The authors recently published in the History of the Adepts series associated with this blog have several features in common. In addition to being in various ways predecessors to the Brotherhood of Light lessons, they all have been lost to literary history after being defamed, marginalized, and forgotten. But neither of these common features would justify years of editorial labor bringing them back to life in print. Rather, it is historical reliability and relevance that made me rescue these literary orphans (with a huge amount of help from my friends.) Historical reliability is hardly a feature of 19th century Spiritualist and Theosophical literature in general. Emma Hardinge Britten fictionalizing her acquaintances was a Spiritualist corruption of history; Helena Blavatsky did more such damage with her Mahatma letters and various miracles on behalf of Theosophy. Theosophists and Spiritualists might attribute spiritual authority to books like Art Magic or The Mahatma Letters, but spiritual authority has perpetually clashed with historical expertise and accuracy.
Wilder and Johnson were present at the beginnings of Theosophy and Spiritualism, and their letters provide voluminous accurate historical information about many key players. Their communications are devoid of miracles, mystery-mongering, spirit messages, or talk of past lives. Chintamon was also present at the beginnings and became a whistleblower on Theosophical frauds. This more philosophical than religious approach was also found in Stebbins and Grimke who were grounded in yoga and New Thought. If Theosophical and Spiritualist literature are rife with misleading distortions of history, misinformation compounded by disinformation—with Blavatsky and Britten giving highly biased versions of their sectarian warfare—how does Elbert Benjamine clean up such a toxic waste site, producing a large body of work free of such corruption? With some advice from friends of a previous generation.
The Brotherhood of Light lessons were published with complete editorial independence and control by the author, in order to protect himself and the members from unethical behavior by publishers that had severely damaged the literary careers of late 19thc authors, especially T.H. Burgoyne/Norman Astley, who was caught in the crossfire between Theosophy and Spiritualism. Others of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in America had witnessed the confusion caused by pseudonymous writings and literary quarrels. From the very first small booklet, Elbert’s writings were under his own control and not subject to interference and distortions by others with dubious motives. This gives The Church of Light a much more solid foundation than groups descending from the same era, freeing us from the endless distractions and confusion typical of most 20thc American “occultist” literature with competing claims to spiritual authority, to which historical accuracy is entirely sacrificed. (Written as the 2022 convention in Albuquerque is concluding and I count my blessings to have been associated with this group for almost 17 years.)