Paschal Beverly Randolph (October 8, 1825 – July 29, 1875) was an American medical doctor, occultist and writer. Randolph is notable as perhaps the first person to introduce the principles of sex magic to North America, and, according to A.E. Waite, establishing the earliest known Rosicrucian order in the United States .
Sources disagree as to Randolph’s birthplace (New York or Virginia). He was a free man of mixed-race ancestry, descendant of William Randolph. His father was a nephew of John Randolph of Roanoke and his mother was Flora Beverly, whom he later described as a woman of mixed English, French, German, Native American and Malagasy ancestry. This background led to his being a spokesman for the abolition ofslavery. His mother died when he was young, leaving him homeless and penniless; he ran away to sea in order to support himself. A peripatetic man, he lived in many places, including New York state, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Toledo, Ohio. He married twice; his first wife was African-American; his second wife was Irish-American.
As a teen and young man, Randolph traveled widely, due to his work aboard sailing vessels. 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 varied religions. On these travels he also met and befriended occultists in England and Paris, France.
After leaving the sea, Randolph embarked upon a public career as a lecturer and writer. By his mid-twenties, he regularly appeared on stage as atrance medium and advertised his services as a spiritual practitioner in magazines associated with the Spiritualist Movement. Like many Spiritualists of his era, he lectured in favor of Abolition; after Emancipation, he taught literacy to freed slaves in New Orleans.
In addition to his work as a trance medium, Randolph trained as a doctor of medicine and wrote and published both fictional and instructive books based on his theories of health, sexuality, Spiritualism and occultism. He authored more than fifty works on magic and medicine, established an independent publishing company, and was an avid promoter of birth control during a time 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, 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, but his magico-sexual theories and techniques formed the basis of much of the teachings of another occult fraternity, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, although it is not clear that Randolph himself was ever personally associated with the Brotherhood.Two twentieth century occultists and practitioners of sex magic, Theodor Reuss of Germany and Aleister Crowley of Great Britain, were heavily influenced by Randolph in both organizing theOrdo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) and in their sex magic rituals.
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 in a train to Springfield, Illinois. However, Randolph was asked to leave the train when some passengers objected to the presence of an African American in their midst.
Randolph died in Toledo, Ohio at the age of 49, under disputed circumstances. According to Professor Carl Edwin Lindgren, D.Ed., many questioned the coroner’s finding that Randolph died from a self-inflicted wound to the head, for many of his writings express his aversion to suicide. The evidence was conflicting. R. Swinburne Clymer, a later Supreme Master of theFraternitas, 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. Randolph was succeeded as Supreme Grand Master of the Fraternitas, and in other titles, by his chosen successor Freeman B. Dowd.
In 1996, the biography Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician by John Patrick Deveney and Franklin Rosemont was published.