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Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician (SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions) Paperback – 14 Nov 1996
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"This is a superb piece of work. It is the only book that I know of about Randolph, who is generally considered a notable curiosity of nineteenth-century esotericism, but whom the author establishes as an absolutely central and pivotal historical character. This historiography is masterful--meticulously detailed and coherently presented. This is an important book, filling a gap that wasn't previously known to have been so substantial. It's well written, a tour de force at amassing the data. It is a must read." -- Dan Merkur, author of Gnosis: An Esoteric Tradition of Mystical Visions and Unions"It is fascinating, because the subject's life was filled with dramatic adventure and hardship, and touched upon so many issues of the day. Deveney's work is important in itself as a ground-breaking study of an intriguing character. I can think of no figure in nineteenth-century Western esotericism who has been more unjustly ignored than Randolph. Deveney rescues him from obscurity in this biography, which will be regarded as authoritative for many years to come." -- K. Paul Johnson, author of Initiates of Theosophical Masters and The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge
From the Back Cover
Paschal Beverly Randolph, an African American who carved his own eccentric path in the mid-nineteenth century from the slums of New York to the courts of Europe, performed as a spiritualist trance medium. Self-educated, he became one of the first Black American novelists and took a leading part in raising black soldiers for the Union army and educating Freedmen during the Civil War. His most enduring claim to fame is the crucial role he played in the transformation of spiritualism, a medium's passive reception of messages from the spirits of the dead, into occultism, the active search for personal spiritual realization and inner vision. From his solitary travels in England, France, Egypt and the Turkish Empire, he brought back occult beliefs and practices (the magic mirror, hashish use and sexual magic) that worked a revolution. The systems of magic he taught left their traces on Madame Blavatsky, her Theosophical Society, and many practicing occult organizations in Europe and America today. This is the first scholarly work on Randolph, and it includes the full text of his two most important manuscripts on sexual magic.
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What do Gerald Gardner, Aleister Crowley, Manly P. Hall, Albert Pike, Elaphis Levi, and Madam Blavatsky all have in common? The answer is Paschal Beverly Randolph, and it doesn't end nor does it begin there.
Since the book mentions the Druids briefly, and I myself am a "Druidic enthusiast" more or less, I could not help but realize some interesting comparisons to what i've already studied in the works of Ross Nichols, Ronald Hutton, Michael John Greer, Manly P. Hall, and the many other authors who've made reference to them, those "mysterious men of the Oak". I would like to highlight and share my personal insights in this review. Of course, what i'm creating is mere speculation, and by no means fact. I sincerely hope that my "findings" are as intriguing to you as they are to me.
***(the following can be referenced in Chapter 10 of the book):
Even more fascinating than Paschal Beverly Randolph, are the ancient Yezidi's or Nusa'iri, and the Druses. Randolph most likely met them in his travels, learning what he could and passing it along in his teachings.
It is highly probable that the original "Druids" were the DRUSES and NOT "Celtic". Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall thought it was the Isma'ili Assassin's who passed on the secrets of the Yezidis and the Druses (Gnostics) to the Knights Templar i.e. Freemasons. This spilled into the hands of the Rosicrucians and in turn every Occult circle thenceforth; without the Freemasons, there would be no vehicle to carry the rich tapestry of the East into the West anyhow.
Regarding the modern and commonly held beliefs about Druidic origins, this is shocking information, since for so long, most and many of the early European Occultists not only romanticized, but popularized the notion that Druids were and are Celtic in origin in order to fill a void in their own Spiritual Heritage (In a moment we shall observe the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as an example of this); or more appropriately, lack thereof. In any effort, the modern Occultist, Druid, or Wiccan will find it daunting when comparing Hammer-Purgstall's thoughts pertaining to the Druids with what has been desperately accepted as fact, when in fact, much of it remains strictly fiction. It is a sorrowful revelation that much of the Celtic history is lost to opposing forces, however it is yet an even more amazing testament of the ever present and strong Celtic Spirit to pursue re-inventing aspects of its' self albeit the immense lack of substantial historical evidence. The celts of today say, "We are Celtic. We need no proof. We feel that we are, and that is all the proof that we need." Or something of the sort ;)
Now, as i hinted to already, Let us observe The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in light of Purgstall's idea:
In such a light, the HOGD would have been a mere stage production, and the members a "not-so-guileless fool" making a mockery of a rich tapestry of Wisdom that was never their own to wear in the first place. To confirm this alleged heresy, Madam Blavatsky in her "Isis Unveiled" differentiates between the established and "official" Order of Freemason's, from those whom she claims are the TRUE freemason's, a.k.a. the JESUITS. Though seemingly unsubstantial at first, this is imperative threefold: it reveals the "antics of secrecy", the "secrecy of power", and the "power of secrecy". Occult Societies needed any or all of these in order to operate and flourish while they were just beginning. An early example of Mis-information perhaps? What's interesting then is not WHAT Blavatsky is revealing i.e. the Jesuits being the true Freemasons, but that SHE is the one dosing out possible ties and connections or false leads. The question is ALWAYS why? If the Jesuits needed privacy, why would she expose them? If they are the true freemasons, why is there another group by that name who's practice is far richer and more elaborate?
Considering the cross-pollination of peoples and ideas, there has been a striking and uncomfortable similarity found between Hinduism and Yezidism. Anyone studying within the Occult will eventually realize that the earliest Western Spiritualists were truly pioneers, and our fore-fathers (especially Randolph) not only looked, but literally went to the East for inspiration and clarity in regards to the origins of things in order to establish their own perspective, as has been done for thousands of years. It was this precise knowledge of earlier pioneers which they learned of in the East, from teachers and sages, which inspired their efforts to travel there and in turn learn more.
In conclusion, Who's to say that the source of Western thought hasn't come directly from the Yezidis all along?
*read "The Yezidi's, by Birgul Acikyildiz".
*There are great books about the Jesuits. I recommend "The First Jesuits, by John W. O'Malley"