Paul Foster Case
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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.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Dilemma: music or the mysteries
- 3 Whitty and Alpha et Omega
- 4 Controversy with Moina Mathers
- 5 Builders of the Adytum
- 6 Opposition to Enochian magic
- 7 Death
- 8 Significant influences
- 9 Alleged influence
- 10 Legacy
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 External links
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. He had a honorary doctorate in music awarded to him.
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, which Case called 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.
Dilemma: music or the mysteries
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 previously been confusing and scattered occult doctrines about the meaning of the tarot cards.
Whitty and Alpha et Omega
In 1918, Case met Michael James Whitty (died December 27, 1920 in Los Angeles, California), who was the editor of Azoth magazine and would become a close friend. Whitty was serving as the 'cancellarius' (treasurer / office manager) for the Thoth-Hermes Lodge in Chicago, which was one of the lodges 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 joined, and quickly moved up initiations in the Rosicrucian grades (True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order). Case's aspiration name in A.'.O.'. was Perseverantia (which means 'perseverance').
Whitty republished Case's attribution of the Tarot keys (with corrections) in Azoth magazine. That same year, Case became the '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 and 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
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's 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
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. 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 hermetic alchemy.
Opposition to Enochian magic
In the "Wheel of Life" magazine, in March 1937, Case described B.O.T.A.'s relationship to the Golden Dawn, and his beliefs about 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."
- 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
- 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 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."
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. He was 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.". That same episode also makes numerous visual references to the B.O.T.A. tarot cards.
- Article on tarot in The Word (1916)
- Article on tarot (revised) in Azoth Magazine (1918)
- An Introduction to the Study of the Tarot (1920)
- A Brief Analysis of the Tarot (1927)
- The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order (1927)
- Correlations of Sound & Color (1931)
- The Highlights of Tarot (1931)
- The Book of Tokens (1934)
- The Great Seal of the United States (1935)
- Progressive Rotascope (1936)
- Tarot Fundamentals 4 volumes (1936)
- Tarot Interpretations 4 volumes (1936)
- The Open Door (1938)
- The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages (1947)
- Daniel, Master of Magicians
- The Masonic Letter G
- The Name of Names
- Builders of the Adytum
- B.O.T.A. tarot deck
- Cube of Space
- Divinatory, esoteric, and occult tarot
- Western mystery tradition
- List of spirituality-related topics
- List of Notable Freemasons
- Writings of Case and his contemporaries
- Wisdom of Tarot
- Tarot Revelations
- Hermetic Science and Practice
- Fraternity of the Hidden Light PFC Archives
- An Introduction to the Study of Tarot, HTML
- The Oracle of the Tarot - A Course on Tarot Divination
- Occult Fundamentals & Spiritual Unfoldment - 1924 Sections (Courses) A & B of the first BOTA
- Esoteric Keys of Alchemy
- Tarot Fundamentals Volume One
- The Golden Dawn American Source Book (Golden Dawn Study Series 15) edited by Darcy Kuntz. Introductory Note by Anthony Fleming. This work contains the most significant letters and documents pertaining to the Order's history in America. The Paul Foster Case correspondence is most interesting. Holmes Publishing Group, 2001.
- The Secret Knowledge of the Neophyte (Golden Dawn Study Series 18) edited with an Introductory Note by Darcy Kuntz. This work contains the addresses given to members of the Neophyte grade by such luminaries as R.W. Felkin, Paul Foster Case, Lilli Geise, S.L. Mathers, and Harriet Felkin. Holmes Publishing Group, 2001.
- Online information on Case and his work
- Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.)
- Fraternity of the Hidden Light (F.L.O.)
- Joseph Nolen Lectures and InnerJourney Newsletters
- Occult of Personality podcast episode 42 - The Life and Work of Paul Foster Case
- Online resources reflecting the work of Case or his students
- The Paul Foster Case Resource Page PFC Resources and materials
- Joseph Nolen Lectures and InnerJourney Newsletters
- Other resources