Biography by Prof. Carl Edwin Lindgren

Member, Royal Historical Society (London)  and Fellowship of Catholic Scholars

Randolph, Paschal Beverly ( 8 Oct. 1825 - 29 July 1875 ), physician, philosopher, and author, was born in New York City , the son of William Beverly Randolph, a plantation owner, and Flora Beverly, a barmaid. At the age of five or seven Randolph lost his mother to smallpox, and with her the only love he had known. Randolph 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 Randolph hinted at his own illegitimacy, stating that his parents "did not stop to pay fees to the justice or to the priest."

Randolph 's mother possessed a strong temperament, unusual physical beauty, and intense passions, characteristics that Randolph inherited. Later many, especially his enemies, perceived Randolph as being of "Negro descent," which he denied. Sent to live with his half-sister, Randolph was ignored, unloved, and abused and eventually turned to begging on the streets.

Uneducated, receiving only one year of formal education, Randolph 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.

In 1850 Randolph 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, Randolph was admitted in 1850 to a meeting at Frankfort on the Main , 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 United States in 1851, Randolph for a short time was active in the Reform party. While in the party movement, Randolph met and befriended Abraham Lincoln, a friendship that would continue until Lincoln 's death. Randolph '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 self-government."

In 1854 Randolph returned to Europe to continue his esoteric works. While in France , he finished studies in skrying (mirror or crystal gazing) and met with several occult magicians, including Eliphas Lévi, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and Kenneth MacKenzie.

In 1856 Randolph again visited England and France, preparing for induction as Supreme Grand Master of the Fraternitas. Two years later, in Paris at a meeting of the Supreme Grand Dome, Randolph became Supreme Grand Master of the Fraternitas for the Western World. Randolph was also inducted as a Knight of L'Ordre du Lis.

Returning from Paris in 1859, Randolph 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 San Francisco in an attempt to establish the Fraternitas on the Pacific Coast.

As Supreme Grand Master, Randolph 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."

Leaving San Francisco in November 1861, Randolph traveled to London , where he was inducted by Hargrave Jennings as a knight of the Order of the Rose. From there, he traveled to East Asia , returning to America via France in 1863.

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, Randolph taught many, black and white, to read and write. For this act, Randolph 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 door." Randolph also delivered many lectures on black rights and Spiritualism at Economy Hall in New Orleans .

Upon the assassination of Lincoln in 1865, Randolph traveled with the train carrying the president's body back to Springfield , Illinois . 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 Philadelphia, Randolph attended the Southern Loyal Convention. As a delegate from Louisiana, he advocated the African-American vote. Later, joining in a pilgrimage to Lincoln '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. Randolph was acquitted of all charges, as the court determined that the allegations were made by former business partners to obtain book copyrights

Shortly before his death Randolph had moved to Toledo, Ohio. While there he continued his writing and his speaking engagements. Generally, however, Randolph 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, Randolph 's first wife was still alive during this time.

Many questioned the coroner's finding that Randolph died in Toledo 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 Randolph conceded, that in a state of jealousy and temporary insanity, he had killed Randolph .

Randolph 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 St. Leon , 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). Randolph also edited the Leader ( Boston ) and the Messenger of Light ( New York ) between 1852 to 1861 and wrote for the Journal of Progress and Spiritual Telegraph.

Randolph 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 orders.


Randolph 's works, including some of his manuscripts and documents, are located at Beverly Hall Corp. (Fraternitas Rosæ Crucis), in Quakertown , Pa. This arcane collection also houses the "K" manuscript referring to Randolph '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 New Orleans 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 Randolph '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 biographical entry  Randolph, Paschal Beverly  “The ACLS and Oxford University Press are pleased to announce the publication of the American National Biography (ANB). The ANB is a 24-volume collection of approximately 17,500 biographies of significant individuals in American history. It is one of the most significant historiographical works of this generation … The American National Biography was released in print in January 1999; the electronic version was released in January 2000.” “The ANB is the winner of the 1999 Dartmouth Medal Award and the American History Association's Waldo G. Leland Prize for 2001.”