Mishkan ha-Echad

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mediums and the Golden Dawn

Something that comes as a surprise to many when first approaching the Golden Dawn system is the prohibition against mediums, which was one of only a handful of things overtly frowned upon by the founders of the Order.

Of course, in modern groups this point might not be apparent, and in some cases the rule might not apply at all, but the original Order was very clear that mediumship was not permitted. In one of the early preliminary pledge forms that Candidates were required to sign, there was the following:

"The Chiefs of the Order do not care to accept as Candidates any persons accustomed to submit themselves as Mediums to the Experiments of Hypnotism, Mesmerism, or Spiritualism; or who habitually allow themselves to fall into a completely passive condition of Will; also they disapprove of the methods made use of as a rule in such Experiments."

This is explicit, criticising not only mediums themselves, but the manner in which they work. This is important, as the Golden Dawn tended to see such activities as a perversion of the Occult Science, a dangerous watering down of truer occult principles.

The Order did, of course, make use of esoteric practices that many would see as being similar to that of Spiritualism, such as the use of the Ring and Disc or the Tripod in the Theoricus Adeptus Minor sub-grade. The former bears some resemblance to the infamous Ouija Board, using a specially created Ring to douse above a complex Disc of numbers, symbols and letters in English, Coptic and Hebrew. The latter is clearly related to the popular performance of "table tipping," employing a special three-legged table and one or more operators. 

If the parallel was not clear enough from the teachings of the grade, a paper on the Tripod describes the true occult performance as having been degraded by a growing phenomenon of the time, stating that it was "in recent years revived in a mistaken form among the Uninitiated under the title of Spiritualism and Table Turning."

The Victorian era of the Golden Dawn was also shared with the rise and peak of Spiritualism, which popularised the notion of séances and mediumship. To real magicians of great knowledge and experience this must have been harrowing to watch, in much the same was as the New Age movement or TV mediums are to modern magi.

But given that the Golden Dawn employed strikingly similar practises, on the surface, in some of its later teachings, what exactly is it about mediumship that is not tolerated? The key is passivity and the inherent danger and lack of knowledge and proper protocol employed in such activities.

Firstly, the medium opens up to whatever is out there, hoping to contact the dead, and yet not knowing if they will, and if what has been contacted is not their own subconscious, the wrong spirit, or something a little more sinister. It is epitomised in the phrase: "Is there anyone there?"

This is not the approach of the magician. The magician does not invite all and sundry into his or her temple in the hopes that something true and good shows up, but sets out with a goal in mind, selecting a spirit in question, employing its name, challenging it with various tests, and getting rid of it when desired or required.

These tests and the ability to banish are important, so much so that the Golden Dawn taught the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram from the beginning, to Neophytes who would have to go through many more grades before beginning proper practical magical work.

The medium, however, usually lacks these safety measures. Not only do they call whatever is "out there" forth, they do not have any means to test what, if anything, shows up. There are no names or symbols or signs, no way to avoid self-delusion or the illusion of external beings.

The Golden Dawn advised safety regularly, not only teaching many ways to practise occultism in a balanced and safe manner, but coding in safeguards into the system itself. In the teachings on the Ring and Disc and the Tripod Mathers frequently warns of self-deception and obsession, offering various recommendations to limit this danger.

Yet the medium does not have these tools at their disposal, does not know how to deal with the force called upon, can merely open a door and not be certain of the ability to close it. Thus the first Power of the Sphinx, which must precede the others, is missing—and it is Knowledge.

And so a medium would be unable to truly join a Golden Dawn order, for they would immediately break their Oath, which states:

"I will not suffer myself to be hypnotised, or mesmerised, nor will I place myself in such a passive state that any uninitiated person, power, or being may cause me to lose control of my thoughts, words or actions."

The medium, who lets a spirit talk through them, would be unable to abide by this pledge, and such passivity is not what magic is about. While the Candidate of an initiation ceremony needs to be passive enough for the ritual to be successful, that is a far cry from the dangerous operation of handing over the reins to a spirit, especially a spirit that the medium knows next to nothing, or literally nothing, about.

The prohibition against mediumship was, therefore, not merely a product of the time period, but a genuine disapproval of unsafe occult practices made by those without the appropriate knowledge and experience to render the risks negligible. As such, it applies as much today as it did in the late 19th Century.


Unknown said...

Yep and Samuel and Mina would have to resign from the order immediately along with most of the Second Order. As you rightly say the techniques of the GD were so similar that no one could have spotted the difference. If you pop up onto the astral you are being partly passive to what you see, even when someone is reading a pathworking. The Flying Rolls have examples of things which can only be described as mediumship. I was told that this clause was used to deal with hypnotism because they terrified that someone could be hypnotised to reveal their passwords. Certainly this point was clarified in later adaptions of the oath used by the later Golden Dawn (and the AO and SM) specifically stating that they will not allow themselves to be PLACED under a trance so that an UNINITIATED PERSON" may take control of their will. So it was ok to do be a medium so long as you were doing Golden Dawn things. You just could not be hypnotised by someone who was not in the Order. In any event the GD changed from that particular stance comparatively quickly.

Frater Yechidah said...

I strongly disagree with your views on this. I believe my post was very clear on what differentiates mediumship from GD techniques - lack of knowledge, testing, and safety protocols.

The prohibition is not against passivity in general, but in being so passive that one can be easily manipulated and controlled. Visiting the astral plane is not the same as letting someone or something control your thoughts, words, or actions. It boggles my mind why you consider these to be similar.

In a pathworking a person is being receptive, not exactly passive, and again the comparison to mediumship is erroneous.

I would be interested in seeing what you think is an example of mediumship in the Flying Rolls.

The oath mentions "uninitiated person, power or being," or in the case of the SM, "uninitiated person or power," because it would be extremely harsh to consider a newly initiated Neophyte to have broken his or her oath if, for example, a higher power influenced them or their thoughts, words or actions (this is, of course, not to condone such manipulation, but to not punish someone unduly for something beyond their ability).

I'm not sure where you get the idea that the GD changed its views on this "comparatively quickly." The Oath in Regardie's book mentions this, as do several Whare Ra copies of the 0=0, and the ThAM paper mentioned comes from the AO in the 1920s.


Peregrin said...

Hi Dean, Thanks. You present one standard Golden Dawn view on the matter very well. :) Indeed, if it was all as you write, I would agree with you on every point. However, as I've written about a few times in the past, I do not think this is the whole story.

Yes, there are clear indications the original GD folk did not want mediums. Many of them did not want gay folk either, and could easily come up with magical reasons why it was as dangerous as mediumship – like the concept of electric and magnetic areas in the body, showing that anal sex would result in a short--circuit in the etheric.

What I am saying is things need to be looked at in context.

From a magical perspective what you write here, seems correct. However, a strict following of this means it wipes off all Wiccans from joining the Golden Dawn, as they practice Drawing Down the Moon (and Sun). In fact, any divine inebriation requires deep passivity –does this means Christian mystics are out too?

The crux of the matter is the phrase ‘uninitiated person or force’. You see this as being included to ensure Neophytes are not breaking their oaths. No offence, but that seems a little thin. I think it is a clue to the whole thing. The key is whether the force we are passive or open to is ‘initiated’ – that is, of the higher, divine forces, not if they/it have been paraded around in a black robe and red slippers.

Ritual initiation requires passivity to initiated forces – yes in a different manner, but still passivity. When I was taught certain processes by my teacher, I was being passive to his initiated force.

To me the main idea behind the injunctions quoted was to stop folk who engage in DANGEROUS spiritual practices entering the GD. If all mediums were practicing as you suggest, I would agree we should continue this Victorian rule-set in the 21st century.

I think the reality is a little different. No personal offence Dean, maybe they do things differently in Ireland, but you are not describing the mediums I am aware of. A few maybe, the dodgy and silly ones that are on at the fag-end of the evening in a bad spiritualist church, when no one is listening. They don’t last long. I mean, let’s look at what you say:

They “open up to whatever is out there, hoping to contact the dead, and yet not knowing if they will, and if what has been contacted is not their own subconscious, the wrong spirit, or something a little more sinister.”

“they do not have any means to test what, if anything, shows up.”

So, are these mediums simply stupid or mad? They’ve all heard this criticism before. It’s not like you could go up to a medium, get them to read this post, and they’d go “oh, yeah, I’ve been a dick for 40 years after all – lucky I wasn’t possessed”. I do not think most mediums are stupid or mad; they know what they are doing. And again, the key is in the concept of ‘initiated force’.

All good mediums work through a single control being. This being is contacted first in the evening, nearly always after periods of prayer and/or meditation. They KNOW this being, who functions as gate keeper and protector of the whole evening. They have worked with this being for years, sometimes since childhood. They have a relationship with this being far deeper than most GD folk have with our interior allies. And many mediums will freely acknowledge that even if the being talks like a human being from a past period, it could easily be an angelic force. Many know it is.

So the medium is NOT passive to an uninitiated person or force. They have their own methods of centring, grounding, prayer, protection and testing. I agree they are not as elaborate or as systematic as the GD. But then again, most GD magicians have as much mediumistic ability as a wet tea bag. This is why folk like Dion Fortune and Alan Richardson have promoted the idea of the two schools learning from each other.

So, personally, I think we need to be careful on this, and some other GD injunctions. Thanks :)

Frater Yechidah said...

Thanks for the comment and counter-argument, Peregrin. You raise some good points.

Firstly, I am not aware of any official view the Order had against gay people. I do know that many members seemed to have a problem with Crowley's sexuality (and with sex in general), but Mathers was explicit that he believed the private lives of members were their own business. If you know of any particular injunction against gay people, I would be interested in hearing it - otherwise I think it unfair to compare an official order view on mediumship to the personal views of some members on gay people.

Mystical experience of the divine is not the same as mediumship. As you rightly point out, the key is uninitiated versus initiated. "Initiated" does not just mean they are members of the Order, but that they are of a higher order (afterall, it does mention "power or being").

I find the idea of comparing gnosis of the Divine to mediumship a little bizarre, to be honest. That said, there is definitely a distinct difference between the approach taken by the mystic and that taken by the magician. That is clear even in the Order's history, when people of different persuasions went separate ways.

I don't believe you understood my point about breaking the oath. The passage of the oath makes it clear that the prohibition is against an "uninitiated person, power or being." If it did not state this, any kind of influence from an initiated power (including the manipulations of an angelic entity, for example) would result in breaking the oath. This cannot be overlooked.

You are perhaps more clued into modern mediumship than I am, but I cannot say I have heard of this supposed testing that goes on from any of the mediums I have encountered. I am not saying that it does not exist, but clearly not all mediums are doing it, and even if they were, I still see much danger in these techniques (or lack of techniques).

Obviously there are different approaches taken by different mediums, with some performing direct channelling (which is where "lose control of my thoughts, words or actions" comes in), but even for those who use a spirit guide, how do they know the spirit is genuine? What are these tests you speak of? How did they meet this spirit in the first place? What made them decide to trust everything it says?

The issue is not passivity in general, but passivity that leads to someone or something else controlling the magician. There is one thing being receptive to spiritual experience (which is vital) and being so passive that you are not in control of yourself. In the former case you hold the bowl that is filled; in the latter you are the bowl that is filled, and it is held by someone or something else.

I get where you're coming from with your points on mediumship, but I simply do not agree on this topic. I believe it is a needlessly dangerous approach. The lack of knowledge and training required goes a long way to explaining why it is such a popular practice in the modern esoteric community.

Some modern GDers might want to endorse mediumship, but it seems to me to be abundantly clear that it was not tolerated in the Order's teachings - and for good reason.


Anonymous said...

I think some of the confusion might stem from the context, as Peregrin suggests, but primarily from the changes in our more modern understanding and definition of what Hypnosis is. From what I have read and learned, we now know that a hypnotist cannot control a person or make them do something against their will.

Mediumship is something completely different than hypnosis, as Dean points out.


Frater Yechidah said...

Good points, Kate.

I think the terminology has definitely taken on new meanings over the years, which certainly needs to be taken into consideration (especially in terms of hypnosis - arguably the GD founders would not have considered someone getting hypnotised to stop smoking, for example, as a violation of the Oath).


Unknown said...

The oath was changed as the Order progressed, the removal of the medium clause might have gone as more people mediumistic skills joined and pointed out how silly it was.
It is not clear when any change came, probably about the period that the second order was added and more information came from mediumistic sources.
Examples of mediumistic communication can be found in Flying Roll IV, but it is fairly clear that all the senior adept were seeking their own direct communication with the secret chiefs using mediumistic practices.
It is unlikely that Yeats could have agreed to an oath that banned mediums as he regularly attended seances and attempted mediumistic contact himself before joining the order. Later he tended to rely on his wife who was better at it. He was involved in direct communications with a spirit called Leo Africanus who he said worked like a medium's Control.
When we look at the historical transition of the oath, we can see that if mediumistic behaviour was frowned on in the early days it certainly was not by 1899. (I am assuming that you are using the 1893 manuscript of George Pollexfen). If so then things had changed by the later Golden Dawn period.

“I will not suffer myself to be hypnotised, or mesmerised nor will I place myself in such a passive state that any uninitiated person, power, or being may cause me to lose control of my thoughts words or actions”

8/8/1899 Isis Urania (York Collection identical to the one printed in Torrens page 78)

“Neither will I voluntarily permit myself to be placed in such a passive state or trance state that any uninitiated person, power, or being may cause me to lose control of my thoughts words or actions. Lest our secret knowledge be revealed through my neglect or error ”

1905 AO
Mathers' Last Secret page 50

“I solemnly promise not to suffer myself to be placed in such a state of Passivity that any uninitiated person might cause me to lose control of my thoughts words or actions”

1937 Bristol Temple SM
Regardie Golden Dawn Volume II Page 23

It would appear based on this that while mediumistic behaviour had become acceptable but allowing yourself to be hypnotised. The AO oath gives the clue as to why this was as the clause includes “Lest our secret knowledge be revealed through my neglect or error” which implies that the fear was that someone could use these techniques to find out passwords.
As Peregrine points out it is possible that at the time of writing Westcott believed that mediums remained completely passive. In fact they don't. Passive trance work does exist. This would have been seen by the British in Africa. This is closer to shamanistic techniques where you allow yourself to go into a trance using drum and chant to allow a being to take you over. But this is not the common technique of the mediums of the period (or now).
Also as the Second Order came about a non-mediumistic behaviour would prevent any communication with the secret chiefs, skrying on the astral, inner plane communications as these are broadly speaking mediumistic. Of course the Early Golden Dawn did not use inner plane temples but these would have been banned too.

Frater Yechidah said...

Hey Nick,

The Oath did indeed change, mostly in small ways, but the line about passivity has largely remained intact, even in the off-shoots.

However, I think you might be misunderstanding something. The first quote I gave in my post is from the preliminary pledge. This is different to the Oath taken in the ceremony, even though it covers many of the same points. It was signed before the Candidate underwent anything at all.

It is possible that the pledge forms of the later offshoots changed, and that this clause was removed, so it would be interesting to see copies of these. Until then, however, we can make no assumptions.

I'm afraid I don't see an example of mediumship in Flying Roll IV. It is really stretching things to compare skrying of a Tarot card to communication with the dead. I assume you are referencing the "state of reverie," but there is a big difference between a deep meditative state and the practise of mediumship.

One will also note the use of the grade signs, etc. to test the vision - which is a far safer practice than that of mediumship. And again, we are talking about a vision from a Tarot card, not communion with an untested spirit that might take control of the thoughts, words or actions of the medium.

For those reading this exchange, they can check the relevant Flying Roll here:


You suggest that the Order changed its mind on mediumship at the time of the Second Order's founding. I disagree, as the Theoricus Adeptus Minor paper I quoted from, which denigrates Spiritualism, shows otherwise. And that had not changed in the AO by the 1920s.

The phrase "lest our secret knowledge be revealed through my neglect or error" was in the original Oath, but appended to the passage about keeping the documents properly labelled and not lending them out without permission, etc.

As for Yeats' previous attendance of séances, etc., there is a big difference between attending a séance (which were very popular at the time) and being a medium, and what one did prior to joining the Order, or what one's wife did, with or without one's sanction, is of no relevance to the Oath. Yeats was not a medium.

That said, Georgie's automatic writing sessions show problems of misleading spirits. Deception is always a threat, even to the veteran magician, which is why testing and safety precautions are necessary, and why mediumship, in my and the original Order's eyes, just does not fit the bill.

It is possible, of course, that some members of the Order did not fully agree with the official Order view on mediumship, just as some modern GDers disagree, but that does not change the facts of history.


Anonymous said...

So the point is to not be "passive" but instead do things with active intentions? Both Nick and Dean seem to be saying this in different ways.

It is my understanding that the role of a medium, in a traditional sense, was to allow the spirit of another being to enter their own body (vessel). The medium thereby stepping aside and losing consciousness and sense of self.

That is different from scrying on the astral plane or even lucid dreaming, where the entire point is that you are *conscious* while in a dream-like state. So this would be where a *magician* differs from a *medium"? The same would be true if attempting to communicate with an inner dimensional part of Being. You are still awake during this process.

I haven't read the texts that you have, but this seems to be the gist that I gather from the discussion.


Jack Faust said...

Before I become annoyed and post a pointless retort on my own blog, I'd prefer to touch base with you, Mr. Wilson.

First, I liked your post. It's a good piece of historical information, relevant to my research. What I have failed to detect is how far your research goes into:
A. Mesmerism
B. Mediumship/Spiritual

Would you mind sharing what sources of information you consulted on those matters, especially regarding protections used in the early to late 19th century? It seems to me that you are unaware of a very large, very vast body of occultists who used both with their own systems prior to the formation of the Golden Dawn.

I'll be happy to say more after we've established whether you are merely commenting on the historical view, or maintaining your views based out of ignorance (which, honestly, I cannot fault you for).

Frater Yechidah said...

Hey Jack,

Thank you for your comment.

I would be happy to read a retort on this issue, particularly if it provides additional information I may not currently be aware of.

As to your questions, I barely touched upon Mesmerism in this post, as it primarily focuses on Mediumship as relating to the Spiritualist movement of the time. I don't pretend to be an expert on either, as they are not directly relevant to my interests here, but I have read bits and pieces here and there over the years, and have spoken to several people involved with, or claiming to be involved with, such practises. If there are any particularly good references you believe I should read on this topic, I am happy to accept a recommendation.


Jack Faust said...


Ah. Okay then. No problem. I'll start off. First of all, bisecting Mesmerism/Magnetism and Spiritualism doesn't work out in reality as well as theory because a number magicians made use of both as supplimental to their own systems. The most evident of this is Paschal Beverly Randolph, whose system I've been digesting piecemeal (along with other texts) over the last year or two. Randolph did, more or less, cut ties with the Spiritualist movement after it degraded into charlatanism. His "The Unveiling: Or, My Thoughts On Spiritualism" discusses some of the dangers and what the magician must do to keep from being over-run from the problems you identify. "The Magnetic Mirror" is a treatise on mirror magick, Mesmerism, and has a good deal of Spiritualism's underpinnings involved in it. In it, he stresses that the Will is to be maintained AT ALL TIMES (this is an idea which even Mesmerists in the late 18th century discuss, such as Deleuze in his "Practical Instructions on Mesmerism") even when passivity is occurring. His "Mageia Sexualis" has practical techniques for formulating and building the Will to use with his system.

However, "The Magnetic Mirror" makes it clear that one tactic the magician is going to engage in is to hop onto the astral and directly discuss matters with dead magicians. If you wish, I'd be happy to quote it. In fact, I plan to quote extracts from it in an upcoming blog entry. (Other Mesmerism texts have me distracted at the moment and slowing down.)

There are a few notes to be made, here: first, Paschal doesn't always directly source the Spiritualist and Mesmer-based thoughts, so one is also forced to consult the works of individuals like Kardec ("The Spirits Book" & "The Medium's Book") for more information on Spiritualism, or Mesmer or Deleuze for Mesmerism. Texts of such nature were abundant in his day, and I assume he figured that anyone with an interest would do their own research, but that is just my impression.

Now, Paschal makes it clear that Spiritualism and Mesmerism were both being over-run with problems around 1850. He draws off sources like William Gregory, Md.'s "Animal Magnetism or Mesmerism and Its Phenomena" (my version is from 1884). The aforementioned text was written by a Magnetist for the Spiritualists, and has a lot of trials, dangers, and ideas detailed that make it clear how much the practice of one or the other were being done across continental Europe, and how many individuals were openly engaged in magical pursuits. I particularly love the 11th chapter, dealing with rephrasing "Magnetism" as "Od" or "Odylic Force" by German experimenters.

I use Paschal as my main go-to because, quite simply, he was interested in both obtaining knowledge from a large variety of sources (he cites, for example, having a copy of Le Petit Albert on hand in "The Magnetic Mirror"), and because he is so concerned with safety. I should note that these texts pre-date the formation of the Golden Dawn by between 10-30/40 years in some cases, and it makes it hard to imagine the GD simply hadn't heard of them. I'm going to simply blame Blavatsky, as per usual, as she seems to be a major culprit in some information simply being forgotten.

I won't "pimp my own work," but I'll state that my personal goal in such things is to recreate the practices Paschal displays so beautifully and try and get more people interested. Entries like yours are somewhat disheartening, because while they do discuss some of the problems that evolved out of the Spiritualism movement (which kicked off around 1845), they also tend to forget the incredibly magicians that formed the precursors to the Golden Dawn.


Jack Faust said...

I will add one more, final note, if you don't mind: Paschal's earlier criticisms in "The Unveiling" simply vanish from later works of his in some cases. I am not sure if he simply stopped being as outraged once he put some of his protections in place, or if some of his fears were triggered by the psychic struggles documented in "The Unveiling."

Also, I do not necessarily think anyone should approach each topic without learning an iota of knowledge on protection, determining the nature of the spirit, etc. Rather, they go hand in hand and should always be approached as such. This is not always the case at present. Spiritualism is still alive and well in South America and the Caribbean as "Espitismo," and it is often combined with other traditions of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Many use its theories in conjunction with Palo Mayombe or Kimbanda or Santeria. I was very shocked, some time ago, to discover that practitioners of Kimbanda still use Spiritualist methods and their own to work with "Caboclos," or native/indigenous spirits and dead folks in Brazil (where Kardec has a postage stamp with his personage on it). It is used by itself, too, but I'm not sure how often or where that takes place. My wife seems to be doing more on research on that end, as she's from Puerto Rico and it is part of her culture.

I hope this helps.

LVX & Love,
Jack Faust.

Frater Yechidah said...

Thank you for your very insightful post, Jack. I am familiar with Randolph, but not in great depth. His name did crop up a few times during my research on individuals who may have influenced the founders of the Golden Dawn. I agree that they were likely familiar with at least some of his work.

I have added his books to my "to read" list and thank you for the recommendations.

I would be very happy to read the quote from The Magnetic Mirror. Feel free to link your new blog entry here too when it is up.

From what you describe of Randolph's work, it sounds like there is a lot more magical technique going on in his case, but this is something I have not encountered with any Mediums or Spiritualists I have met (in Ireland or abroad). For example, check out the material here for one Irish group: http://spiritualistunion.com

As a complete aside, I recall reading a letter from, I believe, Moina Mathers to someone on Mesmerism, where she defended Mesmer himself, going into some detail as to why his techniques were more acceptable, but how Mesmerism had thereafter degraded somewhat. Unfortunately I have not been able to find this again, but if I do I will share it here, as it is one of the few documents on the topic.


Jack Faust said...


European Spiritualists are still a bit out of date. I don't know what happened. After the establishment of the HB of L (Emma Britten discusses Spiritualism and Mesmerism in Ghost Land(s?), although most of it is fictional) and the Theosophical Society evolution seems to have just stopped. In South America and the Caribbean this did not occur, for whatever reason.

I will be sure to pass you a link when it's up. I'll work on the entry this week, because his (Randolph's) prose is very inspired and inspiring.

Should you ever come across that letter from one of the marvelous Mathers again, please feel free to let me know. I'd *love* to read it. Mesmer's original theories and practices borderline on astrological and Shamanic magick, and seem to work fairly well. I'd love to see comments from later occultists in favor of him, as it seems to happen more and more rarely after around 1900 or so. Probably due to Hypnotism becoming the dominant school of thought in that arena.

Thank you for the link. I'm sure it'll be interesting to look at later...

Anonymous said...

Jack, How is Blavatsky responsible for some information being lost? Will you clarify that? Thanks, Kate

Jack Faust said...

Kate: For information on Blavatsky and Randolph, and her later on influence on systems that he was instrumentally involved with (mirror magic, Mesmerism, the hierarchal chain of reincarnation and doctrine of the Masters), I would recommend taking a look at the 12th and 13th chapters of John Patrick Deveney's "Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician."

But I can answer the question in a shortened version: Blavatsky's (hereafter HPB) early work draws heavily off Randolph and Emma Britten, in fact often agreeing with their sentiments and straight up lifting their theories for her own use. In particular, she takes the chains of reincarnations and the Masters from Randolph's "Dealing with the Dead" (1862, I believe) and Emma Britten "Art Magic" (Date unknown) and Ghost Land (my version is from 1879, but is clearly a reprint - I'm not sure of the original publication date).

Britten, according to Rene Guenon, was a member of the H.B. of L., and well aware of how Randolph's texts were being used. Guenon got his hands, at some point, on the H.B. of L. papers and attempted to trace their spiritual ancestry, such as it were. In doing so, he also discussed Blavatasky. (In fact, he wrote one paper entitled "Contra Blavatasky" - I happen to be a fan of it.) He says that she was brought into the H.B. of L. around 1875. This was following her trip to America where she told people she was a 'Rosicrucian'. The term, at the time, was largely being used by Randolph who established his 'Rosicrucian Rooms' in California as early as 1858, following his return from Europe. Around 1878 Blavatsky is expelled from the H.B. of L. and, as Guenon puts it, comes under the sway of "Oriental Masters." She is writing "Isis Unveiled" between 1876-1878, at the end of which he states that: "[the acquisition of magic was] practically beyond the reach of the majority of white-skinned people; and that, whether their effort is made at home or in the East."

The Theosophical Society has just been formed, at its inception nothing but a 'shell', and a grade-structure is being instituted. Sometime during this frame the "Illuminati" or inner orders are apparently practicing Randolph's mirror magic and Mesmerism, but following Blavatsky's expulsion from the H.B. of L., she will begin downplaying the use of practical occultism and instituting her own 'Eastern' doctrines over those used by Western magicians in America and Continental Europe.

By August, 1884, we have William Alexander Ayton writing:
“The worst feature of [Fryar's] case is that he became the Agent for the sale of the posthumous M.S.S. Works of the suicide Randolph. Those works contain instructions for the worst kind of Black Magic by means of sexual intercourse – a system well known to have been practised in the East...”

He follows this in another letter, again taken from Randolph's biography, in which he adds:
“I have also heard more as to Randolph. He was an Initiate, but somehow betrayed his trust. Whether he took to Black Magic after that, I do not know... But Randolph was really an Initiate, but he gave no attention to the monitions of his Occult Guru...

Nevertheless, I know now, from the authority, that [Madame Blavatsky], equally with Randolph, was really initiated into a remote branch of our Order in India. Hence, she has considerable knowledge, having gone further than Randolph.”


Jack Faust said...

In 1881, HPB mentions Randolph in a letter to the Spiritualist of London defending the “Himalayan Brothers” who stood behind the Theosophical society. During the course of using Randolph to defend herself, she blatantly calls him a “half-initiated Seer.”

Several points arise: first, Randolph was probably never actually initiated in the East. Late in life, he admitted to making up elements of his sex magic and the mysteries he has in Eulis! And attributing them to “Eastern mysteries” because no one would have taken him seriously otherwise. (Some current magicians think he actually learned sex magic from Hoodoo practitioners in Louisiana or elsewhere. Who knows? I certainly don't.) Secondy, Randolph ends up reviled for his M.S.S. on sex magic (which will form the basis of practices within the OTO and Fraternitas Saturnai) and his reputation as a Black Magician begins there. This reputation appears to have been encouraged by the Theosophical Society. I would suggest that HPB had a motive in doing so (whether Olcott himself did, as well, is beyond me to speculate): namely, he was one of her major sources and she did not wish it to be discovered. Finally, Randolph ends up being reviled for his suicide – it's now speculated that he may have been murdered, but you'd have to dig into his biography for that.

Blavatsky, following her expulsion from the H.B. Of L., went to great lengths to conceal some of her sources of information. Furthermore, by the late 1870s, she was actively discouraging all but the “Adepts” of the Theosophical society from practicing Practical Magick. This, by its very nature, would include the Mesmeric and Spiritualistic offshoots in occultism that involve Randolph and other circles, and their materials and thoughts gradually dissipate by the turn of the century until they explode back into practice (in disguised forms) between the 1920s and 1940s in the F.S., OTO, and elsewhere. Still: the sources themselves are rarely discussed. Crowley certainly doesn't seem to have ever mentioned Randolph as the pioneer of Sex Magic that he was. As far as I know, practical work with the mesmeric Magic Mirrors did not return to practice until Poke Runyon released his material – based, as he recently notes on a podcast – on Randolph. My proof is hardly concrete, but I'm still amassing information. I am sure HPB was involved, though, amongst others. Although, I should also mention my bias: I really, truly loathe the Theosophical Society and the mockery they made of Western Occultism... Not to mention the homage paid to them to this day.

Jack Faust said...

Dean: I have put up two entries of extracts from Randolph's works on my blog. Here are the links:


Hope you enjoy them. I'll pull from Britten and more from Randolph over the next few weeks.


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