Biography by Prof. Carl Edwin Lindgren
Member, Royal Historical Society (London)
and Fellowship of Catholic Scholars
8 Oct. 1825
29 July 1875
), physician, philosopher, and author, was
New York City
, the son of William Beverly Randolph, a plantation owner, and Flora Beverly, a
barmaid. At the age of five or seven
lost his mother to smallpox, and with her the only love he had known.
later stated, "I was born in love, of a loving mother, and what she
felt, that I lived." His father's devotion is questionable. In 1873
hinted at his own illegitimacy, stating that his parents "did not stop to
pay fees to the justice or to the priest."
's mother possessed a strong temperament, unusual physical beauty, and intense
passions, characteristics that
inherited. Later many, especially his enemies, perceived
as being of "Negro descent," which he denied. Sent to live with his
was ignored, unloved, and abused and eventually turned to begging on the
Uneducated, receiving only one year of formal education,
attempted to train himself. At the age of fifteen he left home and spent the
next five years as a sailor, traveling around the world. This period was a
lonely and bitter one. Forced to leave the sea by an accident incurred while
chopping wood, he learned the dyer's and barber's trade. During this interval
(1845-1850), he also became interested in medicine and arcane science.
married Mary Jane (maiden name unknown); they would have three children. That
same year he befriended Colonel Ethan
Allen Hitchcock, who had for some time been interested in alchemy and
pantheistic philosophy. With Hitchcock's support,
was admitted in 1850 to a meeting at
, Germany, of the Fraternitas Rosæ Crucis. The Fraternitas then, as in its
foundation in 1616, was a brotherhood of esoteric enlightenment that brought
together alchemists, magi, Hermetists, Phtonists, Paracelsians, and Gnostics in
search of soul consciousness.
Returning to the
for a short time was active in the Reform party. While in the party movement,
met and befriended Abraham
Lincoln, a friendship that would continue until
's political and educational views also extended to the plight of African
Americans. In a letter to educational reformer Horace
Mann in 1851, he asked whether the best way for them to achieve full rights
as citizens were not "by cultivating their minds . . . fitting them for
to continue his esoteric works. While in
, he finished studies in skrying (mirror or crystal gazing) and met with several
occult magicians, including Eliphas Lévi, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and Kenneth
France, preparing for induction as Supreme Grand Master of
the Fraternitas. Two years later, in
at a meeting of
the Supreme Grand Dome,
became Supreme Grand Master of the Fraternitas for the Western World.
was also inducted as a Knight of L'Ordre du Lis.
became active in building the Fraternitas by researching, lecturing, and
writing. In September 1861 he toured
California, delivering a ten-week series of lectures in
in an attempt to establish the Fraternitas on the
As Supreme Grand Master,
was also a member of the Council of Three, a position he shared with General
Hitchcock and President Lincoln. This group was known as "The Peerless
Trio" or "Unshakable Triumvirate."
in November 1861,
, where he was inducted by Hargrave Jennings as a knight of the Order of the
Rose. From there, he traveled to
, returning to
In 1864 Randolph, while living in New York, was requested by President Lincoln to educate the recently freed slaves in
Louisiana. While in New Orleans, he served as an officer for the Freedmen's Bureau until July 1866, at which
time he resigned to write After Death; or, Disembodied Man. . . .
During his stay,
taught many, black and white, to read and write. For this act,
states "I was obliged to sleep with pistols in my bed, because the
assassins were abroad and red-handed Murder skulked and hovered round my
also delivered many lectures on black rights and Spiritualism at Economy Hall
Upon the assassination of Lincoln
in 1865, Randolph
traveled with the train carrying the president's body back to
. Several procession members brought up his alleged Negro heritage, and he was
asked to leave the train. This disappointment was to hurt him deeply. Never
once, however, did he seek revenge or retribution.
The following year in
attended the Southern Loyal Convention. As a delegate from Louisiana, he advocated the African-American vote. Later, joining in a pilgrimage to
's tomb, he endured such cruelty from fellow delegates that upon leaving the
convention, he swore never again to engage in politics. He then settled in Boston, where he practiced medicine until early 1873.
During the 1860s and 1870s many of
Randolph's writings concerned the occult (secret) aspects of
love and sexuality.
Randolph, as a physician, also counseled patients on family
relations, marital bliss, and the physical, emotional, and spiritual art of
love. These acts of concern and kindness were interpreted by many as condoning
free love. In February 1872 he was falsely imprisoned for promoting immoral sex.
was acquitted of all charges, as the court determined
that the allegations were made by former business partners to obtain book
Shortly before his death Randolph
had moved to Toledo,
Ohio. While there he continued his writing and his speaking engagements. Generally,
led a peaceful and at times secluded life, with his wife Kate Corson and their
son Osiris Budh. No official records appear to exist regarding either this
marriage or the end of his first marriage; however,
's first wife was still alive during this time.
Many questioned the coroner's finding that
from a self-inflicted wound to the head, for many of his writings express his
aversion to suicide, and the evidence was conflicting. R. Swinburne Clymer, a
later Supreme Master of the Fraternitas, stressed that years later, in a
"death-bed confession," a former friend of
conceded, that in a state of jealousy and temporary insanity, he had killed
produced, under his name, anonymously, or under various pseudonyms, more than
fifty books and pamphlets on love, health, philosophy and the occult. Some of
his works are Waa-gu-Mah (1854), Lara (1859), The Grand Secret
(1860), The Unveiling (1860), Human Love (1861), Pre-Adamite
Man (pseud. Griffin Lee, 1863), A Sad Case; A Great Wrong! (anon.,
1866), Seership! The Magnetic Mirror (1868), Love and Its Hidden
History (pseud. Count de
, 1869), Love and the Master Passion (1870), The Evils of the Tobacco
Habit (1872), The New Mola! The Secret of Mediumship (1873), and The
Book of the Triplicate Order (1875).
also edited the Leader (
) and the Messenger of Light (
) between 1852 to 1861 and wrote for the Journal of Progress and Spiritual
is to be remembered for his philosophical works on love, marriage, and
womanhood. He provided new and unique insight into the then taboo world of
sexual love. He aided the education, rights, and equality of both women and
blacks. He foresaw the evils of tobacco and drug abuse. Finally, Randolph,
through his position as the Americas' first Supreme Grand Master of the Fraternitas
Rosæ Crucis, directly or indirectly touched the lives of more than 200,000
neophytes (students) comprising the Fraternitas and other Rosicrucian
's works, including some of his manuscripts and
documents, are located at Beverly Hall Corp. (Fraternitas Rosæ Crucis),
This arcane collection also houses the "K"
manuscript referring to
's personal life, accomplishments, and honors, which
was written either by Kate Randolph or by Randolph himself (1873). Randolph's Wonderful
Story of Ravalette (1863) and Curious Life of P. B. Randolph are
important autobiographical sources for
providing insight into his life and beliefs.
Randolph's concerns about slavery and the role of newly freed African Americans are
presented in a letter of
5 Mar. 1851
in the Horace Mann Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society and newspaper
clippings from the
newspapers including the New Orleans Tribune (1864-1866), the Era
(1864-1866), and the Daily Independent (1864-1866). Material on his
well-publicized trial are in his work, The Curious Life of P. B.
Randolph. The most complete historical analysis of Randolph's life, works,
and personal views, with an extensive chronological bibliography of Randolph's
works, is John Patrick Deveney's Paschal Beverly Randolph: A
Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician
(1997). R. Swinburne Clymer, Book of Rosicruciæ II (1947), also provides
a rather extensive biographical sketch. Bibliographical details are in O. F.
Adams, A Dictionary of American Authors (1897; repr. 1905), and S. A.
Allibone, A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and
American Authors (1871). An unflattering obituary is in the Toledo Blade,
29 July 1875
. Evidence relating to
's possible murder was taken from Clymer's pamphlet The August Fraternity in
America (c. 1933).
Carl Edwin Lindgren
For additional research note the
American National Biography
entry Randolph, Paschal Beverly
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