The Hidden Hash Master of the 19th Century: Paschal Beverly Randolph

CANNABIS CULTURE – Lately I have been working on my new book, Liber 420: Cannabis Arcanum. This will be my 4th book detailing the fascinating history of cannabis in magic and religion. In this new book the focus will be on the use of cannabis in the occult traditions, such as alchemy and magic, from the medieval period into the early 20th century.

One of my favourite 19th century figures in this history is the African American, Paschal Beverly Randolph, (1825-1875) who was a major importer of hashish into North America. Randolph came into contact with the herb, in his adventures searching for occult knowledge. An important figure is the spiritualism movement, Randolph was also a Rosicrucian grandmaster, and a sex magician. Besides his interests in the occult, he was also a pioneer of both women’s rights and black rights, and a friend of Abraham Lincoln.

Randolph considered his use of cannabis products as part of a much older esoteric tradition. “…Randolph—as the French mesmerists before him—found that hashish constituted the perfect food for the soul… If… he had been searching for years to find the ‘wine of life,’ the elixir that would perfectly restore the depleted vital fluids that served to connect the soul to the body, he had found it in hashish, the real secret of the wisdom tradition” (Deveney, 1997). As Randolph himself explained:

There is no doubt that Confucius, Pythagoras and his disciples, the Alchemists, Hermetists, Illuminati, and mystic bretheren of all ages used it to exalt them while making their researches for the Philosopher’s stone… Secret of Perpetual Youth… and the Elixir of Life… (Randolph, 1867)

Randolph’s first experiences with cannabis preparations came through French occultists and Rosicrucians under the Arabic name dowam meskh, the “medicine of immortality,” a “pure” form of the drug said to have been prepared by adepts in the East. Randolph considered the plant to have both spiritual and medicinal properties. Randolph, and his first wife Mary-Jane Randolph, patented a variety of cannabis based aphrodisiacs and medicines, such as phymylle and amylle, and the differences he attributes to its effects, leaves one wondering if he had stumbled upon the opposing effects of CBD and THC. “He touted the first as especially suited for nervous exhaustion and the second as a panacea for ‘passional excess, onanism, etc’. Together they were the best ‘aphrodision” in the world’” (Deveney, 1997). John Patrick Deveney in his wonderful book Paschal Beverly Randolph; A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian and Sex Magician writes that at “one point before the Civil War he was probably the largest importer of hashish into the United States”`(Deveny, 1997).

Besides referring to hashish in his many books on occult matters, and in newspapers, which also printed his adds for hashish preparations, like The Banner of Light:

In reply to the numerous correspondents let me say that nearly all the Hashish I brought with me from Europe, (and none other is fit to use,) is exhausted. The balance I will sell at $ four a bottle, with full directions on how to secure the celestial, and avoid the ill fantasies. I have only twenty-five cases left out of three hundred and fifty, so that those who want the genuine Oriental article must send at once to:
Dr. P.B. Randolph,
17 Bromfield St., Boston, Mass.”
Banner of Light advertisement, October 1860

Randolph, seems to have had something of a love hate relationship with hashish, at times praising and at times warning about it. This is summarized in the following essay, which he described as:

HASHISH ; Its Uses and Abuses. Being the experience of three souls during their illumination by means of this terrible drug. The thrilling revelations of this pamphlet exceed anything of the kind ever written. It details the curious effects of Hashish-its clairvoyance power, and what several souls learned while under its weird and awful influence-How a soul lives a thousand years in a moment of time-Where the Hashish world is. It will contain the only solution of this mystery ever attempted-and the true one. Sold to subscribers at 50 cents a copy. ·~ A
limited number only will be printed. Issued Sept. 1, 1861. -Randolph PB, 1863

Here for the first time since its publication, is Randolphs century and a half old essay on Hashish, in its complete form. (It took me a few years to track it down):

P. B. Randolph (1867)

I. This strangely powerful drug is at one a curse and a blessing of mankind. Medicinally it is invaluable. I first learned of it in France, but in Egypt I studied it perfectly. Its effects upon our keener nerves and larger brain differs greatly from that upon the orientals. Let it here be most distinctly understood, that I do not approve of the use of hashish, for extasia, fantasia, or clairvoyance, any more,
and for the same reasons, that I do not approve of alcoholic beverages, because pure liquors are hard to get ; poisonous compounds abound ; and just so it is with the hashish — it is difficult and expensive to get the right sort, and when had, great wisdom is required in its use. But being constantly importuned for information on the subject ; and aware that thousands are using what purports to be hashish ; and knowing these compounds to be dangerous, and deadly poisonous, I have prepared this article upon its use, effects, antidotes, and true methods of exhibition. 1. Hashish is the gum of the oriental Hemp. This gum is called Gunjah. 2. The various extracts of Gunjah are what is known under the generic term Hashish. 3. There are about a dozen preparations of it under fanciful names, but only three are of any use at all. Those are to be carefully used, if used at all. In this pear I shall confine myself to the mention of those preparations that produce extasia and clairvoyance, and let pass those other preparations that are used to produce passional excitement for base and and sensual purposes, which I believe ought not to be used except in rare instances of physical exhaustion, and even then they are infinitely inferior to Amylle, or even Lucina cordial, inasmuch as these last are permanent in their effects, not so the hashisheen.

II. No person should ever venture to take hashish without six good lemons are at hand ; besides two ounces of citric acid dissolved in a pint of water, to be sucked and taken, when it, the hashish effect, has gone far enough. These acids are perfect antidotes to its strange, and in some sense, miraculous effects.

III. A. There are but two preparations of genuine capsular Hashish to be had in this country — pure. All other forms of it that i have seen — over fifty different extracts — are ordinary extracts, possessing a little medicinal power, and a great deal of anodyne, soporific, brain-maddening force — properties entirely distinct from those that produce either mental exhalation, or matter-penetrating vision. The common hashish extracts bear the same relation to the finer sorts made with care from the unripe capsules of hemp, and prepared with either sugar, glycerine, or jelly — as the worst kind of tanglefoot rum does to the finest and most exhilarating champagne wine. How can it be otherwise? when the common extracts are made by chemists to sell ; while the finer is prepared by adepts , whose art has been handed down to them from centuries past, and who make it for the use of themselves, and the satraps, sultans and luxurious lordlings of the Orient. The true Turkish and Egyptian Dowameskh, in liquid or solid form are used in two ways, and fro widely different purposes.

B. In the Orient, where polygamy and sensuality abounds it is prepared with conserve of roses, carophile, and a couple of other ingredients, which need not here be mentioned, for the purpose of producing a luxurious, indolent, half-dreamy sexual passion in their harems, where one man husbands a dozen wives.

C. In its two higher and more refined forms, unmingled with the agents alluded to, it is used to produce an exhilaration of soul, transcending that of anything else on earth; and this form it is that brings out clairvoyant power in certain persons, though not in all.

D. Now suppose you divide a ten-dollar flask of Vernet’s liquid preparation into doses of 60 to 120 drops each; or take two to five of the fifty pilules that come in a box, in a cup of strong black coffee. Look sharp, be steady, for there’s a power at work within you, capable of plunging you into thick gloom, elevating you into the bliss of paradise, and of leading your soul through the shadow, into regions of ineffable light, and glorious, illimitable, transcendent beauty. Here let me give a word of counsel: 1st, under the potent spell of this most powerful drug, the taker should not remain utterly passive, waiting for whatever may turn up ; for if so, you are absolutely certain of being thrown under the most extraordinary state of Fantasia conceivable by the intellect of even an archangel. It will burst upon you like the crash of ten thousand thunders, and for hours you will be the sport of imaginations turned to realities of the queerest, strangest, weirdest, and perhaps terrific kind. And whatever the first burst may be. all the rest will be colored from it during that particular experiment. Again; if the taker be carelessly thinking of this, that, and the other, the probabilities are, that instead of the Fantasia, the Extasia will rush over the nerves. Now everybody knows what ecstasy means; but very few dream of that which sometimes follows a dose of hashish. I have taken hashish four times in my life, and four times only; but I know hundreds of people who have taken it hundreds of times. I have seen pounds of it used in Egypt, Arabia, Turkey, Franco, England, and here in America, and what 1 say herein, and charge a fee for telling people, is the result of ten years’ observation and study of the subject. Now when the Fantasia ensues, the most grotesque, laughable, and arabesque visions and images arc presented to the mind. Tables talk, ordinary rooms become magnificent palaces, and the most common things and objects are totally transformed. In the extasia, however, the party may be convulsed with laughter, horror, terror, fear of death: plunged into supreme bliss, hear the most ravishing music, and even listen to grave conversations between animals, trees, the pendulum and hands of a clock; two horses, cows, mice, may hold pleasant confabs — all of which the subject remembers during life thereafter: or the taker may become amorously excited, and during it, experience sensations so intense, cutting, biting, and full, as to be on the verge of agony; all of which should, and can be, provided against. For so long as you are master or mistress of hashish, it is all well enough, and there’s no danger, but the very moment it gets the mastery of you, that instant you are at the complete mercy of the most inexorable tyrant, — the very fiend of the grotesque, that fancy ever pictured. Beyond all doubt, the “Arabian Nights” romances were the results of so many doses of Hashish, penned as the visions occurred.

When it is desirable to end these ecstasies and fantasies, citric acid; lemon juice freely taken, speedily terminates the effect upon both body and mind. I repeat, I do not counsel any one to meddle with these drugs, because all people are not wise. But to all 1 say : as you value your nerves do not use any of the American, and but few of the foreign preparations of the drug, for they are, most of them unsafe, and produce lamentable results. They are mainly prepared from the common gunjah, or the distilled or buttered hemp. There are but three that are prepared from the hemp capsules, and these only, possess (he true and exhilarating property: hence their expensiveness, for true Dowameskh, liquid or solid cannot be had short of $10 a package, and should then he selected by an expert; nor is this a bid for the office, as 1 care not to trouble myself with the matter at all. I can only say, if you will use Hashish, use that which is pure, and which, if it does you no good, will not harm or injure you. — The two forms of Hashish alluded to, are the same us those alluded to in Dumas’ Monte Christo, by Theophile Gautier, by Le Brun in his Extasia; ; the same as that used by Bayard Taylor: in his Egyptian experiment, the same that was • used by Adele of Paris, the celebrated clairvoyant of Alphonse Cahagnet. It sometimes happens that no possible quantity will produce the slightest effect upon a person, and yet at another time ten grains of the identical solid, or ten drops of the liquid form, would send the same person into the most exalted extasia. I have seen this tried. A lady in Boston once look an ounce, she felt no effect. Ten days afterward she rinsed the vial that contained it, drank the water, and went into the extasia for four hours. These also are the same preparations as were used by a friend of mine, in Paris, the far-famed Madame Dablin, the singularly” gifted Seeress of the Rue St. Nicholas, Paris, who by her clairvoyance found out too much for his Majesty Napoleon III., who accordingly had her squelched to silence her tongue. As these clairvoyants used hashish, I think no harm ever came of it ; and were I not possessed of all the power I want in that line, should not hesitate to follow their example — simply taking ten to twenty drops at night on retiring. It will in time, most unmistakably produce clairvoyance, and all the sooner if a handkerchief be bound around the forehead and eyes. Indeed, this will develop the sight without the hashish, liquid, or solid. I know several persons who have thus used hashish, but never saw harm come from it, because the dose is too weak to produce either fantasia or the ecstasy, besides which, in such doses the effect is strengthening to the nerves, brain, and especially the lungs ; and not a few consumptives have been wholly cured by it. But be careful of the quality and quantity. [I class Hashish with all other stimulants and exhilerants, albeit more potent than all others, and operating in a different manner; different laws producing different and most extraordinary results: liable, like all others, Alcohol, Wine, Beer, Opium, Coffee, Tea, Tobacco, Muust, —and other things of human use to great abuse. I maintain now. as in 1958— that it does not depend upon sinful, sensual, and lustful inclinations merely, that every people on the habitable globe now use, have appropriated in every age, and probably will continue to do so, something that will act upon the nervous life, and thus bring man one step nearer to the invisible worlds of life, sensation, and pleasure. Further, I do not believe that because good wine will, taken to excess, destroy a man, that therefore good wine is an unmitigated curse to the world; nor that because a wineglassful of Philoxine (Eringos), the recipe and right to make which I am authorized to impart to medical men, beaten up with three eggs, a gill of brandy well sweetened with loaf-sugar, taken three times a day, will so sharpen up the venereal appetite, as to, if continued, hurt a person, that therefore the judicious use of that gentle agent is not commendable: nor because nicotine is a deadly poison, that therefore all segars should be thrown into the sea.]

Note. — The “Hashish Candies” so in vogue, are deadly poisons. Their results are insanity, idiocy, stupefaction, and the worst forms of satyriasis and nymphomania.

I now resume where I left off above : — Where a person takes hashish for any purpose, let that purpose be clearly, firmly, solidly fixed in the mind from the moment the drug is taken till its effect is over. For instance, if it be to become clairvoyant, let that, and no other object be sought for. If to be a speaker, medium, to find absent persons, property, to know the state of a love that’s doubted; to find if a love is true or false; if one is pregnant, or anything else (and there are few problems that cannot be solved, under hashish), let that one object, and no other, engage attention. This being resolved upon, when the clairvoyance bursts upon you, as it probably will, give the whole soul to the matter in hand, and as soon as the reply is had, instantly break the spell as above directed. On no account take a second dose the same day, even if the first one fails of all effect. It sometimes happens that a dose — fluid never to exceed one hundred drops, solid never to exceed five pilules — will not affect you. In that case, melt the hashish in hot coffee, next time increasing the quantity one-third.

In conclusion, let me say that if you will take this drug, do not repeat it often, for clairvoyance once reached by its means, can always be produced by mere willing forever afterwards, without its aid.

Persons may take a very little of it once or twice to render them susceptible to magnetic or spiritual influence; for while under it nearly any one can be mesmerized, or made a medium. But having become so, abandon its use forever.

To those for whom I prepared this paper, I say : To gratify you, I have written it. If you want further information, write me.

This is all I have here to say on the subject. Further information by mail.
My Post-Office Box is No. 3,352.
Fees, in all cases, $5. .

…Hashish eating is not commendable, any more than rum-drinking or opium smoking. And I here repeat: Do not get habituated to hashish, or dowameskh, or ether, or chloroform, or muust, or anything of the sort. If you reach your end and aim through their means, your continual use of them will cause its loss again. Whoever wrote the “Arabian Nights,” did so under Hashish, and thousands of people in all ages have used it to procure an insight into mysteries that surrounded them on all sides. There is no doubt that Confucius, Pythagoras, and his disciples, the Alchemists, Hermetists, Illuminati, and mystic brethren of all ages used it to exalt them while making their researches for the Philosopher’s Stone, B. Secret of Perpetual Youth, C ; and the Elixir of Life, A. Terms laughed at by wise people, as idle dreams, and yet idle as they are deemed, I proclaim my entire belief in all three — as I understood them, and have defined them in the note below. People often ask me if I use hashish, and 1 reply, I took it twice on purpose, and twice accidentally, many years ago. I have not used it since, not that I fear its power, but because I need it not. Of the third I have already written ; and in the discovery of the two elements, Phymylle and Amylle, have approached nearer the coveted goal of ages than any man that ever lived, because I began my researches where they — especially La Bruiere and Valmondi— ended. They are not medicines, but vital forces in a liquid form; the first is for brain, muscular, and nervous exhaustion. The other for exhaustion from passional excess, love troubles, Onanism, and loss of stamina, from whatsoever cause, and both or either reach the spot as nothing else can. Mixed together, they constitute the most perfect aphrodision in the world. Pure, limpid, harmless, yet more powerful than anything but life itself. We prepare Amylle for the weak, barren, loveless, impotent, exhausted. They partake, and forthwith sit happily down once more at life’s feast, glad and rejoicing in new-found bliss and power. In years gone by, hundreds tested the power of Phymylle and its radical Amylle — liquids more potent than essential wine, — a cordial of Lucina, — the fluid draft of power itself. People asked Randolph how it was that he looked younger than fifteen years ago ; and why at the end of the political campaign of 1866, his two hundredth speech was as sonorous, fresh, eloquent, vigorous, and impassioned as was the first. The answer is Phymylle ! and with it we bring back the virility of youth to those who have wasted it, enable them to regain their squandered energy. Has excess, disease, trouble, neglect, loneliness, bent you down, rendered your brain flaccid, irritated your system, relaxed your fibres, unstrung your nerves? Then we help you regain lost ground, and send you forth with bloom, health, strength, and vigor. Neither of these preparations are kept on sale.

A. An universal solvent, — a fluid that will vacate the body of all morbid humors, and thus let the vital forces have free action.
B. Crystals, rings, and mirrors—means of clairvoyance.
C. A fluid so fine, as when taken, to be instantly converted into vital magnetism. thus supplying all waste, repairing all effects of excess and exhaustion, reinvigorating the brain, nervous forces, and therefore restoring the vigor of youth.

F F. All medical practitioners in good standing, male or female, can be supplied with anything herein mentioned at a reasonable commission over first cost. The recipe for Mauret’s granules and lozenges, as also Philoxine, will be sent to those who know how to prescribe and use them judiciously. The price for each recipe is $25.00, and covers the county where purchased. Phymylle and Amylle I do not make or sell except as ordered, and then in bottles at $10.00, $15.00, and $25.00, — triple strength in all cases.

For more on Cannabis history, check out Chris Bennett’s book, Cannabis and the Soma Solution.

Chris Bennett
Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett has been researching the historical role of cannabis in magic and religion for over a quarter century, his books include 'Green Gold the tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion' (1995); 'Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible' (2001); 'Cannabis and the Soma Solution' (2010. He Currently resides in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where he runs his ethnobotanical shop The Urban Shaman.