Biography of Paul Foster Case
Paul Foster Case (1884-1954) was born 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.
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 Ramacharacka) 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.
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 and Qabalah that Case founded and that continues in operation.
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 as organizing and clarifying what had been confusing and scattered threads of occult knowledge as illustrated and illuminated by the Tarot.
In 1918, Case met Michael Whitty, who was the editor of the magazine Azoth (and would become a close friend). Whitty was serving as the Cancellarius for the Thoth-Hermes Lodge of the Alpha et Omega. Whitty invited Case to join Thoth-Hermes, which Case did. Case's took the motto in the in A.O. of Perserverantia (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. 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 later published as The Book of Tokens. On May 16, 1920 Case was initiated into A.O's Second Order. The same year, Case became Sub-Praemonstrator at the Thoth-Hermes Temple. When Michael Whitty died Case became Praemonstrator.
In 1921, Moina Mathers wrote to Case about rumors about his inappropriately teaching about esoteric sexuality in the First or Outer order. Alpha et Omega teachings regarding spiritual sexuality as involved in Hermetic Inner Alchemy were reserved for the A.O.’s highest grades and had no place in the outer order. Moina Mathers wrote the following to case on this subject:
"Care et V.H. Frater Perseverantia,
As I hear that the Sex Theory subject has been under discussion in Thoth Hermes Temple, I should like to say a few words to you on the subject. I regret that anything on the Sex question should have entered into the Temple at this stage for we only bein to touch on sex matters directly, in quite the higher Grades. In fact, we only give a rather complete explanation of this subject in that Grade where the Adept has proved to be so equilibrated and spiritualized that he is complete lord of his passional self. Believe me, this is not mere theory. I am not speaking to you from a merely theoretical point of view . . .”
Case resigned as Praemonstrator surrounding this incident. In 1922, Case requested permission to demit from the Thoth-Hermes temple, but was expelled by Moina Mathers instead.
In June, 1922, Case allegedly met with a representative of MacGregor Mathers’ "Secret Chiefs," who introduced himself to Case in the Hotel Astor in New York as "Master R," and who provided Case with materials to found the Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.).
After Case left the A.O., 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 covers 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 in Boston.
Within a few years he moved to Los Angeles, abandoning his career as a musician and established the Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.), which still exists today. 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; Tarot, Qabalah, and Alchemy. B.O.T.A. is yet another schsmatic offshoot of the Golden Dawn, but its work is watered down due to case’s fear of all things Enochiah and thus may be best described as “Golden Dawn Lite.”