Paul Foster Case

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Paul Foster Case

Paul Foster Case (October 3, 1884 – March 2, 1954) was an American occultist of the early 20th century and author of numerous books on occult tarot and Qabalah. Perhaps his greatest contributions to the field of occultism were the lessons he wrote for associate members of Builders of the Adytum. The Knowledge Lectures given to initiated members of the Chapters of the B.O.T.A. were equally profound, although the limited distribution has made them less well known.

Early life[edit]

A modern scholar of the occult tarot and Qabalah, Paul Foster Case was born at 5:28 p.m.,[citation needed] October 3, 1884 in Fairport, New York.

His father was the town librarian and a Deacon at the local Congregational church. When he was five years old, his mother began teaching him to play the piano and organ, and later in his youth, Case performed as organist in his family's church. A talented musician, he embarked on a successful career as a violinist, and orchestra conductor.

Case was early on attracted to the occult. While still a child he reported experiences that today are called lucid dreaming. He corresponded about these experiences with Rudyard Kipling who encouraged him as to the validity of his paranormal pursuits.

In the year 1900, Case met the occultist Claude Bragdon while both were performing at a charity performance. Bragdon asked Case what he thought the origin of playing cards was. After pursuing the question in his father's library, Case discovered a link to tarot, called 'The Game of Man,' thus began what would become Case's lifelong study of the tarot, and leading to the creation of the B.O.T.A. tarot deck, a "corrected" version of the Rider-Waite cards.

Between 1905 and 1908 (aged 20–24), Case began practicing yoga, and in particular pranayama, from what published sources were available. His early experiences appear to have caused him some mental and emotional difficulties and left him with a lifelong concern that so called "occult" practice be done with proper guidance and training.

In the summer of 1907, Case read The Secret of Mental Magic, by William W. Atkinson (aka Ramacharaka) which led him to correspond with the then popular new thought author. Many people have speculated that Case and Atkinson were two of the three anonymous authors of The Kybalion, an influential philosophical text, although the introduction to an edition of The Kybalion released in 2011 has presented considerable evidence for Atkinson as the book's lone author.[1]

Dilemma: music or the mysteries[edit]

Case reported a meeting on the streets of Chicago, in 1909 or 1910, that was to change the course of his life. A "Dr. Fludd," a prominent Chicago physician approached the young Case and greeting him by name, claimed to have a message from a "Master of Wisdom" who, the Doctor said, "is my teacher as well as yours."

The stranger said that Case was being offered a choice. He could continue with his successful musical career and live comfortably, or he could dedicate himself to "serve humanity" and thereby play a role in the coming age. From that time on, Case began to study and formulate the lessons that served as the core curricula of the "Builders of the Adytum", the school of tarot study and Qabalah that Case founded and that continues today.

In 1916 Case published a groundbreaking series of articles on the Tarot Keys, titled The Secret Doctrine of the Tarot, in the popular occult magazine The Word. The articles attracted wide notice in the occult community for organizing and clarifying what had been confusing and scattered threads of occult knowledge as allegedly foundational to that illustrated and illuminated by the Tarot.[citation needed]

Whitty and Alpha et Omega[edit]

In 1918, Case met Michael James Whitty (died December 27, 1920 in Los Angeles, California), who was the editor of the magazine Azoth (and would become a close friend). Whitty was serving as the Cancellarius (Treasurer/Office Manager) for the Thoth-Hermes Lodge of the Alpha et Omega. Alpha et Omega was S. L. MacGregor Mathers' group that formed in 1906 after the demise of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1903. Whitty invited Case to join Thoth-Hermes, which was the direct American lodge under the A.O. mother lodge in Paris. Case did and quickly moved up initiations in the Rosicrucian Grades (True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order). Case's aspiration name in A.'.O.'. was Perseverantia (Perseverance).

Whitty republished Case's attribution of the Tarot keys (with corrections) in Azoth. That same year, Case became Sub-Praemonstrator (Assistant Chief-Instructor) at the Thoth-Hermes Lodge. Also during that year he finished a set of articles on the Mystical Rosicrucian Origins of Faust & published by Whitty. The following year, he began to correspond with Dr. John William Brodie-Innes (Fr. Sub Spe).

Between 1919 and 1920, Case and Michael Whitty collaborated in the development of the text which would later be published as The Book of Tokens. This book was written as a received text, whether through meditation, automatic writing, or some other means. It later surfaced that Master R. was the source. On May 16, 1920 Case was initiated into Alpha et Omega's Second Order. Three weeks later, according to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn's bio-page on Case, he was named Third Adept.

In December 1920, Michael Whitty died. Case believed Whitty's health problems were attributable to the dangers that arise or may arise in the practice of Enochian magic. He later corresponded with Israel Regardie about those concerns.

Controversy with Moina Mathers[edit]

Because of his quick advancement through the Grades of the Order, Case may have sparked some jealousy among the other Adepts. Moreover, others may have thought some of his teachings inappropriate. On July 18, 1921, Moina Mathers (1865-1928) wrote Case regarding complaints she had received regarding some of his teachings. Apparently, Case had begun discussing the topic of sex magic, which at the time had no official place in the Order curriculum. Since no knowledge lectures exist on the subject, whether sex practices were ever taught in the Golden Dawn has been a long standing question. In her correspondence with Case, Moina wrote, "I have seen the results of this superficial sex teaching in several Occult Societies as well as in individual cases. I have never met with one happy result."

But to Case, sexuality became an increasingly important subject. In his Book of Tokens, a collection of inspired meditations on the 22 Tarot Keys of the Major Arcana, Case comments on the sex function, "You must wholly alter your conception of sex in order to comprehend the Ancient Wisdom. It is the interior nervous organism, not the external organs, that is always meant in phallic symbolism, and the force that works through these interior centers is the Great Magical Agent, the divine serpent fire." In his works, The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order and The Masonic Letter G, he writes of certain practices involving the redirection of the sexual force to the higher centers of the brain where experience of supersensory states of consciousness becomes possible.

Some members also complained about a personal relationship between Case and a soror, Lilli Geise. Case confessed the matter to Moina: "The Hierophantria and I were observed to exchange significant glances over the altar during the Mystic Repast... My conscience acquits me... Our relation to each other we submit to no other Judge than that Lord of Love and Justice whom we all adore." In time, Case married Geise, who died a few years later.

Perhaps Moina's correspondence also touched a sensitive area for Case. In her July 18 letter, she tells Case, "You evidently have reached a point in your mystical Way where there would appear to exist certain cross-roads. The artist in you, which I recognize, and with whom I deeply sympathize, would probably choose to learn the Truth through the joy and beauty of physical life." She continued, "You who have studied the Pantheons, do you know of that enchanting God, the Celtic Angus, the Ever Young? He who is sometimes called Lord of the Land of Heart's Desire?" Angus rescued Etain, the Moon, who had been turned into a golden fly. But Etain had to choose between bodily existence in the land of mortals and everlasting life. She continued still, "The artist in us may have lingered in that land for a moment. But you and I who would be teachers and pioneers in this Purgatorial World must be prepared before all the Gods to be the servants of the greatest of them all... the Osiris, the Christ, the God of the Sacrifice of the Self." Moina then asked Case to resign from his position as Praemonstrator.

Case resigned as Praemonstrator, responding to Moina, "I have no desire to be a 'teacher and pioneer in this Purgatorial World.' Guidance seems to have removed me from the high place to which I have never really aspired. The relief is great."

Apparently Case had already begun work on establishing a Mystery School of his own—the School of Ageless Wisdom, which later became Builders Of The Adytum.

Builders of the Adytum[edit]

After Case left Alpha et Omega, he vigorously pursued the organization of his own Mystery School. In the summer of 1922, Case put his first efforts together preparing a comprehensive correspondence course. In one year it covered what the B.O.T.A. presently cover in over five years. He called the course The Ageless Wisdom, and it covered just about the whole of Hermeticism.[citation needed] By 1923 Case formed The School of Ageless Wisdom, probably in Boston.

Within a few years he moved to Los Angeles, abandoning, once and for all, his career as a musician, and established the Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.). Still in existence today, B.O.T.A. claims to be an authentic Mystery School. Over the next three decades, Case organized the curriculum of correspondence lessons covering practically the whole corpus of what is called the Western Mystery Tradition: occult tarot, Qabalah, and Alchemy.

Views on Enochian[edit]

In the "Wheel of Life" Magazine, in March 1937, Case described B.O.T.A.'s relationship to the Golden Dawn, and his views on the Golden Dawn's use of Enochian material.

"B.O.T.A. is a direct off-shoot of the Golden Dawn, but its work has been purged of all the dangerous and dubious magic incorporated into the Golden Dawn's curriculum by the late S.L. MacGregor Mathers, who was responsible for the inclusion of the ceremonials based on the skrying of Sir Edward Kelly.

"There is much in these Golden Dawn rituals and ceremonies that is of the greatest value; but from the first grade to the last it is all vitiated by these dangerous elements taken from Dee and Kelly. Furthermore, in many places, the practical working is not provided with adequate safeguards, so that, to the present writer's personal knowledge, an operator working with the Golden Dawn [Enochian] rituals runs very grave risks of breaking down his physical organism, or of obsession by evil entities."


Case died while vacationing in Mexico with his second wife, Harriet. His ashes lie in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Significant influences[edit]

Lilli Geise

Case's first wife was Lilli Geise, a soror of the Golden Dawn, but the marriage was short lived when she died a few years later (May 9, 1924).

Harriet B. Case (1893–1972)

In 1943 Case married Harriet.

Ann Davies (1912–1975)

In 1943 Case was introduced to Ann Davies. She walked into one of his classes with her sister. Later, Ann and her small daughter Bonnie moved into the Cases' house where they helped by fixing meals, mimeographing lessons, etc.

Liberal Catholic Church

The Liberal Catholic Church was established in England in 1916 out of the failing Old Catholic missionary effort there. The Old Catholic bishop, Arnold Harris Matthew, had filled his clergy ranks with a number of English Theosophists and Golden Dawn Qabalists, all dedicated students of the 'Ageless Wisdom', which in Theosophy is held to underlie all the world's great religions including Christianity. When Matthew left the movement, he left a valid apostolic succession in the hands of men prepared to teach the Ageless Wisdom and mystical Christianity, and to offer valid Catholic sacraments to all and sundry, but especially to religious non-conformists.

Case was ordained a priest by Bishop Charles Hampton in the Liberal Catholic Church in Ojai, California, in 1937, and served parishes throughout the southern California area.

Masonic affiliations

According to the membership archives of the Freemasons Grand Lodge, F. & A.M. of California and in an unpublished biography of Case written by the archivist of the Builders of the Adytum, Case, was affiliated with the following lodges:

Fairport Lodge No. 476, Fairport, New York.

  • Initiated: March 22, 1926
  • Passed: April 12, 1926
  • Raised, June 28, 1926

Hollenbeck Lodge No. 319, Los Angeles

  • Affiliated: September 5, 1944
  • Demitted: June 2, 1953

Eagle Rock Lodge No. 422, Los Angeles

  • Affiliated: June 2, 1953

Alleged Influence[edit]

Master R.

In the summer of 1921, Case claimed to have received a phone call from "The Master Rococzy" (Rakoczy, Rákóczy or Rákóczi), a mysterious personality for which actual records are scarce. Case later allegedly met The Master R in person at the Hotel Roosevelt Hotel in NYC (Madison and Lexington Avenues at 43rd Street).

The Adytum News described it this way: "One day the phone rang, and much to his surprise the same voice which had been inwardly instructing him in his researches for many years spoke to him on the phone. It was the Master R who had come personally to New York for the purpose of preparing Paul Case to begin the next incarnation of the Qabalistic Way of Return. ... After three weeks of personal instruction with the Master R, Builders of the Adytum was formed."

According to the Theosophical tradition, the Master R (Master Rákóczi) is a great initiate who is also known as the Great Divine Director. The Master R is a member of the Karmic Board for planet Earth, representing the First Ray. He will also serve as the Manu for the incoming Seventh Root Race, which will incarnate in South America. The Master R founded the royal House of Rákóczi of Hungary, and was the teacher and sponsor of the high initiate who became known as the Ascended Master Saint Germain (aka: the Count of Saint Germain, the Count of St. Germain, and the Comte de St. Germain). According to theosophist Annie Wood Besant (1847-1933) and other theosophists and esotericists, the man widely known throughout Europe as the "Comte de St. Germain" was actually an Ascended Master of the Great White Brotherhood, who after his Ascension on May 1, 1684 (from one of the Rákóczi-owned castles in Transylvania) had decided to incarnate on Earth in a physical body again, in order to implement certain spiritual agendas that were critical for mankind (especially Europeans) at that time.

Isabel Cooper-Oakley (1853/1854 - 1914), in her book The Comte de St. Germain: The Secret of Kings (Milan: G. Sulli-Rao, 1912) encourages and supports the idea that the "Comte de St. Germain," insofar as his physical body is concerned, was actually one of the sons of Ferenc-Leopold II Rákóczi (March 27, 1676 - April 8, 1735) (Prince of Transylvania) and his wife Princess Charlotte Amalie von Hessen-Rheinfels-Wanfried (aka: Sarolta Amália) (March 8, 1679 - Feb. 8, 1722). In line with this idea, some later researchers claim that the "Comte de St. Germain" was Ferenc-Leopold II Rákóczi's son named Lipót Lajos György József Antal Rákóczi (May 28, 1696 - September 1699). However, as this son died in 1699, it is unlikely that the "Comte de St. Germain" was that person.

Ferenc-Leopold II Rákóczi also had two younger sons whose lives are well-documented, and therefore we can dismiss the idea that either one of them was the "Comte de St. Germain." These two younger sons were:

  1. József Rákóczi (aka: Herzog von Munkács, and Marquës di Santo Carlo e di Romanuccio) (Aug. 17, 1700 - Nov. 10, 1738)
  2. Gyōrgy Rákóczi (aka: Herzog von Makovica, and Marquës della Santa Elisabetta, Conde di Giunchi) (Aug. 8, 1701 - June 15, 1752).

In 1776 or shortly thereafter, the Comte de St. Germain settled in a house at Eckernförde as the guest of Prince Karl, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (Dec. 19, 1744 - Aug. 17, 1836). Landgrave Karl was, among other things, Governor of Schleswig-Holstein in Prussia. Possibly, some very important clues to the true identity/genealogy of the physical body of the "Comte de St. Germain" are given in Landgrave Karl's book titled Mémoires de Mon Temps. Dictés par S. A. le Landgrave Charles, Prince de Hesse (Copenhagen, 1861). On p. 133 of this book, Landgrave Karl states the following:

"He [Comte de St. Germain] told me that he was eighty-eight years of age when he came here [about the year 1776], and that he was the son of Prince Ragoczy of Transylvania by his first wife, a Tékéll. He was placed, when quite young, under the care of the last Duc de Medici (Gian Gastone) [Gian Gastone de Medici, 7th Grand Duke of Tuscany (May 24, 1671 - July 9, 1737) - 7th Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1723-1737], who made him sleep while still a child in his own room. When M. de St. Germain learned that his two brothers, sons of the Princess of Hesse-Wahnfried (Rheinfels), had become subject to the Emperor Charles VI, and had received the titles and names of St. Karl and St. Elizabeth, he said to himself: 'Very well, I will call myself Sanctus Germano, the Holy Brother.' I [Landgrave Karl of Hesse-Kassel] cannot in truth guarantee his [Comte de St. Germain's] birth, but that he was tremendously protected by the Duc de Medici I have learnt from another source."

What we can deduce from this statement by Landgrave Karl of Hesse-Kassel is the following:

  1. If the "Comte de St. Germain" was 88 years old in 1776 or thereabouts, then he was born in 1688 or perhaps a few years later.
  2. The "Comte de St. Germain's" mother was a "Tékéll."

Research has revealed that the surname Tékéll appears to be a Germanized form of the Hungarian surname Thököly (which is sometimes spelled Tököly or Tökölli). If Landgrave Karl's statement concerning the genealogy of the Comte de St. Germain is literally true in its entirety, then we have to conclude that Ferenc-Leopold II Rákóczi actually married twice, and that his first marriage occurred when he was quite young (possibly as early as 1688), to a woman who was a member of the Tékéll (Thököly) family. The name of this woman has not yet come to light. According to this scenario, their union produced a son, who was kept secret for some reason and who was placed under the guardianship of Gian Gastone, 7th Grand Duke of Tuscany. Also in support of this scenario, clairvoyant theosophist Annie Wood Besant (1847-1933) (who was one of the collaborators of Isabel Cooper-Oakley) frequently made the statement that the Comte de St. Germain was one of the sons of Ferenc-Leopold II Rákóczi. Further circumstantial evidence, from the will of Ferenc-Leopold II Rákóczi, also seems to support the likelihood that this scenario is the correct one. Ferenc-Leopold II Rakoczi's will (dated October 27, 1733) can be accessed in this work: Der Genealogische Archivarius (Leipzig: Verlag Johann Samuel Heinsius) (Vol. 6, 1736, pp. 525–526). This work (Vol. 6) is one volume of a multi-volume series consisting of approximately 70 volumes. This series began publication in 1731/1732 and continued publication (under slightly different names) until 1777. Michael M. Ranft (Ranfft), Jr. (Dec. 9, 1700 - April 18, 1774), a German Protestant minister, was the compiler of most of the volumes in the series. To access Vol. 6 (1736) and the text of the will in the original German.[2]

In the will, 3 men are appointed executors of the will. Two of these men were illegitimate sons of Louis XIV, King of France (1638-1715), who were both eventually legitimized, namely:

  1. Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine [et d'Aumâle] (1670-1736) (legitimized on Dec. 19, 1673)
  2. Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Comte de Toulouse (1678-1737) (legitimized on Nov. 22, 1681).

The third man appointed as an executor of the will was Louis Henri Joseph de Bourbon, Duc de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, Duc d'Enghien et Duc de Guise, Duc de Bellegarde et Comte de Sancerre, Prince du Sang (1692-1740), who was Prime Minister of France from 1723-1726.

If Landgrave Karl's statement concerning the genealogy of the Comte de St. Germain is only partially true, then we can envision 2 different scenarios which might fit the information he gave:

(1) Searching the history of Hungary, we find Ilona Zrínyi (born: Jelena Zrínska) (1643 - Feb. 18, 1703), whose first husband was Ferenc-Leopold I Rákóczi (Feb. 24, 1645 - July 8, 1676) (they were married on March 1, 1666), and whose second husband was Imre Thököly [de Kesmarkium] (variant spelling: Imrich Tököli) (April 25, 1657 - Sept. 13, 1705) (they were married in June 1682). This would make Ilona Zrínyi a Tékéll (or Thököly) by her 2nd marriage (remember, here, that Landgrave Karl stated that the Comte de St. Germain's mother was a Tékéll). Imre Thököly was King of Upper Hungary from 1682-1685, and Prince of Transylvania from Sept. 22, 1690 - Oct. 25, 1690. It is possible that Ferenc-Leopold II Rákóczi (1676-1735) had an incestuous affair with his mother Ilona Zrínyi sometime around 1688 or somewhat prior thereto (she would have been a "Tékéll" at that time, since she married Imre Thököly in June 1682). Ferenc-Leopold II would only have been about 12 years old at that time (Please note that we are not advocating this shocking idea or saying that it was the case - we are merely pointing out that, based on the evidence at hand, it is a remote possibility.) The offspring of this incestuous union possibly could be the "Comte de St. Germain."

(2) On the other hand, it's possible that the "Comte de St. Germain" was an unrecorded son of Ilona Zrínyi and Imre Thököly, born sometime in the period 1688-1691. It is known that Ilona Zrínyi and Imre Thököly had a daughter Erzsébet (Nov. 26, 1683 - April 3, 1688). Erzsébet lived at her mother's side through the siege of Palanok Castle at Munkács, and after Ilona surrendered Palanok Castle on Jan. 17, 1688 Erzsébet was taken with her mother and Ferenc-Leopold II to Vienna, where she died on April 3, 1688. The siege of Palanok Castle by Imperial forces led by General Antonio Caraffa (1646/1647 - 1693) lasted from near the end of 1685 until Jan. 17, 1688 (a little over 2 years). After the arrival of Ilona and her children in Vienna, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (1640-1705) (Holy Roman Emperor: 1658-1705) appointed Cardinal Lipót Károly Kolonič (Leopold Karl von Kollonich) (1631-1707) to serve as the Rákóczi children's guardian and as trustee of the Rákóczi estates. Cardinal Kolonič attempted to transform Ferenc-Leopold II into a meek loyalist by sending him to be re-educated at the Jesuit College at Jindřichův Hradec, Bohemia (German: Neuhaus, Bohemia). Ferenc-Leopold II reluctantly left for Jindřichův Hradec on March 30, 1688 (shortly after his 12th birthday on March 27, 1688). Therefore, if an incestuous affair between Ferenc-Leopold II Rákóczi and his mother really did occur, it would seem that it occurred on or before March 30, 1688! At age 15 Ferenc-Leopold II became a student at the University of Prague under the supervision of a Jesuit priest.

On the other hand, if the "Comte de St. Germain" was the son of Imre Thököly, it's possible that he was born during the short time that Thököly was Prince of Transylvania (Sept. 22, 1690 - Oct. 25, 1690). This would make Landgrave Karl's statement partially true: the "Comte de St. Germain" would be the son of the Prince of Transylvania and a "Tékéll," but the part of Landgrave Karl's statement identifying the Transylvanian prince as being a member of the Rákóczi family would be untrue. It is documented that the Comte de St. Germain was seen by various persons as late as 1822. With the aid of the Master R, Saint Germain achieved his Ascension on May 1, 1684 in Transylvania. The spiritual relationship between the Master R and his disciple Saint Germain was similar to the relationship between Lord Maitreya and his disciple Jesus of Nazareth.


Case left behind extensive published writings on occult tarot and Qabalah and even more unpublished writings that are circulated today through the Mystery School he founded also the original founder of advanced thought publishing

Some of the wording from "The Book of Tokens" was used in the tarot-inspired musical episode of Xena: Warrior Princess entitled The Bitter Suite. In the show, a character representing The Fool speaks the quote, "ALEPH am I. From mine unfathomable Will, the universe hath its beginning. In my boundless Wisdom are the types and patterns of all things."



  1. Article on tarot in The Word (1916)
  2. Article on tarot (revised) in Azoth Magazine (1918)


  1. An Introduction to the Study of the Tarot (1920)
  2. A Brief Analysis of the Tarot (1927)
  3. The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order (1927)
  4. Correlations of Sound & Color (1931)
  5. The Highlights of Tarot (1931)
  6. The Book of Tokens (1934)
  7. The Great Seal of the United States (1935)
  8. Progressive Rotascope (1936)
  9. Tarot Fundamentals 4 volumes (1936)
  10. Tarot Interpretations 4 volumes (1936)
  11. The Open Door (1938)
  12. The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages (1947)
  13. Daniel, Master of Magicians
  14. The Masonic Letter G
  15. The Name of Names

See also[edit]



External links[edit]

Original texts[edit]

Writings of Case and his contemporaries

Online resources[edit]

Online information on Case and his work
Online resources reflecting the work of Case or his students
Other resources*