Book Review: Dealings with the Dead (1861), By Paschal Beverly Randolph

By: A. W. Finnegan #BookReview #PaschalBeverlyRandolph





The following is a book review on the following book, Dealings with the Dead: The Human Soul, Its Migrations and Transmigrations, by Paschal Beverly Randolph (1861). A follow-up book review for its sequel, After Death, or Disembodied Man: The World of Spirits; Its Location, Extent, Appearance, The Route Thither; Inhabitants, Customs, Societies, Also Sex and its Uses There, Etc. Etc., with Much Matter Pertinent to the Question of Human Immortality. by Paschal Beverly Randolph (1868), will be published in a separate article and book review.


For those unaware, Paschal Beverly Randolph was a rather obscure but no less brilliant occultist, medical doctor, spiritualist, medium, and author, who lived from October 8, 1825 – July 29, 1875, a man of mixed ethnicities, described as a mix of Malagasy (Madagascar, off the coast of East Africa), Native American, German, English, and French, who travelled extensively around the world when he fled poverty at a young age to become a sailor to earn his money. In his travels abroad, he studied all forms of occultism, mysticism, spiritualism, religion, and all in between.


He established the first Rosicrucian order in the United States, called the Fraternitas Rosæ Crucis, in 1858, with the first lodge in San Francisco in 1861. He has been cited as the pioneer of sex magic, but his ideas and philosophy on the matter was worlds apart from those later established by Crowley and the O.T.O., as Randolph denounced Free Love, orgies, and polygamy, as do I, but Randolph's ideas would more closely resemble a theory of sacred sexuality in marriage and affectional alchemy between man and wife.


At any event, he is a highly interesting figure, and as his mother was said to have been born with the power of clairvoyance, he was also given this blessing and curse. This book, Dealings with the Dead (1861), and its sequel, After Death, or Disembodied Man (1868) are perhaps his heaviest works on the subject and was a source of great strain on his spirit, according to Randolph.


These two books, written in the late 1800s, may be some of the best works I've come across on the topic of death and the question of an afterlife, and the many divisions of the Spirit Lands. I've read many books on the subject of death and the realms beyond, mostly by books written within the last 50 years or so, but these works having been published in the 1860s, I can say hands down this might be perhaps the best attempt at explaining death and our existence thereafter.


Even if Randolph and his spirit helpers were only partially correct, hats off to them for their incredible depth in which were explained some of the most exceedingly minute details and deeper meanings of so many of the mysteries of life and death.


The first half of Dealings with the Dead begins with Randolph allegedly channeling a deceased friend named Cynthia, who had died from tuberculosis (consumption), and the book begins with an introductory section by Randolph explaining the process:


Love, in its essence, is a thing of the Spiritual part of us, though, alas ! it is often put to base uses.


There was once, not many years ago, a woman to whom I felt such a love as that subsisting between affectionate sisters ; for it was deeper, purer, calmer than that which binds brothers together. In life, her soul drew near, almost fearfully near, to mine ; she thought my thoughts, read my spirit, sympathized with me in all my joys, my sorrows, and my aspirations. Often have we sat beside each other—that poor sick girl and I ; and though no word broke the stillness of the sacred hour, yet not a region of our souls was there but was explored by the other; not a silent thought that was not mutually understood and replied to. Presently she died—the forms were forever separated, yet not for a day were the mystic soul-links which bound us together severed. No sister was ever more dearly loved than I loved her ; and that love was fully and as purely returned. Everybody called her "Sister"— everybody felt that to them she was truly such.


Well, She died ; and after a year or two had passed, I began to understand that at times her soul was near me, and many and oft were the periods in which I did not seem to be myself, but had an invincible conviction that I was Cynthia for the time being, instead of who and what I am. By-and-by there came a consciousness of this blending, so deep, so clearly defined, so calm, that at last I began to appreciate a mighty, almost resistless Will and Purpose behind it all; for I was myself and Cynthia—never simultaneously, as is asserted to be the case with many of the people called "Mediums" — but in separate instants — now her, then myself ; at first very imperfectly, but gradually approaching an absolute and complete mergement of Soul.


This continued for nearly two years, at intervals, and after about eighteen months had passed, one portion of the process seemed to have reached completeness — for in a degree it changed, and instead of momentary, as before, the transmutations became longer, until at last, as now, the changes last sixty, and in one instance has reached two hundred and forty-five minutes. It may here be asked : Where are you in the interim?" and the answer is : "We are two in one, yet the stronger rules the hour."


It will be seen, therefore, that this condition is as widely separated from those incident to the "Mediums," as theirs is supposed to be different from the ordinary wakeful mood. They reach their state by a sort of retrocession from themselves ; they fall, or claim to fall, into a peculiar kind of slumber, their own faculties going, as it were, to sleep. On the contrary, mine is the direct opposite of this, for, instead of a sleep of any sort, there comes an intense wakefulness. Nor is this all in which we differ ; as are the processes and states apart, so also are the results different.


The revelations of Spiritual existences, moods, modes, and conditions of being, as given by nearly every "Spiritual Medium" of whom I have ever heard or read, are, to say the least, totally unsatisfactory to the great majority of those who seek for information on the vital question of Immortality — how, and why, and to what great end we are thus gifted and endowed?


Another, and equally important one, is that concerning the Soul-world, and the inhabitants thereof — how they live, where they live, and to what end and use ?


I believe that light is, in this volume, thrown on all these great and vital points ; such light, indeed, as will be hailed and appreciated by all who read and think, as well as by those who read and feel — two widely different classes, but to both of whom these pages are humbly, yet hopefully addressed.


The introduction just quoted continues and gives a wonderful pretext for what is to come, speaking for Cynthia through the pen of Randolph, where a very interesting passage of her death follows to make the first half of the book, step by step from the moment she died:


I PURPOSE to say nothing whatever concerning my life as a denizen of the outside world — of my existence or career while clothed with the garments of mortality. It is of my death that first I wish to speak, and of what took place thereafter — of where and how I found myself as soon as the icy hand of Death had touched my heart, and frozen up my vitals. While with my friends, from whom the change separated me, I was, so for as frail mortals in my condition of bodily health can be, quite happy and contented — contented to endure, with all possible patience, that for which there was no medicament, no remedy ; and, all things considered, satisfied I lived, and in the self-same spirit died. Died? No ; I am not dead ! — bodies change ; souls can never die. Why? For the reason that God, who, like human beings, is intelligent and immortal, can Himself be never blotted out of being. He is Mind, Memory, Love, and Will, not one of which can ever perish ; and these being the attributes of man likewise, it follows that, so long as He exists, we must also.


In the year 1854, being ill of consumption, the person, an account of whose experience is given in these pages, although long previously somewhat familiar with, began to take an especial interest in the great subject of an hereafter, as revealed by what purported to be the spirits of departed men and women ; and then, for the first time, as Death's cold presence sensibly approached me afar off, and the sense of GOING began to quicken in my being, I commenced seriously to speculate concerning immortality, and to pay greater heed to the alleged revelations from the mysterious Beyond. Bye-and-bye, consumption so wasted me, that I grew tired ; and finally, a mist came before my eyes, and shut out the fields, the forests, and the faces of my friends, — my friends — none dearer than whom, were ever clasped to affection's warm heart. * * * * And so I slept, — but woke again from out of that strange, deep sleep, called Death. The awakening was very strange ! — was such as I had never even imagined to be possible.


"Where am I?" was asked by myself of that very self. Not mine, but a lower, sweeter, more musical voice, soft and dulcet as the tinkle of a love bell, answered me from out a veil of rosy light, that hung between me, and, whatever was beyond. "In the Divine City of freed souls,—the land of Immortal, but not Eternal rest." * * " * I felt, and knew that I was—dead !


The book continues on and she reveals that before her death, she and Randolph made a pact or agreement that if she dies before he, and if there was any possible way for her to reach him and tell of what she experienced at death, she would do so:


Long previous to my final illness, I had hold many interesting conversations with my friends, concerning the higher life and worlds, and particularly with the one by whose aid I am now enabled to make these disclosures ; and I had made a solemn compact, to the effect, that if it were possible to return subsequent to death, I would do so, and, reveal such mysteries as I might be enabled or permitted to. This resolution grew out of the fact, that not one of the theories, regarding the post mortem existence of human kind, which I had ever heard or read, gave me the satisfaction that my soul desired. I suspected that many of the current notions regarding the lands beyond the curtain, were, to say the least, largely tinctured with the mind of the individuals through whose lips the oracular utterances came ; consequently I became, to a degree, auspicious of all modern [A]eolism and [A]eolists, because I feared their inspirations had not so high and deep a source as they claimed, and is claimed for them.


Cynthia's journey and experience in the Soul-world is fascinating to say the least. The quote just presented is enough to give a basic overview, but the purpose of this book review is not to give the entire book away, but best to read for oneself. It is only my hope that in relaying to the reader how fast this book can pull the mind and heart in, that it will inspire others to actually read it! I concur to say that in her revelations of the Soul-world and what she experienced hereafter, goes a long way in explaining not just the process of death, but simultaneously the meaning of life, and the long journey of each monad, or soul seed that travels through many stages of evolution and growth from the point of creation through its journey upward, from rock to plant to animal and the immortal human. This then brings us to the section in her story— Story of a Monad, which can be briefly quoted here:


"Up, up, up, there in the steep and silent heaven there shines a radiant sun, more glorious than even a seraph might tell. Its essence is not matter, but spirit ; and from its surface there go forth three kinds of light; the one in rays, another in waves. Condensed, the former becomes matter, and the latter is the ocean in which it is upborne,—in which the worlds are floating, and in which all things have a being. Aye! all things ride upon the billows of this infinite sea, even as a shallop or an eggshell sails upon the tiny wavelets of a lake. The third substance given off from this great sun goes forth in corruscations. The first kind of light proceeds from the surface, the second from the interior, the third from the very heart of this infinite center,—or from God's body, His spirit, and His soul. The first is pure fire, the second pure life, the third is the sea of monads. Every scintilla of that which proceeds from the soul of this sun (like that which proceeds from a human brain in action) is a thought, shot out into the vast expanse, but destined to return by another pathway, not direct, but circuitous and spiral. Well, (says the voice speaking from within to the philosopher who is listening to the revelation) I was one of these monads, and found myself enveloped in a myriad folds and finely imbedded in a granite rock, where I remained shut up for long ages, pining constantly for deliverance from the thraldom. Even then I found my monad heart pulsing with a divine life, and ardently longed to celebrate the knowledge; for I knew I came from Deity, and longed for my return.


My first recollections are of a fiery character, for my dwelling was in the very nucleus of a comet that had just been whirled into being. How ? I cannot now stop to explain. Only this will I say with me there were myriads of others, for in every molecule of spiritual and material substance, was imbedded one of my brethren, all longing to escape and return to the heart of God, whence we had been sent forth to perfect His great design.


The comet cooled : became a world, and finally an earthquake threw the block of granite wherein was I, to the surface; and bye-and-bye, after waiting many ages, I found room to move, and did so. The result was that we — the other monads and myself, changed our outer shells into moss. The moss died, and left us free to try what further we could do; for be it known that our forces had not yet been fairly called into action. The next change was a higher one, and afforded scope for the display of a higher order of power. This time I became a plant; and the next time a plant of a higher character : at each epoch losing one coat;* until at last I could be plant no longer, and so was forced by a law within, as well as laws without myself, to become the center of an animal. And so I ran the gamut of change through countless ages; every new condition being more and more favorable, brought out new properties from within me, and displayed new beauties to the sun's bright eye. I was still a monad, and will ever be such in one sense; albeit Time, after reaching my human form, will be of no account, — only states. Something whispered me that I should ever advance toward, but never reach perfection. I felt that, monad though I was, yet at my heart, my core, my center, I was the germ of an immortal human soul, and that that soul itself was destined to throw off form after form after its material career was ended, just as I had all along the ages. And thus I passed through countless changes, exhibited a million characteristics, until at last, I who had at first worn a body of fire, then of granite, then of moss, now put on a higher and nobler dress, and became for the first time, self-conscious, intelligent, and in a degree, intuitive both as to the past, the present, and the future. And all these infinite changes were effected by throwings off, in regular order, just as material suns throw off ring after ring, which in turn resolve themselves into planet after planet. During all these transmigrations, my monad body was active, my monad soul quiescent, but ripening all the while ; first in plant, then in the lower and higher forms of fish, reptile, bird, beast and mammel,—quadruped and bimanal. Thus I had reached the most distant prophecy of what I was hereafter to become; and as it may interest you to learn the steps by which I ascended, from the pre-human, to the very human, I will recount them in general. The list is therefore as follows : the first approach to the man was, when I found myself successively animating, as a central life-point, the forms of Simæ, Satyrii, Troglodyte, the Gibbons, Hylobates, and Cynocephalii, passing through the specific forms of Coluga, Aye-aye, Banca-Tarsier, Maholi, Lemur, Loris, Diadema, Indrus, Marikina, Marmoset, Dourocouli, Saimari, Yarké, Saki, Couzio, Cacajou, Sajou, Sakajou, Araquato, Meriki, Coitii, Marimondi, Charneck, Drill, Mandril, Chucma, (baboon,) Wanderoo, Bhunder, Togue, Mona, Quesega, Colubii, Budong, Entellus, Kahaw, (developing the human nose,) Gibbon, Siamang ; the Hylobates, Orangs, Chimpanzee, Gorrilla, Nschiego, Troglodyte, Kooloo Kamba, Barbeta, Aitcromba, Hamaka, (Troglodyte of Mount de Garrow,) Neg ; Bosjesman, Hottentot, Negro, Malay, Kanaka, Digger, Indian, Tartar, Chinese, Hindoos, Persians, Arabian, Greek, Turk, German, Gaul, Briton, American ! There's the list, in general terms ; specific explanations are not needed at this point. The last eighteen are strictly human, for at the point (Neg) I ceased to develope animal ; and in passing through that highest form of animal existence, I was impelled one step further, and lo! the first course of transmigrations were ended ; I awoke to a consciousness of self, and man, the immortal stood revealed !


Thus I supply the lost links, O Philosophers, which connect you with the worlds above, around, and below the plane on which you move."


Cynthia then presents a series of additional revelations regarding the Spirit worlds, especially as it relates to our time and purpose in the physical life, what we are truly here to do, that we are to atone for all of our deeds done in this life. It is repeatedly stressed that we are to work through our earthly problems as much as possible, that we are to tirelessly work to be the best version of ourselves and to those around us, face ourselves and fix our flaws so that when our time is up here, having done noble work and loved truly, we can advance better and more noble, joyous existences in the Soul-Worlds and what many would consider, Heaven. It is also stressed that these joys and realities are not just handed to anyone and everyone but the higher the joy, the harder the work:


...The first lesson that flashed in upon me, after the mysterious clarification of soul to which allusion has been made, was this People on earth spend a great deal of time in acquiring lessons which have to be unlearned, upon their entrance on the upper life ; must be unlearned, ere they can advance far in the acquisition of the rare treasures of knowledge, to be found only by the true seeker, even in that mighty realm which constitutes the soul-world.


God has placed all true human joys, there, as well as on the earth, upon high shelves, whence they cannot be taken by proxy ; — they must be reached for by those who would have them ; and the more precious the joy, the higher the shelf the more valuable the volume, the greater effort is required to obtain the perusal thereof. This is the first great law.


According to Cynthia, There are many levels of the Spirit-World in which we are to pass and advance through. Some of these realms are less desirable than others, and these places serve as a haven for those who have died but still have many things to learn and spiritual vice to atone for and overcome. It does not permit them to enter the higher and more benevolent and angelic realms for those who have worked to better themselves and spend their time doing noble deeds. In other words, the self-made Hell of each respective person await for those who lived to commit terrible deeds and entangle themselves in vice while in their time here, for those who hurt others and themselves, as well as unhealthy habits picked up in the earthly realm, habits that have to be undone, all actions and deeds atoned for.


It does stress, however, that these self-imposed realms of Hell are not permanent places, nor composed of fire and brimstone, but havens for rehabilitation. It is said that every soul will eventually atone and graduate to reach the higher stages following their atonement and rehabilitation, such as when all parties wronged have forgiven them and when they have chosen to do what is right for themselves and others.


This book often emphasizes the importance of morality, and even addresses some of the early beginnings of the modern models of social Darwinism and moral relativism in a philanthropic, spiritual and philosophical line of thought gaining fame in that time period, as these ideas gaining popularity in spiritual and philanthropic circles of that time were promoting the idea that "Whatever is, is right," wrongfully implying that since God is all-pervasive and all-encompassing, morality is what we make it to be and whatever comes of it, or whatever is, is right, because God is the All, but the fallacy is exposed and denounced by the author in more depth in the sequel to this book (After Death, or Disembodied Man [1868]).


The next part of the book is about a near-death experience that the author Paschal Beverly Randolph is said to have experienced. He was walking upon the hills on a sunny day and lied down and had a near-death experience:


The experience about to be related occurred at a period when the skeptical mood was on my soul ; and it overtook me as I wandered distractedly on the borders of the region of Despair. But this experience, strange, fearful, and even terrible, as portions of it were, had a beneficial effect ; for it lifted my straggling soul to hights of grandeur and glory, from whose sublime summits my vision swept the plains of immortality, and pierced the arcana of death itself!'


Had the wisdom-lessons taught in this immense experience been duly profited by, as they ought, I should have escaped many and many a bitter hour. But, like the majority of people, I refused to learn in any but the severest of all schools.


It so fell out upon a day, that, having taken my usual seat before a copy of the marvelous crayon previously alluded to, and which I had rudely sketched, I became impatient at my continual failures to comprehend the subject it represented. Generally this had not been the case. My mind, on that morning, was unusually clear and vigorous ; and yet, despite all efforts, I found it utterly impossible to comprehend the stupendous conception—the Birth of a Universe. At last, heart-faint and sick at my failure, I abruptly rose from the chair, resumed my walking apparel, left the room, had strolled carelessly and mechanically up the street, and continued listlessly onward, until I found myself beyond the outskirts of the city, and entering the open country. It was a bright, sunshiny day ; and after wandering about for nearly an hour, and beginning to feel a double oppression — fatigue of body, for it was very weak and slender — and despondency of spirits — it struck me that I would turn short to the right, and lie down for a while beneath the grateful shade of a natural bower, on the borders of a forest clump, hard by. This I did ; and having reclined upon the rich, green turf, under the leafy canopy afforded by the trees — rare and stately old elms they were —abandoned myself at once to meditation, speculation and repose. How long I thus lay it is impossible to tell; it may have been one hour — it may have been two or three : all that I remember of the outer world of wakefulness is the framing of a series of Questions, and, amongst others wherewith I interrogated my deepest soul for responses, were these: "What is the immortality of man ? What is God ? Where does He dwell? Is the life hereafter a continuance of this, or is it entirely different? Can it be only a shifting of world-scenes, or is it a change as widely apart from our earthly state as is this last from the existence before birth?" These, and many similar questions, my soul propounded to itself, and sought, by an intense introversion of its faculties, to reach the penetralia of its being, where it instinctively felt convinced that all the momentous answers were already registered. Long and persistently was this endeavor continued, until, for the first time in my life, I became aware of something very, very strange, and supremely interesting going on within me. This sensation was somewhat analagous to the falling off into a deep sleep, only that it was the body alone which lost its outward sensibility ; it was the physical senses only that became slowly and gradually benumbed and sealed, while the mighty senses beneath them appeared to intensify themselves, draw together, and coalesce in one grand All-sense ; and this continued going on until it reached a strange and awful degree, and a sensation as of approaching death stole over, and, for a little while, frightened and alarmed me.


With all the clearness of reasoning that I ever possessed, I applied myself to the work of fathoming what all this meant ; but the more strenuous the effort, the more signal the failure. Finding that the phenomenon taking place within, was governed by a law which pertained to soul-life alone, and that my ignorance of that mystic realm was too great and dense to permit a full comprehension of the enigma, nothing remained but to submit, and learn, as time wore on ; and, accordingly, giving over all attempts to shake off that which, by this time, held my entire being within its mighty end resistless grasp, I abided patiently the result.


Slowly as moves the ice-mounds of Switzerland came the sense of coldness over my limbs ; inch by inch the crafty band of Mystery gained firmer hold. The feet, the limbo, the vitals, grew cold and leaden, until at last it seemed as if the ventricles of my heart and the blood within them were freezing, slowly, surely freezing; and the terrible conviction forced itself upon me that I was gradually, but positively—dying !


Soon all sense of organization below the neck was lost, and the words 'limb, body, chest,' had no meaning. This was also true of the head generally, but not of a something within that head. The bodily eyes and ears were the last to yield themselves up to the influence of the strange, weird spell.


With a last, perishing effort, I strove to look forth upon, and listen to the sounds of the world, now perhaps forever being left behind. What a doleful change in a few brief hours ! Where all had been serenely, calmly beautiful before, nothing was now visible but the huge, gaunt skeletons of forms I had seen glowing with living verdure but a little while ago ; the sunlight was changed from silver sheen to a pale and sickly yellow, tinged with ghastly green. The overhanging branches and profuse foliage of the trees hard by had altered their every aspect, and from stately monuments of God's goodness, had become transformed into spectral obelisks, upreared on the earth to tell the future ages that He had passed that way in savage and vindictive wrath, once upon a time. When I lay me down and gazed up into the beautiful heaven, the fleecy vapors were playing at cloud-gambols on the breast of the vault ; but now they were turned into funereal palls, heavy, black, and gloomy as are the coverlets of Night ; and the busy hem of myriad insects, and the gentle murmur of the zephyr moving through the bushes, no longer pleased the ear by their soft, low buzz, but smote upon my parting soul like a last and dirgeful knell ; while the warblings of the plumed songsters of the wood sounded to my soul like the sepulchral chants of Eastern story. Very soon the deep black pall, hung out upon the face of heaven, began slowly and remorselessly to come down, down, down, until my nostrils snuffed the vapors and sensed the odors of the grave. The far-off horizon began cautiously to approach me, abutting out first one window of the sky and then another, until at last but a little space of light was left ; and still the cloud-walls drew nearer, nearer still ; the darkness and the fetor grew more fearfully dense by degrees ; I gasped for breath ; the effort pained me, and was fruitless ; and the horrible agony consequent thereupon, for one moment re-illumed the brain ; and the dreadful possibility, nay, the probability, that I was to die there alone, with no loved hand to smoothe my brow, no lip to kiss me 'good-bye,' no tearful eye to watch my parting hour, sent a thrill along my brain almost too intense for endurance. The conviction that I must perish, uncared for by kind friends, out there in the wood, beneath the blue sky and the green trees, seized upon my soul, and the cold beads of perspiration that oozed from my brow and trickled down to the ground, attested the degree of mental agony I was undergoing. 'goodbye, all ye beauties of the sense world ! farewell, all whom I have loved or been loved by !' I mentally said ; and then, by a strong effort of will, nerved my soul for its expected fight. Soon there came a thrill, a shudder, an involuntary 'God, receive me I' and I felt that I was across the Mysty River, and stood within the awful gates of — Eternity !


It was in this chapter or section called "Part Second - Thotmor — The Sphinx. The Disenthrallment" where the temporarily deceased Randolph meets the spirit of a great philosopher and ancient Egyptian prince named Thotmor, probably referring to Thoth:


His name, he said, was Ramus — that, in history, he was best known as Thothmes, or Thotmor, and that he was an Egyptian, of the second dynasty — a king, and the eleventh of the line.


The book continues with dialogue between Randolph, Thotmor, and occasionally Cynthia. They begin to cover and look into the deeper meanings of many subjects of philosophical discussion and our reason for being, and the splendid creation of God's Universe. Thotmor teaches Randolph the science of the soul and spirit and answers many questions that you, the reader, would find incredibly thought-stimulating, which will bring us to the Sequel, After Death, or Disembodied Man, soon to be published...


Book link:


Dealings with the Dead: The Human Soul, Its Migrations and Transmigrations (1861) by Paschal Beverly Randolph. Available at: https://archive.org/details/06286563.4687.emory.edu/page/n5/mode/1up


Further Reading & Sources:


Deveney, John Patrick and Franklin Rosemont (1996). Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician. State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-3120-7.


Fraternitas Rosæ Crucis. Paschal Beverly Randolph, M.D. (Biography): https://www.soul.org/component/content/article/45-histories/320-randolph-paschal-beverly

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