Sarah Stanley Grimke Collected Works

En route home from Missouri last month, I conceived the idea of getting into print the collection I had posted online as Esoteric Lessons– the original title under which it was published in 1900.  Thinking it would take months to deal with all the details, I was astonished to end up with a publication date of December 1. It is now available for order on Amazon, and I look forward to the first batch of author copies soon.

Ultimately I added so much new material that a new title for the collection seemed appropriate.  Esoteric Lessons was chosen posthumously by the publisher who kept secret the lives of his authors who wrote as “Zanoni.”  The new book has separate introductions to each of Sarah’s publications, an appendix on her relations with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor by Patrick Bowen, another appendix on the Chevalier Louis de B_, and a preface by the editor.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Quetil Trail in the Illinois Ozarks

En route to the Thomas Moore Johnson centennial celebration in Missouri I visited one of the few historic sites associated with figures whose correspondence with Johnson appears in Letters to the Sage. Charles Julius Quetil’s activity in the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor occurred during the final year of his life, 1886. His career as an engineer took him to what is now Alto Pass, Illinois but was called Quetil Gap originally due to his activity there  Now a trail named after him begins at the edge of the quaint small town and descends into a scenic gorge.  It was cold and raining when I took these pictures but they suffice to show that the Illinois Ozarks do exist, and look more like the rest of the Ozarks than the rest of Illinois.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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