Monday, November 5, 2012

Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, the OTO and Chicago

There is a bit of confusion surrounding the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light.  What was it, and what was its connection to the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor?  Were they one and the same?  Many seem to be under the impression that they were, and it's an easy enough conclusion to jump to. 

There are rumors of a Hermetic Brotherhood of Light operating early enough for Paschal Beverly Randolph to have been a member, and persisting long enough to eventually transform into the OTO.  There are rumors that the highly influential Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor had ties to Chicago.  The whole situation is quite confusing, and it doesn't make matters easier when considering that many of these organizations had habits that included claiming a lineage of over 4000 years, associating themselves with names of those long dead.

Here is what I have been able to determine.  Of course, I would love to hear from anyone with more information.

The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was founded in 1870 and premiered publicly in 1884.  The H.B.L. was heavily inspired by the teachings of Paschal Beverly Randolph, though they later drew a bit of distance from him after deeming his suicide to be unsavory.  They also had a bit of a rivalry with the Theosophical Society - despite sharing many similar beliefs, approaches and even members, the two organizations had a bit of a public sparring match.

Despite rumors, I have yet to find any information linking the H.B.L. to Chicago.  The Theosophical Society was already firmly established here, and I have to wonder if they had a mutual understanding to keep their distance.  Still the influence of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was felt in Chicago, with several splinter groups arising here.

"Dr. W.P. Phelon and his wife, both of whom were prominent Theosophists and members of the H.B. of L., founded and ran the curiously named "Hermetic Brotherhood of Atlantis, Luxor and Elephantae," first in Chicago and then in San Francisco, and published a variety of "Hermetic Manuscripts" and a Hermetic Journal." -The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism, Jocelyn Godwin, Christian Chanel and John P Deveny.

After moving to San Francisco, the Phelons apparently shortened their organization's name to simply "the Hermetic Brotherhood," with their publishing company being the "Hermetic Book Concern."  Their chosen symbolism is interesting in that it employs an ouroboros lifted directly from the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, with a winged swastika, combining symbolism from both the H.B. of L. and the Theosophical Society.

Another organization following the H.B. of L. with links to Chicago was the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light:
"Finally, there was the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, founded or reorganized in Chicago or in Boston in 1895, whose teachings fed the streams of sexual practice flowing into the Ordo Templi Orientis of Theodor Reuss and eventually into the works of Aleister Crowley." -The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism, Jocelyn Godwin, Christian Chanel and John P Deveny.

Information regarding the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light is scarce.  Even authorities on the subject seem unsure as to its origins - was it a group inspired by the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, or was it the other way around?  What is known is that the teachings of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light went on to inspire, if not itself become, the Ordo Templi Orientis.

From the 1917 constitution of the OTO, by Theodor Reuss:
"While numberless societies, associations, orders, groups, etc., have been founded during the last thirty years in all parts of the civilised world, all following some line of occult study, yet there is but ONE ancient organization of genuine Mystics which shows to the seeker after truth a Royal Road to discover the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity and to the Unveiling of the One Hermetic Truth.
This organization is known at the present time as the:
Ancient Order of Oriental Templars
Ordo Templi Orientis
Otherwise: The Hermetic Brotherhood of Light."

 Did a Chicago organization have a hand in the eventual organization of the OTO?  Perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising, considering the fact that both Aleister Crowley and Charles Stansfeld Jones (Frater Achad) lived here at one point.

3 comments:

  1. The Hermetic Brotherhood of Atlantis, Luxor and Elephantis moved from San Francisco to 3822 Harrison Street in Oakland, California in the 1960's and remained there, under the guidance of Frederick B. Thomas and his wife Nina S. Thomas, until 1972 when it moved to San Leandro, California. I was a member of the Brotherhood.

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