Davidson, Peter (1842-1929)

views updated

Davidson, Peter (1842-1929)

Peter Davidson, cofounder of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light (HBL), a nineteenth-century British occult order, was born and raised in Forres, Scotland. In 1866 he married Christina Ross. He became a violin maker and in 1871 published a book, The Violin, that surveyed the historical and technical aspects of the instrument. At the same time, he was a student of the occult and corresponded with various occult notables throughout Britain, including Hargrave Jennings. He may have become an initiate of Pascal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875), whose teachings he would later integrate into those of the brotherhood. Much of this occult interest seems to have been stimulated by occasional visions of angelic beings. He may also have been contacted by an Oriental adept, similar to one of the mahatmas with whom Helena Petrovna Blavatsky of the Theosophical Society (TS) had claimed contact. He would later suggest that the HBL and the TS had been founded by the same order of beings. In 1878, he published The Philosophy of Man, which manifested his interest in both the occult and alternative medicine, and invited contact by readers who shared his ideas.

At some point in the early 1880s, Davidson became acquainted with Thomas Burgoyne, an occult student who had learned to contact clairvoyantly the beings who made up an inner order of adepts whom he would begin to refer to as the Interior Circle. He had learned this ability from one Max Theon, a Polish occult teacher living in London. In 1884, Davidson, Burgoyne, and Theon founded the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light and in February 1885 began issuing The Occult Magazine as a periodical through which the public could learn of its existence.

By this time, Davidson began to harbor a dream of creating a utopian colony in the United States and began to speak of it in The Occult Magazine. His plans to move to America were accelerated in the spring of 1886 when Theosophists discovered that Burgoyne was in fact a man named Thomas Dalton who had been convicted of mail fraud in Leeds in 1883. Davidson and Burgoyne left for America as the scandal grew. Davidson and his family settled on a farm near Loudsville, Georgia. Although the brotherhood was largely destroyed in England, it had a growing membership in France and the United States. Burgoyne soon moved to the West Coast, where he established what was in effect a separate HBL that would eventually give birth to the presently existing Church of Light.

In Georgia, Davidson established himself as a herbalist and practitioner of alternative medicine. He authored several books, including Masonic Mysteries Unveiled and The Book of Light and Life. From 1892 to 1910 he edited The Morning Star, a periodical similar to The Occult Magazine he had published in the 1880s. He also came into contact with the Martinists, who had emerged in France under the leadership of Papus (Gérald Encausse ). The Martinists had become the dominant occult group in France and had attracted the interest of Albert Farcheux (also known as F.Ch. Barlet), the HBL leader in Paris.

Through the 1890s, Davidson contended with several problems. He was arrested for practicing medicine without a license, though he was acquitted. He had problems with Edouard Blitz, the Martinist leader in America who attempted to destroy Davidson's relationship with Papus. At the beginning of the new century, he reestablished contact with Max Theon, then living in Algiers, and offered the pages of The Morning Star as an outlet in English for his Cosmic Philosophy, a doctrine he had developed from the channeled teaching coming through his wife.

Davidson died in 1929. His family had become established in White County and his son was the editor of the newspaper in Cleveland, Georgia. His descendants can still be found in the county.


Davidson, Peter. The Mistletoe and Its Philosophy. Loudsville, Ga: The Author, 1892.

. The Violin. Glagow: Porteous Bros., 1871.

Godwin, Joscelyn. The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

, Christian Chanel, and John P. Deveney. The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1995.