History of The Brotherhood of Light
To trace the origin of The Religion of the Stars, recourse must be made to tradition. Pseudo occultists and charlatans are only too ready to appropriate a name and use it to deceive the unwary. Hence a name and boasted lineage mean nothing in such matters. When genuine they rest upon secret tradition. And such documentary evidence as can be submitted for the genuine may easily be imitated by the spurious.
The only safe criterion of the genuineness of any esoteric teaching is the amount and accuracy of the information contained therein. The Brotherhood of Light lessons are now accessible to all. We welcome investigation with a view to proving their value. The lineage here given is not to claim infallibility or to prove authority, but to disclaim any originality in the ideas set forth beyond their method of presentation. Upon the prima facie evidence these lessons contain as expositors of THE RELIGION OF THE STARS, The Church of Light is well content to rest all its claims. According to tradition, in the year 2,440 B.C., a group separated from the theocracy of Egypt, and through subsequent times, as a secret order, the name of which translated into English means The Brotherhood of Light, has been perpetuated, and has exerted a beneficial influence upon western civilization.
During only one period of Egyptian history did the teachings of The Religion of the Stars have a great influence on Egyptian civilization. This was during the reign of Akhenaten. This king was influenced by The Brotherhood of Light and broke completely with the corrupt priesthood of Amen. He moved to his City of the Horizon and spread stellar art and wisdom throughout Egypt. He died before the establishing of a new civilization could be completed; so the priests of Amen did the best they could to destroy his city and philosophy.
With the ascension of the Greek civilization, the influence of The Brotherhood of Light is seen in the astrology and mythology of Greece. Many of the Greek Mysteries take their basic rites from the ancient Egyptians. The Greek philosophers, Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, Euxodus, and a score of others famed for learning that might be mentioned, received initiation directly at the hands of the Egyptian members of the fraternity. At a later date this venerable order gave the impetus to learning in Alexandria, which made the city so justly famous. One of The Brotherhood of Light, the noble Hypatia, who, after the decline of the colleges in that city was the last to withstand the onslaughts of superstitious ignorance, and died endeavoring to spread the light of ancient wisdom.
It was The Brotherhood of Light that preserved the taper of learning from complete extinction during the dark ages, and that was responsible for kindling with it the fires of science and philosophy in Europe, even in the face of ruthless persecution. The Brotherhood of Light not only has persisted as such on the innerplanes, but the line of succession has been kept alive, although at times it became exceedingly thin, also on the physical plane. Much of our written history is lost in the mist of time. The thread of modern day existence on the physical plane picks up with the following. M. Theon, for years, was the head of The Brotherhood of Light in Europe. The teachings came to America and were published in two books translated and edited by Emma Harding Britten, Art Magic and Ghost Land. The original edition of Art Magic bears this legend at the bottom of the title page, “Published by the author, at New York, America, 1876.” T.H.
Burgoyne was the son of a physician in Scotland. He roamed the moors during his boyhood and became conversant with the birds and flowers. He was an amateur naturalist. He was also a natural seer. Through his seership he contacted The Brotherhood of Light on the innerplane, and later contacted M. Theon in person. Still later he came to America, where he taught and wrote on occult subjects. We find articles on the tarot, written by him, for instance, during 1887 and 1888, in The Platonist, published by Thomas M. Johnson at Osceola, Missouri. This was more than a dozen years before Genevieve Stebbins translated the work of P. Christian. Captain Norman Astley, an officer in the British Army, had traveled extensively. In the performance of his duties he had lived in India and there had pursued occult studies. He also resided a short time in Australia. Later he returned to England to meet M. Theon, having previously contacted The Brotherhood of Light in his travels. Astley was also a surveyor. Retired from the British Army he surveyed, among other places, what is now Carmel, California. It was such a beautiful region that when he married Genevieve Stebbins, a member of The Brotherhood of Light and a Delsarte teacher in New York, they decided to build their home in Carmel. That was in the 1860’s. As T.H. Burgoyne was a member of the same organization, it was natural he should pay them a visit. Captain and Mrs. Astley, who had contacted a number of earnest students suggested to Burgoyne that he write the basic Brotherhood of Light teachings as a series of lessons. This he agreed to do provided the students would enable him to live while he did this work. The Astleys made contact with students he knew and 12 were found who were willing to donate $5 per month to this purpose.
Burgoyne lived in the home of the Astleys while he wrote Light of Egypt, Volume I. He wrote and issued as a manuscript lesson, which the 12 students were permitted to copy, one chapter each month. He had a white pony which would come at his whistle and follow him as if it were a dog. Each morning the weather was clement, he and his pony would leave the Astley domicile and go to a certain wild spot on Point Lobos to commune with the Monterey pines, to listen to the birds, to caress the flowers, and to hear the noisy surf boil into a little rocky cove above which in spring wild asters grew in profusion. Overlooking the charging and retreating waters, always sitting at the same spot, he wrote the whole of Light of Egypt, Volume I.
For reasons set forth in the preface to Light of Egypt, Volume I, it was later decided to publish these private lessons in book form. That this might be done it became necessary to finance the venture, and to have some kind of an organization which would resist the attacks it was anticipated would be made by those opposed to the purpose of the book. Dr. Henry Wagner and Mrs. Belle M. Wagner (both with Jupiter in the tenth house of their birthcharts) agreed to finance the venture, and did so to the extent of $100,000. And a branch of The Brotherhood of Light called the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, was formed for the express purpose of seeing to it that the Light of Egypt and its teachings should receive wide distribution.
The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was governed in all its affairs by a council of three members consisting of a scribe, or secretary, an astrologer and a seer. Burgoyne was the original secretary. He passed to the next plane in March 1894, while residing in Humboldt County, California. Belle Wagner, Sun in Pisces, Aquarius rising and the Moon in the first house in Aquarius, was elected to take his place on the council. Minnie Higgins, Sun in Gemini, was the astrologer. Mrs. Anderson, Sun in Sagittarius, Moon in Cancer, Libra rising, was the seer. Meetings to decide issues were held on the second floor of Mrs. Anderson’s large home in Denver, Colorado.
The bylaws of The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor made it impossible for any person under 21 years of age to join; made it impossible for a married person to join unless the spouse also joined, and made membership possible only after the individual’s record had been thoroughly investigated. Early in 1909 Minnie Higgins passed to the next plane, and in the spring of that year Elbert Benjamine was called to Denver and elected to take her place on the Council as the astrologer. At this meeting on the second floor of Mrs. Anderson’s home, the other two members of the Council did their utmost, as the official minutes of the meeting show, to convince Elbert Benjamine that he should undertake the job of preparing a complete system of education that would enable a wide public to become conversant with The Religion of the Stars. But it was not until April of the following year that he consented to do this work. Meanwhile he had contacted personally and through correspondence not only members of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, but members of The Brotherhood of Light who had remained aloof from the organization with headquarters at Denver. But it was chiefly by his becoming more closely associated with The Brotherhood of Light on the innerplane that he overcame his reluctance to take over so imposing a task. In 1913 the three members of the Council of The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, after due deliberation, voted unanimously to close The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, and since then no members have been accepted.
During the period, 1914 to 1934 that The Brotherhood of Light lessons were being written, there was never any spirit other than that of helpfulness shown toward this work by any member of The Brotherhood of Light or by any person who had been a member of The Brotherhood of Luxor. And, in particular, Captain and Mrs. Astley were helpful. Elbert Benjamine visited them in their home on various occasions, and some of the extensive and encouraging correspondence he received from them helped him in this work.
In 1918 classes were first opened to the public. In order to carry out its objective of reestablishing The Religion of the Stars on earth, The Brotherhood of Light was incorporated as The Church of Light, on November 2, 1932, 9:55 a.m. PST at Los Angeles. The three founders of The Church of Light were Elbert Benjamine (C.C. Zain), who served as President until his demise November 18, 1951; Elizabeth Benjamine, who served as Secretary Treasurer until her passing in 1942; and Fred Skinner, who served as Vice President until his demise in 1940. From the 1920’s through the 1940’s much astrological research was carried on which has become standard reference for many astrologers. Much of the history of The Church of Light in years between 1915 and 1951 involve the history of Mr. Benjamine’s efforts. His mission on earth being completed through the writing, rewriting and printing of The Brotherhood of Light lessons, he felt that his physical form was worn beyond repair and that he could better serve the cause of Universal Welfare by leaving that body behind and moving to the next phase of his work in God’s Great Plan. In accordance with Mr. Benjamine’s instructions, there was no public funeral, and his body was cremated.
Because of his desire to be free from thoughts and emotions of grief so he might make a speedy adjustment in his new life, the announcement of his passing was withheld until the Response Day dinner in Los Angeles on December 18, 1951. He left a priceless heritage in The Brotherhood of Light lessons, which must be preserved and passed on unchanged to succeeding generations. The Light of Egypt is a consortium of advanced students and Hermiticians who seek to carry on the high traditions of the Brotherhood of Light by contributing our utmost to Universal Welfare without thought of personal gain or recompense. It continues to work toward fulfilling these purpose by meeting the needs of a new world order with its progressive philosophy of soul development. As always there is a determination that each individual should have the opportunity to Contribute his or her Utmost to Universal Welfare to the end that all people may live with freedom from fear; freedom from want; freedom of speech; freedom of religion, and to be enlightened to the extent they wish by the soul uplifting teachings of The Religion of the Stars.