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Mackenzie, Kenneth R(obert) H(enderson)(1833-1886)

Mackenzie, Kenneth R(obert) H(enderson)(1833-1886)

Prominent British occultist, an honorary magus of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, and a member of the Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn. During 1858-59 he edited four issues of Biological Review, devoted to Spiritualism, homeopathy, and electro-dentistry.

Mackenzie was born on October 31, 1833, in London. The following year his family lived in Vienna, where his father, Dr. Rowland H. Mackenzie, was assistant surgeon in the midwifery department at Imperial Hospital. Mackenzie and his wife returned to England about 1840, but it is probable that Kenneth Mackenzie was educated abroad. According to William Wynn Westcott, Mackenzie received a Rosicrucian initiation in Austria while living with Count Apponyi as an English tutor. Mackenzie returned to London by 1851 and contributed a series of learned notes to Notes and Queries.

As a young man he had an impressive knowledge of German, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and had a precocious talent for antiquarian studies. He had ambitions to follow a literary career, and as early as 1852 he translated K. R. Lepsius's Briefe aus Aegypten, Aethiopen, 1842-45 into English. He also contributed articles on Peking, America, and Scandinavia to Theodore Alois Buckley's work Great Cities of the Ancient World (1852). The next year he assisted Walter Savage Landor in a new edition of Imaginary Conversations. In 1870 Mackenzie married Alexandrina Aydon, daughter of a Freemason. His marriage became the occasion of his joining the craft in the same year.

He was author of the Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia (1877) and also planned a work called The Game of Tarot: Archaeologically and Symbolically Considered, which was announced but not published. In 1861 Mackenzie visited the famous French occultist Éliphas Lévi (Alphonse Louis Constant) in Paris and published vivid personal recollections of the man and his outlook in the Rosicrucian, the journal of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. He also studied occultism with Frederick Hockley (1808-1885).

Mackenzie's other literary publications include Burmah and the Burmese (1853), Zythogala; or, Borne by the Sea (a novel, 1872), and the Fundamental Constitutions of Freemasonry (1877).

In addition he translated and/or edited Schamyl and Circassia by F. Wagner (1854), Fairy Tales by J. W. Wolf (1855), The Marvellous Adventures of Tyll Owlglass by T. Eulenspiegel (1859), The Life of Bismarck by J. G. L. Hesekiel (1870), and Bismarck: His Authentic Biography by G. E. L. von Bismarck-Schoenhausen. He also edited early issues of a Masonic periodical titled Kneph in 1881.

On April 21, 1873, Mackenzie read a paper on Éliphas Lévi to the Rosicrucian Society (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia ), of which he became a member. He subsequently contributed papers to their journal, the Rosicrucian. He resigned from the society in 1875 while preparing his Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia. In subsequent years, he seems to have lived precariously on a modest income from journalism. He developed a system of astrological prediction of horse race winners and also became involved with the promotion of fringe Masonic orders, such as Sat B'Hai.

He died July 3, 1886, before the formation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but was claimed posthumously as an adept of the order (together with Lévi and Hockley) by W.W. Westcott, one of the founding chiefs, presuming a continuity of occult tradition through Rosicrucianism.

Sources:

Mackenzie, Kenneth. Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia. 1877. Reprint, New York: Sterling Publishing, 1987.

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