A Civil War Veteran Created The Esoteric Fraternity and the Sex Cult of Solar Biology in 1890s California

Hiram Erastus Butler and 12 followers (natch.) left Boston to create a utopia near Sacramento

Some forty miles northeast of Sacramento, north California, off I-80 near the village of Applegate, is the remains of one of the States’s religious cults: the Esoteric Fraternity. Founded in 1887, the Fraternity was a pioneer in modern astrology, readied its followers to run a worldwide religious dictatorship, and faded from history after a murder (unsolved) claimed one of its members.


Diagram no.6 from Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916).

Diagram no.6 from Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916).

In 1891, the Fraternity’s founder, metaphysical scholar, Civil War Veteran, former member of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society and author Hiram Erastus Butler (July 29, 1841 – November 3, 1916) along with 12 followers (natch. – he’d once spent 40 days and 40 nights of meditation, receiving visions of the “unseen order ruling the chaos and sublime harmony pervading the discords of the universe”) relocated from Boston to Applegate, California, and settled on a 500-acre homestead overlooking the American River.

They’d left under a cloud, having fallen out with Blavatsky and her supporters and stood accused of ruining many of the infatuated young woman who’d joined the group. The nadir came when Butler’s leading associate Eli Clinton Ohmart (aka Vidya Nyaika) was confronted by a number of women in the presence of the law. A reporter for the Boston Globe then interviewed Butler, and if it were true that he lived in immorality with a woman named Flora Manning? Butler claimed it was pat of a conspiracy to discredit him and his organisation by Blavatsky and the Catholics, and he’d doubtless prove his innocence, stating:

“If arrests are made, I will, of course, face the music. It will not hurt me, but only retard the work of the college. Every great movement, has its enemies, but the truth will prevail in the end. You see, I am under the direction of higher intelligences, and only do their bidding.”

He never gave them much chance for the enemy move things on. Less than two weeks later (February 11, 1889) Butler left Boston with, what the paper called, “his deluded female neophytes fled to parts unknown,” and “also Miss Flora Manning, whose poor father is heartbroken in his home in North Adams, longing hopelessly for his daughter’s return.”

The paper went on to say of Manning:

“To her door is laid the charge of active participation in the conspiracy that led to the ruin of no less than seven of Boston’s daughters whose credulity led them to place themselves in Butler’s power in the vague hope of becoming mediums.”

Sex or spirituality? Surely not? It was Butler who’d opined: “A perfectly celibate or chaste life enables a person to create thought forms and send them out by his will to persons near of far, so as to bring about desired results in controlling mental faculties or even physical conditions.”


The rising signs. from Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916).

The rising signs. from Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916). Get the T-shirt

In California, the cult built an 18-room house, established a farm and gave lectures. Butler would show his audiences the Seven-Pointed Star of Vital Planetary Vibrations, circumscribing the Six-Pointed Star of the Masculine and Feminine, and labeled with the word “Logos” in both Greek and Hebrew, along with astrological symbols and the good and old Snake Eating His Own Tail, representing eternity.

To reach more minds, they set up a printing press to publish The Esoteric |(‘A magazine of advanced and practical Esoteic thought’) and books, to deliver is mission of “the study and unfoldment of the inner and true sense of divine inspiration, the interpretation of the Scriptures — all scriptures.”


Diagram no.3 from Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916).

Diagram no.3 from Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916).

Butler adopted the name Adhy-Apaka and created an “inner circle” to the Esoteric Society called the Genii of Nations, Knowledge, and Religions (G.N.K.R.) with a scheme for a proposed Esoteric College. Ohmart announced this development in the November 1888 issue of The Esoteric with an article, “[The Call] To The Awakened,” in which he stated:

Those whose lives are a constant battle for the “truth” and whose efforts are wholly directed towards the good of the world irrespective of race and creed; those who have heard the “silence speak” and have recognized the Master’s call:—to those there will be entrusted a work more sacred and important than all they have done during their previous life, and to them there will come a Promise from One who always fulfills according to merit and eternal justice. Those who have been illuminated and who have dedicated themselves and all they “are, and hope to be,” to the guidance, those who have manifested by their lives and actions that they are under the recognition of intelligences superior to their own (not elementals or “spirits”), to those there will be given a special revelation of a character more sacred than all the secrets of the Past ; to them there will be revealed the “kingly mystery” and unto them will be given a secret more precious than the Philosopher’s Stone, more important than Aladdin’s Lamp.



Diagram no.31 from Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916).

Diagram no.31 from Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916).

Other than the magazines, Butler’s most famous work was Solar Biology, illustrations from which you can see here. First published in 1887, Solar Biology simplified astrology by basing horoscopes on sun and moon signs, rather than on complex planetary movements. Today’s newspaper horoscopes are said to be modelled largely on Butler’s formulas.


Diagram no.5 print in high resolution. Digitally enhanced from our own edition of Solar Biology by Hiram Erastus Butler (1841-1916).

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