Edward Arthur Wilson, otherwise known as Brother Twelve, was one of the most curious, and disconcerting characters to have ever lived in British Columbia. Beginning his life in Canada as an office clerk, Wilson eventually gained notoriety as the head of a sinister pseudo-religious cult based in the Gulf Islands and was later the defendant in the “strangest case ever to come before a Canadian court.” In his story “Brother Twelve” Islander author Ron Baird tells the remarkable story of the life of Edward Arthur Wilson.
After living in Victoria for a couple of years, Wilson quit his job and joined the British merchant marine, spending the duration of the war at sea. When the armistice was signed in 1918 Wilson moved to Genoa Italy and began studying occult religion and theosophy. It was in Genoa that Wilson felt he was converted to the doctrine of reincarnation. This theory stated that within a certain amount of time, the planet Aquarius would smash into the earth and destroy all humanity, save for a chosen few.
Naturally, Wilson saw him self as the one to lead the faithful at the end of days. In an attempt to gain a following he published a tract called The Three Truths in which he extolled the virtues of his three truths Work, Order and Obedience. The latter meant more specifically obedience to him.
In 1926, he moved to Southampton England and set about gathering up followers
Hiring a small hall he soon gathered a group of adherents, including members of the London Theosophical Society. Dressed in a bright, yellow robe, sparkling with the signs of the Zodiac, and by now wearing a pointed, grey beard which jutted over his receding chin, Wilson harangued the faithful night after night about the dire fate of mankind.
One hot, July night, perspiration glistening on his forehead, Wilson hurled himself into a trance like state he called “sahmadi” and poured forth a torrent of words as he stabbed the air with a fore finger. “As Mercury dwelleth near the sun,” he shouted, “so I abide in the heart of my Lord. My feet run upon his errands and by my mouth are his words spoken. Many are my journeys. I have sojourned in far countries and have crossed wide rivers. Many houses have I built and afterwards demolished and now I have built another house in your midst, O ye sons of men.”
Wilson promptly proclaimed himself the “Twelfth Master of Wisdom,” as his agitated flock stared transfixed at this strange figure in the billowing robes. “The eleven other Masters – philosophers, great thinkers and teachers like Mohammed, Confucius, Buddha and Christ have welcomed me into the Great White Lodge and bid me return to earth as Brother Twelve, to find a place of refuge on this earth and a fortress for the future against the impending doom which is soon to follow.”
Wilson went on to say that he had ascertained the location of the “fortress” by “projection.” Pointing his finger at a map he placed it on a spot on the Canadian west coast. He then launched into a further diatribe
“Here,” he shouted “is where I will lead those who are to be saved. They must be silent, uncritical and loyal; renouncing all their worldly possessions to live in a communal society with myself as leader. I know I can discover this place of refuge provided I have the means to get there.”
Finding “means” meant extorting donations from his followers. After convincing several of them to give up their life savings to finance his passage to Canada, he set off on a lecture tour of the country in an attempt to strengthen his following. When he finally arrived on Vancouver Island, with pockets stuffed with hundreds of dollars in cash and a loyal following of over a hundred people, Brother Twelve registered his newly christened Aquarian Foundation with the BC government under the societies act, ensuring that he remained the all powerful head of the society.
As his followers started arriving from places all across Canada, Wilson rented property in the Cedar District of Naniamo and began to build up his “fortress of the future.” Secure in the knowledge that they were chosen to be saved, out of all people on earth Wilson’s followers eagerly went to work.
Wilson supervised the work as the men and women felled trees, cut logs, and rolled up cabins. Besides these healthy tasks the women tended vegetable gardens, while the men ruefully surveyed their blisters. It was a rugged, pioneer life life the disciples led. Few, if any, had ever done manual labour in their lives. Fainting from fatigue or other work induced illnesses was strictly taboo with Brother Twelve, who considered such frailties “a lack of true faith.”
The focal point of all this hard work was a super log cabin, the headquarters of Brother Twelve, who called it the “House of Mystery,” which wasn’t much of an exaggeration as it turned out. There he received his followers a few at a time and kept them abreast of astronomical developments by going into a trance and receiving, presumably, the latest news from Brothers One to Eleven.
Although unsure as to just when Aquarius was expected to decimate the planet earth the faithful were told it was “just a matter of time.” The human race had committed such a string of follies over the centuries, the Brother pointed out, that its extermination was inevitable.
The saga of Brother Twelve will continue tomorrow..