Brief Biographies of Renowned Occultists of the 19th & 20th CenturiesThis page puts a face to some of those more influential people whose names have become synonymous with the occult over the past two centuries. Some of them are almost household names; others may be a little more obscure, but they certainly are renowned in their individual fields of the occult. The images are shown randomly, i.e. there is no particular sequence, either alphabetically or by year of birth or death.
In addition to knowing the face behind the name, a brief biography of each person has been provided, available by clicking on his/her name or simply scrolling down the screen until you reach it.
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Aleister Crowley (12 October 1875 – 1 December 1947)
What is there to say about Aleister Crowley that hasn’t already been written elsewhere? Not much, it's true, but even so this very short 'biography' will mention just a few extra snippets of information about this extraordinary man. He was born Edward Alexander Crowley, the first vowel in his surname being pronounced as one pronounces the word ‘holy’. He was an English occultist, mystic, hedonist, a devotee of both chess and mountaineering, and a sexual revolutionary, including homosexuality.
Crowley claimed to be a Freemason, but the regularity of his initiations with the United Grand Lodge of England has been not only questioned, but disputed. In a letter from the Supreme Council of Freemasonry (available on our Aspects of the Occult Download) we learn that the title of SOVEREIGN GRAND INSPECTOR GENERAL was conferred upon him by John Yarker (33rd degree) in 1910, but the Grand Lodge of England's records show that John Yarker was thrown out of the Masonic Fraternity in 1870, some forty years before this.
Crowley was an influential member of several occult organisations, the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn', the 'Astrum Argentum', and 'Ordo Templi Orientis' in particular. Despite the fact that Florence Farr had refused to do so, he was advanced into the second order of the Golden Dawn by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers in Paris who saw in him an ally, something he desperately needed at the time. However their allegiance soon became an uneasy one, for Mathers, like Crowley, was a powerful magician and both were extremely competitive. They quarrelled constantly and engaged in magical warfare. Mathers killed the majority of Crowley's pack of bloodhounds; Crowley responded with an army of demons led by none other than Beelzebub.
He travelled extensively, particularly in the Far East and North Africa where he studied Eastern Occult systems and 'Tantric Yoga'; he also studied 'Buddhism' and the 'I Ching'. He began to explore levels of the astral plane with his assistant, a poet called Victor Neuberg, using Enochian Magick. Crowley claimed to have crossed the Abyss (guarded by Choronzon, the Demon of Dispersion) and united his own consciousness with the universal consciousness.
After being expelled from his Abbey of Thelema in Sicily by Benito Mussolini in 1923, Crowley wandered around for a while visiting such places as Tunisia and Germany before settling in France for a time. It was here that he engaged the services of another aspiring magician, Israel Regardie, as his secretary. In 1946 he was introduced to Gerald Gardner. His meetings with Gardner led to controversy over the authenticity of Gardner’s Book of Shadows. It was alleged that Gardner paid Crowley to write it for him, but this has since been 'whitewashed over'.
Aleister Crowley gained much deserved notoriety during his lifetime, and was (in)famously dubbed The Wickedest Man in the World, a title he certainly did little to refute and possibly encouraged. His experiments with drugs had developed a dependency upon heroin, a habit from which he suffered for the rest of his life. Almost destitute because no publisher would touch his writings, he spent his remaining days in 'Netherwood', a boarding house in Hastings, England, where he died on 1 December 1947 aged 72, shortly after his doctor, William Brown Thomson, had refused to supply the morphine upon which Crowley had become dependent.
Crowley like so many outstanding men who preceded him, was undoubtedly a man before his time. He lived in a society that could neither understand him nor even begin to appreciate his hidden genius. He did not suffer fools gladly, and his writings so shocked the vast majority of the people of the time that he was probably robbed of the praise that it deserved – or was he really the wickedest man in the world? Fortunately the world today is a much more enlightened place, and even more fortunately for those of us still living in it, his publications live on.
N.B. I emailed the Grand Secretary General of the UK Grand Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientus in September 2007 to ask if he knew of any intention to reprint this book. This is his reply:
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Dion Fortune (6 December 1890 – 8 January 1946)
Dion Fortune was born Violet Mary Firth in Llandudno, North Wales, on 6 December 1890, and showed uncanny mediumistic abilities, even as a very young child. She was a pioneering psychiatrist on religious thought in occultism, and became an adept in Ceremonial Magick having been drawn towards the occult by their overlapping correspondences.
In 1914 she made tenuous links with the Theosophical Society, and in 1923 formed the Christian Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society, becoming its president. Meanwhile, around 1920, she began to study occultism under the guidance of Dr Theodore Moriarty (an Irish occultist and Freemason upon whom her Dr Taverner novels are based). She joined the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn', in the Alpha et Omega Lodge run by the novelist Brodie Innes, where she adopted the Firth family motto Deo Non Fortuna - God not luck - as her magical name of Dion Fortune. Some time later she transfered to the Stella Matutina Lodge, which was run by Moina MacGregor Mathers (the wife of Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers, one of the founder members of the Golden Dawn). It was here where she further developed her mediumship abilities.
She formed her own Fraternity of the Inner Light (later re-named the 'Society of the Inner Light'), an Outer Order of the Golden Dawn, in 1924, then later, having become disillusioned with several members of the Golden Dawn, possibly because of their perceived 'threat' of her own Order, cut all connections with that Order in 1929.
She was a prolific novelist and writer on the occult, some of her more well-known books on the subject being:
Although Dion Fortune died of leukaemia at the Middlesex Hospital, London on 8 January 1946, the Society of the Inner Light continued largely unchanged after her death, and still continues today as an initiatory school and magical lodge maintaining (more or less) the same principles as those under which it was originally founded.
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Anton Szandor LaVey (11 April 1930 – 29 October 1997)
Anton LaVey was born in Chicago on 11 April 1930. After dropping out of high school to join the circus and carnivals, first as a roustabout and then as a cage boy in an act with big cats, he later became a musician playing the calliope (a steam organ). He had many bookings as an organist in bars, lounges, and nightclubs, and reportedly had a brief affair with the then unknown Marilyn Monroe (a claim challenged by some), while playing the organ in Los Angeles burlesque houses.
LaVey met and married Carole Lansing, who gave birth to his first daughter, Karla LaVey, in 1952. They divorced in 1960 after LaVey became involved with Diane Hegarty. Although they never married, she was his companion for many years, and bore his second daughter, Zeena Galatea LaVey in 1964.
According to a biography, LaVey moved back to San Francisco where he worked as a photographer for the Police Department, dabbling as a psychic investigator, looking into '800 calls' referred to him by the department. However, it is questionable as to whether he actually worked with the police as there are no records substantiating this claim. Despite this, he soon became a local celebrity through both his live performances as an organist (including playing the Wurlitzer at the Lost Weekend cocktail lounge) and his research into the paranormal, attracting many San Francisco notables to his parties. Guests included Carin de Plessin, Michael Harner, Forrest J. Ackerman, Fritz Leiber, Dr Cecil E. Nixon, and Kenneth Anger.
LaVey then began presenting lectures on the occult on Friday nights to what he called a Magic Circle of Associates who shared his interests. One member of this circle suggested that his ideas and beliefs could be the basis for a new religion. Heeding this advice, on Walpurgisnacht (30 April) 1966, he ritualistically shaved his head and declared the founding of the Church of Satan, proclaiming 1966 as Year One, Anno Satanas (the first year of the Age of Satan).
Much media attention followed the Satanic wedding ceremony of the radical journalist John Raymond to New York socialite Judith Case on 1 February 1967. The Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle were among the newspapers that printed articles dubbing LaVey "The Black Pope". LaVey performed not only wedding ceremonies, but also Satanic baptisms (including one for his own daughter Zeena), Satanic funerals (including one for naval officer Edward Olsen, complete with a chrome-helmeted guard of honour), and released a record album titled The Satanic Mass. LaVey viewed 'Satan' not as a literal deity or entity, but as an historic and literary figure symbolic of Earthly values.
Using ideological influences from such as Nietzsche, Crowley, Mencken, and Jack London, combined with the ideology and ritual practices of his own Church of Satan, he wrote several essays, concluding with a Satanised version of John Dee’s Enochian Keys, which led to such books as
Hegarty and LaVey separated in the mid-1980s. Hegarty sued LaVey for palimony (alimony for an unmarried ex-lover), the much-publicised claim being settled out of court. LaVey’s next and final companion was Blanche Barton, who gave birth to his only son, Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey on 1 November 1993.
Anton LaVey died of pulmonary edema in St. Mary's Hospital, San Francisco on 29 October 1997, but, strange as it may seem, the time of his death was recorded as the morning of Halloween (two days away). A secret Satanic funeral, attended only by those with an invitation, was held in Colma, after which his body was cremated. His ashes were neither buried nor scattered, but divided amongst his heirs as part of a settlement, on the assumption that they possessed occult potency, and could be used for acts of Satanic Ritual Magick.
Blanche Barton succeeded LaVey as the head of the Church of Satan after his death.
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Michael A. Aquino (16 October 1946 - )
Michael A. Aquino was born in San Francisco on 16 October 1946. In 1975 he founded the Temple of Set along with other disillusioned members of the Church of Satan, which at the time was headed by Anton Szandor LaVey. Aquino served as High Priest of the Temple of Set from 1975 - 1979, 1982 - 1996, and again from 2002 - 2004 after the resignation of several senior members.
A retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel with a Ph.D. in Political Science (from 1980-1986 he was an adjunct professor of Political Science at Golden Gate University), Aquino was accused of child sexual abuse on a United States Army base near Presidio, California. It is speculated that because of his military connections in the higher echelons of the Department of Defense (US spelling used) the charges were dropped against him, under the guise of 'lack of evidence'. Controversy still surrounds the charges, as a result of which the Temple of Set has attracted criticism and condemnation from Christian fundamentalists as well as other Satanic and Left-Hand Path organisations.
It is also claimed that as a Major, Aquino performed Sexual Ritual Magick ceremonies and was constantly experimenting with Enochian Magick, Kabbalah, Hermetica, Wicca and Witchcraft. (These forms of ‘Satanic Mind Control’ and ‘Draconian Reptilian’ power cults are protected by the US Constitution First Amendment). Later in his army career, as Lieutenant Colonel Michael Aquino, he was under investigation in Nebraska over a US Government related group which was supposedly kidnapping thousands of children in unmarked US Government vans with CIA connections. He has never been convicted of anything, allegedly because he is a powerful player in the New World Religion as well as being an Illuminati Programmer. Many former members of the Temple of Set claim that Aquino has an 'unhealthy fascination with young children'.
He has written many essays relating to Setianism, but his one book of note is:
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Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (31 July 1831 - 8 May 1891)
Born Helena (also Hélène) Petrovna Hahn in Ekaterinoslav (Ukraine) on 31 July 1831, she is much better known as Helena Blavatsky or Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society. Due to her mother’s untimely death, and the fact her father was serving in the army, she was brought up by her maternal grandparents, but cared for by servants who believed in the many superstitions of Old Russia, and apparently encouraged her to believe she had supernatural powers at a very early age.
She was married on 7 July 1848 to forty-year old Nikifor (also Nicephor) Vassilievitch Blavatsky, vice-governor of Erivan. Within six months she had left him and began travelling the world. According to her own story as told to a biographer, during the years 1848 to 1858 she claimed to have visited Egypt, France, Quebec, England, South America, Germany, Mexico, India, Greece and especially Tibet, to study for two years with the men she called 'Brothers'. She returned to Russia in 1858 where she met an Italian opera singer, Agardi Metrovich, with whom she left.
Some sources say she had several extra-marital affairs, became pregnant, and bore a deformed child, Yuri, whom she loved dearly. She wrote that Yuri was a child of her friends the Metroviches. Yuri died at the age of five, after which Helena said that she ceased to believe in the Russian Orthodox God.
There are two different versions of how Agardi Metrovitch died. In one, her biographer G. Williams states that Agardi had been taken sick with a fever and delirium in Ramleh, and that he died in bed on 19 April 1870. In the second version, while bound for Cairo on the 'Evmonia' in 1871, an explosion claimed Agardi’s life, but Helena continued on to Cairo where she formed the Societe Spirite for occult phenomena with Emma Cutting (later Emma Coulomb), a venture which soon closed after complaints by dissatisfied customers of fraudulent activities.
In 1873 she left for New York where she impressed many people with her 'evident psychic abilities'. Throughout her career she demonstrated physical and mental psychic feats which included levitation, clairvoyance, out of body projection, telepathy, and clairaudience. One new skill she developed was that of materialisation of physical objects out of nothing. Although she was apparently quite adept at these accomplishments, she claimed that her interests were more in the area of theory and laws of how it worked rather than performing the act itself.
In 1874 Helena met Henry Steel Olcott, a lawyer, agricultural expert, and journalist who was covering the Spiritualist phenomena. They soon began living together in the "Lamasery" or "Lamastery" where her work Isis Unveiled was created.
She married her second husband, Michael C. Betanelly on 3 April 1875 in New York, maintaining that like her first, this marriage was never consummated. She separated from Betanelly after just a few months, and their divorce was legalised on 25 May 1878. On 8 July of the same year she became a naturalised citizen of the United States.
While living in New York, along with Olcott, William Quan Judge, and others she founded the Theosophical Society in September 1875. Madame Blavatsky claimed that all religions were both true in their inner teachings and false or imperfect in their external conventional manifestations. Imperfect men attempting to translate the divine knowledge had corrupted it in the translation. Her claim that esoteric spiritual knowledge is consistent with new science may be considered to be the first instance of what is now called New Age thinking. In fact, many researchers feel that much of New Age thought started with Blavatsky.
She moved to India, arriving in Bombay on 16 February 1879, where she first made the acquaintaince of Alfred Percy Sinnett. In his book Occult World he describes how she stayed at his home in Allahabad for six weeks that year, and again the following year. Sometime around December 1880, while at a dinner party with a group including Allan Octavian Hume and his wife, she is stated to have been instrumental in causing the materialisation of Mrs Hume's lost brooch.
By 1882 the Theosophical Society had become an international organisation, and it was at this time that the headquarters were moved to Adyar near Madras, India. The society had its headquarters here for some time, but because of accusations she later went to Germany and finally to England. In August, 1890 she formed the ‘Inner Circle’ of 12 disciples: Countess Constance Wachtmeister, Mrs Isabel Cooper-Oakley, Miss Emily Kislingbury, Miss Laura Cooper, Mrs Annie Besant, Mrs Alice Cleather, Dr Archibald Keightley, Herbert Coryn, Claude Wright, G.R.S. Mead, E.T. Sturdy, and Walter Old.
On 8 May 1891, suffering from heart disease, rheumatism, Bright's disease of the kidneys, and complications from influenza, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky died at 19 Avenue Road, St Johns Wood. Her last words in regard to her work were, "Keep the link unbroken! Do not let my last incarnation be a failure." Her body was cremated; one third of her ashes were sent to Europe, one third went with Judge to the United States, and one third to India where they were scattered in the River Ganges. She was succeeded as head of one branch of the Theosophical Society by her protégé, Annie Besant, while her friend, William Judge, headed the American Section.
Theosophists now celebrate 8 May, calling it White Lotus Day.
Her books include:
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Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers (8 or 11 January 1854 – 5 or 20 November 1918)
Samuel Liddell Mathers was born in Hackney, London. His father, William M. Mathers, died while Samuel was still young. He attended the Bedford Grammar School, subsequently working in Bournemouth as a clerk before moving to London following the death of his mother in 1885.
Mathers was originally introduced to Freemasonry by a neighbour, an alchemist Frederick Holland, and was initiated into the ‘Hengist Lodge No 195’ on 4 October 1877. He became a Master Mason on 30 January 1878 and four years later was admitted to the Metropolitan College of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA). Working hard both for and within the SRIA he was awarded an honourary 8th Degree in 1886. He became Celebrant of Metropolitan College in 1891 and was appointed as Junior Substitute Magus of the SRIA in 1892, in which capacity he served until 1900. It was here where he made the acquaintance of Dr William Robert Woodman (Magus of the society), and Dr William Wynn Westcott (the Secretary General). He left the order in 1903, having failed to repay some money he had borrowed.
In 1887, Mathers was approached by Westcott and asked to enliven the ritual outlines of the Cipher Manuscripts into fully functional initiation ceremonies. The Cipher Manuscripts are a collection of 60 folios containing the structural outline of a series of magical initiation rituals corresponding with the spiritual elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire. The occult materials in the manuscripts are a compendium of the classical magical theory and symbolism known in the Western world up until the mid-19th century, which were combined to create an encompassing model of the Western Mystery Tradition, and then arranged into a syllabus of a graded course of instruction in magical symbolism. It was used as the structure for the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
At the same time as Mathers was asked to work on the manuscripts, he was also asked by Westcott to join himself and Woodman in a triumvirate (the position of being one of three who exercise power or authority) of Chiefs for Westcott’s new Order, the ‘Esoteric Order Golden Dawn’, which was founded on 1 March 1888, and became the ‘Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’. Mathers signed the charter for Isis-Urania Temple 3 as Praemonstrator. From 1888 to 1891, the Golden Dawn was primarily a theoretical school which performed the initiation ceremonies of the Outer Order, and taught its members the basics of Hermeticism but no practical magick other than the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. This changed with Mathers’ creation of the Second Order, wherein the theoretical knowledge taught in the Outer Order was put into active magical practice by those initiates who achieved the grade of Adeptus Minor and above.
It would seem that he also met Madame Blavatsky (before helping to found the Golden Dawn) who asked him to join the Theosophical Society, but he declined because the aims of the society did not match his own. He was an eccentric whose chosen lifestyle was unusual in its time. He added the 'MacGregor' to his surname as a claim to Highland Scottish heritage, although there is little evidence of such in his family background. It is known that his main interests were magick and the theory of war, his first book, according to William Butler Yeats, being a translation of a French military manual.
Mathers could apparently read and translate a number of languages, including French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Gaelic and Coptic. His translations of such books as The Book of the Sacred Magick of Abramelin the Mage, The Kabbalah Unveiled, The Key of Solomon The King and The Lesser Key of Solomon, were criticised for their quality, but were responsible for making what had been obscure and inaccessible material widely available to the non-academic English speaking world. They have had considerable influence on the development of occult and esoteric thought ever since their publication.
In addition to many supporters, he had many enemies and critics. One of his most notable enemies was one time pupil and ally Aleister Crowley, who portrayed him as a villain named SRMD (Mathers' motto) in his 1929 novel Moonchild. It is even reported that they fought a magical battle, with Mathers sending an astral vampire to attack Crowley.
Mathers died in Paris on 5 or 20 November 1918. The manner of his death is unknown; his death certificate lists no cause of death, but Dion Fortune claimed it was the result of the Spanish influenza of 1918. As so few facts are known about Mathers' private life, verification of such a claim is difficult. He is primarily remembered as one of the founders of the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn', a famous magician and one of the most influential figures in modern Occultism.
In 1890 he married Moina Bergson, the sister of the philosopher Henri Bergson. In the Preface to her late husband's translation of Knorr von Rosenroth's Kabbala Denudata (Kabbalah Unveiled) - certainly worth reading but don't believe all you read - Moina Mathers revealed some of what little information was ever printed concerning his early life.
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Gary L. Stewart (26 February 1953 - )
Very little is known about Gary L. Stewart, except that he was a former Imperator and President of the Board of AMORC from 1987 to 1990. Stewart was removed from his position of President of the Board of AMORC by a majority vote of the newly expanded Board of Directors in 1990, and sued in the California Superior Court with allegations of embezzlement. The allegations of embezzlement involved the accusation of acquiring a $5,000,000 line of Credit on behalf of AMORC with Silicon Valley Bank and transferring $3,000,000 to Banc Agricol in Andorra without proper board approval. Stewart maintained that the funds were transferred from one AMORC account to another for the purpose of seeding the formation of a Grand Lodge in Spain. The majority of the board of directors maintained that the establishment of a line of credit and the subsequent transfer of funds were done without their knowledge. Stewart's contention that an additional $500,000 transfer was intended for the payment of fees and the seeding of other AMORC related programs was also disputed in the suit.
Stewart responded by claiming that all banking transactions were done appropriately and all paperwork, including the Corporate Resolution to Borrow, were duly signed by the appropriate Board Officers. Stewart's claim was supported by Silicon Valley Bank. In addition, Stewart filed a cross-complaint which included allegations of financial misconduct and embezzlement by several other Board Directors. Then in December 1991 he filed a Request for Dismissal of his entire cross-complaint with prejudice (meaning he cannot file such a claim again) and it was officially dismissed on 7 January 1992.
After the Insurance Company of North America filed a Motion for Leave to File a Complaint in Intervention in 1993, and to Continue Trial alleging Insurance Fraud on the part of AMORC resulting from a filed claim in October 1990 related to this case, AMORC actively sought to settle their suit against all parties filed in their suit, and contacted Stewart on 27 May 1993. Their suit against him was settled out of court and it was dismissed with prejudice on 10 August 1993.
Stewart was also sued in 1992 by Maynard Law Offices for breach of contract as he was unable to pay his legal fees. This suit was settled in Arbitration that same year.
In 1996 he founded the Confraternity of the Rose Cross (CR+C). He is also a Knight Commander of the Order Militia Crucifera Evangelica, an international non-profit fraternal organisation, and the Sovereign Grand Master of the British Martinist Order.
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Arthur Edward Waite (2 October 1857 – 19 May 1942)
Born in the United States, his father was a Merchant Marine who died at sea when he was still a child. His English mother returned to London to raise him and his sister in poverty. She converted to Catholicism, which had a strong influence on Arthur's life, instilling in him a fascination with ceremonialism and ritual.
Waite joined the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn' in 1891, but left shortly after because of some questionable legal activities of his superiors (as he claimed) or due to financial problems of his own. He also entered the Societas Rosicruciana in 1902. He rejoined the Golden Dawn in 1896, but this was not to last as it started to fragment shortly after 1900. Waite had always been biased in favour of the path of the 'Mystic' as opposed to that of the 'Occultist', so he never saw eye to eye with Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, and consequently never felt at home in the original Golden Dawn. Waite again left the Golden Dawn which became torn apart by internal feuding shortly after.
He became a Mason, and also started his own Order, the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross in 1915 (not to be confused with the Rosicrucians).
Waite was a prolific author with many of his works being well received in academic circles. He wrote occult texts on subjects including Divination, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Black and Ceremonial Magick, Kabbalism and Alchemy, as well as translating and reissuing several important mystical and alchemical works. His works on the Holy Grail, influenced by his friendship with Arthur Machen (a renowned fiction writer), were particularly notable.
A number of his volumes remain in print:
Waite is probably best known for being the co-creator of the popular and widely used Rider-Waite Tarot deck (Rider was the name of the publishing company), and author of its companion volume, the Pictorial Key to the Tarot. This deck was first published in late 1909, and was particularly notable for being one of the first to illustrate fully all 78 cards of the Tarot, as opposed to just the 22 found in the Major Arcana. It was illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, a member of the Golden Dawn, and is sometimes referred to as the Waite-Smith, or Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
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Allan Kardec (3 October 1804 – 31 March 1869)
Allan Kardec was born Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail in Lyon in 1804. He became a disciple of and collaborator with Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (a Swiss educational reformer who put Rousseau's theories into practice). Rivail’s impressive intellectual background led to his teaching mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, physiology, comparative anatomy and French in a prestigious scientific school in Paris.
He was already in his early fifties when he became interested in the new popular phenomenon known as 'spirit-tapping' which was taking the world by storm. Around this time, strange phenomena attributed to the action of spirits were reported in many different places, most notably in the United States and France, attracting the attention of high society. The first such phenomena were at best frivolous and entertaining, featuring objects that moved or 'tapped' under what was described as spirit control. In some cases, this was alleged to be a type of communication; the supposed spirits answered questions by controlling the movements of objects so as to pick out letters to form words, or simply indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
At the same time, Franz Mesmer's theory of animal magnetism was popular in the upper reaches of society. When confronted with the phenomena described, many researchers including Rivail pointed out that animal magnetism might explain them. Rivail, however, after personally seeing demonstrations, dismissed the animal-magnetism hypothesis as being insufficient to completely explain all the facts observed.
Rivail first used the name Allan Kardec supposedly after Zefiro, a Greek spirit with whom he had been communicating, told him about a previous incarnation of his as a Druid by that name. Rivail liked the name and decided to use it to keep his Spiritist writings separate from those of his academic work.
He was determined to understand fully what was causing the physical effects popularly attributed to spirits. Using the same logical rigour that he applied to his work in education and science, he set out to understand the phenomena, submitting 1019 questions exploring matters concerning the nature of spirits, the spirit world, and the relations between the spirit world and the material world to many different mediums, in different countries. The answers he received were then compared, analysed, and organised for inclusion in The Spirits Book, first published in 1857.
He died on 31 March 1869 as a result of the rupture of the aneurysm from which he had suffered for so long, and was buried at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris, reputed to be the world's most-visited cemetery. Located on Boulevard de Ménilmontant, it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the graves of those who have enhanced French life over the past 200 years. Kardec’s followers come from all over the world bringing flowers to his tombstone.
His publications include:
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Dr William Wynn Westcott (17 December 1848 – 30 July 1925)
William Wynn Westcott was born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. His parents died when he was 10 years old at which time he was adopted by his uncle who, like his father, was a medical doctor. Westcott attended Kingston Grammar School and graduated from University College, London as a Bachelor in Medicine, going into medical practice with his uncle.
In the mid 1870s he joined a Masonic Lodge at Crewkerne, and in 1878 began to study the Kabbalah and other metaphysical subjects. In 1881, he became the deputy Coroner for Hoxton, and during the early 1890s was appointed Coroner for North-East London. He was admitted to the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA), which was open only to high-grade Freemasons, and became Magus of the organisation in 1890. He was also Worshipful Master of the Quatuor Comati Research Lodge as well as achieving other Masonic distinctions.
By 1880 he became active in the SRIA before co-founding the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn' with Mathers. By then he was also active in the Theosophical Society. He devised and organised the Golden Dawn's rituals with Mathers and Woodman, who preceded him as Supreme Magus of the SRIA, and who, like Westcott, was one of the foremost exponents of Hermeticism of the time.
Two of the Golden Dawn's original founding members were members of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society, Westcott and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. It is unclear if Dr William Robert Woodman was ever a member.
In 1896, he supposedly abandoned public involvement with the Golden Dawn due to pressure regarding his job as a Crown Coroner, with which it was seen as an unseemly association. However, he continued to head the SRIA and was later involved with the Golden Dawn breakaway Stella Matutina.
Dr Westcott published a vast number of works, besides his medical treatises. He wrote many subjects for the SRIA, and translated The magical Ritual of the Sanctum Reg. in 1896 from Eliphas Lévi's work on the Tarot, and edited the famous series of monographs titled, the Collectanea Hermetica. Many of his writings were in the form of brief handbooks, dealing with such subjects as Alchemy, Astrology, Death, Divination, Numerology, Serpent Myths, Talismans, and Theosophy. He also translated the Sefer Yetzirah into English.
In 1918 he retired from professional life and emigrated to the Republic of South Africa to live with his daughter and son-in-law at Durban, and to begin work on behalf of the Theosophical Society (and perhaps Masonic work). He died in Durban in 1925.
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Dr William Robert Woodman (1828 – 20 December 1891)
Born in England in 1828, William Woodman studied medicine in London, qualifying in 1851. When the Rosicrucian Society of England, the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA), was founded in 1866, Dr Woodman was practicing medicine at Victoria Villas, Stoke Newington. The Societas Rosicruciana was a scholarly and ceremonial association, open only to Master Masons.
He became its Secretary in 1867, succeeding R.W. Little as the Supreme Magus of the Society in 1878 after Little’s death. As a student of the Kabbalah he added something extra to the SRIA, although it was not organised as a school for Kabbalistic or occult instruction. At that time, Dr William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers were not only highly interested in Ritual Magick, Alchemy and the Kabbalah, they were also members of the SRIA .
Mathers, Westcott, and Woodman felt they could offer something different to seekers of Hidden Knowledge. When the ‘Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn’ was in its infancy, many people were dissatisfied with the options of study available to them at the time. For example, Madame Blavatsky had a group called the Theosophical Society, which attracted many people for its spiritual and intellectual content, although many others were put off by its Oriental influence.
Woodman was 20 years Westcott’s senior and old enough to be Mathers father. His role in the establishment of the Order, gave it an air of respectability. He had retired from medicine and his older more 'Victorian' demeanour made him the perfect figurehead. His age even led many people to make the common misconception that the Order was a Society of old gentleman, which was certainly not the case as most of the members in the Order, even four years after it's conception, were still in their twenties.
Woodman kept out of the limelight. Although he was part of the moving spirit of the Order’s conception, his participation was limited. His advanced age, ill health, and the fact that he lived some distance away meant he played little part in the running of the Order. He died in 1891, before he could see the establishment of the Second Order of the Golden Dawn.
Dr William Robert Woodman was described in a Rosicrucian Society pamphlet written by Westcott as "a student of Old Hebrew Philosophy (Kabbalah) and Egyptian Antiquities. He was familiar with works of Gnostics, Platonists, Neo-Platonists, and Medieval Sciences such as Astrology, Alchemy and the Tarot".
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Dr Israel Regardie (17 November 1907 – 10 March 1985)
Israel Regardie (born Francis Israel Regudy) was one of the 20th century's most significant occultists and a renewer of occult literature. He was born in London to poor Jewish immigrant parents, his family choosing the surname 'Regardie' after his brother (due to an error) was enrolled in the British Army under this surname. Regardie emigrated to the United States at the age of 14, and studied art in Washington, DC and Philadelphia, PA. A Hebrew tutor gave him a linguistic knowledge which would prove invaluable in his later studies of the Kabbalah. With easy access to the Library of Congress, he read widely and became interested in Theosophy, Hindu philosophy and Yoga; he also joined the Rosicrucians at around this time.
After reading Book Four Part One by the renowned occultist Aleister Crowley, he started corresponding with him, which led to his return to Europe, at Crowley's invitation, to become the latter's secretary in 1928. The two men finally parted company four years later in 1932.
In 1934, he joined the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn'. Upon the disbandment of the Order, Regardie acquired the bulk of its documents and compiled his book, The Golden Dawn, which caused hostility from the other former members, and earned him the reputation of being an ‘oath-breaker’ because of the information it revealed. However, the book transformed the work of the Order into an entire new branch of the Western Occult Tradition. As Regardie observed in his A Garden of Pomegranates, "...it is essential that the whole system should be publicly exhibited so that it may not be lost to mankind. For it is the heritage of every man and woman --- their spiritual birthright." The various occult organisations claiming descent from the original Golden Dawn, and the systems of magick practiced by them, owe their continuing existence and popularity to Regardie's work.
In 1937, at the age of 30, Regardie returned to the U.S., entering Chiropractic College in New York. In addition to this, he studied psychoanalysis with Drs E. Clegg and J. L. Bendit, and psychotherapy with Dr Nandor Fodor. After qualification, he opened a chiropractic office and taught psychiatry (Freudian, Reichian and Jungian), retiring in 1981 at the age of 74, when he moved to Sedona, Arizona.
Regardie died from a heart attack during a dinner at a restaurant in Sedona on 10 March 1985 at the age of 78.
His published works include:
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Eliphas Lévi (8 February 1810 – 31 May 1875)
Born Alphonse Louis Constant, Eliphas Lévi was the son of a shoemaker in Paris. Eliphas Lévi was the name under which he published his books, and was his attempt at translating ‘Alphonse Louis’ into Hebrew.
As a child he showed great intelligence and was quick to learn, but his father lacked the funds for him to have a private education. However, to ensure his son had a decent education, he sent him to a church in St. Sulpice to be educated and trained as a priest. He became intrigued during the course of one particular lesson when his headmaster explained his personal belief that animal magnetism was a vital energy of the human body, which was controlled by the ‘Devil’. After this, he began to study in secret to learn about magick and the occult.
He continued in his ecclesiastical career and some say he did become ordained as a priest, but he was later thrown out of the church and excommunicated because of his left-wing views and writings, but the real reason was probably because he refused to observe his vows of chastity. After this, he became an outspoken journalist – too outspoken it would seem as his writings led to his serving two or three short jail sentences (this varies depending upon which biography you read).
In the 1830’s Constant became acquainted with a couple called 'Ganneau' who practiced witchcraft. He joined Ganneau and began delving deeper into all mysteries relating to the occult.
In 1846 he met and married an 18 year old girl, Noemie Cadot, with whom he had a child which died in early childhood. After this the marriage broke down, and the couple divorced in 1865. Meanwhile, Constant continued to earn a living as a journalist and by giving lessons in occult studies. It was at this stage that he took on his assumed name 'Magus Eliphas Lévi '.
Lévi’s first attempt at necromancy was during a trip to London in 1854. It is said that a mysterious woman (who claimed to be an adept) asked him to summon the spirit of 'Apollonius' a famous magician of ancient times. During his three weeks of preparation, which consisted of dieting and fasting, he meditated on Apollonius, imagining conversations with him. The ritual he performed is purported to have consisted of twelve hours of incantations, after which the floor began to shake and a ghostly apparition appeared. Lévi admitted to feeling extremely cold and frightened when this happened, and when the apparition touched his ritual sword his arm went numb, at which point he dropped the sword and fainted. He claimed later that the arm which held the sword was sore and numb for days after the incident, and that at the time he was not convinced that he had actually summoned the spirit of Appollonius. However, in subsequent attempts he claims to have called him up several times.
During his stay in London he met the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who was interested in Rosicrucianism as a literary theme and was the president of a minor Rosicrucian order. With Bulwer-Lytton, Lévi conceived the notion of writing a treatise on magick. This was published in 1861 under the title Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie. Other accounts give the publishing date as 1855.
Lévi was greatly influenced by Francis Barrett’s The Magus, and believed a universal 'secret doctrine of magick' had prevailed throughout history and was evident everywhere in the world. He also expounded the theory of 'Astral Light', (the life force and power source that fills all space and living things) based on his belief in animal magnetism. A magician's 'will' was limitless in its power, and to control the astral light was to control all things.
Lévi earned his living from his writing and by giving occult lessons which were free from fantasy, even if they remained obscure. He incorporated the Tarot into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of Western Magick. He became popular and gained a respectable cult following, his magick greatly influencing Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, who wrote a great deal of the rituals adopted by the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn'. Lévi had a significant impact on the magick of the Golden Dawn, and later Aleister Crowley, and it is through this that he is remembered as one of the key founders of the 20th century revival of magick.
Some of his better known publications are:
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Harvey Spencer Lewis (25 November 1883 – 2 August 1939)Harvey Spencer Lewis was born in Frenchtown, New Jersey in 1883. He worked as an illustrator in advertising, a talent he later used to promote the early Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), through printed advertisements and booklets. Lewis first learned of the Rosicrucians through his interest in the paranormal, and later said that he had been initiated into a Rosicrucian Order during a trip to Europe, and given the mission to bring Rosicrucian ideas back to America and to promote them in a modern way.
I have not read anywhere of this supposition of mine, which is that it was Federatio Universalis Dirigens Ordines Societatesque Initiationis (FUDOSI) into which he was initiated. This Order was founded in Brussels in 1914, and was an attempt to create a federation of all true mystical orders and to protect themselves and the people from frauds. FUDOSI’s mission was "to protect the sacred liturgies, rites and doctrines of the traditional initiatory Orders from being appropriated and profaned by clandestine organisations."
It was a year later, in 1915, that Lewis established AMORC, becoming its first Imperator, and there was always a close cooperation between AMORC and FUDOSI. He wrote what became the Order's first principles of lessons in mysticism, and spent the remainder of his life working on behalf of AMORC. He also founded the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, a popular attraction in San Jose, California.
Harvey Spencer Lewis held a number of earned and honorary ordinations, titles and degrees, many granted in recognition of his goodwill work. His son, Ralph Maxwell Lewis, became the second Imperator of AMORC after his death in 1939.
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Gerald Brosseau Gardner (13 June 1884 – 12 February 1964)
Gerald Gardner was an English civil servant, amateur anthropologist, writer, and occultist who published some of the definitive texts for modern Wicca, which he was instrumental in founding. He was born near Liverpool, England to a well-to-do family which had an Irish nursemaid in their service. The family business was Joseph Gardner & Sons, the British Empire's oldest and largest importer of hardwood at the time.
Gardner suffered from asthma having developed the illness at a young age, so his nursemaid offered to take him to the warmer climates of the Continent. They both eventually settled in Asia, where Gardner stayed for a large portion of his life, marrying a woman called Donna.
In 1908 he became a rubber planter, first in Borneo and later in Malaya. After 1923 he held civil service posts as a government inspector in Malaya. In 1936, at the age of 52, he retired to England, where, apparently on medical advice, he took up naturism and also published an authoritative text, Keris and other Malay Weapons, based on his field research into Southeast Asian weapons and magical practices. The keris or kris is a distinctive, asymmetrical dagger common in Malaysia and Indonesia. Both a weapon and spiritual object, kerises are often considered to have an essence or presence, with some blades possessing good luck, while others possess bad.
He and Donna moved from London to Highcliffe, on the edge of the New Forest, where he pursued his interests in the occult and naturism. He was introduced to the Crotona Fellowship, a Rosicrucian theatre in Christchurch, by Mabel Besant Scott, daughter of Theosophist Annie Besant. It was at this theatre where Gardner claims he first met members of the New Forest coven, who initiated him into an ancient surviving tradition of English witchcraft. In 1946 he met Aleister Crowley, these meetings leading to controversy over the authenticity of his Book of Shadows. Crowley is reputed to have been a member of one of 'Old George Pickingill’s' hereditary covens situated in the New Forest. It was alleged that Gardner paid Crowley to write the book for him, although this has since been discounted.
Donna had remained his loyal companion for 33 years, during which time she never participated in the Craft or his activities within it, so Gardner was devastated by her passing in 1960 and began to suffer his childhood affliction of asthma again. In 1964, after suffering a heart attack, he died at sea on a ship returning from Lebanon, and was buried on the shore of Tunisia.
Under the pen name of Scire, Gardner published two works of fiction, A Goddess Arrives and High Magick's Aid. These were followed by two other books,
In The Meaning of Witchcraft Gardner described the tradition of witchcraft into which he had been initiated. He claimed that High Magick's Aid had simply been an attempt to portray the tradition under the guise of fiction, without revealing any oath-bound material, but following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951 he had received permission from others in the coven to discuss the tradition more openly in the two non-fiction books. Gardner also 'revealed' the Ardains of Wicca, the 161 laws of Wicca, which are commonly known in the US as the Laws of Wicca, but which have now more or less fallen out of use except in true traditional Gardnerian circles.
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Albert Pike (29 December 1809 – 2 April 1891)
Albert Pike was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was the oldest of six children. Some reports say he studied at Harvard, while others say that although he passed the entrance examination, he could not afford to go there, and began to teach himself. At various stages of his life he was a poet, philosopher, frontiersman, soldier, humanitarian and philanthropist. He served as a Brigadier-General in the Confederate Army. After the Civil War, Pike was found guilty of treason and imprisoned, only to be pardoned by a fellow Freemason, none other than President Andrew Johnson, on 22 April 1866, who met with him the next day at the White House. Johnson was the seventeenth US President, and the first to be impeached (he was acquitted by a single vote). Two months later, on 20 June 1867, Scottish Rite officials conferred the 4th to 32nd Freemasonry degrees upon the President, and he later travelled to Boston to dedicate a Masonic Temple.
Pike was reputed to be a genius, able to read and write in 16 different languages, although this claim seems rather dubious as there does not appear to be anything to substantiate this A 33rd Degree Mason, he was one of the founding fathers and head of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry being the Grand Commander of North American Freemasonry from 1859, and retaining that position until his death in 1891. In 1869, he was a leader in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
It is said that Pike was a Satanist, who indulged in the occult, apparently possessing a bracelet through which he summoned Lucifer, with whom he had constant communication. He was the Grand Master of a Luciferian group known as the Order of the Palladium (or Sovereign Council of Wisdom), which had been founded in Paris in 1737. Palladism had been brought to Greece from Egypt by Pythagoras in the fifth century, and it was this cult of Satan that was introduced into the inner circle of the Masonic lodges. It was aligned with the Palladium of the Knights Templar (supposedly a secret Masonic Order). In 1801, Isaac Long, a Jew, brought a statue of Baphomet (Satan) to Charleston, South Carolina, where he helped to establish the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. Long apparently chose Charleston because it was geographically located on the 33rd parallel of latitude (but then so is Baghdad), and this council is considered to be the Mother Supreme Council of all Masonic Lodges of the World.
Pike was Long's successor, and he changed the name of the Order to the New and Reformed Palladian Rite (or Reformed Palladium). Pike's right-hand man was a Swiss, Phileas Walder, who was a former Lutheran minister, a Masonic leader, occultist, and spiritualist. Pike also worked closely with Giuseppe Mazzini of Italy (1805-1872) who was a 33rd degree Mason, who became head of the Illuminati in 1834, and who founded the Mafia in 1860. Together with Mazzini, Lord Henry Palmerston of England (1784-1865), also a 33rd degree Mason, and Otto von Bismarck from Germany (1815-1898), again, a 33rd degree Mason, Albert Pike intended to use the Palladian Rite to create a Satanic umbrella group that would tie all Masonic groups together.
Albert Pike died on 2 April 1891, and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, although his corpse lies in the headquarters of the Council of the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Washington, D.C.
I found the following interesting snippet on a website belonging to thetruthseeker.co.uk:
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Paul Foster Case (3 October 1884 – 2 March 1954)
Paul Foster Case was born in Fairport, New York. His mother was a teacher and his father the head librarian of the town library, where he was actually born. (This might explain why he learned to read at a very young age; by the age of four he was caught reading ‘forbidden books’ in the attic of his father's library). It was also noticed that he had outstanding musical talent at an early age, as a result of which he began training in piano and organ at the age of three. By the age of nine, he was the organist at the Congregational Church in which his father was deacon.
When he was seven, Case began corresponding with Rudyard Kipling, who verified the 'fourth-dimensional' experiences Case was having as being not merely imaginary, but actual states of being. Even at this early age, Case found that he had the ability to consciously manipulate his dreams.
At sixteen, he met the architect and occultist Claude Bragdon, at a charity performance. It was at this meeting that Paul Case got his first 'directive'. Bragdon asked him, "Where do you think the playing cards come from?" This simple question sparked an immediate search for the origins and uses of Tarot, and within a very short period of time, he had collected every book and every set of Tarot Keys available. He spent years researching, studying, and meditating on these archetypal images. Case described his experience at the time as definitely 'guided by an inner voice'. In his opinion, the experience with Tarot had stimulated an ‘inner hearing’, through which he was guided to the many attributes of Tarot.
While in New York, Case met Michael Whitty, the Praemonstrator of the Thoth-Hermes Temple of the Golden Dawn (Alpha et Omega). Whitty, having heard of Case's extensive knowledge of the Western Mystery Tradition, and having read some of his published works, invited him into the Order. Case naturally accepted the offer, moving through the Outer Grades quickly. He was initiated into the Second Order on 16 May 1920, with the magical motto, Perseverantia. Just three weeks later, he was the Third Adept in the annual Corpus Christi ceremony. He soon became known as the most knowledgeable occultist in the New York temple, and succeeded Michael Whitty as Praemonstrator within a year of his acceptance into the Second Order. Despite Case's attainments, he did experience difficulty with the system of Enochian Magick, ultimately concluding that the Enochian system was demonic rather than angelic.
Because of his quick advancement through the Grades of the Order, Case may have sparked some jealousy amongst the other Adepts. Moreover, others may have thought some of his teachings inappropriate. Some members also complained about a personal relationship between Case and a soror, Lilli Geise, whom he was later to marry. As a result of all of this, Case was asked to resign by Moina Mathers (the wife of Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers, one of the founder members of the Golden Dawn).
Elma Dame, the Imperatrix of the Philadelphia Temple, who resigned due to the numerous problems in the Order at the time, pointed to the need for a knowledgeable teacher in America. She wrote to Moina: "When you got rid of Mr. Case, you ‘killed the goose that laid the golden egg’." Dr Pullen Burry, a former Order member, concluded that Case was the one to bring "the light of the old Rosicrucian teachings" into the light of Aquarian consciousness. Case's book, The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order, is a classic Kabbalistic interpretation of the Rosicrucian Fama Fraternitatis and Confessio.
After his expulsion from the Order, Case created his own occult school, the School of Ageless Wisdom, but this organisation failed within a few years. Despite this setback, he moved to Los Angeles, abandoning a lucrative career as a musician, and established the Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.), excluding all mention of Enochian Magick from its curriculum. B.O.T.A. is still in existence today.
Case died while vacationing in Mexico with his second wife, Harriet. His legacy includes extensive writings on Tarot and Kabbalah, and he is considered by many to be a true 'teacher and pioneer in this Purgatorial World'.
Some of his books are:
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William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet, dramatist, mystic and public figure. Although born to an Anglo-Irish mother and father, he was perhaps the primary driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival. Yeats also served as an Irish Senator, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 for what the Nobel Committee described as "his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation".
Yeats had a life-long interest in mysticism, spiritualism, occultism and astrology. He read extensively on these subjects throughout his life, being especially impressed and influenced by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). In 1885, he and some friends formed the Dublin Hermetic Order, which held its first meeting on 16 June with Yeats in the chair. That same year, the Dublin Theosophical Lodge was opened. Yeats attended his first séance the following year, and later became involved with hermeticism and theosophical beliefs. After his marriage to Georgie (George) Hyde Lees in 1917, both he and his wife dabbled with a form of automatic writing, Georgie contacting a spirit guide she called "Leo Africanus".
Yeats was admitted into the Golden Dawn in March 1890, taking the name Festina Lente, but after attaining Adeptus Minor, changing it to Daemon est Deus Inversus (DEDI for short), translated as 'Devil is God inverted'. He took this name from the writings of Madame Blavatsky in which she discussed that "...even that divine Homogeneity must contain in itself the essence of both good and evil."
Yeats was an active recruiter for the Golden Dawn's Isis-Urania temple, bringing in George Pollexfen (his uncle) and Florence Farr. He eventually left the Order when it became embroiled in in-fighting and power struggles, the final straw being a stand-off with the occultist Aleister Crowley.
Yeats' mystical inclinations, informed by the writings of Swedenborg and Hindu religion, and his theosophical beliefs along with his understanding of the occult, formed much of the basis of his late poetry, which some critics attacked as lacking intellectual or philosophical insights. To counteract this he wrote, 'If I had not made magick my constant study I could not have written a single word of my Blake book, nor would The Countess Kathleen ever have come to exist. The mystical life is the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write.'
Yeats was appointed to the first Irish Senate in 1922 and reappointed in 1925. One of his main achievements as a Senator was to chair the coinage committee that was charged with selecting a set of designs for the first coinage for the Irish Free State.
After suffering from a variety of illnesses for a number of years, Yeats died at the age of 73 at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, France on 28 January 1939.
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Sri Swami Sivananda (8 September 1887 – 14 July 1963)
Sivananda was born as Kuppuswamy in Southern India, the third son to his parents, on 8 September 1887. As a child he was very active and showed great promise in academics and gymnastics. He attended medical school in Tanjore, where he excelled, and ran a medical journal called Ambrosia during this period.
Upon graduation he practiced medicine and worked as a doctor in Malaysia for ten years, earning a reputation for waiving his fee for those poor patients who needed treatment but lacked the funds. Over time, a sense that medicine was simply 'healing on a superficial level' grew in him, urging him to look elsewhere to fill the void, so in 1923 he left Malaysia and retuned to India to pursue a spiritual quest.
Sivananda went to Rishikesh in 1924, where he was initiated into the Sannyas Order. After his initiation, he settled in Rishikesh, immersing himself in intense spiritual practices, but still continuing to help the sick. Upon the maturity of an insurance policy, he started a charitable dispensary at Lakshmanjula in 1927, serving pilgrims, holy men and the poor. After a few years, he went on an extensive pilgrimage, travelling the length and breadth of India to meditate at holy shrines, to study with spiritual teachers and to visit important places of pilgrimage.
During his stay in Rishikesh and his travels around India, many came to him for guidance on the spiritual path. Some chose to live near him and these lucky few were given instruction. The one thing he asked of his students was to take copies of his short articles and send them for publication, and gradually, the circle of people visiting him increased.
Sivananda founded the ‘Divine Life Society’ on the banks of the holy River Ganges in 1936, the free distribution of spiritual literature drawing a steady stream of disciples to the Swami. In 1945, he created the Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy, and organised the All-world Religions Federation. He established the All-world Sadhus Federation in 1947 and the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy in 1948, calling his style of Yoga the 'Yoga of Synthesis'.
In 1957, Sivananda sent his disciple Swami Vishnu-Devananda to the west to spread the teachings of Yoga and Vedanta (a system of Hindu philosophy based on the Vedas). It is said that he placed 10 rupees in Vishnu-Devananda's palm, saying, "People are waiting." His disciple’s tremendous efforts resulted in the opening of a number of Sivananda institutes across the globe, bringing his philosophy to an even larger audience.
During his lifetime he was a prolific author, writing nearly 300 books on a diverse range of subjects including metaphysics, Yoga, religion, western philosophy, psychology, eschatology (doctrines about death and its aftermath (the soul)), fine arts, ethics, education, health, sayings, poems, epistles, his autobiography, stories, dramas, messages, lectures, dialogues, essays and anthology.
Swami Sivananda died on 14 July 1963 in his Kutir (a place for quiet meditation and visualisation in the middle of nowhere) on the banks of the River Ganges.
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William Quan Judge (22 March 1851 – 21 March 1896)
William Quan Judge was born in Dublin, Ireland. His mother died giving birth to her seventh child, and his father decided to emigrate to New York in 1864 when William was 13. He became a naturalised citizen at the age of 21, and passed the New York state bar exam, specialising in commercial law, in the same year.
Although still a young man, he was a co-founder of the Theosophical Society in 1875, and like Madame Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, two other co-founders, he stayed in the organisation when others left. When Olcott and Blavatsky left the United States for India, Judge stayed behind to keep the Society's work alive, all the while still working as a lawyer.
Judge wrote theosophical articles for various magazines, as well as an introductory volume, The Ocean of Theosophy in 1893. He became the General Secretary of the American Section of the Theosophical Society in 1884, with Abner Doubleday as President.
After Blavatsky died in 1891, Judge became involved in a dispute with Olcott and Annie Besant over the alleged forging of letters from the Mahatmas as a result of which he ended his association with Olcott and Besant in 1895, taking most of the Society's American Section with him. He led his new organisation for about a year until his death in New York City on 21 March 1896, when its leadership passed to Katherine Tingley.
The organisation which arose from the faction led by Olcott and Besant is based in India and known as the Theosophical Society - Adyar, while that led by Judge is known simply as the Theosophical Society, but often with the clarifying statement, "International Headquarters, Pasadena, California”.
After his death, other organisations split off from his, including the Temple of the People (whose library bears his name) in 1898, and the United Lodge of Theosophists or ULT in 1909.
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Walter Ernest Butler (1898-1978)
Very little seems to have been known or written about Walter Butler. What we do know is that he was a British working occultist and esoteric author. His first training in the mysteries was with Robert King, a bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church, who trained him as a medium. Butler himself later became a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church.
While in India, he studied with Indian mystics and came into contact with the Theosophist Annie Besant, who politely rejected his requests to study with her. He returned to England and joined Dion Fortune's 'Society of the Inner Light' in 1925, where he continued to train and participate until sometime towards the end of WW II.
In 1962 he met Gareth Knight (a British esotericist and occult author who began his esoteric training in 1953 as a member of the 'Society of the Inner Light') with whom he began to develop a correspondence course in Practical Kabbalah. During this time he also rejoined the 'Society of the Inner Light'. By 1973, the course in the Practical Kabbalah had grown in popularity and was spun off to form the Servants of the Light, for which Butler became the first Director of Studies. He remained in that position until shortly before his death, when he passed the responsibility to Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki.
Some of Butler’s better known publications are:
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Henry Steel Olcott (2 August 1832 - 17 February 1907)
Henry Steel Olcott was born on 2 August 1832 in Orange, New Jersey. After his father’s business failed in 1851, being forced to leave university, he moved to live near relatives in Ohio (who encouraged his interest in the paranormal), where he made a living from farming.
He returned to the East Coast to study agriculture to such an extent that he became an educationalist and researcher in scientific agriculture, and was even retained by several publications as an agricultural correspondent. In 1860 Olcott married Mary Epplee Morgan, with whom he had four children, but the marriage was unsuccessful, and by 1874 they were divorced.
At the breakout of the American Civil War in 1861, Olcott enlisted in the Corps of Signals, but his education and talents were soon noticed resulting in an assignment as a Special Commissioner investigating fraud at the New York Mustering & Disbursement Office. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel and seconded to the Navy Department in Washington, DC, where he investigated fraud in the Naval Yards, receiving a high commendation for his work from the Secretary of the Navy. After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Olcott was appointed as part of a three-man special commission to investigate the murder.
After resigning from the army in 1865, he returned to New York City to study law, and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1868, becoming a specialist in insurance, customs, and revenue. Once established as a lawyer, his interest in the occult was reawakened. In 1874 he investigated spiritualistic phenomena at a farmstead in Vermont, producing eighteen articles in total which were printed throughout the country. In October of the same year, at the age of 42, he met Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky A year later they decided to establish a philosophico-religious Society under the name of the Theosophical Society. Olcott was elected its first president while Blavatsky became the Corresponding Secretary.
In December 1878 they moved the headquarters of the Theosophical Society to Adyar in Madras (now Chennai), India. However, from the mid-1880s until her death in 1891, he distrusted his co-founder, who resigned in 1885 and returned to Europe. Olcott continued to work in Asia believing that the 'proper work' of the Founders of the Society is organisation rather than research. Unfortunately, his decisions on how to run the Society seemed to result in a precision-like organisation that was off-putting to some Eastern Masters of religious philosophy, the same Masters who had been promoting and advising the Theosophical Society in India.
Blavatsky now began again to take a more active role in the Society, revitalising and leading the European work, and organising the Esoteric Section under her direct control, in association with William Quan Judge. Olcott failed to understand the need for this renewed involvement by Blavatsky and was hostile to many of her moves, and became even more so as a result of the high standing and veneration given to her and her work by the Eastern Masters.
After Blavatsky's death, Olcott (President-Founder), Judge (Vice-President and co-head of the Esoteric Section), and Annie Besant (President of the Blavatsky Lodge, London, and co-head of the Esoteric Section) were the leading officials. But long-standing personal and policy tensions between Olcott and Judge magnified underlying conflicts which led to the split in the Society in 1895. After the division, Olcott continued his theosophical work along with Annie Besant, travelling, lecturing and establishing new branches, until he injured his leg in Europe in late 1906. He returned to Adyar, where he died of heart disease on 17 February 1907.
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Annie Besant (1 October 1847 - 20 September 1933)
Annie Besant was born Annie Wood on 1 October 1847. At the age of 19 she married a Church of England clergyman named Besant in 1867, but although they had two children, the marriage failed.
She had previously been a keen Anglo-Catholic as a girl, but drifted towards atheism after the failure of her marriage, and became a leading figure in the National Secular Society (a group that challenges religious privilege). In 1877, along with an associate, Charles Bradlaugh, she published Charles Knowlton's The Fruits of Philosophy, and was unsuccessfully prosecuted (after an appeal) for selling 'obscene literature' - a tract supporting birth control.
She campaigned for all feminist causes, led the London matchgirls' strike of 1888 against Bryant & May, and became a member of the executive committee of the Fabian Society, a group promoting non-Marxist evolutionary socialism.
In 1889 Besant abandoned atheism and joined the Theosophical Society within which she swiftly rose to the highest ranks. After the death of Madame Blavatsky she led the majority faction in the Society. With Charles Webster Leadbeater she sponsored Jiddu Krishnamurti as the new world teacher, and went to India where she played an important part in Indian nationalist politics, joining the struggle for Indian Home Rule.
Some of her numerous books include:
She died on 20 September 1933, convinced that she would soon be reborn.
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Florence Farr (7 July 1860 – 29 April 1917)
Florence Farr was born in London in 1860, the youngest daughter of Mary Elizabeth Whittal and Dr William Farr. She was named after Florence Nightingale by her father, a physician and hygienist who was a friend of Nightingale. She attended Queen's College, London, the first college in England to open its doors to women.
She was a leading West End actress and one time mistress of George Bernard Shaw. Just after her 30th birthday, she was initiated into the Isis-Urania Temple of the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn' becoming the Order's 88th member. Her motto was Sapientia Sapienti Dono Data, or Wisdom is a gift given to the Wise. She quickly progressed through the grades, and on the Winter Solstice of 1891 became only the second member to be initiated through the 5=6 Ritual. The following year, she was elevated to Praemonstratrix of the Order.
The Golden Dawn then began to go through difficult times, some of these problems arising after Aleister Crowley was initiated into the Second Order by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers in Paris, after Florence Farr had refused him in London.
In January of 1902 she severed all her ties to what was left of the Order. In 1912, she moved to Ceylon where she died of cancer in 1917. As was the Hindu custom, she was cremated and her ashes scattered in a sacred river.
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