Theon, M(ax) (1850-1927)
Theon, M(ax) (1850-1927)
Max Theon, the enigmatic occultist whose work initiated the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in the mid-1880s, was born Louis Maximilian Bimstein into a Jewish family in Poland. He appears to have first received knowledge of the occult world in the thriving Hassidic communities of his homeland. As a young man he began to travel the world, but in 1873 settled in England at Saint John's Wood, in the northern section of London. He made his living as a psychic healer and advertised himself in the Spiritual periodicals as able to cure cholera.
In 1882 he began to work with a young Scotsman named Thomas Dalton (1855-1895), later known under his pseudonym, Thomas H. Burgoyne. In their three years' association, he awakened Burgoyne's spiritual vision and put him in touch with some preternatural entities, the adepts who were acknowledged as the Interior Circle, the real founders of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. The brotherhood's existence was announced in 1884 in a small advertisement placed in the back of an English translation of the Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurus Trismegistus. It invited contact with Bimstein under his magical name, Theon. Theon was named Grand Master of the Exterior Circle, the human agents who carried out the instructions of the Interior Circle.
Within a short time Theon retired from any active involvement with the brotherhood, which he left to the care of Burgoyne and the Rev. William Alexander Ayton. He married a medium, Mary Christine Woodroffe Ware. Ware was the founder of the Universal Philosophical Society in London, at which she offered Spiritualist lectures. In 1886 Theon, along with his wife and secretary, Augusta Rolfe, moved to Paris and then in 1888 to Algiers.
His activities in the 1890s are largely unknown, though he probably continued to support himself as a healer and worked with his new wife in perfecting her mediumship. In 1899 he surfaced to write for the Journal du Magnétism st de la Psychologie against the philosophy of the French Spiritists led by Allan Kardec.
Around the turn of the century Theon reappeared in Tlemcen, Algeria, and in 1901 began to issue a magazine, Cosmic Philosophy, whose content seems to have been derived from material channeled by Madame Theon. It ceased publication shortly after her death in 1908. In Algeria he also took students, among whom was Mira Alfassa (1878-1973), who as Mira Richard became the student and companion of Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950), the famed Indian spiritual teacher. Known as "The Mother," she ran the Aurobindo Ashram for many years.
Theon passed away in March of 1927 in Algiers.
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.
Theon, Max. La Tradition Cosmique. 6 vols. Paris: Bibliothèque Chacornac/Publicationes Cosmiques, 1903-20.