Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Brief History of Sexual Magic groups that call themselves Gnostics

Having posted timelines of modern Gnosticism, it may be useful to include a timeline and brief history of certain sexual magic groups and the historical circumstances that lead them to call themselves Gnostics.

Selected Timeline

  • c. 1850   Paschal Beverly Randolph begins an eight year career as a medium, appearing as a "trance speaker" and working as a "clairvoyant physician."
  • c. 1857   Randolph travels through Europe and the near East. He later recounts that it is on this trip he learned "the fundamental principle of the White Magick of Love."
  • 1858   Randolph renounces Spiritualism, ending an eight year career as a medium.
  • 1861   Randolph travels to London, where he is inducted by Hargrave Jennings as a knight of the Order of the Rose.
       -      Human Love by Paschal Beverly Randolph
  • 1870   Founding of the Brotherhood of Eulis to spread Randolph's teachings.
       -      The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries by Hargrave Jennings.
  • 1872   Randolph is arrested for distributing "free love" pamphelets, tried, and acquitted.
  • 1873   The Ansairetic Mystery: A New Revelation Concerning Sex! by Paschal Beverly Randolph
  • 1874   Eulis! The History of Love: Its Wondrous Magic, Chemistry, Rules, Laws, Modes, Moods and Rationale; Being the Third Revelation of Soul and Sex, and The Immortality of Love: Unveiling the Secret Arcanum of Affectional Alchemy by Paschal Beverly Randolph.
  • 1875   Ancient Symbol Worship: Influence of the Phallic Idea in the Religions of Antiquity by Hodder M. Westropp and C. Staniland Wake (Second Edition).
  • 1880   Phallic Worship anonymously by Hargrave Jennings. Privately Printed.
  • 1884   The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor goes public, offering a correspondence course on occultism including a number of selections from the writings of Hargrave Jennings and Paschal Beverly Randolph.
  • 1889   Phallism: A Description of the Worship of Lingam-Yoni in Various Parts of the World and in Different Ages anonymously by Hargrave Jennings. Privately Printed.
  • 1904   When visiting Egypt, Aleister Crowley engaged in sexual magic invocations of Egyptian gods that inspired his writing of the Book of the Law, a text couched in that mythology, and his philosophy of Thelema.
  • 1906   Theodor Reuss, inspired by Carl Kellner, and assisted by Franz Hartmann, founds the OTO as an umbrella occult organization with sex magic as its core, the "key" that explains "all the riddles of nature, all the secrets of Freemasonry, and all systems of religion."
       -      L'Eucharistie ('the Eucharist') by Chevalier Le Clément de St.-Marcq, which puts forward a theory of "Sacred Spermatophagy." Reuss wrote to Le Clément, "I enclose two numbers of the 'Oriflamme' which will show you that the Order of the Oriental Templars is in possesion of that same knowledge contained in your L'Eucharistie."
  • 1908   A Masonic and Spiritualist conference held by Gérard "Papus" Encausse. Theodor Reuss comes into contact with Encausse and Jean Bricaud. Reuss and Encausse exchange offices for the OTO and the Martinist Order. Bricaud receives a masonic charter from Reuss. Reuss subsequently founds Die Gnostische Katholische Kirche (GKK, 'the Gnostic Catholic Church'), under the auspices of the OTO.
  • 1912   Reuss takes the OTO public. He recruits Aleister Crowley and quickly raises him to the then highest degree of the order.
       -      Bricaud begins confering the title of Gnostic Legate on many individuals in esoteric circles.
  • 1918   Reuss refers to himself as "Sovereign Patriarch and Primate" of the GKK, now being called the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, and establishes Aleister Crowley's Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Canon Missa ('the Canon Mass of the Gnostic Catholic Church', aka "the Gnostic Mass") as the central ritual of the OTO.
  • 1919   Bricaud names Reuss as a Gnostic Legate to Switzerland.
  • 1929   Arnoldo Krumm-Heller founds the Fraternitas Rosicruciana Antiqua (FRA, 'Fraternity of the Ancient Rosicrucians') and is subsequently called Frater Huiracocha.
  • 1950   El Matrimonio Perfecto ('the Perfect Matrimony') by Víctor Rodríguez (Samael Aun Weor).

Paschal Beverly Randolph

Modern sexual magic was initiated through the teachings of Paschal Beverly Randolph (Deveney, 1997, p. xxi; Urban, 2006, p. 36), a "trance speaker" and "clairvoyant physician." In 1857 he traveled to Europe and from there to Epypt and Syria. It is on this trip that he writes of encounters that change the course of his career.
One night - it was in far-off Jerusalem or Bethlehem, I really forget which - I made love to, and was loved by, a dusky maiden of Arabic blood. I of her, and the experience, learned - not directly, but by suggestion - the fundamental principle of the White Magick of Love; subsequently I became affiliated with some dervishes and fakirs of who, by suggestion still, I found the road to other knowledges; and of these devout practicers of a sublime and holy magic, I obtained additional clues - little threads of suggestion, which, being persistently followed, led my soul into labyrinths of knowledge themselves did not even suspect the existence of. (Randolph, 1874, p. 48; cited in Urban, 2006, p. 66)
The essence of sexual magic in Randolph's view is as follows:
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 is 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. (Randolph, 1874, p. 339-40; cited in Urban, 2004, p. 68)
The association and subsequent use of, and identification with, the term 'Gnosticism' by sexual magic groups is of twentieth century origin. In his book length study of the phenomenon, Hugh Urban concludes that, "despite the very common use of sexual symbolism throughout Gnostic texts, there is little evidence (apart from the accusations of the early church) that the Gnostics engaged in any actual performance of sexual rituals, and certainly not anything resembling modern sexual magic" (Urban, 2006, p. 36, note 68).

The Ordo Templi Orientis

At first associated with the Middle East, and then with Tantric traditions of the East, the association of sexual magic with Gnosticism came by way of Theodor Reuss and his interaction with leaders of the French Gnostic Church, with its close ties to Masonry, Martinism, and the strong esoteric current of the time. It is from that highly interconnected milieu of esoteric societies and orders which the most influential of sex magic orders arose, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO, 'Order of Oriental Templars').

The individual primarily responsible for associating sexual magic with Gnosticism was German Occultist Theodor Reuss, who was interested in the accusations of sexual impropriety made against the Gnostics and the Templars. Such charges brought against these groups were most probably politically motivated fictions, yet, "they would reappear in striking new form in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the foundation of a new Templar order--the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)..." (Urban, 2006, p. 36).

The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (HB of L) propagated sexual magic teachings derived from Paschal Beverly Randolph through its correspondence course on occultism (Deveney, 1997, p. xxiii; Greer, 2003, p. 348). It is likely that this was the primary source on sexual magic for Theodor Reuss, a member of the HB of L. In 1906, inspired by co-member and practitioner Carl Kellner, and assisted by Franz Hartmann, Reuss founded the OTO as an umbrella occult organization with sexual magic as its core (Greer, 2003, p. 221-2). It initially consisted of nine grades, the first six being along masonic lines and the last three focusing on sexual magic. For Reuss sexual magic was the "key" that explains "all the riddles of nature, all the secrets of Freemasonry, and all systems of religion" (Urban, 2006, p. 98).

The French Gnostic Connection

In 1908 Reuss came into contact with Gerard Encause and Jean Bricaud at a Masonic and Spiritualist conference organized by Encause. Further ties were established with Reuss and Encause exchanging charters for the OTO and Martinist Orders. A similar exchange is claimed by some sources, with Reuss granting charters in the Memphis Mizarim Rite of Freemasonry to Bricaud in return for a grant concerning the Eglise Catholique Gnostique (EGC, 'the Gnostic Catholic Church'). Sources infer this because Reuss subsequently founded Die Gnostische Katholische Kirche (GKK, 'the Gnostic Catholic Church'), under the auspices of the OTO (Pearson, 2007, p. 47). However, it is unclear whether there was any formal tie to the ECG, or the nature of such a connection. It should also be noted that there is a significant difference between ecclesiastical and esoteric bodies, it would not constitute a simple reciprocal exchange like that between Reuss and Encause.

When the OTO went public 1912, Reuss recruited Aleister Crowley and quickly raised him to the then highest degree of the order.

By 1918 the GKK certainly had no ties to the EGC/EGU, as Reuss proclaimed himself "Sovereign Patriarch and Primate" of the church, having dedicated the OTO to the promulgation of Crowley's philosophy of Thelema. It is for this church body, called in Latin the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC), that Aleister Crowley wrote the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Canon Missa ('the Canon Mass of the Gnostic Catholic Church'), the central ritual of the OTO that is now commonly called the "Gnostic Mass." Although it is generally referred to as the "Gnostic Mass," that name refers to its status as the official "mass" of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica.

In 1919 Bricaud named Reuss as a Gnostic Legate of the Eglise Gnostique Universelle (EGU) to Switzerland (Pearson, 2007, p. 47). Although it was a title conferred on many individuals in esoteric circles beginning in 1912, its conference on Reuss and his use of it at that time indicate that Reuss's church (GKK/EGC) had not officially been affiliated with, and so did not actually break away from Bricaud's (ECG/EGU). The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica remains an active arm of the Ordo Templi Orientis, and the mass that Crowley wrote for it remains the central ritual of the OTO.

Krumm-Heller and the FRA

Arnoldo Krumm-Heller traveled in occult circles at the turn of the century where he studied with notable figures such as Gerard Encause of the Martinist Order and Franz Hartmann of the OTO.

Krumm-Heller moved back to Germany in 1920, where he made contact with Aleister Crowley. He founded the Iglesia Gnostica (Gnostic Church) in Mexico. Not finding as much success as he hoped for, he moved through Latin America before settling in Brazil. In 1929 he founded the Fraternitas Rosicruciana Antiqua (FRA, 'Fraternity of the Ancient Rosicrucians') and took the name Huiracocha.

He kept a low profile through WWII, but when he was able to travel again after the war, he resumed contact with his Latin America students. Between the end of WWII and his death in 1949, Krumm-Heller encountered and subsequently mentored Víctor Manuel Gómez Rodríguez who would subsequently take the name Samael Aun Weor (Dawson, 2007, p. 55-57). Rodríguez states that Krumm-Heller taught a form of sexual magic without ejaculation that would become the core of his own teachings.

Samael Aun Weor and the "International Gnostic Movement"

Víctor Rodríguez left the FRA after the death of Krumm-Heller. He also reports an experience of being called to his new mission by the "venerable white lodge" (associated with Theosophy). Sexual Magic without ejaculation (called the Arcanum AZF) became the core of Weor's "New Gnosis", calling it "the synthesis of all religions, schools and sects." Moving through Latin America, he finally settled in Mexico where he founded the Movimiento Gnostico Cristiano Universal (MGCU, 'Universal Gnostic Christian Movement'), then subsequently founded the Iglesia Gnostica Cristiana Universal ('Universal Gnostic Christian Church') and the Associacion Gnostica de Estudios Antropologicos Culturales y Cientificos (AGEAC, 'Gnostic Association of Scientific, Cultural and Anthropological Studies') to spread his teachings (Dawson, 2007, p. 54-60).

The MGCU became defunct by the time of Weor's death in December 1977. However, his disciples subsequently formed new organizations to spread Weor's teachings, under the umbrella term "the International Gnostic Movement". These organizations are currently very active via the Internet and have centers established in Latin America, the US, Australia, and Europe (Dawson, 2007, p. 60-65).


Dawson, Andrew (2007). New era, new religions: religious transformation in contemporary Brazil. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Deveney, John Patrick (1997). Paschal Beverly Randolph: a nineteenth-century Black American spiritualist. Albany: State University of New York.

Greer, John Micheal (2003). The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. St. Paul: Llewellyn.

Pearson, Joanne (2007). Wicca and the Christian Heritage. New York: Routledge.

Urban, Hugh B. (2006). Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in modern Western esotericism. University of California.

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