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Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor

An order for the teaching of practical occultism, the “H.B. of L.” began public activity in London late in 1884. Its Exterior Circle was directed by a Grand Master, Max Theon (1848?-1927), a Polish Jew who later moved to Algeria and started the “Mouvement Cosmique.” Under Theon were two Provincial Grand Masters, Peter Davidson (1837-1915) and the Rev. William Alexander Ayton (1816-1909), and the Secretary, Thomas H. Burgoyne (1855?-1895?). During 1885-86, Davidson and Burgoyne produced the monthly Occult Magazine at first in Scotland, then in Georgia, U.S.

The H.B. of L.’s procedure was to issue manuscript rituals, lectures, and instructions to its neophytes, and to answer their questions through correspondence. The representatives in France (F.-Ch. Barlet) and America (Thomas M. Johnson), enrolled many theosophists in the Order, in response to the demand for practical teaching. The latter was largely derived from the works of Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875), the American spiritualist, “Rosicrucian,” and founder of the Brotherhood of Eulis. The H.B. of L.’s practice centered on the use of the magic mirror to develop concentration, will, and CLAIRVOYANCE, and on the integration of sex into the spiritual path. The sexual teachings, adapted from Randolph’s published and privately circulated writings, were high-minded, aimed at mutual satisfaction between heterosexual lovers, elevating the sexual act to a religious rite, and conceiving spiritually gifted children.

Helena P. BLAVATSKY was hostile to the H.B. of L. as soon as she became aware of it in 1885. While the H.B. of L. claimed to be the senior Order, Blavatsky and Henry S. OLCOTT regarded it as a parody of the “BROTHERHOOD OF LUXOR” whose Masters had instructed them in 1875. The multiple defection of theosophists who found practical teaching lacking in the Theosophical Society (TS) was one reason for the foundation of the latter’s ESOTERIC SECTION in 1888. Hostility became mutual as the H.B. of L. opposed its own Western or Hermetic tradition to the ESOTERIC BUDDHISM of the TS.

The H.B. of L. ceased to operate as such in the early 1890s, but the three principals continued work in their own ways. Theon produced a large body of doctrine, the “Philosophie Cosmique,” through the mediumship of his English wife. His best-known pupil in occultism was Mirra Alfassa, later the “Mother” of the Sri AUROBINDO Ashram. Davidson, after a period of independence, allied himself with Theon’s Mouvement Cosmique. Burgoyne published many of the H.B. of L.’s documents in The Light of Egypt (1893), with his own strongly anti-Theosophical comments. The main contributions of the Order were to assert the value of the West’s own occult tradition; to teach a method by which anyone might develop clairvoyance, as opposed to using mediums; and to help the aspirant to integrate sex, rather than exclude it.

Reference: C. Chanel, J. P. Deveney, and J. Godwin, eds., The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Historical and Initiatic Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1995)


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