Paschal Beverly Randolph

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A formal photographic portrait of Paschal Beverly Randolph with his signature

Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825 - 1875) was a celebrated clairvoyant and spirit medium of the 19th century. He was born a free person of colour in the state of Virginia. His mother, Flora, was African-American and his father was a member of the wealthy, slave-owning European-American Beverly and Randolph families. Because he was biracial, he was not permitted to enter white society, but he often tried to conceal his African heritage, referring to himself as a "sang-melee" or "mixed blood," and sometimes claiming to be a swarthy Spaniard. At a young age Randolph went to sea as a cabin boy, and this experience led to his lifelong interest in the religious and spiritual cultures of other lands. He was married twice, first to an African-American woman, and then to an Irish-American woman. He was an orator and spokesperson for the Abolitionist cause before the Civil War, a Spiritualist and trance-medium, and a world-traveller who visited England, France, Turkey, Egypt, and Syria in search of esoteric wisdom. His investigations into Rosicrucianism led him to the then highly controversial field of sex-magic. After Emancipation he taught basic literacy to former slaves in the Freedmen's Bureau. As a medical doctor and occultist, he attempted to transcend the coercive racial stereotyping of 19th century America, but although he took as his motto the word "Try!" and developed a tremendous force of will, he felt continually checked in his ambitions. In 1875 he died by gunshot wound in the street near his home; the official verdict was that he had succumbed to a long-standing case of depression and ended his life by committing suicide in front of a neighbour's house at the relatively young age of 50, leaving behind a wife and infant son -- but it is deemed equally likely that he was murdered by a racist in the white area where he lived, and the gun was placed near his body.

Randolph is thought by some modern authors to have been the fore-runner who paved the way for the ceremonial sex-magic practiced by members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Tempi Orientis, and related groups. In 1860 he wrote a definitive treatise of the use of hashish as an aid to trance possession) and an equally important book on clairvoyant scrying with crystals and magic mirrors. His best-known book is the 1874 volume "Eulis! The History of Love: Its Wondrous Magic, Chemistry, Rules, Laws, Modes, Moods and Rationale; Being the Third Revelation of Soul and Sex, also, Reply to 'Why Is Man Immortal?' the Solution to the Darwin Problem, an Entirely New Theory." This work, with its mention of Jewish Cabbala, the Hindu Chrishna, Hermes, the celestial Alkahest, and the mystery school of Alexandria, is certainly the product of someone who had studied comparative philosophy and religion, and in its statement that the author is the "Grand Master of the Order," a system of organized spiritual training. From 1857 through 1860, Randolph was the head of the Third Temple of the Rosie Cross, which he had founded in San Francisco, California, to carry forth his beliefs. This Rosicrucian group fell into disrepair through the Civil War era, but Randolph reformed it in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1874 as The Brotherhood of Eulis, presumably to work sex-magic. Shortly thereafter, in San Francisco again, the order was once more re-established, thereafter to be known as The Triplicate Order Rosicruciae, Pythianae, and Eulis -- with Randolph the "Supreme Hierarch, Grand Templar, Knight, Prior, and Hierarch of the Triple Order."

Randolph's association with hermetic and Rosicrucian orders is noteworthy in light of the fact that most modern occultists tend to identify African-American practitioners exclusively with hoodoo folk magic and spirit work to discount the contributions people of colour have made to the development of formal occultism and ceremonial sex-magic. In fact, although he was a black man from the South, Randolph rarely mentioned down-home African-American conjure directly. However, he did manufacture and sell "love powders" and the "New Orleans Magnetic Pillow" -- a love-magic charm containing lodestones and magnetic sand -- so it seems obvious that he was familiar with rootwork as well as with the more rarified aspects of sacred sexuality, sex-mysticism, and sex magic.


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