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Well, It’s been a several years since I posted any updates on this group.   Truth be told, I pretty much ran out of leads somewhere along the way and decided to let sleeping dogs lie for awhile and give my energy to other pursuits.  One thing I’ve always loved about the internet is that you never really know what’s going to pop up online.  Several months ago, someone sent me some pdf’s of some scanned Mystic Brotherhood related items.  I initially looked at them and stuck them in a folder on my computer and just sort of forgot about them, as they were material I already had in my own collection.  After discovering them again a few days ago I realized I was kind of an idiot for not taking a closer look at the time.

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You may be wondering if there are any confirmed members of this group, well I’ve been able to locate a few.  As I was searching for information I discovered the following in the autobiography of jazz/swing singer Anita O’Day writing about the time period circa 1936:

One night as I came off stage, Tut suddenly grabbed me and kissed me. As he let me go, he said, “I’ll never forget that. I saw stars! But l’ll never do it again.”
I wondered why, but he didn’t, even though most nights he walked me to Mom’s apartment after work. The very fact that he wasn’t trying to get me in bed was enough to separate him from most of the other guys around taverns. He explained that he was delving into the occult and belonged to a group known as The Mystic Brotherhood of Tampa, Florida. One of their tenets  prohibited sexual relations. Not outside of marriage. Prohibited them.  Period. Tut said he was having a hard time living up to that rule and envied another one of the Brothers. His name was Don Carter and he was more ascetic.

— Anita O’Day, “Hight Times, Hard Times,” pg. 49.

This quote is of particular interest due to the reference of sexual abstinence being a requirement of MB membership.  It’s odd as through all my reading of the material I’ve never once  encountered anything at all like this.  As a matter of fact, any mention of sex in the MB material seems to be absent entirely. Oh well, it’s hard to say if these fellows were actually only involved in the MB, as this could have been teachings from another group or book being combined with the MB teachings.  Either way, apparently the MB was anti-war as well, or at least some of it’s members were, as we see from this article from “The Gazette Montreal” Nov 3, 1939:

Besides those original 100 or so lessons of the MB I purchased on eBay, I also found online a seller who had a much larger collection of material.  This collection has some interesting background that I’ll get into in another post, but needless to say, this set is _almost_ a complete series of their primary lessons from start to end.  It’s missing a few numbers here and there (if anyone has a full set, please let me know!!!)   Anyhow, this set ultimately comes from a woman named Ann Manser of Oldsmar, Florida.  She’s mentioned briefly on this page as one of the authors teachers.  She also created a deck of fortune telling, tarot-like cards called the “Pages of Shustah.”  I haven’t found a deck of these yet for myself,  though I’ve yet to really try searching hard for them.  From an image I found online, they apparantly look something along the lines of this:

Besides the woman whom the original lessons I purchased belong to I can’t say who else was a member of the MB.  Ann Manser, in a letter that was included amongst the lessons (writing in 1946), states something to the effect of “When I was living on the west coast I met Brotherhood students all the time, but since moving to Florida, I haven’t met a single one.”  She also points out how odd this is since she lives rather close to Tampa, which was the home of the MB.  So from her statements we can deduce that there were several other members, but who knows who those people might be.

 

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So the Mystic Brotherhood was chugging along, a splinter from the AMORC, and you may be wondering if there was any conflict between the two groups?  Well, actually, H Spencer Lewis did have a few things to say about the group early on.  I discovered two articles in AMORC’s “Rosicrucian Forum” concerning the group.  The first is from Dec. 1933 and it mentions an earlier reference to them in the “Rosicrucian Digest” that I’ve yet to locate.  The article starts with Lewis’ usual carrying on about the genuineness of AMORC by pointing fingers at all the charlatans and frauds out there and then moves on to groups who only have PO boxes for and address and then:

“Take, for instance, a mystic brotherhood operating from a city in the
center of Florida. It claims to be a university of mystic brothers-all
of them having oriental names concealing the real identity ol the two
or three persons operating the organization. lt uses a post-office box
exclusively for its mail address because investigations show that
instead of it being a university or a large organization it actually uses
a small office in a public building.”

This is pretty typical of AMORC attitudes of the time “Look at our awesome buildings, we must be legit.”  Shortly thereafter they continue:

“We also wrote to the organization and protested in the name of
the Great White Lodge again: this misuse of the name of an
ancient and honorable institution. The man who is at the head
of the so-called mystic brotherhood replied to us and admitted
that his organization did not have any such charter and that he
would change the claim in that regard.

“….If the institution does have “insperational” right to do anything
why did it have to resort to a false representation about being
chartered by the Great White Lodge, and why did it put so much
emphasis upon being chartered and “duly authorized by warrant”
if “purely legal rights and charters” mean nothing?

Two things are interesting here. First is the rather common use of AMORC trying to show off how much power they have “see, we called them on it and they admitted it! Hoo-Hah”  Second, the criticisms of the MB using University in their name, the use of great white brotherhood, the charters, etc.  That all sounds an awfully lot like complaints in the FTC report mentioned previously.  Was AMORC the original source of that complaint?  The article then goes off to talk about the “World Conference” where only the real and genuine groups get to together to talk about how awesome they are (ignoring the fact that their authenticity seems to rest in each group chartering each other over and over again!).  Anyhow, the later article, which is from the Jan issue of 1934, is pretty much more of the same accusations and what not, but there’s this interesting piece of information:

We have written to the operators of this small organization, who
were formerly local members of our branch in Florida, telling
them we know positively that they have no charter from the Great
White Lodge authorizing them to operate any occult or mystical
organization using the Ross Cross emblem or any other emblem for
that matter, nor to take any of our teachings or anyone else’s
teachings and use them under the misleading title of Western
Tradition. (And how can you use Egyptian and Oriental teachings
as Western Traditions?)

This would have been more useful to have discovered early on, but I only came across it later in my research, as it confirms the MB was operated by members of the AMORC, though simply calling them former members may possibly be downplaying their connection to AMORC.

We have had only a brief reply to our letter, but unless this form
of misrepresentation regarding their charter is discontinued we
will publish in this magazine a photograph of their only papers
showing that they have no authority at all for doing what they
are claiming to do.  We cannot remain silent and allow the name
of the Great White Lodge and the publication of Rosicrucian
emblems to go on unchallenged.

First, funny that non compliance pisses Lewis off so much.  Second, it’s a shame this never went anywhere as I would have liked to see what would have been published considering the fact that this argument makes zero sense. What papers is he going to publish? Their lessons?  What exactly would that prove or disprove?   If the group has no charters or other papers of authority, then there’s nothing to publish.  Lewis always got all nutty whenever he was being confrontational.   Lastly, They can’t allow the publication of Rosicrucian emblems to go unchallenged?  What the hell does that even mean?  The only emblem remotely Rosicrucian the MB used was an image of the lamen that was worn by Adeptus Minor+ of the Golden Dawns’s RR et AC members.  I suppose Lewis is angry here because only AMORC is allowed to steal…er I mean borrow the insignia of other organizations (see “Hermetic Rose Cross” in Lewis’ Rosicrucian Manual, or the cover of AMORC’s “Liber  777” which manages to steal both a symbol and a title from someone else!).

Unfortunately that seems to have been the end of any disagreement between the two.  Lewis would pass away in 1939 and during the last years of his life would focus any of his arguments over authority towards defending his group from the accusations of Clymer and his Fraternitas Rosae Crucis group.

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Part I
Part II
Part III

So it seems that someone, a person who was apparently in charge of that PO Box discussed in the previous posting, decided to branch off onto their own and found the Mystic Brotherhood.   According to this reference I found online in Florida Dept. of State, Division of corporations “Mystic Brotherhood University Inc.” filed as an entity on March 21, 1929.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that this group began life on the day of the Equinox *nod nod* *wink wink*.   According the same file the group changed it’s name to  “Mystic Brotherhood Inc.” on November 11, 1934 and filed a voluntary dissolution on February 07, 1946.  In just under seventeen years the Mystic Brotherhood came and went, but we’ll get to that name change and dissolution in a moment.

In January of 1933 they filed for a trademark from the US patent and tradmark office:


The name change in 1934 is rather interesting as, amusingly this seems to coincide with another address change.   From ’29 to ’31/32 they were receiving mail at PO Box 676 (as already discussed).  For whatever reason (maybe too much AMORC related mail, or possibly legal pressure from AMORC themselves?) they changed their address to PO Box 425, only to turn around a year later and change it to PO Box 439, where it would stay for the next 12  years.   At first I couldn’t seem to quite figure out the motive behind the name change / address change until I came upon The Federal Trade Commissions Decisions printed in 1934.

Apparently the MB ran afoul of the FTC.  I’m not sure if they were reported to the FTC by an outside source or if they were just generally targeted.  As you may know, in the late 10’s and into the 20’s the US Gov, motivated by the Post Office, started cracking down on mail order occult and spiritual supply and service groups for fraud.  The Delaurence trial was one of the most famous incidents (see “Spiritual Merchants” by Carolyn Morrow Long for more info).  By the time the 30’s rolled around the depression was in full swing and no one  really cared anymore, so very few of these cases occurred.  This is ironic as the depression was the perfect scenario for many of these groups (MB included) to capitalize off of people’s despair (more in my future post concerning MB and the depression).   Anyhow, the point being, I don’t know what brought them to the attention of the FTC, but they were forced to agree to several demands made upon them.

These demands are pretty typical such as:  stop claiming contact with a White Brotherhood, pumping up your lineage, promising peace happiness and success, etc etc the same stuff 99% of every other occult organization is guilty of!  Anyhow, amongst the demands included were:

Respondent further stipulates and agrees to discontinue the use of the word ” university ” as a part of its corporate or trade name or in any other connection, until such time as it may conduct a general institution of higher learning recognized by the collegiate world as entitled to the designation ” university.”
Respondent furthermore stipulates and agrees to cease and desist from issuing certificates or diplomas purporting to confer the degree of ” doctor of philosophy ” or any other degree indicating a college education.

So if they had to drop the University from their name, I can only assume the address change was an attempt to put some distance between them and that FTC report.

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Part I
Part II

Knowing a little bit about the history of AMORC I couldn’t get over the nagging suspicion that that these two groups were somehow connected.  I was basically thinking that the Mystic Brotherhood was some sort of schism of AMORC.  This feeling was primarily based on me knowing that from 1925-1927, several years before the foundation of the Mystic Brotherhood,  AMORC was briefly headquartered in Tampa, Florida.  As I tried to explore this angle it became a little odd just how little is known about this particular time period.  Wikipedia states the following:

The early AMORC headquarters were located in New York City, San Francisco, and then Tampa. The headquarters moved to San Jose, California, in 1927.

Believe it or not that’s pretty much what every history of AMORC has to state about the subject.  One of the most detailed histories of AMORC I’ve ever read was on a Yahoo group and was written by Milko Bogaard .  His section on Tampa (besides mentioning the radio station) is so short that Milko asks anyone reading it to send any information they might know about the Tampa period.   Considering Milko’s history is so well detailed I’m inclined to believe that if he doesn’t know what happened during this period, then possibly no one does! No one living anyways.

So I was a little stumped until I discovered another ad in (of course!) another issue of the Occult Digest.  This one came from March 1931, over a year before the others.  Oddly, my first view through this issue I somehow missed it, but after looking through again, there it was!

First I’d like to call attention to the use of the simple (and amazingly ambiguous) name The Brotherhood.  The second (AND IMPORTANT) point is that the PO Box is different than that which was on all the material they produced later.  If it’s a different address then was this the same  group?  Well note the name Friar Vasvana, Scribe etc..   Remember that letterhead in the first post?  Here’s the signature from that letter:

Up to this point the only address I had for this group was PO Box 439 Tampa Fl,  yet they obviously started out with the address in the advertisement above.  What’s so important about the address in the ad up above?  It ‘s the link between AMORC and the Mystic Brotherhood.   Below is a picture from a 1926 issue of AMORC’s magazine of the time “The Mystic Triangle” giving the contact information for different parts of the country:

Did you see it?  It’s a little small so let’s zoom in on that very first entry:

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Part I

Now I have to admit that at first I was led astray.  You’ll notice in the letterhead that’s shown at the top of Part I it states that the order was founded by Sri Dayananda who founded the Arya Samaj.  Now I had some vague recollection that for a brief period of time the Theosophical Society had attempted to unite with the Arya Samaj and considered that maybe the Mystic Brotherhood was some remnant of this unity.   After looking through the lessons I had I realized this was silly as there was no more Theosophy to be found within this group than any other group from the late 19th / early 20th century.

Now what I did know for a fact was that the Mystic Brotherhood was located in Tampa, Florida.  The lessons that I received were from a woman who lived in California during the 1930’s.  She received, or at least read, her first few lessons on April 3, 1935.  This I know because she was kind enough to date them as she read them.   This (along with some other items that I’ll get into later) made me wonder how does someone in 1935 California find out about a group in Florida?  Advertising of course!  If you’ve never had the pleasure to read issues of the Occult Digest from the 20’s and 30’s, you may be amazed to learn just how many groups came and went from that period and damn near all of them seem to have advertised in the Occult Digest.  During this time hypnotism, clairvoyance, levitation, eternal life,  to just about any other occult principle could be mastered by anyone willing to pay a couple of bucks to Master Swami Hoohah Hahooh for his personal lessons learned from Tibetan masters living in Atlantis.

So I walked over to the bookshelf and pulled out an issue from August ’32 and I find this (oddly relevant) advertisment:

The next month in Sept. ’32 would give us this wonderful ad:

But where did these guys come from?  Well stay tuned to find out! *cough cough* AMORC *cough cough*

Part III

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Sometime in early December of 2008 I was browsing through ebay using generic search terms like “occult” or “grimoire” or “esoteric” all the while trying not to search for the obvious  “how to stop wasting hours of my life”.  To be more specific, I was not particularly looking for anything in particular.  One auction captured my eye that had a title along the lines of “Secret teachings occult mystic order.”   The auction lacked any details that were specifically specific as to what this auction was, other than that it was about 100 lessons from an occult organization and had some letters and other ephemera that dated it to the 1930’s.  Surprisingly, two words this auction did not have in it were “rare” or “haunted,”  the definitions of which are apparently not widely known amongst ebay sellers.

Now you must understand, within the plethora of occult related items that I collect are old monographs from AMORC, otherwise known as that Rosicrucian Order in San Jose that spends far too much money on advertising.  While I have a large number of these, I am missing several of the upper degree monographs .   I’m always looking for the older ones as I  find the modern ones…….well……..I don’t really know how to describe it.  I guess you could say I find the newer type dry and boring, while I find the older ones entertainingly hokey.  (Note: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of AMORC and am merely expressing an opinion that should not be taken to influence your choice in joining or not joining this organization.  In their favor I will say that their Egyptian Museum and other buildings are pretty cool.)

Anyhow, retuning to that ebay auction, I assumed (wrongly) that these were monographs from AMORC, probably blinded by my sheer excitement over the idea of getting some that were so old (most of mine date from during or right after WWII).   When they arrived I was slightly shocked, not because they were not what I thought they would be, but simply because I had no freaking clue what they were.  I don’t mean to toot my own horn here (well maybe a little) but while I may not always be the most occulty informed person in the room, when it comes to fraternal, occult and esoteric societies, I usually am damn it!  I may not know everything about every group that’s ever existed, but I’ve usually, at the very least, heard of the group.  Yet, here I had before me a stack of lessons from an organization I’d either never heard of,  or at least never heard enough of to make the groups name stick.  I had  a mystery before me, who was this group and where are they now.  The answer to the second question would be easy to answer, defunct.  The first question would take a little more investigation.

Continued in Mystic Brotherhood, Pt. II or, Maybe I wasn’t as far off as I’d thought…..

Part II

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