Alexander Wilder Blog Hurrychund Chintamon Norman Astley Sarah Stanley Grimké Thomas H. Burgoyne

Three Shipwrecked Orphans

Grimke, Astley, Chintamon

In its final form, the History of the Adepts book series consists of three books that are “main content” and two that are “related content.”  What connects them to one another has to do with the theme “literary shipwrecked orphans” spanning many decades.  “Unintended consequences of literary pseudonyms” is another theme having to do with the three main authors.

  1. Sarah Stanley Grimke Collected Works includes her three sets of Esoteric Lessons from 1884-1898 that were published under that title, along with biographical introductions to each section and extensive annotations by the editor.  Elbert Benjamine is the first author to attribute portions of The Light of Egypt (1889) to Sarah in print, but I found several Grimke family letters that said this in private communications.  Why has Sarah been so ignored and forgotten since her only book originally published in 1900?  This has in part to do with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor whose leaders published her book as well as those of “Zanoni.”
  2. The Quest of the Spirit (2022 reprint) was published in 1913 as edited by Genevieve Stebbins and authored by her longtime associate “A Pilgrim of the Way.”  This was her husband Norman Astley who had been published as “Zanoni,” author of Language of the Stars (1892) and Celestial Dynamics (1896). In the 1900 two volume expanded edition of The Light of Egypt, Zanoni was identified as Thomas H. Burgoyne, a pseudonym that he had abandoned upon marrying Stebbins in 1892 and becoming Astley. Belle Wagner told the world he was dead and she was channeling him while she adulterated his writings, and her husband published this, the height of editorial and publishing misconduct.  Astley had a long and productive life after Astro-Philosophical Publications but his writing career could never thrive under the shadow of the Wagners’ “usurpation” as he put it. My contribution as editor is an appendix on the Society for Psychical Research investigation of Mme. Blavatsky that follows three appendices by Astley on parapsychology.
  3. A Commentary on the Text of the Bhagavad-Gita, (1874, 2021) Hurrychund Chintamon’s only full length book, was published prior to creation of the Theosophical Society, but my introduction to the new edition goes into his role in TS history which culminated in his becoming a whistleblower to the Society for Psychical Research as it investigated fraudulent phenomena associated with Helena Blavatsky.  He was “present at the beginning” of the Mahatma letters, as well as being involved in the formation of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. In the cases of Grimke, Astley, and Chintamon, all were ignored or forgotten in consequence of being caught up in a war of pseudonymous occultist “adepts” and “Mahatmas,” friends of Britten and Blavatsky respectively– two women who had been friends themselves before going to war with each other over Spiritualism versus Theosophy.

Related Content:

  1. Letters to the Sage: Selected Correspondence of Thomas Moore Johnson, Volume Two: Alexander Wilder, the Platonist (2018)  includes an introduction by Ronnie Pontiac about Wilder’s friendship with Johnson, a Greek glossary by Erica Georgiades, and an appendix about Grimke by me.  Wilder’s letters do not discuss the HBofL, but Johnson was the US head of the group for much of the correspondence, and the first 2016 volume of letters The Esotericists includes an extensive introduction about him by Patrick D. Bowen.
  2. Pell Mell: Civil War and Reconstruction in a Carolina Pocosin (2021) is a condensation of the original Pell Mellers: Race and Memory in a Carolina Pocosin (2008, 2013).  Its introduction and appendices report inquiries related to subsequent investigations of Grimke family history and the Astleys. Pseudonymous and fictional characters, as well as confusing name changes, abound. Much research was conducted at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh which also was instrumental in Astley research.