Much has been written about Brother Twelve – Canada’s infamous cult leader of the 1920s and 1930s. He was, after all, the charismatic leader of the Aquarian Foundation and later the leader of a similar offshoot group as well. Edward Arthur Wilson – as Brother Twelve was legally named – would swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars from his most faithful followers. In the end, however, they would rise up against him, and a battle would ensue involving legal proceedings, “psychic attacks,” “black magic”, protective First Nations magic, and attacks conducted by discarnate spirits. This war would be waged in the courtrooms and upon the soil of Vancouver Island, but also on the spiritual planes, as well. In the end, Brother Twelve would flee the field with his closest of confidants – Madame Zee – but he would still ultimately perish on the run. Even the facts surrounding his death, however, have been contested to this day. While the following article may sound a little fantastic, it’s important to remember that according to sources, all of the people involved actually believed that these events were real…
Edward Arthur Wilson was born in England in 1878. His parents were members of a religious group that believed that the days of Revelation were at hand. According to later accounts from Wilson himself, he had always been gifted with the ability to communicate with spirits, including higher evolved beings and the dead. As an adult, Wilson eventually became a sea captain and travelled the world. During these travels he is said to have visited the holy temples of Egypt, India, Mexico and China. He studied religion obsessively, and subscribed to Theosophy in particular.
According to Wilson, he had a vision when he was in France in 1924. During this vision, he was told that he was one of the “Twelve Brothers” who had been tasked to help usher in a new age of enlightenment upon the Earth. These Brothers were all living men, but they were to be the tools of the ascended masters of the White Lodge, tasked in helping facilitate this global change. Within three years of the vision, Wilson had become Brother Twelve, and the Aquarian Foundation had been established.
The Aquarian Foundation’s center was located to the south of Nanaimo, along a coastal area called Cedar. The group would also – in its various forms – establish itself on nearby DeCourcy and Valdes Islands, as well. The initial group became frustrated with Wilson, and brought him to court when it was discovered that he had been having extra-marital affairs. He was also accused of using money that had been donated to the Aquarian Foundation for his own personal benefit.
The core belief of all the people involved in the turmoil is well worth looking at. The original group of followers, for example, believed that a “Black Adept” had actually possessed Brother Twelve. These Black Adepts were dark beings, said to be similar in nature to the Christian version of demons. Apparently, a shift had overcome Brother Twelve when he had attempted to perform an inner rite called the Sixth Initiation. It was at this moment that it’s believed that Wilson turned to the dark side (insert Darth Vader breathing here).
In a letter addressed to Wilson from one of the followers, it was stated that “imps” were seen circling him and an evil-faced monk’s spirit was sometimes viewed in Wilson’s presence.
Wilson was believed to have had the power to spy on people remotely by leaving his body, to be able to pass through walls, listen to conversations through astral travel and to harness great power in order to first fight dark entities – and then later, of course, anyone who would dare to oppose him.
The original group brought Wilson to court, and the Aquarian Foundation dissolved by order of the court. A second group was formed, however, and the patterns would play out in a similar fashion once more.
In the first trial, Wilson put a spell on a man named Turnball who was testifying against him. When Turnball was in the witness box he appeared to be attacked by a discarnate being, or spirit. Several people in the audience also fainted. It was said that the judge also had a hard time speaking, as well. As a result, he’s said to have had to call for the court to be adjourned for the day.
Much to the dismay of Wilson, the Aquarian Foundation was still legally dissolved. In the end, his black magic and spiritual attacks had not been enough to stop the legal proceedings. One of the key witnesses against Wilson, however, did disappear in Seattle and is still believed to this day to have been murdered. This disappearance would instill even more fear in those who would continue to follow Brother Twelve, and in those who might later consider standing up to him, as well.
There’s an interesting ceremony described in John Oliphant’s book Brother Twelve. Wilson chose twelve disciples from his new group of followers and had each of them memorize lines – or incantations if you will. Finally, on the evening of the ceremony, the group put on blue robes and travelled to DeCourcy Island by canoe:
“The ceremony opened with Brother Twelve invoking the spirits from the four corners of the earth. At a certain point in his delivery, he raised his arms and cried, ‘I now call fire down!’ This was [a named disciple’s] signal. He threw water on the twigs and they burst into flame.”
The disciples would later say that during this ceremony they had been in awe of Brother Twelve’s mastery over the four elements. One of them, however, would later theorize that Wilson had put white phosphorous into the water.
Another entry in the book describes how Brother XII tried to kill his enemies with “black magic.” First, Wilson and two others would sit in a triangle. Then, he would imagine the person he intended to kill in his mind. Wilson would then verbally curse the victim while cutting the air with his hand. This gesture was supposed to “sever them from their physical bodies.” Apparently, the good brother, had put curses like this on various government officials and legal representatives, as well.
Wilson’s partner-in-crime, Madame Zee, was also said to practice black magic. She put curses on mail and also participated in other dark rituals. Madame Zee was often the one in charge of handing out physical labor, as well, which she was said to have taken great pleasure in. She is also said to have tried to kill a female member of the group with black magic.
By the time the second group was ready to battle Wilson in court, a deep-rooted fear had taken ahold of all of them. They had seen Brother Twelve’s powers and had heard what had happened to the previous group members that had dared to go against him. Due to this hysteria, the court case was almost over before it had even begun.
A new wave of psychic attacks was unleashed upon this second group who tried to fight back on the inner planes. Some of them claimed to have been inexplicably paralyzed, or to have been uncontrollably possessed by terror. Apparently, it had been conveyed to them that Wilson had put a curse on the witness box. As a result, during the August hour, all the witnesses threatened to back out of the court case altogether.
One of the lawyers, however, had in his possession a First Nations relic – a lip ornament that had been worn by a Haida medicine woman. He convinced the group members that if they held onto this item when they were in the witness box that no harm could come to them. The theory presented to them was that the magic was from the geographical area – that is to say, it was local so it was supposed to be much more powerful than those wielded by Wilson. With this new magic in tow, it is said that each and every witness entered the box and testified with confidence.
When it became apparent that Wilson would lose the case (maybe because he’d already lost a certain “magic ring,” which had been given to him by the masters), he fled British Columbia with Madame Zee in tow. They also took all the money they’d already taken from their followers. Before they left, however, Wilson also smashed everything of value he could get his hands on. As everyone else was in court, no one was around to try to stop him.
Edward Arthur Wilson, or Brother Twelve as he was also known, is said to have died in Switzerland in 1934. This has been contested, however. Some people believe that the cult leader actually faked his own death. For those who do not believe in the powers of discarnate spirits, psychic attacks, and black magic, this would seem like it could have been an easy task to accomplish. For Wilson had convinced thousands of his followers to believe in the powers of the spirit world, and in his ability to harness them as well. If these powers were real, then Wilson may truly have been “possessed” as many of his followers had claimed. If on the other hand he had no power, then the man had the capacity to fake anything.
Brother Twelve: The Incredible Story of Canada’s False Prophet and his Doomed Cult by John Oliphant (1991)
Brother XII: Greather Victoria Library August 2009 by Stephen Ruttan (link)
Brother XII: Nanaimo News Bulletin October 27, 2012 by Toby Gorman
Brother XII: The Strange Odyssey of a 20th-century Prophet and His Quest for a New World by John Oliphant (2006)
Canadian Mysteries of the Unexplained by John Marlowe (2009)