|The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor
La Tradition Cosmique
"In 1870 (and not in 1884, as the Theosophists claimed), an adept of calm, of the ever-existing ancient Order of the H. B. of L., after having received the consent of his fellow-initiates, decided to choose in Great Britain a neophyte who would answer his designs. He landed in Great Britain in 1873. There he discovered a neophyte who satisfied his requirements and he gradually instructed him. Later, the actual neophyte received permission to establish the Exterior Circle of the H. B. of L."
The adept in the above paragraph (from the introduction by Pascal Themanlys to the book Visions of the Eternal Present) is Max Theon, at the time a mere 22 years of age. I assume the disciple referred to is Peter Davidson (1842-1916), a Scottish philosopher. In London Theon was the Grand Master of the H. B. of L. - Exterior Circle of the Holy Brotherhood of Luxor, and Davidson, its visible head. One of Davidson's other teachers was the Rosicrucian Hargrave Jennings (c. 1817 - 1890). were joined in 1883 by Thomas H. Burgoyne (AKA Thomas Dalton, 1855-1895).
The function of this "Outer Circle" of the H. B. of L. was to offer a correspondence course on practical occultism; which set it apart from the Theosophical Society. Its curriculum included a number of selections from the writings of Hargrave Jennings and Paschal Beverly Randolph.
Theon and Davidson were heirs to an already established tradition, influences of which go back at least to Rosicrucian-Freemasonic ideas and movements of the eighteenth century. There are in fact a number of different, if related and overlapping, references here. As T Allen Greenfield points out, there seems to be
"a parallel tradition running through the eighteenth century Fratres Lucis and Asiatic Brethren on the one hand, and Cagliostro's Egyptian Rite (androgynous) Freemasonry on the other. These fuse with primordial Egyptian traditions during the Napoleonic conquests in Egypt, passed on to Metamon, Theon, Levi, Randolph, Davidson and other nineteenth century luminaries, down to Papus, Reuss, Kellner and, eventually, Aleister Crowley and his successors and heirs within OTO."
Thus Theon and Davidson and the H. B. of L. had an influence not only on Theosophy but also, directly and indirectly, with the OTO and hence Steiner (who was a member before the OTO became mostly thelemite), Crowley and most of modern occultism.
"The interior Circle of the H. B. of L. was formed within a distinct Hermetic Order in consequence of a division that took place in the ranks of the Hermetic Initiates. This division was the outcome of the natural difference between the initiates belonging to the Sacerdotal Caste and those who were seriously tested and graduated in the schools of occultism."
In the last decades of the 19th century, the Order of the The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor had considerable influence in all the milieu of Western occultism. It was the only order of its time that taught practical occultism in the Western Mystery Tradition. This very secretive order, which counted among its members many of the well-known figures of late 19th-century occultism, spiritualism, and Theosophy. The researcher, G. Marvin Williams, wrote that Madam Blavalsky's claim of being involved with the H.B. of L. was just a creation of imagination designed to gain publicity. But, despite Marvin's scepticism, Madam Blavatsky was indeed a member of the Order.
In later years, Peter Davidson emigrated to the United States and there published several books. While in 1889 some the H.B. of L. material in the form of lessons by Burgoyne was published as The Light of Egypt, minus only the practical teachings
The charter of the Ancient and Noble Order of H. B. of L. which was signed: "M. Theon, Grand Master pro temp of the Exterior Circle," contains high principles and important data:
"We recognize the eternal existence of the Great Cause of Light, the invisible center whose vibrating soul, gloriously radiant, is the living breath, the vital principle of all that exists and will ever exist. It is from this divine summit that goes forth the invisible Power which binds the vast universe in an harmonious whole."
"We teach that from this incomprehensible center of Divinity emanate sparks of the eternal Spirit,which,after accomplishing their orbit, the great cycle of Necessity, constitute the sole immortal element of the human soul. Accepting thus the universal brotherhood of humanity, we reject, nevertheless,the doctrine of universal quality."
"We have no personal preferences and no one makes progress in "the Order without having accomplished his assigned task thereby indicating aptitude for more advanced initiation."
"Remember, we teach freely, without reservation, anyone worthy of instruction."
"The Order devotes its energies and resources to discover and apply the hidden laws and active forces in all fields of nature, and to subjugate them to the higher will of the human soul, whose power and attributes our Order strives to develop, in order to build up the immortal individuality so that the complete spirit can say I AM."
"The members engage themselves, to the best of their ability, in a life of moral purity and brotherly love, abstaining from the use of intoxicants except for medicinal purposes, working for the progress of all social reforms beneficial for humanity."
"Finally, the members have full freedom of thought and judgment. By no means may one member be disrespectful towards members of other religious beliefs or impose his own convictions on others."
"Each member of our ancient and noble Order has to maintain, human dignity by living as an example of purity, justice and goodwill. No matter what the circumstances may be, one can become a living center of goodness, radiating virtue, nobility and truth."
According to William Emmette Coleman
In 1875 Mme. B. had claimed to be in communication with an Egyptian Lodge, called the Brotherhood of Luxor, composed of "Adepts" or "Brothers"; Masters in magical lore, and she also caused Olcott to believe that one or more of these "Brothers" had accepted him as a pupil, and that certain communications to him purporting to come from them, and received by the Colonel through her, were the veritable productions of these "Adepts." Olcott asserts that one of them once visited him in his room in a materialized astral form, and as proof of his objectivity left with him his headcovering, which the Colonel retains to this day.
The indication here is that the Theosophical doctrine of Masters is directly based on the H. B. of L. Later however Blavatsky accused that magical order of swindling money from the gullible. The definition in the on-line Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary: defines the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor as "a spurious "esoteric" society started about 1884 in England, which later spread to America before it was exposed as a fraud in Yorkshire by theosophists around 1887," and that in August, 1887, Burgoyne "issued to the members a secret circular, the essence of which was that he had studied Chaldean Astrology for eighteen years, but could not communicate the 'lessons' in it and Occultism without a payment to him of $60; that his teachings had the full approval of the Masters...He was 28 years old at the time. He later published the same material in a book, The Light of Egypt, sold for $3.00."
We have seeen that the H. B. of L. was established in 1870, although perhaps it (as the O.T.O. historical documents suggest) only emerged publicly at the later date. Another minor point: if Burgoyne was born in 1855 than in 1887 he was 32, not 28. The reference to the "Masters" is interesting because it seems that the H. B. of L. is where Blavatsky originally developed the idea from. One wonders how much of this material is genuine, and how much slander. There was certainly an ideological difference (apart from her short-lived "Esoteric Section", Blavatsky was very much against teaching practical occultism, considering it too dangerous), and in Lodges of Magic Blavatsky warns members of Randolph and other love-philter sellers. This is evident in a number of letters abnd represents a long-running feud, at leats on Blavatsky's part. For example in a letter A. P. Sinnett, Blavatsky warns him of the "Hindu Brotherhood of Luxor with Davison in it and others working now in the U.S. against us."
It is interesting that most of the few hits on the Web for the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor are Theosophical propaganda of this nature; this stemming perhaps from a number of factors: a falling out between Blavatsky and Theon, and also clearly the puritan theosophists dislike of the controversial sex-magician Randolph who seems to have been associated (rightly or wrongly) with the love-philter con-artists and other quacks that would have been quite numerous at that time.
|Links and References
Hermetic Brotherhood Of Luxor: Initiatic & Historical Documents Of An Order Of Occultism by Chanel, Christian et al (Eds.) Publisher: Samuel Weiser, Inc. - biography of founding and important members and presentation of documents; very important for the occulkt historian
T. Allen Greenfield, The Story of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, Looking Glass 1997 1st Ed Paperback vi + 194pp Illus - another book with of early documents from the H.B. of L.; a lot of material on Paschal Beverly Randolph
T Allen Greenfield, Hermetic Brotherhood Revisited - Thoughts on the Antiquity and Continuity of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light
The Invisible Basilica: Paschal Beverly Randolph by T Allen Greenfield and Notes on P.B. Randolph and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light - based on a talk by Allen Greenfield
The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett - Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Critical Historical Review of The Theosophical Society [An Expose of Madame Blavatsky] by William Emmette Coleman, Member American Oriental Society, Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and Pali Text Society. [Originally published in The Religio-Philosophical Journal, Chicago, Illinois, September 16, 1893, pp. 264-266.] - Published by The Blavatsky Archives Online. Online Edition copyright 1999.
Lodges of Magic, by H. P. Blavatsky
Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary Copyright 1999 by Theosophical University Press.
The Light of Egypt Or The Science of The Soul And The Stars by Henry O. Wagner/Belle M. Wagner/Thomas H. Burgoyne - free e-text versions of vol. 2 of the Light of Egypt
The Influence of Egypt on the Modern Western Mystery Tradition: The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor by Samuel Scarborough. Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition No. 1, Autumnal Equinox 2001
Corpus Mmothra: La Tradition Cosmique- Via Antiquities of the Illuminati and Kheper blog by Jonathan Sellers (Monday, March 21, 2005), includes interesting comments on Theon and the Tradition, and HBoL
The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism, by Joscelyn Godwin, Christian Chanel and John P. Deveney. book review at The Second-Hand Book-Stall.
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