CANNABIS CULTURE – In the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 19th century hashish played an important role in the occult and was used in initiation rituals of certain secret societies, such as the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.
The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was an occult initiation group that did not become known to the public until late 1894, although according to the official document of the Order it had begun its work as early as 1870. Until the arrival of the most famous of the Golden Dawn orders in 1888, the HBoL was the only order that taught practical occultism in the Western Mystery Tradition. It is interesting to note that the number of members of the Hermetic Order of Golden Dawn can be linked to drugs, which I will discuss in a future article. The teachings of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor lean heavily on the magical and sexual theories of Paschal Beverly Randolph, who influenced groups such as the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) (later led by Aleister Crowley), although Randolph himself was never a member of the order.
In their excellent book on this order, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (Godwin, Chanel, Deveny, 1995), the authors refer to the postal initiation instructions of H.B.L. An essential part of the initiation ceremony seems to have been the removal of a tablet sent with the instructions. This probably contained a concentrated dose of hashish and/or opium to provide a memorable experience and possibly communication with Inner Circle entities (Godwin, 1994). The inner circle, a group of hidden initiates who secretly guide humanity, is derived from the concepts of Carl von Eckarthausen (1752-1803) and Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) (both known for their use of occult drugs). The idea of these hidden masters remains popular among occultists, and the suggestion of using hashish to get in touch with these mysterious figures occurs more than once in the history of occultism, sometimes by critics who label these encounters as chimerical.
The co-authors give a description of Mason and the so-called Golden Dawn Alchemist, of which he was also a member, the Reverend William Alexander Ayton, about his initiation into H.B.L. At one point during his initiation into the group, Ayton had to drink what was considered to be a real juice drink. …I was very reluctant to drink this medicine… …and I thought about avoiding it. But I opened the bottle and melted on it. All my life I’ve been used to drugs, and I recognized him immediately. I knew the effect was the strongest, but I decided to deal with it. I don’t know if it was hallucinations caused by this drug, but I have been aware of another presence…. I was fully conscious for three hours from midnight. When it was over, I took my pulse and discovered that it was, as I expected, intermittent, which I recognized as the effect of the drug. The authors, who are among the most competent historians of this period of occult history, claim that hashish certainly played a role in the initiation of H.B.L. [and] Reverend Ayton…. (Godwin, Chanel and Devaney, 1995).
William Alexander Ayton (1816 – 909), a British Anglican minister interested in alchemy and the occult, was a prominent member of several secret societies.
There appears to be a general interest in the use of occult drugs, shared by key members of the group. In the occult newspaper 1, no. 1 (February 1885)…. Published by… Peter Davidson, an important figure in the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, quotes Eckertshausen on the narcotic properties of substances that increase the receptivity of the nerves and also make it possible to lift the veil of atmospheric density, induce trance, etc. and increase the power of representation and thus astral seeing (Deveney, 1997). H.B.L. was best known for his fascination with magic mirrors, which, like other aspects, probably came under the influence of P.B.Randolph.
Peter Davidson 1837 – 1915 was a Scottish musician and violinist, homeopath, herbalist and co-editor of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.
Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, leaned heavily on the teachings of Paschal Beverly Randolph (1815-1875.)), a mulatto mystic and hashish importer who, as I have noted in earlier articles, sold and advertised several elixirs containing cannabis in the United States, and who wrote articles on hashish for the popular American spiritualist magazine Banner of Light and reported on it widely in his works, as B. did in the essay Hashish, its Uses, Abuses and Dangers, Ecstasy, Fantasy and Illuminati (1867).
To learn more about the role of cannabis in occultism, read Liber 420 : Cannabis, magical herbs and the occult.