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A Man by Degrees

The Astrologer and Psychic, John Thomas.


John Thomas (Charubel) 09 Nov 1826 07:00 AM LMT (Cwmbau, Caerinion Castle) Montgomery WALES Long: 3w03 Lat: 52n33 Source: Fagan

Died 11 November 1908, Manchester, England.

Any astrologer interested in the use of degree symbols will have at some point come across Charubel's The Degrees of the Zodiac Symbolised. Prior to Marc Edmund Jones' Sabian symbols, this was one of the most well known, and referred to, texts on the subject. Originally serialised in the Astrologer's Magazine they were also published in Alan Leo's Astrological Manual No. VIII in 1898. The degree descriptions were obtained by Charubel psychically to help rectify the ascendants of horoscopes. They gained the attention of Marc Edmond Jones, who originally wanted to find Charubel to recast the descriptions of the symbols so they would have a more general application. Later he decided that they were too moralized for his purposes, or too "grooved in a single mood -- no less objectionable than the older identification as good or bad ...." He wanted to create a more universal set of symbols. This led to the creation of the Sabian Symbols with Elsie Wheeler in 1925.

And some astrologers will be aware of Charubel's association with Alan Leo. Just another nineteenth century astrologer hanging out in Alan Leo's crowd. Except astrology wasn't his main activity. And if there was any hanging out to be done then it was Leo doing it. Charubel's name has gone down in astrological history because of Leo's publication of his degree symbols, but to his contemporaries John Thomas was a renowned Welsh seer and mystic.

Charubel was born John Thomas and as a child was devoted to Christianity. By his early twenties he had become a curative Mesmerist and was later to progress to herbalism, astrology, mediumship and occultism. He went on to study Calvinistic and Methodist theology in 1851. Thomas was soon to be renowned as a seer, prophet and healer.

He was never to be a conventional Methodist preacher. Thomas instead dedicated his life to studying the laws of nature and the laws of life. For sixty years he studied nature in all her manifestations. His motto was " inner and not outer ". A psychic, he claimed to be gifted with second sight or precognition and had a sixth sense for seeing frightening and horrifying forms described either as "Submundanes" or "Elementals."

Thomas's healing skills were particularly renowned. He specialised in the treatment of rheumatism. He often relied on precipitated letters from the spirit world for his methods of treatment. Thomas prepared hundreds of horoscopes in his time, taking the trouble to draw them in parchment. He also did a roaring business in talismans. Money was never of great interest to him and Thomas lived very simply. Throughout his life Thomas continued to study the scriptures. It was his belief that true magic was that that supplied a union with God.

The name Charubel was his member name in an occult society he formed. He was the head of this esoteric order and the father of a brotherhood that extended to everybody. He was attributed with a precise and rich knowledge of the spirits of the nature in our planet. All the sacred names and their hidden forces were believed known by him.

Alan Leo became a member of this society and adopted the name Agorel. Each member of this society derived a mystical name from astrological significators, numerology and geometry. Some names were taken from Hebrew. Although the society was never the success that Thomas had hoped, it had members all over the world and for much of his life he kept up lengthy and frequent correspondence with its members.

The Celestial Brotherhood, or as it was known to the general public, The British and Foreign Society of Occultists was a short-lived organization. It was broadly similar in its workings to the Order of the Golden Dawn. It involved a system of progressive grades, professed to receiving teachings from hidden Adepts on the inner planes and practiced magical and quasi-magical rituals. Two of its most renowned members, John Yarker and Major Francis George Irwin, were also Masons associated with a number of occult organisations.

The Society was first mentioned in July 1884 in the inaugural issue of The Seer, edited by Thomas and later renamed The Occultist. Alan Leo was a frequent writer for The Occultist. References were made in this publication to The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and Peter Davidson and Thomas Henry Burgoyne. The connection appears to have ceased when The Occultist remained under Thomas and Davidson with Burgoyne introducing his own magazine The Occult Magazine in February 1885.

Thomas was already well known for his mediumistic work and for producing phenomena when he wrote his first published work The Country of the Bible. Other books followed with his final work Psychology of Botany securing his already good reputation. Although well known throughout England and Wales, Thomas shunned the limelight. Although he is remembered as Charubel today, many of his writings were done under the name of Julius Balsamo - a reference to the Count Cagliostro.

By 1890 Thomas was living in Frodsham, Cheshire. Although still retaining his reputation as a spiritualist and medium he was in severe financial straits by this time. "He has come entirely to grief and is sending begging letters to every one. He was a Medium in communication with the Colour Spirits with whom he seems to have had a pact, but on two occasions he nearly lost his life thro' them. The most apparently peacable Elementals, if a storm happens to come on, will become very violent and uncontrollable, The conflict of the elements seems to excite them to fury, and woe to the mortal, not being an Adept, who encounters them. Thomas has gone the way of all Mediums. I have investigated the circumstances as to a good many, and I find they all go wrong, sooner or later."

He was clearly in contact still with Alan Leo at this time. The Astrologer's Magazine of November 1890 mentions

"Charubel (late of the Occultist)…and several other friends" as future contributors. In the following issue the first set of degree symbols appeared, beginning at 25 degrees of Libra, where Thomas believed the zodiac to start, with the heading "We recommend the following to the notice of our readers, as we are confident it will be found both interesting and instructive."

Leo was spending much of his time travelling in the north and west of England during this period and spent time with Thomas.

By 1891 Thomas' health had begun to fail. His illness in the summer of that year meant that his contributions to the pages of the Astrologer's Magazine had to be suspended. He became less and less active and by the time he was 82 years old Thomas no longer left his room. The world came to his door and he received many visitors from all over the globe, Leo included. Esotericists, astrologers, healers and spiritualists all travelled to study at the feet of a man who they regarded as a great teacher. It was believed by many at this time that overuse of his psychic powers in the past had led to his losing much of his ability. In 1908 Thomas died in Manchester.

Notes and Sources:

Published Works: The Degrees of the Zodiac Symbolised. By Charubel. To which is added, The Theoretical Value of the Degrees of the Zodiac. By H.S.Green. - London: Nichols & Co., 1898.

The Degrees of the Zodiac Symbolised by Charubel, to which is added a translation of a similar series found in "La Volasfera" (translation and additional notes by Sepharial). - London: Modern Astrology, 1907.

Psychology of Botany. - Charubel. Tyldesley: R.Welch, 1906.

A Vision of the North Pole* The geo? sphere* The Country of the Bible* Sources: Astrologer's Magazine 1890 and 1891

The Disappointed Magus: John Thomas and His 'Celestial Brotherhood'" by Robert A. Gilbert. Theosophical History Magazine Volume VIII Issue 3 July 2000

John Thomas by María Teresa Martinez (in Spanish) http://members.nbci.com/spicasc/charubel.html

The Degrees of the Zodiac Symbolised. By Charubel

The Origin and History of The Sabian Symbols by Diana E. Roche http://www.sabian.org/ssorigin.htm

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© Kim Farnell 2006.