Jack the Ripper and Black Magic-- new book examines TS connection to Ripper case


I just noticed this new title from McFarland on Google Books.  It includes 35 mentions of Blavatsky due to the suspicion that has fallen on one individual who was associated with the TS.

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Comment by Spiro Dimolianis on September 1, 2011 at 4:58pm

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your kind consideration of my book despite your time on, as you say, the many still unsolved mysteries of 19th C progressive religious thought and spiritual philosophies. I wish you the best with your ongoing and important study, you may find it of interest that your previous work on the Mahatmas has to an extent been vindicated with some release and appraisal of Colonial secret service arrangements in British India. Notwithstanding legitimate intuitions.

Thanks also to Louise Mead for considering a review of my book which, in good time, I look forward to. I am pleased that people with a good grasp of the historical background on the TS are finding it of interest and hope it will make a difference for the better and that it may provide a handy and reliable overview of the Ripper theories involving the TS.

For instance, it is understandable that, though the connection included the article published in Lucifer by a Ripper suspect, Mabel Collins was not known to have any contact with him. This is all hearsay of Vittoria Cremers expelled with her from the ES, and who later joined for a brief period the Eclectic Theosophical Society of New York. She was quite simply a mischief maker. Indeed, I found evidence that regular members of the Blavatsky Lodge actually had sympathetic feelings for the events then current.

You certainly have quite a task there with Ghost Land, T.H. Burgoyne and the HBL and I wish you the best with it, I would be interested in time in the material. The HBL certainly had some influence on the formation of the ES but wasn't this part of a larger trend? I looked briefly at the group in my study but was not able to find any connection to the Ripper case. However, I did come across a curious mention of ES member W.B. Yeats, who resigned with Harbottle in 1891, that Cremers would later expand upon that was indicative of the ethos of the HBL, particularly that of Randolph. The link I believe was the SRA, in which some members active in both the GD and TS, were acquainted with Randolph and the HBL. And by that I mean as the group had developed since 1884, since Blavatsky was first associated with its growth. There were strong reasons for those ES expulsions soon after its formation that are telling in the influences of its original aims.

Yes, McFarland were wonderful to work with and have a deserved reputation as fine library publishers. They certainly allowed and supported me to write the book I wanted, I felt needed to be written on the subject. And it was all done from Australia with emails and post. Remarkable age we live in...



Comment by K. Paul Johnson on September 1, 2011 at 11:04am

Dear Spiro,


I'm glad that Louise Mead has agreed to review your book for this site, as editorial duties will keep me focused on Ghost Land for the next couple of months.  So many yet unsolved mysteries linger from the 19thc occult realm.  The ones currently obsessing me are "who wrote Ghost Land," and "whatever happened to T.H. Burgoyne."  To try to make sense of the vast Ripperologist literature is more than my brain can handle right now, but after Louise reviews the book I'll get a copy and share impressions.

When I said that the suspect had a TS connection, his being published by Lucifer and accused by Collins who had been its coeditor was what I had in mind. 

Following up Alistair's suggestion: the Hermetic threat that caused the creation of HPB's ES was not the Golden Dawn, but the HBofL, as the TS was hemorraging members to it from 1884 onwards.   Especially so in America where Judge's pleas for a competitive group inspired HPB to create the ES.  By 1888 the HBofL had become negligable in the UK while the GD was ascendant-- but it was the momentum of the HBofL that inspired the ES according to what I've read.

I'm familiar with McFarland's excellent reputation among librarians and North Carolina historians for its meticulously researched publications about US history.  I didn't realize until looking at its catalog that its range of interest is so international.


Comment by Spiro Dimolianis on September 1, 2011 at 9:45am

Hi Alistair and thanks for that informative comment. I don't really know much about the further development of the ES or fully its study group activities beyond its foundation and initial purpose. Certainly it seems Olcott was not quite happy with the development of an internal study group of the TS, though I understand Blavatsky's reasons during the rapidly changing events as you refer to.

I think the idea of pledges was GD and some of the wording appears GD influenced. I was reliant on Daniel Caldwell's compilation for much of that. Such little work has been done on this as far as I'm aware, but as I needed to establish and clarify the TS and ES membership of Vittoria Cremers, I found that wide reading was imperative. And I am grateful to TS research libraries for that. 

I think that you are absolutely right on the assumption that the ES was established to counter loss of TS membership to the GD because, though the GD allowed its members free association with other groups, the ES pledge as I recall stipulated otherwise due to the nature of its spiritual work. In that sense I suppose, Blavatsky didn't need advice but as you say, she was concerned with a deeper study of The Secret Doctrine and perhaps, other learning unique to the TS.

What I essentially argue in my book is that the emergence of TS Ripper theories and interest occurred at this rapidly changing junction of the movement in Victorian London. This has not been adequately explained or researched before. 


Comment by Spiro Dimolianis on September 1, 2011 at 9:15am

You're welcome Michael, great to see such continuing interest here in the history of the TS and Victorian times, which I certainly also find fascinating.

So true, it is indeed impossible to prove the identity of Jack the Ripper now based on the available sources, but that doesn't stop people trying. I suppose it's human nature to be drawn by mysteries. However, my book is a first in that it attempts to resolve the unsolved case rather solve it. Startling new information on internal secret service police files on the Whitechapel murders are also discussed.

I know a few 'ripperologists' going to that conference but no, I won't be attending though due to research on the book I have kept up with trends. It's all become a bit like Star Trek conventions now so the main authorities on the subject don't really bother.

However, having written a book on the subject, I will no doubt in time be answering for it.


Comment by Michael A. Williams on August 31, 2011 at 9:06pm

Thanks, Spiro, for your informative answers. In regards to your question whether the ES was founded upon some principles of the GD, I don't know. Perhaps Paul or Joe would know that one.

I'm not a "Ripper enthusiast," but it is a continuing interesting case that will never be solved to everyone's satisfaction. Unless startling new evidence comes to light.

I ran across a site advertising a Jack the Ripper Conference in London this coming October. I guess all the prominent "Ripperologists" will be there. Will you be attending?

Comment by Spiro Dimolianis on August 31, 2011 at 7:29pm

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your welcome and queries.

Yes, I am aware of Ivor Edwards' book and have a copy. I knew him personally with correspondence we had over some time and was engaged in a message board he had to promote his book.  We fell out over some differences in his handling of the historical issues involved, such as discussed here, and after I exposed primary sources that were altered for his book regarding the suspect's alibi. D'Onston was an in-patient at the London Hospital during the events so details on his whereabouts became crucial to his suspect status. This subject is rife with fabrication so you can imagine what is made of Victorian 'occult' movements. His book also bears a disclaimer from the publisher that its source is the work of BBC author Melvin Harris. Edwards, though a nice enough bloke, was a career criminal, mostly petty theft, and a member of a re-constituted Templer order in Scotland headed by the co-author of "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail", Henry Lincoln.

My views on his book are that the theory was highly speculative yet, highly influential also. I cover the substance of the theory in my book but ignore it as an unreliable source, which it is. Quite simply, it was a sensationalist treatment of earlier research on D'Onston and heavily promoted  notably on a National Geographic documentary that also featured the Patricia Cornwell book on Jack the Ripper.

Regarding involvement of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the Ripper crimes, there is none, though I understanding where you are heading with this. If the TS was somehow implicated in the Whitechapel murders why not anyone else? I certainly considered it but the TS was clearly distinct in its interest on the events. It has to be remembered that, though the GD and TS were interlaced during the late Victorian period, they were separate in their operating functions. The GD was of course secret but the TS was more open in engaging with mainstream society. Wasn't Blavatsky's idea of the Esoteric Section established in October 1888 not founded on some principles of the GD upon advice of Westcott in response to divergence of the original London Lodge and Paris branches? So though the GD, based upon Masonic principles was not involved in any way, the theory of Freemasonic involvement in ritual murder did take off during the 1970's, around the time when Westcott was first suggested as a suspect. Westcott of course was a London coroner and would almost certainly have discussed the murders with his colleagues, but the thought is unfounded in any historic source. 

However, there were other instances documented of Victorian 'occult' and spiritualist interests in  involvement with the Ripper crimes. Some were investigated by Scotland Yard. There are even indications that a major occult bookshop supplier was looked at by police. Victorian society was a multifaceted tapestry where such alternative subcultures flourished so its really not surprising that rumors were spread. 

For those reading this, please consider also that these issues discussed are but part of the passing scenery of this book towards what actually did happen during 1888. They needed some attention and clarification for general readers on this famous chapter of criminal history as the theories that developed involving Victorian 'occult' and mystical movements became convenient scapegoats to the truth, albeit historical truth.


Comment by Michael A. Williams on August 31, 2011 at 5:20pm

Spira Dimolianis, thanks for joining the discussion here of your book.

In Ivor Edwards book, JACK THE RIPPER'S BLACK MAGIC RITUALS, he also points to D'Onston as the culprit, and asserts that the murders were Occult Ritual Murders, not sexual obession murders. Have you read this book, and what is your view on this? Here's a review of his book:


Also, what involvement did you find out concerning THE HERMETIC ORDER OF THE GOLDEN DAWN in relation to the investigation of the Ripper murders? As is known, the GD and the Theosophical Society were intertwined at that time in London and many members were involved with both organizations. 

In addition, was William Wynn Westcott, one of the founders of the GD and active in the TS, ever a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders? One person has pointed at him, though from a Christian point of view.



Thanks, again, for your time in participating here.



Comment by Spiro Dimolianis on August 31, 2011 at 2:14pm

Yes, the pen name Tau Triadelta is an interesting choice and Roslyn D'Onston also used it on an article, "A Modern Magician: An Autobiography" in the April 1896 issue of the spiritualist periodical of W.T. Stead, Borderland. That is how it is known for sure that "African Magic" was written by D'Onston. It is presumed that Stead's contacts with the TS allowed him to submit it to Lucifer.

As for the pen name, there have been many strange renditions of its meaning amongst 'ripperologists'. I can do no better than quote from my book:

In 1890, D'Onston published "African Magic" in the journal of the Theosophical Society. His pseudonym for the article, Tau-triadelta, literally "cross three triangles" in Hebrew and Greek, is a Christian Hermetic reference to the mysteries of the resurrection, holy trinity and redemption of Jesus Christ. The prefix "Tau", which was an Egyptian form of the cross, was a Victorian title of nominal "Bishops" of the French Gnostic (early Alexandrian heretical Christian sect) movement founded in Paris in 1890, the year of D'Onston's first use of the pseudonym. Though the historic records of the French Gnostics and its members have survived, D'Onston is not found amongst them. His use of the Victorian term may indicate rather a tribute to early heretical Christian observances. He had earlier written a cryptic title in Greek denoting a Latin rendition of his name on his 1876 marriage certificate in the style of Erasmus's 1516 Greek New Testament, the first Textus Receptus and a referenced source on his Patristic Gospels.



Comment by Spiro Dimolianis on August 31, 2011 at 1:04pm

Hello all,

I have been invited to join your discussion on my new book, Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders.

I am pleased to respond to any queries you may have. I also thank Paul Johnson, whose work I admire, for bringing the book to your attention and for considering reviewing it for a wider theosophical readership. Yes, it is an important book and was written with an educational purpose in mind. Please take your time in carefully examining it as I am sure there is much material there that is historically new even to those well versed with the history of the Theosophical Society, particularly in London.

Let me start by clearing up an understandable misconception on the subject found in Paul's first blog post.

There are indeed at least that many mentions of Madam Blavatsky in the book but not, "...due to the suspicions that has fallen on one individual who was associated with the TS."

That individual was as far as I could find, not associated with the TS nor ever a member. He was Roslyn D'Onston, alias of Robert Donston Stephenson, and he was brought to the attention of Scotland Yard for the Whitechapel murders. His only known association was writing the article "African Magic" for Nov 1890 issue of Lucifer, which is sometimes tentatively attributed to Blavatsky in some TS circles. He was also a contributor to the publications of editor W.T.Stead, who assigned a review of The Secret Doctrine to Annie Besant in May 1889.

The real story turned out to have been concocted by a woman expelled, with Mabel Collins, from the Esoteric Section in late 1888, Vittoria Cremers. My book presents a full biography of her not found elsewhere and follows the development of this Jack the Ripper theory up to the present time.

Naturally, mention of Helena Blavatsky and the TS was part of this book as, and it may come as a surprise, interest was high amongst its members during the events that had absorbed Victorian London.






Comment by Michael A. Williams on August 30, 2011 at 10:25pm

John, good to hear your wife is willing to read and write a report on the book. I'm sure you've been in touch with Joe and many of us here look forward to her report when she's done. I'm sure there are more interested than have responded to Paul's blog here.

I did some informal searching on the Web today and found two references to the Theosophical Society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn(associated with the TS in the early days) and the Jack the Ripper case.

There was a previous book titled "JACK THE RIPPER'S BLACK MAGIC RITUALS" by Ivor Edwards. It points to a Dr. Robert D'Onsten Stephenson, who had studied the "Black Arts" in Africa and had some acquaintance with Blavatsky. For more details, here's the website.



The second site puts the blame on William Wynn Westcott, one of the founders of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and active in The Theosophical Society. It turns out this was written by a Christian with a viewpoint that all things metaphysical/spiritual outside of mainstream Christianity are demonically inspired. His fingering Westcott and blaming both the TS and the GD as driving him to do the murders, via possession of some sort, is hardly based on much known history of the two intertwined groups,(unless he's come up with some unknown material), but is a real potboiler storyline. For those amused enough to read it, here's the link:



It will be interesting to find out what this new book, JACK THE RIPPER AND BLACK MAGIC, provides in the area of the relationship of the early Theosophical Society, the Golden Dawn, various Secret Societies of the time in London, and the Jack the Ripper murders.


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