Theon, M(ax) (1850–1927)
Max Theon, the enigmatic occultist whose work initiated the
Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in the mid-1880s, was born
Louis Maximilian Bimstein into a Jewish family in Poland. He
appears to have first received knowledge of the occult world in
the thriving Hassidic communities of his homeland. As a young
man he began to travel the world, but in 1873 settled in England
at Saint John’s Wood, in the northern section of London.
He made his living as a psychic healer and advertised himself
in the Spiritual periodicals as able to cure cholera.
In 1882 he began to work with a young Scotsman named
Thomas Dalton (1855–1895), later known under his pseudonym,
Thomas H. Burgoyne. In their three years’ association,
he awakened Burgoyne’s spiritual vision and put him in touch
‘‘Theologus’’ Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
1556
with some preternatural entities, the adepts who were acknowledged
as the Interior Circle, the real founders of the Hermetic
Brotherhood of Luxor. The brotherhood’s existence was announced
in 1884 in a small advertisement placed in the back
of an English translation of the Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurus
Trismegistus. It invited contact with Bimstein under his
magical name, Theon. Theon was named Grand Master of the
Exterior Circle, the human agents who carried out the instructions
of the Interior Circle.
Within a short time Theon retired from any active involvement
with the brotherhood, which he left to the care of Burgoyne
and the Rev. William Alexander Ayton. He married a
medium, Mary Christine Woodroffe Ware. Ware was the founder
of the Universal Philosophical Society in London, at which
she offered Spiritualist lectures. In 1886 Theon, along with his
wife and secretary, Augusta Rolfe, moved to Paris and then in
1888 to Algiers.
His activities in the 1890s are largely unknown, though he
probably continued to support himself as a healer and worked
with his new wife in perfecting her mediumship. In 1899 he
surfaced to write for the Journal du Magnétism st de la Psychologie
against the philosophy of the French Spiritists led by Allan
Kardec.
Around the turn of the century Theon reappeared in Tlemcen,
Algeria, and in 1901 began to issue a magazine, Cosmic Philosophy,
whose content seems to have been derived from material
channeled by Madame Theon. It ceased publication shortly
after her death in 1908. In Algeria he also took students,
among whom was Mira Alfassa (1878–1973), who as Mira Richard
became the student and companion of Sri Aurobindo
Ghose (1872–1950), the famed Indian spiritual teacher.
Known as ‘‘The Mother,’’ she ran the Aurobindo Ashram for
many years.
Theon passed away in March of 1927 in Algiers.
Sources
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.
Theon, Max. La Tradition Cosmique. 6 vols. Paris Bibliothèque
ChacornacPublicationes Cosmiques, 1903–20.