The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Randolph, Paschal Beverly (October 8, 1825—July 29, 1875)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame
Paschal Beverly Randolph, a prominent nine-teenth-century spiritualist, occultist, and prolific author was perhaps the primary exponent of magic mirrors and sex-magic. His theories influenced Helena Blavatsky and Aleister Crowley among others.
Randolph was a brilliant metaphysician: a High Ritual adept, Rosicrucian, Spiritualist, and Hoodoo doctor. He traveled in the circles of elite French and English occultists but also sold something called the “New Orleans Magnetic Pillow” via magazine ads. (He studied with Voodooists in New Orleans although later publicly criticized them.) Randolph founded various metaphysical societies including the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Brotherhood of Eulis.
Randolph was born at 70 Canal Street in New York City’s notorious Five Points slum. Five Points was that rare phenomena, a five-way crossroads. He identified his father, to whom his mother may or may not have been married, as a member of the prominent Randolph family of Virginia and, through him, claimed descent from Pocahontas. Randolph’s mother, Flora, was of African descent. He described her as being psychically gifted and believed he inherited his intuitive skills from her.
Randolph eventually became a sailor, then a barber. By 1853, he was listed in the New York City directory as “Dr. Paschal Beverly Randolph, clairvoyant physician and psycho-phrenologist.”
Although he used the title “Doctor,” Randolph was not a medical doctor but a “clairvoyant physician” who used powers of clairvoyance, sometimes while entranced, to diagnosis illness and prescribe treatment. The medical field was more eclectic at that time; by 1854, Randolph was working for two physicians in New York, seeing fifty patients a day.
He became involved with Spiritualism and was a gifted trance medium. Among those he channeled were Benjamin Franklin, Zoroaster, Napoleon, and his mother who chided him for allowing himself to be susceptible to so many spirits. He became entranced easily and suddenly (some said at the drop of a hat); a handsome, charismatic man, he was a popular lecturer as it was never sure whether he would deliver the advertised lecture or suddenly begin to channel some spirit.
He traveled through Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, spending time with the Dervishes and various occultists, and becoming proficient in various languages including Arabic and Turkish. In Paris, he may have met Eliphas Levi, who may or may not have initiated Randolph into the societies to which Levi belonged. Returning to the United States, Randolph became an importer and publisher, founding the Randolph Publishing House. He wrote many works, although usually under pseudonyms like Le Rosicrucien.
By 1860, Randolph was the foremost advocate of the magic mirror in the United States and was using it to teach a system of true, conscious clairvoyance. He authored books teaching these techniques and was also the primary distributor of magic mirrors.
Previously mirror-gazing was a passive activity; the medium merely received messages from the device. Randolph created a system of active magic using specially designed mirrors. The mirrors he advocated usually consisted of two pieces of glass or metal, one convex and one concave, fitted together in a frame leaving a narrow cavity that could be filled with various substances, such as ink, hashish, and/or assorted sexual fluids.
Randolph also became the foremost scholar and theorist of sex magic. Randolph’s sex magic is unusual: most systems of sexual magic involve relationships between the practitioner and discarnate entities. Randolph’s theories actually involve sex between men and women. Equally unusually, especially for his time, he placed tremendous emphasis on women’s sexual happiness.
Randolph taught that human vitality is dependent upon mutual sexual fulfillment. The moment of mutual, simultaneous orgasm is the point of supreme magic power. The vital energy that flows during correct sexual intercourse supports clairvoyance and mediumship and ultimately links the human soul with those of the celestial spheres.
The key word is “correct” sexual intercourse; Randolph believed that in order to achieve this state, men and women must find their soulmates, their “correct” compatible partner. Much of his life was devoted to finding that partner; he had a stormy love life, marrying at least three times. With the correct partner, it would theoretically be possible to conceive a magical child. (Randolph believed this was accomplished with the birth of his son, Osiris Budh, on March 29, 1874.) It is theorized that many of Aleister Crowley’s later obsessions with Scarlet Women and magickal children are rooted in Randolph’s work (see Crowley, page 720).
This sexual vitality, which he envisioned as a type of fluid, similar to lymphatic fluid, is intrinsic to human well being and magical power. In addition to sex, vitality may be bolstered and enhanced through certain foods, as well as through various herbal elixirs that Randolph formulated and sold via mail order, their primary ingredient hashish. He made various, presumably potent, concoctions of hashish, opium, henbane, and belladonna.
Randolph became very bitter at the end of his life; he was in severe financial straits and was perhaps drinking. He felt he was not given the respect due to him by other occultists, blaming it, with much justification, on prevalent race prejudice.
On July 29, 1875, Randolph committed suicide by shooting himself with a pistol in Toledo, Ohio. Just a few months later, Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott formed the Theosophical Society, many of whose early theories were closely related to Randolph’s. Randolph and Olcott corresponded with each other, and it’s known that Olcott admired Randolph’s books. Various rumors exist, none substantiated, regarding Randolph’s relationship, if any, with Blavatsky:
Some suggest they knew each other in Paris before Blavatsky came to the US
Some suggest they belonged to the same secret societies and that Randolph was privy to Blavatsky’s Ascended Masters
Some suggest that Blavatsky and Randolph feuded, possibly fatally. One story suggested that Randolph had attempted to hex Blavatsky but the spell rebounded, causing him to kill himself. (In all fairness, this story derives from those who wished to paint Blavatsky as a powerful but malevolent witch.)
Further Reading: An extensively detailed, long-overdue biography, Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian and Sex Magician, by John Patrick Deveney (State University of New York Press, 1997) also includes two of Randolph’s most famous works, The Ansairetic Mystery: A New Revelation Concerning Sex! and The Mysteries of Eulis.