PASCHAL BEVERLY RANDOLPH
THE ANSEIRATIC MYSTERIESby catherine yronwode
Paschal Beverly Randolph is an enigmatic and fascinating figure. A free man of colour born in the state of Virginia in 1825, he was an orator and spokesperson for the Abolitionist cause before the Civil War. He was also a well known spiritualist and trance-medium, and a world-traveller in the best Victorian fashion, who visited England, France, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and other regions in search of esoteric wisdom. His investigations into Rosicrucianism led him to the then highly controversial field of sex-magic, and along the way he also wrote a definitive treatise of the use of hashish as an aid to trance possession (1860), and an equally important book on clairvoyant scrying with magic mirrors (1860). As a medical doctor and occultist, Randolph 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 succumbed to what seems to have been a long-standing case of depression and ended his life by suicide at the relatively young age of 50, leaving behind a wife and infant son.
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. 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 Cabbala [Randolph's spelling], the Hindu Chrishna [ditto], 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" it seems to promulgate a formal, albeit cryptic, system of organized spiritual training. The claim is not entirely without substance: 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 folk-magic and 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 hoodoo folk magic directly. However, he did manufacture and sell a product he called the "New Orleans Magnetic Pillow" -- a love-magic charm containing lodestones and magnetic sand -- so it seems obvious that he was familiar with that tradition as well as with the more rarified aspects of sacred sexuality, sex-mysticism, and sex magic.
All that aside, to me the value of "Eulis!" and Randolph's two shorter works, "The Mysteries of Eulis" (1874) and "The Anseiratic Mystery" (1873) lie primarily in their unique and direct passages about "the Anseiratic Mysteries," Randolph's own version of the ritual sex practices of the Nusa'iri tribe of Syria, in which, according to Randolph, the exchange of electrical-magnetic energy between men and women takes place in "the seven magnetic points of the human frame" and "the pellucid aroma of divinity" suffuses the sex act.
Randolph describes "the marital office and function" (e.g. sexual intercourse) as "material, spiritual and mystic," and he boastfully proclaims that "my doctrine...alone declares and establishes the fact that the marital function is unquestionably the highest, holiest, most important, and most wretchedly abused of all that pertains to the human being." Leaving aside the vanity of this claim, it is interesting to note that among the "abuses" of the marital function that Randolph lists are inconsideration (e.g. marital rape or non-satisfaction of one's partner) and "the murderous habit of incompletion of the conjugal rite," presumably through coitus reservatus.
In other words, Randolph celebrates sexual union as a metaphysical and holy ritual, but only when it produces full and complete orgasms for both partners. This places him in conflict with the theories of traditional Hindu tantrikas, who hold that male orgasm expends rather than enhances male spiritual energy. Randolph's theory also places him in partial conflict with his contemporary, Alice Bunker Stockham, who believed that maintaining heightened states of arousal just beneath the peak of contractive or ejaculatory orgasm would spiritually benefit both men and women. I call their conflict of opinions "partial" because while Stockham advocated non-orgasmic sexual intercourse, which Randolph abhorred, she also believed that orgasm itself was holy, and that it was not to be avoided categorically or prejudicially, as in Hindu tantra.
Randolph's emphasis on sacred orgasms rather than sacred sexuality is most clearly set forth in a portion of "Eulis!" where he postulates an elaborate, multi-tiered and multi-dimensional cosmos that extends "to realms beyond the starry spaces." Speaking of the moment of orgasm, when we are, he says, in metaphysical contact with powerful spiritual entities in these extra-dimensional elsewheres, he writes:It follows that as are the people at that moment [orgasm] so will be that which enters into them from the regions above, beneath, and round about; wherefore, whatsoever male or female shall truly will for, hopefully pray for, and earnestly yearn for, when love, pure and holy, is in the nuptive ascendent, in form, passional, affectional, divine and volitional, that prayer will be granted, and the boon be given, But the prayer must precede [the moment of orgasm].
Interestingly, despite his rejection of coitus reservatus and her promotion of it, Randolph and Stockham agree on one basic tenet: because a controlled orgasm itself is holy, a sincere prayer given at the "nuptive moment" will be granted -- by the Christian God in Stockham's view, and by unknown higher spiritual forces in Randolph's. This concept of the orgasm-prayer is not found among Hindu tantrikas -- but even they will ask a boon during their prostrations before the sacred vulva during the ceremony of yoni puja. Most sex-worship is magical as well as religious, insofar as it is bent upon effect as well as adoration, and it is my opinion that Randolph was both a "sex mystic" along the lines of Alice Bunker Stockham or the average Hindu tantrika as well as a "sex magician" who used sexuality as an adjunct to control of the phenomenal world.
John Patrick Deveney has written a lengthy biography, "Paschal Beverly Randolph, A Nineteenth Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician" (State University of New York Press, 1997) that reveals a great deal about Randolph and his times. Thanks to Deveney's pioneering research, one can clearly see the effect that Randolph's writing had upon Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy. Deveney also lays the groundwork for an understanding of how the late 19th and early 20th century sex magicians Theodor Reuss and Aleister Crowley were influenced by Randolph's Triplicate Order (and its subsequent spin-offs after Randolph's death, the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light) when they organized the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), a sex-magical order founded by Reuss and subsequently modified by Crowley. In particular, Crowley's famous catch-phrase, "Love is the Law, Love under Will" seems to derive directly from Randolph's aphorism, "Will reigns Omnipotent; Love lieth at the Foundation" ("Mysteries of Eulis," 1874).
The major difference between Randolph's sex magic on the one hand, and that of Reuss and Crowley on the other, is that the former was working from a standpoint of gender parity and the latter were male-centered exclusively. In practical terms, this means that Randolph sought to produce spiritual and magical effects through prayers or invocations agreed upon prior to the mutual orgasm of both partners ("the nuptive moment"), while Reuss and Crowley believed that women were little more than passive vehicles for male spiritual attainment and that male orgasm, followed by the male's ingestion of his own sperm (mingled with his partner's vaginal juices or feces) was the golden secret to (male) spiritual mastery. Further, Crowley often employed prostitutes as his magical sex-partners, while Randolph believed that this practice invariably prevented the possibility of completing a successful magical act.
The successful results that Randolph claimed for his form of sex magic included telepathy, communication with discarnate spirits, increased wealth, forecasting the outcomes of financial transactions, preparing magical sachet powders for lthe purpose of drawing love, rendering adulterous husbands and wives "sexively cold to others," improved health, the power "to derange the love relations of those not one's lover," the power of preparing amulets and charging them, the ability to secretly know others' designs and plans, the power to direct others, and the gift of spiritual revelations.
From "The Mysteries of Eulis" come the following instructions, which set forth a few of Randolph's practical sex magick techniques:If a man has an intelligent and loving wife, with whom he is in complete accord, he can work out the problems [of how to achieve magical results] by her aid. They are a radical soul-sexive series of energies...The rite is a prayer in all cases, and the most powerful [that] earthly beings can employ...it is best for both man and wife to act together for the attainment of the mysterious objects sought.There is much more to Randolph's system of sex magic than the above excerpts can supply -- in particular he advocates mirror-scrying, breathing exercises and the use of hashish, and teaches three magical techniques he calls Volantia (the calm exercise of will), Decretism (decreeing something must be so, especially at the "nuptive moment"), and Posism (sinking into a receptive mental and physical posture to receive that which has been willed and decreed).
Success in any case requires the adjuvancy of a superior woman. THIS IS THE LAW! A harlot or low woman is useless for all such lofty and holy purposes, and just so is a bad, impure, passion-driven apology for a man. The woman shall not be one who accepts rewards for compliance; nor a virgin; or under eighteen years of age; or another's wife; yet must be one who hath known man and who has been and still is capable of intense mental, volitional and affectional energy, combined with perfect sexive and orgasmal ability; for it requires a double crisis to succeed...
The entire mystery can be given in very few words, and they are: An upper room; absolute personal, mental, and moral cleanliness both of the man and wife. An observance of the law just cited during the entire term of the experiment -- 49 days. Formulate the desire and keep it in mind during the whole period and especially when making the nuptive prayer, during which no word may be spoken, but the thing desired be strongly thought...
For a brief extract from Randolph's own works, in which he describes the 19th century African American use of hoodoo love powders and demonstrates his cultural grounding in African American conjure or folk magic, see the web page "Charms, Love-Powders, and Magic in Hoodoo, Voodoo And Mesmerism" by Paschal Beverly Randolph at the Southern Spirits Archive of African American Spirituality.
Those interested in a complete overview of Randolph's life and magical teachings should seek out John Deveney's excellent book, cited above.
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