Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Magical Eroticism of Paschal Beverly Randolph

The most important figure in the rise of modern sexual magic was arguably the fascinating yet generally neglected figure of Paschal Beverly Randolph. Born in 1825 to a wealthy Virginian father and a slave from Madagascar, Randolph was a poor, self-educated free black raised in the poorer parts of New York. He was orphaned at a young age and ran away from his foster parents to explore a vast range of new spiritual traditions and to travel the world. Through his journeys in Egypt and the Near East he claimed to have been initiated by various seers and holy men, including Egyptian mages and Indian Brahmins. Upon his return to the United States he became involved with various Spiritualist movements, and was also involved in various political movements championing the cause and future of African Americans. These ideas of liberation would become a major theme in his spiritual writings and understanding of sex magic, especially in regards to gender equality. He also founded a new religious order, which he labelled the Brother of Eulis. Although he had been influenced by European Rosicrucian orders, he claimed that his order would surpass them and that the core of their spiritual teachings had a sexual magical element. Unfortunately, Randolph’s life ended after a series of tragic events. An accident had left him invalid which led him to excessive amounts of intoxication. Suspicious that his wife had betrayed him, he committed suicide in 1875.

Randolph’s work on sexual magic took place during mid-nineteenth century America, where the tremendous power of sexuality was slowly being recognised scientifically and socially, where it was praised within the confines of marriage and condemned outside of it. It was also an era of radical social movements and the foundation of various new religious movements and especially the Spiritualist movement, all of which were concerned with the spiritual side of sexuality but not all in the same fashion.

Randolph’s main contribution to Western occultism concerned sex. Apart from being an expert in the cure of sexual diseases and dysfunctions, he developed a system and practice of sexual magic that, as he claimed, could achieve all manners of marvels, both worldly and otherworldly. He saw his system of sexual magic as a path to a millennial new world. Randolph’s teachings would later on inspire and influence a host of new magical orders, such as the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Ordo Templis Orientis. His system of sexual magic has been described by Hugh B. Urban as “a system of magical eroticism, or affectional alchemy.”[1] As Randolph continuously stressed,

LOVE LIETH AT THE FOUNDATION... and Love is convertibly passion, enthusiasm affection heat, fire, SOUL, God... The nuptive moment, the instant wherein the germs of a possible new being are lodged... is the most solemn, serious, powerful and energetic moment he can ever know on earth.[2]

Randolph believed that the sexual drive is the most potent and fundamental force in the universe, due to its natural attraction between the active/positive and the passive/negative. Following Franz Anton Mesmer’s pattern of thought, Randolph understood the male and female as opposite yet complimentary electromagnetic forces, with the male genitals being the positive and the female the negative. Because sexual attraction is the most potent and fundamental force in nature, the experience of the orgasm is a very primordial, powerful, and critical moment in human consciousness. It is the key to magical power. At the moment of climax the soul is exposed to the energies of the universe and new life pours from the spiritual into the material realm. At this point anything that is truly willed can happen.

The moment when a man discharges his seed – his essential self – into a womb is the most solemn, energetic and powerful moment he can ever know on earth; if under the influence of mere lust it be done, the discharge us suicidal... At the moment his seminal glands open, his nostrils expand, and while the seed is going from his soul to her womb he breathes one of two atmospheres, either fetid damnation from the border spaces or Divine Energy from heavens. Whatsoever he shall truly will and internally pray for when Love... is in the ascendant, that moment the prayer’s response comes down.[3]

A unique feature of his sexual techniques, apart from the employment and magical use of the orgasm as a means of acquiring otherworldly sympathies, was his emphasis on the mutuality and equality of male and female in their loving union. All forms of sexual abuse within the Victorian framework, whether through masturbation or excessive intercourse, drained the body of the vital energy required for the undertaking of a sexual magical operation.

Despite being accused by many as promoting promiscuity and sexual license under the guise of his sexual magical teachings, Randolph was indeed a very conservative character. His practice of sexual magic is anything but mere hedonistic license. Sex, for Randolph, is strictly for married couples in a state of pure love.

Although for many in nineteenth century America Randolph might have appeared to be a radical, spiritual antinomian threatening the moral and spiritual foundation of society, his teachings on spiritualised love and sexual magic reflected and embodied many of the basic sexual values of his day, both physically and spiritually. His system was unlike the sexual techniques developed by many magicians to come who were inspired by him.

[1] Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, 2006, 23.
[2] Paschal Beverley Randolph, Eulis! The History of Love: Its Wondrous Magic, Chemistry, Rules, Laws, Modes, Moods, and Rationale, 1874, 100.
[3] Paschal Beverley Randolph, Eulis! The History of Love: Its Wondrous Magic, Chemistry, Rules, Laws, Modes, Moods, and Rationale, 1874, 339-340.


  1. So true - much of what is kept as 'inner secrets' of sexual magic even today in magical orders stems from PBR. Reading through his original material is both fascinating and enligthening from a perspective of magical history in the West. Thanks for sharing.