The White Brotherhood, a Bulgarian occult order with roots in Rosicrucianism, was founded in 1900 by Peter Konstantinov Deunov (1864-1944), known more popularly by his spiritual name, Beinsa Douno. Douno was raised in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and at one time thought of being a monk. However, he became a school teacher and then traveled to the United States, where he received a seminary degree in religion and one in medicine. Shortly after his return to Bulgaria, he began a period of seclusion during which time, in 1897, he had an initiatory experience that he described as the Spirit of God descending
upon him. He emerged from the experience as The Master and began to take students. He organized the White Brotherhood with his first three students, whom he called to the first of what would become an annual meeting in August of 1900. He also began to write books out of his own mystical experiences.
Douno traveled widely through Bulgaria, and the organization grew through the first decade of the new century. By 1914 Douno was ready to relocate his base of activity to Sofia, the capital. However, his presence in the country's center also called the attention of the government and the closely aligned Orthodox church to his work. Various efforts were made to suppress the movement. Members were arrested and meetings were broken up. In 1922 Douno was excommunicated from the Bulgarian church. However, the movement persisted, and in 1926 a new headquarters was opened in Izfreva, not far from Sofia. A complex of buildings, including a publishing center, soon sprang up.
Among the popular elements of his teachings, paneurhythmy, a set of exercises set to music, was introduced in 1934. Two years later, the first group of the White Brotherhood was brought together in Paris, and other followers emerged in Latvia and Estonia. However, the positive upward course of the movement was brought to a halt by World War II (1939-45) and the changes in the political situation following the war. Douno died only a few weeks after the Soviet Army took control of Bulgaria in 1944.
After the war, the brotherhood reorganized under a council and moved to pick up the work as before. The first major sign of trouble came in 1948 when the headquarters property was nationalized. As a realization of the new hostile environment grew, steps were taken to preserve Douno's writings. A series of suppressive acts culminated in the leveling of the headquarters community in 1970. However, by this time work had been developed in Western Europe and the United States, and manuscripts had found their way throughout Europe and were being translated. In the meantime, Michael Aivanhov, who in 1937 had been sent to take charge of the work in Paris, founded his own movement continuing Douno's teachings in a separate organization, now known as the Universal Great Brotherhood.
Douno saw his work as continuing the true spirituality of Christianity and a modern transmission of the eternal religion of Christ. He thought of the White Brotherhood as continuing the Church of St. John as opposed to the official church, the Church of St. Peter.
The White Brotherhood survived as a small movement in the West, and was able to revive in Bulgaria as soon as the political changes at the beginning of the 1990s brought a new level of religious freedom to the country. It was officially recognized in November of 1990. A periodical was reinstituted in 1991. The rebuilding of a White Brotherhood community and an educational center in Sofia began in 1995.
Today the brotherhood exists as a vital international organization with international headquarters in Sofia and North American headquarters at Telesma-Evida Publishing, P.O. Box 174, Ahuntsic, Montreal, PQ Canada H2L 3N7. It has an expansive Internet presence at http://www.vega.bg/~beinsa_douno/.
Douno, Beinsa. The Master Speaks: The Word of the Great White Brotherhood. Los Angeles: Sunrise Press & Books, 1970.
——. Reminiscences: Talks with the Master. Los Angeles: Sunrise Press, 1968.
——. The Teachings of Beinsa Douno: Pearls of Love. Glasgow: Beyond the Rising Sun Publications, n.d.