Sunday, February 11, 2007

Black History Month; P.B. Randolph

Paschal Beverly Randolph (P.B. Randolph) was a 19th Century magickian, a spiritualist and founder of the Rosicrucian movement in the United Sates.

Like Paul Lafargue he was a mulatto but one who initially denied his Negro roots.

( 8 Oct. 1825 - 29 July 1875 ), physician, philosopher, and author, was born in New York City , the son of William Beverly Randolph, a plantation owner, and Flora Beverly, a barmaid. At the age of five or seven Randolph lost his mother to smallpox, and with her the only love he had known. Randolph later stated, "I was born in love, of a loving mother, and what she felt, that I lived." His father's devotion is questionable. In 1873 Randolph hinted at his own illegitimacy, stating that his parents "did not stop to pay fees to the justice or to the priest."

Randolph 's mother possessed a strong temperament, unusual physical beauty, and intense passions, characteristics that Randolph inherited. Later many, especially his enemies, perceived Randolph as being of "Negro descent," which he denied. Sent to live with his half-sister, Randolph was ignored, unloved, and abused and eventually turned to begging on the streets.

Being born in New York to a 'free black' woman, his reluctance to be considered a Negro at the time is understandable. And since his upbringing was in the time and area of the Gangs of New York, plagued by nativism as it was, it is also understandable.

But by the time of the Civil War he was an outspoken advocate of Negro Rights.

Born poor and of mixed race in 1825 and raised (more or less) by prostitutes in the Five Points slum of New York, Randolph was self-educated and prickly proud. Creating himself, he picked and chose just how "black " to be. He could de-emphasize his African heritage in the face of prejudice--after his suicide, a newspaper said he was "part Spaniard, and inherited all the suspicious distrusting qualities of the people of that nationality. " At other times, he emphasized it, as during his Civil War Black Nationalist phase, when he worked briefly as a teacher for the short-lived Freedman 's Bureau, an agency designed to educate freed slaves but only halfheartedly supported by the federal government.

Yet when some Northerners advocated a scheme to ship freed slaves to Africa, Randolph, speaking for the slaves, emphasized "American: " "We men of color were born here; so were our fathers and mothers down a long line of ancestry....Are all our sufferings to be rewarded by our removal to African deserts and barbaric climes and places?...No! Never! Here is our home, and here we mean to stay, and on this soil will die, and in it be buried. "

And like Lafargue he was an internationalist, traveling and training as well as lecturing in Europe. As with many in the occult movement of the 19th Century he was a social reformer. And like his contemporary Virginia Woodhull, Mrs. Satan, he was an advocate of womens rights and Free Love.

Randolph is to be remembered for his philosophical works on love, marriage, and womanhood. He provided new and unique insight into the then taboo world of sexual love. He aided the education, rights, and equality of both women and blacks. He foresaw the evils of tobacco and drug abuse. Finally, Randolph, through his position as the Americas' first Supreme Grand Master of the Fraternitas Rosæ Crucis, directly or indirectly touched the lives of more than 200,000 neophytes (students) comprising the Fraternitas and other Rosicrucian orders.

P.B. Randolph 's life story demonstrates also how reform-minded American Spiritualism turned into "occultism. " Spiritualism was well-intentioned, "scientific " but also passive, linked to social reform (early feminism, the abolition of slavery) but also to faddishness, most notably "free love, " which could, depending on who was talking, mean anything from a partnership of equals to mere spouse-swapping. ( "You and I were meant to be soul mates. ") Occultism, on the other hand, is individualistic, rooted in personal development and self-improvement, and generally not connected to any social or political philosophy.

With the democratic decline in Europe after the revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune secret societies were formed for the purposes of pursuing democratic as well as socialist revolution. In England and the Commonwealth they were formed for the purposes of pursuing trade unionism which had been banned as an illegal combination.

That secret societies should form for finding and revealing secret knowledge, was thus a natural outgrowth of this period and was coincidental with the growth and popularity of fraternal orders after the Civil War in America and across Europe.

His patron both in Spiritualism as well as getting him work with Lincoln was Colonel Ethan A. Hitchcock, a noted military officer as well as practicing alchemist. Like other occultists, John Dee comes to mind, he too was also a spy. The secrecy of the occult overlaps with the secret society of intelligence gathering. They share a similar cosmological outlook that is the search for hidden or secret knowledge.

As happens in the Occult community, as in the political one, sectarian differences are frequent and lead to rivalries and mutual denunciations. Such was the case with P. B. Randolph, who is credited with founding the Rosicrucian movement in the United States.

He faced attack by rivals for hegemony over the occult movement in America denouncing him for his Luciferian ideas from the likes of Madam Blavatsky and her Theosophists and from the white supremacist founder of the American Scottish Right of Freemasonry; Albert Pike. Ironic because both of them are also accused of being Luciferians.

Such is the case of 19th Century occult wars not only in America but in Europe where again competing orders of Rosicrucian's charged and counter charged each other as being in league with Lucifer.

The Luciferian charge comes about from Randolph's advocacy of free love, which was also embraced by American Anarchists at the time. His theories were outlined in his book
Eulis and in his other famous treatise; Magia Sexualis

Today we would call his practices sex therapy, where he discussed sexual dysfunction with his patients, and as a Doctor he practiced mesermism, the passing of hands over the body to affect the magnetic energies. He also advocated the tantra practice of heightened sensuality by controlling the male orgasm and ejaculation.
In 1870 he founded the Order of Eulis, which kept its teachings
secret because of the sex and drugs. Some people must've talked,
though: H. P. Blavatsky denounced Randolph as immoral, a charge also
leveled at the Luciferian Freemason Sir Albert Pike. An occult war
followed. In 1872 his "Rosicrucian Rooms" were raided by police and
he was jailed for distributing "Free Love" literature. Fires,
robberies, and disease followed, and on July 29, 1975, he shot
himself. His friends and followers claimed that Blavatsky's curses
had nailed him. Blavatsky founded the philosophical society the same

By the 1870s many of Randolph's writings dealt with
occult aspects of love and sexuality.

Randolph, as a physician, also counseled many of his patients on matters of
family relations, marital bliss and the art of love. These acts of kindness and
concern were sometimes taken as conduct condoning "free love."

In February 1872, he was arrested and imprisoned for promoting
"free love" or immorality. Although acquitted of all charges, as it was discovered in
court that the indictment was merely a clever attempt by former
business partners (now enemies) to obtain his book copyrights, Randolph
never recovered from the humiliation of the proceeding.

Although dying at age 49, Randolph was a prolific writer, producing many books
and pamphlets on love, health, mysticism and the occult.

And further confusion was sown with his initiation into a mystical Gnostic cult from Syria/Iraq which mistakenly has been associated with the Yezedi.

The Yezedi created a sensation amongst some 19th Century scholars who had finally discovered a genuine devil worshiping cult. And the devil they worshiped was Lucifer.

Despite my best googling efforts the only references I could find to Ansaireh is that referred back to the region in Syria/Iraq which is named after a Mountain.

Gertrude Bell in her diary refers to visiting the region
and the Yezedi who dwelled there. Which may have been the reason the author of the introduction to Magica Sexualis thought Randolph had been initiated into their religious teachings.

During his journeys to Paris, Pascal became aware of several works which were being published in France and Germany dealing with the Ansaireth or Nusairis of Syria. 25 There was much discussion, in the Rosicrucian circles that Randolph traveled in, of the purity and sublimity of the teachings of the Ansaireh. Books by Niebuhr, M. Catafago, Victor Langlois and others told of these mysterious hill dwellers in Northern Syria who were neither Jews, Christians or Muslims. They may well have been the people that modern anthropology has identified as the Yezidi, the devotees of the Peucock god, Melek Ta'aus.

PBR tells how the chief of the Ansaireth, Narek El Gebel, arrived at the Rosicrucian Third Dome in Paris with letters of introduction and then, recognizing Randolph's abilities and character, invited him to come to Syria and to study with the Ansaireth. Randolph went to Syria and was initiated into the Ansairetic Brotherhood. Upon his return to America, he established the Priesthood of Aeth based on the Ansairetic Mysteries

There were a variety of Christian and Islamic sects in the region. Including the Druze and Nusairis and one of the last surviving gnostic sects the Mandaens. As well as Kurds and Yezedi, Sabians all of whom faced persecution from the Turks for being dhimmis.

In another part of this Consular District there seems to have been little change from the old times of rapine and bloodshed in Turkey. I allude to the Ansaireh mountains, stretching from the valley of the Orontes to Mount Lebanon. On a late occasion a member of the Medjlis of Tripoli, passing through a Christian village in pursuit of the revolted Ansaireh, set fire to it, and, when the inhabitants conveyed their moveable property of value into their Church (…), it was broken open and plundered. This case, with many others equally abominable, of simultaneous occurrence, was laid before Her Majesty’s Consul General for Syria, the perpetrators of the outrages being under the jurisdiction of the Pasha of Beyrouth, and will thus have already come under Your Excellency’s notice. (Aleppo, 31st March, 1859; FO 78/1452 (No. 11), Skene to Bulwer, Constantinople)

The author of the introduction to Magica Sexualis is mistaken in associating the Ansairth with the Yezedi. As I said the Yezedi at the time had become somewhat of a sensation amongst certain Christian religious and historical scholars. And the Nusairis refer to an Islamic Shi'a Sunni sect.

Randolphs Rosicrucian Order and his fellow occultists of the time were fascinated with the recent discoveries of Gnosticism and the Gnostic's. Finding a living Gnostic religion which offered initiation would have been more in keeping with their occult traditions.

I suspect Randolph had been initiated into the the mystery religion of the Mandaens. Whose followers were in the same region of Syria at the time.

Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the ubba (singular ubbī). Likewise, their Muslim neighbors will refer to them collectively as the Sabians (Arabic al-Ṣābiʾūn), in reference to the Ṣabians of the Qur'an. Occasionally, the Mandaeans are also called the "Christians of St. John" (a misnomer, since they are not Christians by any standard), based upon preliminary reports made by members of the Barefoot Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century.

Other groups which have been identified with the Mandaeans include the "Nasoraeans" described by Epiphanius and the Dositheans mentioned by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion. Ibn al-Nadim also mentions a group called the Mughtasila, "the self-ablutionists," who may be identified with one or the other of these groups. The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms.

The similarity of beliefs about healthy living, not eating meat, avoiding tobacco, reincarnation and sexuality strike me as Mandaean rather than Yezedi.

According to E.S. Drower in the introduction to The Secret Adam, Mandaeans believe in marriage and procreation, and in the importance of leading an ethical and moral lifestyle in this world, placing a high priority upon family life. Consequently, Mandaeans do not practice celibacy or asceticism. Mandaeans will, however, abstain from strong drink and red meat. While they agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.

The Rosicrucian movement he founded still exists today publishing his works;

SEERSHIP; Guide to Soul Sight

The importance of Randolph cannot be underestimated. His works influenced later magickal and occult practitioners including Eliphas Levi as well as the Ordo Templi Orientis in particular Theodore Reuss and Aleister Crowley.

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