Brother XII’s life is a story of: black magic, deception, embezzlement, intrigue, sadism, and most of all greed.
Born Edward Arthur Wilson in 1878 in England, Brother XII followed the ancient esoteric philosophy called Theosophy, which has three main beliefs: the unity of all life, immortality of the soul and law of karma. Theosophy became popular at the beginning of the twentieth century because many people felt threatened by all the changes in their world. Brother XII claimed to commune with spirits from another plane, the Great White Lodge, through visions.
In 1927, he created the Aquarian Foundation to create a new world order. His charismatic lectures, and his Theosophic books and pamphlets drew people from all over North America. At the height of his popularity there were two thousand in his group: wealthy businessmen, lawyers and heiresses who gave up their life savings to follow his creed and live and work in a commune in the Canadian wilderness.
They started out meeting in Cedar by the Sea near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, then moved to land they purchased on DeCourcy and Valdes islands, a few miles away. As the Great Depression took over the world he warned his followers that others would come for their money. Chaos was looming all around them. His commune became a fortress and he converted their money to gold bars which he then sealed with wax in mason jars and buried on the islands. As time passed, he kept digging it up and burying it again.
Brother XII’s fortress like community on DeCourcy was called the City of Refuge or the Ark. He claimed that his disciples could survive the coming Armageddon there. Towards the end, his sadistic mistress, Madame Z, ruled over the workers with a leather whip, sequestering individuals, and isolating women.
Life in the commune slid from idealistic to dangerous. Members of the group took him to court three times with charges that ranged from misappropriating their money to sexually abusing minors, but in the end he escaped.
One thing is certain—the Islanders have many stories about the notorious Brother XII. In my book Black Cat Blues, I bring him to life through the journal of one of his many lovers.
Oh yeah – did I mention Brother XII once worked as a merchant marine, and brought back sexual practices from the Orient that shocked and pleased many a woman?