Monthly Post

A Gathering of Long Lost Friends

Regular readers will be aware that many of last year’s posts on this blog were devoted to what we might call the history of American magic, or perhaps the magical history of America—the part of the history of the United States that deals with the rise, flourishing, and (most recently) neglect and collective erasure of our own occult traditions. Most of last year’s story had to do with the arrival of occult teachings from Europe and Africa in colonial times, their development in the years that followed, the emergence of the first distinctive American occult traditions in the middle years of the nineteenth century, and the rise of Theosophy, the catalyst that set the golden age of American magic in motion.

Before we proceed to talk about the golden age in question, however, certain other aspects of our cultural history that also fed into that extraordinary era have to be brought into the picture. Back in December we talked about one of those—the immense role that secret societies played in American culture from colonial times to the middle years of the twentieth century. There’s another factor that has to be taken into account, however, and that’s the role of mass literacy and the popular press in setting the stage for the glory years of American occultism. An earlier post talked about the immense role that those factors played in the transmission of European occult teachings to the American colonies, but that was just the beginning of the story.

A standard melothesia.

As in colonial times, almanacs provided nineteenth-century America with a major source of basic occult knowledge. All almanacs in those days tracked the movement of the moon through the signs of the zodiac, and included a selection of other scraps of basic astrological instruction, almost always including a melothesia—that’s the technical name for the little image of a man with the different parts of his body assigned to the signs of the zodiac.  Armed with nothing but a cheap, locally produced almanac, nineteenth-century American could identify astrologically favorable times for planting, harvesting, and most of the other routine activities of daily life—and a great many of them did just that. (A great many of them still do; local almanacs with all the old features are still readily available in many parts of this country, and planting by the Moon remains a widespread and lively folk tradition.)

The Wheel of Pythagoras.

Many nineteenth-century almanacs also had other items of occult interest. The Wheel of Pythagoras and its many near-equivalents, for example, could be found tolerably often in them. The Wheel of Pythagoras?  Why, yes—one of the classic systems of divination in medieval and Renaissance society, almost forgotten now, it told you whether something would turn out fortunate or unfortunate, and if it would happen quickly or not. You concentrate on your question, then choose the first number you think of at random, and add to it the number on the wheel that corresponds to the first letter of your first name. Add those together. If the result is less than 30, look it up in the middle of the wheel; if not, subtract 30 from it as many times as you need until the remainder is less than 30, and look up the result.  (There were more complex versions with additional numbers to add in, to keep you from half-consciously gaming the results, but the principle was the same in each case.)  If the number that results is above the midline, the answer is that the omens are favorable; if below, unfavorable; if on the left, the good or bad results will come quickly; if on the right, slowly.

By the early nineteenth century, however, the United States was prosperous and literate enough that the market for occult knowledge could no longer be satisfied by the bits and pieces that could be found in almanacs. Since the law of supply and demand seems to be more strictly enforced here than elsewhere, that market promptly got what it wanted—and this is where we talk about the redoubtable Johann Georg Hohman.

Hohman was a German immigrant to the United States; he and his wife Anna, along with their son Philip, crossed the Atlantic in 1802, landing in Philadelphia. The part of Europe we call Germany today was in those days a gallimaufry of more than a hundred independent countries, and no one has yet been able to figure out which of them the Hohmans came from. Johann Georg had apparently apprenticed as a printer and calligrapher back in the old country; he paid off the cost of his family’s emigration by calligraphing ornate birth certificates, which were in fashion in German-speaking families just then, and he printed his first occult project the year he landed—a talisman called a Himmelsbrief which protected homes from fire and lightning.

In 1813 he printed his first book of magical spells, Der Freund in der Noth (The Friend in Need), and in 1820 he published his magnum opus, Der lang verborgene Freund (The Long Lost Friend), a collection of spells, charms, home remedies, and household hints. Care for a good recipe for cheap homebrewed beer?  How about a way to kill bedbugs?  Or a treatment for colic in horses?  Hohman’s got you covered—but he also has an ample supply of magical spells for a dizzying array of purposes.  Here’s a sample incantation from The Long Lost Friend:

129. Against evil spirits and all kinds of witchcraft.

Write the diagram to the left on a piece of white paper, with the following words beneath it: “All this be guarded, here in time, and there in eternity, Amen.” Carry it on your person.

This is a good example of Hohman’s magic. It’s Christian magic, from the robust German magical tradition that also helped inspire Johannes Kelpius, the German pietist mystic whose voyage to America provided the theme for the very first post in this series. It’s positive magic—Hohman wasn’t interested in teaching people how to fling curses at each other; he was smarter than that, and so he focused on spells for blessing, healing, and the like. It’s also magic that anyone can do. Hohman wasn’t interested in the sort of magic that requires years of training and practice; his books sold to ordinary Pennsylvanian men and women who wanted to ward off hostile magic and call down the occasional blessing on themselves, their families, and their households. Those were among the things that made The Long Lost Friend the most famous (and the most endlessly reprinted) of all America’s homegrown magical books.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are still there.

As the titles suggest, Hohman’s books were originally published in German.  There were a great many German immigrants in Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and eastern Ohio in those days, the ancestors of today’s Pennsylvania Dutch (i.e, Deutsch), and German language newspapers, magazines, and books sold well in those areas; it was one of many ethnic communities in the United States in those days, and like most of the others, then and now, it served as a vehicle for ideas from other cultures to adapt to American conditions before heading out into the nation as a whole.  It took a little while for Hohman’s work to find a foothold outside the German-American community, but that happened in due time; the first English translation of The Long Lost Friend appeared in 1846, and as far as I know, it’s never been out of print since then. (There’s a very good edition available nowadays, for example, edited and annotated by occult scholar Daniel Harms; it’s the one I use).

It’s not accidental that The Long Lost Friend first found its way into English when it did, of course. As we’ve seen, the 1840s were the seedtime of American occultism, the years when Andrew Jackson Davis hit the big time, when Phineas P. Quimby was practicing Mesmerism and beginning to think a certain New Thought, when Spiritualism leapt out of a basement in upstate New York to shake the foundations of American religion, and when P.B. Randolph abandoned his barbershop to find his true calling as an American original and one of the most innovative occult thinkers of the age. The American people were ready for occultism; a bumper crop of occult traditions were ready for the American people; and printers across the nation bought ink by the barrel and paper by the wagonload to help these two find each other.

You have no clue what she’s reading.

One of the major venues for the resulting torrent of popular literature may surprise those of my readers who’ve bought into the standard (and frankly propagandistic) notions of what Victorian womanhood amounted to.  From the 1840s on, as literacy became effectively universal among free women of every ethnicity and social class in America, self-help literature for women became a booming market. This wasn’t limited to books on the various domestic crafts and the jobs then open to women, although those found a ready market. Books on reproductive health—usually with titles on the order of What Every Young Woman Should Know—were big sellers, and they went into quite a bit more detail about the mechanics of sex, pregnancy and childbirth than modern stereotypes about Victorian America suggest. (Remember that the United States was still predominantly a rural society in the nineteenth century, and if you grow up within sight of a barnyard there’s no way you’re going to be ignorant about the facts of life.)

But there were many other subjects for bestselling women’s books in that era, and one of those subject was divination. Look on sites that archive nineteenth-century popular literature and you can find scores of volumes on fortune telling, as it was then usually called, and hundreds of others that include a chapter on the subject. (At least one of those books about what every young woman should know, for example, has a chapter on divination.) Very often methods of fortune telling were presented as parlor games, suitable for groups of women or of both sexes depending on the type. Imagine, if you will, young Laura Ingalls of Little House on the Prairie fame sitting with her family in the parlor of their house on a winter night.  The last chores are done and the day is winding to a pleasant close. What are they doing to while away the time?  Quite possibly, they’re telling each others’ fortunes.

Sallie Eagle used these.

Methods of divination in nineteenth century America included a substantial range of methods. Cartomancy (divination by cards) was always popular, and nearly always relied on the usual 52-card playing deck—the 78-card tarot deck hadn’t yet been reinvented as the be-all and end-all of cartomancy.  There were many different spreads and methods of interpretation, some of them of impressive complexity and subtlety. There were also a few decks created specifically for divinatory purposes, of which the Gypsy Witch deck—based on the ordinary playing card deck, but with each card assigned its own name and image as well—is as far as I know the sole survivor today. (Yes, I used that deck as a stage property in my epic fantasy with tentacles, The Weird of Hali, with that heritage very much in mind.)

Cartomancy, however, was only the first course in the banquet of divination you could get in from nineteenth century volumes intended mostly for the women’s market. Astrology in the full, highly mathematical sense of the word wasn’t among them, precisely because mathematics in the days before personal computers required some fairly substantial mathematical chops—too much, certainly, to make it a pleasant entertainment for young ladies. Various simplified forms of astrology that didn’t require mathematics, however, were very often to be found in such books.  Those have a long pedigree—you can find versions of folk astrology, as this approach has sometimes been called, in medieval manuscripts.

Napoleon had nothing to do with it, but who cares?

Geomancy, one of the classic systems of medieval and Renaissance divination, appeared in some sources. Far more popular was a variant of geomancy called Napoleon’s Book of Fate (or some not wholly dissimilar label—it had a lot of variants). Its connection to the French emperor was as far as I know sheer marketing, but it was omnipresent in nineteenth-century American divinatory culture; any of several methods were used to generate a random five-digit binary number, and then the reader chose from a list of standard questions, turned to the relevant page, and found the answer to the question spelled out. There were scores if not hundreds of similar systems, in which dice or cards or some other randomizing device were used to select from a set of prepared answers; none of them were quite as famous as the one assigned to Napoleon, but it was a rare volume of divination methods during the period that didn’t have at least one of them.

Then there was palmistry, the art of reading the future from the lines on the inquirer’s palms.  Like geomancy, palmistry (also known as chiromancy) was much practiced in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and it was transmitted without interruption to the compilers of nineteenth-century divination textbooks.  Metoscopy (also known as physiognomy), the art of reading the future from the shape of the inquirer’s face, was less popular but showed up in some sources, as did prognostication based on the location, size, and color of moles on the inquirer’s skin.

A classic divinatory teacup.

Another popular art found in many of these books was the art of tasseography, which foretold the future using tea leaves or coffee grounds in a cup.  Standard methods of making both beverages in the nineteenth century left a small amount of solid detritus at the bottom of each cup, and each pattern made by the leaves or grounds could be interpreted by those who knew how. Obedient to the law of supply and demand mentioned earlier, the china industry in the United States proceeded to manufacture tea and coffee cups specifically intended for tasseographic use, with little diagrams inside the cup helping the reader to interpret each stray leaf.

Dream interpretation was another staple of the American divinatory literature. Long before Freud proclaimed dreams as the royal road to the unconscious mind, diviners had been using dreams as a way to foretell the future, and an extensive body of dream lore dating back to ancient Greece was duly retailed in the books we’re discussing. (If you dreamed about someone blowing a bugle, for example, you were told to expect a sudden happy turn of events; if you dreamed about sweeping, it was important for you to avoid speculative investments, and so on.)  Some other methods found a place in the books now and again—for example, I learned the fine art of domino divination from one of the last of these volumes—but the methods just listed formed the standard divinatory curriculum of the era.

It’s important here to reiterate that these arts, and the books that taught them, were primarily marketed to young women as parlor games and pleasant entertainments for rainy afternoons.  They were not presented as a systematic course of training in the divinatory arts and sciences. In effect, however, that’s what they became.  By the time the Theosophical Society was founded in 1875, tens of millions of American women, and a smaller but still very large number of American men, had grown up practicing half a dozen different methods of divination as a matter of course, and so when they encountered the magical lodges and occult correspondence courses of the golden age of American occultism, they already had some exposure to basic practical occultism. I’ve come to believe that this played an important role in preparing the way for the explosion of occultism that followed.

Walter Gibson.

Like most of traditional American occultism, in turn, the entire body of lore that was passed on in the books we’ve been discussing fell into eclipse in the last decades of the twentieth century. I own a copy of one of the last books of that kind ever published in this country, The Complete Illustrated Book of the Psychic Sciences by Walter B. Gibson and Litzka R. Gibson, published in 1966.  Yes, that Walter Gibson, the pulp-fiction author most famous for “The Shadow;” he was a skilled and popular stage magician whose volumes introduced countless beginning stage magicians to the rudiments of their art, and also, to the abiding annoyance of today’s rationalist pseudoskeptics, a capable occultist.  He and his wife Litzka wrote several books on occult subjects, but this is as far as I know the most complete. Its range of subjects is phenomenal even for books of its type: cartomancy, dice divination, domino divination, a simplified form of astrology, palmistry, numerology, dream interpretation, tea leaf reading, divination by moles, all the classics are there, along with a few really exotic methods such as phrenology (reading personality from the shape of the skull) and dowsing, and nods to then-current fads such as ESP.

The systematic erasure of traditional American occultism from our popular culture and our collective memory broke the chain of transmission that kept such practices in common use. Starting in the 1960s, sun-sign astrology and tarot cards became fashionable and the whole panoply of older methods went down an Orwellian memory hole. Fortunately, they’re still available, in the same books that older generations used to learn them.  Anyone who goes looking for volumes on divination in the various online archives of out-of-copyright publications (Project Gutenberg, Archive.org, Google Books, and the like) will find a bumper crop of them—a gathering of long lost friends, so to speak, who will be more than happy to share what they have to teach with anyone who is interested in learning.

161 Comments

  1. It is fascinating to me, that so many of those who claim to have faith in Science, who also look down upon such notions as are posted on this website, are also of late prone to mass, zealous delusions such as Russiagate, so willing to cast off democracy in favor of Corporate/Gov censorship, so willing to swallow whole whatever the major corporate media and the Intelligence community report regardless of the facts, so unwilling to question the eternal war profiteering complex, while mocking, disparaging or ignoring anyone whose economic standing has been harmed by the “creative destruction” of automation, Artificial Intelligence, offshoring, illegal immigration and private equity control of so much of the economy, and seem ready to institute wholly undemocratic, anti-constitutional surveillance laws to crush the scourge of mis and dis-information of the right (while celebrating such as the anti-historical 1619 project/critical race theory, woke soft totalitarianism or corporate mal-information literally killing people.)

    Somehow I imagine it is more likely there will be a revival of such mentioned in this article, more or less equal to the collapse of the above disconnection from common sense, reason or logic.

  2. Hi JMG,

    Were the German Americans interested in Hohman’s work also Catholics? It seems most Catholics have lost that interest in modern times.

    Do you have any thoughts on the idea that reading from left to right might effect consciousness differently than right to left?

  3. Dear JMG,

    Fascinating! Related to the tip of public domain works, I’ve been doing a lot of searching, reading, and publishing public domain resources to my blog. Some of them have been explicitly occult in nature such as the amazing libraries at https://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm and http://iapsop.com/ssoc/. More recently, I’ve compiled what I could find of public domain math texts for people looking to sharpen or practice their skills, the texts I found are linked on my blog: https://violetcabra.dreamwidth.org/92393.html

    Going down he rabbit hole of old books has been deeply rewarding. For instance, I’ve been studying William Walker Atkinson’s _Memory Culture_. One thing he mentions in those pages directly germane to this post is developing an interest in physiognomy in order to remember faces and I spent some time with Lavater’s _Physiognomy_ free on the http://iapsop.com/ssoc/ list — they also have nearly thirty volumes on palmistry. Certainly I found physiognomy both interesting and useful to think in terms of, although I imagine it might be a little judgey and hurtful to play as a parlor game, which may explain its relative lack of popularity. If one were to say perhaps less than flattering things about a person based on their facial features in mixed company….it might be hard to stay on good terms.

  4. William, you used the crucial words right at the beginning of your comment: “faith in Science.” Science, when it’s healthy, is simply a set of techniques for asking and answering questions, and a collection of tentative answers that have been generated using those techniques. When people start treating it as a religion, something to have faith in, something that demands blind belief in whatever its authorized spokespeople claim, then everything useful trickles out of it and you’re left with another faith-based ideology, ready to be manipulated by the power-hungry.

    Occultism doesn’t demand faith. (Yes, I know that’s not the way the mass media and the schools present it, but you already know how much you can trust the mass media and the schools.) Occultists say, “Try these things yourself and see what results you get.” That’s what this post is about — the process by which millions of Americans tried occult techniques, discovered that they could get useful results from them, and proceeded to look into the subject more deeply, helping to launch a golden age of occultism.

    Youngelephant, one of the unmentionable secrets of Protestantism is that once the Protestant churches dropped the ceremonial and symbolic dimensions of Christianity, a lot of Protestants turned to occultism to get those dimensions put back. The Long Lost Friend sold like hotcakes among German-American Protestants as well as Catholics, and it still does. As for reading right to left, I learned how to do that in my Golden Dawn days, since that’s how Hebrew is written; it didn’t make any difference I could see.

    Violet, many thanks for these. As for physiognomy, well, in the nineteenth century people didn’t have the brittle egos so many people have nowadays, and so they seem to have taken things like physiognomic analysis in stride.

  5. It’s interesting how Catholic “The Long-Lost Friend” is (even the sample shown, remembering that INRI* is prominent in every Catholic church)–since the people I knew who were familiar with it were Amish or Mennonite.

    Two other means of choosing/judging that are still common in some communities are bibliomancy (opening the Bible at random and using the passage to answer the question) and lots. (Mennonites use lots as part of the process for choosing church leaders. A stack of identical books is put in the entrance to the church out of site, one person goes out and puts a slip of paper with the lot verse “the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is from the Lord” on it in one of them, another person then goes out and reorders them, then brings them in and puts them on the pulpit. The candidates each take a book and the one with the paper is the one chosen.)

    *INRI-Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum–is on the crucifix above the altar in a Catholic church.

  6. Hohmann himself was a Catholic, though the majority of Pennsylvania Dutch were one sort or another of Protestant, all the way from Dutch Reformed and Lutheran through Baptist to Mennonite and Amish.

  7. Slightly off topic, but another one who was erased far more brutally was Giordano Bruno. Today is the 421st anniversary of his burning in the Campo De’ Fiori in Rome.

  8. Thanks JMG, that’s interesting. Were their faiths more accepting of occult methods like the divinations you mention at the time? If so, when did the vehement rejections of the occult from Christians emerge? Perhaps you’ll get to that later in the series?

  9. SamChevre, have you by any chance read JIm Baker’s The Cunning Man’s Handbook? One of the points he makes is that the rise of folk magic in Protestant Europe was driven in large part by the Protestant abolition of Catholic sacramentals — all the little methods of religious practice that allowed Catholics to bring spiritual powers to bear on their daily lives. So of course the folk magic looks a lot like Catholicism — it was an attempt to fill a need that the Protestant churches left unfilled.

    Robert, true enough — I suspect that’s why he was able to put together so useful a collection.

    Peter, thanks for this. I’d encourage all my polytheist readers to say a prayer to the Sun, which Bruno worshiped, in his memory.

    Youngelephant, nope — the ministers were just as irate about it as ever. Victorian America was much less devoutly Christian, and much less rigid in its Christianity even among believers, than the stereotypes would have you think.

  10. I have a slightly later example of the species – “The Complete Gypsy Fortune Teller”, by Kevin Martin, published in London in 1972. I picked it up in a second hand book shop; one of those delightful places where room after room has rows of shelves piled to the ceiling with dusty volumes. I always wonder how many decades it has been since a human hand has touched some of those books.

    This book has chapters on all the things you mention: playing cards, palms, dice, dominoes, teacups, dreams, phrenology, and simplified astrology. It also includes crystal balls, handwriting, fortune telling through letters of the alphabet, lucky numbers, planetary signs on the face, and the meanings of flowers, plus a couple of ‘look up the answer by picking at random’ diagrams called ‘the coiled serpent’ and ‘the magic heart’.

    I bought it for its short chapter on the tarot. It is too simple to be much use to me (only one or two sentences per card), but it interesting that the many of the given interpretations don’t seem to derive from Waite, so I wonder if, despite the late publication date, the author had access to pre-Golden Dawn traditional meanings.

    Do you know of any books published on the tarot prior to the Golden Dawn?

    Christine S

  11. JMG and all,
    In line with occultists saying “Try these things yourself and see what results you get…” there is a great book by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer called “Extraordinary Knowing.” She is a psychologist and very much a sceptic, but she had her mind changed by the loss of her daughter’s harp, which was found by a dowser. She then goes on to recount her investigation of extraordinary knowing and how people in the medical profession hide examples of it at all costs because it is unscientific (i.e., heretical to their faith). The first few chapters of the book are especially good, the latter ones drag a little, but well worth the read. The dowser she talks about in the book, Harold McCoy, passed away a few years ago, but the dowsers are active still — I am on their email list. I could never get dowsing to work, but have had good luck with tarot cards. There is a quote: “I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient superstition. According to my conviction this is unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the uncanny reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.” — Albert Einstein
    Jean

  12. JMG,

    From your article: “The systematic erasure of traditional American occultism from our popular culture and our collective memory broke the chain of transmission that kept such practices in common use.”

    Rebuilding the chain and adding some links feels like a very good, fun, and useful way to spend my time. How to go about that I am working out.

    You wouldn’t happen to have heard of “A Mirror of Palms” or the author A. B. Stoddard? The edition I have is copyright 1898 published by Rand, McNally & Co. 1898. Picked it up at a local bookstore here in Bellingham many years ago. A quick online search didn’t reveal much about the author or the book.

    Thanks as always!

  13. Thank you for this latest installment in your fascinating exploration of America’s occult history.

    I’m reading Thomas Pynchon’s <Against the Day, which is set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, beginning with the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. I never realized Chicago was such a hub of esoteric activity, but thanks to your posts here, I’m more aware of the subtle currents of occultism running through Pynchon’s novel. For example, this evocative fragment: “He tried to make out, against the daylight flowing in off the plain, what he could of her face veiled in its own penumbra.”

  14. @JMG, in your opinion are the various forms of divination outlined in the essay at all effective? Tasseography seems to have lingered in the UK into the 20th century but I’ve only ever read of it as a subject of mockery – framed as a superstition of the working classes. I’m beginning to wonder if with enough study, any form of random sortilation followed by correlation to events might yield results.

    On the subject of Bruno, I had no idea he had gone as far as polytheism; I’d always got the impression that his wickedly sharp tongue was the true source of his fate, but if the church had got wind of his worship of the Sun then I suspect even a sympathetic prosecutor could not have prevented his end. Of course there weren’t any. Apart from your own translation of Shadows of Ideas are there any others you could recommend to us poor non-latinists?

  15. Hi JMG & esteemed commentariat,

    Do you see Rosicrucianism as having filled the same void as the Catholic church was left behind by many of the Protestant adherents to Rosicrucianism?

    Incidentally I finally got around to reading Logic and the Art of Memory by Paolo Rossi that you recommended back in late summer / early fall of last year and I really want to learn some more about Comenius. I suppose I’ll be picking up a copy of Frances Yates “The Rosicrucian Enlightenment” as one of the means. It’s interesting that he was an associate of Johannes Valentinus Andreae.

    I read “The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited” anthology some twenty years ago. I’m a bit rusty on some of that history. While it would seem that Rosicrucianism did not emerge until after the Reformation, might it not be possible that it was involved in the Reformation, albeit still secret at that time?

    Anyway, just some Wednesday afternoon thoughts to share here as I bask in the glow of the long shadow of ideas cast by the Rosicrucians.

    In this cold winter storm season it’s a good time of year to pick up tea leaf reading as well.

  16. With regards to northern European folk magic. Ay least in my native Sweden, plenty of it is heathen in origin. Sometimes with the names of the Old Gods kept in, such as using Odin in galders to perform healing (Odin being the God of healing, prophecy, victory amd poetry, aka Apollo), and sometimes with a saint as a replacement. Local saints being quite common. A local saint being neither recognised by the catholic church, nor of course by the lutherans.

    Just to point out that heathenry was alive and well in Scandinavia well into the 18th century.

    This has a tie in to that pythagorean cross btw.

    If you add the Aristotlean qualities to it.
    Wet on top
    Dry in the bottom
    Hot to the left
    Cold to the dry.

    Then the outcomes would correspond to the elements.
    Good for the upper portion (asgard being wet, at idavellr), with good and slow being Njord, water and good and fast being Ingvi Freyr, lord of Air.
    Bad being below (Jotunheim being dry), with bad and fast, fire in Hel.
    Bad and slow, earth in svartalfheim.

    The same schema of course being a stable of Mediterranean paganism, but I think it is interesting to see the correspondence.

  17. Not that it really makes much difference, but I would translate “Der lang verborgene Freund” as “the long hidden (or concealed) friend.” Perhaps it was a euphemistic way of saying “occult.”

  18. Christine, I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of that — it sounds fun. As for books on the tarot, good heavens, yes — but the ones I know about are all in French.

    Jean, hmm! I’ll have to look that one up. I’m no good at dowsing either, but I know people who are really good at it.

    Eric, if you’ve got an old book on occultism you’re already contributing. No, I’m not familiar with Stoddard or his book — there are lots of authors from the 19th century who are more or less wholly forgotten now, but who wrote great stuff. Have you studied the system the book teaches?

    Goldenhawk, I may just take the plunge and read that. Chicago was the beating heart of American occultism in the late 19th and very early 20th century; it’s the place where William Walker Atkinson lived and worked, and where L. Frank Baum studied Theosophy, just for starters.

    Adwelly, they all work. Tasseography can be extremely effective in the hands of an experienced diviner. Notice the giveaway, btw — “a superstition of the working classes.” Class prejudice was indeed one of the gimmicks that was used to erase these things. As for Bruno, his religion was based on the Corpus Hermeticum; he was a sun-worshiping Neoplatonist henotheist, like a number of other Renaissance occultists. To make sense of him, start with Frances Yates’ Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition and go from there; all his non-magical writings are readily available in English.

    Rose, now I’m imagining you wearing a hat that says MOFA on it… 😉 But it’s a great idea.

    Justin, Rosicrucianism was indeed a reaction to the Reformation, and tried to put imagination, symbolism, and practical spirituality back into Protestantism. Where it thrived — in the Rhineland, in Britain, and in the US — it accomplished a great deal. Read Jacob Boehme if you want to get a better sense of its prehistory; while the Rosicrucian movement is a 17th century phenomenon, it drew on currents in Protestant and proto-Protestant spiritual culture from well before then.

    Quift, fascinating. I’ve been working, in such scraps of spare time as I have, on an English translation of Johannes Bureus’ Adul-Runa, which is an intriguing blend of Swedish runic lore with Rosicrucian mysticism and John Dee’s alchemical symbolism; it doesn’t surprise me that Bureus was drawing on a broader current.

    Hereward, interesting. All the English editions I know of translate it as “The Long Lost Friend.”

  19. Hello JMG, Thank you for this blog, I’ve been enjoying reading each week. I’m also enjoying reading the comments and am impressed with the consideration and openness of the commentary. That may also be a testament to your input and editing.

    I found some interesting pamphlets at my local library several years ago. They are “Seven Steps in Practical Occultism,” by the Builders of the Adytum, published in 1961. Are you familiar with them? The writing style reminds me of the work that you mentioned on the other site by the Order of the Essenes.

  20. Wow! Thanks for the information, especially on Victorian women’s reading material. Come to think of it, the blue laws – which made defined information on birth control as obscene – were a product of the 1880s or thereabouts, when urbanization was kicking in and immigration from Eastern Europe was at a peak. any connection there? Or was it a forerunner of the entire eugenics agenda that was starting to creep in, along with a lot of other social agendas.

  21. John and Hereward,
    I have just checked my trusty dictionary and it agrees with you, Hereward. Couldn’t resist.

  22. JMG, the tie-in between Napoleon and the Oraculum that bears his name is a simple one: Mademoiselle Lenormand. She was fortune-teller to Napoleon and Josephine, and at her death in 1843 her nephew, to whom she left her entire estate, destroyed every bit of her fortune-telling paraphernalia and her private records. For the next half century, all kinds of divinatory systems were attributed to her, since it was difficult to prove what she actually had or hadn’t used. (A few witnesses to her fortune-telling said she used ordinary playing cards, for what it’s worth.) Her name was a great marketing tool.

    Napoleon’s Oraculum was one of the systems attributed to her, It has no bearing on Mlle Lenormand’s actual method, as far as anyone knows — it’s a formulaic method of geomancy, with stock questions and tables on which to look up your answer based on the figure you create with dots on a sheet of paper and which question you asked, derived apparently from something in the 1822 British book “The Philosophical Merlin” — but the name was hitched to it in the 1840s, and stuck like glue thereafter.

    A modern publisher has brought out a facsimile reprint of the 1866 book “Madame Lenormand’s Unerring Furtune-Teller”, which includes an astrological oracle called “The Oracle of Human Destiny”, several modes of card divination with playing cards, a method of dice divination, a list of good and bad omens and their interpretations, a list of weather omens, a party game with playing cards called “Hymen’s Lottery”, and “Napoleon’s Oraculum, or Book of Fate”. It’s part of a kit sold by the publisher, which includes the book, a deck of facsimile 1860s playing cards, dice, a facsimile of a printed sheet full of symbols onto which dice were cast (part of “The Oracle of Human Destiny”), and a brief potted history, inaccurate but highly symbol-ridden, of playing cards. To top it all off the original author used the pseudonym Victorine Le Normand!

  23. John,
    I had my tea leaves read about 55 years ago and thought it was wholly inaccurate. However I have recently thought that it was not a reading of my past but of my future. This future has now come to pass and it was accurate.
    Just a note of gratitude for introducing me to Spengler. I have now finished his abridged “The Decline of the West” and found it really interesting and enjoyable. Didn’t understand any of the first 180 pages but kept ploughing. I have owned the book for 3 years and it took me 18 months to read but it has proven worthwhile. I was interested to see how prescient he was about developments in the 20th century.

  24. @ Eric Cole, #12

    Do you live Bellingham, Washington? Perhaps we could meet face-to-face if you’re so inclined.

    –Lunar Apprentice

  25. JMG,

    What do you think is the reason all this stuff went down the memory hole specifically starting in the 60s? It’s well before my time and I admit I don’t know much about the hippie movement, (although I do like the music), but on the surface that movement seemed to be inspired by occult-ish ideas. Or was that all just fashion and no substance?

    Cheers,
    Simon

  26. @Christine S, JMG is right — there are bunches of them — but most of them weren’t published as books on Tarot, they were published as books on furtune-telling, particularly “Gypsy” fortune-telling. (Before the Golden Dawn, most people thought that the Rom had brought the Tarot to Europe.) I unfortunately can’t recall any titles off the top of my head, but if you check places like Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org — I suggest the search terms “cards” and “furtune-telling” for a start) and IAPSOP (see the link in Violet Cabra’s comment above; they group the books by year of publication and then in alphabetical order by title within each year) you should find good stuff.

    An interesting detail I found when I was researching pre-1910 Tarot traditions is that the original Golden Dawn card interpretations were at least partly based on English fortune-telling traditions, both Rom and non-Rom. That’s where they got the interpretation of “singing” for the 3 of Swords, for example. What I don’t know yet is what their other sources were.

  27. @Eric Cole again,

    I’m reachable using my handle, followed by the ampersand; service is gmail dot com

  28. @JMG: regarding Pynchon’s “Against the Day”: Having read all (or nearly all) of Pynchon’s works at least once, I must admit that I hated it – all 1085 pages. Hollow Earth, gratuitous sexual degradation and too many balloons! Is the subtle occultism in TRP’s novels to be taken seriously or is it there for it’s value as slapstick? I can’t tell. I’d recommend in its place “Mason & Dixon” (1997) as the last Pynchon novel that I actually enjoyed. There’s a goodly dose of early Americana in “Mason & Dixon” as well, compressed into a mere 773 pages. No balloons that I can recall but there is a mechanical duck. There’s my unsolicited book review for this week….

  29. For JMG or the commetariat, I hope this question isn’t too out of place, but I’d like to know if you think the recent power grid snafu is related to the Saturn square Uranus. Uranus as the cold snap would seem to be a massive shock to the power grid (Saturn.)

  30. Interesting that you mentioned phrenology-back when I was younger, I enjoyed reading books on the hard sciences, which often told the history of science from an Enlightenment/Scientific Materialist point of view. Phrenology (along with Ptolemy’s epicycles and the Four Elements of Greek philosophy) was one of the standard punching bags of these histories-I can recall at least six or seven discussions on how silly people in the 19th century, thought they could figure out your personality by feeling your skull, but thanks to the Glories of Medical Science(TM), We Know So Much Better Now.

    Your bringing it up has made me curious-was there ever any “there” behind phrenology? Do you know of anyone who still uses it to good results?

  31. Manly Wade Wellman’s “Silver John” stories frequently mentioned _The Long Lost Friend_ as a tool against evil forces. I was reading the books in the late 80s. When I read _School of Darkness_, which is part of a different series, I was concerned about Wellman’s portrayal of Witches and the Old Religion as typical evil Satanists. Remember this was during the Satanic Panic. I wrote a letter to Wellman politely expressing my concerns. He had recently died and his widow sent me a nice letter informing me of her husband’s death and thanking me for my interest in his work. May be time to look the books up and reread some.

    I hope that your history of occult in the US will get around to a discussion of the Satanic Panic–not that it was restricted to the US, major cases in the UK as well. But the psychology of the whole thing was quite involved and strange and bears discussion now that things have cooled down.

    Rita

  32. Re: A Mirror of Palms, I was considering republishing it at the time I bought it. Maybe with an accompanying course. For some reason I haven’t felt the call to study palmistry. In the end, I suspect the book needed a safe home. Some people collect stray cats. Others books.

    The illustrations include mappings of the hand to the spiritual planes, the planets, and a system of dates. Fascinating stuff. There is a lot here. Might be a good idea for me to take pictures of all the pages for later study and OCR.

    The more I learn about the history of magic and read about your work and the work of others, the more I see how important it is to add to the chain. I was waiting to be sufficiently experienced. I’ve been waiting longer than needed.

    One last observation. While rereading your article an image of a human in a situation where no magical, mystical, or spiritual knowledge from other humans was shared popped into my imagination. Watching that person’s head bob a bit observing their surroundings and the sky I received the distinct impression everything lost would be found again. Maybe, likely, the symbols, rituals, or myths would be different. Maybe it would take a very long time. The knowledge or understanding will not be hidden forever unless there is no one left to receive and share it.

    That said, I am so grateful for books! And the printing press! No need to reinvent the wheel.

  33. Wouldn’t you know, I opened up my Encyclopedia of American Folklore at random this evening, in between check ins on a ham radio net, and it turned out to land on an entry of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

    And speaking of hams, a himmelsbrief would be good charm for hams and their antenna systems.

  34. JMG – thanks for this interesting historical and cultural perspective. I recall that somewhere in my husband’s collection of old books is an 19th century scrapbook/ledger dating from the 1840s into the 1890s. It has quite an assortment of notes and newspaper clippings – everything from animal husbandry to home medicine cures to articles on events of the day. I vaguely recall seeing some notes on the occult as per your essay. If I find this scrapbook within the next few days I will report back here any on-topic entries contained there-in. If I recall correctly, the scrapbook originated from Pennsylvania.

  35. Hi John,
    Occultists say, “Try these things yourself and see what results you get.” That’s what this post is about … As for reading right to left, I learned how to do that in my Golden Dawn days, since that’s how Hebrew is written; it didn’t make any difference I could see.

    I’m interested in systems or, put differently, strategies, as “the difference that makes a difference” in extraordinary results. I’d be very interested in any specifics of HOW you “see” which you might be able to share. Is there any conscious pattern you are aware of to how you go about sensing for difference? Hopefully my question makes sense. Often people who do extraordinary things don’t know exactly what their strategy actually is – a lot of it is unconscious.

  36. Wow – talk about a ‘blast from the past’! Fascinating (and terribly sad) how the smorgasboard of simple divination methods got steamrolled by tarot and sun-sign astrology in the ‘60s. Funny, though, I can remember as a child in the early ‘70s that a lot of adult women still liked to indulge in palmistry; they taught the rudiments to their daughters who, in turn, would practice it on their friends during school recess. Divination by pendulum was popular back in the day, too: my mother was particularly talented at it.

    It just so happens that one of my great-uncles (coincidentally a German American) was so good at reading tea leaves that he scared himself silly by his accurate predictions of others’ misfortunes (this was likely on the eve of the ‘dirty thirties’) and so he ultimately stopped doing it. And in case some members of the commentariat cannot imagine that reading tea leaves or coffee grinds can be accurate, think again: the only time I got my ‘cup read’ (by a friend’s mother) she was so accurate – and the image in the cup so precise – that it totally freaked out all my friends gathered around the dinner table. Fun times…

  37. Tamar, I am indeed. Those were introductory lessons of one of the classic American occult correspondence courses, and the organization that offers them — founded quite some time ago by Golden Dawn alumnus Paul Foster Case — is still very much in existence — one of the rugged survivors of the golden age of American occultism.

    Patricia M, I didn’t know that about the blue laws, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. I haven’t done enough research into the history of those times to know exactly what drove those, but it’s quite possible that both those factors were involved.

    JillN, I ain’t arguing.

    CardGeek, okay, that makes a great deal of sense. I think I have a copy of that reprint around here somewhere, too.

    JillN, you’re most welcome! As for tasseography, that’s interesting. Most people who use tea leaves divine the future rather than trying to read the past, so that makes sense.

    Simon, what happened in the wake of the 1960s is that middle class intellectuals rejected everything that was part of American culture in favor of things from abroad. That was the era when yoga and Asian martial arts took off in this country, when magical systems imported from England (Wicca, Thelema, the Golden Dawn) were all the rage, and so on. The avant-garde was fine with occultism so long as it didn’t have anything to do with their own history and heritage, which they rejected.

    Phutatorius, so noted!

    Jon, you’d want to see if that aspect was relevant to foundation or ingress charts for the state of Texas. That aspect was applying all over the world, after all.

    Tolkienguy, I’ve never actually looked into phrenology, and I don’t know anyone who uses it, though it had a good reputation back in the day. A couple of years ago I missed my chance to buy a porcelain head for phrenological training:

    Rita, Wellman’s stories are well researched but very Christian; he assigned the villain’s role to vodoun in some stories, too. As for the Satanic panic, my plan was to bring the history to an end in 1979, with the rise of pop Neopaganism, but I’ll consider changing that.

    Eric, please do scan that book and get it back into circulation! You’re right, of course, that the teachings would reemerge, since they follow patterns that are hardwired into human consciousness — but if we can keep from losing them in the first place, that would be so much better…

    Justin, I think you just got a CQ from synchronicity…

    PatriciaT, fascinating. Thank you — I’ll look forward to hearing what you find.

    Gnat, I meant that in the simplest sense: do some divinations and see how well they predict what happens.

    Ron, fascinating. Where did you grow up? It might be worth looking for surviving elements of the tradition there.

  38. Seems like those zealous for rationalist godlessness may have played a role in flushing down many occult practices down the drain.

    Like the Atheists of the 20th century and onwards seeking to wipe out religion off the face of the earth. Occultism may be just another religion to exterminate.

  39. The notion of the blossoming of one era in the occult being seeded by parlor games really tickles my imagination. I wonder what a mixed bag of characters must have been involved in pouring such publications into print, and what subtle forces gathered that energy into the blooming that came after. Recently I have been much thinking about the uses and abuses of table top rpgs in relation to spiritual development, and the idea that parlor games of chance have already historically participated in such a movement is most interesting indeed.

  40. Request to both JMG and others: Do you know of any works of fiction or documentary nonfiction from before the 1960s that depict American folk magic being used? This is entirely out of my ethnographic curiosity. You may be familiar with the book Albion’s Seed, the author of which was determined to make the English of America seem like precursors to rational American civilization and benevolent empire. He put all the folk magic in his book in the “Borderers” section (Scots-Irish, aka not true English). And of course, in your post you are focused on Pennsylvania Dutch practices. I know there are plenty of folklorists like Fanny Bergen who summarized the magic of New Englanders and other English, but I wonder if there was any novelist whose eye was sharp enough to describe the context where such magic would appear.

  41. The Satanic Panic is extremely timely, vital even. The same impulse is happening except instead of Christians vs Devils it’s my party vs your party, where “everybody knows” and all the evidence that they are evil is either hidden or claimed to be fabricated.

    That this never goes to court to adhere to standards of evidence and disclosure persuades no one; they simply create more allegations to cover the last ones. So like a Satanic Panic, a modern day witch burning, it is an unchanneled (maybe) emotional expression, almost entirely devoid of logic, reason, and evidence.

    I’m not sure when and why in the last couple heretic witch burnings people returned to law and logic, order and rules, but these things seem to have to burn out of their own excesses at great hazard to the people involved.

    Since everything we believe about the past is a lie, and one we won’t educate or dissuade ourselves from, I can attest that in the 80’s the occult was taboo indeed, and any reasonable person, even as an overwhelming 80% of people did not go to church, would not be caught involved in the occult or allow even Tarot cards into the house. Newsaper horoscopes were considered a frivolous indulgence, as they weren’t real and no one believed them anyway. This is like how they had 50s Housewives who were all in memory of the Jazz fueled, drug-ready flappers of the Roaring 20s. But that women’s liberation had already happened 40 years previous didn’t dissuade the Feminists from their fabricated fake history in the slightest. Just as the same happened that re-wrote the Victorian Era from one with sex books rampant and as many prostitutes in London as married men, or the Victorians themselves re-writing all the same sexual action and occult right out of the Middle Ages, making them the prudish oppressors of “Progressive, Liberated Modern Age” of Prince Albert: look at the purging of the racy horror happening with Brother’s Grimm when transported to England. And so right on through time: we’re the best, they’re the worst, nothing like us has ever happened before. And All Vanity. There’s Nothing New under the sun, and not this either. The only not new thing is that everything written about history is a lie, whenever you read it in history: their “Histories” are mirrors of THEMSELVES, generally insulated, unexperienced college professors, having little or nothing to do with the real events of times long passed.

    Keeping track? So every 40 years, up and down like a sine wave, 80s at the low, 2010s at the top? Right back through time to Augustus.

    Maybe someone can map the Satanic Panic and tell us what cycle it’s on, when it will end? I didn’t care for it the first day and now we’re years and years in. Will it ever end? Can we stop seeing ghosts and demons in every cat and feather? How long did it take for McCarthy to burn out and stop unemploying and arresting their fellow citizens? To my mind, about 5 years ago is a good time for free speech and tolerance to return.

  42. Last year I commented about the book “American Freethinker: Elihu Palmer and the Struggle for Religious Freedom in the New Nation.” He appears to be one of those significant figures of his time yet forgotten about in modern times. This intrigued me. I’m partway through the book and the author Kirsten Fischer has categorized him as a Diest, but he seems to have dabbled or experienced some sort of mysticism.

    Palmer’s book “Principles of Nature” is available although the digitizations are horrible quality. https://archive.org/details/principlesofnatu00palmrich/mode/2up

    If Palmer was dabbling in the occult would any of these traditional historians know? Unless Palmer had a set of writings that said explicitly “this is the occult,” literally hitting these historians over the head, I’m assuming they’d miss it. Or not want to address it in case they got caste out of their universities.

    Long way of saying, I think your point of occult practices being woven into everyday life of early American is completely missed and ignored by historians, and even when you have someone lecturing about some amazing topics (all things have life in them and give off an energy we can feel) it’s dismissed or categorized into something they are comfortable with.

    How often did the historical figures we know of practice the occult and we just ignored that fact?

  43. One point of data for the comments here about the various faiths – the Pennsylvania Dutch weren’t Baptists when they got here. You might be thinking of Brethren. And the Catholics didn’t intermingle with the rest out in the countryside except in some small towns. Most of the German Catholics came in 1840-1855, not the early wave in the mid-1700’s. I believe they starting logging the German speakers in 1740 or 1744 at the Port of Philadelphia although most of those records are lost.

    The practices in the book were done well into WW2. I attended a lecture on it and the entire audience was sharing practices of their grandparents did to ward off illness and the evil eye (that was a big one). A lot of things “went missing” too and people had ways to identify the thief and make the stolen items useless. I wish I had recorded it because it was so good.

  44. “Simon, what happened in the wake of the 1960s is that middle class intellectuals rejected everything that was part of American culture in favor of things from abroad. ”

    Could we follow the current salary class trend of making fun of America back to this thread?

  45. @Phutatoris I was fascinated by Pynchon but I am unsure of how serious he takes his own work or if it is all truly mad.

    @JMG I would also like to hear your ideas on the satanic panic. I heard in your interview with Kunstler him asking you if you thought what was going on was demonic. I think we are in a new satanic panic.

    Also I love your American Occultism series and I hope you are turning it into a book. It makes me think about my own experience and what I have unknowingly run upon. I lived amongst the Amish so its nice to re visit.

    I deeply appreciated your exploration of history in “The Occult Book” as it was deeply detailed but never lost sight of the larger movements and connections. If you did write a book on American Occultism I am sure it would be just as high quality.

  46. Lunar Apprentice #25 and Eric Cole #12. I also live in Bellingham and would love a local get together. I can be reached at Tomxyza at Gmail dot com

  47. In answer to your question, JMG, I grew up in Brockville, Ontario – likely one of the ‘weirdest’ places in Canada. Home to a famous 19th century fortune-teller (Mother Barnes) who was consulted by Canada’s 1st Prime Minister (Sir John A. McDonald) on multiple occasions, as well as the home of the Fulfords, where Canada’s 10th Prime Minister (William Lyon Mackenzie King) participated in innumerable seances seeking political advice from his mentor (Canada’s 7th Prime Minister, Wilfred Laurier) from beyond the grave. The place is also positively riddled with ghosts and the surrounding area is plagued with phantom giant black cats, sasquatch and UFO (besides the American typical high-altitude balloons that you helped identify for me a year back) sightings. Settled by mostly Scottish United Empire Loyalists, and later, Scottish immigrants, the place is full of old families and old mansions (rather like some of the backwaters in New England, I would imagine). It is an extremely conservative community and therefore the sort of place where types of divination which were in vogue in the 19th century would likely continue to survive. Though I haven’t lived there since 1984, it may be worth my while to see what I can find, using what few family members and contacts that I till have in the area.

  48. re: divination

    The 21st century version of it all seems to be the 4chan pastime of paying attention to the numerology of post numbers, the whole “dubs”, “trips” etc. You really could bridge a lot of gaps talking about numerology, because there are a LOT of um, funposters, that are familiar with the topic and they don’t even know they know something about numerology. Numbers do seem to underlie the reality we live in, no matter which direction you approach things from.

    re: Science vs Magick

    As far as science goes, it has an extraordinary weakness to corruption, in that most of the people in those spaces depend on either academia or the government for their paychecks. Tenure is mostly a thing of the past and monetary incentives do work, albeit perversely and unintentionally.

    Cynically, you could make the argument that the Magicians are more honest than the Scientists at this point, because nobody is pressuring them to stick to one particular political agenda. Also see: Genetic Theory in the Soviet Union for an example of incentivized dishonesty.

    But if there ever was a Bureau of Magick or a National Magick Foundation, you’d find yourselves getting just as politically rigid and corrupt too, I suspect. When you need to make that monthly nut…

    Me, I listen to whoever’s being more honest about the world we live in. If that’s the Magicians, then so be it.

  49. @Lunar Apprentice and @Tomxyza Tom Anderson
    Looks like there are a few ‘hamsters here! If anyone in Bellingham, WA wants to connect in person my email is wmecole at gmail ((dot)) com.

  50. Info23, yes, the pseudoskeptic movement played a significant role in it. In the 1970s, for example, you could go to a science fiction convention and take in a presentation on tarot reading; over the course of the 1980s, that got squeezed out, while a lot of science fiction authors stopped talking about “psionics” and went cyberpunk instead.

    Ray, it’s a fascinating bit of history! I hope someone with better access to historical sources (and more spare time) than I have does a book on the subject someday.

    Avery, that’s a good question. Manly Wade Wellman’s “Silver John” stories are the logical starting place — they draw very heavily on Appalachian folk magic, and Wellman put a lot of work into getting the details right. I’d recommend looking in the weird-tales literature generally; respectable novelists didn’t talk about such things, but pulp authors did.

    Jasper, what happened to the Satanic panic was quite simple: people who had been accused of Satanic ritual abuse countersued and won colossal damages. The entire process ground to a halt in a hurry once it became clear to the fundamentalist ministers and social workers who were feeding the panic, and the city governments who were letting it happen, that they could end up slapped with very costly judgments. The Wenatchee Satanic-abuse prosecutions of 1994-1995 were the Waterloo of the Satanic panic; the city of Wenatchee, WA ended up having to pay out millions of dollars to people who were railroaded into jail, and once word of that got out the whole fandango ground to a halt nationwide. I’m not sure if the same approach could be applied in the present case, but it might be worth trying.

    Denis, if Palmer was into occultism, you can basically assume that most historians until very recently would bend over backward until their heads touched their heels to keep from admitting that this was the case. Until Virginia Moore published her book The Unicorn, literary scholars tried to ignore W.B. Yeats’ involvement in occultism, even though that required them to ignore a vast amount of his published work! I don’t happen to know if Palmer was involved in occultism, but it’s not impossible — there was quite a bit of it running around in the early 19th century, and there was a lot of overlap between freethinkers and occultists; the great Platonist Thomas Taylor, for example, had a foot in both camps, and his translations of Greek philosophical texts were adored by both.

    Youngelephant, good. Yes, that’s exactly when it started.

    Danielle, I’m planning on turning these essays into a book, so thank you for the encouragement!

    Ron M, fascinating. That would make a good setting for a Lovecraftian novel. 😉 You’re right, though, that it’s also very much the kind of place where older traditions tend to hang on.

    Owen, I wonder what would happen if the autists on 4chan got hold of Pythagorean literature. 🙂 As for the corruption of science, magic has been just as corrupt in the past; it’s just that right now the incentives are so much greater for scientists to fake their work.

  51. Might that 1960s suppression of Americanism be part of what the current political kerfluffle is about? All the big names currently (Biden, Trump, Pelosi, McConnell, etc) are old enough to have grown up pre-suppression.

    As an eighties kid home schooled by Silent Parents, I got a heavy dose of the New England Congregationalist flavored history, but of course that avoided quite a great deal of the rest. My peers got even less America than I did. I knew all about Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan and Babe, John Henry, George Washington and the Cherry Tree, Honest Abe, Harriet Tubman, and the rest of the cast of historical-mythical characters that my parents had grown up on.

  52. “Do you know of any works of fiction or documentary nonfiction from before the 1960s that depict American folk magic being used…”

    Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

    Fiction and nonfiction by Zora Neale Hurston

  53. That satanic panic thing is interesting. Haven’t heard anything about this so far. But I went to school in Germany in the 90ies and in religious education they invested some time teaching about the dangers of satanism which was taught to be the same as occultism which, as you obviously know, is this thing were they cut open dead cats and wear them as hats (no joke!), eat excrement and drink blood. I dimly remember that we were even shown videos of kids with Ouija-boards and pendulums which were thought do be a kind of entry drug into a really big mess. Glad that I was adequately prepared when I found you… Although, I hope that you won’t use your occult powers to put a dead bird into out mailbox which, they said in the film, is one of the usual techniques to terrorize a dropout.

    Cheers,
    Nachtgurke

  54. @Avery:

    Take a look at the wholly forgotten novel We Girls by Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney, published in 1870 in Boston. Chapter VIII, “Hallowe’en,” gives an interesting fictional account of the usual Hallowe’en-party magic of the period.

    The earliest practical guide to such Hallowe’en-party magic that I know of is Marth Russell Orne’s Hallowe’en: Its Origin and How to Celebrate It with Appropriate Games and Ceremonies, first published in 1898. Some years back I put a scan of my very battered copy up on archive.org.

    Another, somewhat longer book of the same general sort is Mary E. Blaine [Barse]’s Games for Hallow-E’en (1912), which was soon followed by Ruth Edna Kelley’s The Book of Hallowe’en (1919). Bith of these are easily found online.

    I’m pretty sure that a whole raft of long-forgotten novels set in old New England is out there online somewhere, and a good number of them will use New-England folk magic to supply local color to their stories. Alas, no good examples happen to come to mind right now.

  55. I recently stumbled on this extract from a 1929 article.
    https://fantasticanachronism.com/about/

    “More recently a farmer of York, Pennsylvania, was killed by two boys whose crops and cattle had been blighted and whose families had sickened. It was claimed that the victim was a witch doctor, or “hexer” as the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect has it, and that he had been bringing misfortune on the whole neighborhood by his sorcery. The trial revealed that an elaborate traffic in witchcraft was firmly established in the midst of what is in many ways one of the most progressive farm communities of the country, among people who tune their radios to station WJZ or WEAF, New York.

    “Such incidents seem fantastic anachronisms, and yet we find the vestiges of magical practices persisting even in the commercial centers of our big cities.”
    — Margery L. Loeb The Black Art, Nat. Hist. 29, no. 4 (1929): 400-409

  56. Has anyone ever made a mechanical divination device like the alethiometer in His Dark Materials, or maybe an occult Babbage Engine? How about an electrical one? I imagine that looking like something you’d see advertised in the back of an electronics magazine from the late 70s or early 80s. 🙂

  57. To Whom It May Concern: I just finished a book that I found fascinating. “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History.” (Kurt Andersen, 2017). He had quit a section on the Satanic Panic.

    The book was written before the ascendency of Q. Am I wrong, or does some of the beliefs of Q echo the Satanic Panic? Lew

  58. @Avery: Thank you for your question to our host! I’m also searching for things such as this. Please keep us posted here of anything else you find, if you are willing.

    @JMG: Thank you for the lead and turn on to Manly Wade Wellman -the library has a ton of his books it turns out. I’d never heard of him, but even just reading the wikipedia entry on him has me nodding along, with other leads & strings. As ever, so much to explore.

  59. This is a great blog entry. I became obsessed with PA Dutch folk magic years ago, after becoming a practitioner of the art forms of hexerei and fracktur. Unfortunately, I was let down by The Long Lost Friend, as I am not a Christian, nor am I going to be pinning a wolf’s eyeball on to my shirt sleeve anytime soon. I was also brought up using standard playing cards for divination, taught to me by my Memere (I’m pretty sure she was using the “make it up as you go along” method…) Nowadays I use Stephen Ball’s methods of divination for dice and playing cards. There are a few too many “tall dark strangers” and “you will be cheated out of your money in a divorce” type of meanings in many of the older cartomancy systems I’ve looked into.

  60. Mr Greer,
    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time, ever since I came across your book, “The Long Descent”. This is one of your most interesting essays yet. However, I do wish that I could find examples of the book that you described as “What every young woman should know”. I have always been under the impression that in the 19th century, American women were often subject to a depressive paralysis. Such notables as Mary Channing Higginson (wife of Thomas Wentworth Higginson) and Emily Norcross Dickinson (mother of Emily Dickenson) were afflicted with this, and were effectively bedridden for most of their lives. I have heard that this depression has been linked to remnants of Calvinism, that was still prevalent among upper class families during that era. Do you know anything about this phenomenon, and what caused it?

  61. Hi JMG,

    Passing along an article you might find interesting.

    https://www.vice.com/en/article/7k9qag/how-to-escape-the-confines-of-time-and-space-according-to-the-cia

    Seems like that while socially the occult practices discussed here were being phased out during this time period that the scientific materialist (or at least some minority of the people in positions of power) would put so much effort into translating occult concepts to their religion.

    Key quotes:
    Goal to use ” Classical physics to bring the whole phenomenon of out-of-body states into the language of physical science (and remove the stigma of an occult connotation).”

    “Be intellectually prepared to react to possible encounters with intelligent, non-corporal energy forms when time-space boundaries are exceeded”

    I can only imagine what I would have thought of reading something like this back when I was in public school…

  62. @Owen

    Another possible explanation of why science seems more corrupt in this days is: Scientists do not know how to think.

    Earlier today, I was reflecting on the fact that Catholic seminaries require would be priests, before they undertake the greater task of Theological education, to complete studies equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Philosophy. Even if their survey of philosophy is biased towards Classic and Scholastic authors, they do get formal training on how to think before they are presented with the themes they will devote their time thinking about.

    Contrast that with the Science! TM approach. All through high-school and most of undergraduate college, the student is presented with a large body of doctrine that is to be accepted by article of faith. Even most labs are rituals repeated by rote that do not teach how to go about investigating novel phenomena. Not until graduate school you learn to generate new knowledge, and by then you are too specialized to stop and think what is it that you are doing. They get more or less the technical aspects of science but rarely if ever reflect on what those techniques are telling them. I know I would not have figured out on my own if I had not ran into this forum.

    @everyone

    Hope y’all are doing Ok in this cold winter. An of-topic report from the trenches, Mexico has been experiencing intermittent blackouts in many cities (specially in the north of the country) due to the freezing of a natural gas duct coming from Texas, which turned out to be vital to the generation of electricity. Rationing (in the form of scheduled black outs) and scarcity for purposes other than electricity generation is currently undergoing. One more step in the stairs down the Long Descent.

    Also, a shameless plug. My second piece on the Trisagion is up at Dreamwidth. If you liked part one you may want to check it out.

  63. You’ve often mentioned that any common language has reams of old, untranslated occult books. Not knowing the potential titles or authors, is there a way to search these websites for potential candiates? For example, if I could filter by a date range of 1200-1900, and the language Spanish. I don’t see one, but some of your readers are bound to be experts in searching places like internet archive, google books, etc. pro tips, anyone?

  64. Chiming in late on the subtle alternate meanings of “verborgen”, I just propped up my rusted out college German with Google Translate, and it can imply “latent”; an undeveloped potential. Maybe the Freund was already there, but he manifested when the reader put attention on him. That might be a personal occult talent that popped up when the reader followed a suggestion in the book, or it might have functioned as permission to realize that some of what Grandmother taught you was actually useful, and not only the recipes!

  65. Late to the party as usual… JMG, what a scintillating dive into American history! Proving Victorians had more fun and everyday delight than we can imagine: ours are a dull group of generations in comparison.

    As some of you know, I do free weekly Ogham readings over at my blog at http://kimberlysteele.dreamwidth.org on Mondays. I enjoy reading for people — it helps me get out of my personal bubble and it also helps me test the accuracy of my readings in the clinical sense. I also sing some of my arrangements of the Orphic hymns every day at my Queenie songs Youtube channel. I will dedicate this Sunday’s hymns to Giordano Bruno.

    I think the Satanic Panic 2.0 is far more robust than the original one in the 1980s. I delved into its psychological and sociological underpinnings in a couple of essays for those interested:

    https://kimberlysteele.dreamwidth.org/8414.html

    https://kimberlysteele.dreamwidth.org/9384.html

    I haven’t been writing much on the above topic much lately though as I have been far too busy with other projects.

  66. Rush Limbaugh has died at 70.

    JMG still won’t be able to read books published under the Limbaugh byline, though, as they were actually written by professional conservative John Fund, who is, so far as I know, still with us.

    “Fund” seems an appropriate surname for a professional politicker…

    —Lady Cutekitten

  67. My maternal grandmother was raised in the Ozarks. She told me two stories about a neighborhood witch in the area. In one a girl was burnt seriously by boiling sorghum being cooked down to molasses and the witch did something, not described, to heal her without the usual scarring. It may have been an herbal ointment, but the result was clearly regarded as out of the ordinary. In the other story, a stallion had been castrated and the bleeding would not stop. The owner was afraid that a good horse would bleed to death. The witch was getting too old to go to the scene so she told the men to bring her some of the blood on a chip of wood. She then performed some kind of chant or spell over the chip of wood and the horse survived. My grandmother considered herself a Christian, although she had no use for preachers and churches. I got a lot of reading practice reading the Bible to her while she sewed but she was not a literalist. She also told me that before my mother was born she had twin babies who died. While she was resting shortly after the birth she had a vision just as clear as could be of Jesus holding her babies and told me that she knew that meant they were alright. Years later my mother told me that she had not been told of the dead siblings until she mentioned to her mother the two invisible friends she played with. Then my grandmother told her about the baby sisters that she hadn’t known and afterwards the “friends” stopped appearing to her. Mom felt that they just wanted her to know about their existence. My grandmother told me these tales in a very matter of fact manner. Now, of course I wish I had asked more and written down things when they were fresh. Her maiden name was Robins, which is English; but her mother’s family were Sumners, which is Scottish and she emphasized the Scottish heritage.

    I remember when I was a child our family had a small booklet on reading tea leaves. It had a green cover and line drawings of the various shapes to look for and how their position in the tea cup in relation to the handle could represent compass points or how soon something might occur. I assume it had been around the family for years, possibly from the 1930s. But I don’t remember anyone actually trying it. We weren’t big tea drinkers and what we did have was in tea bags.

    I have just a vague idea that there was also a book on palmistry that my sister and I may have fooled around with. But it isn’t as clear in my mind as the tea leaf book.

    My grandmother also told me about one of her brothers dreaming that the other had had an accident driving a tractor. Later he had a nervous feeling in the middle of the day and recalling the dream, drove out to check. There had indeed been an accident and he had to help extricate his brother from the overturned machine. Another time his brother was working for a meat packing plant as night watchman or janitor, I don’t recall which. The brother with the premonitions had another nervous feeling and drove by the plant in the middle of the night. He found that the safety doors on the elevator had malfunctioned and his brother was at the bottom of the shaft with a broken hip. As far as I could tell, none of this was treated as anything like special powers, just something that happened to some people.

    I have an acquaintance who poo poos any occult beliefs. Yet he changed the spelling of his first name to get a better numerology result–where there was a V he substituted a PH yet still pronounces it as a V. Most people don’t realize it unless he is at an event where people wear name tags.

    Rita

  68. BoysMom, I think that’s part of it. More broadly, the motive behind the suppression was the belief on the part of a liberal elite that they could remake the United States from top to bottom to match their fantasies of a good society. The erasure of the past is always part of that kind of project — think of Pol Pot’s Cambodia and its attempt to return to “Year Zero.”

    Robert, thanks for this! Excellent news.

    Nachtgurke, I can promise you that if a dead bird shows up in your mailbox, it wasn’t put there by me.

    Martin, that was quite a famous case in its day. Arthur Lewis’ 1969 book Hex, which was about it, was my first introduction to Pennsylvania Dutch culture.

    Yorkshire, look up the phrase “Hieronymus machine” sometime…

    Lew, fascinating. Yes, I’d noticed parallels between the Q hoax and the Satanic panic.

    Justin, I’m glad to hear that. Wellman is enormous fun.

    Badger, thank you. A lot of the older systems of cartomancy are very specialized for the typical clientele of a late 19th or early 20th century American diviner, and yes, they need some expansion.

    Antony, if you want books of the “what every young woman should know” variety, go to Project Gutenberg, click on “advanced search,” enter the word “hygiene” in the subject field, and hit “search.” You’ll get a boatload. As for depression as a pervasive issue for 19th century American upper class women, the book you want to read is Idols of Perversity by Bram Djikstra — he does a fine job of anatomizing the cult of feminine weakness and helplessness in the Victorian era, and its results in depression and illness.

    Bill, thanks for this. Did you ever see the movie Men Who Stare At Goats, about the Pentagon’s project along these same lines? I knew one of the generals who was involved in that — I met him long after he’d retired from the military, but the guy was still adept at psychically bending spoons. You can also download the famous First Earth Battalion manual here and the Operations Field Manual here. You might find them eye-opening!

    Kyle, in Spanish, due to the influence of the Catholic church in most Spanish-speaking countries, you won’t find such things labeled “occult.” Look up Spanish words for cartomancy, fortune telling, spirits, and other related words, and see what you find.

    Kimberly, thank you. Anybody who thinks that history is dull isn’t looking in the right places. 😉

    Your Kittenship, to be frank, I’m not at all sure I’d want to read them anyway.

    Rita, fascinating! Those are classic stories of the “TSW” variety. Thank you for them.

  69. @JMG

    “In the 1970s, for example, you could go to a science fiction convention and take in a presentation on tarot reading; over the course of the 1980s, that got squeezed out, while a lot of science fiction authors stopped talking about “psionics” and went cyberpunk instead.”

    Interesting. Although I am sure one can get sci-fi like settings through Magitek. Or Magical powered Technology.

    What I really loved about Fantasy Genre is the superior Aesthetics in the Imaginary Architecture and Clothing and so forth. The fact that beauty is able to come forth by the Authors of that Genre to a far greater extent than Sci-fi.

    Seems Pseudo-Skepticism really seem to coincide with the forced uglification of reality in general.

    And many people are so used to such a thing that many people of the Soviet Union prefer the ugly Soviet Block apartments.

    Btw have you read this?
    https://www.amazon.com/Making-Dystopia-Survival-Architectural-Barbarism/dp/0198820860

    Not to mention that the Hippie Movement in the 60’s who recognized the impact of our current diseased Civilization on our souls got subverted by 3 letter agencies in my opinion who helped to introduce drugs and other destructive practices that are antithetical to morality.

  70. Somewhat off-topic, but not quite entirely so:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ls9JkxFEB9g

    Dr. Irving Finkel of the British Museum lectures on the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, consisting of ancient clay tablets with cuneiforn writing. He discusses tablets with magic spells to be used by priests of the king and texts on Assyrian religion from about 17:50 to 26:00 or thereabouts.

  71. @Avery you might try “Conjure Wife” by Fritz Lieber. I couldn’t vouch for his research but he was a fine writer. Actually I will have to re-read it myself now I come to think of it.

  72. I remember you saying the Hieronymus machine was like a tunable talisman, I didn’t know it did divination as well. There’s something very alluring to me about that combination of electro-mechanical and occult. I’ve got a Time Life series of books about mystic phenomena and one includes an Italian out of body exeriences programme. In the photo two people are laying on massage tables with goggles on, and the room looks like the bridge of a submarine – red light and walls covered in buttons and monitors. It feels like the psychic version of Ivan Drago’s training montage in Rocky IV. 🙂

  73. I too believe in the concept of polite discourse out in the public with strangers, and ran into something this week that I’d love some advice on how to handle from the commentariat.

    To pass these winter months, I enrolled in a study group on writing citations, 6 meetings, 20 people w(ho I didn’t know prior to the group), all on Zoom of course. This past meetings as we were wrapping up one person said they might miss the next because they are trying to get the vaccine. The next thing I know, the group devolves into a hate fest on Trump. “He had no plan,” “All these people died because of him,” “No new plan can work because Trump messed up things so badly no one can undo it,” and “He never told the states how to distribute the vaccine and now more people are going to die.” “I just hate that man” was repeated endlessly.

    I think I actually saw a creature form with a fuzzy bulldog like face and long fangs during this tirade.

    I take this to mean 1) the hate JMG spoke of in the KunstlerCast is real (this is the first I experienced it and I didn’t realize how extreme it is), 2) people have no hesitation to just spew hate in any situation, 3) I’ve gotta have some approach to deal with this because this is going to be the next four years of my life.

    So what do others say or do in these situations? Just smile, nod, and get out as fast as possible? Quippy comeback? I feel like I should take a stand of some sort.

    How do you assess up front what a group is like before involvement? Or should I just avoid groups of unknown people for the foreseeable future?

    Is Trump-Hate a cult? I know TDS is real and I’ve seen that but not in a group of strangers setting before. This though was something next level. There was an expectation of saying certain statements. I said something about being very involved in my local county and that landed with a huge thud. I didn’t pass the cult test.

    A datapoint too Fwiw I know of five more people that sold their homes and moved across states to be closer to family. My family in Florida said the paper reported 947 NY’ers are moving into the state everyday. I feel like the numbers of people moving is underreported.

  74. Very interesting and illuminating piece JMG! Tarot cards also seem to have started as an upper class parlor game (the illustrated cards were expensive) in the late Middle ages, and to have developed as a serious divination tool later on…Despite my professional background in math, science and law, I’ve read Tarot as a pastime for decades, and have found it to be accurate in relationship matters, sometimes shockingly so….

  75. @ CR Patiño – I think you are quite right in your assessment of the poverty of a STEM education these days. Which makes the few exceptions even more remarkable.

    One of these exceptions is Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) whose high school education took place in the University of Chicago’s experimental school, where, following its curriculum, her science learning consisted of reading entire books by scientists, instead of relying on pre-digested textbooks.

    Her writings are therefore as broad and philosophical as they are deeply immersed in the biological explorations she was conducting through the end of her microscope.

    https://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/lynn-margulis/

  76. @Rita: Thank you also for your mention of Wellman, which I hadn’t seen the first time. And for your story about your Grandma and the Ozarks. Apparently Wellman was friends with Vance Randolph, the folklorist who wrote about the magic & customs of the Ozarks (whom I’m sure you are familiar with). I haven’t read Randolph yet myseslf, but he’d been on my radar as someone to read.

    @Avery & @Robert Mathiesen: If you either of you are at all into photography, if you get the chance check out the book of old Hallow’een photography as collected by the late occultist & experimental/industrial musician John Balance (of Coil fame) and later published by his friend Ossian Brown. They are old old photos. The latest I think being in the early 1950s. Some of them are viewable on the website here: http://hauntedair.com/
    I wrote a review of the book back in 2011 here that goes into a bit more detail:
    http://brainwashed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9011:ossian-brown-qhaunted-airq&catid=17:books&Itemid=134

    Anyway, it is a real nice visual slice of our Old Weird America. Goes well with a strong cup of coffee and cherry pie.

  77. @ Denis

    Re responses to group TDS

    FWIW, I usually a) keep my mouth shut and b) walk away where possible. YMMV, of course, but I have found that not entangling myself with those kinds of energy works out best for me.

    At a one-to-one level, you could engage with a person if you think there might be a useful and reasoned conversation to be had, but I find that larger settings tend to quickly devolve to group-mind and you’ll only deplete yourself trying to argue your point. Let them stew in their own juices, so to speak, and choose your battles wisely.

  78. Info23, what happened was that actual occultism — which was pervasive in older SF and fantasy — was systematically eliminated and replaced with the kind of bogus fantasy magic marketed so efficiently by the Harry Potter franchise. That’s still very much the case, of course. I’ve been working of late on a trilogy of novels about actual magic, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to market them as fantasy at all — they’re entirely realistic, and so most fantasy aficionados will doubtless find them dull. Thanks for the link to Curl’s book — no, I haven’t seen this, and I should read it. As for Operation CHAOS, well, yes — when a protocol developed by the CIA in their drug tests got applied to the Sixties counterculture as a whole a few years thereafter, with exactly the same results, it’s kind of hard to miss what was going on. I hope the next counterculture has the brains to stay away from the drug trap.

    Kevin, thanks for this. I have a fond but almost certainly misplaced hope that somebody, someday, will learn Assyrian well enough to translate a whole bunch of that cache of magical literature.

    B3rnhard, scientists are only just now getting around to that? Occultists were connecting quantum physics to magic in the 1970s, following the publication of Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics. Well, better late than never.. 😉

    Yorkshire, yes, you can use a Hieronymus machine for divination — in fact, that’s one of its primary functions. It receives as well as transmitting! More generally, there’s a whole world of electrical magic out there, extending from Franz Mesmer’s baquets through Wilhelm Reich’s orgone technologies to radionics devices like the Hieronymus machine, with a buffet of biofeedback devices on the side to add piquance. If you want to get into that, there’s plenty to study and learn.

    Denis, my advice is to say nothing and walk away. There’s literally nothing you can say to them that will get through the wallowing in blind hate.

    Pyrrhus, exactly — tarot has always been at least slightly upper-crust, as distinct from ordinary playing cards, which are proletarian. That explains a lot about their relative popularity as divination methods in recent years…

  79. Dear JMG,

    If I may, regarding the memory hole that you mention and date to the 1960’s:

    It’s interesting to note that the 1961 Grand Conjunction occurred, viewed from Washington DC, at 7:01 pm, Saturday February 18th, 1961. The rising sign is, therefore, Virgo.

    If we look at the chart ruler, then, we see Mercury with the most over-the-top affliction have literally ever seen in any chart: he is in his fall and detriment in Pisces; retrograde; combust; in the cadent 6th House; within a 2′ of conjunction of the South Node. He one positive aspect is a loose and separating trine with Mars who at the time was in his fall, Cancer. Mercury also tightly opposes Pluto in the chart.

    Of course there is a lot more that one can study in that chart. Still, I find it very noteworthy the degree to which the intellectual heritage of the United States got comprehensively shredded during that time, and how well Mercury’s dire afflictions in that chart speak to that.

  80. Archdruid,

    A similar conflict is simmering in India between the rationalists and the occultist (to use familiar names). The complaint from the rationalists, at least those of the nativist verity, is that the occultist factions aren’t delivering any technologies that can help India’s economy grow. Not that their practices are wrong, just not what’s needed for the current circumstances.

    Regards,

    Varun

  81. About group TDS, I read somewhere that mass delusions tend to infect a population all at once, but that people recover from them one by one. So, Denis, something you say might be scoffed at today but might still be remembered later. If you feel you must speak out, you might point out that Trump’s opponent was and is widely hated throughout the country–she really was, not least by other white women like me for, among other things, the simple reason that she makes the rest of us look bad. You could possibly mention that it is widely conceded that the person from whom she stole the nomination would have beaten Trump. And then conclude by pointing out that if we all don’t want to see more like Trump, the opposition had better get back in the business of actually winning elections.

    As for Mme. C, I have suffered from early childhood from severe, crippling depression. I have learned that for me, hate, that normal human emotion, is something in which I cannot afford to indulge. As a matter of survival, I had to learn how to walk away and I consider that no virtue but mere necessity. I believe I can truthfully say I have truly hated only two people in all my adult life and one was Mme. C.

    Dennis, if you want to get into political minutia, you might point out out haw badly the opposition did in the down ballot last November. They still haven’t learned. I am not sure our country can afford to wait for Biden, et al, to leave this mortal stage.

  82. >Scientists do not know how to think.

    Well, to wax cynical yet again, the system does like it when you’re just smart enough to know how but not so smart that you question why. With police they just reject anyone who scores too high on intelligence tests – for the technocrats, they have to use more subtle mechanisms.

    Higher “education” is most definitely a tradeoff – you gain certain things but you also lose quite a bit as well, sometimes more than you gain. The system does love to get you focused on what you’re getting – and not at all on what you’re losing…

  83. >group devolves into a hate fest on Trump
    [MSM talking points elided]

    If all someone is doing is just repeating what the TV told them, stop hanging around them and find other people to hang out with. Back in the 80s everyone was like that, but people back then had an excuse, they had no choice, or the other choice was to go innawoods and live like it’s 1899. But now, there’s no excuse, you don’t have to do what the TV tells you. Or maybe we’re all going back to party like it’s 1899 via collapse? Who knows.

    What I find most amusing is that for the most part, the other ceremonial head of the federal gov’t is (not) doing substantially the same things that the previous ceremonial head was. Perhaps it’s a waste of time to pay attention to the ceremonial head of the govt? Because he never does and never will run anything?

  84. I have been reading this post, but more so, this comment line, fairly agog. When it comes to even your ordinary common-or-garden occult parlour games, I am realising my own upbringing was totally and utterly vanilla. Our table games were checkers and dominos and monopoly and scrabble. There were no fortune telling methods practiced at all by anyone in my family or circle of friends, so far as I can recall at all, and neither was there any “panic” about these kinds of things. They were simply absent altogether. I definitely grew up thinking that the references to witchcraft and divination in the bible, which our family WAS big on, referred to times so very long, long ago that they had entirely disappeared from modern life and society, something like dressing up in nothing but the home-tanned skins of animals, or living in caves.

    In one way, this is nice. It appears I have no particular baggage of negativity towards divination and similar practices. But also, I have no experience of these things as part of my ordinary growing up life, at all. I wonder if this is the main reason that, while I have found a regular practice of SOP and of meditation “doable” and keep them up with only tolerable difficulty, the attempts I’ve made so far at divination just feel clunky and unfamiliar and almost impossible to get “hold of” – no matter which end of the [ogham] stick I grab… they just feel (to me) like there is no “there” there.

    Anyway, I thought I’d put this out there, just for a different sort of data point.

  85. JMG, re: your upcoming novels

    You’ve noted in the past that “magical realism” is unfortunately already taken; I wonder if “occult realism” would catch on as a genre?

  86. JMG and everyone,

    Excellent article, as always.

    I was studying occultism right after the Satanic panic, and I remember my peers were very freaked out (which I shrugged off and ignored). Years later, I found out there actually was a really grisly Satanic murdering cult operating about 50 miles away only 5 years before. If I had known that, I think I would have been more careful to spare people’s feelings and to protect myself. I’m including a link to show that it actually happened, but I honestly can’t recommend anyone actually read it, it’s horrible. (I’m not claiming the rest of the Satanic panic was real, just saying reality refuses to fit in any neat box.)

    https://www.bizarrepedia.com/el-padrino-de-matamoros/

    I really loved your article in the Well of Galabes about occult history and am looking forward to the 1900s-1950s 🙂 but don’t hurry on my account!

    Also, I’m looking forward to the real magick fiction trilogy. I considered a similar project but also ran into the same issue, if magick is only a little nudge, how do you make the story interesting enough for people to read it? So I didn’t get far at all with that, I’m glad you had a similar inspiration.

    Sincerely,
    Jessi Thompson
    anotheramethyst

  87. Denis, did you get a screenshot of the bulldog creature? If you did, you can show it to them and point out that their anger seems to have brought it to life. Is that what they really want? (Granted, there’s a chance the reply may be, “Darn right it is!”)

    —Lady Cutekitten

  88. Scanned A Mirror of Palms this morning with my iPad. Time to experiment with OCR. I think I will share this book via my blog somehow. Maybe start haunting used bookstores again too after I get the conversion process down. There is something satisfying about liberating these old books. Exploring the systems the authors are sharing should be great fun.

    — Eric

  89. @Denis, on collective TDS

    If you cannot get away from that people, or if you are feeling really brave, you can approach the issue from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The five zhang organs are: Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys. When listed in that particular order they are told to be in “the generative cycle”. The Qi of each organ nurtures and feeds the next one, and when you make it to Kidneys you go back to Liver (literally) like Winter moves on to Spring.

    There is another physiological (a.k.a. healthy) order called “the control cycle”: Liver, Spleen, Kidneys, Heart, Lungs. For each to consecutive organs in the sequences, the Yin in the former reins in the Yang in the later, and the Yang in the former reins in the Yin in the later. This is the negative feedback loop that balances out the positive feedback in the generative cycle.

    As for the practical application, each zhang organ has a primary emotion: Liver -> anger, Heart -> joy, Spleen -> pensiveness, Lungs -> sadness, Kidneys -> fear.

    Trying to reason with this group will be futile because Lives reins in Spleen, not the other way around. Anger clouds the thinking mind.

    Trying to scare them into compliance will be worse than useless because Kidneys nurture Liver. Fear actually feeds anger, as we can see in the theory of the Fight or Flight response. Since the threat you pose is rather abstract, they are unlikely to actually try and punch you, but they will dig in their heels and argue even more passionately and irrationally.

    A licensed therapist may try to approach this problem from the sadness angle. By allowing the patient to connect with their sadness, the other emotions downstream will also benefit. Other more manipulative characters use blame and guilt to arrest outbursts of anger on their victims.

    What I’d do in this situation is “when in excess, tonify the child”. What I mean is, try to elicit feelings of happiness and joy in the group. This will not address the anger problem directly, but will cause the Heart to pull excess energy from the Liver, leaving it with less fuel to throw at the fires of rage. You will want to not do this too blatantly, or you will be (justly) accused of trying to change the subject.

  90. I neglected to mention that Dr. Finkel also discusses a spell for banishing ghosts beginning at roughly 37:30 in the same video as I posted above. It requests the Sun god to get rid of them.

    Perhaps he (Dr. Finkel, not the Sun god) might be goaded into attempting more complete translations by a well-framed challenge to his scholarship..?

    @info23 –

    “What I really loved about Fantasy Genre is the superior Aesthetics in the Imaginary Architecture and Clothing and so forth. The fact that beauty is able to come forth by the Authors of that Genre to a far greater extent than Sci-fi.”

    I’m with you 100 percent there. Beauty is high up in my scale of values. I think the same may also generally be said of landscape descriptions and various accessories & appurtenances.

    *******

    I confess it’s rather pleasant to think of magic approached as an agreeable entertainment rather than necessarily as a systematic course of study. Having engaged in a good deal of daily practice for some years now, I enjoy the notion of Desultory Light Magic for Fun and Profit.

  91. Denis,

    I find myself in that situation quite a lot at work, and I just ignore it by tuning out of the conversation and looking at something else that distracts my attention. I have learned from the Cosmic Doctrine & commentary that people like this are swept up in lower astral (Fortune’s model) waves of emotion. I don’t think there’s anything you can do to change their mind unless you have an emotional connection to them. Unfortunately most people with an emotional connection to them probably think the same way. In a group like that, they assume everyone shares the same pre-existing beliefs, and use their political signaling to get others to make themselves feel better by having them validate their beliefs. It’s akin to sitting in a circle, and well, I’ll let you fill in the details. That’s my 2 cents anyway.

  92. @ Scotlyn,

    I had what sounds like a similar upbringing and I had a similar attitude to divination when I started the exercises in JMG’s Learning Ritual Magic.

    I was very bad at those divination exercises. But one thing I learned while doing them was that I had unconsciously developed a kind of divination practice of my own. I think of it as ‘listening to intuition’ whereas the divination exercises seem to be about ‘asking’ intuition. Not only were my attempts at divination bad but they disrupted my existing practice. This came to a head when I decided to try a divination for a decision of some importance. I had a strong intuition about what was the right choice but the cards gave me the opposite answer. I tried again and again the cards told me the opposite of my intuition. I decided to follow the cards. Turned out my intuition was right and my reading of the cards was wrong.

    I”m not sure if what I do would technically count as divination within occult theory but it works for me.

  93. Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Violet, good heavens. That’s fascinating — but you’ll want to examine the next great conjunction as well, because it was in the 1980s that all this really began to bite.

    Varun, interesting. I hope the occultists can hang onto their traditions.

    Scotlyn, well, I had zero exposure to divination growing up, and took to it like a duck to water. People differ in their aptitudes, and I suspect that’s what’s involved here.

    Slithy Toves, that might work. I’ve simply subtitled each of the books in the trilogy “A Novel of Magic.”

    Jessie, so noted! As for the novels, I’m simply trying to make it an interesting story, with magic as a pervasive but not loud presence — very much the way it is in the lives of actual occultists.

    Eric, delighted to hear this.

    Kevin, just at the moment I have way too much on my plate to tackle that.

  94. If I may ask a question about last week’s topic: it occurred to me that the literal attraction of outer space is more of a boy’s dream than a girl’s, classically – of course there a girls who like it but less of them (sorry for bringing up stereotypes, I was an atypical girl myself but that’s what I see with the space thing). Do women typically have other experiences of the Nadir? Or do you think it’s possible that they encounter some sort of limits more often because of, well, different expressions of fertility or their absence – so they’re less in danger? And is the use of drugs also a common vehicle to deny limits, in your opinion?

  95. https://www.zerohedge.com/political/temporary-collapse-texas-foreshadowing-total-collapse-us

    To go off topic, but to follow up on something I said in a previous comment. Yeah, I not so sure anymore that the last two things standing will be electricity and internet. I may have spoken too soon. And with TX power bills reaching $8000 for the month, the number of people who can afford grid power are going to become rather small.

    What I suspect will happen is the government will get involved and they will remove pricing mechanism for determining who gets scarcity and replace it with the more tried and true patronage model based on who you know. Need political connections for everything these days. Guanxi. Blat’

    Is there anything in this country that isn’t dysfunctional? I’m not even talking about working right just not dysfunctional. Broken markets, broken power grid, broken supply chains, broken political system…

  96. @Kevin

    “I’m with you 100 percent there. Beauty is high up in my scale of values. I think the same may also generally be said of landscape descriptions and various accessories & appurtenances. ”

    Such a shame there are such barriers of entry in real life in realizing those imaginary Architectures in real life. No doubt there will be strong opposition and every attempt to stop it on the part of Modern Architects or will be bastardized in some way.

  97. JMG,

    Almanacs are some very handy things to figure out when to do certain things (and when not to do). Here is the cover page of an almanac I use regularly. Varun would recognize this.

    The figures of the oxen and large three-headed snakes are actually charts designed to figure out the favorable days for plowing the field and planting the seeds respectively. For example, if you look closely, running along the center of the snake is a horizontal row of 27 small circles. The snake represents Rahu, the 8th planet. To find whether a chosen day is suitable for planting, you need to look up the star sign on which Rahu resides on that particular day inside the almanac, and fix that sign at the tip of the snake’s tail. Then you start counting the star signs backward from that, moving from right to left as you count, until you reach the star sign of the planned day of planting. If the stopping position is in the head, tail, or outside the snake, the day is not suitable. Otherwise it is a good day.

    The almanac is still printed and sold every year. But I have not heard of anyone actually using these charts in a long time. There are many such charts and tables inside to help you find the right day for many activities, like buying land and animals, starting construction work, starting a long journey, starting a new medical treatment, digging wells and ponds, etc.

    That brings me to Varun’s comment about the conflict between occultists and rationalists. I am not sure what precise aspect Varun was talking about, but astrology is one place where occultists are definitely on the backfoot. The civil religion of progress is on the ascendant, aided by steadily increasing prosperity. There is a frantic rush to enrol in the church of progress and denounce all false gods. Interestingly, I see two widely different currents flowing. One is the desire to reclaim the traditional occult practices. Another is a desire to be like America (or like what it used to be. People still haven’t got the memo about Europe and USA. That will take some time to trickle down). I foresee some interesting times ahead.

  98. @Simon S. – Many a time as a newbie in the Craft, I’ve resisted what my gut told me, in order to go with what the book said to do. I’ve always regretted it.

  99. CR Patiño, Lady Cutekitten, Owen, Youngelephant – thank you all for your thoughts and ideas. I hope this helps others in the same situation. I can see now through your comments that I have this tendency to want “to fix” whatever is upsetting someone. I’ll roll it around my head for days trying to come up with a method. Your approaches have given me something to mediate on.

  100. Admin, you’d probably want to talk to women about that; I’m hardly an expert on the subject. You’re right that space travel in the technological sense is pretty much a sausage fest — there’s a reason rockets look like giant penises — but there are other ways to conceptualize flight into space. Still, it’s an interesting question.

    Owen, it’s a broken country. Get used to it; for reasons I’ll be discussing next month, it probably won’t get better any time soon.

    Ramaraj, I’m sorry to say the cover of the almanac didn’t come through. Can you post a link to one? It sounds fascinating — the same sort of thing we have in American almanacs, but of course using Vedic astrology instead of our version. I hope that the occultists can work out ways to keep their traditions intact as India rises toward great-power status.

    John, fun! Thanks for this.

  101. Sorry, JMG, that this is off-topic, but I can’t resist sharing this link:

    https://cei.org/blog/wrong-again-50-years-of-failed-eco-pocalyptic-predictions/

    Some of the predictions are absolute ‘howlers’! And if anyone among the commentariat comes across people who deny that there were dire predictions of a new Ice Age in the ‘70s, there are newspaper clippings and letters written by academics in the article to prove them wrong.

    Is it any wonder that the world is being over-run with anti-vaxers and flat earthers who doubt everything that comes out of a scientist’s or authority figure’s mouth? So sad that ‘science’ got highjacked by the Western cultural binary (myth) of utopia/apocalypse…

  102. @JMG – go ahead and set – and market as such – your trilogy set in the American Occultist Community. Rosemary Edghill did the same for the Wiccan/Neopagan community back in the 1990s, and it was delightful.* She also wrote a novelette in the same setting that skewered the high-priced New Age conferences & workshops of the period, included in her anthology “A Failure of Moonlight.” She knows whereof she speaks, and her heroine, a Gardnerian, has no tolerance for nonsense when its serious, and a wide tolerance for the foibles of her culture.

    Of course, times have changed, but I think it would be well received in some circles.

    *Speak Daggers To Her, The Book of Moons, The Bowl of Night. Caveat – they are, in genre, murder mysteries, and those sell better than novels. Because readers know for a fact, a murder mystery is going to have a plot, a beginning, middle, and end – and a resolution. And they’re used to having mysteries set in every culture and subculture on the planet. Not that I suggest you wrote a murder mystery, just a warning.

  103. On the subject of rockets looking like giant penises – of course they do – but UFOs, as imagined in popular culture don’t – they look like breasts, and they suck in and envelop things rather than shooting off into the sky.

  104. A couple of thoughts from the essay this week..

    First, I’m impressed with the use of their free time during the period of time discussed. I know not everyone was doing this, but it was common enough that many people had interests sparked which blossomed into some beautiful fruits. It sure beats the use of free time many of us have today, namely sitting in front of the electronic blinky things.

    The second thought I had was similar to the first. When looking at the ease of life and the ability to produce, we could do so much today. During the time period you discussed in this article, people had to sacrifice a lot to be able to print something. Today, sharing information is as simple as taking the time needed to type it then pressing a submit button. Ironically, all people can find the time and effort to do is 280 characters, and most people only use 33 of those. This really helped me to recognize how wasteful we are in this modern world. It’s not only restricted to wastefulness with the limits of natural resources, but also wasteful with the limit of our time on this world. There are fortunately some pockets of people who give some hope!

  105. @ Patricia Mathews

    Agreed. I’d say that’s true in most domains too. Which is probably a large part of the reason why our education system is so awful. It’s follow the textbook or nothing.

  106. Patricia M, JMG, youngelephant: If you’ll allow me to nerd out on the gap between the popular conception of the Victorian era and the reality for a minute:

    – Amusingly, one of the biggest things the popular American conception of the Victorian era gets wrong is the period where the US really deserves the label. It got started earlier in Great Britain (that’s an area I’m *not* as well-versed in, so I’ll hedge on exact dates), but it only really got going with industrialization, partially because it took time for fashion to cross the Atlantic during that era and partially because Victorian culture was in no small part a reaction to the effects of industrialization (especially on craftsmen) and while there were fledgling experiments beforehand industrialization only really got going in the US somewhere in the 1840s. Even once Victorian culture had made it to the US, it took some time afterwards to get established; I’d peg the start of the Victorian era proper in the US somewhere between the mid-1850s and 1877. (Its end is easier to peg, occurring sometime around 1920 with the shift from the Victorian ideal of marriage to the modern companionate marriage.)
    – Contributing to this was the slow failure of all the major existing ideas of the good life (New England yeoman farmers + seminaries + mercantile towns, Southern plantation slavery + yeoman farms, and Borderer homesteading) in the face of the pressures of industrialization. (I’m pretty sure this fired up not one but two millenniarian doom-loops – the Southern one starting in the 1820s that was basically running the same strategy as modern Islamists and a Northern/Midwestern one that got going a little later around 1850. We all know how *that* turned out. Conversely, the failure of Reconstruction marks the definitive end of the earlier Northern ideals; the South held out longer, mostly because they could blame the failure of their ideals on the Yankees.)
    – As a reaction to industrialization, Victorian culture was also centered on the industrial parts of the country – that is to say, the cities. It’s also centered on the classes that were affected by industrialization: the urban upper and middle classes (that is to say, the bourgeoise in the pre-Marx sense), and to a lesser extent the industrial working class.
    – I’m also inclined to think that a generational effect was involved here (certainly for the timing of the Blue Laws). The Fourth Turning has enormous overfitting issues to go with its Last Chapter Problem, but its basic premise of a four-generation oscillation in American history between rising generations wanting freedom and wanting security has a lot going for it, and the generations that grew up in the late antebellum and bellum US would have been on the security side of the oscillation.
    (- Sitting here typing this, it occurs to me that there are extremely obvious parallels to modern Woke culture here…)

    The big push to enforce Victorian morality was indeed a late 19th century and early 20th century phenomenon. In addition to the Blue Laws, the big early push was against prostitution (AIUI the de facto release valve for male sexual desire under the original Victorian system) – compare SESTA/FOSTA today. This was backed by roughly the same political constituencies that would eventually push through the final two signature Social Gospel reforms (women’s suffrage and Prohibition), along with smaller things like the anti-masturbation push – and while I’d have to check, I’d bet that either the laws banning information about contraception also date to this period or that enforcement of those laws was massively stepped up at around this time. (The single biggest constituency for this push was of course the Protestant mainline; I suspect this political focus and the subsequent failure of Prohibition is a key reason why identification with the mainline collapsed a couple of decades later as the young left en masse.)

    Note that at least some of the clerical opposition to folk magic predates this shift (and is in fact a contributing factor behind it) – the New England Congregationalists (the heirs of the Puritans, and the most institutional church of the era) made a *massive* push to convert what we now call the Midwest to Congregationalism starting somewhere in the Transcendentalist era to a little past it (roughly 1820-1850), and there’s no way they weren’t at the forefront of pushing back against folk magic. The Congregationalists failed miserably in this effort – so miserably, in fact, that their own children left the church en masse over the next few decades in favor of other denominations. The pushback against folk magic and other alternative spirituality was similarly doomed, even in their own home territories – JMG will know the specifics better than I do (I want to say there was a Well of Galabes post on the subject?), but IIRC Boston was the de facto capital of American alternate spirituality for most of the 1800s, only losing that status when the center of gravity shifted to southern California at around the same time that the big morality push was kicking in. And now I’m wondering whether the alternative spirituality moved for the same reasons Hollywood did – i.e, difficulty enforcing laws on the other side of the country.

    (Side note/occasional reminder: You may have noticed that both the Congregationalists and the mainline collapsed (or more accurately started to collapse) 1-2 generations after a signature piece of a theopolitical agenda they backed failed, and that in both cases this was because their children left for greener pastures. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, and I suspect that a) the exact same thing is going to happen to the evangelicals in a decade or two, and b) that the only reason the same thing didn’t happen to the pro-slavery churches after the Civil War is because the Confederacy lost, for the same reason the Southern plantation ideal held out better. Friends don’t let friends get their church involved in national politics.)

  107. JMG I always assumed occultism got hidden because of the power of evangelical religions since the Civil War – each new religion seemed to assert more forcefully that it would bring its followers closer to God. But now I’m wondering about the increasing power of the government and its impact. As transportation and communication improved, its tentacles reached into every part of life, bringing us to the 21st century where we have communism-lite in this country. The worship of the state and its leaders is central to life it seems.

    So what has had the most impact on occultism? And is practicing occultism a form of dissidence?

  108. TLDR: What role has evangelical Christianity had in suppressing and forgetting our shared, hidden in plain view, occult heritage? The usual straw man here posits “faith in science” as the culprit. But the rise of Evangelical Christianity in the 70s, the resulting Satanic Panic in the ‘80s, and dominance of Evangelical Christianity in the spiritual discourse since then has to figure in this story. Does it?

    I was a kid in the 70s and 80s. I come from a long line of Methodist pastors – some from the East Coast, some from the south, another from the Prairie Frontier, one from the Pacific Northwest. By the time my dad came around the family had adopted a not quite strict version of the “no cards, no dancing, no drinking” policies familiar to many on the conservative side of their middle-of-the-road, main-line Christianity. They never mentioned much about the “why”, but sometimes an auntie or uncle would let slip that those things were from the Devil, and cards were for divination which offended God. Not in so many words, of course. But the meaning was clear.

    I say all this to set the stage for later, when I came around (Minnesota, Germans among the Scandinavians, Protestants among
    The Catholics, always defined apart…)

    I had a front row seat in the 70s to the cage match between an urban “Godspell” reading of the Gospel (mom) and an increasingly rigid, fundamentalist reading of the same (dad) which will be very familiar to most here (that reading won).

    My own passing introduction to the subjects of these posts was the gift of a TSR edition of the first-gen “Dungeon Master’s Guide” from my mom on Christmas morning,1980. Should have seen my dad’s face. It was as if the Devil himself had joined us… I should have known they wouldn’t be together much longer. But I was a kid and didn’t know about stuff like that yet.

    What role has American Evangelical Christianity had in suppressing and forgetting our shared occult heritage? The usual straw man here posits “faith in science” as the culprit. But the Satanic Panic in the ‘80s and dominance of Evangelical Christianity in the spiritual discourse since then has to figure in this story. Does it?

    (Note the anti D&D / Heavy Metal / Jesus is King crowd had their say alongside the repressed memory / alien abduction / commodified New Age nonsense / Internet-filed-and-accelerated conspiracy theories. They’re often the same people, natch…)

  109. Thanks for #117 @pretentious-username. Some of it leaves me scratching my head, but I think I can map some of my own family history on to what you wrote.

    I’m also reflecting on my nearly 100 year old Aunt Rose in Pennsylvania and my Scotch-Irish and Scottish roots in Appalachia and back in the Old Country… What has my family forgotten. What have I never learned?

  110. Update on my A Mirror of Palms OCR project in case anyone else is interested. Scanning took maybe an hour due to my improvised setup. Using the freely available Tesseract OCR software I was able to convert the ~115 scan images to text in less than 5 minutes. Still going to need to edit a little but I am very impressed with the accuracy! There is support for about 100 languages including Latin and Welsh.

    Off to find clean scans of more Long Lost Friends.

  111. Ron, that’s a nice collection, but it could have been expanded by a couple of orders of magnitude. You’re right, of course — official science has become another apocalyptic religion, and its predictions of the end of the world are about as accurate as those of any other bunch of fundamentalists.

    Patricia M, oh, it’s going to be written and marketed — I’m about 75,000 words into the first novel, with 10-15,000 already written on each of the other two. No murder mystery, though there’s plenty of organized crime and local government corruption in the fictional small Midwestern city where it’s set, and a couple of corpses toward the end. I’ve considered now and again writing mysteries, but I don’t enjoy the kind of mysteries that are fashionable these days, and genre conventions can be pretty strict. But we’ll see.

    Justin, an excellent point — and one that Carl Jung would have appreciated. Have you read his book on UFOs?

    Prizm, two fine points. Since, as we just saw in Texas, those electronic blinky things may not be quite as available in the years ahead as they have been, getting some facility with other (and more useful) ways to spend time might be a good idea…

    Ramaraj, many thanks for this! The artwork even looks like the kind of thing you’d find in a 19th century American almanac. Let me see if I can make it appear:

    Username, thanks for this. That checks out with the history of American communalism as well — in the middle of the 19th century you had things like the Oneida commune, with group marriage and plenty of extramarital sex, and it wasn’t until later in the century that the media flew up into the rafters over such things.

    Denis, this is like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, where it turns out that the victim wasn’t killed by one of the suspects, he was killed by all of them. Evangelical Christianity has always tried to get rid of occultism; scientific materialism has done the same thing; and the government’s also played a role, directly (we’ll talk in a later post about the number of pioneers in the field of radionics who died in Federal prisons) and indirectly — and there’s also the shift from American occultism to traditions from overseas, driven by the cultural dominance of the salary class in the late 20th century. Lots of different stab marks on that corpse…

    AGL, you and Denis must have been tuning into the same wavelength! Keep in mind that evangelical Christianity has been a major influence on American culture since colonial times, and didn’t keep the golden age of American occultism from happening. The question that needs to be asked, to my mind, is what changed in the middle years of the 20th century and drove trad American occultism out of sight, while permitting other forms of occultism such as Wicca (and other alternative spiritual traditions such as Buddhism) to take its place.

    Eric, delighted to hear it! For good clean scans of Long Lost Friends, aside from the resources I mentioned, I highly recommend the IAPSOP website — more than 8,000 occult-themed texts await your delectation there.

  112. Hi JMG – thanks for yet another interesting history lesson, especially considering how little interest I had in the subject back in school, so long, long ago.

    However, I am a bit perplexed by the picture of the Pennsylvania Dutch totting plastic Igloo coolers for lunch pails. Seems to be a contradiction of technologies vs. beliefs, though I’m not very familiar with the rules they live by. Sometimes I’ll venture west on motorcycle rides to the Amish community near Arthur, Illinois and am surprised to see power mowers and other modern tools, neat fencing and fields that appears to be fossil fuel assisted, and LED lights on the horse buggies. (And yes, I’m aware of the irony of powering by on two wheels and pointing fingers, though in my defense I ride a mildly powered and quiet older BMW, and not a loud Harley)

    Do you see more “hybrid” technology communities being created as the Long Decent picks up steam?

  113. What Patricia Mathews said aboiut Rosemary Edghill’s three “Bast” novels and her anthology! I found them utterly delightful, and they have a permanent place on my bookshelves. She reallyu skewers all the “sweetness and light” occultism that was floating three feet above the ground at the time.

    Edghill, btw, has many other excellent works to her authorial credit, some under that, others under her older legal name, eluki bes shahar (no capital letters). She ghostwrote Marion Zimmer Bradley’s four “Shadowsgate” novels, too, and helped with some of Andre Norton’s and Mercedes Lackey’s works

  114. Let’s see if I’m on any other’s wavelengths with a follow-up question….

    I like the analogy to Murder on the Orient Express. My second question about occultism being a form of dissent, was missed in your response. By dissent I mean the quiet pull away from society and refusal to participate in the group think, not the sign-waving protests and shrieking in public that’s so in style now. The practices in LRM are solitary and require a lot of concentration and privacy to do, very counter to 95% of life today.

    Could it be in the mid-20th century with the great pull to centralize everything and make it efficient (I guess this trend really started at the turn of the 20th century), occultism knew it had no place in that picture?

    My other thought is that occultism is a threat to those in power. People who don’t practice it see it as a way to influence or control others and therefore don’t want it around.

    Or maybe it was just the commercial products available overwhelmed occult practices. Have a headache or fever? Here’s something you can buy to fix it. Item stolen? Contact the police. No need for the recipes in the Long Lost Friend.

    More multiple stab wounds in the victim?

    For the occult to thrive 50 years from now, its got to stay out of the limelight, doesn’t it? I’m curious what will happen when King in Orange is released and what the reaction will be. I’m expecting a lot of spluttering along the lines of “that can’t be true.” Or do you think people are receptive to it now?

  115. JMG, no, I haven’t read Flying Saucers, when I wrote my comment last night I was thinking about a series of posts that Gordon White did which introduced me to the idea of UFOs as a psychic phenomenon.

    The rockets-as-penises thing is a great sci-fi question – after all it is not like rockets can be any old shape and still work properly – would we be so fascinated with rockets if we had cloacas or some other less-than-aerodynamic reproductive organ? My guess is yes, but then again I don’t have a cloaca. Lots of the things that boys like more than girls are not penis-shaped (unless you extend the definition of penis-shaped to any object that is much longer in one axis than the other two).

  116. Hi Eric, Lunar Apprentice, Tomxyza,

    Bellinghamsters unite! I had no idea that our esteemed host has so many local fans. This thread is getting mature, but if you get this, it sounds like a great idea.

    I am at (handle below) 2013 notorious ampersand notorious gmail.

    Raphanus

  117. drhooves:

    The Amish relationship with technology is not as straightforward as saying ‘they don’t use it’. There are many subgroups within the heading ‘Amish’ and each group has its own Ordnung, the rules by which the members of that community live. Some sects are very, very conservative and use nothing that we’d recognize as modern tech, other groups are more liberal in their rules.

    It is important to understand that if you’re Amish, you are a member of a community; you don’t practice Amishness as a solitary individual. Therefore, the Ordnung of each small group of Amish is intended to strengthen the bonds within that community. Owning and driving a car, for example, would allow members to travel too far from their home base, in time fraying the fabric of the community; for that reason private cars are not allowed. Bicycles are usually permitted, because you can’t really go as far on a bike. Being insular, the Amish do not want to be connected to the larger world in ways they cannot control so most groups have decided that being tied to the power grid is unacceptable. On the other hand, many Amish are permitted to use air-powered tools run by gasoline powered air compressors in their workshops (no connection to the grid), some groups may use gasoline fueled tractors minus the air tires (can’t travel far without rubber tires), and so on. I have heard that many Amish are also allowed some solar panels. It is not the power itself that is suspect, it is the potential impact on their social cohesiveness that is the make-or-break factor. Each decision about what technology to accept or decline is made carefully and on very logical grounds, always with the needs of the community as the primary concern.

  118. Long time listener, first time caller:

    Dear JMG

    On the subject of “practical home magic” – could you recommend a book (or two) for an absolute novice? Is “The Long Lost Friend” still a good read, or perhaps there are more recent printed manuals?

    Sincerely,

  119. Hi John Michael,

    Just out of curiosity, do you reckon people have outsourced their natural curiosity in the divination arts to the narrative of progress? Maybe it is just me, but the difference is akin to passively watching television versus sitting down and writing your own story of your own making for others to enjoy and ponder.

    Maybe I’m just old fashioned in my outlook! 🙂

    Cheers

    Chris

  120. Patricia M, thank you!

    Drhooves, the Amish follow rules that make sense to them, whether or not those make sense to you and me. If the local community considers plastic coolers to be acceptable, then that’s what they’ll use! As for hybrid technologies in subcultures, we’re already there — I know a lot of people who use a free mix of older and newer technologies to meet their needs.

    Robert, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Denis, ever since occultism started being something that individuals practiced on their own, without the support of priesthoods and temples — i.e., since the twilight days of ancient Egypt — occultism has been a dissident tradition; you have to be willing to reject at least some of the assumptions of your society to take it up. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that it’s not the kind of dissent that fixates on being opposed to the status quo; it’s not a “resistance.” It defines its own path, and if the rest of the world doesn’t approve, too bad. As for the future of occultism, times of societal decline are usually boomtimes for occultism, so to my mind things are definitely looking good for the occult traditions.

    Justin, the fascinating thing is that rockets could have been almost any shape that is longer in one axis than in the other two, and reasonably streamlined! Do you recall Robert Goddard’s early rockets? This one’s a great example; doesn’t look much like a penis, does it?

    Dan, that depends very much on what kind of magic you want to do. My book The Natural Magic Encyclopedia is a good intro to the magic of herbs, stones, and the like; if you want divination methods, though, you might want to visit some used book stores and see if you can find an old book like the one I discuss in the post.

    Chris, excellent. Television outsources your imagination.

  121. My memory of The Sixties was that so much of American history had been cut off before us and my cohort actually rediscovered some of it. Definitely in politics. McCarthyism had seen to that. More broadly, advertising and the highly promoted notion that factory made is modern (followed by media-promoted is cool) and home made is backward had scraped away much of the earlier culture.
    I grew up among the grandchildren of immigrants on the East Coast, so the impact of the replacement of folk culture with commercial culture may well have been more thorough there. Perhaps in other parts of the country, it was the middle class of the Sixties that turned against American folk ways, but where I lived in was precisely the Sixties folks who rediscovered it (to some degree and to their own ends, for sure).
    More generally, the Sixties was the point in time at which the middle class, especially the college educated middle class, for the first time was large enough to throw its weight around independently. Earlier, it had had to align with the far more powerful working class and try to aim the working class at the goals of the middle class/emergent technocracy.
    But I think that the real shift is in the 1980s. After the economy-wide stagflation of the 1970s, the credentialed class, on behalf of the real money, threw the prosperous working class and much of the industrial regions under the bus. Half the country is fully aware of this, although it understands it in various terms, some very different from how I have phrased it. The half of the country that benefitted from this maintains itself in blissful ignorance of what it did and remains convinced of its moral superiority. This is part of the root of wokeness as currently practiced.
    I know this is barely on topic, but how it connects is that I think that much of what the credentialed class disdains and rejects is not so much America as such, but anything associated with the working class and with fewer years of school education.

    Pol Pot’s regime did talk about The Year Zero, but there was also a huge emphasis on restoring the glories of the long-lost Khmer Empire, surprisingly so for a regime that was supposed to be communist. (The Khmer Empire at one time had covered not only Cambodia, but also much of what is now Laos, southern Vietnam and Thailand. So there were lost glories to aspire to.) Of course that attempted return to a glorious past was as successful as Ceausescu’s in Romania or Justinian’s attempt to restore the western Roman Empire.

  122. “Chris, excellent. Television outsources your imagination.”

    From the Last Years of Progress: “Culture, in exactly the same sense, is downstream from imagination. Trace out any of the convulsive political changes that have shaped history and you can follow them back through cultural shifts to the thoughts and dreams of visionaries on the fringe.”

    This explains why since the 1950s or so nearly every attempt at social and cultural change has just ended up pushing things further in the direction they were going already: trying to change culture with an imagination hobbled by images created by the establishment just means pushing things further than the establishment has already gone. It was a mystery until now, but it suddenly makes a lot more sense!

  123. JMG – I’ve read that Goddard’s rocket put the combustion chamber and exit nozzle at the top because he falsely believed that the structure had to be pulled up, rather than pushed up by a nozzle at the bottom. But, taking another look, I could see how a rocket that pulls puts tension on the structure (tending to pull it all in line, whereas a rocket that pushes risks buckling failure as the thrust compress the structure. Structural buckling is never a good thing. Look how fragile the structure between the propellant tanks and combustion chamber is!

    Personally, I think that a long cylinder is the shape that nature requires, when you need to thrust your way into a semi-compliant medium. It’s just parallel evolution.

  124. Thank you for your reply and yes, I agree and see there being a distinct line between being a dissident and being a resistance protestor. I have no interest in defining myself in contrast to the powers-that-be in any area or fighting them in any way. I’m interested in flourishing and being in constant conflict seems oppositional to that.

  125. By my reckoning, male is anything that goes from in to out in expression, female is anything that goes around or encloses/encircles something else. The Sun is male. The planets are female. A rocket is male while it is traveling to orbit but once in orbit, it is female, going around the planet which is male in that relationship. The engine of a car is male, the body that encloses the engine is female. The driver of a car is male, enclosed by the car which is female.

    Male and female exist relative to each other as well. As far as symbolism goes, that’s a whole other thing entirely by my reckoning. I’d suspect if humanity does become spacefaring, you’d see women gravitate towards running the space stations.

  126. DrHooves – Wendell Berry, who studied the matter, would tell you that the Amish are conservative in their approach to technology, not prohibitionist or anti-technology. The decision to adopt any specific technology is made locally, by individual Amish communities, and before adopting they always ask the same question: “what effect will this technology have on our community?”

    People who look and only see an absence of all the “conveniences” may miss the fact that the Amish simply approach technology on an “opt in” when THEY decide basis, rather than a universal “opt out” basis.

  127. Pretentious_Username JMG
    Thank you for that overview, Pretentious. That cleared up a bit of confusion for me, because I considered the Victorian era to be between 1837 and 1901. I was able to find several books published during the late 19th and early 20th century on the topic that JMG discussed. What I found interesting is that a majority of such books warned against things such as “Secret bad habits” or “solitary practice”, which of course are polite euphemisms for masturbation. I suspect that if the popular literature of the time was speaking out against such practices, that it may have been considered a serious social problem. The books that I was able to find also spoke out against abortion, while many of later books also promoted eugenics.

  128. @Kyle, JMG is right when he said Catholic church prevented talking openly about “occultism” in public among Spanish-speaking people. I’ve seen authors surreptitiously introducing ideas on reincarnation in the thirties… on travel magazines, shoulder to shoulder with travel writers talking about how beautiful was sightseeing by train (!).
    I have vague memories of South American books published in the eighties with a strong scope on divination. More recently, in the nineties, Argentine Revista Predicciones and Spanish Editorial Año Cero published a bunch of reading material on occultism, talking openly about divination, UFOs, spagyrics, etc.

  129. Considering the subject matter of both the post and the comments, I may as well bring up that I have read some very racy pornography that was written during Victorian times and reprinted during the 1980s and 1990s. While I don’t know if the pornography was being marketed to Victorian women when it was first published, it would have presented to them examples of women seeking out and enjoying a wide variety of sexual activities.

  130. Somewhat OT:

    But, I thought you all might be interested in the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. All sorts of outsider art by “every stray, vagabond, and ruffian”* who never, ever set foot in a gathering of fashionable artists. If I were anywhere near the place (my road trip days being decidedly over), I’d certainly pay it a visit.

    https://www.avam.org/

    *Quote paraphrased from W of H: Chorazin, out of the mouth of the villain.

  131. JMG – re: your almanac “pic” reply to Ramaraj (comment #122): I didn’t realize that 19th century American almanacs were written in Tamil! 😊

  132. @JMG
    I wonder if you looked into some of the writings of Manicheans.
    http://www.thebodyissacred.org/origin-sexual-desire-creator-adam-eve-manichean-religion/

    Augustine one of the Church Fathers was very influenced by Manicheanism despite his later repudiation of the sect. He still retained much of its damaging ideological poisons:
    http://www.thebodyissacred.org/origin-st-augustine-sexuality-sin-sex-pleasure/

    Of which the Biophobia and disgust of matter and of the human body came about.

    So if one wants to look at the origins of what “Puritanism” is associated with. This poison has been inserted quite early in our history.

  133. JMG, sure, Goddard’s rocket isn’t terribly phallic, it also isn’t terribly likely to get to orbit.

    Just like the Moon being the same apparent size as the Sun is an incredible coincidence, so is the fact that orbit takes just about as much impulse as chemistry will allow. If our planet was only a little heavier, we’d barely be able to launch satellites, and if it were lighter, just about every country that “made it” could have a moon landing. More evidence that this is a cosmic preschool – we can launch rockets, but they have to look more or less like penises to be viable, and even then, the outcomes aren’t great. Sort of like drawing on my desk in 8th grade.

  134. Great stuff on American magic, which I am glad to see is becoming more of a Thing. I love this.
    Our beloved Cat Yronwode is devoted her material culture archive this month to similar things, fortunetelling, tea reading, cards, cups and enough gorgeous ephemera to make people who care about such things very happy.

  135. @Denis, I haven’t grokked the majority of what gets discussed in the Cosmic Doctrine book club, but one piece that I have gotten a lot out of that I think is relevant here is Fortune’s discussion of obsession. Fortune puts forward that when the will is frustrated it ‘precipitates’, leaving a space that anything can fill. That certainly looks like what happens in cases of TDS; love him or hate him I don’t think anyone obsesses over Trump unless their will has somehow been frustrated. Fortune also provides advice for what to do in cases of obsession, saying ‘the will must be sublimated’.

    The majority of advice you’re getting here seems to be around backing away without any sudden movements – which isn’t bad advice – but if you feel called to speak up in these moments the best approach may be to follow Fortune’s advice, and guide the conversation so as to ‘sublimate the will’ of the participants. Precisely how to do that is where my understanding of Fortune’s meaning reaches its limits – If it were my task I might drop some references to popular new thought texts as I try to turn the conversation to what sort of behavior the participants would like to see in their leaders instead, but your approach would likely look very different.

    I’d be very interested to hear how any adventures you have in this space go, I doubt this sort of thing will go away with the end of Trump’s Tenure…

  136. @Cleric of Progress That is super interesting. I only paid attention to about 5 of the early posts in the series, then a couple in the middle. Found myself overwhelmed but now I’m doing LRM and clearly need to circle back to these posts.

    Yes, there is something occurring that has a distinct religious fervor. I’m going to see this group again this week and I’m curious what will come up. I’m attending to observe and take notes.

  137. Singer Stevie Wonder is moving to Ghana. I looked the country up, and it does sound less 3rd-worldish than large parts of the flyover U.S. 🥺. I’d describe it as 2nd-world, if there is such a thing. So if anyone’s looking for a new start…

  138. Jessica, thank you for this. I think you’re quite correct about the 1980s as the crucial decade here, as that’s when traditional American occultism really got swept under the rug — and of course you’re dead right to see the class issues involved in all this.

    Anonymous, yes, exactly. The first step in meaningful change is to reclaim your own imagination.

    Lathechuck, a case could be made!

    Denis, excellent. It’s precisely by getting alternative thinkers to fall into the trap of being oppositional, rather than doing something unrelated to the status quo, that the status quo perpetuates itself.

    Owen, interesting. I could see that.

    SLClaire, the Victorian era was in some ways the golden age of smut. What you repress, you reinforce!

    Patricia M, thank you for this! If I ever get down that way I’ll check it out.

    Ron, that’s why I specified the artwork… 😉

    Info23, I’m quite familiar with the Manichean tradition. That sort of thinking was already widespread in late classical culture, well before Mani’s time.

    Justin, my guess is that a less sexually obsessive culture would have found other shapes for its space vehicles.

    Y. Chireau, do you have a link to that? I wasn’t able to find it on the Lucky Mojo website, and I’d like to post it.

    Your Kittenship, his timing may be good. I’ll be talking about that in upcoming posts.

  139. JMG, Stevie Wonder is a wealthy musical genius, beloved of millions, so he’ll get a great reception wherever he goes. What struck me was , Ghana has six major ethnic groups who get along reasonably well, a growing industrial base, and a rising standard of living. I think for an average person, life in Ghana must be much like life was in the post-war U.S. Is that the angle you were looking at, or do you see something else?

  140. Goddard’s rocket is inherently stable while the phallic arrangement, like the V2, is inherently unstable. Imagine suspending the rocket from a cable attached to the top versus a cable attached to the bottom. I remember videos of the early vintage rockets, German V-2s and US Vanguards, going out of control and crashing.

  141. Reporting back on the scrapbook/ledger from the 1800s (interesting in many ways, but not the supernatural-occult, with one exception):
    1) This book was originally used as a ledger and later repurposed as a scrapbook. The back of the book has mostly untouched pages of the original ledger which was used for logging various transactions, mostly of laborers work and pay. Most entries undated, but there was one entry from 1827. “Mostly untouched’ – various sketches were drawn on some pages (mostly birds) in later years.
    2) About the first two-thirds book was turned into a scrapbook of a wide variety of newspaper clippings, mostly post-Civil War and later – hard to tell because undated. (This reusing of items in an earlier era stands in stark contrast to our throw-away ‘progressive’ modern era. Gives me a lot to think about.) The scrapbook/ledger came from somewhere in New Jersey (I must have confused it with another old book). The clippings included poetry, stories – contemporary and classic, advice on moral training and living a moral life, education, obituaries, politics (one article on “How Will the Colored Man Vote”), general science, animal husbandry (especially horses), crops and seeds (one article on bees), remedies for human and animal ailments (several on hydrophobia/’bite of a mad dog’), household management. One article discussed the value of cold water for health and healing, from a material standpoint only. The general science articles related directly or indirectly to practical matters or daily living – with two exceptions. One wrote that a scientist predicted ‘in a few years’ that because of advances in science most people would live to be 100+ years old. The other was an article on DREAMS. The collection contained nothing on parlor games or recreation or anything obviously occult (or even anti-occult), not even planting by the moon.
    3) Out of the diverse collection, this one article on DREAMS had the only hint of anything remotely occult or supernatural. The article on dreams focused on external causes and conditions, except for the last paragraph. The last paragraph had to admit, based on narratives in the Bible, that there were some things that could not be explained away.

  142. Movies – the new normal, ca. 2021, from Vulture Magazine Emphasis mine.

    “Nomadland is by no means a standard Oscar movie, but this hasn’t been a remotely standard Oscar cycle. The film has managed to become a likely Best Picture nominee and the current favorite to win. And it may well be the defining movie of the past tumultuous, terrible year. It follows a loose collection of nomads for whom “retirement” means traveling the country for seasonal work after losing their savings in the 2008 recession or never having any to begin with. *It’s an exploration of tattered safety nets, stubborn individualism, and economic decay in the heartland*, as seen through the eyes of Fern (McDormand), who starts living out of her van after the death of both her husband and the community in which they made their home.”

  143. @JMG

    What was wrong with the late classical world? To have those pathological ideas floating around?

  144. Lady Cutekitten and others considering African countries, and also a general request for Christians to pray: on Saturday, my mother-in-law was in a motorbike taxi crash. (She is very Southern Baptist, thus the religion specificity.) As citizens of one Central African country, there are no emergency services such as we expect in the first world. She is at home, badly scraped, hopefully she does not get an infection. She may have broken bones, as she cannot stand, someone is supposed to come by in a few days with a scanner.

    If you expect ambulences to show up to accidents, and you expect to not pay bribes to see doctors (socialized medicine, third world style), or perhaps prefer not to buy your pain meds from a basket at a roadside stand thinking, perhaps, medicines should be kept climate controlled, I urge you to look very carefully into the local medical system as it exists, not as the advertising has it, in the place you are considering. I’m not talking about long term medical conditions you could fly overseas for, but trauma. My in-laws are solidly upper-middle class by local standards.

    Of course emergency services and general medical care will likely fade in the years ahead, but if you are thinking of making such a move you should be aware that such will not be as you are accustomned to.

    (Also, having explained this multiple times to folks: the motorbike is the taxi, not was hit by a taxi. For some reason motorbike taxi is a hard concept to grasp in the USA. It’ll probably be a viable post-uber system here by and by.)

  145. Thank you, Boysmom, for a look at life in the Global South for the average person. Will pray for mother-in-law. What country does she live in? Please report back and let us know how she’s doing.

  146. BoysMom,

    I’m sorry to hear about your mother-in-law and hope she recovers easily. You (and she) may know this already, but if she has access to unadulterated honey, it’s a great topical antibacterial ointment.

    Though in no way comparable to road rash or post-motorbike-accident scrapes, I’ve used it for cat scratches (they have incredibly high infection rates and honey prevents that), and I’ve treated an abscessing cat-bite wound on my cat after he got in a fight) and just general scrapes, etc.. Of course you and she would do your due diligence, but if it’s available and little else is, it might be worth a try to prevent infection.

  147. Ron M re: CEI’s apocalypse not list – of course – if you cherry pick the extremes of alarmists, you’ll find they’re wrong.

    And some things are truly concerning.
    While Al Gore’s “Arctic sea ice will disappear in 10 years” is false,
    the fact is that Arctic sea ice is decreasing, January sea ice down 3.1 percent per decade since 1979.
    see “January 2021 compared to previous years” in:
    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    And how did the CEI’s ideal of a free market perform in the recent Texas freeze?

    JMG – I think your perception that science is a religion of alarmists is a misperception, due to alarmist news reports getting widely published in the popular press because dramatic headlines sell and thus are widely remembered.
    But the bulk of actual science, with its diversity of views, subtle nuances and tedious math about confidence intervals, etc. is known only to readers of specialized journals.

    A case in point – the predicted ice age hoopla of the 70s.
    There were certainly scientists leaning that way – and they had good reasons: the Milankovic cycle and aerosols.
    And there were other scientists predicting warming – and they had good reasons: CO2 and other greenhouse gases rapidly rising.
    But most said: we have insufficient data on aerosols and greenhouse gases sources/amounts/sinks/residence times in the atmosphere, so we can’t say for sure now. “More research is needed” is NOT the stuff of riveting headlines.
    https://skepticalscience.com/ice-age-predictions-in-1970s.htm

    Also, the press (and people’s recollection of an article) is known for turning “could” into “will”.
    Example is S.I.Rasool saying aerosols “could [cause an ice age]”, not “will”, but many people remember “will”.

    And the press doesn’t follow up. The normal process of science is finding errors and increasing understanding, so when the Rasool et. al. paper of 1971 lead to criticism of the math and then others found out other greenhouse gases were important, (and later – pollution controls rendered the aerosols less important) – the press never published as large a headline/article as the original with the update of “Rasool et. al. no longer think ice age could be happening”.

  148. Sunnv, your point in response to the CEI’s apocalypse not list is well taken. I did not in any way imply that all climatologists climbed upon the alarmist bandwagon either in the ‘70s (re: a coming ice age) or the ‘80s and beyond (re: global warming). And the subtle arguments of serious scientists are beyond the capacity of the media, who are far more interested in sales rather than in the truth. Scientists should know better than rely on the media to spread their message. But the CEI’s article is not a matter of cherry-picking news snippets. I do not know how old you are, but just about anybody among this commentariat who is over 55 years of age and grew up in North America and had a reasonable level of awareness of the world around them in the late ‘70s will clearly remember the pervasive message that ‘the next ice age is coming’. I remember reading loads of scientific papers on the subject (my father subscribed to a lot of science magazines) and novels set in a not-too-distant-in-the-future Ice Age America. I remember having heated discussions with my friends in Grades 8 & 9 about whether civilization will be able to survive the coming ice age. I remember the shock of having a green Christmas in 1980 (the first in my life) because I never expected to see one. And I was writing fiction set in the coming future ice age (so was JMG). The climatologists certainly did not form a large group that categorically denounced the ‘coming ice age’ story as alarmist. Just like the climatologists did not as a unified body denounce Al Gore, Prince Charles and Gordon Brown as morons and advise the public not to listen to their thoroughly unscientific pronouncements. Or, if the scientists did that, I sure didn’t get the memo.

    Scientists do not live in hermitically sealed containers. They are part of the culture that they live in and are influenced by such culture. In the present Western society, it happens to be the secular utopia/apocalypse binary. In other cultures, not so. I have quite a few Hindu Brahmin friends who have PhDs in science and work as professional scientists but are religious to the point of performing an hour of prayers and ritual for an hour every single day before they go to work. They complain to me how ‘White scientists’ argue with them incessantly about how science and a belief in God are irreconcilable. But to my Hindu scientist friends, they see no conflict; rather, they see scientific discoveries as proof of God’s existence and validating the teaching of the Vedas. Their view (which tends to not be tainted with the utopia/apocalypse virus) is a reflection of their culture.

    My intention in sharing the CEI link was twofold: (1) to remind people that JMG’s claim that scientists were sounding the alarm in the ‘70s about a coming ice age is not without evidence; and (2) to show that the often contradictory alarmism of some scientists, aided and abetted by the media, has eroded public trust in scientific authority. Besides, it is entertaining reading. I have great respect for the scientific method and am saddened by the sorry state that science has come to. The days in which public respect for science as the sole source of The Truth™ is long gone (I’ve seen its precipitous decline since I was a little boy) and given the phase of cultural and civilizational decline that we are in, I do not see any recovery for at least the next five centuries.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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