Randolph, Paschal Beverly (1825–1875)
Paschal Beverly Randolph, an early leader of American Rosicrucianism,
was born on October 8, 1825, in New York City,
the son of William Beverly Randolph and Flora Beverly, a black
woman who claimed descent from Madagascan royalty. At age
16 he went to sea, but this career ended five years later, when
he was injured in an accident. He settled in Philadelphia and
worked as a barber, while he trained as an eclectic (natural)
physician and avidly studied magnetism and spiritualism. He
later claimed to have been named the supreme hierarch of the
Rosicrucian Fraternity in 1846.
Randolph, who traveled to Europe in 1854, claimed that he
met occult magician Éliphas Lévi and began a relationship
with the European Rosicrucians (a claim which can neither be
proven nor contradicted). In 1858, on a trip to England, he was
made the Supreme Grand Master of the Western World and
Knight of L’Ordre du Lis. Following this trip he founded the
first modern Rosicrucian group in the United States. In the
1850s he wrote his first articles for Spiritualist publications and
in 1860 published his first independently published work, a
pamphlet, The Unveiling; or, What I Think of Spiritualism. His
own Rosicrucian system developed from his reading of occult
texts and his dialogue with Spiritualism. Randolph, though,
described the afterlife in terms quite different from the familiar
Summerland of the Spiritualists. The concept of ‘‘will’’ and the
exercising of volition dominated Randolph’s mature thought.
While he acknowledged the success of mediums, he suggested
that they vacated their will and thus became subject to every
wind of influence around them and thus reached contradictory
results. He advocated a method of active mediumship called
blending. Rather than operating in a trance, the medium identified
with the soul of the deceased and thus developed a knowing
without giving up will.
Randolph became best known for his teachings on sexuality,
a largely taboo subject in public, but one about which as a physician
he had some freedom to counsel and to write. At that time
almost anyone who gave advice on sexual issues would be
branded as an advocate of ‘‘free love.’’ However, Randolph believed
that he had discovered a great secret about the mysterious
fluid produced by people when they became sexually
aroused. This fluid was the secret of marital success and happiness,
he contended, while its block was a bane to humankind.
As a herbal physician and mesmerist, Randolph developed
ways to cure the blockages to the production of this fluid. His
final words on this topic were published in 1874 in his last
book, Eulis! The History of Love (later reprinted under the title
Affectional Alchemy). Two years earlier he had been brought to
trial in Boston, charged with advocating free love, but he was
found not guilty. In 1874 he reorganized the fraternity for the
last time. That same year Randolph married, and his wife bore
a son, Osiris Budha Randolph, for whom Randolph had great
hopes. However, on July 29, 1875, despair overcame him, and
for reasons not altogether understood, he killed himself. He
was succeeded as head of the fraternity by Freeman B. Dowd
and later Edward H. Brown and R. Swinburne Clymer. Under
Clymer’s leadership, the largely moribund fraternity was
brought back to life and has since enjoyed a successful existence,
though because of a rule against advertising itself, it has
remained less known than some other groups.
Randolph is one of the lesser known but more important occult
leaders of the nineteenth century. His many books were
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Randolph, Paschal Beverly
widely read. Randolph’s teachings on occult sexuality were carried
to Europe and fed the development of sex magic. Both his
ethnicity and his manner of death, which is something of an
embarrassment to occultists, have contributed to his being forgotten.
A French-language book on occult sexuality was published
in Paris in 1931 under Randolph’s name, claiming to be the
product of his secret teachings among European students. In
fact, the book, which appeared in English in 1988, was taken
from several of Randolph’s published works mixed with other
writings. It was denounced by the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis as
a fraudulent work.
Deveney, John Patrick. Paschal Beverly Randolph A Nineteenth-Century
Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex
Magician. Albany State University of New York Press, 1996.
Melton, J. Gordon. ‘‘Pascal Beverly Randolph America’s Pioneer
Occultist.’’ In Le Défi Magique, edited by Jean Baptiste
Martin and Francois Laplantine. Lyon, France Presses Universitaires
de Lyon, 1994.
Randolph, Paschal Beverly. After Death The Disembodiment of
Man. 4th ed. Toledo, Ohio Randolph Publishing, 1886.
———. Dealings with the Dead. 1861. Reprinted as Soul! The
Soul World The Homes of the Dead. Quakertown, Pa. Confederation
of Initiates, 1932.
———. Eulis! The History of Love. Toledo, Ohio Randolph
Publishing, 1874.
———. Magia Sexualis. Paris R. Telin, 1931. Published in
English as Sexual Magic. Translated by Robert North. New
York Magickal Childe Publishing, 1988.
———. Pre-Adamic Man. Reprint, Toledo, Ohio Randolph
Publishing, 1888.
———. Ravalette, Rosicrucian’s Story. 1863. Reprint, Quakertown,
Pa. Philosophical Publishing, 1939.
———. The Unveiling; or, What I Think of Spiritualism. Newburyport,
Mass. The Author, 1860.

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