William Oxley, Astrological Twin of Emma Hardinge Britten

Emma was born May 2, 1823 in what is now London; in the absence of birth times she and Oxley could be a few minutes apart or many hours. From Letters to the Sage:

William Oxley—born to radical Methodist parents on May 1, 1823 at Doncaster, Yorkshire, England—was a prominent English spiritualist and amateur Egyptologist and Indologist. Around 1848 he married Jane Pettinger, with whom he developed an interest in Swedenborgianism, apparently without abandoning Methodism. Oxley, an inventor holding six patents for industrial processes, headed a machining and manufacturing company, Oxley and Co., which expanded steadily through the 1860s, but declined thereafter, and was bought out by one of his sons in the late 1880s. Jane died in 1893 and the company went bankrupt in 1899. Oxley died at the home of his son Henry on June 29, 1905, and is buried at St. Mary’s in Bowdon, near Altricham, outside Manchester.

            In the early 1870s Oxley became involved with spiritualism, and over the next thirty years would author several spiritualism-themed books. Oxley first became involved with the Theosophical Society around 1879, though he later renounced the organization and was briefly affiliated with other UK private occult groups, such as the Order of Light and the H.B. of L.

            The primary significance of Oxley’s letters to Johnson is that they provide information concerning the H.B. of L. One of them—dated October 23, 1884—is one of the earliest letters in this volume to mention subjects directly connected to the H.B. of L. This letter is a response to Johnson’s request to Oxley (penned on October 7) for information about Fryar’s Bath Occult Series and the person apparently connected to that series known to Johnson as “M. Theon.” Oxley advises Johnson that Fryar’s books are overpriced reprints and he promises to investigate this “M. Theon,” warning Johnson to—it seems—not rush to join up with Theon’s occult group. Perhaps the most valuable letter is that dated June 29, 1887, in which Oxley says he knew Burgoyne in England before the H.B. of L. had started, and that he (Oxley) had a fairly good opinion of Burgoyne at the time—Oxley even calls Burgoyne “one of the best” astrologers he knows.   

Higher Broughton, Manchester

7 November 1881

Dear Sir.

            I enclose po order payable at St Louis. Missouri—for 12/. for years subn. for Platonist of which you have sent me as few numbers. The book is very valuable, and I trust you will find sufficient subscribers to support the undertaking.

            By same post I forward you a work I have just published—price 3/6 ea. including postage entitled The Philosophy of Spirit—Illustrated by a new Version of The Bhagavat Gita.[1]

            I do not understand Sanscrit but I took Schlegels Latin version which is allowed to be the most literal—and after translating this, and comparing, sentence by sentence with Wilkins and Cockburn Thompson—(the only 2 English translations) I then put it into poetic form—and I think I have given the spirit of the work so far as our language permits.

            Perhaps you will kindly review it in your Platonist  The work can be had of E.W. Allen- Ave Maria Lane London F.C.

            I am

            Yours very truly

            Wm. Oxley

Higher Broughton, Manchester

4 November 1882

My Dear Sir.

            Yours of 16th ult. to hand. I have succeeded in getting the 4 numbers of Herald of Progress with my articles in, and which I have pleasure in mailing by some post to you.[2]

            I find party spirit and dogmatic individuality now so high in this Country, that I feel more & more disposed to retire for peace into the recesses of my own inner world of thought and life. for, as you will see by last “Theosophist” Brahminism—as represented by its Modern Votaries, are just as dogmatic and overbearing as all other systems sects and isms. Put out a new thought or idea and you have a lot down on you at once.

            I believe you have known some in your Country for the expression of new thought. and tho you may think it sometimes leads to vagaries yet better that than the old Conservatism which ever seeks to resist innovation.

            I am

            Dear Sir

            Yours truly

            Wm Oxley

Higher Broughton, Manchester

17 September 1884

My Dear Sir.

            The receipt of the Platonist reminds me I have not paid for the new issue but I am sending the money to Foulger & Co. London to day

            Per same post I send you copy of my new work on “Egypt and the wonders of the Land of the Pharaohs”. and will feel much obliged by your reviewing it in the Platonist.

            You will see how I bring in the Platonic School—see page 243 and on. and what are important part it plays in the transitional age.

            The work and subject is treated on new lines.

            The published price is 7/6. what a pity your people place such a heavy tax on our Literature—the policy is as mischevious as it is utterly selfish. They have the run of our country & yet make us pay heavy in return

            I am

            Yours very truly

            Wm Oxley

Higher Broughton, Manchester

23 October 1884

My Dear Sir

            I am in receipt of yours of 7th inst. acknowledging mine enclosing payment of current years sub. to Platonist

            My last number for current year 2nd vol is for June 1884 and I have not received No 2. the number for February. will you kindly forward this No 2. along with what follows June. my last number and also kindly send me 2 copies of the number containing your Review of my Egypt &c

of the 1st vol. I have spare numbers of No 1., 2, 4, 5, 6, 7. and if you should require these to complete sets for any of your friends you can have them.

            I do know something of the “Bath Occult Series”—which I consider simply a swindle! they are merely reprints of works that are not by any means scarce—and they could have been printed for 2/ what they are getting 21/ for.

            as to M. Theon. I am trying to get at the bottom of this thing & to know who he is. my advice is—Be very cautious! I will let you know the result of my enquiries.

Yours very truly

W. Oxley 

St Marys Parsonage, Manchester

29 June 1887

Dear Sir

            Thanks for your courtesy in sending on my letter to Miss Off. We shall see what comes of it.

            In re H.B.L. I presume you know you know the history of the collapse of the Colony scheme in Georgia- I supposed it was genuine at the time but wrote to Davidson discouraging it.

            From what I can gather with certitude the simple facts appear to be—that a youngish man real name I believe is Burgoyne—and who is without doubt an adventurer, after the collapse of Mad. B. in Madras (or perhaps before) the opportunity of trading upon the feeling which had arisen in the minds of many would be students of so called Occultism—this feeling was guided by motives which I suspect were directed towards the attainments of psychic powers! However the chief agent was this young man—Stella alias &c &c &c &c. who somehow got hold of P. Davidson an excursion in Scotland and these two concocted the scheme which bloomed out as the H.B. of L., the antecedents of Stella are not of the brightest or best—as I think there is little doubt but that he was imprisoned in Leeds for an advertising swindle—he served his time to a Grocer and his family are fairly respectable. perhaps this is the worst of him that can be said. I had him as a guest at my house several times & I found him agreeable, and was certainly surprised at the information he possessed on the occult. where or how he got it—he was too wary to impart. he knew exactly how to utilise the “mystery dodge” and all this part past when I questioned him was avoided. I would hardly go the length of calling him a clever scoundrel, but I have no hesitation in dubbing him a smart, cute, adventurer. that he has talents above the average is certain, and as an Astrologer I think he is one of the best I know—he taught me & I am of opinion that the Science is true—but overlaid by a vast mass of superstitious rubbish.

            As to M Theon. I believe that Burgoyne, Stella and Theon are one & the same person & I no more believe in the Adepts of the H.B. of L. than I do in the Mahatmas of the Theos. Society. Neither one nor the other will stand the operation of close scrutiny.

as to P. Davidson. I think he was so far committed that he could not retreat—I sent my sub. to him according to address in Georgia but my letter was returned so —the Occult Magazine is now a thing of the past

            I am

Yours very truly

            W. Oxley


[1] Published in Glasgow in 1881

[2] Over the course of its run, from 1880 to 1884, the Herald of Progress published far more than four articles by Oxley. He may be referring to a specific set of articles, or articles that appeared in the 1882 volume, which we unable to locate.

In light of my recent post about geographical proximity of Burgoyne to Britten, compared to how far he was from Davidson, it is significant that Oxley testifies to having met Burgoyne in Manchester which places him in Britten’s circle of Spiritualist allies opposed to the Theosophical Society at the time. Marc Demarest gathered a group of very helpful links on Oxley in this 2012 blog post.

Here is the second Taurus decanate as described in the Brotherhood of Light lessons:

TAURUS—2nd Decanate. In the second decanate of Taurus the fixity of purpose is given the analytical trend through the subinfluence being that of Virgo. Therefore, some condition in the environment is attacked and made the center upon which the physical and mental forces are focused. The result is a conflict. And this conflict may be to attain fame through literary or artistic production, to attain financial supremacy through business methods, or to rise in the field of science or politics. Thus it brings a combat for supremacy.

This thought is pictured by ORION, the most successful of all hunters, who attacked and slew the mighty bull. The bull represents material pleasures and physical limitations over which it is possible for those born under this decanate to rise supreme. They have at their command an unusual supply of electromagnetism, and can mentally attack with a force as great as the huge club wielded by the mighty arm of Orion. Thus they cause obstacles to crumble.

Thomas H. Huxley, whose work as a scientist was so painstaking and brought him so much opposition, was born with the Sun in this decanate. The Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, whose political life was spent in the struggle to gain greater freedom for the people, had his Mentality here. And another, who strove with armies, George Washington, founder of the U.S. of America, was born with his Personality in this section of Taurus. It is the decanate of STRUGGLE.