Davidson, Peter (1842–1929)
Peter Davidson, cofounder of the Hermetic Brotherhood of
Light (HBL), a nineteenth-century British occult order, was
born and raised in Forres, Scotland. In 1866 he married Christina
Ross. He became a violin maker and in 1871 published a
book, The Violin, that surveyed the historical and technical aspects
of the instrument. At the same time, he was a student of
the occult and corresponded with various occult notables
throughout Britain, including Hargrave Jennings. He may
have become an initiate of Pascal Beverly Randolph
(1825–1875), whose teachings he would later integrate into
those of the brotherhood. Much of this occult interest seems to
have been stimulated by occasional visions of angelic beings.
He may also have been contacted by an Oriental adept, similar
to one of the mahatmas with whom Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
of the Theosophical Society (TS) had claimed contact. He
would later suggest that the HBL and the TS had been founded
by the same order of beings. In 1878, he published The Philosophy
of Man, which manifested his interest in both the occult and
alternative medicine, and invited contact by readers who
shared his ideas.
At some point in the early 1880s, Davidson became acquainted
with Thomas Burgoyne, an occult student who had
learned to contact clairvoyantly the beings who made up an
inner order of adepts whom he would begin to refer to as the
Interior Circle. He had learned this ability from one Max
Theon, a Polish occult teacher living in London. In 1884, Davidson,
Burgoyne, and Theon founded the Hermetic Brotherhood
of Light and in February 1885 began issuing The Occult
Magazine as a periodical through which the public could learn
of its existence.
By this time, Davidson began to harbor a dream of creating
a utopian colony in the United States and began to speak of it
in The Occult Magazine. His plans to move to America were accelerated
in the spring of 1886 when Theosophists discovered
that Burgoyne was in fact a man named Thomas Dalton who
had been convicted of mail fraud in Leeds in 1883. Davidson
and Burgoyne left for America as the scandal grew. Davidson
and his family settled on a farm near Loudsville, Georgia. Although
the brotherhood was largely destroyed in England, it
had a growing membership in France and the United States.
Burgoyne soon moved to the West Coast, where he established
what was in effect a separate HBL that would eventually give
birth to the presently existing Church of Light.
In Georgia, Davidson established himself as a herbalist and
practitioner of alternative medicine. He authored several
books, including Masonic Mysteries Unveiled and The Book of
Light and Life. From 1892 to 1910 he edited The Morning Star,
a periodical similar to The Occult Magazine he had published in
the 1880s. He also came into contact with the Martinists, who
had emerged in France under the leadership of Papus (Gérald
Encausse). The Martinists had become the dominant occult
group in France and had attracted the interest of Albert Farcheux
(also known as F.Ch. Barlet), the HBL leader in Paris.
Through the 1890s, Davidson contended with several problems.
He was arrested for practicing medicine without a license,
though he was acquitted. He had problems with Edouard Blitz,
the Martinist leader in America who attempted to destroy Davidson’s
relationship with Papus. At the beginning of the new
century, he reestablished contact with Max Theon, then living
in Algiers, and offered the pages of The Morning Star as an outlet
in English for his Cosmic Philosophy, a doctrine he had developed
from the channeled teaching coming through his wife.
Davidson died in 1929. His family had become established
in White County and his son was the editor of the newspaper
in Cleveland, Georgia. His descendants can still be found in the
county.
Sources
Davidson, Peter. The Mistletoe and Its Philosophy. Loudsville,
Ga The Author, 1892.
———. The Violin. Glagow Porteous Bros., 1871.
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

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