Ravalette: the Rosicrucian’s story (Quakertown, The Philosophical Publishing Co., 1939): 76.

3 Ibid., 80.

4 Eclectism was the outgrowth of the system of natural remedies originally proposed by Samuel Thompson in the early nineteenth century. It became quite popular in the last half of the century and survived in the twentieth century as naturopath.

5 Paschal Beverly Randolph, The Book of the Triplicate Order (San Francisco, CA: Woman's publishing Co.’s Print, 1875): 21. This pamphlet was reprinted in J. Gordon Melton, ed., Rosicrucianism in America (New York: Garland publishing, 1990).

6 The Rose Cross Order, op. cit., 189.

7 Later reprinted as Soul! The Soul-world: the Homes of the Dead (Quakertown, PA: the Confederation of Initiates, 1932): 65-67.

8 Paschal Beverly Randolph, The Unveiling, or what I think of Spiritualism (Newburyport, MA: the author, 1860): 72 pp.

9 Paschal Beverly Randolph, Eulis: Affectional Alchemy (Quakertown, PA: Confederation o Initiates, 1930): 57.

10 Randolph edited some of the Hermetic writings in Hermes Mercurius Trimegistus; His Divine Pymander (Boston, MA: Rosicrucian Publishing Company, 1971).

11 Paschal Beverly Randolph, Eulis: Affectional Alchemy (Quakertown, PA: Confederation of Initiates, 1930): 57.

12 Ibid., 86.

13 Ibid., 89.

14 Soul!, op. cit., 106-107.

15 Paschal Beverly Randolph, After Death: The Immortality of Man (Quakertown, PA: Philosophical Publishing Co., 19701: 151.

16 On the controversy see Taylor Stroehr, Free love in America: A Documentary History (New York: AMS Press, 1979).

17 Andrew Jackson Davis, Answers to Ever-Recurring Questions from the People (Boston: Banner of Light Publishing Company, 1862): 265.

18 Andrew Jackson Davis, The Harmonial Philosophy (Chicago: Advanced Thought Pub. Co.,n.d.): 300.

19 Andrew Jackson Davis, The Harmonial Philosophy (Chicago: Advanced Tought Pub. Co., n.d.): 300.

20 Eulis!, op. cit., 58.

21 Grand Secret, op. cit., 29.

22 Ibid., 54-55.

23 Eulis!, op. cit., 101.

24 See the introduction to the 1932 edition of Randolph’s Soul! The Soul World: The Homes of the Dead (Quakertown, PA: The Confederation of Initiates, 1932): 13-14.


University of California, Santa Barbara.

© Presses universitaires de Lyon, 1994

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