Mackenzie, Kenneth R(obert) H(enderson)
(1833–1886)
Prominent British occultist, an honorary magus of the Societas
Rosicruciana in Anglia, and a member of the Hermetic
Society of the Golden Dawn. During 1858–59 he edited four
issues of Biological Review, devoted to Spiritualism, homeopathy,
and electro-dentistry.
Mackenzie was born on October 31, 1833, in London. The
following year his family lived in Vienna, where his father, Dr.
Rowland H. Mackenzie, was assistant surgeon in the midwifery
department at Imperial Hospital. Mackenzie and his wife returned
to England about 1840, but it is probable that Kenneth
Mackenzie was educated abroad. According to William Wynn
Westcott, Mackenzie received a Rosicrucian initiation in Austria
while living with Count Apponyi as an English tutor. Mackenzie
returned to London by 1851 and contributed a series of
learned notes to Notes and Queries.
As a young man he had an impressive knowledge of German,
French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and had a precocious
talent for antiquarian studies. He had ambitions to follow a literary
career, and as early as 1852 he translated K. R. Lepsius’s
Briefe aus Aegypten, Aethiopen, 1842–45 into English. He also
contributed articles on Peking, America, and Scandinavia to
Theodore Alois Buckley’s work Great Cities of the Ancient World
(1852). The next year he assisted Walter Savage Landor in a
new edition of Imaginary Conversations. In 1870 Mackenzie married
Alexandrina Aydon, daughter of a Freemason. His marriage
became the occasion of his joining the craft in the same
year.
He was author of the Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia (1877) and
also planned a work called The Game of Tarot Archaeologically
and Symbolically Considered, which was announced but not published.
In 1861 Mackenzie visited the famous French occultist
Éliphas Lévi (Alphonse Louis Constant) in Paris and published
vivid personal recollections of the man and his outlook in the
Rosicrucian, the journal of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia.
He also studied occultism with Frederick Hockley
(1808–1885).
Mackenzie’s other literary publications include Burmah and
the Burmese (1853), Zythogala; or, Borne by the Sea (a novel, 1872),
and the Fundamental Constitutions of Freemasonry (1877).
In addition he translated andor edited Schamyl and Circassia
by F. Wagner (1854), Fairy Tales by J. W. Wolf (1855), The Marvellous
Adventures . . . of Tyll Owlglass by T. Eulenspiegel (1859),
The Life of Bismarck by J. G. L. Hesekiel (1870), and Bismarck
His Authentic Biography by G. E. L. von Bismarck-Schoenhausen.
He also edited early issues of a Masonic periodical titled Kneph
in 1881.
On April 21, 1873, Mackenzie read a paper on Éliphas Lévi
to the Rosicrucian Society (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia),
of which he became a member. He subsequently contributed
papers to their journal, the Rosicrucian. He resigned from the
society in 1875 while preparing his Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia.
In subsequent years, he seems to have lived precariously on a
modest income from journalism. He developed a system of astrological
prediction of horse race winners and also became involved
with the promotion of fringe Masonic orders, such as Sat
B’Hai.
He died July 3, 1886, before the formation of the Hermetic
Order of the Golden Dawn, but was claimed posthumously as
an adept of the order (together with Lévi and Hockley) by W.
W. Westcott, one of the founding chiefs, presuming a continuity
of occult tradition through Rosicrucianism.
Sources
Mackenzie, Kenneth. Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia. 1877. Reprint,
New York Sterling Publishing, 1987.

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