Randolph, Paschal Beverly (1825-1875)
Randolph, Paschal Beverly (1825-1875)
Paschal Beverly Randolph, an early leader of American Rosicrucianism, was born on October 8, 1825, in New York City, the son of William Beverly Randolph and Flora Beverly, a black woman who claimed descent from Madagascan royalty. At age 16 he went to sea, but this career ended five years later, when he was injured in an accident. He settled in Philadelphia and worked as a barber, while he trained as an eclectic (natural) physician and avidly studied magnetism and spiritualism. He later claimed to have been named the supreme hierarch of the Rosicrucian Fraternity in 1846.
Randolph, who traveled to Europe in 1854, claimed that he met occult magician Éliphas Lévi and began a relationship with the European Rosicrucians (a claim which can neither be proven nor contradicted). In 1858, on a trip to England, he was made the Supreme Grand Master of the Western World and Knight of L'Ordre du Lis. Following this trip he founded the first modern Rosicrucian group in the United States. In the 1850s he wrote his first articles for Spiritualist publications and in 1860 published his first independently published work, a pamphlet, The Unveiling; or, What I Think of Spiritualism. His own Rosicrucian system developed from his reading of occult texts and his dialogue with Spiritualism. Randolph, though, described the afterlife in terms quite different from the familiar Summerland of the Spiritualists. The concept of "will" and the exercising of volition dominated Randolph's mature thought. While he acknowledged the success of mediums, he suggested that they vacated their will and thus became subject to every wind of influence around them and thus reached contradictory results. He advocated a method of active mediumship called blending. Rather than operating in a trance, the medium identified with the soul of the deceased and thus developed a knowing without giving up will.
Randolph became best known for his teachings on sexuality, a largely taboo subject in public, but one about which as a physician he had some freedom to counsel and to write. At that time almost anyone who gave advice on sexual issues would be branded as an advocate of "free love." However, Randolph believed that he had discovered a great secret about the mysterious fluid produced by people when they became sexually aroused. This fluid was the secret of marital success and happiness, he contended, while its block was a bane to humankind. As a herbal physician and mesmerist, Randolph developed ways to cure the blockages to the production of this fluid. His final words on this topic were published in 1874 in his last book, Eulis! The History of Love (later reprinted under the title Affectional Alchemy ). Two years earlier he had been brought to trial in Boston, charged with advocating free love, but he was found not guilty. In 1874 he reorganized the fraternity for the last time. That same year Randolph married, and his wife bore a son, Osiris Budha Randolph, for whom Randolph had great hopes. However, on July 29, 1875, despair overcame him, and for reasons not altogether understood, he killed himself. He was succeeded as head of the fraternity by Freeman B. Dowd and later Edward H. Brown and R. Swinburne Clymer. Under Clymer's leadership, the largely moribund fraternity was brought back to life and has since enjoyed a successful existence, though because of a rule against advertising itself, it has remained less known than some other groups.
Randolph is one of the lesser known but more important occult leaders of the nineteenth century. His many books were widely read. Randolph's teachings on occult sexuality were carried to Europe and fed the development of sex magic. Both his ethnicity and his manner of death, which is something of an embarrassment to occultists, have contributed to his being forgotten.
A French-language book on occult sexuality was published in Paris in 1931 under Randolph's name, claiming to be the product of his secret teachings among European students. In fact, the book, which appeared in English in 1988, was taken from several of Randolph's published works mixed with other writings. It was denounced by the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis as a fraudulent work.
Deveney, John Patrick. Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.
Melton, J. Gordon. "Pascal Beverly Randolph: America's Pioneer Occultist." In Le Défi Magique, edited by Jean Baptiste Martin and Francois Laplantine. Lyon, France: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1994.
Randolph, Paschal Beverly. After Death: The Disembodiment of Man. 4th ed. Toledo, Ohio: Randolph Publishing, 1886.
——. Dealings with the Dead. 1861. Reprinted as Soul! The Soul World: The Homes of the Dead. Quakertown, Pa.: Confederation of Initiates, 1932.
——. Eulis! The History of Love. Toledo, Ohio: Randolph Publishing, 1874.
——. Magia Sexualis. Paris: R. Telin, 1931. Published in English as Sexual Magic. Translated by Robert North. New York: Magickal Childe Publishing, 1988.
——. Pre-Adamic Man. Reprint, Toledo, Ohio: Randolph Publishing, 1888.
——. Ravalette, Rosicrucian's Story. 1863. Reprint, Quaker-town, Pa.: Philosophical Publishing, 1939.
——. The Unveiling; or, What I Think of Spiritualism. Newburyport, Mass.: The Author, 1860.