Biography

Paschal Beverly Randolph

Paschal Beverly Randolph (October 8, 1825 – July 29, 1875) was an African American medical doctor, occultist, spiritualist, trance medium, and writer. He is notable as perhaps the first person to introduce the principles of erotic alchemy to North America, and, according to A. E. Waite, establishing the earliest known Rosicrucian order in the United States.

Born in New York City, Randolph grew up in New York City. He was a free man of mixed-race ancestry. His mother was Flora Beverly, whom he later described as being of mixed English, French, German, Native American and Malagasy ancestry. 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 various 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 a trance medium and advertised his services as a spiritual practitioner in magazines associated with Spiritualism. Like many Spiritualists of his era, he lectured in favor of the abolition of slavery; 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 wrote 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.

Randolph died in Toledo, Ohio, at the age of 49, under disputed circumstances. Randolph influenced both the Theosophical Society and—to a greater degree—the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.