Thomas Moore Johnson Centennial Symposium

(L-R) Vadim Putzu, Thomas Moore Johnson II, K. Paul Johnson, Natalie Whitaker, Patrick D. Bowen, Jay Bregman, under the portraits of Thomas Moore Johnson and Alice Barr Johnson in the Johnson family home built in 1900 in Osceola, Missouri. Thanks to Jim Arnett for the photo taken on the second day of the symposium, November 8.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Norman Astley Naturalization, 1897

As History of the Adepts enters its tenth year, the ongoing investigations that generated most of the posts for nine years have come to a conclusion. The literary partnerships between Thomas Henry Burgoyne and Sarah Stanley Grimke, and between Norman Astley and Genevieve Stebbins, have been my primary interests underlying years of work on the Thomas Moore Johnson correspondence.  The one hour presentation I gave to The Church of Light conference in June connecting these two inquiries was condensed into a ten minute video presentation in absentia, shown two weeks ago in Athens, Greece to a Theosophical history conference. Eventually this will be available online giving readers of this site a concise summary of the evidence and my conclusions. Next month I will present a final report in Missouri where the Johnson letters shed so much light on both the early Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in the US.

Regarding Burgoyne and Astley, a distinction needs to be made between two kinds of “aliases”– a pseudonym used only for literary purposes under which no person actually lived as shown by any public records, and a name change that left an abundant paper trail.  The above documentation of Norman Astley’s US citizenship is the latest of dozens of such pieces of evidence I have gathered of a man living more than fifty years as Norman Astley, leaving traces in five states as well as the UK.  Thomas Henry Burgoyne, on the other hand, leaves no such traces, being recorded as name of an author of books and letters but appearing in no public documents except a single ship register of his US arrival in 1886.

Burgoyne was perceived as a complete villain by Theosophists, and an innocent hero by some in the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, with the antagonism surrounding him in the 1880s still reverberating among some Hermetic and Theosophical believers today. But my years of research lead me to the conclusion that Burgoyne (meaning the man who wrote as such) was neither heroic nor villainous (or perhaps both) and felt as badly used by Hermetic leaders as by Theosophists.

Beginning in 2020 future posts here will be quarterly, detailed natal chart reports of various significant figures in history mentioned in the Brotherhood of Light lessons or elsewhere by Elbert Benjamine, using the latest astrological software created by Paul Brewer.  My historical investigations, no longer to be focused on either the Theosophical Society or the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor,  will henceforth be reported on This blog will change from a monthly report of a page or less to a quarterly report of several pages, the first of which will be on the April 14, 1855 natal chart of Thomas Henry Burgoyne, which is also the birth date of record for both Thomas Henry d’Alton and Norman Astley.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

“A Pilgrim of the Way”: Norman Astley

When Quest of the Spirit was published in 1913, Norman Astley and Genevieve Stebbins had reached the midpoint of their forty-year marriage and of their ten year stay in England which ended in 1917 with a return to the US and Genevieve’s home state of California. Most of the text is similar in style to the earlier works of Stebbins, but several passages stand out as seeming to be in the personal voice of the “Pilgrim of the Way” to whom she attributes authorship.  Internal evidence in the book leaves no alternative to her husband as the Pilgrim; my own historical research leaves no doubt that he had previously written under the pseudonyms Zanoni and Thomas H. Burgoyne. Neil Cantwell’s forensic handwriting analysis underscores this as a certainty. But the only literary evidence we have of the evolution of Astley’s ideas post-Burgoyne and post-Zanoni is in his wife’s book. The Editorial Note, Preface, and both Appendices are the most evidential about the Pilgrim and are reproduced below along with several relevant excerpts from the intervening chapters.–KPJ


The manuscript, of which this booklet is an epitome, was placed in my hands to prepare for the press, by one whose friendship I have enjoyed for many years. What is here presented is less than a fourth part of the whole, but omits nothing that is vital to an understanding of the Author’s comprehensive philosophy of life and action. Much that has been omitted would to-day be superfluous, as the contentions and teachings on the subjects discussed have already become demonstrated facts in science, or are accepted as probable by eminent philosophical thinkers. Throughout, the style of the Author has been strictly preserved, and, as the conclusions reached are also the deepest convictions of my soul, in editing the work, I feel that it is the expression of my own thought and aspiration, though voiced by another “pilgrim of the way.” GENEVIEVE STEBBINS.


The basic ideas in the writer’s mind, and the key therefore to the whole trend of his thought, may be briefly summarised thus : I. That all sound speculation of a true philosophy of life must be based upon the metaphysic of experience; and this must include all experience, psychical as well as physical. 2. That this metaphysic is identical with that view of the world and its activities which is expressed in the mind of the educated layman as common sense ; but, as such, is always to be distinguished from those ideas of the uneducated mind which may arise from common ignorance. 3. That common sense, being the synthesis of all past experience, and the dominating attitude of mind by which the sanity of the world is preserved, is, in any final estimate, the only legitimate standard by which to evaluate those speculative ideas which rise beyond the foundation of facts. 4. That abstractions, not being substantial things, must not be accepted or mistaken for reality: must not take the place of facts in laying a foundation of thought. Abstraction piled upon Abstraction forever remains Abstraction. No matter how elaborate, fascinating, and logical the structure, it is only a castle in the air, an unsubstantial bubble of the brain. The pathway to reality does not lie through its portals. 5. That contradiction and strife are inherent in, and, therefore, a part of existence; which itself is the manifestation of opposing movements. The shadows of life are proportionate to the light. 6. That the tragedy and reality of good and evil in the world being a fact of universal experience, its explanation can only be found in the assumption that the ground of existence is alogical-neither moral nor immoral but nonmoral. That the evolutionary movement of life moves on without design-flowing along the lines of least resistance. The ends attained under apparently identical conditions are always different, and never foreseen where life is the factor. 7. Thus grounded in experience, legitimate speculation will be based on truth; and the verification of this truth will be the reality we seek, for REALITY IS THE VERIFICATION OF EXPERIENCE. There is no reality in the universe which cannot appear.

So much for the writer’s part! For the reader, we hope he may escape the illusions of all metaphysical fog, and in voyaging into the unknown, ever keep a good breadth of clear cold water, and the healthy glint of the deep blue sea be· tween himself and the God-forsaken wilderness of “Devil’s Island.” Alchemy of Thought, L. P. Jacks.


Thus viewed, the devoted collector may feel that his life-efforts have not been in vain. Nay! he may even think that his reward has been great. This state of mind, however, comes only when the entire field of labour is surveyed as a whole. When we come to look over these possessions separately, our pride begings to diminish. When we begin to examine them under the intellectual microscope critically, we feel humiliated and reduced to our just proportions. When so examined, not one single treasure of thought is seen to be perfect; not one single stone of fact without some tiny flaw, unnoticeable to any but the expert. Deep down in the heart of our most precious gem, there lurks some unknown substance. That erstwhile perfect jewel, “The pearl of great price,” is perfect only in comparison with some greater imperfection. Why is this always the case with human effort– How is it that we are forever brought to a pause with the “Ever not quite”? (p19)

A careful survey of ancient philosophy from Plato and Aristotle to the Summa of St. Thomas of Aquinas, and, (together with the more important recent writers), the modern school from Berkeley to Hegel, convinces us beyond the peradventure of a doubt that a true philosophy of life is the work of the future, in which the great philosophical systems of the past will form but a very subordinate part of the stmcture. We are convinced that the chief foundation-stones will be discovered in the works of Eucken, Bergson, and James.(p32)

Warned therefore by the failures of the past, we shall attempt the building of no system of thought. Admonished by the vagaries of intellectual speculation, when based upon the nonexistent, we shall ever rest upon the foundations of experience. Chastened in mind by the fantastic creations of an unbridled imagination, we shall conjure up no enchanted image of a final solution; but, keeping in view the finiteness of the self, and the infinity of the world, unbiased, enter upon the quest. With a humble and a contrite heart, we begin the journey as pilgrims of “The Way.”(p40)

The survival of the human personality beyond the grave now craves our serious attention. To the writer the question: ” Is it possible for the individual consciousness of the soul, to continue in a super-physical state of being after death” can no longer arise. It was answered in the affirmative many years ago; under circumstances which rendered self-deception, telepathy or fraud upon the part of others utterly impossible. Here we must be personal. This experience came at a time when thoughts and work lay in a wholly different direction: when spirit communion, if it occupied a place in the mind at all, was certainly in the back-most of the back seats of the brain ; for the ” I ” was entirely unconscious of entertaining such ideas. A brief statement of all the necessary facts of the experience will be found in Appendix I ” A case of Spirit Identity.” It is only necessary here to point out, that coming without prejudice, as it did, with no self-seeking wish to father the issue, there was no self-deception. There was no tricky form of mediumship; no dubious clairvoyance describing symbolic images that might have any meaning and be construed to any end. On the contrary a genuine vision was perceived by a normal person in good health. A clearly defined personality appeared almost as objective as any other of the surroundings. I distinctly heard the voice speaking, (or I imagined I did) giving names, dates, and other important items, not necessary to recount here. And the result is a complete verification of every detail. In view of proposition ” 7 ” that Reality is the verification of experience. I accept this and affirm as sincerely as I can affirm any experience in my life that the communication received was a reality ; that the soul of a departed person did appear-hence survived death. What is possible in one instance is possible in others. Since that time scores of instances of identity have crossed the path of my research, but none that stands out so clearly as this. This is the one unique gem in a vast collection. But it has one tiny flaw. It is not perfect when studied from an orthodox religious point-of-view. For purposes unknown to us, some other order of spiritual intelligence may have impersonated the mother. But the absence of any conceivable reason for deception, and the fact that the message was fraught with momentous consequences and formed the turning-point in a career, compels me to reject any idea of deception. The consequences, at any rate, have been nothing but beneficial to those concerned. The possibility of the survival of the human personality beyond the grave, then, is assumed in the chapters which follow; and this tremendous fact makes all the difference in the world to the philosophical attitude of a thinker’s mind. A philosophy of life which neglects to take account of the super-normal facts of psychical research, together with the facts of religious experience, fails most lamentably to justify its name. Ere the close of the present century it will become as obsolete as medieval scholasticism.(pp61-62)

By an effort of the imagination it will not be difficult to bring before the mind’s eye an individual form composed of a finer substance than, so-called, earthly material-a substance that is self-luminous. Imagine an individual personality -a friend. Substituting a phosphorescent-like softness of light for his every outline, including dress, etc., yet, nevertheless, retaining all his distinguishing features as clearly as in life, you will have a very true picture of the reality as it appears to the clairvoyant eye under certain conditions. When the clairvoyant sensation establishes a perfect rapport, this luminous figure becomes almost as objective as any ordinary being; and in so doing loses most of its luminosity. Imagine, again, the same figure merely as outlined in a grey, or misty substance, and you have another lower, but more common form of this super-normal sight. The whole explanation of this is that the external form builds up within itself an interior, more sublimated, form of psycho-plasm. The clothing, being radio-active, like everything else, has its duplicate in a shapeless radiation around it; but when worn by an individual, the shape of the garment is outlined by the radiation from the human body.(pp 84-85)

Just as the plants absorb nutriment from the air, so the super-physical organism absorbs its nourishment from its surroundings-i.e. the psychical environment. The writer has devoted many years to arrive at these facts, and they have been verified by other seekers in all parts of the world. There can be no serious doubt as to their reality in the minds of those who have thoroughly investigated the subject, and who alone are competent to decide. (pp 86-87)


Only a brief outline of the main and necessary facts are here given to show that a theory of self deception, hallucination, telepathy, or fraud upon the part of others will not explain the facts of the case; each of these being rendered impossible by the peculiar cross-circumstances of the two sides of the case. One night, after a day’s hard study, I was trying to go to sleep, but found sleep impossible, when suddenly, the distinct form of a woman appeared before me. She stood between my bed and the window, and I remember that I could dimly see through the figure. I was not at all afraid. The apparition spoke in a faint but distinct voice, gave me her name, date of her death; together with the name and address of an unknown stranger whom she stated to be her son. Here she related a certain circumstance in her life; then asked me to write to her son and convey this information; adding, that for reasons, which I would know later, it was important for us to know each other. Acting on the spur of the moment I got out of bed and made a note of the facts, promising to write to the son. Not until I had completed the memoranda did the figure speak again. Turning half round, it said “Thank you, my friend,” then the vision disappeared. Now, if I was really asleep before, I was certainly very wide awake when the figure vanished. To say that I regarded the whole thing as a hallucination is scarcely true. I tried to persuade myself that it was a. dream-but there was the writing with the names, etc. I had heard of strange tricks performed by somnambulists, and finally, felt that that must be the explanation. I put the thing out of my mind. The idea. of writing what I considered nonsense to a fictitious stranger appeared to be the height of absurdity. Nearly two years passed by, and the entire circumstance was completely forgotten, when again I had a dream-this time a real one. Upon retiring, I had fallen asleep a.t once. The same woman again appeared in my dream. This time there was no communication whatever-nothing but a. look of profound sorrow. A feeling of remorse came over me. I remembered my former promise; but somehow I felt myself incapable of asking questions. I awoke feeling heartily ashamed of myself. Again, of course, consoling myself with the thought that it was only a. dream. Nevertheless, I could not, do what I would, rid myself of the haunting look of that sorrowful face. I determined to write to the address given to me previously. I did, and quite contrary to my expectation received an answer in due course. Now for the first time I was really astounded. A thorough investigation followed. Every detail of the first vision was confirmed. But a. still greater wonder was to follow. I found that it was no trivial affair but one of the last importance to me, which became, and still is, a dominating influence in my life. Now for the other side of the story which to me, in view of my own experience, appeared the most remarkable : ·· About the same time that the first vision appeared to me, a gentleman residing nearly two thousand miles from where I was staying, received a communication through the mediumship of a woman-friend of unusual psychic gifts. Only her immediate friends were aware of her abnormal power. This communication, purporting to come from his mother, who had been dead many years, stated that before many days he would receive a letter from a stranger who would ask certain questions and state certain things that would convince him of her identity. It is important here to say that he was very sceptical in spiritual matters. Weeks passed away. No letter was received. So he merely looked upon it as one of the ” misses ” of mediumship. About a year and a half afterwards another communication was received through the same source, saying : “Be patient; wait; I shall succeed.” However, he paid no attention to this. After five or six months’ further delay, the unlooked-for letter arrived. I need not add that it was mine. The promise of two years before was fulfilled. The explanations on both sides being compared left no room for doubt in any sensible mind. Only the most confirmed sceptic, who would refuse any testimony against his prejudice, could remain unconvinced.


N.B.-The following paragraphs have been culled from many lengthy notes and ” communications ” received through what has been called ” automatic writing.” They are here given for what they may be worth as suggestions to other “investigators.” The Aura. The Aura of a person is a purely psychical form of atmosphere seen or felt only by sensitive temperaments. It surrounds all forms from mineral to man. Much that we call instinct in animals is nothing but a sensing of the feelings, passing as currents in the mental strata. of their race. Many times, wild animals have been observed to become suddenly suspicious, nervous, alarmed, when such warnings as scent, sound, or wind were out of the question. Transmitted by some subtle invisible current, a. sense of danger was awakened, their sphere of consciousness received the race alarm which aroused the inherited racial instinct, or memory. Man, to a greater extent than he is aware of, is influenced by this sensitive atmosphere. To the eye of a seer, it is varied in extent and changeable in colour. The planet, apart from the atmosphere of gas, has also a mental envelope, a. psychical atmosphere within the gaseous, and this must not be mistaken for the universal ether of space. Finally, the solar system has its own peculiar, psychical aura, so that planetary intercommunication is at least among the possibilities of the future. Man may be likened unto a musical instrument in his psychical constitution, and the sensitiveness of his auric sphere. He may range, according to race, from the conch, and wooden tom-tom of the savage, to the most exquisite cremona-violin, while the consciousness within the auric sphere rises from the Tasmanian Black to a Buddha, or a Jesus of Nazareth. There is, therefore, a wonderful difference in kind in the transmission and reception of thought-waves, which like light-waves in the ether, travel in their own medium. These thought-waves, producing sensation in the auric-sphere, have to be transmuted into conscious ideas; and an idea entirely foreign to our consciousness will pass without recognition, or at best, be wholly mistranslated. One human instrument will only respond to another in harmony, or sympathy with it, and in whatever sense this sympathy, or harmony is, will be the terms in which the idea will be expressed. To revert to our analogy, every human-being is in accord with some tone, or semi-tone of a musical scale. Minds corresponding to B flat will receive no message from G sharp; though there are some minds, almost neutral in their sphere of sensitiveness, who respond more or less to anything. These currents are transmitted in the psychical atmosphere of the planet. The spheres of human consciousness are but so many wireless-stations for sending or receiving messages. Each station is limited to messages of a certain kind and grade from similar stations. We are now approaching the mystery of the frequent confusion in thought transference. According to its quality of refinement, and its complex relations with the psychic form of consciousness, and the auric sphere, the human brain has every degree of receptive quality, from a clear-receiving of the thought to its reception in broken rays. As light is split up by a prism of glass, such ramifications are lost in the thought of the individual. As musicaI-instruments can be attuned to respond perfectly to each other, by training, two sympathetic persons can become so responsively attuned as to receive and transmit thought clearly, consciously, and without error. To investigate this is the great work for the psychologists of the future.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

International Theosophical History Conference, Athens 2019

The program has now been made public for the forthcoming conference in Greece to which I have submitted (and had accepted) a presentation In Search of Zanoni, using the same slides as those presented at The Church of Light conference in June but with a narrative tailored to the interests of European Theosophists and esoteric historians.  This is in a sense a sequel to my 2012 presentation in absentia in Greece based on my 2011 presentation in Albuquerque near the beginning of my research on the Zanoni mystery.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Letters to the Sage editor Patrick D. Bowen in a new Oxford University Press anthology

Imagining the East: the Early Theosophical Society has been announced by Oxford University Press as forthcoming in late 2019. The coeditors Tim Rudbog and Erik Sand are affiliated with the University of Copenhagen, and contributors are from major universities in the US, Germany, Israel, Canada, and the UK. Both coeditors of Letters to the Sage have chapters in the new anthology, but mine is unrelated to the Letters volumes while Patrick Bowen’s draws heavily on the Johnson correspondence. Here is his description from the beginning of the chapter, “The real pure Yog”: Yoga in the early Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor”:

This chapter traces the early use of yoga by both the TS and the Theosophist-heavy H.B. of L. in three parts. I examine, first, the role of the TS in transmitting yoga to Western audiences in the late 1870s and early 1880s, paying particular attention to why, how, and what forms of yoga were represented by the TS, which ultimately generated a relatively widespread interest in yoga in the Theosophical community. In section two, drawing largely from a collection of letters written to Thomas M. Johnson, a leading Theosophist and H.B. of L. member, I look at the H.B. of L.’s own appropriation of yoga. Here I focus on three aspects of this phenomenon: A) The circumstances—which themselves were highly conditioned by the TS—that permitted and encouraged the use of yoga in this group; B) The ways that the particular forms and elements of yoga that the group had access to were applied during the few months that yoga was explicitly prescribed; and C) The ways in which the influence of yoga on the H.B. of L. teachings persisted even after the order removed overt references to it. Finally, in section three, I discuss the legacy of the TS and H.B. of L. communities’ early use of yoga, highlighting both the direct and indirect influences of these organizations and their former members.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Letters to the Sage Volume Two available on as pdf

Although my research and writings have been focused overwhelmingly on American history for more than twenty years, scholarly interest has been almost entirely directed at my Asian and European research of the early 1990s.  But that may be about to change. Two conferences this autumn, a few weeks apart in Greece and Missouri, will feature the letters of Thomas Henry Burgoyne to Thomas Moore Johnson, following up on current investigations that were reported in June at the biennial Church of Light conference. These will be the subject of future updates of this blog but meanwhile I wanted to alert readers that Volume Two of Letters to the Sage, entitled Alexander Wilder, the Platonist, is now available free of charge at, where my account also includes several other historical articles about esotericism. The international range of interest in the contents of the page has been most encouraging as seen in this report for  the past thirty days.



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

April 14, 1855

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Natal Charts in the Brotherhood of Light Lessons

The names mentioned in the 21 volumes of Brotherhood of Light lessons have been indexed by Dennis Sutton with hyperlinks on this page of the church website.  As I prepare for a conference presentation on Thomas H. Burgoyne, it is interesting to find his name on the same line of the index as those of Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Richard Francis Burton, as all three are literary associates of Emma Hardinge Britten who would also be alphabetically adjacent to them were she included. Of 108 names, many are of broad cultural influence and don’t tell us much about the thinking of the Brotherhood of Light founders and members. But 14 are from the milieu of the early Theosophical Society, roughly evenly divided between supporters, critics, and dissidents and several of whom are represented in Letters to the Sage.  Blavatsky, Judge, and Olcott were the best-known founders of the Theosophical Society; Collins, Hartman, Mead and Yeats were in the first generation of writers drawn into its orbit.  Burgoyne and Grimke were leading writers in the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, strongly influenced by Bulwer-Lytton and Burton. Kingsford and Peebles were dissident TS members more affiliated with Hermeticism and Spiritualism respectively than with Theosophy. Finally Hodgson was a strong critic of the TS but an adherent of Spiritualism whose investigation of Blavatsky was endorsed by fellow TS founder Emma Hardinge Britten. (Starting with the biennial Church of Light conference next month, future posts will be focused on the early 20th century Brotherhood of Light rather than its predecessors in the Spiritualist, Theosophical, New Thought, and Rosicrucian movements of the 19th century.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Norman Astley in Burke County


Since last summer’s talk by Carrie Streeter in Blowing Rock about Genevieve Stebbins, I have been intending to follow up in Burke County on Genevieve’s husband Norman Astley, who built a modest cabin near Paddy Creek from which he managed lumber and mining investments in the county.  Last week I finally visited the current owner of Paddy Creek Campgound which occupies much of what was Astley’s land and is within sight of his cabin, and took these photos. The first shows the Paddy Creek cabin and the second the land a few miles away on Adventist Circle, across the Linville River from the Paddy Creek acreages.  Both sites are very near the scenic Lake James State Park.

After being advised that Astley seemed to focus his investments in gold mining areas of the county, I visited the History Museum of Burke County in Morganton and learned of the great abundance of gold and its economic impact in the region, as well as the turn of the century boom in lumber production in which the Astleys also invested.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Recycled Lives

Oxford University Press inaugurated its Western Esotericism series in 2016, and its newest entry is sixth in the series, and first to focus on the Theosophical Society and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.  This makes Recycled Lives by Julie Chajes an important milestone in Blavatsky studies, with the world’s largest scholarly press acknowledging the cultural significance of an individual once relegated to the margins of academic discourse.  The new series, edited by Henrik Bogdan with a distinguished international list of advisors, is the first university press series to focus on this subdiscipline since the Western Esoteric Traditions series from State University of New York Press began in 1993.  Although that series now has 58 worthy titles to its credit, the early Theosophical Society has not been the subject of any of its books since the mid-1990s.

Julie Chajes is a cultural historian at Tel Aviv University, “interested in the ways religion, science, and scholarship intersected in nineteenth-century Britain and America” as stated in the publisher’s page for the book. Chajes brings great clarity and specificity to a subject clouded by confusion and conflict,  as her book “approaches a wide variety of issues in the history of the nineteenth century through a detailed reading of two closely related doctrines, metempsychosis and reincarnation.” (p. 21) The discussion of Spiritualism is especially relevant to subjects discussed in this blog. Chajes writes, “Chapter 4 frames Blavatsky’s rebirth doctrines in the development of Spiritualism from the mid-nineteenth century, a central cultural force in America and Europe at the time. Through reference to books and Spiritualist periodicals, the chapter situates Blavatsky’s early theory of metempsychosis in relation to anti-reincarnationist currents in Anglo-American Spiritualism, especially as represented by the British medium Emma Hardinge Britten (1823-1899), the American magician Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875), and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, an occultist organization beginning its public work in 1884. Joscelyn Godwin, Christian Chanel, and John Patrick Deveney were the first to highlight the similarity between Blavatsky’s early ideas and those of Britten, Randolph, and the H.B. of L., but I delve further, revealing some of the differences, as well as the similarities, between the rebirth theories of these individuals.”(p. 15) The most important differences among the theories concern conditional vs. unconditional immortality.  Blavatsky originally argued that immortality had to be earned during one’s lifetime, while Britten and Randolph said that the soul reached immortality upon reaching the human stage.  The Brotherhood of Light Lessons offer a compromise to the latter option, allowing that immortality can be lost despite being the normal birthright of all human souls, and therefore not quite unconditional.

Especially enlightening and satisfying for me as a reader is the discussion in chapter 6  exploring the relevance of “Western esotericism” as a framework for scholarly discussion of Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society.   Wouter Hanegraaff is quoted that: “Although the Theosophical Society had begun as a `Western esoteric current’ dominated by the Orientalist imagination of nineteenth-century European scholarship and popular literature, it became entangled with Hindu thought after Blavatsky and Olcott arrived in Bombay in 1879….involved in extremely complicated historical processes of imaginal construction and reconstruction that took place in a variety of specific local contexts” resulting in “mutual fertilization of Indian religions and Western esotericism that would finally transform both almost recognition.”(p168)  In her thorough description of Blavatsky’s changing positions on reincarnation, Julie Chajes has documented a pivotal moment in that mutual fertilization. Her book has the depth of knowledge and insight that can only be acquired in years of research, and the acknowledgments section shows that the author has consulted with a wide variety of experts on several continents.  Combined with her own expertise this makes Recycled Lives the authoritative treatment of its subject, the history of reincarnation in Blavatsky’s Theosophy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Tour Through the Zodiac

A Tour Through the Zodiac: The Collaborator

(conclusion of Esoteric Lessons of Sarah Stanley Grimke, Appendix A, Letters to the Sage, Volume Two)

Some of the most influential authors in 19th century occultist circles were women writing about male adept heroes, for example Emma Hardinge Britten and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Often they used male alter egos to express claims that were actually reflections of their own experiences. “The adepts” were described in masculine terms, yet their greatest propagandists were women. In the case of The Light of Egypt, to the extent that she was Thomas H. Burgoyne’s co-author, Grimké joined the ranks of female writers giving authorial credit to male adepts. This primary doctrinal book of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor is as mysterious an example of pseudonyms as any book produced by Theosophists, Rosicrucians, or Spiritualists. Burgoyne, the most prolific author associated with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, was its secretary for several years after its founding in 1884. Born in Douglas, Isle of Man, in April 1855 as Thomas Henry Dalton, he was living in Bradford, Yorkshire as of the 1881 census which found him married to Betsy Bella Prince and father of two children. His earliest known correspondence with Brotherhood members was from Burnley, Lancashire in early 1886, but by May of that year he had relocated to White County, Georgia, with the family of H.B. of L. co-founder Peter Davidson, having left his own family in England. Establishing an H.B. of L. colony in America was a failed venture, but the Davidson family successfully established themselves in their new community. Burgoyne continued his journey westward and within a year had arrived in California where he began a collaboration with Grimké.

The name T.H. Burgoyne was a pseudonym adopted around the time the H.B. of L. was founded in 1884; within a short time it was revealed that his real name was Thomas Henry Dalton (sometimes d’Alton), and that he had served six months in prison in England in 1883 for advertising fraud. This news was spread broadcast by Theosophists who saw it as a way to discredit a rival organization. The ensuing controversy destroyed the H.B. of L. in England, but not in France where it continued to thrive, nor in America where Dalton arrived as Burgoyne with Peter Davidson and family in 1886.[i]   Burgoyne had been using Zanoni as a pen name ever since the first issue of The Occultist was published in England in 1885.  Zanoni was a Rosicrucian themed 1842 novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in which the adept teacher of the title character was named Mejnour. Peter Davidson, Provincial Grand Master of the North of the original H.B. of L., wrote under the latter pen name. Zanoni’s identity was so well concealed that Emma Hardinge Britten was twice accused by Theosophists of authoring The Light of Egypt. In response, Britten heaped praise on Burgoyne and scorn on his attackers, and later wrote a glowing review of his book.[ii]

Why would former close associates of Emma Hardinge Britten presume her to be the author? The Light of Egypt continues the occult mythos and doctrines of Art Magic and Ghost Land more than do any of Britten’s own later Spiritualist books. It is also more in line with Isis Unveiled than are any of Blavatsky’s later Theosophical books. Burgoyne’s Zanoni positions himself as successor to Ghost Land’s Chevalier Louis, with Britten’s encouragement and support, in a chain of neo-Hermetic adepts. The 289 page edition of 1889 was succeeded by a 1900 edition, which included an additional 174 page Volume II. Returning after many years to add a second volume in a more mature voice is a parallel feature of Burgoyne’s Zanoni and Britten’s Louis.

Burgoyne first traveled to California in 1887, after time in Georgia with Peter Davidson’s family, in Topeka, Kansas with H.B. of L. member W.W. Allen, and in Denver with what was becoming the largest local group of Brotherhood members. (See Volume One for data on the membership of the H.B. of L.) Meanwhile, in early 1887 Sarah sent her daughter Angelina to live in Hyde Park with her father, after which she appears to have spent at least the next year in California. The precise contribution of Grimké to The Light of Egypt was later described by Elbert Benjamine as assisting with The Science of the Stars portion of the 1889 edition.  It seems the work of a more disciplined and better educated writer than the preceding Science of the Soul portions, which echo Burgoyne’s earlier periodical writings, influenced by the examples of Britten’s Art Magic and Ghost Land.

Like Ghost Land, Isis Unveiled, and other works of the period, the contested authorship of The Light of Egypt invites the reader to distinguish among authorial voices. Book II of the 1900 edition is explained as Burgoyne’s “posthumous contribution” which was “dictated by the author from the subjective plane of life (to which he ascended several years ago) through the laws of mental transfer, well known to all occultists…”[iii] Burgoyne’s Zanoni is a male echoing a succession of female authors, thus a mirror image of Britten and Blavatsky’s adepts and Masters. One of the most salient echoes of Chevalier Louis is Zanoni’s claim to have made “personal investigations, extending over a series of years in England, France, Germany, Austria, and the United States, with various types and phases of mediums.”[iv] In The Key to Theosophy, Blavatsky the continuity of adepts “used as sledge-hammers to break the theosophical heads with” which “began twelve years ago, with Mrs. Emma Hardinge Britten’s `Louis’ of Art Magic and Ghost-Land, and now ends with the “Adept” and `Author’ of The Light of Egypt.”[v]

The writings of Sarah’s final decade reflect collaboration with Burgoyne, but the place, time, and circumstances of their association are unknown. A possible clue about her travels written during her lifetime is a letter dated 29 December 1890, in which the Reverend W.A. Ayton wrote from Chacombe Vicarage to Francis G. Irwin:

We knew the whole history of Burgoyne, and that he had been a curse to every one who employed him, a thorough deep-dyed scoundrel. We know all about him since he has been in America. He left a wife and family in England, but has married again there. The last I heard was that if he sees 2 or 3 men in the distance approaching his quarters he turns pale and trembles. It is supposed he has been guilty of something which puts him in mortal fear, and that he contemplates going off to Australia.[vi]

Sarah was posthumously revealed to have lived in the Antipodes in the early 1890s, but not in Australia.

More than ten years passed before Archibald and Angelina received any further news of Sarah. Her death in California was reported to them from Hartford, in a letter dated October 1, 1898, written by Emma Austin Tolles to Angelina.

I am very sorry to be the bearer of sad news though Mrs. Stuart may have told you, for she has been informed of your dear mother’s passing on to higher planes…She never ceased to love you as dearly as ever and it was a great trial to her to have you go away from her, how great God alone knows, but it was the only thing to do…She had every thing done that could be done, she wrote me just as long as she could make a mark but finally grew so weak she could not hold a pencil. The nurse says she wanted her watch sent to you and there may be some thing else- they will send it probably to Mrs. Stuart and she will give it to you.[vii]

However, when Tolles praises Sarah as a distinguished author, she refers not to Mrs. Stuart’s teachings but to The Light of Egypt:

Your mother, dear Angelina was one of the most wonderful souls that ever came to this planet.  When you are old enough to understand I will tell you about her wonderful career.  This world has been a scorching fire through which she has passed and now she has gone to a reward that few of us can conceive of—Her book “the Light of Egypt” is the most wonderful book of modern times though she says it will be one hundred years before the world will recognize it—She nearly lost her life in writing it but her soul never flinched from a duty. She had two or three friends who have stood by her from first to last, who have considered it a privilege to do so.[viii]

Just over a month passed before Moses Stanley wrote to Butler Wilson about complications involving Sarah’s estate. The correspondence seems to imply that neither he nor anyone in the family had yet contacted Archibald directly, and that Sarah had sworn them to secrecy in the matter of her whereabouts, known to Tolles, Stuart, and the Wagners and to her Stanley relatives but concealed from her husband and daughter. Stanley addressed Wilson as the attorney for Mr. Grimké, asking him to consult with the bereaved husband on Sarah’s estate, which consisted of $529 in the Hibernian Trust and Loan Society of San Francisco. “When she realized that she must die she sent her Bank Book to Dr. Wagner her publisher & friend, evidently desiring him to pay her debts and forward the balance to Nana, and so also we instructed him.”[ix] Archibald’s response must have been encouraging of further confidences, as on November 16, 1898, Moses replied to him:

Sarah’s action in regard to the money is to me perfectly unaccountable. When she left for New Zealand, she deposited in the British Columbia Bank of San Francisco $1000 sending me the duplicate draft, with orders, if she died, to draw the money and pay it to Nana.  She knew she was liable to sudden death at any moment. On the street, in Auckland N.Z. near the Post Office, she had a heart failure, and fell. The physician brought her to, and she decided to return home; but he told her she would never live to reach America with such a heart – she surely would be buried in the ocean. But she reached home, and was with us a year and a half and went to San Diego to die of poison.

It was her wish that Dr. Wagner should draw the money – pay her bills and forward the balance to Nana, but sent no check with the Bank Book.

Dr. Wagner is a Physician, Publisher, and literary man.  He published her book on Oriental Philosophy – a book of some 400 pages, which has been through six Editions and some pamphlets – and with the Bank Book she enclosed an unfinished story.[x]

Stanley asked for the cooperation of Archibald Grimké in resolving the need for an estate administrator in California, as Henry Wagner had “relinquished all idea of having anything to do with the money business when he sent the Bank Book to Mrs. Tolles for Nana.”[xi] The last letter that Archibald received from Moses about his late wife’s demise was written in Detroit on February 18, 1899. The bereaved father wrote “I did not tell you, I could not – of the last sad scene of her earthly life – a scene that forever hallows the waves of San Diego Bay. By her request, her friends, at the setting of the sun, gathered on the shores, and a few went out in a boat, carrying the urn that contained her ashes, and scattered them over the limpid waves. So there is not now a vestige of our dearly beloved one remaining.”[xii] He told Archibald that her letters were usually signed Sarah, sometimes S.E. Stanley, and enclosed one written in Auckland, New Zealand, in which Sarah lamented that “O if I only had Nana with me how much happier I should be.”[xiii]

Angelina’s last communication about her mother’s writings from Emma Austin Tolles came on January 3, 1900, a date that inspired enthusiasm about the new century:

My dear Angelina: How queer it seems to write 1900!  – 1881 closed the Cycle and we entered upon a new one, the most important and momentous of our Race- It will last about 2000- years then the 5th race- will begin to go down… It is only natural that you should write for your mother and Father are both talented in that direction—Do you write on the impulse, spontaneously or by deliberate applied effort?  Do you get impressions as you used to get them?  There was a time when you first came to me that you used to see and hear clairvoyantly and clairaudiently?[xiv]

A trace of the Christian Science origins of the Stuart group can be found in the reservations Tolles expresses about material medicine:

I am glad you like your school and studies- I think it an excellent training—and very beneficial to health.  I do not think much of the Medical Profession—M D’s as a profession studying into matter, body, which is the effect, ignoring mind and Soul where causation lies. The human body is a wonderful beautiful instrument, and it is an instrument, that is just what it was intended for the Soul is or should be the operation which this instrument under complete control.[xv]

One of Angelina’s earliest literary works is a poignant expression of grief at the loss of her mother; Sarah’s death being only the final confirmation of a loss that occurred when Angelina was put on a cross country train by herself at the age of seven.  In the Selected Works of Angelina Weld Grimké, the story “Black is as Black Does: a Dream” is classified as fiction, but to the reader familiar with her family history the “story” does not read as fiction. Published in the Colored American Magazine in August 1900, it seems to reflect the encouragement from Emma Austin Tolles earlier that year for Angelina to engage in writing that was impulsive, spontaneous, and perhaps clairaudient and clairvoyant.  It is her encounter with Sarah on the other side:

It came to me one, dark, rainy, morning. I was half awake and half asleep. The wind was blowing drearily, and I listened to the swish of the rain on the glass, and the dripping from the eaves and as I lay listening, I thought many things and my thoughts grew hazier and hazier until I fell into deep slumber.

Then, methought, a great feeling of peace come upon me, and that all my cares were falling from me and rolling away—away into infinity. So I lay with my eyes closed and this great feeling of peace increased and my heart was glad within me. Then some one touched me lightly on the shoulder and eyes, and my heart gave a great bound, for I was not prepared for the loveliness of the scene, that now burst upon my sight. All around stretched a wide, green, grassy, plain. Each little blade of grass sang in the gentle wind, and here and there massive trees spread their branches, and the leaves sang, and the birds, and a river that passed through the meadow sparkled and sang as it sped on its way. And listening, I heard no discord, for all the voices flowed into each other, and mingled, and swelled and made one, grand, sweet, song.  I longed to sing too, and lifted up my voice, but no song came so that I wondered. And a voice at my side, answered, “Thou art not one of us yet.” And the voice was sweeter than the babbling brook, tenderer than the voice of a mother to her erring child, lower than the beating of the surf upon the short. Then I turned to see whence the voice came, and as I looked I fell weeping on my face.

For there stood before me a figure clad in white, and as she moved she seemed like a snowy cloud, that sails over the sky in the summer-time, and a soft light shone above, around, behind, illuminating her, but it was not for this that I fell weeping. I had looked upon the face, and the truth that shone forth from the mild eyes, the sweetness that smiled around the mouth, and all the pity, the mercy, the kindness expressed in that divine countenance revealed to me how wicked I was and had been. But she took me by the hand, bidding me arise, and kissing me on the brow.  And between my sobs I asked, “Where am I?” and the low voice answered, “This is heaven,” and I said, “Who art thou?” and she answered “One of the lovers of God.” And as she she spoke that name, the heavens brightened, the grass sang sweeter, and the leaves and the birds and the silvery river, and looking up I saw that she was no longer by my side, but was moving over the plain, and turning she beckoned to me. And I followed.[xvi]

As Angelina’s experiences of the afterlife continue, she reveals herself as her father’s daughter and introduces the theme of racial injustice that will dominate her drama, fiction, and nonfiction in the new century.  She witnesses a black murder victim being made whole and sent heavenwards, after which his white murderer is condemned to hell. “I saw that his skin was white but his soul was black. For it makes a difference in Heaven whether a man’s soul be black or white!”[xvii] This suggests that her visionary encounter with Sarah reveals the literary legacy of both parents; the introspective style of her poetry and fiction shows traces of Sarah, but the political subject matter of her nonfiction and drama is invariably a continuation of the Grimké-Weld family heritage on both sides of the color line. In her 2016 study Aphrodite’s Daughters, poetry scholar Maureen Honey comments that the effect of her mother’s abandonment was apparent in the way Angelina “not only obsessively returns to moments of longing, regret, and sadness in her poetry” but that “her speakers also commune directly with the dead through transcendental mergers with the natural world.”[xviii] This recurring theme appears in her earliest childhood verses, prompting Honey to comment that “For a young girl to meditate on death in such a lyrical, even romantic, way suggests deep wells of grief and loss soothed by the imagined embrace of lost dear ones in an unseen celestial sphere free of pain.”[xix] She concludes, “These efforts to maintain a loving relationship with her daughter clearly meant something to the seven-year-old Nana, for she kept these letters the rest of her life and they repeatedly express the idea that separated loved ones could fashion an enduring bond in a spiritual realm.”[xx]


[i] Ship passenger list, S.S. Manitoba, May 5, 1886.

[ii] The Two Worlds, May 8, 1891, 301, unsigned review by editor Emma Hardinge Britten.

[iii] The Light of Egypt (Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger, 2003), Vol II, xi

[iv] Ibid., Vol. I, 82.

[v] H.P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1889), 302.

[vi] The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, Christian Chanel, John Patrick Deveney, and Joscelyn Godwin, eds. (York Beach, Me.: Samuel Weiser, 1995), 354.

[vii] Angelina Weld Grimké papers, Series A, Box 38-2, Folder 19.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series A, Box 39-1, Folder 6, Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[x] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 39-3, Folder 74, Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Angelina Weld Grimké papers, Series A, Box 38-2, Folder 19.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Angelina Weld Grimké, Selected Works, 213-214.

[xvii] Ibid., 217.

[xviii] Maureen Honey, Aphrodite’s Daughters (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 62.

[xix] Ibid., 72.

[xx] Ibid., 77.














































































































































































































































Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Alexander Wilder, the Platonist at

I have added a paper on Volume Two of Letters to the Sage to, following up on co-editor Patrick D. Bowen’s paper on Volume One in 2016.  It contains the chronological introduction to the first five years of correspondence from Alexander Wilder to Thomas Moore Johnson from 1876 through 1880, and the first few 1876 letters.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment


Part 4 of 5, Esoteric Lessons of Sarah Stanley Grimke


James Henry Wiggin always gave frank advice to Eddy in his role as editor, after giving up the Unitarian ministry which he had long practiced in the Boston area.  He explained to her “If I see a rock ahead in a friend’s track, in one sense it is none of my business which way his craft takes; yet in another sense I feel constrained to speak: and that answering her critics would be beneath her dignity and that of the Journal.” Wiggin was editor of the Christian Science Journal from 1886 until 1889 and worked intermittently as an editor for Mrs. Eddy in the 1890s. He offered advice similar to that provided some years earlier by William Stuart, but perhaps older and wiser in the wake of negative publicity by 1888, she took his advice to heart when he cautioned against engaging in controversy with her enemies. For example, on July 1, 1888 he commented about two such proposed articles “Don’t allow yourself to be led into the printing of these articles. Yr cause can not afford it – There is trouble enough in yr camp, & unwisdom shd not be allowed to aggravate it. Such documents will make outsiders laugh, while yr judicious friends grieve.”[i] The Journal did however repudiate both Stuart and Grimké in 1887.

A debunking 1887 article in the Century entitled “Christian Science and Mind Cure” described the teachings of Stuart and Grimké as well as those of Edward Arens.  The author James Monroe Buckley quoted Stuart making extreme claims for her mental treatments, for example “A woman came to me who had suffered five years with what the doctors called rheumatism. I happened to know that the death of a child had caused this effect. By silently erasing that picture of death and holding in its place an image of Life, eternal Life, she was entirely cured in twenty minutes.”[ii]  In another quoted passage Buckley extends his ridicule of Stuart to her experiments with mental treatment of animals, a case of mange in a dog named Carlo.[iii] In August 1887, the Christian Science Journal (under Wiggin’s editorship) felt compelled to dissociate itself from both Stuart and Grimké in the wake of the critical article in the Century that used the term Christian Scientist to refer to various dissidents. It noted that “Mrs. Stuart studied at Metaphysical College, but also with Mr. Arens, and no longer affiliates with the College Association; and Miss Grimké was never in the Founder’s classes.”[iv]

The only other reference to Sarah in the Journal had appeared in a letter from “M.W.” of Columbus, Wisconsin in the January 1885 issue.  The writer dismissed an unnamed work by “S. S. Grimké,” which would be Personified Unthinkables, along with two other recent Mind Cure publications in which there is “nothing added to your first words which cover all the ground.”[v]  This contrasts sharply with elaborate praise directed at Sarah Moore Grimké and her sister Angelina, as well as the still-living Theodore Weld, in the April 1886 issue.  An unsigned article “Two Noble Sisters,” presumably written by Wiggin who had recently become editor, extolled them in the highest terms from the perspective of a personal acquaintance.

Eddy seems to have been deeply disappointed by Miranda Rice’s defection.  In October 1877 she had a vision of John the Revelator, in which “To Miranda he said, pointing her to me, ‘here is your first duty, to help her, to support her, and for this you have been set apart.’”[vi] Three years after her defection, Eddy forwarded some correspondence to Rice, adding a note which said “I whom you have so DEEPLY wronged can forgive you and rejoice in any good you may do for the cause for which I have laid dowall of earth that you and others might gain heaven.”[vii]   Forgiveness does not seem to have been Eddy’s attitude toward Elizabeth Stuart. The only instance of Eddy relating Stuart to themes in her classes is found in the Joshua Bailey’s notes of her Primary Class of March 1889. It consists of disconnected fragments that are hard to decipher, but the gist is that Stuart’s “cancer” had been caused by mental malpractice and that she “shut her heart against Mrs. Eddy.” She went on to discuss a case of Stuart having gotten a cinder in her eye, which was instantly cured in class when Mrs. Eddy spoke, but thereafter Stuart herself took credit for the healing. Somehow Cyrus Bartol was connected to this incident, and discussed it with Eddy, who told the class that a recent article in the Journal “showed reason of hating Mrs. Stewart, about rabbit, cats, birds…would take children next.”[viii] As extreme as this language seems, Archibald Grimké and his old friend and mentor Frances Pillsbury shared an equally negative view of Mrs. Stuart.

There is no return address on the April 25, 1887 letter in which Sarah announces to Archie that she is returning Angelina to him after two years of sole custody, on grounds of race. Another letter in the Moorland-Spingarn archives suggests that Sarah was in Kansas with Angelina that spring. Angelina received a letter from her former teacher Frances Morehead dated June 26, 1887: “I think you were a brave girl to take such a long trip alone. Did no one have the care of you all the way from Kansas to Boston?”[ix] Sarah wrote:

Within the past few weeks I have been obliged to suspend all work and I now realize that it is for the best good and happiness of little Nana that she should go to you at once. She is so very happy at the prospect of going to see her papa that – I am quite reconciled to resign her to you (at least for the present). She is really much more like you than myself and you can control her better than I have been able to do. In many ways I have been too strict – in others, not strict enough. But just now I am both physically and mentally unfit to have the care of her at all. She needs that love and sympathy of one of her own race which I am sure her father still has for her; but which it is impossible for others to give… I am in hopes to resume my work of teaching in the Fall and may visit Hartford, Ct. during the season still I leave the future to take care of itself, only trying to do the very best possible for the present.[x]

The only dated letter from this period was written July 15, 1887.  Sarah wrote that she was very happy to learn of the Fourth of July celebrations in Hartford where Angelina had been with Mrs. Tolles and friends, “A new doll, – a new dress and a glorious Fourth of July with fire crackers and torpedos etc. etc. makes me feel, too, as though I were having a good time with you in Hartford.  I know of No place which has such a hold upon me as Hartford. I expect I shall come there some time, but not yet. I do not know when.  It may be a long time.  There is some hard work for me to do first.”[xi]

Elizabeth Stuart proclaimed the mission of her new group on the final day of a historic conference that included Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass.  Her address was given April 1, 1888 at the International Council of Women convened in Boston by the National Woman Suffrage Association, under the title “The Power of Thought”:

The imaging faculty is the highest known to man; through it he expresses the ideal, and it is the means by which he expresses to the senses whatever intellect accepts, thus forming the relation between mind and body. Through that open door fear enters and stamps upon the body distorted, untrue mental images, which physicians name, then proceed to try to erase from the body….[xii]

It does not appear that Sarah was able to return to Hartford, and just over a year later she announced her intention to leave the United States.  On May 11, 1888 she wrote to Archie asking for a divorce, and informing him that she intended on reverting to her maiden name:

Our marriage relationship exists only in name, and can never be otherwise. These thoughts have recently assumed more definite shape owing to my having received very favorable offers of literary work abroad… In preparing to leave the U.S. I wish to reassume my maiden name, also to have this whole matter settled once and forever, and as promptly as possible…Should you refuse to grant so just a settlement of the inharmony existing between us, I can only say, that it will make no difference to my plans. I shall leave the U.S., and reassume my own name, just the same. Still I would prefer to have our separation made legal, so as to be on friendly terms with you, and to remain in communication with Nana.[xiii]

Sarah’s only book was published two years after her death, without a word of explanation about the author’s life and ideas. It includes two short works published during her lifetime, and one longer work that first appeared in Esoteric Lessons in 1900. Astro-Philosophical Publications of Denver was the publishing arm of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, and Esoteric Lessons was overshadowed by the organization’s major text, The Light of Egypt, published the same year in a newly expanded two volume edition. The 1889 one volume edition of The Light of Egypt was published under the pseudonym Zanoni, which in 1900 was linked to Thomas H. Burgoyne, alleged to have died in 1894. The publishers provided no more information about Burgoyne than about Grimké, and both have remained enigmatic ever since. For the historical detective Grimké is even more elusive in some ways than Burgoyne, and the circumstances of their collaboration remain mysterious despite years of research. Both of their lives during this period are shrouded in mystery, and their writings provide few clues to the historian. Published by a secret society, this book is also the work of a secretive author or authors.

Although Esoteric Lessons is written in the first person, its narrative is devoid of personal attributes and refers neither to individuals nor groups. The purely philosophical tone reveals its author only in terms of her abstract ideas. The Light of Egypt, by contrast, is somewhat more historically revealing about Burgoyne and his sources. Only with the 1995 publication of the compilation The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was much known about the order’s founders in England and its history in France.  The recently published correspondence of Thomas M. Johnson, the Brotherhood’s Council President in the US during the mid-1880s, provides the first detailed portrait of its American membership.  A letter from Burgoyne to Johnson reveals that soon after Grimké joined the Brotherhood in 1886, her published works became required reading for all members. This was despite the fact that they are purely a product of her interests in Mind Cure and Transcendentalism prior to affiliation with the H.B. of L.; only the third treatise in this book was written during her neo-Hermeticist phase.

[i] James Henry Wiggin to Eddy, July 1, 1888, IC 349(a).

[ii] James Monroe Buckley, “Christian Science and Mind Cure,” Century Magazine, July 1887, 423.

[iii] Ibid., 426

[iv] “The Stir in the Century,” Christian Science Journal, August 1887.

[v] Letters, Christian Science Journal, January 1885.

[vi] Eddy to unknown recipient, accession #A10207.

[vii] Eddy to Miranda Rice, March 22, 1884, accesssion #V00809.

[viii] Joshua Bailey Class notes, March 5, 1889, Accession A12065.

[ix] Maureen Honey, Aphrodite’s Daughters (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 76.

[x] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 39-3, Folder 79.

[xi] Ibid., 15 July 1887.

[xii] National Women’s Suffrage Association, Report of the International Council of Women (Washington, D.C.: Rufus H. Darby, 1888), 420.

[xiii] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 79.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

First Lessons in Reality

This is the third consecutive excerpt from Letters to the Sage, Volume Two, from the appendix on the literary career and family history of Sarah Stanley Grimké

Personified Unthinkables, published in Detroit in 1884, reflects the influence of Cyrus Bartol and his doctrine of mental pictures. Sarah’s marriage to Archibald Grimké had brought her into the orbit of his Hyde Park relatives, who like Bartol were Unitarians with a sympathetic interest in Christian Science. Another Hyde Park resident adopted mental pictures as a key element in her own belief system. First Lessons in Reality, published two years later, reflects the influence of Mrs. Elizabeth Stuart, who had treated Sarah for heart disease and attributed her organic illness to her despairing husband. The dissolution of her marriage had begun when Personified Unthinkables was published and was complete by the time First Lessons in Reality appeared. Stuart was part of a group resignation from the Christian Scientist Association in 1881, and had formed an independent New Thought organization, named Light, Love, Truth, in the interval between Sarah’s two publications. J.F. Eby, Printer, of Detroit was the publisher of each, implying that these first two sections were self-published. Only in the final portion of Esoteric Lessons, A Tour Through the Zodiac, do we find evidence of association with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, whose leaders published the collection after Sarah’s death.

The entire record of Elizabeth’s Stuart’s affiliation with Mary Baker Eddy is dated in a single year. In her first letter dated January 25, 1881, Stuart referred to Eddy’s “visit to us and your words of encouragement” and expressed her “earnest desire to heal the sick through the Understanding of Truth” which had already “met with a good share of success” despite the fact that she had been unsuccessful in becoming “free from some old Beliefs.” This was as a result of having had surgery for removal of a fibroid tumor the previous winter, which had left her with residual symptoms that made her fear a recurrence. She asked Eddy for “seven or ten treatments or Lessons, for the unfolding of my spiritual perceptions” and asked the cost.[i]

Two months later, Stuart wrote again following a meeting of the Christian Scientist Association that Eddy had been unable to attend. She alluded to a suggestion by Eddy that Edward Arens was trying to deter her from embracing Christian Science, writing that “I am not easily moved from a firm determination, and I have not the slightest fear of Dr. Arens if my weapons are not stronger than his, then let me go down…we will return Good for Evil and thus disarm all enemies.”[ii] She closed with an expression of desire to take class instruction from Eddy, writing “I will wait with patience the summons to the feast.”[iii]  In April, she and Jane L. Straw addressed a formal joint request to Eddy: “Having become mystified, by one Edward Arens, with regard to the Science of Healing, we now come to you, to learn that which, we believe, him incapable of Teaching, namely, Metaphysics.”[iv] Stuart’s next, undated, letter was entirely focused on Eddy’s struggles with Arens over his plagiarism of Science and Health. She advised Eddy to let the matter “die a natural death,” arguing that “it is too low for your name to be associated with him in the Courts….work silently and we will work with you: vanquish him that way.”[v]  Stuart and Jane Straw issued an undated statement repudiating Arens: “We studied Mrs Eddy’s system of metaphysical healing of Edward J Arens but he did not teach it and we did not understand it as we have since learned. And we did not learn of him how to heal the sick according to metaphysics.”[vi] In June Stuart and Straw were among 22 signers of an affidavit defending Eddy against criticisms from her former students: The signers testified “that we have studied Mary M.B. Eddy’s system of metaphysics” and “know her to be a highly conscientious pure minded Christian woman.”[vii] The same week, Stuart and others personally appeared before a Justice of the Peace in Essex County, and swore under oath to the truth of the affidavit.[viii]

Although Eddy chose not to prosecute Arens for plagiarism, she did denounce him in a revised third edition of Science and Health, which Stuart had advised against doing.[ix] In a third, undated letter, Stuart addressed Eddy as “My Darling,” and explained that her wish to visit her in Lynn had been thwarted by her own health problems. On Monday October 15, she reported being better, able to go into the city by train to visit her own patients, and confident that “the dawn is breaking the clouds are tipped with roseate hues, and soon very soon our horizon will be cloudless. Their poisoned arrows can no more penetrate the armour of Truth than the worm which crawls at your feet can pluck the Stars from the firmament. Each arrow rebounds with double force upon its owner.”[x] Although Stuart had reported to the other students that Arens would “order his students to ‘take up’ Mrs. Eddy mentally,” she was disinclined to believe this had affected Eddy’s health.[xi] The last letter she wrote to Eddy was an undated note written later in October, which closed with assurance of support in the struggle with Arens, but her methods apparently were so repellent that Eddy never replied: “Mrs. S. – and – myself will fasten our fangs into them and Compel them to Stop, I will not leave you night nor day, but will employ my Thoughts like hot Shells unto their camp. God will help the Right and vanquish the foe.”[xii]

The group resignation from the Christian Scientist Association was dated October 21, only six days later. Stuart and seven others signed a proclamation to the effect that Eddy’s “frequent ebullitions of temper, love of money, and the appearance of hypocrisy” left them no choice but to “most respectfully withdraw our names from the Christian Science Association and Church of Christ (Scientist).”[xiii] Five days later on October 26, with Mrs. Eddy in the Chair, the CSA met at her home and unanimously passed a vote to the effect that “your unchristian communication of Oct. 21, 81, renders you liable to Church disipline” and that “You are hereby notified to appear before the Church of Christ (Scintist) at 8 Broad St. Lynn on Monday Oct 31 At 5 P.M. To answer for unjust proceeding.”[xiv] None of the dissidents attended, but ten days later the remaining members voted to expel Howard, Rice, and Rawson for conduct unbecoming a Christian Scientist.

On November 2, Eddy wrote to William Stuart, objecting to his “highly improper language and false statements” to an unnamed male disciple which revealed how he was influenced “by the silent arguments of those lying in wait to fulfill their threats to ruin my reputation and stop my labors for the uplifting of the race.” Eddy protested that she had refused to accept Mrs. Stuart as a patient but accepted her as a pupil after “ceaseless IMPORTUNITIES.”[xv] Less than week later, on November 8, Eddy wrote to Clara E. Choate blaming James E. Howard and Miranda Rice for swaying the other six to resign  “I have learned for a certainty that Howard and Mrs. Rice carried the other five by making you the issue.”[xvi]  When Howard, Rice, and others were subsequently expelled on October 31 for conduct unbecoming a Christian Scientist[xvii] Stuart was expelled on the lesser charge of unconstitutional conduct, yet she was singled out for more criticism in subsequent years than any of the others who resigned simultaneously.

The harshest criticism was made in an article that in its final version concealed the name of Elizabeth Stuart and the author of the piece. Edmund G. Hardy’s “Workings of Animal Magnetism,” published in August 1889 in the Christian Science Journal, was published after extensive editing by Calvin Frye.  The proofs of Hardy’s original text survive in the Mary Baker Eddy Library and are far more revealing than the final product.  Hardy had given a report of his acquaintance with Stuart and Eddy to a recent class instruction and was requested to repeat the information for the Journal.  He wrote:

Six years ago I went for healing to Mrs. William Stuart, then claiming to heal by Christian Science in Hyde Park, Mass. After receiving relief, and as I then believed healing, I sought to know the process by which she was enabled to do this work…This search led me to “SCIENCE AND HEALTH,” and then to Mrs. Eddy. Mrs. Eddy very kindly gave me nearly an entire evening, during which I related my experience. She spoke no word denouncing Mrs. Stuart, but did call to my attention the false and the true teaching, and said to me, “I hope, Mr. Hardy, that when you study you will get the truth.” I returned to Mrs. Stuart, joyful in the thought that I had met Mrs. Eddy, but imagine the confusion of mind when I was met by the one whom I believed to have healed me, with the declaration that Mrs. Eddy had departed from the path of Science, into selfishness, mesmerism, &c., and assured me that she had used this power on the very night of my call to make her sick; that she never was so sick in her life as at the very time I was in conversation with Mrs. Eddy.[xviii]

Hardy reveals Stuart in 1883 as intensely antagonistic and competitive towards Eddy, making accusations of mesmerism, just as she was gaining an unhealthy influence over Sarah, according to her husband and his family.

Theodore Weld had been present with his fellow Hyde Park Unitarian William Stuart at a May 25, 1881 meeting of the Christian Scientist Association, where they both were listed as “visiting friends” who participated in remarks about the “good of the order.”[xix] William Stuart was a pall bearer for Theodore Weld in 1895, but for much of the intervening period there was tenstion between the families. Although Weld was an early Mind Cure enthusiast, his only letter to Mrs. Eddy was a denunciation of gossip in which she had engaged with an unidentified “Mrs. S.,” probably Elizabeth Stuart. He wrote on November 21, 1881, complaining that his niece Mrs. Day had heard reports of gossip that she was regarded as “a perfect disgrace to the family” who “dressed herself as she did in order to attract the notice of gentlemen” and that the family “wished she would go back where she came from.” Weld indignantly denied all these charges, writing “To all of this I have only to say- that none of us ever had the least suspicion that Mrs. Day had in her styles…gait in walking & independent manner, expression of countenance, erect attitude & dignified…presence which distinguishes her the least thought of thereby attracting the notice of gentlemen or any others. That air manners &c were born with her & it is a personal idiosyncracy & nothing else. As to a disgraceful family history connected with her none of us ever heard or suspected the existence of any such thing…ever said that she was a disgrace to us—never thought…never known or heard that some one questioned her moral character in the least particular.  She has always moved in the most respectable circles of society & has always been well regarded & spoken of…entitled to distinguished consideration.”[xx]

Sarah’s involvement with Elizabeth Stuart would lead to the end of her marriage. At the time of her separation from Archibald, the response of Moses Stanley shows that he was no racist opponent of the marriage, but earnestly hoped to save it. In May 1883 Archie wrote to his father in law after Sarah had announced that she did not intend to return to Boston from a vacation she had taken with their daughter Angelina to Michigan:

She seemed unhappy – she was unwell.  I believed that much of her ill health was caused by the inactive & apathetic life she was living – but still I think we might have got from under the cloud but for the happening of one of the most important events in our marriage life.  It was Sarah’s treatment by Mrs. Stuart.  You know about Mrs. Stuart?  Well her theory is that every disease is produced by some fear.  Each patient she treats she endeavors to discover the cause of the disease.  It is no matter what cause she has fastened on as the pregnant one—if she could make Sarah believe it—it of course will produce some effect proportioned to the current of the belief of the patient.  She found the cause and occasion of Sarah’s ailments to be grounded in her relations to me.  What Sarah lacked was something positive—some active principle—Mrs. Stuart declared that Sarah’s relations to me had destroyed her will—her individuality—had reduced her to a state of mental and moral subjection. She held me up before Sarah in the character of an oppressor—a selfish & lordly man—mark you however this woman had never seen us together but once & knew nothing of us except what Sarah had told her & what she had added too by the aid of her imagination…. I felt that to be called an oppressor when I had not scrupled to do all the house work—such as washing dishes—emptying chamber pots—sweeping rooms—making beds—taking in the clothes—in short doing without a murmur every thing which women ordinarily were accustomed to do— & all to save my wife—yes sir to be called an oppressor & the author of my wife’s diseases—seemed more than I could or ought to bear. I called Sarah’s attention to the fact that she had been sick before she knew me at all—that Dr. Sofford [Daniel Spofford—ed] who treated her when a student in Boston University had told me that she was diseased + naturally delicate—that before she left home at all her life had been despaired of by her own statement the Drs. At Ann Arbor had pronounced her disease of the heart organic…[xxi]

Moses replied on May 22, 1883, from Mackinac Island, “You are both dear to me and I earnestly wish & desire to do what shall be for your mutual good. I think you are correct as to the cause of all—poor health & the most extremely sensitive organization.  She has never been well since she had the scarlet fever in her 4th year.  She went to Boston an invalid, & it is ungenerous as it is unjust, for Mrs. Stuart or Sarah or anyone to charge you with her poor health so please stick that arrow in the fire & never let it prick you again. You are conscious of having done what you could to make her happy— let that comfort you.”[xxii]

Archibald Grimké and his old friend and mentor Frances Pillsbury shared an equally negative view of Mrs. Stuart. Pillsbury had been headmaster of the Charleston school in which Archibald and his brothers were enrolled at the end of the Civil War, and was instrumental in arranging for them to study at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Her husband Gilbert, brother of famed abolitionist Parker Pillsbury, had been the Reconstruction mayor of Charleston for several years.  They returned to Massachusetts before Archie went there to study. In an 1873 letter written soon after his arrival at Harvard, Frances exulted in his good fortune to be embraced by his Grimké aunts and Theodore Weld, and recalled the last time she had seen him, sailing away from South Carolina:

Ah! Archie, when I think of you a halo of light and happiness seems to surround you, & a great happiness lightens my thoughts. That you are really at Cambridge drinking from the very fountain you desire, that you are so perfect yourself, winning love & respect from all—that you are beloved & cared for by the noblest and tenderest of families your uncle and aunt Weld is more than a satisfaction…Thank heaven for the flowery harbor into which the storms have driven you!”[xxiii]

Frances Pillsbury became Archie’s closest confidante after Sarah left, judging from his extant correspondence, and she shared his sense of outrage at the role of Elizabeth Stuart in inciting Sarah to end the marriage. The flowery harbor of life in Boston was to become stormy, and Archie blamed the Welds’ friends and neighbors the Stuarts more than he blamed Sarah. In an undated letter from 1883, Archie wrote to Moses Stanley blaming Elizabeth Stuart not just for instigating Sarah’s original departure, but also for undermining Stanley’s attempt to reconcile them. “I wrote Sarah in the terrible agony of my grief to have mercy on me- I prayed her forgiveness- I besought her save me with her love- the appeal touched her her love & tenderness & loyalty reasserted themselves for a moment—Mrs. Stuart hearing that Sarah was irresolute whether to go or return wrote her a pack of falsehoods—about what I had said to my uncle about her. And this the second opportunity slipped by me & was lost.”[xxiv]

In his first letter to Sarah after she announced that she would not return from Michigan, Archie made very clear that he considered the Stuarts to blame:

You are in no condition at present to view this matter dispassionately & fairly. You can only see your side – & your side as it has appeared to your friend Mrs. Stuart. I do verily believe that you are entirely under her control, & cannot think your own thoughts or do your own will if she interferes…Well then dear the morning that you intended to leave- you will remember that I asked you whether you intended to return & I then said that if you stayed in Mass. I would take Nana away from you- & Mrs. S? I had an indefinite apprehension that you & others were plotting against me- that your action for two months or six weeks was the result of some secret understanding between you & others, I felt that the Stuarts were in this – that morning when I said I would take Nana away from you it was because I somehow felt that you might go to live with the Stuarts & take Nana there & defy me to take her or to have any thing to do with her. [xxv]

Evidently Sarah had complained that Archie had induced the Welds to consider her insane, and Stuart had been the bearer of this message, as he continued:

Do not say that I have destroyed or shaken the trust of the Welds in your word or sanity—For Uncle Theodore discovered the above discrepancy between the statement which you made to Mrs. Stuart & the one which you afterwards made to him – & this my dear he volunteered to tell me. And as to the matter of your sanity- he said that he discovered something in your countenance which suggested possibilities in the direction of insanity long before he ever spoke to me about you.[xxvi]

Frances Pillsbury began to serve as a go-between, or informant, as soon as the bad news arrived.  On May 24, she wrote to Archie that she had received a letter from Sarah in Ann Arbor, in which “She said in the letter that I should be surprised to hear from her out West and also should be shocked if you “had written me any particulars,” as he obviously had done.[xxvii]  On June 27 she followed up with a report that she had written Sarah as Archie had desired: “Have written six pages—all about the farm & flowers & carriage house. I told her the carriage was newly painted and covered to be ready to carry Nana & Sarah to ride when they returned! I said not a syllable that would show that I knew anything about affairs.”[xxviii] Her next letter, written October 8, blames Moses Stanley for harboring Sarah rather than sending her home to Archie: “For it is in his power to send your wife & child back to you, if he chooses—Sarah would never stay away in this manner if her relatives showed her the wrong of it. Now Archie I have thought of one way to open the Reverend clergyman’s eyes. This is to write him an anonymous letter giving him an account of Mrs. Stewart’s witchcraft- of her ascribing demonic powers & acts to you – of her outrageous money making & promising patients to nine other weak women in the same village &c &c—I think that kind of ointment for Mr. Stanley’s eyes—would be equal to the clay that Jesus used in the blind man—it would cause him to SEE.”[xxix] It is unclear whether or not she did so, but in November she reported having gotten another letter from Sarah. The reply in question was enclosed and was a terse communication that opened a period of great stress over Angelina’s custody. “Thanks for your kind letter, enclosing one from Archie. In reply I have only to say that I do not intend to ever return to live with Archie….P/S/ I should be glad to know explicitly Archie’s wishes, or intentions in regard to the child, since she is legally his. S.S.G.”[xxx] Although there is no known connection between Gilbert and Frances Pillsbury and Christian Science, Parker was later to write very cordially to Eddy, whose sister had married a Pillsbury cousin in New Hampshire decades earlier.[xxxi] An April 3, 1891 letter from Eddy to Laura E. Sargent ends with a PS asking “How do you like Parker Pillsbury’s pamphlet? [xxxii]  A note in the files of J.C. Tomlinson’s 1907 reminiscences indicates some pride in the association with “the well known Pillsbury family the members of which have attained wide celebrity in business and in Reform movements”.[xxxiii]

Sarah sent Archie a mixed message about Angelina’s support on September 22, 1884, writing “I wish to be assured that you fully relinquish your claim to her person, and freely entrust her care and education in my hands. And, further, I wish to know whether in so doing you would still consider it a pleasure as well as a duty to assist in her maintenance.”[xxxiv] She also asked Archie how much he would be willing and able to contribute monthly or annually. His reply was dated September 26, and he assured her “that I consider your claim to Nana’s person higher than my own, that your wishes and interests in regard to her person and education to take precedence over mine in all respects when yours and mine are in non agreement” and also “that had I the moral right to decide as to her custody & education I know of no one to whom I would more fully & freely commit the dear little girl than to your mother love & dutiful care.” While considering it a duty and pleasure to provide financial support, he was unclear about Sarah’s remark about relinquishing his claims, asking if “in case of your death before me, I am not then to claim my child?” and concluding by asking for a suggested amount needed for Angelina’s support. Although his investments had failed and his income was meagre, he saw prospects for financial improvement in the “public position & reputation” he had recently attained. In a postscript he reminded Sarah of a life insurance policy of two thousand dollars which would be due to her in the event of his death.[xxxv] Four days later she wrote a reply, thanking him for his letter and the enclosed check and proposing two hundred dollars per year as a fair amount for child support. She assured him that “in case of my death before yours, no one will dispute your claim to your child. I only wish to be equally certain that I am not liable to have her taken from me at any moment- even if I should do so unlikely a thing as to visit Massachusetts again.”[xxxvi]

This arrangement was only to last three months, as on January 11, 1885 Sarah changed her mind and wrote to Archie that she had “come to realize that it is not for the best good & happiness of our little girl to be brought up under divided claims. As matters now stand, she is legally yours, and while you support her, you have claims, and also, she is yours in case of my death. But she ought to be either wholly yours or wholly mine. I therefore wish to assume, at once, her entire support & education, & in case of my death I wish her left free to choose between you & my people.” Thanking him for his past services, she concluded with an ominous remark that seems directed at his friendship with the Pillsburys: “And allow me, now, to most solemnly warn you that the one you call your good fairy is your evil genius, in that she prompts you to seek fame & power instead of Peace & Good-will. The Earthly, instead of the Celestial.”[xxxvii] On January 18 he replied that he was greatly surprised by her change of heart, having considered the recent agreement a final conclusion to discussion of competing claims. While he could not understand what motivated this sudden decision, he felt that he “must trust that you understand fully what you wish & that it is indeed for the best good & happiness of our little girl” but left the door open to further reconsideration on her part. Sarah’s change of heart seems to have coincided with a change in Elizabeth Stuart’s status, as she had decided to create her own independent Mind Cure group which would use Sarah’s lessons as part of its curriculum. In December 1884, Sarah H. Crosse wrote a letter to the Christian Science Journal addressed “To Whom it May Concern” warning that “An aggressive outside element of which the public should be informed is this: Many are assuming the name `Christian Scientist’ who never belonged to the Christian Scientist Association; some even who have been expelled from it. This mixes things. Long before the people in Hyde Park heard of metaphysical healing, or Mrs. Elizabeth Stuart was taught it by Mrs. Eddy in 1881, the name was given by Mrs. Eddy to this organization, and none but its members have any right to it.”[xxxviii] This implies that Stuart was seen by Christian Scientists as an unscrupulous usurper, but she seems to have abandoned use of the term “Christian Science” the following year.

In May 1885 Elizabeth Stuart taught a class in Hartford, Connecticut, which was followed in December by her student Leander Edmund Whipple becoming a mental healer there. This ultimately led to Hartford becoming the center for her group’s work, which had already been organized in Massachusetts and New York under the name “Light, Love, Truth.” The triangular symbol adopted by the group was interpreted to mean “Life cannot be manifested apart from Love and Truth. Love cannot be separated from Life and Truth. Without Truth there can be neither Life nor Love.”[xxxix] In August 1885, Sarah announced a correspondence class entitled “First Lessons in Reality, OR The Psychical Basis of Physical Health.”  Pupils were directed to write to her at 31 Milwaukee Avenue, Detroit, her parents’ address. The method of instruction was explained: “Each member will receive a list of questions, together with a copy of the lesson to be studied.  Answers are to be prepared by the student and forwarded for correction, explanation, etc., after which the MS. Of the student will be returned, and a second lesson and list of questions received for study.” The course consisted of thirteen lessons, with a tuition fee of $10.00, “students paying their own postage.”[xl]

At the beginning of 1886, Archie made one final effort to reconcile with Sarah, writing to her that “after two persons are married they should, where it is at all possible, endeavor to live together” and in light of Angelina’s welfare, “I therefore Sarah earnestly write you to return home so that together we may take up life’s duties until death do us part” which he signed “your husband.”[xli] Her reply does not survive and perhaps never was made directly, but that summer she wrote to their former landlady in Hyde Park, Mrs. Leverett. This letter apparently expressed another change of heart about Angelina in light of Archie’s next letter to her, dated July 12. He wrote: “Mrs. Leverett showed me your letter on Saturday morning in answer I desire to say to you that I would be very happy to take our dear little Nana & devote my life to her—You might then remain where you now are or if otherwise inclined return with the dear little one to the home which has had its door open to receive you every day & hour since you left it more than three years ago. My means do not allow me to discharge my duties to Nana by any other arrangement. Tell Nana that her dear Papa wants very much to see her tho.”[xlii]

During the first years of the group Light, Love, Truth, Sarah appears to have been the sole published author of lessons.  Neither Mrs. Stuart nor her close colleague Emma Austin Tolles of Hartford became published authors, but the Grimké correspondence affords several clues to her role as amanuensis for their group.  Most of her letters to Angelina from the period are undated and lack return addresses, but internal evidence shows their sequence. References to Elizabeth Stuart and Emma Tolles are abundant.  In summer 1887 Sarah wrote to Angelina, “My dear little Girl; Your good letters have reached me safely with Mrs. Tolles letters” asking later “Have you been away any where with Mrs. Stuart.”[xliii] Angelina was evidently in the company of both Tolles and Stuart during her years at school in Hyde Park, where the Weld family had apparently reconciled with the Stuarts. Sarah’s initial move to California might have been influenced by the presence in San Francisco of Miranda R. Rice, a former colleague of Mrs. Eddy who had seceded from Christian Science ranks the same day as her sister Dorcas Rawson and Elizabeth Stuart. Sarah did not remain in the Bay Area; although First Lessons in Reality was published in Detroit, its foreword was signed Los Angeles, California, June 1886. Weeks earlier, on April 3, Sarah had signed her pledge in Los Angeles as a member of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. While in California, Sarah wrote to her daughter indicating that her friend Mrs. Rice had seen Angelina at Mrs. Stuart’s: “I have just had a letter from Mrs. Rice and she tells me she saw you one day at Mrs. Stuarts.”[xliv] Emma Austin Tolles evidently was concerned that Angelina have proper clothing, as shown by another 1887 letter from Sarah: “If you like the things Mrs. Tolles sent I wish you would write and thank her. She tells me she has some new shoes for you and some other things almost ready to send – you know her address –“[xlv] following up in her next letter:

I most sincerely hope that you can go and see Mrs. Tolles some time in Hartford. She has been a very good friend to you in the past, and will be in the future. You can depend on it…Your good letter made mamma very happy.  I want you to improve in your writing as fast as you can, so as to write lessons and books when you get older, just as mamma does.  Then, you know, you can go to California, or Detroit, or any where in the world you wish. I am glad the things from Mrs. Tolles reached you all right.  Has she sent you shoes yet? I am glad you have such jolly times at Mrs. Stuart’s, with Mr. Stuart, and with Maggie…Mamma is very much better now, and has already gone to writing on the lessons again and hopes to finish them this time.  I hope my little girl is both good and happy in Hyde Park.[xlvi]

[i] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, January 25, 1881, IC 507.

[ii] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, March 24, 1881, IC 507.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Elizabeth G. Stuart and Jane L. Straw to Eddy, April 16, 1881, SF-Arens.

[v] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, undated, IC  507.

[vi] Elizabeth G. Stuart and Jane L Straw to Eddy, undated, SF-Arens.

[vii] James C. Howard to Eddy, June 6, 1881, Accession L09059.

[viii] Ibid, Accession L09059.

[ix] Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1971), 87.

[x] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, October 15, 1881, IC 507.

[xi] Peel, Years of Trial, 93.

[xii] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, undated, IC 507.

[xiii] James Henry Snowden, The Truth About Christian Science (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1920), 179.

[xiv] Author A.A. Draper, Hanover P. Smith/Mary Baker Eddy, October 26, 1881, Accession L09677.

[xv] Eddy to William Stuart, November 2, 1881, V0071.

[xvi] Eddy to Clara Choate, November 8, 1881, Accession L02492.

[xvii] Early Organizational Records, EOR 10.3.

[xviii] “Workings of Animal Magnetism,” undated corrected proof, Accession A10422.001.

[xix] Early Organizational Records, EOR 10.01.

[xx] Theodore Weld to Eddy, November 21, 1881; IC 722a, Mary Baker Eddy Library.

[xxi] Ibid., Series C, Box 3, Folder 82.

[xxii] Ibid., Series C, Box 3, Folder 74.

[xxiii] Ibid., Series D, Box 5, Folder 101, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxiv] Ibid., Series C, Box 3, Folder 74.

[xxv] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 81, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series 5, Box 5, Folder 101, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] On March 14, 1893, he wrote from Concord a friendly message about a recent magazine article, concluding “With sentiments of sincere respect and esteem, I am My dear friend, Faithfully & fraternally yours” adding as a postscript “your work on Science and Health is indeed a treasure.” Parker Pillsbury to Eddy, March 14, 1893, Item 111.22.003.

[xxxii] Eddy to Laura Sargent, April 3, 1891. Accession L0598.

[xxxiii] J.C. Tomlinson Reminiscences, note dated April 29, 1907, accession #A11876.

[xxxiv]Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 78, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxxv]Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 81, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxxvi] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 78, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxxvii]Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 78, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxxviii] Sarah H. Crosse, “To Whom it May Concern,” Christian Science Journal, December 1884.

[xxxix] Ibid, 139.

[xl] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 79.

[xli] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 81.

[xlii] Ibid.

[xliii]Angelina Weld Grimké papers, Box 5, Folder 92, Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xliv] Ibid.

[xlv] Ibid.

[xlvi] Ibid.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Personified Unthinkables

Personified Unthinkables: The Pupil (excerpted from Letters to the Sage, Volume Two.)

Bronson Alcott’s acquaintance with Mary Baker Glover (who would become Mrs. Eddy in 1878) began when he read Science and Health in January 1876 and wrote to her in very admiring terms: “The sacred truths which you announce sustained by facts of the Immortal Life, give to your work the seal of inspiration – reaffirm, in modern phrase, the Christian revelations.” [i] On January 30, after meeting Mrs. Glover, he wanted to meet her circle.  He had already promoted her book among Transcendentalist colleagues and was planning to do so among future Unitarian clergy, writing “Last Sunday evening I met a pleasant circle at Mr Emersons and took occasion to speak of yourself, your Science and disciples…Next Wednesday evening, I am to meet the Divinity students at Cambridge for Conversation on Divine Ideas and methods. I think you may safely trust my commendations of your faith and methods anywhere.”[ii] After meeting her circle in Lynn, Alcott continued to be supportive. Three diary entries indicate the rise and fall of Alcott’s enthusiasm for Christian Science. On January 20, 1876 he wrote “I find her one of the fair saints.”[iii] More than two years later, following the death of Mrs. Alcott and the remarriage of Mrs. Glover to Asa Gilbert Eddy, he became involved in a court case involving Christian Science, sometimes called the “Salem witch trial” of Daniel Spofford. Alcott’s diary entry for May 14, 1878 notes that he accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Eddy to Salem for the trial in which Lucretia Brown claimed to have suffered mesmeric attacks from Spofford.[iv] Three weeks later, on June 5, his first reservations about her appear in his diary: “There is perhaps a touch of fanaticism, though of a genial quality, interposed into her faith, which a deeper insight into the mysteries of life may ultimately remove.”[v]

One sermon at Old West Church in which Cyrus Bartol endorsed Eddy’s beliefs was entitled “Mind Cure.”  An excerpt was published in the Christian Science Journal, which included these passages: “A wrong thought disturbs right thinking. Rectify the system with right thoughts. That is the medicine to be taken internally…let us change the thought to faith, confidence in God, and in each other! Take down the upholstery of the pit. In a picture gallery we uncover our heads and are lifted above base longing. Can we not have an art museum in our mind? And spiritual uncovering.”[vi] At the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, May 7, 1884, the Christian Scientist Association members passed a resolution tendering “heartfelt thanks” to “this eminent divine” for having “nobly defended” Christian Science, concluding “as a true watchman on the tower of the world’s progress who sends forth no uncertain sound do we thank him.” [vii]

References to Sarah in the literature of the time are rare, but in 1919 Horatio Dresser recorded her as “one of the earliest of the mental science writers” whose “Personified Unthinkables, 1884, interpreted the practical idealism with special reference to mental pictures and their influence…Quimby sometimes described the mental part of his treatment with reference to the pictures he discerned intuitively in the patient’s mind…”[viii] The influence from Quimby on Grimké’s writings may be minor, however, in light of the insistence of Cyrus Bartol on the same theme of mental pictures. Bartol became but the most visible friend of Christian Science in the Unitarian clergy. Stephen Gottschalk describes his interest in Eddy as based on “his feeling that the new movement represented a recrudescence of the Transcendentalist revolt against materialism.”[ix] He was not Mrs. Eddy’s first Unitarian clerical admirer, a role played by Andrew Ralston Peabody, a Harvard professor affiliated with the orthodox Unitarians. Bartol was by contrast affiliated with the radical wing of the movement, in which “his liberalism partook not of the rationalism of Peabody’s orthodoxy but of the warmth of transcendentalist faith.”[x] Robert Peel notes an intriguing quote from Bartol, who allegedly “listened to Mrs. Eddy’s explanations and declared, ‘I have preached the living God for forty years, but never felt his presence and power as you do.’”[xi] Historian of Transcendentalism Philip Gura describes Bartol as “as a voice of postwar Transcendentalism” who was such “in good measure because of his continuing advocacy of intuitionist beliefs… became a major voice among radical Unitarians.”[xii]

An undated note by Calvin Frye of a recollection by Mary Baker Eddy, headed “Dr. Bartol- 1868,” quotes him as telling her “Well dear sister I can see that you are inspired and your talk about God is beautiful but I cannot <quite>understand it I am afraid others will not I would not try to talk it for people will think you are insane.”[xiii] This indicates that their acquaintance predated her first meeting with Bronson Alcott by eight years. Despite Eddy’s early and lasting esteem for Bartol, the Christian Science Journal in December 1884 rejected his pleas for harmonious cooperation among various branches of the fractious Mind Cure movement. “Observer” commented that “There is no occupant of a Boston pulpit broader in his religious sympathies, or more sensitive in his spiritual fellowship, than the Rev. Dr. C.A. Bartol” who “has always been foremost in the recognition of ecclesiastical progress” and goes on to praise the way “every topic he touches receives from his thought a touch of its own poetic sweetness and light, yet not in such a way as to conceal or warp, in the least degree, the objects upon which he bids us look.” Nevertheless, in a recent sermon Bartol went too far, when he classed Christian Science “with Mesmerism, Mind cure, Spiritualism, as parts of one and the same great movement…When Dr. Bartol, in his kindly way, bids Christian Scientists live in friendly unity with these isms, he asks the impossible.”[xiv]

The mental pictures theme found in Grimké’s writing, as well as her literary style, may owe more to Bartol than to Christian Science. His 1855 collection of sermons, Pictures of Europe, Framed in Ideas, combined travel writing and Transcendentalism. Sally M. Promey describes the book as “inviting ‘pilgrims’ to the ‘shrine,’ the ‘splendid temple of art’” and recommending “what he called ‘picture-language’ as superior to text for its presumed universal legibility.”[xv] The Columbia Literary History of the United States describes Bartol’s style as “strongly didactic, much given to reflection on moral and spiritual truths, aphoristic, dependent on example and analogy rather than on sequential arguments, fond of paradox, highly reiterative yet sometimes compressed to the point of mysteriousness.” [xvi] The Esoteric Lessons of his disciple are equally well described by this summary. The Cambridge American Companion to Travel Writing describes his 1855 book as “affirming the value of a universal religious reverence inherent in human nature and expressed in religious art and architecture.”[xvii] The Sunday school lesson and sermon topics of Old West Church preserved at the Andover Theological Seminary library reveal Bartol emphasizing such visual themes as “The Beauty of Flowers” or “Light” as often as traditional Biblical topics or contemporary political issues.

One early critical Eddy biography describes her as presenting theology “warmer than the Unitarianism which it faintly resembled, less vague than the Transcendentalism with which it was affiliated.”[xviii] Unitarian clergyman Samuel B. Stewart performed the marriage ceremony of Asa Eddy and Mary Baker Glover, who had attended his services with her former colleague Richard Kennedy.[xix] Near the end of her long life, several pieces of evidence suggest that Eddy’s early esteem for Unitarianism was undiminished.  In November 1897, in response to an interview request from a Unitarian minister, she commented that “to my apprehension unity and love are the exemplification of Unitarianism, even as the Christ healing is the demonstration of Christian Science,” adding “My acquaintance with Unitarians has been of a happy sort for their lives have illustrated their religion.”[xx] Six months later, she followed up with another letter praising several Unitarian clergymen by name, writing that “Theodore Parker, Dr. Peabody, Dr. Bartol, Wm. R. Alger, etc. were my model men. They did much towards unchaining the limbs of Love and giving freedom to its footsteps.”[xxi] In recognition of years of friendly relations with the Unitarian Church in Concord, New Hampshire, Eddy left them $5000 in her will.[xxii]

Two points in Unitarian theology are identified by Catherine Tumber as foundational to Christian Science, New Thought, and ultimately the New Age. Drawing on a philosophical tradition of perfectionism, “Unitarianism compelled its followers to achieve ‘likeness to God’ through self-development and social reform” which was combined with a “precarious dualism between the higher and lower faculties, between the spiritual and the corporeal” which “could easily elide from respect for material claims, if legitimate in their proper inferior place, to active disparagement and even contempt.”[xxiii]


[i] Bronson Alcott to Eddy, January 17, 1876 (SF-Alcott, Bronson).

[ii] Bronson Alcott to Eddy, January 30, 1876 (SF Alcott, Bronson).

[iii] Journals of Bronson Alcott, Odell Shepard, ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1938), 465.

[iv] Ibid., 487.

[v] Ibid., 489-90.

[vi] C.A. Bartol, “Mind Cure,” Christian Science Journal, December 1884.

[vii] Early Organizational Records, Christian Scientist Association, Mary Baker Eddy Library, EOR 10.03.

[viii] Horatio Dresser, History of the New Thought Movement (New York: Crowell), 138.

[ix] Stephen Gottschalk, Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973), 208.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Robert Peel, Christian Science: Its Encounter with American Culture (Harrington Park, NJ: R.H. Sommer, 1980), 105.

[xii] Philip Gura, American Transcendentalism (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 274.

[xiii] Calvin Frye, Undated note, Accession A11065.

[xiv] “A Late Letter,” Christian Science Journal, December 1884.

[xv] American Religious Liberalism, Leigh E. Schmidt and Sally M. Promey, eds. (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2012), 82.

[xvi] Columbia Literary History of the United States, Emory Elliott, gen. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 374.

[xvii] Cambridge American Companion to Travel Writing, Alfred Bendixen and Judith Hamera, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 119.

[xviii] Sutherland Bates and John V. Dittemore, Mary Baker Eddy (New York: Knopf, 1932), 153.

[xix] Sybil Wilbur, Life of Mary Baker Eddy (New York: Concord, 1907), 223.

[xx] Eddy to Frank L. Phalen, November 27, 1897, L13282.

[xxi] Eddy to Frank L. Phalen, May 13, 1898, L132880.

[xxii] Eddy to unknown recipient, September 13, 1907, “for MY WILL” L09844.

[xxiii] Katherine Tumber, American Feminism and the Birth of New Age Spirituality (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), 117-118.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment