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Sat, 10.08.1825

Paschal Randolph, Doctor and Occultist born

Pashcal Randolph

*Paschal Randolph was born on this date in 1825.  He was a Black medical doctor, occultist, Spiritualist, trance medium, and writer.  

Born and raised in New York City, Paschal Beverly Randolph was a free man of mixed race.  His father was William Randolph, and his mother, Flora Beverly, whom he later described as having mixed English, French, German, Native American, and Malagasy ancestry.  During his lifetime, he would be described as an octoroon or someone of one-eighth black African ancestry.  

His mother died when he was young, leaving him homeless and penniless; he ran away to sea to support himself. From his adolescence to age twenty, he worked as a sailor.  He journeyed to England, through Europe, and as far east as Persia, where his interest in mysticism and the occult led him to study with local practitioners of folk magic and various religions. He also met and befriended occultists on these travels in England and Paris, France. 

After leaving the sea, Randolph began a public career as a lecturer and writer. By his mid-twenties, he regularly appeared on stage as a trance medium and advertised his services as a spiritual practitioner in magazines associated with Spiritualism. Like many Spiritualists of his era, he lectured to abolish slavery; after emancipation, he taught literacy to freed slaves in New Orleans.  Returning to New York City in September 1855, after "a long tour in Europe and Africa," he gave a public lecture to blacks on emigrating to India. Randolph believed that "the Negro is destined to extinction" in the United States.”

He authored over fifty works on magic and medicine, established an independent publishing company, and was an avid promoter of birth control when it was largely against the law to mention this topic. Having long used the pseudonym "The Rosicrucian" for his Spiritualist and occult writings, Randolph eventually founded the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis in 1858, and their first lodge in San Francisco in 1861, the oldest Rosicrucian organization in the United States, which dates back to the era of the American Civil War.

This group, still in existence today, avoids mention of Randolph's interest in sex magic. Still, his magico-sexual theories and techniques formed the basis of much of the teachings of another occult fraternity, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. However, it is unclear whether Randolph was ever personally associated with the Brotherhood. 

In 1851, Randolph made the acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln. Their friendship was close enough that, when Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Randolph accompanied Lincoln's funeral procession on a train to Springfield, Illinois. However, Randolph was asked to leave the train when some passengers objected to the presence of a black man.  Randolph described himself as a Rosicrucian. How Randolph incorporated sex into his occult system was considered uncharacteristically bold for the period in which he lived. Randolph believed in pre-Adamism (the belief that humans existed on earth before the Biblical Adam). He wrote the book Pre-Adamite Man: demonstrating the existence of the human race upon the earth 100,000 thousand years ago! under the name of Griffin Lee in 1863.

His book was a unique contribution towards pre-Adamism because it wasn't strictly based on biblical grounds.  He married twice: his first wife was black, and his second wife was a white-Irish American. Randolph died under disputed circumstances in Toledo, Ohio, on July 29, 1875, at the age of 49.  R. Swinburne Clymer, a later Supreme Master of the Fraternitas, stated that years after Randolph's demise, in a death-bed confession, a former friend of Randolph had conceded that in a state of jealousy and temporary insanity, he had killed Randolph. Lucus County Probate Court records list the death as accidental. Randolph was succeeded as Supreme Grand Master of the Fraternitas, and in other titles, by his chosen successor Freeman B. Dowd. 

In 1994, the historian Joscelyn Godwin noted that historians of esotericism had largely neglected Randolph. In 1996, a biography was published, Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician, by John Patrick Deveney and Franklin Rosemont. 

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