An Historic Survey of Egoist Groups


1845-1945, Dora Marsden, Events, John Basil Barnhill, Malfew Seklew, Ragnar Redbeard, Sidney E. Parker, Trevor Blake / Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

UnionOfEgoists.com is not an organization. We do not hold public events and you cannot join. But there have been public events with an intent to be ongoing that promoted the individual over the collective, selfishness over altruism. And if not promotion of a cause, study and discussion of egoism. Or perhaps a pint and a laugh.

Some individualist groups don’t quite make the cut. The Bonnot Gang was certainly individualists, but the public events they held were not voluntary associations. Some contenders are not mentioned here because they are so well documented elsewhere, such as Burning Man, the Church of Satan, the Abbey of Thelema and the many groups that orbit Nietzsche and Rand. Some candidates are not mentioned here because they are exceptionally under-documented, such as the Festival of the Swamps and QNA. Should the reader know of a relevant group I have omitted in ignorance, I am keen to add them. I present them in reverse chronological order as a countdown to the first one to put the One first.

Les Amis de Jules Bonnot (March 1966?)
S. E. Parker. The “Friends of Jules Bonnot” held a public discussion in a coffee shop called Satan’s Cavern in Belford, England. Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Sidney E. Parker and his wife Pat, the Australian David Miller and his brother formed the founding group in the Process Church owned shop. J.P. Schweitzer would hold further meetings in his apartment, and after moving back to France issued at least one pamphlet under the group name. A photo of the inaugural meeting is available at SidParker.com. And before Les Amis de Jules Bonnot…

The Freewoman Discussion Circles (1912 – 1913)
Dora Marsden. The Freewoman Volume 1 Number 13 (February 1912) page 244 includes the following statement from editor Dora Marsden:

It has been pointed out to us by friendly critics that The Freewoman contains each week matter so highly debatable, and of such serious human import, that it is difficult to digest all that it contains, and to find one’s bearings, in view of the many articles which express opposing points of view. It has been suggested, therefore, that FREEWOMAN clubs, or informal gatherings of men and women, should be started for discussions, of which the weekly FREEWOMAN would form the basis. Of this suggestion, coming from several readers, we highly approve, and pass it on to other readers for their consideration.

The first meeting of what came to be called the Freewoman Discussion Circle occurred in London on April 25, 1912. A dozen people were expected, one hundred attended. The Freewoman Discussion Circle of London decided to meet fortnightly, and regional Freewoman Discussion Circles would be established based on regional interest. Membership was 5 shillings annually, was open to men and to women, and meetings would consist of a lecture then discussion. There were at least ten meetings of the Freewoman Discussion Circle. It is unclear if the group formally folded, if it faded away, if the members continued to meet under another name, or in what fashion it ended. And before the Freewoman Discussion Circles…

Society of Social Aristoctrats and Conscious Egoists (1909 – 1927)
Malfew Seklew. In Demi-Gods Demi-Damned / or Halo’s Hoodoo’d (J. W. Gott: Bradford 1909) as well as Victor Grayson, M. P. / A Rhapsody on a Reality (information pending) appears an advertisement:

Society of Social Aristocrats and Conscious Egoists.
President – MALFEW SEKLEW
Tresurer – WILSON CARNOCHAN
Secretary – SPENSELLA MALJEAN
This society meets every Wednesday at 8pm and every Sunday at 7pm at 167 Saltmarket, Glasgow. Everybody welcome. No collection.

No further information on Wilson Carnochan has been found. The Day Book for February 26 1916 includes a letter from “T. T.” of Winnipeg, Canada:

I noticed by The Day Book that the latest imposition from England is causing quite a sensation. I refer to the well-known President of the Society of Superites, Sirfessor Wilkesbarre. The Society that he is so well representative of has produced many great thinkers. To mention just a few: The famous Lawrence Smith, who is called the Sage of Harpurhey; Toole, the Cherub of Denton; Paley, the Street Car Saint; “Tom Winter,” the ex-Roman Catholic Bishop; Mrs. Winter, whose reputation is revered in India, where she is considered as high as any of the religious Mahatmas. Finally, the greatest of all women of Scottish birth, Spencella Maljean.

With some variations in the name, Malfew Seklew mentioned his Society as late as 1927 in his Gospel. And before the Society of Social Aristocrats and Conscious Egoists…

The People’s University
John Erwin McCall. The Eagle and and the Serpent Number 2 (April 15, 1898) suggests the creation of individualist groups.

We believe that the cause will be most effectually promoted by the organization of Egoist Coteries or Libraries wherever two or three are gathered together in its name. It is our great desire to promote the formation of these groups throughout England, America and Australia. Our first step is to call for volunteers. We ask all who are willing to co-operate with others for the purpose of forming an Egoist Library or Society to send us their name and address. […] When this address appears the adherents in each city could get together and organise. […] What shall be the name of this Library or Society? Each society could determine that for itself. We suggest a few variations and ask for opinion on these, also for other suggested names: Myself Society; Egoist University or Circle; Emerson, Thoreau, Self-Culture, New Ideal, Finding Myself Out, or The Exploited One’s, Society; Self-Exploration, Minerva, or Anti-Exploitation, Society.

By Number 3 (June 15, 1898) Ragnar Redbeard had offered support for “any such Clubs or Libraries” in the form of free copies of Might is Right to any group that ordered fifty copies of The Eagle and the Serpent. A number of people had sent in their name and address.

We append our list of Secretaries of the Egoist Universities in the order of their enrollment. Malfew Seklew, 11, Hounds Gate, Nottingham. W. Robinson, 135, Willoughby Street, New Lenton, Nottingham. Leonard Hall, 43, Alma Street, Eccles, near Manchester. H. M. Reade 27, Walter Street, Hightown, Manchester. J. N. Green, 40, Leyton Park Road, Essex. W. J. Robins, 19B, Polygon St., Pancras, London. C. Moorhouse, 11. Handley Street, Sheffield. Henry Bool, 69, E. State Street, Ithaca, N. Y., USA. J. Greevz Fischer, 78, Chapel Allerton, Leeds. Messrs. Jaggard’s Library, 39, Renshaw Street, Liverpool.

Number 4 (September 1, 1898) first names this group “The People’s Library.” This issue added T. Hunt (Stockport), Florence Coates (Leek), L. Coates (Manchester), W. Keiller (Belfast), W. Duff (Glasgow). Number 5 (November 1, 1898) did not include a People’s University listing, but did list “Our Agents” in England (W. Reeves, Jaggard’s Library, W. Duff, Thompson’s Bookshop and King’s Road Circulating Library) and America (A. Mueller, Paper Covered Book Store, Columbia Stationary Store and Brigham’s Restaurant). Number 6 (December 1, 1898) removed Thompson’s Bookshop from the People’s University, and added H. Withers (Barnes) and A. R. Brown (Birmingham). Number 6 also prints:

We are often asked, What does the P. U. propose to do? It proposes to study the problems of social reform and the subject of Egoism. [The Eagle and the Serpent] is specially the organ of the P. U. […] We advice P. U.’s to meet fortnightly or monthly for mutual discussion. As such meetings they should decide on the works they wish to get and the best means of getting them.

The People’s University never again appears in The Eagle and the Serpent. But it holds pride of place (if even as only a paper tiger) for being the first public ongoing public event devoted to egoism.