Have you ever noticed that in America, magic is always mixed up in the popular imagination with premodern Europe? That’s not just an affectation of the Neopagan movement, though it certainly shows up there in spades—consider the way that Neopagan traditions newly coined in America so reliably claim fake origins somewhere in Europe, or for that matter the constant interpenetration of the Neopagan scene with Renaissance Faires and medieval reenactment groups such as the Society for Creative Anachronism. The hooded cloaks and pseudomedieval gowns, the ceremonial cutlery large and small, the imaginary third degree grandmothers with European connections who featured so heavily in Neopagan origin stories a few decades back—it’s all European or, more precisely, faux-European, a romantic facade that has no more to do with Europe than a bodice-ripper romance on a supermarket bookshelf has to do with actual relationships between men and women.
Long before the Neopagan movement became a cultural force, though, that habit was already in place. For an obvious example, think of Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom. “Kingdom” isn’t an American political term; we never had a king of our own here, and chucked the colonial rule of England’s kings a long time ago. Yet Walt Disney, with his unerring grasp of the lowest common denominator of American bad taste, centered his glorified theme park on a fake concrete castle that’s basically a twee gingerbread parody of Schloss Neuschwanstein in Germany. With epic inevitability he called the whole shebang the Magic Kingdom. Of course it had to be a kingdom; can you imagine him calling it a Magic Republic?
What makes that last rhetorical question all the more interesting to me—and all the more relevant to the theme I want to develop here, the quest to make sense of our national future by revisiting certain all-but-erased aspects of its past—is that not so long ago, it wasn’t rhetorical at all. The equation of magic with Europe is at its root an equation of magic with the past, the Olde Worlde. (At the bargain-basement levels of the American popular imagination, after all, the past is England, the present is suburban Ohio, and the future, gods help us all, is San Francisco—that’s why the Star Trek franchise has the Federation headquartered there.) A great deal of hard propagandizing over the last half century has gone into that equation of magic with an outworn and foreign past, and it’s still fairly brittle: all you have to do is go looking in those corners of American history that have been deep-sixed by both sides of the contemporary culture wars.
And that, dear readers, is where Johannes Kelpius comes in.
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Johannes Kelpius was born in 1667 near the village of Sighişoara—literate vampire fans will know this as the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler—in what is now western Romania and was then part of the Holy Roman Empire. He attended universities in several German cities, and by the age of 22 was a rising star in the Lutheran theological scene, the author of several books on theology and education. While at college he joined the Pietist movement, the end of Lutheranism that considered a personal relationship with Christ through prayer and right living more important than formal ceremonies and church attendance. To modern ears that sounds remarkably bland, but it was’t bland at all in 1689; people were condemned by courts, driven into exile, and occasionally put to death for holding such views.
There was a reason for that, though it isn’t something that most religious historians will talk about these days. Pietism in 1689 tended quite reliably to stray into territory that’s been marked off for a very long time with a great big DO NOT ENTER sign by rationalist and religious orthodoxies alike. Jakob Böhme, a small town German shoemaker whose naratives of visionary alchemy inspired occultists across Europe from the 17th century on, was standard reading among Pietists in Kelpius’ day; so were the writings of the Rosicrucians, a secretive group of Christian occultists active earlier in the century; so were actual textbooks of astrology and alchemy. The Protestant Reformation of the previous century encouraged people all over Europe to open doors that had been slammed shut centuries earlier by the Inquisition; in Kelpius’ time the leaders of the major Protestant sects were trying to push the doors shut again.
That’s necessary background if you want to understand the career of Johannes Kelpius’ most important teacher, the astronomer and Lutheran minister Johann Jakob Zimmermann. At that time astronomers were usually also astrologers—casting horoscopes is a good way to fund astronomical research, a point that astronomers in today’s world of shrinking budgets for pure research might want to think about—and Zimmermann was no exception; two of his most famous treatises combined detailed astronomical observations of two comets with astrological predictions based on their movements. He also studied the writings of Jakob Böhme and believed that Christ’s kingdom on Earth would begin sometime not too long after 1694. All this was too much for Lutheran orthodoxy to take, and he was driven from his pulpit in 1686.
Kelpius went to Hamburg to study with Zimmermann and quickly became a leading member of the Chapter of Perfection, the organization of Lutheran occultists Zimmermann founded. As far as anyone has been able to document, the Chapter of Perfection didn’t call itself a Rosicrucian organization, but its teachings, its symbolism, and its habits were so close to those of known Rosicrucian groups that the label is almost impossible to escape. That was an increasingly difficult thing to be in late 17th century Europe, though As the mainstream churches clamped down harder and harder on Rosicrucianism and other forms of Christian occultism, the members of the Chapter discussed the options, and eventually settled on a plan that was interesting a great many dissidents in Europe just them: emigrating to the New World.
There were good reasons for that choice. Three of the original English colonies on the Atlantic seaboard—Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island—had embraced a concept that was utterly unthinkable in Europe in those days: religious liberty. Pennsylvania in particular, founded by the Quaker William Penn, actively encouraged religious minorities who were persecuted in Europe to cross the Atlantic and make new homes in America. Zimmermann and his followers read about German Pietist settlements in Pennsylvania, remembered the words of the Book of Revelation about the Woman in the Wilderness, and raised the money for the trip. Not long before the voyage, though, Zimmermann died unexpectedly, and the rest of the community elected Kelpius as his successor.
The eleven families of the Chapter of Perfection sailed from Rotterdam on January 7, 1694 aboard the Sarah Maria Hopewell, and stopped in London for most of a month. While in England Kelpius visited Jane Leade, an influential writer on Jakob Böhme’s work and a visionary in her own right. February found them back aboard and heading west across the Atlantic. They had a narrow escape from pirates on May 10, but on June 23 they arrived safely at Bohemia Landing, a little village at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland—it’s called Chesapeake City these days. A few days later they were in Philadelphia fifty miles north. Shortly after that they bought land on Wissahickon Creek in what was then wilderness and is now part of north central Philly, and started building their community.
If you know your way around the long history of American communes, what followed will be instantly familiar. There are two basic organizational schemes for communes in this country, the kind where everybody lives together in one big house, and the kind where each family has its own house with a central meeting house somewhere convenient for everyone; the commune on the Wissahickon pioneered the second of these plans. The meeting hall was a big timber structure 40 feet square with an astronomical observatory on top. The members built simple houses in the woods around it, and cleared land for gardens and fields.
They kept up an active spiritual life in their new home—June 23, the anniversary of their arrival in the New World and close enough to the summer solstice to make no difference, was their main ceremonial date, but the festivals of the Christian year were also important in their religious calendar. As other settlers moved into the area, the Chapter of Perfection started a school and conducted religious services to which everyone was invited, all the while waiting for the expected signs of Christ’s second coming. As capable Christian occultists well versed in a wide range of esoteric lore, they also earned a reputation in the area as the local go-to people if you needed a blessing put on your cattle or thought that someone had hexed you.
Kelpius was as busy in the little earth-sheltered home he built for himself as he had been in the university towns of Germany. He wrote a book on prayer that’s still worth reading, composed hymns for the community, wrote letters of spiritual advice to correspondents all over the colonies, and provided free medical treatment for anyone who needed it, including the local Native people. (That’s a classic Rosicrucian habit: “to profess nothing save to heal the sick, and that gratis” is one of the six traditional laws of the Rosicrucians.)
He also pursued a demanding schedule of spiritual practices and austerities—too demanding, as it turned out. In the bitterly cold autumn of 1707, he fell ill. Despite medical help from his fellow initiates, he died on January 1, 1708, at the age of 41. Local legend has it that he had succeeded in making the Philosopher’s Stone, the great goal of alchemy, and arranged for it to be thrown into the Schuylkill River; as soon as the stone touched the water, it exploded with a flash and a bang.
Once Kelpius was gone, most of his fellow hermits left the community and returned to more ordinary lives in nearby Germantown—that’s another common theme in the history of American communes, few of which survive the death of their founders. Six remained: four of the original party that had crossed the ocean with Kelpius, and two who had joined the community later, a Swiss emigrant named Conrad Matthai and a young Englishman named Christopher Witt. As the years drew on the remnant of the Chapter sold the meeting house beside the Wissahickon, moved to Germantown, and continued their spiritual and magical practices quietly while supporting themselves with various jobs in the rapidly growing community.
The last survivor of the Chapter, Christopher Witt, lived until 1765 and became a fixture in Germantown society as a physician, astrologer, botanist, clockmaker, musician, and hexenmeister—“wizard” is a fairly good translation of that fine old German word. He was also the painter of the first oil portrait ever painted in the thirteen colonies, which inevitably was a painting of Johannes Kelpius. To the end of Witt’s life he continued to practice the spiritual disciplines he learned from Kelpius, and to provide free health care to the poor; he also taught magic to several students, who went on to help create the grand Pennsylvania Dutch (i.e., Deutsch, German) tradition of American folk magic.
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That’s the story of Johannes Kelpius. You won’t find him mentioned in most accounts of colonial America, and where he does appear, he and the tradition he represented are generally dismissed as a historical oddity, not something that has any relevance to America today. That’s part of a broad and distinctly dishonest bit of historical obfuscation that pervades all sides of today’s culture wars.
Quite a few years ago I wrote an essay titled “Magic, Politics, and the Origins of the Mind-Body Problem,” which was recently reprinted in an anthology of my essays, The City of Hermes. Much of it isn’t relevant to this week’s post, but one thing I discovered in the course of researching the article bears directly on the theme I’m exploring here. Standard accounts of the intellectual history of the early modern period—the period, that is, between the end of the Renaissance and the coming of the Industrial Revolution—like to portray it as a struggle between two competing ways of seeing the world: the worldview of traditional Christianity on the one hand, and the worldview of the emerging scientific materialism on the other. Those two worldviews and their associated ideologies certainly played important roles at that time…but they were not alone.
There was also a third, equally influential worldview with its own, equally influential reflections in the worlds of scholarship, religion, and politics. That was the worldview of Johannes Kelpius among many others—a worldview we may as well call occultism, though the word wasn’t coined until a couple of centuries later. As Dame Frances Yates and a phalanx of other scholars of Renaissance and early modern culture have showed conclusively, occultism had a huge cultural presence across Europe from the dawn of the Renaissance in the 14th century until late in the 17th, when it was forced back underground by a tacit alliance between scientific materialists and mainstream Christians. The erasure of that presence remains a live issue today; you can read dozens of accounts of Isaac Newton’s life, to cite only one example, without ever learning that he devoted more time to alchemy than to figuring out how gravity works.
The same thing is true of American history. Figures like Johannes Kelpius are anything but historical oddities—there were a great many of them, and they took part in a major current of our history, which has been erased from public awareness as completely as the many long nights Isaac Newton put into the quest for the philosopher’s stone. It’s a particularly striking omission because the suppression of occultism in the thirteen colonies and the United States after 1650 or so was never anything like so complete as it was in Europe. During the years when occultism survived in Europe only among the rural poor or in secretive circles of urban scholars, the United States was awash with magical practitioners, some of them drawing on European traditions, some of them preserving lore brought over from Africa—yes, we’ll get to that in due time—and a good many of them creating brand new teachings and practices right here.
To my mind, it’s important to bring those American occultists back into our collective memory, and not just because we’ve still got plenty of occultists here today who might benefit from knowing a little about their own heritage. The three worldviews I’ve mentioned—those of traditional Christianity, scientific materialism, and occultism—have, among other things, very different relationships to the concept of historical change. Traditional Christianity draws its vision of historical change from the pages of the Old Testament; the core idea is that there is a divine revelation and a covenant, from which people gradually fall away, until the resulting disasters humble them and bring them back to the old-time religion. That’s the way traditional Christians in this country tend to think of all historical change: we’re either falling away into this or that appealing error, or we’re creeping back shamefacedly to the old truths.
The vision of historical change central to scientific materialism, as readers of this blog will be well aware, differs in almost every respect from the Christian vision. To the scientific materialist, the past isn’t the repository of truths to which we’ll have to return once we get the bejesus beaten out of us by the consequences of our own folly; rather, the past is a fetid morass of ignorance and superstition from which the brilliant insights of scientific thinkers have freed us, and we have to keep on listening to each new round of brilliant insights from the latest generation of scientific thinkers so we can keep on marching boldly onward toward a shining future of progress that will lead us ultimately to the stars. Where the Christian vision is circular, a repeated process of straying and returning, the materialist vision is linear—what has once been discarded should stay discarded, as the march of progress traces a straight line toward its imaginary future.
Occultism doesn’t embrace either of these visions. When occultists borrow the historical metaphors of traditional Christianity, as they have done now and again, the narrative of straying and returning morphs into a narrative of loss and recovery—not surprising, since much of the history of occultism from the Renaissance on has been a matter of trying to reassemble the fragmentary lore of magic, divination, and occult tradition from the ancient world. When occultists borrow the historical metaphors of scientific materialism, as they have also done now and again, the vision of linear progress morphs into a narrative of eras and phases of time that establish their own rules and can’t be forced into any straight line.
Central to the occult vision of time, rather, is the concept of discovery. Occultists are always finding things—new things, old things, it doesn’t matter, so long as they have to be discovered. The discoveries don’t form a linear sequence stretching toward an imagined future, nor do they require abandonment of the present in order to circle back to an imagined past; they’re simply discoveries, and each person who encounters them can choose to ignore them, to embrace them, or to use them as inspiration to seek some new discovery. To Johannes Kelpius, the teachings of Jakob Böhme and the Rosicrucians were discoveries that turned his world upside down and sent him on his way to a destiny he probably could never have imagined; to Christopher Witt, the teachings of Johannes Kelpius transformed his life and helped him make a respected place for himself in the New World—and to us, Christopher Witt, Johannes Kelpius, and the other members of the Chapter of Perfection can be a discovery that opens the door to different ways of understanding who we are, where we came from, and where we might decide to go.
Traditional Christians now and again have liked to portray the United States as a Christian republic; scientific materialists now and again have liked to portray it as a republic of reason. Each of these is partly true—and it’s also true in exactly the same measure to see the United States as a magic republic, a land whose history has been powerfully shaped by wizards, alchemists, witches, root doctors, astrologers, folk healers, clairvoyants, and the founders and initiates of magical secret societies. Over the months ahead, I want to tell some of the stories of our magic republic. In the process, I hope to show how we might shed some of the more dysfunctional historical narratives of the recent past, and redirect our imaginations toward more promising ways of approaching the future.
I know nothing of occultism and it’s history and traditions. I DO however know and sense that this modern American binary life rings hollow; void of and missing an essence that I can’t put a finger on.
It will probably take me a decade to wrap my head around all of my misprogramming. Keep firing, and I’ll keep learning….!
Interesting post, JMG. One in which the definitions of occultism, alchemy and even “magic” have to be agreed upon before getting too far along in a discussion. It appears to me there’s a lot of gray wiggle room here in between these concepts without doing so.
Which is probably related to limitations around how I think. It seems to me there’s an underlying assumption, no matter what world view a person holds, that there is some sort of ultimate “one way, truth and the light”. And regardless of the limits that soon come up in “proving” that approach, the underlying influence remains. The process of “rolling your own” approach, so to speak, when constructing a world view, is never going to sit well with the folks that are near the extremes of religious dogma or secular materialism.
In other words, if moving towards a more promising future requires people to re-evaluate some of their most basic world views and accommodate the reality of a blending of “one way(s), truths and lights”, it sure will make for interesting times.
I’m very much looking forward to this series of essays. Do you have any recommended reading that might go well with the stuff you’ll be covering? I recently picked up a copy of Occult America, if that fits the bill…
Also, FYI, I think I’m going to start a death metal band named Ceremonial Cutlery. I’ll make sure you get your cut (pun intended!) when we strike it rich.
Dave, it’s a common perception, and to my mind an accurate one: the approved versions of American history in circulation these days — all the approved versions, from the social justice left straight around to the fundamentalist right — have been gutted, stuffed, and mounted by the intellectual equivalent of taxidermists, so that everything living has been taken out of them. Let’s see if we can collectively make those dry bones live…
Drhooves, premature definition is a serious mistake in this and most other fields of intellectual activity, and this is especially the case with words that have had many meanings, or whose meanings have changed over time. Both those things are true of words such as “magic,” “alchemy,” and “occultism,” which is why I’m using them ostensively — that is, as ways of pointing to the common features of specific examples.
The notion that there must be one single way, truth, and light for everyone is among the most destructive mental habits of our time. Fortunately it’s balanced in the minds of many with the alternative idea of liberty — which is ultimately the recognition that different people have different needs, wants, and talents, and ought to be able to follow those as they wish so long as doing so doesn’t interefere with their neighbors’ doing the same. So, yes, we’re going to be talking about liberty. Stay tuned!
Dudley, Occult America is one of the few general books on the subject, and it’s quite good as far as it goes. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that these posts are in part raw material for a book I have in mind, exploring the same subject from my own quirky angle. As for your band, I’ll look forward to hearing Ceremonial Cutlery’s first album!
Wow, what an exciting idea for a series of posts! Now I’m bummed that I held my cards so close to the chest at last year’s summer solstice shindig, especially where it came to some recent discoveries I’d made around the fusion of African, Native American and European traditions. However, I was having too much fun playing push-hands and drinking New England IPA… Behold the blade Nothung, the needful sword! (I keep checking the pommel for Paracelsus’ secret stash…)
I should shoot you a longer note soon regarding royal acts of certain kings of Kongo regarding direct attempts to fuse the occult views of colonizers and the colonized from the position of the powerful looking at the fall of their realm from its apex. If only I were as productive as you regarding these efforts. However, I have a lot on my plate right now with current techniques rescued from historical obscurity and lighting up the imaginal future of my own progressive myth. It all started as an attempt to retrieve via “remote viewing” what I couldn’t discern in the literature directly…
For a hint, check out the “dream circles” of Henry Reed who used to work in Jung’s laboratory. You might recall his publications at Princeton circa 1970s titled Sundance: The Community Dream Journal. His site (http://henryreed.com/) has been down recently, highlighting the necessity of getting to work before the general flight into “peace and safety of a new dark age” runs even further afield. Henry’s still a sharp cookie but less interested in the worldly affairs of science these days and more focused on his art and goat herding. You can still grab his essential text here: https://www.academia.edu/35654308/DREAM-ESP-for-EVERYBODY.pdf
Meanwhile back in eternal Kongo, I’ve been struggling with the old sources in Dutch, Portuguese, Church Latin and Bakongo, along with contemporary French accounts in the diaspora. It’s surprising how much magic gets noted in the historical sources at all in spite of the best intentions of anthropologists and their ilk. Thank goodness for certain parties in the Vatican, especially the Order of Christ (formerly known as you-know-who)!
The constitution of the old Kongo empire has much to inform the Magic Republic concept, sharing some electoral features with the Holy Roman Empire’s constitution. It’s surprising how much has survived in the song, dance and ceremony of Afro-Caribbean communities, such as an explicit connection to Charlemagne’s establishment. The elite of Kongo did their homework and provided for some very resilient structures from Congo Square to the pacquet congo.
For example related to the issues of religious liberty mentioned in this post, take a look at the old New York celebration of Pinkster, Dutch Pentecost, sort of an Atlantic Protestant mardi gras, only at a different point in the liturgical calendar. Too bad we didn’t have more time to chat at Sunny’s in Red Hook because the local psychogeography is full of Lovecraftian nightmares that turn out to be many American Dreams in disguise!
n.b. the Wikipedia article on the “conflict thesis” of history is replete with examples of the editorial contest reflecting ongoing struggle with this socially constructed worldview, which is really a tenuous ceasefire agreement from the last Wars of Religion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_thesis
Wonderful, I am very excited for this series of posts, great start. My moms family is PA Dutch, do you have any book recs to get into that vein of discovery?
I’m reminded of how classical music fans and pop/rap music fans occupy their own separate worlds: the classical fans cling to their dearly beloved musical reenactments of Bach’s clacking harpsichords and Palestrina’s ancient choirs and the pop/rap fans could tell you what Billie Eilish ate for lunch last week or the type of guitar strings owned by David Bowie in 1978 yet wouldn’t know the difference between Webern and Debussy. The rest of us have to remind them that music outside of those two camps exists, played on real instruments by regular people for quite a while now, and to add insult to injury, our brand of music is being hashed and rehashed all the time.
If old skool Christianity is a crashing loop and the Religion of Progress™ is an arrow straight into space, perhaps occultism is a spiral.
Thank you again for a marvelous post. Your take on history is refreshing. I look forward to further discoveries.
I find it fascinating that in ordinary mainstream life in the U.S. occultism is frowned upon, but hidden away in the nooks and crannies of the economic and social elite it has a long history that continues to this day. As a naive freshman scholarship student from Maui my (now wife) was invited to join the most prestigious sorority at Cornell. She was reluctant,as it was culturally such a huge change for her, and she was blissfully unaware of the connections that came with such an invitation. To help convince her and couple of other fence sitters a few of the elder sisters took her and the others to visit the Secret Society to which many of them belonged. This involved blindfolds, and a secret elevator to a room atop a mysterious gothic tower. The blindfolds were removed to revel a large room lit only by candles resplendent in skulls, tapestries and much ocult symbology. She immediately realized this was not for her, and that down the road the members of the scary room might have had other plans for the exotic island girl. So she turned town the invitation to join, and perhaps a life in the elite circles of the empire.
Re Christianity, I thought their “universe” had a single start and a single final end. Not a circle. I suspect you have explained this somewhere…
Kim, we should definitely talk. You’re aware, I hope, that American hoodoo is primarily rooted in Congolese traditions, as the bulk of slaves brought to this country came from that part of Africa? (The enslavement of people from further west in Africa was primarily in the latter part of the slave trade, which is why the African diaspora traditions in the Carribbean and Brazil have such extensive West African roots.) So anything that helps highlight America’s Congolese roots is grist for the mill.
Isaac, the one thing that comes to mind right now is The Long Lost Friend, the classic Pennsylvania Dutch grimoire, which is available in a good clean edition by Daniel Harms. I’ll be looking for more sources, since the Pennsylvania Dutch magical tradition plays a very large role in the history of American magic.
Kimberly, to my mind occultism is more of a game of hide and seek, with occultists scampering all over the place like excited children, seeing what they can find. It’s a lot harder to reduce to a simple geometrical pattern — but it’s also a lot more fun.
Raymond, you’re most welcome.
Clay, college fraternities and sororities are an offshoot of the fraternal lodge movement, which we’re also going to be talking about, and yes, they use a lot of deliberately spooky symbolism. I know people who had a very good time in college Greek-letter organizations and others who had a miserable time in them, for what it’s worth.
Ol’ Bab, the universe of Christian faith is a straight line with a beginning and an end, but within that universe human beings follow the trajectory of a yo-yo — straying from the straight and narrow and then being yanked back to it.
You might already know this, but the Christian mystics, and Böhme in particular, have come back into vogue among a subset of American scholars. Stems from Heidegger mostly, I think, and his attempts to find a third way of understanding the world, neither Christian, nor rationalist/materialist. I don’t know of any scholarly books examining the overlap of Heidegger and his followers and occultism, but I think it’s an interesting topic.
A couple of things came to mind, and I’m not sure if they’re relevant, but we’ll see.
1. I started reading the Republic a week or two ago. After your references to it in your last post, I felt that I had to look at the thing myself and see if I could figure out what’s really going on there. I had been avoiding that work because I understood it to be a piece of political philosophy, in which I’m not very interested. Doing a simultaneous reading of Proclus, Plotinus and Picatrix, with the Timaeus in the back of my mind, has shown me to just what extent what we call the Western Magical Tradition simply IS Platonism, and I didn’t want to– as I thought– ruin it with a bunch of bad politics.
Well. I’m still not sure if I have any idea what’s going on in the Republic. It’s clearly more than a book of political philosophy. Plato has Socrates say at the very beginning that he’s describing a city-state in order to illustrate, on a large scale, the way that justice should operate in an individual soul. So it can’t necessarily be taken as political prescription, at all. But the first thing I noticed was that Plato/Socrates starts off by saying, “We definitely can’t allow the stories of Homer or Hesiod about the gods in our imaginary city, and we have to censor any stories at all about gods in which they seem to be misbehaving.”
America is a Protestant society, but Protestantism is born out of Catholicism, and for a thousand years the great majority of the gods in Catholic society were dead humans (“saints”). We may have convinced ourselves that we’ve abandoned the past, but old habits die hard, and thus the “gods” of the American historical tradition are also mostly dead humans. I’m referring, of course, to the Fouding Fathers especially, and more broadly to the whole rest of our pantheon of secular saints, from Christopher Columbus to Martin Luther King.
And that leads us back to the competing visions of history you describe in your post. In contemporary historical narratives, both Left and Right have their pantheon of deified dead people. Sometimes these vary widely from each other, and it’s a common gambit in political writing to try to overturn one of the other side’s traditional saints. On the other hand, the way that each side approaches its own saints is exactly the way that Plato prescribes in the beginning of the Republic!
I’m not yet sure what to do with that.
2. I’m from Pennsylvania. Germans and Germantowns can still be found all over the state, as I’m sure you know. Now, my own ethnic background includes Pennsylvania Germans, mixed with Italian and Irish Catholics. For a long time I’ve always assumed that the German side of my heritage was by far the least interesting. Something that’s been coming to light recently, and which this post confirms, is that that isn’t true at all– Actually, it’s Hollywood and popular culture generally that finds Italian and Irish Americans interesting, and German Americans boring or non-existent. So thank you for that!
It’s interesting you should mention liberty, because I’ve noticed a major semi-dichotomy that seems to divide the left and the right, both of whom ostensibly believe in freedom. It’s the difference between “freedom to” and “freedom from”, and where the lines are drawn along that battleground/
“Your freedom stops when it harms me” – but what constitutes “harm”?
Suppose I’m a non-smoker, which I am. Suppose that someone I’ll arbitrarily name Bill (no offense intended to any Bills out there) is a smoker.
If Bill lights his cigarette and unwarrantedly stabs me in the cheek with the lit end, does that harm me? Most people would agree that it does. Should Bill be restrained from doing it, then? Most people would say yes.
If Bill is smoking his cigarette in a public area that I happen to be walking through, and I breathe in some of his secondhand smoke, is that “harm”? Maybe. But not as many people would say yes
If Bill is smoking his cigarette at home, in private, is that “harm”? Probably not. But it harms himself, doesn’t it? Such dangerous behavior – das Rauchen muss sogar heimlich verboten!
It’s the same for basically everything. Freedom is a gradient being treated as a binary, and as with all binaries the extremes are unpleasant on either side. At the brink of “freedom from” lurk microaggressions, TDS, and the urge to call everything that doesn’t fit your belief system racist; at the brink of “freedom to” lurks the Gilded Age, abuses of all kinds, rapists and molesters walking scot-free because there’s nothing to be gained from reporting them. The solution, of course, lies in the middle, breaking the binary.
So what is the ternary option here? I want to say “manners” or “common sense”; if so, that’s something that will probably need to be laboriously redeveloped.
Hi JMG and all- Boonville MO had it’s very own hoodoo root doctor, Dr. Sam Nightingale, “Guinea Sam, the conjure man”. He appeared on the bank of the Missouri River at Boonville, sometime in the late 1850’s, soaking wet, claiming that he had been fired from a cannon in Africa, sailed through the air for 5,000 miles, and had landed in the river. Doubters say that the riverboat he had been on blew up, a common occurrence at the time. He told people that he had come to town to stay, and that “things are going to change around here”, and he would work his magical skills to help free the slaves. After the Civil War, he remained in Boonville, and spent the rest of his life removing hexes and practicing herbal medicine.
You are absolutely right about the lure of the Renfaire world – it feels like the ultimate in romanticism to many people. But then, hasn’t “Long ago and far away” always held that sort of glamour in the general imagination.
And I know for a fact there was plenty of magic in Appalachia, in Hispanic New Mexico, and wherever there was a black population. But you’re right – occultism per se has been whitewashed out of our history because it’s been seen as – what? Backward?
Some of the German pietists settled in the Midwest. I wonder if any of their traditions have lasted into the present. My pagan friend and priest, Jay, is a transplant from the Midwest, believes in fairies and has had The Sight from childhood, as does his nephew. He and his partner eagerly explore all sorts of pantheons and polytheisms in Circle, but it’s all educational fun. And he is also the most down-to-earth, practical, common-sensical pagan I’ve ever met – good hard country common sense. He is also an avid gardener; his patio in the middle apartment of a modest triplex is like a hidden garden. I know at least one (fictional) tradition would call him an Earth Mage. I don’t see fairies, but can easily believe he does, or at least the little nature spirits.
Knowing your views on the possibility of rapid change it would seem like occultism and millenarianism aren’t a good match. But if the Chapter of Perfection were waiting for the Second Coming, they must have been into it to a degree. How often do occultists get involved millenarian and apocalyptic movements? What do you think is the most significant spiritual change that could happen quickly?
It seems to me that if our working definition of magic includes “causing a change as a result of will” (I paraphrase, and I suspect I missed some nuance) then I think American culture is awash in magic! Why else would people shell out hard-earned money on fast “fashion” or eat gross food or engage in whatever else is the “thing du jour”?
In relation to the post from a couple of weeks ago, here are two articles on neoclassical architecture, which I found particularly offensive. The first implies, without any attempt at nuance, that anyone who likes (neo)-classical architecture is a swastika-saluting, jackboot-wearing Nazi. The second, that Trump must be a fascist dictator.
By doing this, it seems to me, the authors hope to prevent anyone from questioning the buildings the starchitects choose to inflict on us.
Hello Mr. Greer,
I must say, I am super excited for this new direction of research you are moving in. I have for a long time tried to understand just how occult or not America’s founders were, but the subject is so drenched in propaganda that it is difficult to find the truth.
With that said, let me throw this idea at you. I know Manly P. Hall’s book “The Secret Destiny of America” argued that the United States were left aside for the express purpose of becoming the enlightened land of peaceful philosophy. Likewise, although the occult influence America eventually went underground it nevertheless continued to manifest itself in powerful ways. One obvious way is through the Masonic architexture of our capital, and another is the heavy influence of the Masonic order (as well as other secret societies) among our political elite.
So I would like to know, did America ever stop being the philosophic empire that Hall spoke of? Did the occult influence die, or did it just camouflage itself behind the images and symbols of Materialism and Christianity?
Very interesting article. I live very close to Philadelphia and I’ve never heard of Kelpius or the Chapter of Perfection.
I have read history since I was a small child and was very puzzled when my, apparently rational, and much loved sister declared she would not want to live in a world bereft of technological progress. I asked her why and she said she didn’t want to live in a world where women and children would be treated badly.
She talked about ignorant people and I asked her if she meant the sort of hunter gatherer people who each have more than a doctorate in botany? No, not them. She meant people who would not be indoctrinated with social justice warrior values.
To be fair, she works at the University of British Columbia and is as steeped in their culture as I am in a more rural and magical culture. Just shows you how people all go around with blinders on.
I look forward to this series of articles.
I suppose someone should mention the back of the dollar bill.
Adam, okay, that makes my head hurt. Still, it’s probably a good thing!
Steve, the Republic is a magnificently ambiguous book — the kind of work that seems to be saying something different every time you read it. Plato’s bit about excluding Hesiod and Homer is a great example — did he mean it seriously? Satirically? Or simply to make you think long and hard about traditional narratives and hero figures? With regard to Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, that’s enormously rich — which is why it’s downplayed. The more unique an ethnic tradition is, the more the mainstream culture ignores and belittles it.
Barrigan, excellent. The entire business of law, and in another sense the entire business of courtesy, consists of negotiating the boundaries where your liberty stops and mine begins. Yes, a lot is going to have to be reinvented as we proceed.
Danaone, thank you for this! Can you point me to some sources about Dr. Sam Nightingale? He’s just the kind of person we need to talk about now. We’re already going to be talking about Sun Ra, who was fired by that same cannon from Saturn 80 years later and landed in Chicago instead…
Patricia M, exactly — too many Americans talk about magic as though it only exists in impoverished backwaters or among brown-skinned people. That’s one of the things I want to help change. As for midwestern German pietists, that’s a good question to which I don’t know the answer…yet.
Yorkshire, millenarianism is one of the booby traps that lies in wait perennially for mages, occultists, mystics, and alternative spirituality practitioners of all types; it’s an issue we’ll encounter routinely as we proceed. As for the biggest spiritual change that could happen quickly, why, that would be the process by which one individual changes his or her mind. Everything else is slow.
Michelle, good. Right now American culture is awash in the nastiest sort of debased sorcery, which usually gets called “advertising,” “marketing,” and “fashion.” One of the reasons I’d like to see more people pick up some basic magical competence is so that they can banish those debased spells and invoke some positive energies in their place!
Reloaded15, and of course they’re from the Guardian. Gah.
Stephen, I put something in one of my Weird of Hali novels talking about that:
“But you’re not in that rural America,” Owen replied. In response to Justin’s puzzled look: “It’s kind of hard to explain.” He thought for a moment. “The America you know is like a blanket stretched out over the top of another country. Most people don’t know the other country is there, but there are holes in the blanket. If you get to one of the holes, you can drop right through it into the other country.”
The country Hall talked about, the enlightened land of peaceful philosophy, is the land under the blanket. You can get there, but only if you go looking for one of the holes in the blanket — and meanwhile the American history discussed by the mainstream goes on wholly on top of the blanket, with no reference to the other country at all.
Thesseli, exactly. Kelpius and the Chapter of Perfection belong to the hidden history of our nation.
Maxine, that’s the religion of progress for you — the notion that technological progress, by some magic power only it possesses, automatically causes people to adopt social justice ideology and eventually will make everyone do so. Speaking of weird millennarian delusions…
Someone, we’ll get to that!
If I may, I’d suggest the third option is “freedom of”: freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc.
Each of these defines a sphere in which a person or group of persons is allowed autonomy in a principled way.
(Another way to dissolve the binary is to note that every freedom-to implies a freedom from interference, and every freedom-from implies a freedom to do whatever would otherwise be prevented by what you are now free from.)
Of course, the funny thing about the hideous castle in Disney’s nasty Magic Kingdom being a twee parody of Schloss Neuschwanstein, is that the Schloss itself is a twee parody of what King Ludwig II of Bavaria thought a medieval castle should look like. It was built in the 1880’s and is extraordinarily beautiful inside, if High Baroque is to your taste.
Ludwig, unfairly known as Mad King Ludwig, was a great supporter of Wagner and all things concerning an imaginary German Heroic Age. He did little harm, wasting his own money on building ridiculously extravagant castles and similar structures, which still bring pleasure to many.
He died, rather mysteriously, in a lake; probably accidentally drowned but possibly murdered.
A little late for our earlier discussion of architecture but it is from yesterday’s paper. This is the link to an article about the first female architects to win an influential award. I followed the links to photos of some of their work. Not, IMO, lovely in any way, but not completely horrible. At least not vertigo inducing or reminiscent of the corridors of Mordor.
It’s high time someone reprinted Strange Experience by Lee R. Gandee. Gandee was a highly intelligent, largely self-taught Appalachian healer, botanist and hexenmeister who had been brought up in a family of Christian Scientists, His memoir spans the middle of the twentieth century, is extremely idiosyncratic, and displays a sense of humor, which you don’t find in every occultist.
It’s funny how the mysticism of the Western christian tradition has been replaced in the 20th century by Eastern traditions such as yoga and buddhism. Reading accounts by christian contemplatives like Julian of Norwich, it’s reminiscent of Tibetan deity yoga with concomitant results, after the visions, of emptiness, bliss, peace, non-duality etc., only the deity is Jesus.
Europe was once dotted with communities that were, pretty much, serving the same function as an ashram. Now many of them are just ruins, and modern monastic orders are pretty obscure and unfashionable.
I wonder at the reason for the replacement of west by east in the public sphere, and possibly it’s because yoga and meditation seem to be systematic and claim to be sciences with (ostensibly) predictable results, that you can get as an individual without appeal to the looming authority of the Church ( https://theamalricianheresy.wordpress.com/ ), they have that protestant direct-line aspect.
“The erasure of that presence remains a live issue today; you can read dozens of accounts of Isaac Newton’s life, to cite only one example, without ever learning that he devoted more time to alchemy than to figuring out how gravity works.”
For those that don’t know too much about Newton, this could be seen as an understatement. By comparison, his theories on physics would have been seen as the side hobby/interest. Newton dedicated decades to the study of alchemy, only he did it mostly in solitude. Because ‘the enlightenment’ was starting to sweep through Europe, alchemy was becoming stigmatized along with it.
Rationalists tend to sweep a lot of these sorts of things under the carpet when it comes to their scientific idols, Johannes Kepler (only 3 letters off today’s protagonist) was the same. He developed a wonderful theory on planetary orbits and the geometry theory behind it still blows me away as being one of those observations of the elegance of the universe. But the parts of him being an Astrologer, they are largely unspoken because it goes against the rationalists view of the world.
I have never been a fan of people that try to scrub history clean in the way they see fit.
Oh, I wish Mark Twain had known that conjure man! Who also apparently had a good old Missouri flair for the tall tale, as well as doing a lot of good.
And in my youth the back pages of magazines had ads for this lodge and that lodge – and for people like the Rosicrucians and other orders who claimed to know secret mysteries. Perhaps the occult scene wasn’t as far underground in the 1950s as people think. (“Dear Patricia….anybody 18 years of age or older…” Ah, how quickly one forgets childhood curiosity about such things.)
It would seem that according to the articles from The Guardian Reloaded15 shared, Trump is dictating to the architects while channeling his inner Hitler and Albert Speer. But hasn’t the architectural profession in its debased state been dictating to the rest of us by forcing Uglicist architecture on everyone else over the last several decades? Sounds like the pot is calling the kettle black! Moreover, as people like James Howard Kunstler and Christopher Alexander have been pointing out for a long time, the cult of Uglicist architecture has had appalling consequences, socially, psychologically, culturally, ecologically and no doubt on other levels as well.This quote from the beginning of the second article stood out for me.
“Strongman leaders have always tried to stamp a style on public spaces but in a democracy it is better to trust the professionals”
The last half of that statement sums up a great deal that is wrong with the liberal elites. How is it democratic to allow a bunch of unelected, elitist snobs dictate what kinds of buildings get built, without the public having any say-so in the matter?
Would you consider Joseph Smith to be such a figure as you describe in the last paragraph?
Jakob Böhme’s teachings inspired quite a lot of people who came after him, including the Society of Separatists of Zoar, a communal society of German immigrants and led by Josef Bäumler, one of the many utopian groups that sprang up in 19th century America. The group disbanded in 1898, but some of their buildings still stand in Zoar, Ohio, and efforts are being made to restore them. A lot of the odd religious communities of the time did have teachings that could be categorized as magic.
Excellent book for the interested, “Utopia Drive: A Road Trip Through America’s Most Radical Idea” by Eric Reece, in which the author visits what remains of some of these communities and does a nice job of explaining their origins and history.
Isaac Salamander Hill:
If you’re interested in Pennsylvania German culture, the place to start is The Pennsylvania German Heritage Cultural Center, which is affiliated with Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. Their research library is a goldmine of books and documents pertaining to the history and practices of the PA ‘Dutch’.
The ‘Dutch’ had a large repertoire of magic and hexing (and not just the barn stars) usually called ‘powwowing’:
It’s true that America abandoned kings and kingdoms long, long ago, but it does rather seem like the average Yank (including the average Progressive) views the President as a de facto monarch. In that way, there seems to be a lot of confused overlap between the Ye Olde worldview and the shiny Futuristic worldview. It’s as if people WANT to synthesize the binary — to open up the middle chamber — but they don’t have the keys to do so. Therefore, I think most Americans are quite ripe for a Magic Republic.
According to this report from Campus Freedom, the University of British Columbia is the lowest ranked in the province:
Fascinating topic! And I nearly sprayed my computer with my morning chamomile tea when you first mentioned “the Magic Republic.”
Off topic, but I want to thank Violet, Barefootwisdom and anyone else who has prayed for me during the past few days. It has helped. My husband has returned to normal and I am coping (but constantly nervous as if I were drinking coffee). Even if he has occasional outbursts, I can grant him leeway, knowing that it isn’t a permanent personality change.
I have not heard widely about the situation in Japan, so I only have my own observations so far. 5G has only been turned on for a week now, but in other countries people are reporting hysterical outbursts and Bidenesque lapses of logic. The outbursts that I have seen have been among people who were already emotionally stressed and could no longer seem to hold it in–atypical of the Japanese.
This whole idea of occultism as a worldview focused on discovering things, and “occultists scampering all over the place like excited children, seeing what they can find,” and millenarianism being an age-old pitfall for occultists, makes me think of a scene in, I think it was To Kill A Mockingbird, where Jem runs to his sister one morning and says something like “Come outside, right now, you’ve got to see this, the world’s ending!” Well they step out the door and see snow falling out of the sky, and because they’re in this small town in Alabama, they’ve never seen snow before.
So I suppose one of the parts of scampering around like an excited child intent on discovering things is that, every now and then, you “discover” that the world’s ending.
Thank you for this upcoming series! As a Quaker with long ancestral roots back to the early days of religious persecution, I’m interested, because I think Quakers in the 1650s were closer to esoteric spirituality than we recognize. But I’m also interested because of recent knowledge gained of my husband’s ancestors. One was a “Täufer,” an Anabaptist, from Sumiswald, Switzerland. He fled religious persecution to Pennsylvania Dutch country in the US. This group of Anabaptists in Sumiswald worshipped in the forest, theoretically for the safety of secrecy, but I wonder if there was more to it of an esoteric nature.
I am curious whether your research methods for topics like this are the same sort I am learning about in conventional academic historical research, or if there are specialised skills/resources involved. Might you consider a writing a post that acts as a research guide for those of us who would be interested in digging around further into occult corners of history?
I liked Occult America too. And I’ve got a hardcover around somewhere on the same theme of (Relatively) New Religions Vs. Old Ones. I’ll find it in the next day or 2 and post the info.
O Kind and Patient Archdruid, since it was originally towards the end of 400-+ comments, may I here thank again those who provided helpful “footnotes”? I’m afraid they won’t see it otherwise and I do not wish to seem churlish. (I don’t mind BEING churlish, just don’t want to get caught at it. 😄). Thank you and may your toenails always be single-deckers.
Dear Mr. Greer – Connecting the dots, or, maybe just the odd bits and pieces floating around in my brain. I’ve always had a fondness for the term “old weird America.” It was coined by a music historian (?), Greil Marcus. From a book called “Invisible Republic” which is about, hold your hat, Bob Dylan’s basement tapes.
What he seemed to be referring to is “often eerie country, blues and folk music” found in “The Anthology of American Folk Music” (1927-1932.) That quote from Owen from “The Weird of Hali” pretty much sums up, what I’ve always felt. There’s more going on beneath the surface, than generally meets the eye. Lew
I believe I learned that Isaac Newton was an alchemist from a Piers Anthony book I read as a child. I’m not sure why I accepted that particular idea as true when the rest of the book was filled with utter nonsense.
JMG, Guinea Sam is featured in “The Haunted Boonslick” and “Sam Nightingale” by Mary Collins Barile, and “Haunted Jefferson City” by Janice Tremeer. Andrew Zimmerman, a professor at Columbian College did a lecture series titled “Guinea Sam Nightingale and MAGIC Marx”. Karl Marx, magic? There are several other stories about Dr. Sam, as he preferred to be called. He was said to be able to turn himself into ball lightening to punish persons who insulted him, and could come and go in a puff of smoke. I wrote his memorial for Find a Grave. In fact, I went to Sunset Cemetery in Boonville, where he is supposed to be buried, to get sort of an idea which part of the cemetery he was likely interred, (colored section), that’s when I decided to learn Dion Fortune’s banishing ritual. I wouldn’t want Dr. Sam following me home.
So, my entry into the world of occultism was through several of the books written by Dame Frances Yates. As I understand it, her theory developed in “The Rosicrucian Enlightenment” was that the Rosicrucians never existed, and that it was subterfuge for religio/politico gamesmanship being played out in the Palatinate and Bohemian arena based on the Renaissance revival, largely of Hermetic lore (Ficino) and Cabala (Mirandola). What I’d like to ask is how you view western occultism through that lens and how the Hapsburg’s then military dominance played into our current religio/politico ‘view’?
Peter, at least King Ludwig was riffing off a living cultural heritage — he was, after all, a European king from a long line of monarchs, living in and ruling a country chockfull of castles et al. He could have done what George IV of Britain did as Prince Regent, and put up something like Brighton Pavilion, a giddy hallucination of faux-Asian architecture — that is to say, something much closer to the Disneyland castle in context.
Rita, oog. I beg to differ.
Deborah, true enough! Do you happen to know its copyright status?
Koggush, not at all. There’s still plenty of Western esoteric spirituality around — it’s just not fashionable among the comfortable classes or the mass media. Of course it’s also not affiliated with Western religious orthodoxies, but that’s primarily because most of the Western churches turned away from personal spiritual experience toward ideological rigidity, and their potential mystics mostly followed Johannes Kelpius et al. out into the fringes where liberty prevails.
Michael, an excellent point. Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs caused quite the tempest in a historical teapot with her two books on Newton’s alchemy. As for Kepler, he was as brilliant an astrologer as he was an astronomer — the Keplerian aspects are very widely used in astrology today, for example.
Patricia M, bingo — the classified ads in back of magazines served much the same role as websites do today. We’ll be talking at some length about the golden age of occult correspondence schools in America.
Ace, exactly. In a democracy, it’s better to trust the people!
MJack, of course!
Beekeeper, thanks for this. That’s not a group I’d heard of — but there were a fantastic number of such groups in the US over the course of its history.
Sam, true enough. The president is an elected official who we choose to do certain chores for us, and that’s all — and the more people who begin to grasp that again, the better off we’ll be. As for the Magic Republic, I hope so!
Wesley, especially if you scamper around in a society that’s used fantasies of the end of the world as an escape valve for social pressures for a long, long time…
Laurel, the Quakers were up to their eyeballs in esotericism back in the day; if I recall correctly, the Yankee wizard whose old book John Greenleaf Whittier remembered glancing into in his youth was a Quaker mage. As for Anabaptists, that movement had an enormous amount of diversity in it, and it’s by no means impossible that your ancestor was doing strange things as part of his Anabaptist faith.
Bewilderness, it’s the same skill set, you just use it on different raw materials. Current scholarship simply reinforces the biases of the present; go looking in old books, and especially books written on the fringes. I first learned about Johannes Kelpius, for example, via a footnote in an old Rosicrucian manual reprinted with translation by American occultist Manly P. Hall.
Your Kittenship, I’ll look forward to it.
It is fascinating to realize that throughout the history of the USA there have so often been such polarizing swings trying to drift the residents of the USA into one direction or another, and yet through it all, the undercurrents of freedom and liberty which brought so many to America has subtly guided a middle road which many are unaware of. It truly is quite magical when viewed from that perspective and definitely gives credence to the idea being developed. Thanks for taking us down this path oft avoided.
Lew, funny you should mention Anthology of American Folk Music. Did you know that the guy who compiled it, Harry Smith, was a practicing ceremonial magician and a student of the occult teachings of Aleister Crowley? That is to say, yes, there’s much more going on below the surface…
Cliff, weird. Generally speaking I recommend doubting every word Anthony had to say, including “and” and “the,” but in this one case he was correct.
Danaone, thanks for this! If you visit the grave of a hoodoo doctor, btw, the traditional thing to do is to leave by a route different from the one you used to get there.
Coboarts, that’s certainly one lens through which to view the Rosicrucian phenomenon. What fascinates me is that within a short time after the publication of the original Rosicrucian documents, groups practicing the same kind of Christian occultism they describe were all over the place — so whether there were Rosicrucians before the manifestoes saw print, there certainly were afterwards!
There’s a Jorge Luis Borges story, “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” in which the creation of an imaginary world sets in motion a chain of events that leads the real world to start copying it. To my mind, that’s the real story of the Rosicrucians, and far more interesting than the 17th-century politics Yates analyzed.
Prizm, you’re welcome. That’s exactly the road down which we’ll be journeying!
I wonder i the LDS (Mormons) constitute one of the holes in the blanket. They have quite an occult vein that was one of the most fascinating and endearing things about them during my stint there as a teenager. (I’m not technically an apostate, having never been given permission by my parents to join, but that particular feature is what I consider their worst.)
Thank you for the fascinating history lesson.
I’ve always wondered why magic pretty much has to exist in a pre-technology culture, particularly the middle-ages settings. Swords and sorcery.
(Yes, I’m well aware that there are a number of recent works, in the past 30 years, that put magic squarely into the modern world and movies where magical beings drop into 1990s Manhattan, but the vast bulk seem to exist in pre-15th Century European settings. which seems to be the default setting. Particularly pop-culture stuff like D&D and so on.)
Now I begin to understand why. Pieces of history I never knew about, explicitly, although I was aware of folk magic practices, particularly propensity of the Pennsylvania Dutch to make charms and wards and such.
JMG, I found this on Dr.Sam Nightingale. He was just down the road from me in Boonville, MO.
Thanks for the good reading and info,
Nice! And I do like Jorge Luis Borges. Seems a bit magical, eh?
I thought it might be Klepius that you would write about. Thank you for illuminating his story. I did not really know it. I am beginning to see the meaning of this blog. Magic is the art of changing consciousness indeed. Kudos.
“We definitely can’t allow the stories of Homer or Hesiod about the gods in our imaginary city, and we have to censor any stories at all about gods in which they seem to be misbehaving.”
Steve, for a different Platonic view of this, see the Ion and the Phaedrus. Plato had more respect for such poetry than you’d think from an uncritical reading of the Republic,
Thanks for this. It is difficult to fathom that the Episcopal Diocese of Philly sold spook Hill and the relics interned there. Yet perhaps it is revelatory that today a thriving black congregation keeps the faith, ceremony, and Handel”s Messiah in good order and grace up on the hill. Again, thanks for bringing authentic “wizards, alchemists, witches, root doctors, astrologers, folk healers, clairvoyants, and the founders and initiates of magical secret societies.” back into the collective memory fold. And I wish a Happy St John’s Eve to you the potluckers this year.
I’m a little familiar with Pennsylvanian Dutch culture, or at least the business end of it. One particular man of that culture type, who passed in the 90’s, carved a town out of the wilderness in his lifetime with only his work ethic to fuel his ambition as the story goes. His success in this feat created a kind of local mythos that surrounded him and he still influences people’s thinking in that locality today which I guess makes him a folk hero. He certainly contributed to the linear progress of scientific materialism and “marched boldly on towards a shining city” literally building a good portion of the town’s physical structures and back roads to further open the county’s resources for development. Places that could only be reached by boat were reachable by vehicle at the end of his life due the work of himeself and his crews and so on. This work hit stride during the peak, I assume, of cheap fossil fuel consumption and I don’t think it could be done today without accruing enormous costs. He started this ambition as a young man buying land for a dollar an acre ect. Definitely he was not an occultist, or religious, but however somewhat magical regardless? Is working tirelessly your entire life like our pioneers a form of magical living so to speak? In short is a lifetime of hard work a kind of magical quality? Because it can also present as a form of insanity whereby everything is sacrificed for work. I have observed this tireless work ethic quality in both scientific materialists such as the man described above, but also in people involved in occult activities as well, yourself included respectfully it seems. This quality is labelled as ‘protestant work ethic’ in the Christian worldview. And it seems it can also be enhanced with spiritual practices including the SOP but also by believing in progress or salvation.
You describe Kelpius as a man who may have spiritually worked himself to death and produced an enduring kind of legacy at the same time. So I guess my observation is that tireless work produces results across the board in scientific materialist, Christian, and Occultist worldviews. But you have to constantly banish the part of you that tells you to take it easy… Scientific Materialists push themselves for the shining city, Christians for salvation, and Occultists for…. Hmmmm. Lol. Thanks for your post!
The formulae for General Relativity (which appear to be borne out by observations) seem to indicate that massless entities do not experience time or distance (for example, a photon). Time-Space seems to be a convenient construct. Cause and effect seems to require a time lapse and this does not seem to be always the case. The various ways of examining the “Occult” does include the “Simultaneous” which appears to be a not acceptable construction. I have no idea regarding simultaneous nexus or nexis.
“…back pages of magazines had ads for this lodge and that lodge – and for people like the Rosicrucians…”
I remember the one for the Rosicrucians. Something like a man holding his head with a flying cloud above him, and the statement, “Thoughts Have Wings.”
It was usually next to the ad for the mail order art school that featured a face in profile with the challenge, “Draw Me.”
There was a similar come-on for art instructions that presented a semi-draped female model, shown from behind, with the drape loosened to show just a hint of reverse decolletage.
Not too important for your message but Sighişoara (Segesvár, or Schäsbrich) was not part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1667. It was part of the Transylvanian Principality, a quasi-independent Ottoman vassal state. Somewhat later the whole Carpathian basin fell to the Habsburg dynasty but even then it was governed separately. If I recall correctly, they never annexed it to the empire.
Rita, if I may continue the architecture discussion, the first female to win the Pritzker was Iranian architect Zaha Hadid in 2004. She has done some amazing and interesting work, a lot of it with flowing organic lines.
The two ladies you refer are the first female duo, and in my opinion every bit as uglicist as many other modern architects. Take the UL President’s house (let’s see if I can post an image):
This angular block set in the beautiful Irish countryside looks as out of place as the alien monolith in 2001 A Space odyssey. And for the same reason. It is alien.
Ask normal people to design a house for the Irish countryside and they’ll look around at existing houses, see what seems to work and looks good, and produce something similar. People want something that fits in, that seems right for the area.
But this… it looks like something culled from the pages of Architectural Digest and put there without a single thought for the surrounding landscape or the sensibilities of the locals. In fact, just like an alien would act who has nothing but contempt for anyone outside of its own kind and judges everything by its own standards.
“…the Rosicrucians never existed…”
They exist in San Jose, Ca. The have a museum there, where I used to take my kids back in the day. They don’t highlight the occult, though. The exhibits are presented as Egyptology. I remember seeing a cuneiform written clay tablet described as an ancient bill of lading. It was old, but not very esoteric.
JMG, I’d be psyched to read a book written by you re: occult elemnts in early American history. PA Dutch (Deitsch) tradition is of course, loaded with a ton of esotericism and latent, pre Christian symbolism, esp. in the hexes found on barns (check out my deviantart for some of my own renditions of PA Dutch hex art).
Also, as you may have already investigated, the Merrymount settlement in MA by Thomas Morton saw him practicing some pre Christian Anglo Saxon rituals (such as erecting a May pole) with the local Algonquin tribes. His initial partner in settling MA was a man named Captain Wollaston, who is a distant ancestor of mine. The name Wollaston (wall of stone) is also a highly charged, Anglo Saxon namesake.
So much of these wonderful traditions are our birthrite here in the US. You are a man of greati sight to dust them off and bring them back into the light.
@Deborah Bender (& JMG)
Lee Gandee’s book is an absolutely fascinating read. He was fully immersed in the world “below the blanket” from childhood onward. Unfortunately, it was published late enough (1971) that its copyright received automatical renewal in the proper year (1998/9). However, the publisher (Prentice-Hall) might authorize a reprint if one asked them nicely.
Also, Christian Science (like the related New-Thought religions) has indeed produced a good number of mages. Dion Fortune writes somewhere that she was raised a Christian Scientist, and she does display insider knowledge of that religion here and there.
You do remember correctly. Whittier’s “grey wizard” was a Quaker named (IIRC) Ambrose Bampton, who shows up in the 1790 and 1800 US census returns in the place where Whittier says he lived. — And I did not know that about Harry Smith: many thanks!
@Isaac Salamander Hill:
I’ll second Beekeeper’s recommendation of the Pennsylvania German Heritage Cultural Center in Kutztown. I’ve never been able to visit, but its director, Patrick J. Donmoyer, is a fine, fine scholar of powwowing (and a trained powwower himself). He has just released a very solid, richly illustrated book on the whole tradition, “Powwowing in Pennsylvania: Braucherei and the Ritual of Everyday Life” (2018), and before that he mounted a number of exhibits on the same theme, with published, illustrated exhibit catalogs which one may still be able to purchase.
I should be too busy but thought I would row over and have a paddle up the Wissahickon creek – I was intrigued enough a fortnight ago. Smile. ‘without a shewstone’? hmm … no John Dee?
By opening with Disney you took me back. Reminds me of my own encounters. By quirk of fate I mostly missed Disney as a British child. (The animation of Sneezy however still impresses me, but I was 13 and went on my own just to see what it was all about.)
I went with a group of friends in our 20s or early 30s to my first time with Fantasia. I had to walk out very quickly and leave them in there and go for a quick pint because of his tacky magic smeared over music that meant a lot to me. It took a few years for all the traces to clean off. A touch OTT but that’s how it happens in susceptible brains I guess. I have considerable respect for magic down in the bargain basements.
That story by Borges has been surfacing from time to time for me over nearly 5 decades and still brings back good memories of the man who lent me the book. Goodness I think I still have it! And Robbie and his good wife and her raven haired beauty have been gone these many years.
PS Which young republican was it later wrote something about there being no Kings inside the Gates of Eden?
I don’t normally read the NYT but I was traveling for work and I happened to read this a few hours before coming home and reading this post (apologies as this is a paywall site; you can get a few free reads by handing over an email address):
Coronavirus Is What You Get When You Ignore Science ; Scientists are all we have left. Pray for them
“Science has always faced threats. Its purpose is to shed light on truth, and there have always been those who would stifle the dangerous facts scientists unearth. But today the stakes are higher. How we’ll fight the gravest threats humanity faces will depend on how governments and citizens understand and interpret the findings and cautions of science.”
It’s a bit of a screed, but a good illustration of the binary idea, especially as his structure is “Let us pray” which he explains thusly: “It may sound paradoxical to plead for divine sanction of scientific pursuit. But these are dicey times for science and for scientists, and they need all the help they can get.” While I know you would agree with that statement, I don’t think you will agree with how he arrived there!
While reading the NYT opinion piece, I thought of Ecosophia even before seeing this post. Like many others, I’m looking forward to learning more about the “third way.”
Here’s a little bit of synchronicity for you, JMG: an interesting article on Vice. “The Last Mississippi Root Man”.
I move that we bring back Hexenmeister as a term for occultists.
What a fascinating subject, John.
It’s interesting when you trace and link all of this to the Elizabethan narrative and the earliest colonies. I’ve been warming up lately to read on the ‘School of Night’ group and magicians of that era and their influence, especially Henry Percy ‘The Wizard Earl’ and Thomas Harriot. Some argue that the latter discovered a cosmology in the New World that influenced his scientific theories.
Good and refreshing to see such attempts to help the American have a coherent national and spiritual identity in spite of all the common stereotypes and current political chaos.
What do you think are the causes and driving forces behind millenarianism? Have they changed through history?
First of all, this is awesome! I’m headed PA-wards tomorrow–Pittsburghish, rather than Philly–but I’ll see if I can find anything when I’m poking around down there.
Second, on the subject of Disneyland, in research for an upcoming book that has just gotten weirder by the day, I came across a self-published work that postulates a) that Disney is situated on a ley line junction, b) that the center of this junction *used to be* King Arthur’s Carousel, and the rotation spread the Disneyland mindset (which the author was more a fan of) but they moved it and now it doesn’t, c) that the author encountered possibly the ghost of Alfred Watkins riding said carousel.
I wouldn’t say I believe it, necessarily–albeit there’s not much weird about California that I *wouldn’t* believe, having lived there for a decade or so–but it’s fascinating.
Third, @Maxine: One of the things I’ve discovered in the course of historical romance research (because I don’t *want* to write protagonists with what we’re told are “traditional” attitudes toward premarital sex/women’s place/etc., mostly) is that pre-20th societies weren’t nearly as uniform in their attitudes as established history says. There were a lot more women in traditional “male” roles in the early Middle Ages–and a lot more “eh, whatever, everyone’s a sinner, say some Hail Marys” about various sexual sins–than later on, for various reasons, for example, and that doesn’t even get into Viking warrior women or ancient Roman birth control or whatnot.
I’m decently fond of many aspects of modern life–as the Roman plant seems to have gone extinct from overuse, I’m a big fan of modern BC, and my five root canals and I are quite appreciative of novocaine, for example–but the “The Past Was Repressive For Women” narrative is a deeply flawed and simplified one, from whatever side people are approaching it. (In addition to people like your friend on the left, I’ve seen it from guys in video game/SCA/etc circles talking about how it’s “unrealistic” to have female warriors or black people in medieval settings or whatever, and I just want to yell a list of names at them until they go away.)
JMG, thank you so much for this essay, and I so much look forward to the rest of the series! I was raised by my Pennsylvania “Dutch” grandmother (born in 1916 and raised in Ringtown, PA) and raised with the stories and traditions of the area (I think I’ll make a commemorative shoo-fly pie this weekend). My grandfather, her second husband after her first died in a coal mine, was Scottish on his paternal side, but I just recently discovered his mother was also PA Dutch from the same area of PA. He was a hobo and returned to PA during the depression after his mother died in LA, CA. I was also sent to Lutheran Sunday school, and your essay brings back so many long-forgotten memories. I was abandoned by my mother, and know very little about that side of the family, but recently discovered that my maternal line is Eastern European/Hungarian, and my maternal grandmother comes from a very, very long line of Lutheran ministers, including my great-grandfather.
Because I was raised by a grandmother who lived and heard so many of these old stories, I have been saying for years and years that I am saddened by the forgotten (or suppressed) history of so many of the everyday people of the United States. For example, my grandparents and great grandparents were “anti-racists” before there was such a word, and paid a price during their lives often living as migrant workers and later blue collar union workers in Southern California, living in “minority” communities with “minority” friends. I wish these stories were told. So thank you once again.
On another note, some of you might remember me mentioning many times my desire to leave the Bay Area and move to Eastern Washington. Well, I just finished my final interview for a job in my desired area yesterday. I am worried and scared, both of getting the job, and not getting it! I know I have put all this in motion, and so it has happened, and can now I can only pray the universe guides me in the right direction. Any wisdom appreciated.
How would we go about constructing such a republic?
It is likely that once again I’m asking the wrong question, or asking the question the wrong way. Perhaps one should rephrase it to be: how does such republic create itself? And what does such a republic look like?
As usual, I look at things like this from an analytical perspective, as an optimization problem. Here we are at Point A. There, in the distance, is Point B, the place we want to be. Given the nature of the terrain separating the two points, what path gets us from Point A to Point B in the most effective manner? (Least cost, shortest time, least disruption, etc.)
My two favorite short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne touch on old weird America: They are “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Maypole of Merrymount.” But I never cared for his more “Poe-esque” stuff such as “Rapuccini’s Daughter.”
Well, I’m lucky then, because I did just that.
It’s pretty easy: in the tug of war between “Freedom from” and “Freedom to”, we in America are supposed to err on the side of Freedom to be. That is, don’t come to daddy unless somebody needs stitches: work it our yourself, or you won’t like what happens. As SJWs for example are now getting banned and sued by their own new rules, they are re-discovering this.
“on public spaces … in a democracy it is better to trust the professionals”
Haha. Not if I’m paying for it, dummies! YOU built what I like or get stuffed. I may be dumb, but I’m also your boss: your work sucks, everyone hates it, you’re fired.
A near-synchronicity of dates: the Chapter of Perfection arrives in Pennsylvania in 1694… meanwhile, Massachusetts is trying to understand and assimilate the Salem witchcraft hysteria that ended the previous year.
Your thesis sheds some light on that aftermath, and perhaps vice versa. As it eventually settled out, the conventional narrative of the trials would be in terms of a conflict between residual medieval Christian superstition and Enlightenment rationality. (Which it really wasn’t, at the time. The closest anyone participating was to a modern rationalist was Cotton Mather. At least until pragmatist Governor Phips stepped in at the end. Everyone was professing to be on God’s side against the devil, except Giles Corey—mage, stubborn old coot, or both?—who unmasked the deeper struggle of authority versus conscience.)
So in New England, witchcraft would never again be formally persecuted… but nor would it, for the several centuries following, be openly acknowledged to exist at all. If I’m understanding correctly, that’s a subtle but precise example of the curtailed binary American historical perspective you’re discussing.
I didn’t read the article because I was in a hurry, but in the interest of giving everyone a good laugh, I give you The Ultimate Woke Headline:
Patricia O, the Latter Day Saints are perhaps the largest and most widely known example of something we’ll be talking about repeatedly as we go — something that started out as magic and turned into religion. In terms of the blanket metaphor, it started out as a hole in the blanket, then wove the blanket back up again — and then sprouted holes of its own, so that there are places where you can fall through the Mormon end of the blanket! I’ve long hoped that someday Mormons would embrace the magical side of their own heritage more fully — they could end up giving rise to a really vibrant, powerful, and positive tradition of Christian esotericism and magic.
Renaissance, bingo. That’s one of the motivations behind my Weird of Hali project — magic in a modern setting makes more sense to me, since after all that’s basically my life — and it’s probably going to be even more central to a future fiction project.
Mac, thanks for this!
Coboarts, why, yes — Borges was extremely good at causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.
William, good. When the conjurer waves his wand, always watch his other hand. 😉
Black Tuna, I’m not familiar with Spook Hill. Can you point me to a resource? That might just belong in the story…
Ian, one of the core teachings of occult philosophy centers on the power of the human will. If you can learn to will one thing only, with all your strength, there’s very little you can’t accomplish — as your example shows. Another teaching is that every human being has the potential for magnificence, but most never bring that potential into action due to weakness and division of will. In words that Poe put in Joseph Glanvill’s mouth:
“And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness, Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.”
Stonecutter, it’s a common experience of mages that a magical working can sometimes set in motion effects that had to start before the working itself was performed. (I’ve experienced this myself.) Thus Kant’s notion that time and space are conditions of human consciousness rather than objective realities makes a lot of sense to me.
Sleiszadam, thanks for this! My source was clearly inaccurate; I’ll correct that detail when this goes into a book.
Martin (if I may), is this the hideous building you had in mind?
Badger, thank you. I actually used Merry Mount as part of the backstory for one of my Weird of Hali novels, though of course in that tale Morton et al. were invoking the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young. 😉
@ JMG “Right now American culture is awash in the nastiest sort of debased sorcery, which usually gets called “advertising,” “marketing,” and “fashion.” One of the reasons I’d like to see more people pick up some basic magical competence is so that they can banish those debased spells and invoke some positive energies in their place!”
What are some resources to start researching how to banish the debased spells of marketing? All I’ve come up with so far is avoidance and putting commercials on mute. I have been toying with a magical conscientious objector attitude of “I don’t cast spells on others please don’t cast spells on me” .
Regarding freedom-from and freedom-to and related discussion, a few years ago on another forum I wrote a long screed about tolerance and what it really means and what it’s been misrepresented as meaning (e.g. tolerance doesn’t have to mean approval, appreciation, or celebration). In the process I found that because of the from-to relationship being discussed, one can boil a lot of social issues down to a simple formula: “Freedom is what you put up with.”
The anime Vision of Escaflowne had Isaac Newton as its boss villain alchemist.
Apparently the creators intended to delve into the concept rather further than they did, but that got scotched by the studio executives–ostensibly due to budget constraints.
If you wanted to explore the concept of a magic republic in fiction I thought of a good set up. An alternate version of Goethe’s Faust, where Faust works with the Earth Spirit instead of dismissing it and joining up with Mephestopheles.
I thought that scene in the original was hilarious – “I am your equal, Earth Spirit!”, as he’s cowering behind the desk. 🙂
‘Protestant work ethic’ is a curious term: there are at least two saints, one Roman Catholic and one Sufi, famous for spending at least part of their lives in actual hands-on construction work….
As I read your description of the Pietists I was reminded of an earlier “heretic,” Pelagius. We just can’t have this idea of a personal relationship with God that doesn’t require mediation by the priestly class!
Years ago I was in a sort of study group and one of my fellow students did a presentation on the fact that Newton and many others were in fact alchemists. I was surprised to learn it!
I know that Uglicism (a very fitting term, btw; thanks for thinking it up, JMG) is off topic this week, but plenty of people in the comments are discussing it, so I guess I might as well join in.
I moved to Prague some 18 months ago, and so I’m learning Czech. Books for 10-year-olds are about right for my current level, and so over the past couple of weeks, I read one about recent Czech history. The author pointed out that Soviet-style buildings were quite ugly (true enough), and that architectural creativity was suppressed in the decades following WWII, but then freedom came, and finally, they built some jewels. Such as (you ready?) this one:
Yup. That’s what they did to Prague. (It’s actually mild in comparison to some of the other stuff that Frank Gehry, one of the architects, inflicted on other cities around the globe. I’ll let you do your own googling.) Anyway, I was discussing this with a Czech colleague the other day, and he said (not an exact quote, but close): “It’s not too bad. At least it’s not too noticeable if you’re not looking straight at it.” And that sums it up, my friends. “If you don’t look at it, you won’t notice it.” About as much as one can hope for from modern architecture. Sigh.
On the subject of witchcraft: the Salem witch trials were unique in that the one thing that all Salem’s witches had in common, and without exception, is that they were all women who had inherited a piece of real estate from another woman; and every woman there who had acquired property in this manner was put on trial for witchcraft.
On the subject of freedom: every November throughout grade school, I would inevitably end up in an in-class argument with the teacher on this very subject. In discussing the significance of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, they would list off freedoms we had that were protected by those brave men who went to war – and they would invariably include the “freedom” to go to school. I would call them out on it because it’s not freedom if you don’t have a choice about it, and none of us kids had a choice about going to school. Yes, we could go to school in peace and safety while children in some other places cannot; yes, education is a good thing; yes, I would most likely choose to go to school if I had a choice about it – but I DON’T HAVE A CHOICE, and therefore it is NOT freedom because freedom by its very definition is the exercise of choice and I don’t have a choice, so the concept of “freedom” to go to school is an absurdity. The discussion would then invariably have me tossed out into the corridor to await a discipline inversely proportional to the fragility of the pedagogue’s ego…..
Groovy! Like many of your other readers, I’m super stoked about this series. I’m curious about the pattern of communes not surviving the death of their founders.
I’m also wondering if you are going to cover Johnny Appleseed who was said to have been a Swedenborgian. There is a Swedenborgian church here in Cincinnati that he was said to have attended while in the area -and a nice bronze sculpture of him in one of may favorite goth hangout spots: Spring Grove Cemetery.
Back to the failed communes, there is a place in the next county over, Utopia, Ohio that followed the pattern, although it seems they were of the materialist/scientific republic. I’ve been through the town. Blink and you miss it. Anyway, it was founded by followers of Charles Fourier. Later it was reorganized by American “anarchist” (he didn’t call himself one) Josiah Warren.
Anyway, so many interesting pockets. I loved your description of that quilt blanket in the Chorazin book, when Justin and Owen talked in the diner.
Robert, thanks for this. As for Harry Smith, yep; that’s even gotten onto his Wikipedia page these days, which is remarkable given that venue’s pervasive bias against occultists.
Phil H, you’re fortunate to have escaped Disney. Alas, I didn’t, though at least I’ve had nothing to do with Disney product in my adult years. Bah.
Absolutegalore, that’s really quite funny. Thank you for the link!
Bogatyr, thanks for this. Of course they want to call him “the last,” because of course magic is always something that belongs to the past (sic) and is about to vanish (sic) and nobody modern and up to date does it (sick as a dog)…
James, start using it!
Abdulaziz, that’s also an important part of the story; I started with Kelpius and with the German contribution because that tends to be underrepresented in accounts of American colonial history, but the Elizabethan world of John Dee and Thomas Hariot and all the other wizards of the period is very much part of the prologue to America.
A pretty good overview of what you’re talking about is Mitch Horowitz’s “Occult America” (although Mitch has seemingly gone on to a kind of Byronic Satanism somewhat, if I read his Tweets aright).
“Republic” is the key. Strikes me that Rome’s descent was seemingly accelerated by its turning away from polytheism towards monotheism–from the gods of this world to the God that abhors the world. (Even Constantine’s Edict of Milan apparently only allowed religious liberty vs. promulgating monotheism). A Republic has room for the many…
Please continue along this road and keep in mind the traditions of us Americans who don’t necessarily speak only English or come from English traditions (I think of Santeria, Candomble, and those of us from the Mediterranean, as well as the many others…)
I’m still emerging from some ideological strait-jackets. I voluntarily adopted a rigid scientism and materialism (philosophical not political) for most of my life. I can hardly believe that I would choose to so oppress and narrow my spirit and my life.
One thing that springs to mind is how magic is the native territory of childhood. I remember constantly inventing elaborate rituals with my closest friends according to our wishes, as well as living within a kind of mystical understanding of nature. The rituals weren’t based on any outside influence. It seems magic is intrinsic to children when they have the freedom to be, and that culture seeks to manipulate this tendency and subvert it.
I know that the idea (that I previously bought) is that this innate tendency is immaturity and lack of knowledge. Yet children play all aspects of being human. Now I see this as not merely make-believe but an instinctive awareness of “reality” as creative and co-creative and that imagination has a real power in and of itself, in its unfolding.
I enjoy and like to join in these conversations but I can’t comment on the bigger picture in the US because I’ve never been there.
I remember those back-page ads for the Rosicrucians. I asked my parents what they were and they said I should write to them and find out. So I did. Back came an envelope with a couple of pamphlets in it. I glanced at them but they didn’t seem at all interesting so I threw them away. I was about 10 years old at the time.
PS: This is the link to the UL President’s house I tried to post above:
Thank you for sharing this interesting story. The question that jumped to my mind after reading your essay was: why has there been this effort to erase magic from our popular narrative? Why have we been left with the meager choice between spirit and matter? Or, in our current materially-obsessed society, had the choice taken away entirely? Especially since the occultist, when presented with that choice, would more than likely choose…both!
The divisiveness in society that results from these two sides arguing distracts from the fact that there is and always has been that third option, where spirit and matter are understood as being part of a continuum. In a discussion recently, my daughter mentioned that she thought the main problem with people was that they were always trying to control other people. I think that hypothesis is relevant here. The occultist is, to a certain extent, far less susceptible to being controlled and manipulated than someone without any exposure to occult practices. For the occultist, life and the self are something to be personally explored – discovered, as you put it, not something that can or should be determined or defined by outside influences. But that’s not a popular option as far as the powers that be are concerned – a population that does not question, does not reflect, and does what it’s told serve much better in terms of the ease of maintaining that power. The coronavirus pandemic is a great example here – the population is seemingly astonishingly easy to control with the old trick of propaganda. Everyone is rushing out and panic-buying supplies, preparing for the worst, and presumably, lining up when the coronavirus vaccine comes out in the not-too-distant future. Since the occultist is concerned with discovering his or her self and his or her unique personal relationship with the Gods, that person is far less likely to accept being handed a narrative and a set of regulations from the dominant powers in a society. So it seems that in a society which profits through controlling its members, the occultist’s path of discovery is a dangerous one that needs erasing.
On my own occult journey, I’ve started to discover that any version of ‘the Truth,’ whether that be the Christian Truth or the Scientist’s Truth or a different Truth altogether, is and can only ever be our human interpretation of something that ultimately lies beyond our understanding, and can never be entombed in a formula or held hostage in a holy book. We can however, have a living, personal relationship with it.
As I was reading your post I thought of my third grade teacher back in the mid 1960s in Ann Arbor, MI and the unit on Lancaster County, PA that she taught us for social studies. Specifically, I wondered what is a unit on Lancaster County and the PA Dutch doing in an Ann Arbor public elementary school third grade classroom?
A partial answer comes from the family history my mother and a cousin of hers worked on. Their grandmother immigrated from Prussia to New York and then directly to Ann Arbor in 1881; their grandfather immigrated to Ann Arbor in 1879. Both spoke German; as my mother’s cousin noted in his narrative, one or both of them must have known someone in Ann Arbor, and it implies a community of German-speaking people existed there. In the 1960s there were still plenty of German-Americans in Ann Arbor, including my own family. Three of my four grandparents spoke German.
Back to my third grade teacher. She wore a black dress and a strand of white pearls every day to work, very plain. Maybe PA Dutch herself? Or maybe a member of another plain sect?
And there is also the Ann Arbor accent. When I was 14 we moved to North Carolina, and two years later to suburban Philadelphia, which is near Lancaster County. By this time I was quite conscious of accents, having lived in three places with very different ones. In college, I became friends with a woman who lived in PA Dutch country and spoke with a Dutchy accent, distinct from my Philadelphia friends’ accents and what I remembered from Ann Arbor. The next time we went back to Ann Arbor and I had the opportunity to listen to locals talk, I realized that locals also had a Dutchy accent. I must have had one myself before we moved.
All this, and what I can read between the lines in the family history, suggests that part of the history you are talking about may apply to my hometown and to me. If there was a PA Dutch heritage in Ann Arbor, the social studies unit on Lancaster County makes sense. And I have even more reason than usual to read and learn along with you as you work to uncover the history of our magic republic.
The early Mormons were indeed one of the major “holes in the blanket” in their early years. An overwhelming amount of contemporary evidence shows Joseph Smith Jr and his family practicing and studying various forms of magic in the years before he published the Book of Mormon. The oldest surviving black-handled magician’s knife in North America was actually forged for Joseph Smith Sr, father of the Mormon Prophet, and preserved in the family of Hiram Smith, the Prophet’s brother. It was engraved in ways that show a deep familiarity with the sort of ceremonial magic presented by Agrippa in his “Three Books of Occult Philosophy” (English translation, 1651), and made more accessible by Francis Barrett in his “The Magus” (1801).
The best work on all this is D. Michael Quinn’s “Early Mormonism and the Magic World View” (1st ed. 1987, 2nd ed. 1998). When I first read it, I was amazed at how widespread resources for the study of Western magic were in early America. He had dug up a vast amount of unknown primary source material bearing on that point. (The two editions differ considerably: the second edition has a significantly revised and updated text, but to make room for those additions, it also had to prune back the documentation and and source-work in the first edition. Scholars really need to have both editions on their shelves.)
The second-best work is John L. Brooke’s “The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology” (1994). As its title suggests, it downplays Joseph Smith Jr’s magic so as to “up-play” his Hermetic cosmology, thereby–IMHO–missing some opportunities for real insight into the development of Smith’s thought in his younger days and the earliest forms of Mormonism.
Over the decades since 1830, the Latter Day Saints have moved ever closer to mainstream American Protestant religion, at least insofar as what happens outside Mormon Temples goes. Quinn’s work has been enormously controversial in Mormon circles: some have gone so far as to say that even if Quinn is right in his claims, he should never have published them.
Good morning JMG,
Oh, I do look forward to this series of posts! Thank you!
RE: Harry Smith. If there was any doubt dude was a mage, just watch his film “Heaven and Earth Magic”.
I also appreciate that Harry once said, (I think to Ed Sanders or one of the other members of The Fugs?), that slam dancing / the mosh pit, was a form of folk dance.
I’m delighted that you’re doing this new series; thank you! I continue to be powerfully influenced by the fictional parallel in The Weird of Hali, and have been wrestling with the “okay, now what?” that has followed in its wake. I imagine your timing was no accident. 😉
You’re quite welcome! I’m so glad to hear that it has helped! I’m continuing to remember you daily in my prayers.
That occult tradition is part of the Mormon unconscious.
One of my gaming buddies is solidly LDS and was joking with me (caution D&D joke ahead) saying “All Mormon men have the priesthood and thous would have have cleric levels. Heck they can cast magic vestments.” which is a spell that turns clothes into armor
It was meant as jest but many LDS believe the ritual underwear they wear can help save their life , not at ghost shirt level but more as a blessed talisman.
They also have of sealing ceremonies for eternal marriage and no doubt other sorts of magic I’m not privy too as a non member.
Frankly as someone who believes at least tepidly in reincarnation, I can’t imagine being married to one person forever. One per life? That’s a gift but I’ve got more lives yet in the offing.
Irena, best wishes with your studies of Czech. If you are up to a ten year old’s reading vocabulary, you are doing well.
Frank Gehry is one of those architects who has lost sight of the principle of “design for maintainability”. If a building is a box sitting squarely on its foundations, it can generally be repaired, repurposed and rehabilitated. If it involves weird structures and asymmetrical forces, like the dancing house, any disturbance (a little settling, a mild earthquake, a bad storm hit) transforms it from a building to an encumbered property.
I refused to put a lighting control center into a project that I did for a college some years back. I caught some flack, too, because I had a row of 15 light switches in the main lobby entrance, instead of a convenient high tech programmable box. Labeled light switches are idiot proof, do not depend on the company that makes the equipment still being in business and still making the same stuff in ten years (after the box breaks), and do not require learning how to program the thing.
@Steve T, @JMG the idea that a certain history is boring and therefore not worth looking at is something that has been polished into a high art by Canadians, as part of our National Liturgy that requires us to finish all sentences complaining about healthcare or the government with “… Oh well, shouldn’t complain, because at least we’re not like the Americans!”, while then lamenting how much more interesting American history and politics is out the other side of our mouth with a sigh. Ask one about Canadian history, and they will assure you it is boring, and there is nothing to know, and the evidence of that boringness is the fact that… They don’t know it.
Based on my shallow digging in Canadian history begun with an Indigenous Canada course, I agree that that habit tends to indicate these ARE actually the Droids you are looking for to challenge the Empire…
For folks still discussing architecture, a local graduate student has been discussing hostile or defensive architecture that police departments all over the world now ask cities to use (CPTED, or Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) (www.needsmorespikes.com). It is the explicitly codified science of how to ensure that no one feels welcome being unmoving in a public space. Once you start really noticing how that conscious goal is now part of every bench, planter, park and sidewalk, it’s wiiiiiild.
Meanwhile, in 2016 through 2019 America, the biggest Magic Story was how Trump and his Evil henchman Putin compelled millions of US Democrats to Vote Republican against their Will with Collusion Social Media.
Civil Authorities whipped into high gear trying to find the intermediate Agents holding the Democrat Pancake Flippers to no avail.
Nobody in Charge spent a Minute trying to figure out how such a reported Phenomena may be possible by engaging Institutions such as Stanford Behaviorial, MIT AI Studies, or Sante Fe Institute which may have had something to offer in challenging or validating Assumptions of these Reports.
Magic is thriving, a very sick sort depriving People of Agency, Free Will and basic Problem Solving Ability.
The Spell has been Subliminally Imbued in the Psyche of many.
1. I’m not understand why you so dismissively dismiss the association, especially in literature, of magic in the past with Europe. For white Americans, Europe is our past, and we have no other. Then, too, the need is even more acute now what with the modern ugliness of everything.
2. How in the world did the eleven families of the Chapters of Perfection take some 4 months to cross the Atlantic?
3. Hmm, you seem to be saying that the occult history and its amalgamation with Christianity has been erased by all sides. That various materialists would want to do so is understandable. As to Christians, it seems completely normal to me as in my world all Christian faiths have alike repudiated the occult. Is that because it was never acceptable except for in a small window of time in the Protestant 3rd of Christianity? Since the Orthodox Church doesn’t change, I assume that the Romans and Orthos have suppressed the occult for centuries.
JMG and Robert Mathiesen–(with respect to the copyright holder of Strange Experience by Lee R. Gandee)
According to Wikipedia, Prentice-Hall Press, a trade book publisher, was purchased in 1984 by Gulf + Western and folded into Simon + Schuster Trade. Subsequently various parts of the company were shut down or sold off. Prentice-Hall still exists, but only as a publisher of educational books. Whether it still holds the copyright requires further investigation.
I Googled “copyright” which took me to the U.S. Copyright Office. There is an informative PDF about how to search for copyrights that were awarded before 1977, when the law changed.
For works copyrighted before 1978, there is a master card catalogue located in the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress. It’s open to the public during regular hours. There are microfiches which I think are searchable online (I didn’t try) and one may pay an employee to search. This is necessary to obtain the registration number, unless that is the same as the ISBN, and I don’t think it is.
In the present instance, it would be necessary to find out if the ownership of the copyright has been transferred. According to the PDF, the Assignment and Related Documents Index “is the source for tracing documents clarifying the ownership of copyrights that have been officially recorded in the Copyright Office from 1870 through 1977.” “A single title file covers the period 1928 through 1977. ” I couldn’t work out whether there is a way to search this index remotely.
This was a useful inquiry for me because I want to determine the ownership of copyright for some works that were copyrighted under the new law that took effect in 1978. That can be done online, and now I know how.
I have a really horrible Midwestern American accent when I speak Spanish. I always begin by apologizing to the poor soul who has to listen to me and try to decipher what I’m saying.
Helpful cheat sheet of products that will kill Coronavirus:
EPA says they’re not sure about vinegar, but I’m betting that that 15% vinegar you get at the hardware store will kill anything that doesn’t run away fast enough. It makes my eyes water just opening it. If I see anything about vinegar I will post it.
Yorkshire, as I see it, the apocalypse delusion is always a response to cognitive dissonance. If your ideology says the world should behave in one way, and the world consistently behaves in a different way, the apocalypse is the point, always imminent, when the world will finally do what it’s told. Loudly insisting that the world ought to behave one way when it consistently doesn’t do so also pretty reliably gets you laughed at, and so the apocalypse also inevitably becomes the point at which the universe proves that you were right after all and punishes the people who laughed at you. Emotionally, those are very powerful lures, and the mere fact that the great day of reckoning never arrives does nothing to lessen its appeal.
Isabel, that’s impressively weird. Myself, I tend to think that Walt Disney lies far beneath the surface of Disneyland, dead yet dreaming, and someday when the stars are very, very wrong he will rise from the deeps and devour us all. 😉
Tude, good heavens — please write down those stories and get them into circulation if you’re willing to do so! There’s a real hunger for such things nowadays.
David BTL, a republic (in Latin, res publicae, “public stuff”) is made of shared stories. You change one republic into another by changing the stories you know and tell about it…
Phutatorius, those are good stories, too.
Danaone, some of this stuff is instinctive — no surprises there, since magic is bred in our bones and woven into our breath.
Walt, bingo — and notice that nearly everyone who talks about colonial America mentions the Salem witch trials, while next to nobody talks about Johannes Kelpius…
Your Kittenship, yes, and it also raises again the question of what the frack is actually happening in China. That sharp a decrease in pollution is very unusual indeed.
Did the New Atlantis utopia of Francis Bacon really inspire and motivate some European Rosicrucians to emigrate to America and contribute to its foundations?
(I have seen a lot of garbage “theories” about this issue on the internet. That’s why I wanted to ask it to an expert.)
GP, that’s probably going to require a post of its own one of these days.
Sampre, interesting. Thanks for this.
Yorkshire, nah, it’s your idea, you write it! 😉
Xabier, yes, but that’s not the point of the phrase. It so happens that in a great many Protestant countries it became a standard claim of popular theology that the ability to prosper through hard work was the most important of all virtues and the touchstone by which all other virtues could be judged. That I know of, that’s not something you’ll find much in Catholic or Orthodox countries.
MikeL, yes, Pelagius was much the same sort of thinker.
Irena, I think a lot of people need to remind themselves that architecture doesn’t have to be ugly…
Steve, I didn’t get into an argument over that, but I think it was the third time that I heard that piece of Newspeak that I became convinced that the public schools were the closest American equivalent to living in a Communist state: you have all these “freedoms” which are in fact mandatory requirements, and are required to turn up at pep rallies that in my day, at least, didn’t differ all that much in spirit from May Day rallies in Red Square.
Justin, yes, we’re going to talk about John Chapman, and the Fourierists will be getting in there as well — I’m not sure how “materialist/scientific” you can call a worldview that insisted with a straight face that once Fourierism was accepted by the majority of humans, the seas would turn into lemonade!
Fra’ Lupo, Johannes Kelpius didn’t speak English when he got here either, and he’ll be far from the only person we’ll be talking about whose roots were outside of England. Stay tuned.
SarahJ, exactly. Magic is instinctive to children because magic is hardwired into human consciousness, and it takes a lot of hard work to browbeat children into ignoring it.
Martin, I think that’s the same building I found. “Butt ugly,” as we used to say in school.
Stefania, good. The roots of the terror of magic that pervades Western industrial society are deep and complex, but that’s certainly part of it.
SLClaire, fascinating. That sounds worth researching.
Bonnie, you’re most welcome.
Barefootwisdom, no, the timing isn’t accidental, though it also has to do with research for a couple of nonfiction book projects, and the first stirrings of what I think will be my next major fiction project.
Simon, so noted!
Sara, if your official Canadian history is presented as boring, then you can assume as certain that the real history is the opposite. I wonder — do they talk much about Louis Riel’s magical and spiritual activities?
Michael, funny. I described that in an earlier series of posts in a somewhat different way…
Onething, (1) many American families of European descent have been here for hundreds of years. That’s also a past, you know, and some crucial aspects of it have been erased. (2) It routinely took that long in those days, since travel times were dependent on favorable winds. (3) The fact that church institutions have tried to suppress Christian occultism hasn’t stopped a great many Christians of all denominations to roll their eyes and keep on practicing it.
Deborah, thanks for this.
Minervaphilos, it’s an open question whether the Rosicrucians who came to America — as a good many of them did — were motivated by Bacon’s writing, or by other sources, but it’s not at all implausible that Bacon’s New Atlantis was part of what brought them here.
I know of a book that is relevant to the topic: Early Mormonism and the Magic World View by Dennis Michael Quinn. I haven’t read it yet, but I heard it’s a pretty interesting read.
I’ll quote the review:
Among the practices no longer a part of Mormonism are the use of divining rods for revelation, astrology to determine the best times to conceive children and plant crops, the study of skull contours to understand personality traits, magic formula utilized to discover lost property, and the wearing of protective talismans.
Aaaaah. Schloss Neuschwanstein. I vividly remember seeing it in person in 1977 when we went to Germany to visit my mother’s family. She’s from a tiny village called Eussenhausen, near the former border. I was seventeen and wildly romantic and it suited me down to a tee.
The castle is glorious. Pictures do not do it justice. It has to be seen. Every angle was a postcard. Even at the time I wondered how they managed to build it on the side of a mountain. Non-union labor, I guess along with very few safety standards. The throne room looked like it was made entirely of precious stones and marble. I don’t think there was one room we saw that wasn’t gilded.
Thanks for the memories.
On the subject of witchcraft: the Salem witch trials were unique in that the one thing that all Salem’s witches had in common, and without exception, is that they were all women who had inherited a piece of real estate from another woman; and every woman there who had acquired property in this manner was put on trial for witchcraft.
My I ask where this claim came from? I ask because there’s a lot of misinformation about the Salem witchcraft hysteria in circulation. This is, I’m afraid, an interesting example of such. Just for a start, Salem’s witches (that is, the nineteen people who were convicted of and executed for witchcraft there) weren’t all women. Five were men, and a sixth man was killed without having been tried.
Jmg, it’s is not just America that has this problem, there is very little written about how magic developed from pioneer/colonial times and onward in Australia also.
Most of what I know involves magic scene now and during the 19th century, I know nothing before.
My grand daughter has been ‘wishing’ for a cat. Currently they have 2 dogs, and a neighbor dog that eats cats. She has visualized this cat she wants, drawn pictures of it and even named it – “Scratch”. She talks about what she and Scratch will do together whenever she draws that picture. This wishing has been for nigh on a year.
Two days ago, the cat-eating pit bull next door got a bite out of a cat. The cat made it over the fence, into their yard and safety. It had a couple broken ribs, punctures and was a bloody mess. My daughters dogs ran outside and just sniffed it and let it be, rather than their usual neighbor-incited frenzy for evil cats.
They took the cat inside, cleaned it up and took it to the vet. It had no other trauma than the ribs and punctures. They took the cat home, and put him on a blanket. The dogs went in and sniffed and pranced, and then finally tried to lick the cat. He hissed them away, but they started going into that room just to check up on the cat over and over.
It’s now 4 days later, and Scratch seems to be getting on fine with the dogs….and they bought a litter box…and my daughter called about getting him fixed…
“As for Kepler, he was as brilliant an astrologer as he was an astronomer ”
That’s good to know. Kepler is one of my heroes.
Promises to be a stimulating series of posts coming our way, JMG.
I’m afraid Canada can’t compete with the US in the occult history department – although there are some interesting traces of Quakers in central Ontario. Most of the eastern half of the country was primarily settled by Scots refugees from the Highland Clearances and the United States in the 18th century and although they are a famously “fey” people, trained Scots occultists seem to have been a rare breed (based on my rather superficial research). However, I’ll try to boost Canada’s occult credibility by reminding readers of this blog that Manly P. Hall was raised in Canada and moved to the US as a young adult.
@Kimberly Steele – your comment about the different worlds of classical vs. rap music worlds reminds me of a humorous wee video: https://youtu.be/5BQbrtNgUHA
and yet, and yet … there have been many polytheist empires with a God-King at the top, Egypt being the prime example.
BTW – about harking back to a European past, the garb of Randolph Carter’s Dreamlands kingdom reads like a riff on the16th century in Europe. Loose knee-length pants, dressed with bodices and blouses with long full sleeves, but not as heavy as what was actually worn during the Little Ice Age.
And on that topic… when Miriam said the custom of having the lady and her maidservant reared together from childhood etc…. and the parentage of that maidsevant? I flashed on two historical novels in my library, both by writers who do their research. For the 19th Century in America, Barbara Hambly’s Good Man Friday.
For the Celtic Dark Ages, Diana Paxson’s White Raven. The title character is Branwen, back-door cousin and maidservant to Esseilte of Ireland. Better known as Dame Brangwine and Yseult respectively. Yes, THAT Yseult, daughter of King Diarmait, High king from 548 to 563; who was married to the middle-aged Marcus Cunomorus (Mark of Cornwall) and had a flaming affair with Mark’s supposed nephew, the bard Drustan (Tristan). Yseilt the drama queen, who dragged Branwen into her business ruthlessly, and Branwen spent most of her time cleaning up after her mistress. There is, Paxson tells us, a standing stone stone in Cornwall engraved with Drustanus Hic Iacit, Cynomori Filius. In 1538 the priest John Leland recorded a third line now illegible, as “Cum Domina Ousilla.”
Serin and Aysh seem to have a much better relationship. But the fact was, that matching a very young servant-class child with a very young master or mistress seems to imply that the servant partner was, in fact, a slave. Although, often a much-beloved slave.
@Martin Back, do you live in Ireland? I did an extensive tour of Ireland in 1997, and left rather saddened. Almost everywhere we went in the Irish countryside was filled with homes like you posted, what I thought were modernist monstrosities, while all the beautiful, old country houses were literally rotting away and abandoned.
I learned that most of those lovely homes you would imagine being in the Irish countryside were English creations, and that’s why they were left to rot. “Modern” building was built so that it didn’t at all resemble anything from the time of British rule. Or so the story went.
The sight of all those beautiful homes as ruins really had an effect on me, but I tried to understand. But I saw many, many homes like the UL President’s house in Ireland.
What I really meant by my question #3 is why have the Christian churches suppressed occultism, and how and why did it flourish, at least for a time, in the early Protestant era?
I will third the recommendation of the Pennsylvania German Heritage Cultural Center in Kutztown. The catalog for the exhibit they contributed to, “Powwowing in Pennsylvania”, is freely available online here: https://glencairnmuseum.org/newsletter/2017/3/2/powwowing-in-pennsylvania. One thing I find notable, there as in “The Long-Lost Friend,” is how Catholic a lot of this practice is. Catholicism is at least a century in the past, and probably more like two, when most of these materials are printed–and there’s a LOT of hostility toward Catholicism even today. But they are using INRI on blessing bags (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum – the sign on a crucifix), ending prayers in German with “orate pro nobis, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae” (the ending of the Hail Mary in Latin), and on and on.
I will see if I can find anything out about Braucherei in the midwest; my connections are into one of the Amish-Mennonite factions that is very opposed, but I may be able to find something out.
My pleasure. Taken from ‘Monks of the Ridge’ by Joe Tyson. c.2003
“Mourners wrapped Dr. Witt’s body in a linen sheet and put it in an unvarnished pine box. As the early February sun set, they interred him beside Daniel Giessler, Christian Warmer, and a few anonymous Hermits of the Ridge in the community’s graveyard on High St. between Baynton & Morton Sts., which measured 40 feet by 40 feet. “Spectral blue flames were seen dancing around his grave…for weeks.” (Sachse 422) In 1859 the Episcopal Diocese of Philadelphia built St. Michael’s Church on top of the burial plot, which locals then called “Spook Hill.” Some years ago the Episcopalians sold St. Michael’s to a black congregation, who renamed it The High St. Church of God. A faded stone plaque on the side of the building still memorializes the Monks of the Wissahickon. Germantown historian David Spencer asserts that the remains of Daniel Giessler and Christopher Witt lie beneath this church’s altar.”
Ref: Julius F. Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania, The PA German Society Press, 1896.
Of course, as you wrote above “Local legend has it…” Yet, still, alchemists being alchemists…
The new congregation purchased the property around 50 years ago. Ref: I.A.O.M.
A couple of other thoughts:
This is the mythical third party people are often talking about. We have the Democrats and Republicans, the liberals and conservatives, the progressives and the traditionalists, yet there is that overlooked and silent majority who gets no attention. Just like the Rust Belt regions are flyover. When magical things happen in politics, it must be because of the magic republic.
A great many comments mentioned other occult figures in our history. Something in common with many of them, besides the occult, was to go towards frontier areas; some place few were at; the fringe. That is a common thread in American conversation, that we have a pioneer archetype. In this day and age, the frontier isn’t as easy to identify, but there are still plenty of areas in which people aren’t as common. Small towns. Main street. Family farms. Family small businesses. Family physicians. Herbalists. As the pendulum begins swinging back the other way I imagine we might see more of these things but probably could use some encouragement to return to these practices that are very much a part of our heritage. And in those returns, likely we’ll find more holes in the blanket.
RE: Salem Witch Trials
A response to the ideology which resulted in the Salem Witch trials took awhile but some of the well known novels like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter” and the movement known as Transcendentalism with figures such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson definitely showed the independent, free spirit which of our magic republic, which in turn helped develop what some consider American philosophy John Kaag wrote an interesting book about this, but what was more interesting was how he discovered this library out in the mountains of New Hampshire which had been untouched for decades, full of philosophical books, many of which were of American philosophers. It just serves as yet another example of how quickly we forget, and how much lays around yet waiting to be discovered, or rediscovered.
Ecosophian, Quinn’s book is well worth reading. Give it a try!
Teresa, I don’t expect I’ll ever see it, but I made a paper model of it a very long time ago.
J.L.Mc12, sounds like you have some searching to do!
Oilman2, when the human will focuses intently on one thing to the exclusion of everything else, remarkable results follow…
Onething, glad to hear this. Kepler was a fascinating person.
Ron, I wonder what you’d turn up if you went digging.
Patricia M, remember that in The Weird of Hali I was constrained by having to take Lovecraft as canon, and his Dreamlands stories have an ambience that blends ancient Greece and the European Middle Ages — thus the Maxfield Parrish amblence of Ooth-Nargai and the eastern European flavor of Ilek-Vad. As for Aysh and Serin, good — one of the things I tried to do with that is point up the moral ambiguity of the Dreamlands, which is a reflection of the moral ambiguity of dreams…
Onething, the Christian churches suppressed occultism because it’s in the economic and political interests of Christian churches to convince people they can’t access the divine on their own — they have to depend on a priest or minister as middleman. Occultism is all about having your own spiritual experiences rather than listening to some guy in a funny collar tell you what’s true, what isn’t, and who to vote for. The Reformation was one of several eras when the churches lost control of the narrative, and every time that happened, occultism came boiling up.
Black Tuna, thanks for this!
Prizm, excellent. We used to have a geographical fringe, and yes, that was the frontier; now the fringes are in other places. Always, though, that’s a good place to look for holes in the blanket.
Why then has Protestantism rejected occultism while retaining the encouragement of having one’s own relationship with God? And doesn’t occultism often also utilize the experienced occultist to divine for you or heal for you and so on?
Great Thanks for your reply and what a quote! Going to meditate in that direction.. access some of the deeper streams the stiff collars don’t want us to know about! Don’t know much about Granville but time to research! Looking forward to reading and studying your new book, The Dolmen Arch, which is next on my list to buy:)
To Ron M., thanks for the video, it gave me a laugh. This seems appropriate in theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeZXQf77hhk
I’m fortunate to live by the Theosophical Society’s world headquarters, where there is an extensive library of over 22,000 esoteric and religious books. I’m a 60 dollar per year member which helps support their subscription library — they do have a service where you can borrow books by mail, by the way. https://www.theosophical.org/library
The location is interesting: it’s in Wheaton, which is where evangelist Billy Graham has a wing of Wheaton College named after him. My friends used to call Wheaton “The Holy City” growing up because it has so many Christian churches. Wheaton was a dry town from 1935 – 1985. One wouldn’t expect Wheaton to house a giant Theosophical campus, yet there it sits.
A nice read. Thank you JMG.
There were a few Catholics among the early German-speaking settlers in Pennsylvania, and as it happened, John George Hohman, the compiler of the classic powwowing handbook (“The Long Lost Friend”) was one of them. That’s one of the reasons for the Catholic features in powwowing.
Another lies in the enduring difference between what folklorists call “folk religion” and the official religions of the institutional churches. Folk religion can be immensely practical: if it works, it works, no matter what the ministers say. Don Yoder, himself a Pennsylvania-German and an academic folklorist, stressed this difference in his articles on powwowing.
Jmg, I found this.
I remembered reading this while ago, so I found it and presented it here.
While on the subject of Disney: Druid, have you ever read any of the Carl Barks Ducks books? He was an anonymous (until recent decades) laborer in the Disney comics factory who created and polished the pantheon of Donald Duck characters. These comics are wonderful, in my opinion, and a great piece of Americana, a commentary on wealth, fortune, industriousness, sloth, and many other things.
Re: Philly, have you ever been to the Masonic Temple down there? Impressive building, and very interesting location, as with many of those structures.
According to this, hipsters are out, the “Millennial look” is in. Pink, pink, and more oink, and white, and “medicinal shades” of soft colors. Read it and weep:
Oh, and please don’t hold things against those of us whose grandmothers were actual streghe…I love that lady very much.
Did you make an eclipse chart for Teheran?
That’s great you will be discussing John Chapman. Looking forward to reading that (and all the other sections.)
I get your point about the lemonade. I only have a very vague knowledge of Fourier and his followers. I had the impression they were a kind of proto-socialist / communal living group. Looking at it further just now I see he had some wild ideas (where are those anti-lions anyway?) and that his social theories were based on some religious propositions. It will certainly be good to learn more about these and many other groups and people you will be exploring. Thank you for writing this history!
@JMG: I kind of love this (and also I think the process of devouring has been a constant thing, in a copyright sense), and now want to work it into the novel, except that one has too much plot already. On the other hand, it seems to have created a whole infrastructure which is ripe for sequels: The Horror of Undead Walt Disney would be pretty great.
Unrelatedly: one of the silver linings of the coronavirus, currently being talked about, is that a lot of business conferences/trade shows/etc. are being canceled. There’s some hope that adapting to the present crisis will demonstrate that those events are more trouble than they’re worth–from an ecological standpoint, which has been discussed here, but also (more important to our corporate overlords, alas) in terms of wasting money and time, exposing people to various plagues even when we’re not in an epidemic, etc. Here’s hoping!
If I may: fascinating post, thank you for this!
First thought: is there more than one blanket as per the _Weird of Hali_ metaphor? is this a Carl Jung sort of situation with his famous dream described in ‘Mind and Earth’ (1931):
“Perhaps I may be allowed a comparison: it is as though we had to describe and explain a building whose upper story was erected in the nineteenth century, the ground floor dates back to the sixteenth century, and careful examination of the masonry reveals that it was reconstructed from a tower built in the eleventh century. In the cellar we come upon Roman foundations, and under the cellar a choked-up cave with neolithic tools in the upper layer and remnants of fauna from the same period in the lower layers. That would be the picture of our psychic structure. We live on the upper story and are only aware that the lower story is slightly old-fashioned. As to what lies beneath the earth’s surface, of that we remain totally unconscious.
This is a lame analogy, for in the psyche there is nothing that is just a dead relic. Everything is alive, and our upper story, consciousness, is continually influenced by its living and active foundations. Like the building, it is sustained and supported by them.”
Or perhaps even a patchwork quilt on top of other patchwork quilts?
Perhaps this is why Occultists have long lived secret lives through various medium. Through magazines, and correspondences, and now the internet. The fringes, there, provide a place for a hole, which we might also consider an opening!
As for the Western terror of occultists, to be fair, occultists are a terrifying bunch: secretive, passionate, learned, with the priest’s ability to talk with gods independently, and with this secretive and passionate quality comes an inevitable outlaw identity. That is, the secret actions of the occultist qua occultist are quite literally much outside of human law, shrouded as they are in secrecy, taking place as they do only somewhat in the world inhabited by the Church and the Scientist.
It’s one thing to oppose someone on grounds of right and wrong, but what happens when this person also talks to the gods? What happens when, like Florentino Ariza in _Love in the Time of Cholera_ this willful, self-directed, inwardly free person becomes filled by an irresistible Spirit? How can you argue with that?
There are issues, then, of power, there are issues of consensus reality, there are issues of agency. Borges’ “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” proves a great example, as already mentioned. Borges makes it clear that a secretive group of solitaries has through their fervid imaginings and creation of fake encyclopedias not merely created a world, but created a world that will overtake and conquer this one. He speaks of the irresistible sway of the world made not be angels, but of chessmasters! How the world of Tlon keeps on intruding into this one with a “man from the frontier” singing milongas all night dies in a seedy motel and Borges finds on him the tiny cylindrical green idol of an unearthly metal that weighs 50 pounds at least!
To paraphrase, “In fifty years, the world will be Tlon and Tlon the world!” this sort of reality the Occultist may deal in and this is where Borges really worked as a visionary. He mentions in this story the Rosicrucians, who likewise his imagined world, came into being through passionate imaginings! This sort of thing really does happen and, of course, it’s entirely possible to imagine a very different sort of world, and it is entirely possible to bring that world into manifestation, at least, here and there, on the fringes, be they physical frontiers or various mediums on the fringes…
Re: Salem Witch Trials
I’ve probably recommended this book to someone here before, but I’ll recommend it again; “The Witches: Salem 1692” by Stacy Schiff is the best I’ve ever read on the subject. Schiff is careful to stay close to the existing documents from the trial in relating the events of 1692 and does not make guesses or suppositions unsupported by evidence; she also makes clear what we cannot know. What I found most fascinating is her highly detailed and lengthy description of the society, politics, and religious practices in eastern Massachusetts at the time which puts the trials in context. More information on the subject than I’ve read anywhere else.
OT: You need not publish this if you find it too much so, but – TSW!
The first 6 months here I felt my old secondary gods – Bast,Sekhmet, and Thor – were less and less relevant, and my contacts with Him and Her were off. Slowly I came into the odd mix of Hellenistic/Norse that remains, but have had trouble with the energies of Tuesday (Mars), Friday (Venus) and to some extent Thursday (Jupiter – Thor being less and less relevant here except during hurricane season.)
This past Tuesday in meditation I Heard (mind’s ear) a calm, benevolent, reasonable masculine voice who, when I asked, identified himself as the Good Father. This is something I never expected or hoped for, with my history. (Easy to relate to men as brothers. Fathers and husbands – and this may be generational – equated with being disrespected by them. So this is a true breakthrough.)
Casting around for identification, I came up with Tyr. Rock-steady Tyr, who raised the Fenris Wolf from a puppy, and when he grew up to be an uncontrollable wild animal, took the responsibility for leashing him and sacrificed a hand to do so. The Anglo-Saxons equated Tir with the Pole Star, ever steady. And Tacitus said Tyr was the Germanic war god; Odin was the Germanic Mercury/Hermes, god of magic and sorcery. One of the poems makes Tyr the son of a goddess and a sour-tempered giant; another has him fostered by the sea-god couple’s nine daughters (waves.) Sounds about right – some children of abusive marriages go out of their way to be decent. Especially if they get decent mentoring elsewhere early on.
And I had steady, good energy for once.
Today is Friday, and after wondering if the Great Mother was the Lady of the Life Force, (she is, but that’s not the same) came back to Venus/Aphrodite/Freya as the goddess of art and beauty. What clinched it was a flashback to -yes, another novel, but by a serious Astatruar scholar & priestess, Diana Paxson. In which, when her heroine ends up channeling Freya, the first thing she does besides adopting two cats, is decorate her drab apartment beautifully in bright earth tones and colors. That did it for me. And again the energy so far is not muddled, but as clear as a sunny day. Freya – or by whatever other name – art, music, beauty, lovely surroundings, and joy in life.
And – reinforcing all this – Pan (whom Herodotus claims is a very ancient god, and Herodotus has been proven right about a number of things once dismissed as travelers’ tales) as both a fitting companion to Gaia and also the lord of all things wild, which is more Wiccan than Greek. And enabler of my inner Tom Sawyer.
It actually looks as if the pineal gland is waking up here. It’s amazing. And the knots are being untied slowly, one by one. That’s a miracle in itself.
I looked up this bunch, and the internet tells me,
“Settling along the Wissahickon Creek, the group built a forty-by-forty foot tabernacle. On the roof of the tabernacle, the monks erected a telescope they used to scan the heavens for signs of Christ’s return. ”
Isn’t that cute ?
And hence we can divine the *real* occult purpose of the SETI project ! Or Project Comeback, as it’s known in secret meetings…
Would the Chapter of Perfection have anything to do with the Gospel of Perfection ?
I still have several books from college decades ago, Selected Works by Ralph Waldo Emerson and also
a collection of Henry Thoreau’s works which includes Walden. With panic about COVID showing no
signs of abating, that means more time for reading and contemplation. (sounds better than self-quarantine).
Speaking of which:
The decrease in air pollution in China measurable from space show how utterly lacking in any
pollution control they have. No real surprise there. The abominable air quality was a big issue
back when they hosted the summer Olympics.
But there may be another underlying issue behind the huge lockdown. China has been having a
lethal epidemic of African swine fever (sometimes called pig ebola) which is decimating the
pig farms in China.
With food prices likely to spike, and economics woes sure to follow the global response
to COVID, the fear of unrest may be what is driving the lockdown as much as fear of
the coronavirus itself.
@ JMG – Thank you! I’m glad that you’re exploring this topic! As I mentioned some time ago, I’m developing as detective novel set in Pennwald, one of the successor state to a USA that broke up after losing the war of 1812.
I’m pursuing world building, plotting, and character development all at the same time. A discussion of the occult and a world view not chosen by our America will greatly aid my world building.
Also, any word on when the “love in the ruins” anthology will be published? I’ve done some serious editing to my entry, and believe it’s ready for final submission.
@Prizm, yes indeed! The emergence of transcendentalism makes perfect sense in that setting, where (if you”ll pardon a way oversimplified metaphor) the middle road we’re talking about had previously been abandoned and avoided like a demilitarized zone. So how do you find your way back there, with few guides available? You look around (inwardly and outwardly) and ask, “what’s really here?”
Hawthorne’s path was a bit more complex, because he started out with coming to grips with his ancestry, and by the time he intersected with transcendentalism the limits of its practical applications were showing. But he left plenty of fascinating bread crumbs in his writings.
So yes, the magic republic survived (or re-emerged), but in New England this seems to have taken the form of variously fringe-y “intellectual movements” more than occult discoveries or religious revelations. It’s quite different from Pennsylvania and other regions, which have a far greater number and variety of colorful distinctive figures and groups.
You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.ca/Devil-Shape-Woman-Witchcraft-Colonial/dp/0393317595
The six men executed in this “outbreak” had all publicly supported the women’s right to continue owning the inherited property. While I may have exaggerated somewhat in my earlier comment, the fact remains that these witch trials had nothing to do with the practice of occult arts and everything to do with enforcing gender roles in the Puritan society of New England.
@Patricia Mathews, I nominate your “pink, pink, and more oink” for the Insightful Typo of the Week Award.
@SLClaire, I think you are onto something. One of my grandmothers grew up on a farm in central Michigan – a couple hours’ drive north of Ann Arbor. Her father was a German immigrant. I’ve got loads of cousins who still farm in the area. A mere anecdote, but perhaps another dot to trace out a German social presence in your part of the state.
Re Harry Smith. At the time I was a big fan of what became known as the “folk music scare of the 1960s.” Especially of the duo known as “The Holy Modal Rounders.” Peter Stampfel, a founding member of the band cited the “Harry Smith Collection” aka “Anthology of American Folk Music” as the major source for what they did on their early albums. I was amazed at how much of that collection I had already been hearing second hand, performed by the various New York City and Boston coffee house “folk singers.” I don’t think it’s unfair to credit or blame Harry Smith for starting a movement that formed a major part of the 60s counter-culture. There’s a bio of sorts of Smith titled “American Magus.” I think it’s kind of rare unless it’s been republished in the last few years. It may show up on the infamous auction site now and then.
Hi Walt F., I liked Patricia’s typo too. Thanks, Patricia! And I hope you are feeling better.
JMG, I used to live about 10 miles from Yellow Springs, Ohio, a bastion of SJWs, although they’re not aggressive like the ones in Seattle. Last night I dreamed General Nuisance was in Yellow Springs (on his own, like a tourist or house-hunter, not leading 5 or 6 men in the conquest of Yellow Springs). I cannot think of anyone less suited to life in Yellow Springs than the cheerfully martial Nuisance (well, maybe General Patton). My question is, is this dream telling me that TPTB have become completely alien, or is it just my brain having fun while I sleep? Because it seemed to me, once I got through chuckling, that Yellow Springs might represent those alien PTB, and Nuisance might represent their subjects with whom they have nothing in common anymore. This is the only dream I ever had that might actually have a meaning, so I’m kind of excited about it.
If anyone’s ever in western Ohio, Nuisance and I recommend visiting Yellow Springs, it’s great fun. If you go during any season but winter, go on a weekday, because it’ll be impossible to find parking on a weekend. Winter’s much quieter.
Onething, in most Protestant churches you’re supposed to have a relationship with God, but heaven help you if that relationship leads you to believe something or vote for someone that isn’t what your minister tells you. As for occultism, no, the whole point of serious occultism is to teach people to do such things for themselves.
Ian, that quote is from Poe’s “The Tomb of Ligeia,” but I originally encountered it in the first serious book of magic I ever studied, Techniques of High Magic by Francis King and Stephen Skinner, and it made quite an impression on me!
Kimberly, I envy you that library!
PhysicsDoc, you’re most welcome.
J.L.Mc12, that’s a good start. You can correlate that with books on what folk magic was like among the original colonists — Jim Baker’s The Cunning Man’s Handbook is particularly good — and then go looking for other traces of the same sort of thing.
Fra’ Lupo, no on both counts, though I know about the Philly Masonic hall — one of those grand old fraternal structures that remind us all just how deeply people in this country valued ritual back in the day.
Patricia M, I’ve got to say, “pink, pink, and more oink” is my favorite typo ever. Not a bad description, either! 😉
Fra’ Lupo, real grandmothers who practice real folk magic are always welcome, as far as I’m concerned. It’s manufactured grandmothers who just happen to have practiced the latest fashionable pop-culture magic well before it was invented, and who of course are conveniently dead so their claims can’t be checked, that I’m less than enthused about.
Admin, nope. Only so many hours in a day…
Justin, see if you can find an old copy of The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier, an anthology of his translated works published in 1971. There’s nothing like reading original texts to get a sense of just how crazy Fourier actually was!
Isabel, I rather like The Horror of Undead Walt Disney! Zombie Mickey Mouse clones swarming out of Disneyland to batten on human flesh, Donald the maniacal chainsaw-wielding Duck, Peter Pan luring children to siavery in Neverland, Snow White and the Seven Gnostic Archons — the possibilities are, well, eldritch! (Not to mention rugose…) I hope you’re right about trade shows and conferences, for what it’s worth.
Violet, I think if you stretch the blanket metaphor that far, it’ll tear. As for the fear of occultists, most human societies figure out fairly readily how to get along with their sorcerers; many cultures work out niches into which occult practitioners can fit — think cunning folk in early modern Britain and America, or the several religious and quasi-religious roles open to such people in Tokugawa Japan. I think it’s the increasingly rigid pressure in industrial societies toward a monoculture of idea and experience, a world in which there is only one way to think about anything, that makes occultists so terrifying here.
Patricia M, TSW indeed. Delighted to hear it!
Koggush, no, it has more in common with the Lodge of Perfection.
Jeanne, that makes a fair amount of sense. There are also rumors circulating through the crawlspaces of the internet that different ethnic groups have sharply different susceptibility to the CoVID-19 virus — thus the high death tolls in some countries and the sharply lower death tolls in many others.
Ben, some serious reading up on fringe Protestantism and Pennsylvania Dutch hexerei would be well worth your while. As for Love in the Ruins, you should be getting a contract shortly; the publisher’s had some personal issues to deal with but is moving ahead at this point.
Phutatorius, everything I’ve read on the subject suggests that Harry Smith’s collection was the spark that launched the folk music blaze in postwar America. I wonder if he deliberately intended that as an act of magic…
Your Kittenship, I have no idea — I’ve never had the talent of interpreting dreams. It sounds fun, though — and as I’ve been to Yellow Springs, the thought of Patton striding down the streets there is irrepressibly amusing.
Excellent points — thank you! I find it interesting, then, the fear of differences of thought. I’m also curious how and when this monoculture developed. Certainly, reading about the US Civil War I don’t get the sense of the same sort of monoculture, reading Oswald Spengler and his contemporaries I don’t get a sense of the same sort of monoculture. Do you have any suggestions on books regarding the history of the drive towards an industrial mental monoculture?
JMG – you know, I may very well do some digging…
The point about societies finding a place for occultists reminded me of something I read about Dungeons and Dragons. It includes a table that shows how much it costs to employ someone by trade and skill level, such as farmer, blacksmith, man at arms… But by the time you get to the world-ending gods of war that are high level wizards in that world, not even a nation could afford employ one. So they just let them be part of the government to keep them from causing trouble. 🙂
Regarding Disney: As a life-long animation fan (I admit I love moving images on glass screens) I’m curious about how magic is depicted in Disney’s 2009 feature, “The Princess and the Frog,” especially in the characters of Dr. Facilier (the *bad* voodoo practitioner?) and Mama Odie (the *good* practitioner?).
Yes, it’s a children’s cartoon for mass public entertainment, but … did Disney get any details right? Particularly regarding the rituals, digs, and props of the two practitioners? Is there any clear light-dark binary in New Orleans Voodoo?
@ JMG – I read most of “the Rosicrucian Enlightenment” before it had to back to the library. I may have to break down and find a used copy of it somewhere, because I think it’s out of print.
What do recommend reading about the Pennsylvania Dutch?
This question is related to this week’s post: to what extent the contents of your books The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and The New Encyclopedia of the Occult overlap?
@ Ron M, German immigrants ranged widely over Missouri and Illinois (Arcola, IL had an Amish population in the early 1980s when I toured it with a friend, and Amish may still live there). My paternal grandfather’s family, also German-speaking, is first found in IL in the mid 1800s and later moved to western MO. St. Louis, MO, where I now live, had many German immigrants and German-language resources, and there are rural MO towns not far away that still had German-language newspapers into the early 1900s. But the Amish cultural unit in public school seems to me to bring in the possibility of a more specific Amish presence in Ann Arbor, yet an element of secrecy about it since we were taught that they were in Lancaster County, far away from us. That, in turn, may relate to JMG’s thesis. A possible backup for this idea is that despite the German cultural presence in St. Louis, my husband, who graduated from a public school in nearby suburban St. Louis, didn’t learn about the Amish during his elementary school years, a few years earlier than my own.
– Well, Archdruid, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?
– A Magic Republic, if you can keep it.
Also John Greer’s Magic Republic sounds like a more interesting theme park that I’d love to visit. I wonder what style of architecture would you go for, I bet it would be Neoclassical or Colonial Revival.
The reason you know more about the “fringe-y intellectual movements” in New England than about New England’s equivalents to Pennsylvania German powwowing is simply because later intellectuals canonized Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne as fellow intellectuals. So long as their ideas could all be seen simply as litereary intellectualism, they didn’t threaten anyone. And it didn’t hurt, either, that they could write very well.
Underneath the “blanket,” however it was just as messy and magical and non-intellectual here in New England as it was anywhere else in the country–maybe even more so than in some other places. And Emerson and Thoreau counted for much less below the blanket than above it. Below the blanket it was all people like Samuel Wardwell the astrologer and fortune-teller (executed at Salem in 1692), Jemimah Wilkinson and her followers (from Cumberland, RI), the wizard Aholiab Diamond and his clairvoyant daughter Moll Pitcher (of Marblehead and Lynn, MA), the wandering magician Luman Water(s), the magical “Rods-men” (of Middletown and Poultney, VT), contless “money-diggers” who used ceremonial magic to find buried treasure, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby the mesmeric healer (of Belfast, Maine), and many, many others.
I knew Yellow Springs, Ohio rang an old bell. ‘Young’s Jersey Dairy Farm’ was a major get to point on the annual pilgrimage to the Dayton Hamvention. Best milkshakes I’ve had.
Dear Mr. Greer – I was aware of Harry Smith, from a music angle. But unaware of his occult background. He got an early start …
Both his parents were Rosicrucians. His mother taught on the Lummi Reservation, north of Bellingham, and he explored Lummi religion.
Wikipedia has a short section on Harry Smith’s “Occult Interests.” Brief, but interesting. Lew
Our two female Pritzker Prize winners made Kunstler’s Eyesore of the Month
For Oilman2 – some years ago, my then-teenage, severely socially-anxious daughter announced she was going to have a cat, a long-haired black cat named Valentino. We already had several much-loved feline members of the household, so we didn’t encourage this idea. But she didn’t drop it, and talked about it frequently. Some months later, it became apparent that we had a “ghost” at the end of the garden, flitting about in the shrubbery and seizing anything remotely edible when she thought we weren’t looking; a very thin long-haired black feral cat, with a marked limp and a horribly matted coat. It took two years of feeding her outdoors and gently getting her used to our evidently-bizarre human ways before she could be persuaded to put one cautious paw over the threshold of our home, but eventually “Tino” became a beloved member of the household and spent her last couple of years sitting bolt upright on a lap (in case we tried any funny business like combing her) or basking in front of the fire. The other cats accepted her without question, although she was clearly very frail, deaf as a post & quite unable to jump or climb.
I’m sure she came to us in answer to my daughter’s desperate longing; there was a deep bond between them & caring for Tino right through to the end developed some admirable aspects of my daughter’s character. Since then, another long-haired black cat has joined us from a shelter; a very different character, Jinxi is very eccentric, “talkative” & deeply playful. And my cripplingly-shy, panic-stricken and depressed girl is beginning to laugh again, and blossom. That’s magic, truly.
I just wish I’d never forgotten that magic is real. I knew it when I was a child, despite growing up in the bosom of the Church, before I forgot, drowned in the “real” world of study, work, marriage, mortgage, TV and shopping…
Regarding the “discovery” aspect of occultism: pretty much every area of magical practice is associated with a narrative of at least one past culture having been vastly more knowledgeable and proficient at it than anyone today. That’s an unfortunate historical circumstance as far as magical practice is concerned. But for occultism, those narratives seem to be more central to the whole endeavor. Is that because re-discovering and re-connecting are more rewarding and less stressful than venturing into the complete unknown?
Also: OMG paper models! Already an obscure retro hobby when I was a kid. I made the White House, the Empire State Building, and (for my brother, completed over a Christmas Eve all-nighter) the Brooklyn Bridge. Alas, no castles. With a printed kit you only need glue, a sharp blade, and infinite patience. So, it’s a very sustainable pursuit, but definitely on the “builds character” side of the fun scale, especially by today’s standards.
Thrice potent, eh ? I thought the rituals just involved handshakes…..
Shades of Retropia! At the Friday Happy Hour here in The Village – the only bar in which nobody ever gets carded – one of the residents was drinking a cocktail that was the same green as the ABQ s/f society’s Green Slime Awards (lime jello) for “The worst of….” She had a strange look on her face; I asked her what the cocktail was? She answered “A sweet martini.” I didn’t ask her what else was in it, and at least the orange slices which trimmed it were good and healthy.
I offered her my metaphor for sheer distaste: “A banana pudding with Lima bean topping.” She did finish it, but some experiments, she agreed, are not to be repeated.
Actually, my banana pudding metaphor has another step up for the truly loathsome and toxic: “banana pudding with Lima bean topping and rat turds stirred into it.” No, the cocktail didn’t reach that degree of loathsomeness.
Thing is, the way to find God hasn’t been esoteric for a long time. Even medieval Christian mystics wrote very simple books on how to proceed to gnosis, no aprons or degrees necessary. To an outsider it looks like a bunch of titles for the sake of titles. Maybe extremely orderly people need that stuff to feel right with the world.
Johann Jakob Zimmermann did “astrological predictions based on [comets] movements”.
He also believed that Christ’s kingdom on Earth would begin sometime not too long after 1694.
Yeah, pretty much all this dessicated materialist needs to know about astrology’s ability to forecast the future.
@Steve, thank you for the reference. I’ve just verified that my library has a copy, which I’ll be picking up tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I’ve looked up references to that book before, many years ago, but I never read it through.
The potential problem I see with the book’s thesis is that identifying misogyny, class conflict, and property disputes as primary causes of the Witchcraft hysteria is kind of like identifying gravity as the primary cause of why some tall buildings collapsed on 9/11. It’s true as far as it goes but it’s far from the whole story. Misogynistic attitudes, class conflicts etc. were widespread at the time, but executions of witches in New England were rare and sporadic (until they ended after 1692). I’ll point out that some of the executed women (and many more of the accused and arrested) were married, and therefore by the common law of the time, not considered to own any property at all.
I certainly didn’t mean to imply, though, that I think anyone in Salem was guilty of the acts they were convicted for, which were primarily corporal assaults on people (mostly children) while in spectral form. Could anyone ever do that, then or now? I don’t know, but I doubt it. But folk magic practices were part of the history in Salem, including Tituba’s egg yolk scrying, the witch-cake, Wardwell’s fortune-telling, and Bishop’s poppets. In any case, what I was talking about earlier wasn’t even that, but rather, the idea that emerged later and prevailed for centuries after, that the reason not to kill witches wasn’t that witches should have rights, but that witches didn’t exist.
To all commenting on occult Disney, and the dark side of Disney, has no one seen ‘Escape from Tomorrow’?
@Ron M. Ah, but as JMG hints at with his mention of Riel… Maybe no occult in the typical European transplant or inspired… But of the hybrid indigenous and new arrival type… I think maybe much so. I think the treaties arising from the early fur trade, and the whole mythos of the CN rail project are our foundational magic myths. Someone on last post, or maybe The Other Blog asked about the effect of the lands acknowledgments… They’re powerful, because the agreements and the breaking of them underlying this country are its absolute foundation – not the confederation. (IMHO, but I plan to back it up in writing one day).
@JMG I would say that the average person knows Riel – – > Métis, Rebellion, hung. Reason was they wanted land and self governance. Maybe they remember him as founder of Manitoba from the Heritage Minute commercial. Someone who did a specific Canadian history course in college will also probably learn he was extremely devout, had delusions and was crazy. But anyone with graduate level or higher will know that religion was extremely important to many Métis, and in particular to Riel, and he’s basically a Joseph Smith figure. I found a translation of his diary second hand, and all the biographies did centre that, and we’re much more nuanced on his beliefs.
But yes, yes, yes….
What my favourite book this week (Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont by Joseph Boyden, written for the Extraordinary Canadians series) puts it this way (in the intro by John Raulston Saul): “… in no story [about Canada] does the past reverberate into the present with as much force as that is Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont.”
I thought your would also find the intent of the Series on the nose: “How do civilizations imagine themselves? One way is for us to look at ourselves through our societies most remarkable figures… We look at these people, all dead, and discover what we have been, but also what we can be. A mirror is an instrument for measuring ourselves. What we see can be both a warning and an encouragement.
What is reality? Here
we are introduced to some people who think it’s only what you directly experience. They like it that way.
The irony is that Neuschwanstein itself is a late 19th century fantasy, like several other famous castles…
Violet, I’d suggest that the mental monoculture came in with the rise of the managerial elite after the Second World War. If the ruling caste justifies its existence by claiming to know more about the world than anybody else, it’s going to get extremely defensive about its preferred set of ideas about the world, and will try to squeeze out any alternatives.
Ron, please do!
Yorkshire, if magic had the kind of powers it has in D&D, all us occultists would be working for the Pentagon and our magical lore would be classified at the “drop dead before reading” level.
Materia, I have no idea. I’ve never watched it and never will.
Ben, abebooks.com has copies of it for under twelve bucks. As for Pennsylvania Dutch lore, I don’t have a list yet — anybody else?
Packshaud, there’s about a 40% overlap in contents.
Ecosophian, hah! It wouldn’t just be one kind of architecture, though, It would be divided like Disneyland into different sectors — this way to Conjureland which is all Appalachian cabins and Southern vernacular (i.e., poor folks’) architecture, with a Spiritual church in the middle; that way to Mentalland and the Art Deco urban setting of New Thought and occult correspondence schools, this other direction to Rosecrossland, which runs from Kelpius’ timber hall up to glorious neoclassical buildings, and so on.
Lew, good heavens. I went to college in Bellingham and I knew some Lummi people there. Small world…
Martin, and richly deserved it was.
Walt, when occultists point out that many past cultures knew a lot more about magic than we do today, they’re simply stating a fact. We’re reassembling the fragments of an archaic system that is much vaster and more comprehensive than I think anybody realizes today. Venturing out into the unknown is also an option, and occultists do it all the time, but a lot of our work focuses on recovering what was known in earlier times and was lost with the coming of dogmatic monotheism on the one hand, or the erasure of Renaissance occultism at the hands of the publicists of the Scientific Revolution on the other.
Hi Coop Janitor,
Young’s is still there! They also have a restaurant, the Golden Jersey Inn, but we rarely went—the food’s not that great and it was very expensive. Sort of a local version of the Applebee’s chain.
I worked in a henhouse, and 9 times out of 10 when we had a luncheon we’d end up at Applebee’s. The appeal of Applebee’s to the American female mind always escaped me. It wasn’t their tie-in with Weight Watchers, at least not with my group, who all felt WW was old-fashioned and preferred the newer diet groups.
Everybody go to Yellow Springs, it’s worth the trip, and stop at Young’s while you’re there. Best times to visit are spring and autumn, when nearby Clifton Gorge is spectacularly beautiful, as is John Bryan State Park. Summer’s pretty, but unpleasantly hot and humid.
I don’t have a list of books, but my dad was Pennsylvania Dutch, as is my cousin. If you have specific questions I can ask her and see what she knows. Much has been lost and forgotten, as has happened to other peoples. (I can’t overemphasize how tragic this is. The managerial class has much to answer for.)
Dad liked carving hex signs ,and if JMG will send me an address, I’ll send pictures of hex signs that he can post. (I can’t get pictures into these comment spaces, sorry—I’ve tried.). These hex signs are about as authentic as you can get—Dad was born in 1927 and Lancaster County was still quite pre-industrial. We have an oil lamp which he used to do his homework as a kid. (“Mrs. Grundy, the lamp burned my homework” probably really happened now and again!😄)
With regards to the Mormon religious tradition and the occult, here are a couple of links that might be of interest:
And what discussion of Mormonism and the occult would be complete without a hysterical (in both senses of the term!) rant about the evils of Mormonism, Freemasonry and the occult by a fundamentalist wingnut?
The author of the last piece begins by writing “Freemasonry, Judaism, Mormonism and Kabbalah are demonic sex cults!” My only question is, where do I sign up 😉
I related that story as a recent example of my own. I imagine there are LOTS of these focused happenings. It involves both letting in possibility and breathing out desire. Unfortunately, the word “impossible” is used about 3x more than “possible” each day – kinda of speaks to the issue of why magical things seem rare these days. It is considered shady or even downright selfish to state you have a ‘desire’ for most anything. I think this is due to many of the current crop of desires being of a material nature, rather than emotional or spiritual.
In our most material world, with its tedious list of laws, customs and ‘norms’, a whole lot of things have been sent to the margins. Fortunately, our marginal areas are much more fun and have many more possibilities. And that is certainly a good reason to consider exiling oneself towards the margin…
I’ve been reading Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander and The Plug-in Drug by Marie Winn. Both were written in the 1970s, examining the effects of the scourge of television on society.
Your definition of cacomagic neatly fits what these authors were describing fifty years ago, and it’s gotten worse since then. It’s as though Sauron, rather than sending out armies of orcs and trolls, handed out heaps of palantirs to all the families in Gondor and the Shire, to dazzle and stupefy them. Every so often a hobbit looks up and sluggishly realizes that his boss is an orc and Rivendell has been turned into a toxic waste dump, and he complains a bit, but dares not let go of the palantir.
My question is, if America underwent a golden age of the occult in the early 20th century, how did we wind up in this spot? Where did all of that wisdom go, so that society bought so completely into the poison pill of high technology?
Likewise, if back in Europe you have a cohort of people dedicated to the pursuit of power, love and wisdom, how did they get steamrolled by the brutalist twins of Christianity and Rationalism?
Koggush, trust me, Masons made all those jokes long before you were born. My mother lodge in Seattle used to be able to sing the Stonecutter’s Song from The Simpsons in chorus…
Patricia M, I didn’t make up the fake martinis in Retrotopia — I’ve been offered the most appalling substances under the label of “martini.” Gah! I’ll take a vodka martini, very dry, with a twist — that’s as experimental as I get.
Koggush, that is to say, you don’t know a thing about the Craft and are parading your ignorance in front of those of us who do. If I were to discuss Christianity with the kind of attitude that people like you turn on Masonry, I’d insist that Christians worship an old man, an underaged sheep, and a ghost, and practice cannibalism in the Mass. I’ll accept an apology; otherwise, don’t let the door hit your rump on the way out.
Nickel, a whole bunch of scientists in the 1950s insisted that commercial nuclear fusion power would be available within twenty years. Is that all I need to know about science’s ability to forecast the future?
Sara, there you have it. I know very little about Canadian history, and yet I could come up with a Joseph Smith figure! I’m sure that a little digging will turn up any number of interesting Canadian occultists.
Come to think of it, I know of another one. Does the name “Brother XII” ring any bells?
Your Kittenship, that’s one very, very strange essay. I wonder whether the claims of the linguist will stend up to further research. (I don’t know if you recall the Tasaday, supposedly a stone age tribe in the Phillippines, which turned out to be an intricate hoax.)
Ace, thanks for these!
Cliff, the golden age of American occultism in the early 20th century, important though it was, still only influenced a minority of the population. The same was true of the magical side of the Renaissance. The wisdom’s still there, but the number of people who are willing to listen to it rises and falls, never becoming much more than a subculture, never actually going away.
Walt F, Robert Mathiesen, JMG, and all,
Regarding the occult in New England, I think one point hoping to be realized through all this, especially this series of essays, is if we dig deep enough anywhere that there is a lot to be uncovered. It’s gotten me excited because I know the area I live in had loads of immigrants around the turn of the 19th century, that there are beautiful Masonic lodges here, along with loads of other cultural gifts, especially those of the Finnish. If I were to dig enough, who knows what I might find. One of my favorite landmarks in a town I used to live in, Ely, MN, affectionately referred to as “The Castle” was designed by a Finnish immigrant as a hospital. If I recall correctly, he specifically required one of the “turrets” to be in a spot which would get ample sunlight and also allow the recovering patient to get views of the surrounding nature. His reasoning was those things were good for health. Something tells me there is more to the story told here.
The same could probably be said of many who have been passed off as simply “intellectuals.” As mentioned, that is a great cover up to detract from a persons other interests. Isaac Newton has been one example mentioned often here. Would claiming Einsten may have some occult connections be too far of a step?
JMG, you mentioned General George Patton. Many people are unaware that he believed in reincarnation and thought himself the latest incarnation in a long line of soldier-lives.
You ask who wants a Magic Republic. _I_ do!
@ JMG LOL – my husband did grow up in Cedar where Brother XII established (the Wikipedia article calls it Cedar-by-the-Sea, which, given the popularity of that appelation in towns here of that vintage, I assume was a habit brought by English settlers that looks increasingly ludicrous in a place where every settlement ended up by the sea). Neither of us had heard of him. I am chagrined, however, to admit our ignorance, given that our nearest metropolitan neighbour has been touted as the “the witch capital of Canada” for as long as I can remember (of course also being an epicentre of the Satanic Panic), and Starhawk is a regular in the Permaculture scene here. Our living connection to our venerable occult roots… https://www.timescolonist.com/uvic-teacher-is-the-real-witchy-deal-1.2386256.
In more serious scholarship, Canadians interested in occult Canadiana may well start here on the West Coast – apparently Malcolm Lowry wrote one of the most famous books every written in BC (I, an Old Millenial, have no idea who this is…) but said famous local author was an occultist taught by a personal student of Crowley’s; said student being taken under Crowley’s wing while he was in Vancouver. Who knew?? http://blogs.ubc.ca/rbscnew/files/2014/02/Secret_Wisdom_West_Coast_guide.pdf.
And Mason history on Vancouver Island:
JMG, I heard about the Pirahã, and the theory, that they don’t have subordinate clauses, no myths, no concept of past, future or probability. I myself have long have doubts about it, which were strengthened due to the fact that Dan Everett behaved very defensively about the Pirahã, when visitors came and interacted with them, so as not to have his pet theory destroyed. There are quite a few theories about the languages of non-agricultural people in the past, which turned out to be wrong.
One of the problems with modern science can be illustrated by the fact that in the 19th century, people did believe that languages of the Tasmanian Aborigines were primitive and didn’t have grammar, so, what settlers in Tasmania recorded about them were mainly word lists with only some hundred short sentences and some fragments of songs. So, today, there is scanty information about grammatical suffixes and structures of Tasmanian Aboriginal languages, and due to a lack of material, the function of the suffixes known often isn’t clear.
JMG: I still remember your ADR post about the medicalization of human reactions to bad situations, with attention to the plight of the postwar suburban housewives and the slave “compulsion” to run away. A further example, right under our eyes today:
The media have discovered that Millennials are suffering an epidemic of mental health issues, largely, anxiety and depression. I can’t rememebr the latest article that laid it out very clearly, and probably can’t find it agian, but it ends in a clarion cry for More! Medical! Professionals! Now!
They do note in passing that the situation of said millennials, from working conditions to the future they see in sight, to institutions they can trust, suck rocks. But can’t see the connection.
My physical therapist and her co-therapist are of that cohort. We started with Tim discussing politics and I mentioned that Sanders is not a Red Russian; he’s an old New Dealer, and that there *is* an alternative to either current capitalism or Venezuela, and it’s called a Mixed Economy, and we had one once and it worked very well, they sat there, amazed and unbelieving, as if they’d walked into Alice in Wonderland. When I added that high incomes were highly taxed, and the economy prospered, they acted as if I’s proclaimed a known impossibility. That the average CEO made no more than 40 times what the workers made – as if I’d been reading from Utopia. 400x being today’s norm. That one worker could have a modest home, a car, a decent family life… well, the contrasts came flying thick and fast.Now, I did say in advance that this excluded “every minority on the planet”, and forgot to add “and working women.” But still ….
And these two young workers, at least one of them married with children and another who grew up on beans and rice, had never heard any of this. They had gone through public school and at least some college and had never heard a word of this ever in their lives. Shakes head. Any native of the period could have told them the same thing. Except those who were raised on the farm, perhaps; a lot of the residents here had rural backgrounds and it was not the same. The introduction to the classic The Yearling mentioned that in the view of the man writing the introduction, “the war” mentioned could just as easily have been World War II.
However…. back to the young workers – and the Establishment wants to unleash a flood of – mental health professionals – on those who, as Nicole mentioned, had been told in her last job that if she didn’t like it, they could always get another student or a temp to replace her. In fact, that was their settled policy. You know, “workers are like sugar plantation slaves or paper towels: get one, use them up, throw them away, get another one.” Grrrr….
The ultimate in “our corroborate masters really love us”
JMG: “Irena, I think a lot of people need to remind themselves that architecture doesn’t have to be ugly…”
Sure, but ordinary people can be forgiven for believing otherwise when all the beautiful buildings they ever get to see were built before their parents (and in some cases, grandparents) were born. It’s quite tragic, really. I generally do my best to practice a “live and let live” philosophy, and so if some obscenely rich person decides to squander 20M on a painting that looks like something made by a not particularly talented 5-year-old, then what’s it to me? Live and let live (as long as taxes are duly paid!). But when a comparably ridiculous building gets built in your neighborhood, then what are you supposed to do? Never leave the house?
Here’s a data point:
Feel free to comment or not.
I freely admit to knowing almost nothing about the occult. You’re the source of most that I do know, and it’s not much. 😉 Now here’s a question: what do you do about the very real excesses of (beliefs in) such practices? As you know, in some cultures, people are routinely killed because their neighbors consider them to be witches or what have you. Sometimes, newborns are killed for having “wrong” superficial traits (e.g. hair), believed to bring bad luck. I do hasten to add that I fully understand that barbarous behavior can stem from completely different sources. It was scientific rationalism gone awry that gave us (or at the very least heavily contributed to) the Holocaust, just to name one particularly horrid example. Still. What do you do about the excesses of the occult?
“Irena, best wishes with your studies of Czech. If you are up to a ten year old’s reading vocabulary, you are doing well.”
Thanks. 🙂 I’m doing my best.
“Frank Gehry is one of those architects who has lost sight of the principle of “design for maintainability”. If a building is a box sitting squarely on its foundations, it can generally be repaired, repurposed and rehabilitated. If it involves weird structures and asymmetrical forces, like the dancing house, any disturbance (a little settling, a mild earthquake, a bad storm hit) transforms it from a building to an encumbered property.”
You know, that makes a great deal of sense. I’m still trying to figure out how this sort of architecture managed to gain prominence. Excessive emphasis on creativity must have played a role. Creativity is nice, but only when it comes on top of competent craftsmanship/engineering. When it comes instead of such competence, then you’re in serious trouble.
I don’t think it’s just an (excessive) emphasis on creativity, though. Darker forces seem to have gotten involved. Maybe it’s the belief that beauty is just a figment of human imagination, and that if proles insist on believing in such silly things, then those beliefs need to be beaten out of them by, among other things, award-winning architecture. Sometimes, it gets quite sadistic. For instance, here’s the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, designed by the above-mentioned Frank Gehry:
A building that looks like it came out of a seizure-induced hallucination. Just the sort of thing you’d want to inflict on people suffering from brain disease…
Hi John Michael,
I really do hope that Walt Disney doesn’t arise from the grave and come and get us. That would be an unpleasant experience. And I would probably personally be ‘tone policed’! 🙂
And I still believe that the China situation is a consequence of the recent US-China trade wars. If you recall, they were only concluded in what was it? October. Cutting supply is what is actually happening. To me the events look like a play straight out of ‘The Art of War’.
Wasn’t Johnny Appleseed a member of the Swedenborg sect? Your country has a rich history.
Our society stinks of magic – and inappropriately used magic too. I have been wondering why our media is so fixated on fostering fear of late. It makes little sense to me, and I have to admit that the noise has gotten so loud of late that I’m having troubles drowning it out and deflecting it back into the background where it belongs. It is not energy free to continue side stepping the current efforts. Sun Tzu may have suggested that it is unwise to wear out the troops unnecessarily.
And personally I’d also have to suggest that fear can flip over into anger pretty quickly and without warning. It is an unwise policy that is being pursued, but nobody asks for my opinion.
Have you been considering the motivation behind the current efforts?
Mr Greer … once again, I stop by to read the blog and end up seeing mention of so many more books that I’ll never have time to buy, let alone read!
My children and I went to a social event held at a Mason hall. I made an attempt to explain what Masons were. I’m afraid the only thing I really grasped is the distinction made between “ceremonial” Masons who were members of one of the societies, and “practical” masons, who actually built stuff out of stone and bricks.
I don’t know anything about the history of that particular lodge, although there was a very old black and white photo showing a very large tree with uniformly wrapped boxes and a row of dozens of identical dolls. Perhaps preparation for a charity Christmas event?
A question: music and music theory would seem to have some similarities to magic, at least as a metaphor. (Or perhaps my grasp of music theory is deficient. I understand what a minor chord is and how to play one, but I don’t understand why it has that effect.) Is there a book or books that use that metaphor to explain one using the other?
Funnily enough, as a European, I’ve felt a deep connection with the concept of the Tao after being awestruck by the Tao Te Ching on an otherwise dull train ride through London. On from this I’ve reconnected with the I Ching recently after quite a few years. Yarrow stalks have come out of retirement shall we say. My understanding of more local mystical history is sadly lacking, as is most people’s around here. Maybe Europe needs to look a lot deeper into itself too- me included!
In other news: the science appears to confirm your early connection between the new virus and air pollution/smoking. Smokers develop more of the ACE2 receptors as a protective mechanism for the body – the very same ones the virus uses to get into cells –
Suspect the same happens in areas of sustained high pollution. Vitamin D levels also appear to be important – something I’m exquisitely aware of after being diagnosed with MS a few years ago. Pleased to say some pills, but more importantly, sun and herring have been most helpful. Magic takes many forms it seems.
@Sara Duncan – I agree fully with all your points. In fact, a few months ago, I had observed on one of these blogs that the lands acknowledgements are really “clunky” when compared to proper magical invocations, but still have power. Yes, Métis occultism is a distinct possibility and would be uniquely Canadian, but would be devilishly difficult to research. Would best be researched by a Métis scholar (cultural appropriation and all that stuff), but I will keep myself open to the possibility of taking it on myself and see if the universe sends me some ‘cues’ to proceed. By the way, back in the ‘80s there was a New Age ‘hot spot’ in Pickering ON where (on one of the few occasions that I visited it) I encountered a Métis individual who might have been an occultist.
@Chris at Fernglade:
Yes, indeed, Johnny Appleseed Chapman was a devoted Swedenborgian. Along with apple seeds, he distributed installments of Swedenborg’s works to the households that he visited on his wanderings. (I had a relative of his once in one of the courses I taught at my university. She was still indignent that an elementary-school teacher of hers had once insisted in class that Johnny was an American myth, and had never been a real person.)
Did Christian occultists believe in reincarnation as early as the Middle Ages? Or was that adapted from Eastern mysticism in the 18th and 19th centuries? Did the ancient Greeks generally believe in reincarnation?
@ Patricia Matthews re Rick Santelli:
I see he backpedaled after criticism… and probably after someone suggested he be the first in line to get the virus…..
Dear Patricia Mathews,
As a millenial, if I may:
It seems odd to me that people fail to understand how stressful the world is for millenials and how mean they get about it all. Between the ages of 6 and 18 I was incarcerated in school and learned how utterly hostile institutions are towards me. Then, graduating, I found absolutely no guidance from my elders in how to navigate the world, make a living, etc. All the advice I got was essentially deceitful, counterproductive and much of it actively harmful.
Perhaps I simply don’t fit in, and over the past few years I lost almost all of my friends I had prior to my Saturn Return since I refused to mindlessly bleat slogans and to engage in brutal crit/self-crit sessions.
Now, at 32, I essentially feel lost in the world of technocratic bureaucracy. Folks in authority have lied to me and misled me egregiously so many times that I simply cannot ever trust anyone who seems to be on the side of the managerial elite. For me, this world proves a very frightening place, and stressful not in the mere “feelings” department but in the sense of heart palpitations, angina, and stomach ulcers. That is, this sort of world that I live in feels hostile enough that I feel that it harms my body and I basically see no way to meet my basic human needs within the context of the current human arrangement. At the age of 25, when I had many friends and community, I would never have imagined writing this, but times change, there are winners and losers, and I wonder how unique I am in regards to my generation. Certainly I’m an eccentric, but the basic rawness of my deal seems pretty comparable to about 80% of the folks I know in my generation.
I think the simple fact is that I lot of us will die quite young because of how hostile the arrangement is to so many of us. That’s a stressful thing to come to grips with. But ultimately, I’ve had a much easier life than the vast majority of humans. Obviously, I would take my life with its problems over that of a person working as a slave in a sweatshop, and ultimately I believe that my life is just as cheap as that of anyone else, that I probably deserve my predicament on account of karma, and, most importantly, what does not kill you makes you stronger!
Prizm, sounds like a great place to do some digging! I bet you find some fascinating old stories and traditions.
Your Kittenship, indeed he did! He used his past life memories in North Africa to recall details of terrain he’d never seen, and use those to ambush the Nazis. I haven’t had time to study his biography in detail; I wonder whether it would turn up connections to the thriving occult scene of his time.
Paradoctor, so noted!
Sara, good heavens, how did I forget Malcolm Lowry? Yes, he was a student of Charles Stansfield Jones aka Frater Achad, another famous British Columbia occultist. Lowry’s last novel, October Ferry to Gabriola, is based on the Cabalistic Tree of Life, with islands in Vancouver Strait filling in for the spheres of the Tree.
Booklover, that was one of the examples I was thinking of. The Piraha also sound rather too much like one of the alien species in Dan Simmons’ Hyperion for me to take Everett’s claims about them without a grain of salt.
Patricia M, that’s a great example. A lot of millennials are anxious and depressed and there’s good reason for that — they live in a society in decline, most of them are being maltreated by their employers, and they have also been lied to systematically by their teachers and the media. Of course the mainstream culture’s response is to drug them into numbness. I hope the millennials themselves decide otherwise…
Irena, (1) this is why I’m in favor of Trump’s proposed executive order; once people realize that there’s an alternative to sickeningly ugly buildings, things may change. (2) As I recall, Croatia is a majority Catholic country, and the Catholic church has been obsessed with Masonry since the 1730s; thus this doesn’t surprise me at all. (3) Well, here again, what about the excesses that religious people engage in, like murdering people of other creeds? Or the excesses committed in the name of political ideologies such as Communism? Human beings are human beings, and whatever they believe in, some of them are going to get stupid and brutal about it. Like all reputable occult teachers, I teach that such excesses are unnecessary and wrong, and that anyone who engages in them should be punished to the full extent of the law. Now if we can only get more religious and political leaders to teach the same things!
Chris, there’s certainly something going on in China that doesn’t pass the sniff test, though I’m far from sure what it is; you may be right, though. Johnny Appleseed was indeed a Swedenborgian — so was Helen Keller, for that matter. As for the pervasive climate of fear being pushed by the media, I’ve been watching it as well. Here in the US, at least, it stinks of desperation. Most of the big mainstream news media here have lost an astonishing number of viewers in the last few years, and whipping up panic is one of the few ways they have left to get people to tune in. Still, it might be more than that.
Sylvia, here’s a good intro to what the Masons are and what they do. As for music and magic, yes, there’s quite a bit available on that these days. RJ Stewart’s The Spiritual Dimension of Music and Joscelyn Godwin’s Harmonies of Heaven and Earth are good starting places.
Jay, you’re not alone there. If I understand correctly, the Tao Te Ching has been translated into English more times than any other book besides the Bible, and that and the I Ching seem to have found a lasting niche in American culture. Thank you for the link about the correlation between smoking and CoVID-19 infection! It was a guess, but apparently a lucky one.
Here is a paragraph from _America Bewtiched: the Story of Witchcraft After Salem_ by Owen Davies; Oxford University Press, 2013. “So, much of the discourse on Salem through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries assumed that the history of witchcraft ended with Salem. The veil was conveniently drawn and tied fast. This book tears open the veil and reveals a very different story. The Salem nineteen were the last to be legally executed for witchcraft in the colony, yet we now know of more people killed as witches in America after 1692 than before it.”
The book covers the survival of belief in malicious witchcraft (i.e. the idea that certain people could and did cause harm or death to humans and their livestock through supernatural means). This belief persisted in people of English stock and was repeatedly re-imported into the new nation by immigrants from other nations, including African slaves, and from contact with Native American beliefs. Some people who believed themselves victims fought back by lawsuits and complaints to police, but others resorted to lynch law. The last chapter also covers the rise of Wicca and other modern beliefs. Davies is also the author of _Grimoires: a History of Magic Books_ and editor of _The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic_. He teaches Social History at the U of Hertfordshire.
RE: Reincarnation in Ancient Greece/The Middle Ages.
Kimberly, since this is somewhat of a pet project of mine, I can give my two cents here:
As far as “Christian Occultists” in the Middle Ages, I’m not sure. The writings of this era were heavily dominated by the Catholic Church and there was no printing press, so I don’t know of any specific texts from individual Christian Occultists which survived. However, there were heretical Christian sects such as the Cathars in southern France and Bogomils in Bulgaria who did espouse a kind of Gnostic Christian reincarnation. Three guesses what happened to them…
There is an offhand remark in the Prose Edda (medieval Iceland) that rebirth was an Norse belief. It’s mentioned as a kind of “old wives tale.”
Reincarnation was a part of Jewish mysticism in Medieval Europe. It appears in the Zohar in the 13th century, which had a possible connection with the heretical Christians mentioned above. The idea of reincarnation (Gilgul in Hebrew) has remained a Jewish mystical current ever since.
In Ancient Greece, reincarnation was a belief among certain mystery schools. From the best of my understanding the average “person on the street” at that time thought the afterlife was a pretty dismal place (consider Homer’s “better a slave in this world than a king in the next one”). The afterlife as a place of light and the nature of rebirth tended to be a mystery school belief (I.e. the people who had time to think about it). It is all but certain the Pythagoreans and Orphics believed in it. I believe a robust case can be made that Plato did as well, but his writings tend to be ambiguous. In the Hellenistic era, it was a belief among the Neoplatonists, certain Gnostics (Basilledes for example), and arguably the Hermeticists. It is even possible certain proto-Orthodox Christian thinkers such as Origen believed in it, though this is disputed. It does not help that Origin’s only surviving work is a Latin translation in which the translator bragged about censoring certain heretical beliefs. It would not surprise me if it was a part of early Christianity in a broader sense, but most of the Bible and Nag Hammadi library tends to be mute on the subject and I think most early Christians were too concerned about an imminent “apocalypse” (unveiling – whatever they meant by that) to really consider it.
Belief in the Pre-existence of the soul (which would include reincarnation) has been heresy in orthodox Christianity since the 5th ecumenical council in the 6th century. Interestingly, the validity of certain aspects of this council, including the denial of “Pre-existence” has recently come into dispute among modern theologians. David Bentley Hart has written about this in his piece “Saint Origin.”
It only when the Renaissance happens (late 15th century) that reincarnation starts making (minor) inroads into European Christianity again. I think the Renaissance Christian Magus par excellance Marsilio Ficino believed it in, but he was very careful to write about it only as a thought experiment so he didn’t get inquisitored, thus this can never really be proved. Giodarno Burno was one of the first people who openly borke Christianity in this time period. He was burned at the stake in 1600 for believing in reincarnation (among many other extremely heretical beliefs as far as Catholicism was concerned). The Protestant reformation and printing press meant the toothpaste was out of the tube and you start to see a lot more diversity in ideas, but people were still very careful about openly attacking Christian dogma throughout Europe when it came to reincarnation. You can maybe see it in poetry occasionally (such as in the Faerie Queen by Spenser). Overall, I think England was the most friendly place to heretical ideas like reincarnation. It’s only there in the 17th century where you get people like philosopher Anne Conway and the Cambridge Platonists willing to consider it more openly. Certain Romantic poets (late 18th, early 19th century) espoused pre-existence. Blake did so emphatically. Wordsworth got in trouble with at least one clergyman for writing about it in a poem “Intimations of immortality.”
Reincarnation became part of “mainstream occult belief” late in the 19th century when you get Blavatsky in America and Papus in France.
That’s probably more info than you need so…
TL;DR is that Reincarnation has always been a minority position in Western spirituality in spite of ruthless suppression during the medieval-renaissance eras. It was it is only when the yoke of Christian dogmatism was lifted that it became a mainline option for all but the most intrepid of souls. Eastern thought may have had a role in that, but I would argue “evolutionary reincarnation” is a very modern idea made possible by the theory of evolution. That part originates in the west quite recently (I do agree with this vision, but its somewhat to argue its older than about a century in a half).
Kimberly, belief in reincarnation goes back a long ways in the Western world. It was taught by the Orphic mysteries among others. Pythagoras taught it — his ancient biographies mention that he recalled several of his previous lives — and Plato included discussions of it in several dialogues. The old Hermetic and Gnostic writings teach it. The ancient Druids made it a central teaching; Julius Caesar noted in his discussion of the Druids, “The principal point of their doctrine is that the soul does not die and that after death it passes from one body into another.” It’s been a central doctrine of Jewish Kabbalism since the beginnings of that tradition. In medieval Europe, the Cathars were among the heretical sects that taught it. From the Renaissance on, it’s been a recurring theme in Western thought. It’s never been the majority opinion in the West, but it’s been around.
Rita, thanks for this — clearly a book I’ll need to find.
Lee, thanks for this also — a much more extensive list than I had handy. Evolutionary reincarnation, btw, is slightly older than Darwin’s theory; there’s a well-developed account of it in Iolo Morganwg’s Barddas, which was published in 1862 but consists of manuscripts copied or written by Iolo before his death in 1826. Still, you’re basically right that it presupposes attitudes toward life and time that also made the theory of evolution thinkable.
@Irena, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health wins the mind-numbingly ugly totally clueless dead end high tech design award. I agree, it is a scary place to approach with a healthy mind, much less an injured one.
These ridiculous buildings are designed using computers to perform the structural engineering calculations. The first principle of civil engineering is that things that are not supposed to move remain standing. The calculations for normal projects are time consuming to do by hand, but the mind can wrap itself around the math. Calculate the stress on a truss and decide how many of which type are need to keep the roof from falling in, even with deep snow cover.
Buildings like that particular atrocity have so many unusual angles and stresses that a mere human with a calculator cannot handle the structural analysis. They require a touching faith that the pea soup will never hit the fan. We are asked to believe that an economic contraction will never make it impossible to maintain the roof, that a fire will never break out, requiring rebuilding of some bits, that the tectonic stability of Las Vegas is such that the place will never finish the collapse that appears suspended. For that matter, it requires believing that the program used to do the calculations will never become obsolete.
Just think of the building supervisor who has to maintain a complete set of plans for the thing. Normal health care facilities get modified all the time. A building three decades old may have clinics moved, offices repurposed and wings expanded to accommodate more patients. That building is all about the architect’s ego. It can never be changed, because expanding a broom closet requires going back to the structural calculations.
JMG, I envision the Nazis frantically going through atlases and history books: “The Hittites! See if he was ever a Hittite! Maybe we can go in that way.” 😄
My dad served under Patton for about 6 weeks, and then there was a troop shuffle (the Army likes to play 52-pickup). Never saw Patton, of course, and probably wouldn’t have cared if he had. NCOs aren’t as impressed with generals as everyone else is.
JMG – Thank you for the information about the Iolo Morganwg’s Barddas! I was not aware of that. I’m fascinated by this subject, so I will have to check that out. It also reinforces my intuition that “new” ideas tend to be noticed by occultists/mystics first before they end up in the sciences or popular culture.
Personally, I have difficulty with the most eastern and ancient notions of reincarnation, which tend to be very pessimistic in tone. Those kinds of models usually imply that the ‘point’ of reincarnation is to realize it never should have happened in the first place (I think Neoplatonism and Hermeticism may be exceptions to this, in some readings at least). I find the recent Western (American?) esoteric understanding of evolutionary reincarnation to be far more optimistic and to fit the data of past life research better. ‘Organic’ growth, not a mechanistic view of karma, seems to be in evidence.
By the way, very much looking forward to this post/series/(book?), I think America, broadly speaking, has some very important ideas to contribute to spirituality – evolutionary reincarnation among them. I know some European writers have talked about similar ideas (Kardec, Tomberg), but they seem to take to the soil here better for whatever reason.
Re: anxiety, depression and millennials. The problem is even more horrible than JMG outlined. I’m 37, Australian and a former member of the professional class who got forced out. Here’s how I see it:
1. The lessons our elders taught us no longer work in a rapidly changing world.
2. Most people over 50 refuse to admit this, or to acknowledge that their standard of living was and is higher than most people under about 40.
3. Instead, younger people are being personally blamed for their failure to achieve to their seniors’ standards. We’re lazy, entitled, spend too much. Jokes about avocado toast.
4. At the same time the elder generations are demanding that society work and sacrifice to provide them with the high standard of living that they got used to in better times. This includes younger workers who have never known that standard of living.
5. Any young person who tries to articulate these points above is called lazy, entitled, etc. and told they ought to listen to their wiser and more experienced elders who helped create the problem.
6. Institutions that could fix or articulate the problem (the media, politicians, banks, corporations etc.) are dominated by older wealthy folk with a stake in keeping the status quo.
7. Anyone who openly ‘checks out’ or gives up on the situation as hopeless is painted as part of the problem and therefore deserving of their horrible bind.
8. In a materialistic world view, this life is the only one we get before oblivion sets in.
This situation is literally driving younger people insane. I’ve found relief through antidepressants, historical perspective, ritual and prayer (thanks JMG) but most people my age and younger are on the receiving end of a constant blast of propaganda about how it’s all their fault, and any attempt at systemic analysis is socialism and excuses for personal weakness.
Re Malcolm Lowry; I have read “October Ferry to Gabriola” more than once. (I’ve even visited the park in Dollarton, where Lowry’s squatter shack was situated, and I’ve walked the length of the “Malcolm Lowry Walk” there. It’s a little odd that the town evicted him from his squatter shack in the 1940s and now the site is a minor tourist attraction because he used to live there!) In my reading of “Gabriola” I had not noticed the tree of life correspondences. I thought it was “Under the Volcano” that was based on Cabala, though of course both novels could be. There’s a book by Pearle Epstein titled “The Private Labyrinth of Malcolm Lowry; Under the Volcano and the Cabbala” that I still have on my shelf, having read it decades ago. Apropos of very little, apparently, I’ve seen and handled two different hardcover copies of the Epstein book, published in 1969, and both were assembled out of their proper order with p199-216 following page 238, sort of stuck in the middle of the index. I just checked my copy: there is only one reference to “October Ferry,” and that is made very much “in passing.”
I have to add that I prefer “Gabriola” to “Volcano.” It does appear that the protagonist of “Volcano” is getting booted out of the solar system in fine CosDoc style at the end, and that has to be a little depressing.
@ Walt F – Those paper models of buildings are still available through Dover Publishing. They have quit a selection, and, they’re not that expensive. Lew
Geezerette here. Your story’s scary. We who are advancing into geezitude should always remember that you whippersnappers will be selecting our nursing homes!
Your Kittenship, no question, Patton was an absolute cast-iron product of sex outside marriage. 😉 A lot of people found him impossible to get along with, but Marshall and Eisenhower knew how to handle him. (“George, there’s a preposterous number of Waffen-SS panzer units between you and an absurdly distant objective. Oh, and Monty’s heading that way too. Have fun!”)
Lee, I was astonished to find the material in Barddas, precisely because it was so early and so forthright. Here’s a typical passage, which you can find online here:
“Q. Whence didst thou proceed? and what is thy beginning?
A. I came from the Great World, having my beginning in Annwn.
Q. Where art thou now? and how camest thou to where thou art?
A. I am in the Little World, whither I came, having traversed the circle of Abred, and now I am a man at its termination and extreme limits.
Q. What wert thou before thou didst become a man in the circle of Abred?
A. I was in Annwn the least possible that was capable of life, and the nearest possible to absolute death, and I came in every form, and through every form capable of a body and life, to the state of man along the circle of Abred, where my condition was severe and grievous during the age of ages, ever since I was parted in Annwn from the dead, by the gift of God, and His great generosity, and His unlimited and endless love.
Q. Through how many forms didst thou come? and what happened unto thee?
A. Through every form capable of life, in water, in earth, and in air…”
(Annwn is the primordial abyss of basic substance, from which souls are born; it’s symbolically described as a cauldron. Abred is the state of material incarnation; beyond it lies Gwynfyd, the Luminous Life, the state of immaterial existence.)
Phutatorius, I haven’t yet read Under the Volcano, though it’s on the list. Thanks for pointing out the Cabalistic elements in it.
Dad felt Eisenhower and Clark were underrated, although Clark didn’t have as glamorous missions as Eisenhower, so technically I suppose you’d consider them apples & oranges.
Does anyone else think Daylight Saving Time is backwards? You should have fast time in winter, not summer! Winter’s when it gets dark at 1700 (earlier in super northeastern areas like Maine), that’s when you need more afternoon light! Grumble.
I’ve been enjoying the side topic about General Patton. My father had been assigned elsewhere during the fighting, carrying a radio and a carbine in Germany and Holland. After the hostilities had ended, Pops was assigned to Patton’s HQ in Bad Toelz, Bavaria. He had a great deal of respect for Patton and “met” him once.
Pops had been skiing all day but had to pick up the outgoing mail in all the offices at HQ in the evening. His boots were untied, his shirt was unbuttoned, he was grossly out of uniform. He entered Patton’s office to find a party with all the top brass there. As he’d been noticed and it was too late to turn back, Pops lowered his head and pulled down his cap and grabbed the mail, threw it in his cart and ran like the 9 Nazgul were chasing him. He heard Patton’s voice yell after him down the hall, “What the @$#^& was THAT?!?” Pops was always in uniform after that.
Thank you so much Lee and JMG for sharing your knowledge. Lee, your in-depth grasp of history is impressive. There is no such thing as over-explaining it where I am concerned. As for JMG, you know I consider you the J.S. Bach of modern occultism.
It makes sense to me that ancient Christians, Druids, Kabbalists, and probably ancient Greeks would believe in reincarnation.
What made me think of it today and ask the questions was this pen and ink drawing:
It features the common alchemist’s saying “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem,” which means “Visit the interior of the earth, and by rectifying you shall find the hidden stone”. This seems to more than hint at reincarnation, as the journey through many lives involves much purification/rectification by living and going to the ground many times and eventually learning enough to sort out the equations of fleshy existence.
I’ve been immersed in AODA Druidry for two short years. This has meant prayer, meditation, and the Sphere of Protection every day (here I am, actually doing the SoP on video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsD3LkfgFVs ) Before that, I was atheist. The last two years have been a complete transformation for me. To try to keep it brief, I never thought the depression I was plagued with since becoming conscious of myself as a child would go away — I used to say that the greatest thing I had ever achieved in my life was mirth. Nowadays, I actually have to remind myself of what it was like to be severely depressed lest I forget what most other people deal with on a daily basis. As far as reincarnation, I didn’t believe in it. Then I got heavily into discursive meditation and found out a few things, for instance, I became privy to the backstory of my childhood friend who was my wife in a former life. Also, I was once a court jester. Mind you, I still think it’s wrong to do what many Eastern religions have done with belief in reincarnation: they’ve used it as a justification for the creation of a caste system. In my opinion, segregating people into castes by birth is as abhorrent and disgusting as the institution of slavery. Just because it’s tradition doesn’t make it right. I think reincarnation explains a great deal though, and learning to accept it and all of its warts grounded me where I needed to be grounded.
To Violet and Kfish,
When I was in my 30s and 40s the fear of a nuclear war was very real, at least to me. (Actually when I was younger too). I certainly did not expect to reach my 70th birthday and yet here I am.
As I have aged I have become more relaxed most of the time. I have a larger perspective which helps me. Turning 50 is really a good experience, especially if you didn’t expect to get much past next week at an earlier age. Life is hard and no-one tells us this. You will cope because you will have to. With any luck you will gradually gather around you people you can feel comfortable and secure with. Of course I still get anxious, I do have grandchildren after all and their future matters to me.
And Kfish you need to meet a better class of older person. Or ignore them altogether. I do try to point out to people my age that we really had a pretty good run but don’t forget that when we started we could never have guessed the opulence that some people were going to experience and still do today. It is not only old people who hold tightly to every bit of privilege that they can get their hands on. The desire for more and more is something I simply don’t understand. I just don’t get it.
I really hope things go well with you both, But it will be a different world. It always is.
JMG: “this is why I’m in favor of Trump’s proposed executive order; once people realize that there’s an alternative to sickeningly ugly buildings, things may change.”
Ah, yes. You go, Donald boy! (Someone ought to tell his European counterparts to follow suit.) I don’t even like neoclassical architecture (I’ll take neogothic any day of the week, thank you very much). But you know what? I don’t care. I really don’t care. It’s a million times better than the supermax prison style stuff the “experts” have been designing since, oh, since before my parents were born. And I’m sure everyone but the said “experts” would agree. So, let them build something reasonable for a change, and then once that becomes the new standard, the executive order can be reevaluated.
I’m still chewing on your reply to my occult abuses question. Let’s see if I come up with a coherent response to your response, either in the next couple of days, or during the next Open Post week. Thanks for taking the time to reply in any case!
Ha! It turns out there are certain advantages to growing up in an economically (and not just economically) ravaged country. At least no-one tells you it’s your own fault that you’re doing obviously worse than your parents did at the same age. I was born and grew up in Belgrade. Soon after I started school, my betters/elders decided to start a nice little civil war in parts of what was then still Yugoslavia, and the rest is history. So, like many from where I hail from, I’ve been trying to make my way abroad. I’m doing okay, I suppose. Still much worse than my parents did right before the break-up of Yugoslavia (when they were approximately my current age). But hey, at least no-one blames me for my relative poverty! (It’s not true poverty, of course. Not even close. Just ask people in Bangladesh.)
So, I guess your country’s elders did to you what my country’s elders did to me/us. Except that in our case, it was so much more dramatic that they quite simply cannot deny it without running the risk of being declared insane. So, they don’t even try. The most they ever do is say that they personally weren’t responsible.
Annwn – yes. “The Cauldron of Cerridwen.”
About geezers vs. Millies – the hard-pressed younger workers who are still bringing down big bucks, but running as fast as they can to stay in the same place, will not hear Word One about either society being in decline, or the economy contracting; and call it a systematic problem for the younger folks, they promptly jump between (or among) “save capitalism” “socialism and the Green New Deal” or “It’s all Trump’s fault. Get rid of Trump.”
Against canned solutions, even wizards battle in vain, and I’m no wizard*. (Can’t keep up the pretensions and play at being magic.) Oh, and they don’t really believe in gods, magic, or any other thing. Therapy, maybe.
But then, this may not be Boomer/Millie, but rather Silent/Xer.
*Can’t; take the ill-wishing off your SUV, either. But ask me about what candle to burn or plant to have in your office against toxic co-workers….
This is just a data point regarding the Pennsylvania Dutch. I’m re-reading Patrick Leigh Fermor’s ‘A Time Of Gifts’, the first volume of his memoirs of walking from London to Constantinople, 1933-1937. I’m up to the point where he reaches Heidelberg, and is discussing Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, daughter of James II of Scotland, I of England and Ireland, sister to Charles I who was executed by Cromwell. He notes:
“There were many reasons for thinking about this castle later on, not least because of the Palatine Anthology, which was long treasured there; and for fascinating though nebulous links between the Princess and the Rosicrucians”.
How much of north German Rosicrucianism was introduced or fostered by this royal daughter of Scotland and her court, one wonders? Emigration to the British colonies of North America would have been starting in her time, or shortly afterwards.
Re: Iolo Morganwg and Barddas, for those who are interested, I recently started a series of posts about Iolo, his life, times, and ideas here: https://ymgyrchiannwfn.wordpress.com/iolo-morganwg/
Incidentally, the vibe I’m getting so far from this post falls somewhere between Neal Gaiman’s American Gods, and Hakim Bey. Looking forward to more…
And this is also why a lot of them are Bernie supporters. Socialism hasn’t worked anywhere it’s been tried, but if your personal experience is telling you that capitalism isn’t working the way it’s supposed to and you have nothing really to lose…And to anyone under 35 (and really 40), the Soviet Union is and has always been gone, is a matter of history rather than living memory, and present-day socialist models (e.g. Venezuela) are more obscure.
Trying to articulate the problem can also be smeared with the brush of “ageism,” which makes it Age-Based Discrimination and therefore beyond discussion. Tarnishing the young for trying to articulate the problem is, of course, just as ageist, but just like racism against whites isn’t Racism, ageism against Millennials/Gen Z isn’t Ageism.
But forbidding discussion of a problem doesn’t make it go away, and it doesn’t make the baby boomers (especially the older Neptune-in-Libra vanguard, the ones who fought in / dodged Vietnam) any younger.
On your point #8:this underscores the weird worship of human life that is endemic in the West these days. “We only have this one life and then it’s oblivion. Therefore, longevity is everything and anything YOU do that might shorten MY life – e.g. getting your secondhand smoke in my face and giving me cancer – should be curtailed if not outright forbidden, and anything you do that might shorten YOUR OWN life – driving without a seatbelt, abusing opioids, etc. – is reprehensible and maybe should also be forbidden.” This attitude, like many others in the Religion of Progress, is pretty clearly derived from Christian ideas about the soul – “you have only this one life and then it’s eternity in either heaven or hell, and hell is too horrible to allow you to go there, so we’re empowered to use whatever means necessary to get you saved.”
The other end of the spectrum, of course, is just as bad – “eh, he’ll reincarnate anyway, it’s not a big deal, so off with his head!“
Your Kittenship, I wish they’d just give up on springing forward and falling back altogether. It’s annoying.
DJSpo, that sounds like the old son of a bachelor!
Kimberly, no question, atheism is a very depressing way to think of things; fortunately it’s optional. 😉 The equation between alchemy and reincarnation is important, and worth careful meditation. As for the way that reincarnation was abused in some Asian countries, that same attitude was just as common in the Christian West: priests and ministers used to preach sermons about how God made you poor and set the rich in authority over you, and thereforeasking questions about the social order was tantamount to challenging God’s will. No matter what belief system you care to name, somebody’s going to figure out a way to abuse it…
Irena, it’s entirely possible that European populists may try the same thing on your side of the water. Neoclassicism’s a thing here because it was such a standard style for federal buildings; in Europe, neo-Gothic, or for that matter neo-Baroque, might be more appropriate. (And I’ll look forward to your comment about occultism.)
Patricia M, no surprises there. As Upton Sinclair pointed out, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Bogatyr, very likely so. The Fama Fraternitatis includes some very intriguing comments about the New World: some obvious, some a little less so:
“justly we may boast of the happy time, wherein there is not only discovered unto us the half part of the World, which was heretofore unknown & hidden, but he hath also made manifest unto us many wonderful, and never-heretofore seen, Works and Creatures of Nature.”
“for Europe is with child and will bring forth a strong child, who shall stand in need of a great godfathers gift.”
“For like as our door was after so many years wonderfully discovered, also there shall be opened a door to Europe (when the wall is removed) which already doth begin to appear, and with great desire is expected of many.”
And of course the door was opened to Europe, and Europe did indeed bring forth a strong child — and the Rosicrucians were aware of it already in 1614…
Thank you for the thought-provoking comment. If I may, I’ve put together a response to your comment on my blog as my post turned out a bit lengthy to post in the comment section here: https://violetcabra.dreamwidth.org/31754.html
THANK YOU!!! 😀 I hope this series of essays is going to turn into a book? 😀
I hope it isn’t a spoiler to ask, your quote made me think of it, did Edgar Allan Poe have any documented occult affiliations or influences? I love his aesthetic and an very fond of his writing, but never thought more about it.
The quote you wrote though sounds like an eloquent occultist wrote it.
Thus far your hints at the hidden history of the occult have taught me more than any other subject, probably because no one else ever ever brings it up.
I wish there was an “Occultism” category on Jeopardy! (you probably know it’s a trivia-based TV show even if you wouldn’t watch it). Occult trivia is my favorite kind of trivia and it’s also omitted from the canon.
Thank you and when can I order the book? 😉
JMG: Thanks for the book tip! AbeBooks.com found me copies of both, plus “The Lost Symbol”…it surprised me a little exactly how many copies of that were available. I will have packages arriving from all over.
Now all I need to do is find some time to read all of the new books. (Patricia Mathews, any plant suggestions for better focus and faster reading? I’m already drinking tea. 😉 Would banana-walnut muffins be good, or bad?)
I know of another connection to Malcolm Lowry that may interest you. I comes through a college friend of Lowry’s by the name of Tom Forman. Later on, Forman was pretty high up in the Gurdjieff Foundation, it turns out. He’s said to have been the model for one of the characters in “Under the Volcano” but I can’t think of which one. My sources for this info are two books; “Without Benefit of Clergy” by Frank R. Sinclair, and “Inside the Volcano” by Lowry’s first wife, Jan Gabriel, (who is “Yvonne” in “Under The Volcano”). I’m currently going back to revisit some of this material that I have not read in years.
@Prizm and Robert Mathiesen, I agree there are and have been holes in the blanket everywhere. And the kind of regional contrasts in occult history I’m talking about is always going to be subject to uncertainty, because, well, it’s occult, after all. But having lived in PA and MA alternately throughout my life, for roughly equal total durations, I do perceive meaningful differences between the regions, in the motifs of their post-settlement histories. Many of the people Robert mentioned seem to have related to the social fabric in different ways from their closest equivalents in the mid Atlantic. I could be wrong, though.
Differences in the character of the land itself might help explain some of those contrasts. Walk the Green Ribbon Trail along the Wissahickon (it runs for 20+ miles from outer suburbs to the Schuykill confluence in Philadelphia) and then visit, perhaps, Dogtown Commons. They’re like different worlds.
Regarding “intellectuals plus,” if Newton’s your starting reference point, I suggest a close look at Franklin on the way to Einstein et. al. (Speaking of a magic republic…)
@Lew, it’s good to see those, thanks! I won’t be surprised if the kind of kits that were available in the 70s, printed on larger sheets without being bound into books (distributed in large flat envelopes), are still available too. If I recall correctly, those were European imports. It wouldn’t take much to keep them in print, or to do reprints from time to time.
To intersect two current subtopics: imagine how difficult it would be to design or assemble paper models of those curvy crumply Gehry type buildings. A few hours in, I’d be bargaining. “I’ll never complain about having to roll up all those columns for the neoclassical models again!”
@Lady Cutekitten, Hi to you too! Regarding Daylight Saving Time, here in the eastern part of the Eastern Time zone, states who want to get rid of the annual change from standard to daylight time (New England and Florida) have proposed going on permanent daylight time instead. That puts our noon time much closer to astronomical noon on average than “standard” time. Basically it’s saying we should be in the next time zone east of Eastern Time, aka Atlantic Time, like Newfoundland already is.
The whole history of daylight time reads to me like a petulant child trying to keep the sun in the sky longer in winter by fiddling with his clock, and then complaining when it doesn’t work. Or like the character in Dr. Seuss whose bed is too short, so when his feet don’t stick out at one end his head does at the other, and vice versa
There have been different rationales for having it (more usage of early morning daylight when it’s available; supposed energy savings) but the details of the actual implementation in the U.S. suggests that the real motivating factor is to give people who work “business hours” in the mid North American latitudes as much evening light for recreation as possible without them having to go to work in the dark in the morning. That this arrangement requires most laborers, grade school students, and service workers to commute in the dark in the morning, during the early and late portions of the DST period each year, is unsurprisingly disregarded.
On Trump’s executive order… Something suddenly occurred to me. Say, JMG (and commentariat), how many big shot architects do you think are actually capable (I didn’t say “willing” or “eager”; I said “capable”) of designing decent neoclassical buildings? Hmm. It’s entirely possible that not all that many of them are, which may be the actual reason for all the yelling, protesting, etc.
This reminds me of your post from a few months ago: to succeed in art, you have to willing to risk failing. And if you design a building in some more or less traditional style, then your work is going to be compared to the work of old masters. And (::gulp::) the verdict might not be favorable to you. So, let’s say a big shot architect designs a courthouse or what have you that actually looks like a neoclassical building. But suppose the verdict on the street is that it’s just about good enough for a country house of some nouveau riche upstart, but that’s kind of it. Humiliation, anyone? Maybe that’s why they don’t want to try.
I read KFish’s post with interest.
Perhaps Covid-19 will provide some of the solution since it targets the elderly far more than the young. All those deaths (at least in the western world) will also move along some inheritances.
Despite the collateral damage (I’ll be 60 soon myself and my parents are in their 80’s and at risk) there is a bright side to everything.
Plus, look how much less air pollution there is in China since they started shutting down!
It’s an ill wind indeed that blows no good.
Teresa from Hershey
On the original topic, here’s a personal recollection that illustrates the “hidden history” aspect. In my public school education in Pennsylvania in the 60s-70s, I did learn a little about John Chapman/Appleseed. It was part of the subject of local regional, especially agricultural, history that was lightly covered, during an early grade (earlier than 7th grade, I’m pretty sure).
But, nothing was said about why, apart from general affability, the man had gone about planting apple trees. Or how, since all the pictures showed him randomly tossing seeds around, which I accepted as a kid but in hindsight later didn’t seem very effective. And it wasn’t particularly clear when in the region’s overall history this had happened. And he was never mentioned again in the more intensive American History units in later grades.
The net result was, by a decade later, I wasn’t sure whether or not “Johnny Appleseed” had actually existed. (After all, around the same time, I had also learned about Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and George Washington’s brief juvenile lumberjack career, the latter presented as fact.) I had to go look him up in an encyclopedia.
P.S. I appreciate the reply about ancient magic. For various reasons this doesn’t seem a good time to follow up on that topic, but thank you.
My husband and I spent a night in Bad Toelz many years ago. It was one of the loveliest towns we visited. It was spring thaw time and the river was a rushing blue spate. Quite something for an Aussie I can tell you as we have rushing brown spates which are floods. No doubt your father didn’t enjoy it as we did. Well worth a visit if you are so inclined or perhaps you already have been there.
Thanks to all for your replies. It’d be a lot easier to cope with if, like Irena’s family, our elders acknowledged that they had failed in the one job of elders: to hand down wisdom that works. It’s not their fault that the world changed so quickly, but even the best of them have a massive blind spot about how hard things are now. They didn’t have the great tide of consumer goods that we have now; but instead of readily available employment and housing, we have cheap smartphones.
And I live in Australia, the land of the ‘fair go’ where we pride ourselves on being more humane and egalitarian than America! More like ‘frack you, got mine’. I’m doing fine, but the number of my friends who are not is truly frightening.
In light of the current pandemic situation many are facing right now, and taking where magic and ‘science’ meet, I offer these tidbits to mull over, understand and use:
Humidity is your friend – it is highly likely a coronavirus shares these traits (and funnily enough with the talk of bad design around here, sick building syndrome is partly caused by…yes – a lack of thought out air management).
Higher humidity is also good for your immune system – could make a difference with CoVid-19:
And get some sun and connect with outdoors. Northern latitudes are heading into Spring. Take advantage while, of course, avoiding any close contact with the possibly infected (unless conventionally protected – of course if there’s any magical advice anyone would like to pass on, I’m sure it would be welcome. Well it would by me, anyway.):
Very interesting post and looking forward to more. Americans are famous for their bible thumpers and witch hunts. Who knew there was such a vibrant occult scene in colonial America?
If I get a Mormon on my doorstep I’ll have to tell them about their magical roots.
Patricia Mathews what plant is good for a toxic work environment, may I ask?
Hi John Michael,
That’s a good explanation too. Although I’m guessing that the technical mechanisms that drive the media are subject to supply lines originating in China, so such a course of action may have unthinkable consequences for them.
As a kid I used to home deliver newspapers in the dark hours of the morning using my push bike. It was a nice earner for the mercenary little brat that I was. I distinctly recall the days when the newspapers were late due to technical or publishing issues, but most people probably think of the media is an infallable technocratic structure. But that ain’t necessarily so, and it used to annoy the daylights out of me for my lost hours. But then I could catch up on reading the magazines in the newsagent, so it wasn’t necessarily so bad. Most people wouldn’t have noticed the blips in delivery.
Electronic media is probably far more brittle, and I have no doubts that there have been job cuts and off shoring of work – and this current situation is what you get.
However, I’d also chuck it out there that current events are an expression of the slowly restricted supply of oil. There is a lot of funny stuff going on in the Middle East, and tourism in the land of the Saud seems like an odd event to me.
I’d guess that oil imports to China are continuing whilst demand would be plummeting there. Aren’t you guys dipping into your strategic reserves due to political concerns?
As an historical observation, the Black Death AKA the Plague was preceeded by I believe two continuous years of poor harvests, and starvation was a real thing for those folks. Afterwards though, people dusted themselves off and got on with the act of living and the sudden increase in per capita stuff was a real boon.
People can get through some pretty horrendous times, but I do really wonder about the hype over this virus as it is odd. Why not worry so much about deaths in the road toll? Or what about Influenza deaths? Or even suicide? The whole thing so far looks bonkers to me.
As a Mormon myself, all this talk about Mormons leaves me with conflicting thoughts.
On the one hand, the esotericism and “magic” (I put it in quotes since no normal Mormon would call it that) can seem like the whole of our religion to outsiders, but for the most part, we’re a Christian church that’s facing a lot of the same problems as other Christian churches.
Which is to say we have to deal with the fact of members who come to believe that a lot of what’s in the Bible can’t be squared with modern science and archaeology (and having extra books to defend doesn’t make that any easier) and with people realizing that the Mormon church, even though it conditions its adherents to believe that it has been led by the Lord’s chosen prophets according to revelations from God since 1830, has actually mutated its doctrines quite a bit over the last 190 years.
My opinion is that contemporary Mormonism’s emphasis on “doubting your doubts” and telling people to pray harder if they don’t have the right feelings about the church, and failure to develop a more serious intellectual tradition along the line for what the Catholics have, has had dismal results for the religion’s ability to hold onto the young, which is why our growth rate is trending way down in the United States.
As for me, I’ve spent a lot of the last few years admitting to myself that the existence of God and the possession, by the ancient Hebrews, of an accurate history of the earth don’t have much to do with each other. There are just too many holes in the rational-material-secular worldview for me to over be swayed by it. But has studying these things made me question the validity of my own religion? You bet.
It seems that holding onto this old Magian idea that the purpose of your life (and you only get one) is to find and hold onto the one true faith, with its infallible authority figures and infallible holy books, can really drive you batty in the information age.
Even so, I am still convinced that Joseph Smith had superhuman abilities of some sort, and I’m pretty darn sure that they didn’t come from the Devil.
Kimberly, Thank you! Also, your experience with discursive meditation is interesting. What is your method if you don’t mind me asking? Reincarnational data seems to come up for me only sporadically, and generally when I’m not trying for it.
I think alchemical angle important. I wonder how often reincarnation and other extra sensory or mystical information comes through consciously or unconsciously in things like poetry, art, and the twilight language of alchemy.
General George Patton been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid. Of all of the World War II commanders, Patton and Field Marshal Erwin Rommel are the ones I most admire. Here is an uncensored copy of the famous speech Patton made to his men the day before the D Day landings in Normandy.
I just found again–I had momentarily forgotten where I saw it–the article where Dion Fortune states that she was raised as a Christian Scientist. After pointing out that the effectiveness of the methods of Christian Science (and New Thought generally) flows from much the same cause as the effectiveness of Ceremonial Magic, Fortune goes on to write somewhat acerbically:
“I expect the Christian Science Publication Committee will immnediately write to deny my identification of Christian Science with auto-suggestion and occultism, and to slip in a little free advertisement and propaganda by way of explanation, but Christian Science is a thing I happen to be rather intimately acquainted with, having been brought up in it, and I do not accept correction on points of fact.”
Dion Fortune, “How Magic Works,” _The London Forum_ [formerly _The Occult Review_], volume 61, issue 1 (Jan. 1935), pp. 15-21. (The quote is on p. 17.)
The Publication Committee, in point of fact, was the agency of the Christian Science Church charged with rooting out false or uncomfortable published statements about Christian Science that appeared in print anywhere. Hardly any outsider, not well acquainted with Christian Science, would be aware of its existence and function. (Its precise title was the “Committees on Publications.”)
A quick comment about maintainability in buildings. James Howard Kunstler asserts that many modern buildings, even of conservative design will become obsolete and non-repairable because they are constructed of new, untested materials. If those materials fall our of fashion and cease to be manufactured any buildings constructed from them will have to be virtually rebuilt or abandoned. Concrete in various forms, bricks, stone masonry, wood framing and siding, etc. have been tested by time and will be available for the foreseeable future, but who knows about Brandname cladding or Patentedsuperstuff? OTH many people are not aware of the energy costs of concrete: cement is made by heating lime to high temperatures. This obviously requires fuel–natural gas, coal, etc. Add to that the cost of transport. Kunstler also points out that if energy becomes too expensive high rises will be impractical because of the cost of running elevators. So compacting suburbs into high density cities is not a panacea.
I used to read a forum in which college professors traded notes about their students. Now teachers have been complaining about students forever, but there seemed to me to be a slightly new note in the level of cluelessness and apathy some reported. I found myself wondering whether some students were subconsciously rebelling against a system that they knew was a tissue of lies. Working harder and harder for a college degree that means less and less while the adults around you maintain the fiction that you are assuring your future and that any other course is madness must be frustrating.
JMG and commentors,
I am greatly enjoying this discussion! A few points of interest concerning occult practices among German settlements outside of Pennsylvania:
I was discussing this with a friend of mine, and comparing traditions of our own families (his is from a German area in North Dakota, and mine is from a couple of German areas in Texas), and it turns out that both of our grandfathers knew how to do “water-witching” (dowsing for water). My great-grandfather was well-known for this in the area around Athens, TX about a hundred years ago, and many farmers made use of his skill for finding where to dig for “sweet water”. Additionally, my grandmother’s mother (from around Fredricksburg) practiced a few kinds of divination, and taught them to my mother.
For those who are interested, my friend also sent me the following video, a documentary on Volga Germans in North Dakota, which mentions German folk-magic practices (“Brauche”); that part starts at 44:36:
Also, I had a thought concerning the “imaginary third degree grandmothers” mentioned in this weeks post. A lot of the claims that I’ve heard from time in the occult scene – usually along the lines of “My family has been passing down Ancient Wicca mother-to-daughter since the Paleolithic” – are clearly overstated. And yet, given that both folk-magic practices and more highly developed systems of magic were more a part of this country’s history than is usually discussed, how many of these stories might have a grain of truth to them?
Since you brought up the idea of “evolutionary reincarnation” I am curious as to what you think about the idea in some philosophies/religions that the human spirit has no beginning.
For instance, here is Joseph Smith’s version:
“Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning? Because if a spirit has a beginning, it will have an end. That is good logic. I want to reason further on the spirit of man, for I am dwelling on the spirit and body of man–on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. Suppose I cut it in two; as the Lord lives, because it has a beginning, it would have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation who say that man had a beginning prove that he must have an end. If that were so, the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house tops that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it.”
Mainstream Mormons do not believe in reincarnation (I mentioned in a comment a few months ago that some early Mormons did, but it was always a fringe idea) but we all have a strong belief in pre-existence and the progression of the soul through multiple estates. However, I don’t think most Mormons ever put much thought into the statement I just quoted – i.e. it is normal to think of pre-existence in terms of our spirits being called into existence at some finite time in the past, and most Mormons never get around to realizing that’s not how their Prophet said it works.
Nevertheless, the more I think about that axiom – “because it had a beginning, it would have an end” – the more I agree with it. An entity that begins to exist at a certain point in time and then keeps existing forever would, for one thing, always have a future that’s infinitely longer than its past, though common sense seems to indicate that the things you encounter in your life will, on average, have about the same amount of future and past.
So it seems to me that the idea of something having a beginning and no end is simply an artifact of the way we experience time: i.e. we are surrounded by people who were born at a certain, known time in the past, organizations that were established at a known date, and so forth; we don’t know when those people will die and when those organizations won’t exist anymore, and so we think of things as having a definite beginning and an indefinite, unknowable end.
And from there, it’s easy to slip into thinking that things have a definite beginning, and no end at all. (Though for some reason we never seem to do the reverse, and believe that a thing that has existed forever will at a certain time come to an end).
The upshot is that in Joseph Smith’s philosophy, both spirits and matter can never be created or destroyed. (Though if you take his ring analogy literally enough, it would suggest that we might at some point travel back in time and become our past selves, and repeat the same path through spacetime endlessly).
Anyway, I am curious as to what you think of all this. Do our spirits have a beginning? Will they have an end? Can they have one but not the other? How does evolution from a simpler to a more complex form fit into all this? Is evolutionary reincarnation compatible with eternal pre-existence?
@ Walt F,
“Or like the character in Dr. Seuss whose bed is too short, so when his feet don’t stick out at one end his head does at the other, and vice versa”
Procrustes had just the thing for that problem 😉
Our local fish wrap just shut down its local printing plant, shifting to a printing plant 2 hours away. The paper has been late every other day since then, and it’s not even blizzard-and-ice-storm season.
Jessi, you know, I have no idea whether or not Poe had occult connections, and it’s worth looking into — he certainly knew enough about Joseph Glanvill, one of the Cambridge Platonists, to fake a fine quote in his style. I’ll have to look into Poe’s bio. As for the book, I’ll keep you posted; I have a lot more to write first. 😉
Sylvia, you’re most welcome.
Phutatorius, fascinating indeed. The history of Gurdjieff’s influence on North American culture has yet to be written, and it would be fascinating.
Irena, that’s an excellent point. I don’t know how many postmodern architects could design a decent Neoclassical building, but you’re probably right that the answer is “not many.”
Walt, that is to say, Chapman was turned into a folktale and relegated to the nursery. I plan on extracting him from that condition…
Jay, thanks for this. Also, of course, ordinary home treatment of an upper respiratory infection seems to work tolerably well. Here’s a story from Newsweek about a woman who’s had CoVID-19, and compared it to having the cold.
Bridge, American history has been edited to make it sound as though it was all Bible thumpers and witch hunts. It’s past time to show the rest of the story.
Chris, it does indeed look bonkers. This winter, ordinary influenza has already killed around 10,000 people in the US. Is the media melting down about that?
Dad took mom to Europe about a year after they got married. Mom often talked about Bad Toelz and how lovely it was. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s a place I would like to see.
Bad Toelz was actually the one part of WWII that dad would talk about. The hostilities were over, so he didn’t have a lot to do. He hired a local boy to teach for skiing lessons. The price? One chocolate bar per day.
Wesley, I get that. I’d agree heartily that the accuracy of certain human claims about history — whether it’s the history of ancient Judea or the history of ancient America — doesn’t actually have much of anything to do with the basic issues involved in religious faith. The foundation of faith as I understand it is the relationship between the human soul and the divine; if you turn to your god in reverence and love, that’s the thing that matters — the rest is so much window dressing. (That is to say, I agree with Johannes Kelpius.) For what it’s worth, I’d agree with you that Joseph Smith had superhuman abilities, and they didn’t come from malign spirits. He was a first-rate Christian occultist and, like some of the other figures we’re going to be discussing — for example, Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the Shakers — his spiritual disciplines and personal qualities made him a fitting vessel for a revelation, which he then did his level best to teach and practice. It’s a tolerably common event in American occult history, and I see no reason whatsoever to dismiss those who received such a revelation — or for that matter, those who have a testimony of that revelation.
Ace, thank you for this. One heck of a speech!
Robert, thanks for this.
Nick, very often the stories do have a grain of truth — it’s just that the grain has been overlaid by a vast amount of mythology. A lot of people have grandmothers who practiced a little folk magic, and a few have grandmothers who practiced quite a bit of it. It’s when that’s turned into a faux justification for backdating some brand new invention to the Upper Devonian that I roll my eyes.
Wesley, what a marvelous theme for meditation! 😉 Any time the concepts of time and eternity get brought together, confusion follows. Something that is eternal doesn’t exist for a very long time, or even for all the time there is — it exists outside of time, and experiences time the way you and I experience things in space. So if the soul is eternai, that simply means that its essential being is outside of time; if it reflects an aspect of itself down into time, to be in time for a life or a whole sequence of lives, it can enter the time stream at any point and rise back out of it at any point. That’s how I understand it, at any rate.
Violet, Thank you for directing me to your blog. I have put it on my favourites list and will follow it for a while at least. I do have a short attention span although I have followed this blog for many years. Don’t comment a lot because my knowledge of the occult could be represented by a full stop and I feel a little arrogant if I comment on United States politics and social conditions when I am not from there. Note my use of the expression full stop.
These things do come in cycles. My parents were married in 1938 and each week they had just enough left over to go to the pictures together. Years ago my husband and I were having dinner in an old mansion in the town we lived in and commented on how grand the house was compared with the cottages nearby and how this was no longer the case (early 1970s). But it is the case again now. People carved up old houses for flats for years and then restored them to the large houses they had been before. I now look at our comfortably sized house and think it would be easy to make it into 2 flats. Each generation looks at things as they see them and we all have to make our own decisions on how to proceed and of course some have no real say in those decisions.
Remember there is always hope that things can change for the better but we should all remember that own idea of better might not be anyone else’s.
Enough for now. Nap time.
I don’t know about architecture, but I have reached much the same conclusion in relation to literature.
I have recently been trying to understand what is going on with ‘literary fiction’. (Literary fiction is a genre which I would define as literature without a plot or well defined characters).
I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing going on with it. I actually think it is simply unskilled writing. When a story has a plot and characters, it can be ‘wrong’. You can say of a particular story “the characters were not convincing”, “the plot is too far fetched”, “the plot is too cliched”. With literary fiction, you don’t not know where to start to formulate a criticism because it’s not clear what the author is trying to do or say.
As I also do a lot of story writing myself, I know the difficulties of writing and the frustrations of falling into the error and having to go back and fix it. Then at end realising that “it’s no Shakespeare”. How much easier it would be to write something that can’t be criticised or compared to anything.
Also, note that in literary fiction (and I believe a similar dynamic exists in architecture), much of the money is tied up in awards, grants and other status-based activities. If exposed to the free market, these people would be looking for a different job very quickly.
Dear Mr. Greer – I recently re-read Conrad Richter’s “The Awakening Land”, trilogy. Chapman has a couple of cameos, in the third volume, “The Town.” Richter really did a lot of research, into the settling of the Ohio River Valley, circa 1800. There’s bits of folklore and magic, scattered through the books. The series is well worth a look. A good read. Lew
It’s not (just) my family. It’s the whole culture. It’s generally acknowledged that people born after 1980 (or even after 1970) have been badly screwed. The trope is that our youth was stolen from us, and that we only get to succeed if we do something dishonest, or work in IT for some foreign company, or leave the country. This isn’t 100% true, but it’s a decent enough approximation of the truth. This last option (emigration) is immensely popular. It’s also hard (regardless of what pundits in receiving countries may tell you), and in any case, those who stay behind don’t really know how well or badly those of us who left are doing, so…
Anyway, who gets blamed for this varies. Politicians are the most popular (though by no means only) target. But we, the young and even no-longer-all-that-young, don’t get the blame. ‘Cause it would be kinda ridiculous to blame us.
JMG, I think is one of the reasons for all the apocalypse phantasies. “Yeah, it would badly suck, but at least people would stop blaming me for things I’m in no position to fix!” If so, then perhaps one way to fight the appeal of apocalypse in popular imagination is to show some understanding and compassion.
JMG, as you said we’d be looking at the current viral pandemic through the rear view mirror by May/June (I’ve got everything crossed), I’m wondering if you think the same on the current market volatility but most especially the oil price ‘war’ that has become apparent today. Uneasy alliances appear to have broken down.
Ed West takes on a very Spengler-ite attitude to the prospects of traditionalism in the Anglosphere:
What is your opinion Mr. Greer?
Materia Indigo, I came across Disney’s rendition of that fairy tale, mostly because Dr. Facilier has one of the best villain songs to be found anywhere. I don’t know enough about the Voudun system to have an opinion on how accurate the depiction of the magic is – given Disney’s track record, I’d guess not very – but there is one theme that I thought was pretty accurately captured, and which I would expect shows up in most magic systems including that one. That being that Mama Odie, the wiser of the two magicians, was a lot more subtle in what she did.
The perfect example is of the alligator who wanted to be human so he could play in a jazz band. If the alligator had found dr. Facilier instead, the good doctor would have no doubt turned him into a human at some great price, and probably shown up to collect the debt at an inconvenient time. Mama Odie just told him to play in a jazz band as an alligator which, due to an unlikely set of coincidences, turned out to be actually possible. And despite a lot less bargaining with spoopy voices, New Orleans got a whole lot weirder from her actions than if it had been Facilier. We’re left wondering how flashy she could actually get if she had to, much like we never really know with Gandalf. The theme being, I think, that the greater the mage’s understanding is the more subtle their interventions become.
My first visit to the castle was actually two months before I was born. At the time, the way to get to the castle was to walk up the pedestrian path, which my 7-months-pregnant mother did. Mom was a real trooper. Dad remembered that she did stop to take a break at every one of the conveniently-placed benches on the way up.
When you replied to Wesley, “. . . it can enter the time stream at any point and rise back out of it at any point,” are you saying that reincarnation as you understand it does not mean that we are reborn only at some point in the future, but can be reborn at some point in the historic past? Or am I reading something different into your comment that you did not intend?
Worth pointing out: summer has a beginning and an end, yet it comes back every year – albeit subtly different from the year before. Winter, likewise.
JMG, as far as degenerate pop culture goes, that definition of eternity is the essential nature of the Bajoran Prophets/wormhole aliens in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine… although that whole storyline is bungled rather badly by the end of the series, ending up in the finale as a straightforward battle of good vs evil laden with poor special effects. As you might imagine, Star Trek, being rooted in materialism and the military industrial complex, does not handle matters of faith very well!
In the comic book realm, Jack Kirby’s New Gods for DC Comics at times exhibit such qualities. I am most familiar with Grant Morrison’s use of them in his 2006-2011 version of Batman, which peaks in the 2008 miniseries Final Crisis. Batman, a mere mortal, is the only person in place to take down Darkseid, a higher dimensional evil god with the ability to manipulate time and history, and has his family’s personal history altered and corrupted as a consequence. I know you’ve been dismissive of Morrison’s favored chaos magic in the past, and I myself maintain skepticism, but it is one of my favorite contemporary depictions of a mortal being contending with a higher power.
Once again, though, framed as a battle between good and evil, rather than something more cooperative, or even ambiguous. I suppose I’m looking for similar narratives that don’t feel the need to frame such experiences in terms of conflict. It reinforces my feeling that WWII being the apotheosis of American global power casts a long shadow over our culture, even now.
The Dark Age novelist and historian of Norse culture and comparative religion Maria Kvilhaug has written a great deal on the beliefs of the old Norse as far as they can be reconstructed, and a whole essay on all the references which give some indication to an established belief in Reincarnation -yes they did, in short. Well worth reading. Unfortunately she gave up on her excellent videos as they attracted too many racist neo-‘Viking’ nuts;…….
What disgusts me most about the Wuhan-virus-boogeyman hype is how many people are so easily taken in by the baloney. A wise man once said “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.” The news media are businesses, like any other business: they exist solely for financial gain. And unlike special-interest periodicals that maintain a paid-subscriber base that they must satisfy to maintain their sales, broadcasters must survive solely on revenues from advertisers – so the advertisers get to dictate the content aired. Just take note of who the advertisers are, and what they are promoting, during the newscast and compare that to the thesis of the journalist’s story; then you will have the same confidence I do that this whole virus scare is just another product-promotion hoax.
John, since we’re discussing the occult history of the U.S, would you care to comment on the role of the planet Uranus in United States history? It appears that we are now in a Uranus return to the same sign it was in at its discovery (in Torus) in 1781 during the Revolutionary War. Seeing that its orbit is about 84 years, that would put Uranus in Torus at every major turning point in U.S history. That gives us the Revolution and birth of the Nation, Civil War, WWII, and today, the withdrawal of the U.S-led global order, and it’s ensuing social, cultural, and economic repercussions globally and nationally over the coming decades. Am I correct here?
Just comments: (1) “And of course the door was opened to Europe, and Europe did indeed bring forth a strong child —” Of whom the UK has been a pensioner since the 1940s, and most of Western Europe has lived in the shadow of.
(2) Sylvia R – no potions or anything for faster reading that I know of. My potions for better focus were, for 15 years, cigarettes, up to 3 per day; for 65 years, a several cans or bottles of Coke, later Diet Coke, until my first efforts to decaffeinate, and always and forever, large quantities of coffee. I would not recommend any of those even to those it would be so tempting to ill-wish.
(3) Walt F: the difference between “Standard Time Forever” and “Daylight Time Forever” is the difference between larks and owls. I miss getting up with the sun and having supper at sunset. But it is nice to be able to go outside after supper and not worry about my poor night vision.
(4) Bridge – fresh rosemary, just a sprig in a bud vase ever day. Assuming you’re in an area where rosemary is a common lawn shrub. Sage, of course, probably available dried somewhere, but in an office environment, don’t even try to burn it. Some unobtrusive salt across the opening of your cubicle, if you have one. And of course, JMG’s sweetening spell. The friend I advised also vowed to be as sweet as sugar to all employees, and that worked a treat. Finally, the Evil Supervisor became pregnant and her entire manner changed drastically!
Hi John Michael,
Thanks for the link and that is consistent with numbers I have heard from reputable sources elsewhere. Incidentally, very late last year (not all that long ago) I had a really dreaful cold that was less in my sinuses and more in my chest. Normally I can shake off the cold with little in the way of symptoms, but that one hung around being a nuisance for weeks and was quite notable for its potency. It was fortunate that I was enjoying a reasonably quiet time and had plenty of time to recover (the lack of fat in our civilisations transactions is being tested right now). Given the origins of this current virus are unknown – despite much speculation – we don’t actually know how long in the environment this thing has been kicking around. It is worth noting that the coronavirus is simply another virus from the family of viruses that causes the common cold. And testing for it has only been carried out recently.
Back to the topic at hand though. You write: “if you turn to your god in reverence and love”. It occurs to me that such an approach is also useful for our relationship with the Earth of which we are a part of, would also yield good results. Of course actions have to go hand in hand with words in both cases. 🙂
Hi Lady Cutekitten (love the name),
That figures. Down here there are two main competing newspapers, and recently I believe they merged their printing facilities and now print both papers out of the same plant. People sometimes forget that efficient and resilient are often not commensurate objectives.
May your cats be pleasant to you and not playfully bite or scratch too much!
Mate it is a smart move to provide edible plants to settlers. Incidentally, the bloke was a minor character in an extraordinarily well researched fictional account of westward settlement in your country. The book was “The Town” by Conrad Richter, and if you haven’t read it, why the heck not? 🙂
@ JMG Yesterday morning I was worship assistant in the First Unitarian Church, and the associate minister said: “If prayer worked like magic,… I know what I would pray…., but prayer is not magic.” I was just about ready to bound up and quote Dion Fortune to him. He got away after the service before I could get to him.
Re Poe and occultism. I don’t know about occult interests but Poe was apparently interested in the science of his time. He was widely read since he earned much of his income as a freelance reviewer an journalist. A couple of years ago I was assigned to evaluate a book about Poe’s work _Eureka_.
_Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka and Scientific Imagination_ by David N. Stamos, SUNY Press, 2017. This is my Library Thing review of it. “This is a specialized book, but I’m not sure of the audience. Poe fans are mostly interested in his poetry, stories, or for students of literature, his literary criticism and reviews. A little known work _Eureka_ was apparently an attempt to explain a theory of the origin and meaning of the universe, which would make it a work of philosophy. However Stamos seems determined to prove that Poe, obviously well read in the scientific literature of his time, anticipated modern theories such as the Big Bang. In the process the author has to review the history of science and of theories about science. I read only half the book before giving up the struggle. Obviously understanding it would require having read _Eureka_ but there seems no reason to do so unless once is convinced that it contains some new truth, or unless one is a Poe scholar. Had we but world enough and time . ” So, it looks like an investigation of Poe’s possible occult interests might begin with _Eureka_.
I know if off-topic this week but I see a lot of people talking about it – so do you think is time to come up with some hypotheses about the brouhaha over the COV virus?
My theory is that China, US and Europe are trying to manage the next downturn. A recession/depression was coming anyway so maybe we can reduce the panic by focusing on a health issue instead of the all powerful god Economy.
I know it seems upside down, but in today’s world economic collapse is feared more than a war, catastrophe or even mass extinction.
What do you think?
I just wanted to debate one thing you said.
JMG said “no question, atheism is a very depressing way to think of things”.
That is surprisingly absolutist from you. You agree that different people might thrive on different diets or religions but somehow dismiss atheism with no further thought?
Well, I am an atheist. I cannot believe in gods and spirits no matter how much I try. I am not a militant one because I don’t care about it. If tomorrow I have a revelation and meet the storm god I hope I will learn something from it. Yes, I know I am missing some interesting experiences (ecstasy, hope etc) but unless I am tortured a la 1984, I cannot force myself into it.
I bet our outlook is quite similar. I remember you mentioned that you believe the universe is indifferent to us. I agree and that is not depressing. I have seen all beliefs being distorted and abused (including atheism) but to me the difference is that atheism doesn’t have specific moral requirements. So being corrupted is no different than the politics being corrupted.
On the other hand, religions being corrupted are hypocritical and evil (by their own morality) so sometimes I am glad I don’t believe in any god that is so easy to cheat or abuse.
@Robert Mathiesen, Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the Mormons. I was raised by atheists who were horrified by my foray into Christianity and would bash the LDS non-stop at gatherings. Not that I blame them–Salt Lake can be a very difficult environment for non-LDS. I had to get some distance myself before I could turn around and just love them. Most of the people I know dealing with them close at hand still find it difficult, especially those with LDS relatives. I imagine they still have that chip on their shoulder.
@Wesley, I’m happy to have your insights and questions here. The Mormons helped me cultivate a personal relationship with the Divine and for that I owe them eternally.
Poe and Occultism: One of Poe’s instructors during his short time at West Point was the now almost forgotten esotericist and Hermetic philosopher, Ethan Allen Hitchcock. In those days West Point was, according to Hitchcock, a place of amiable and free-wheeling out-of-class discussions on every possible subject of interest to faculty and students alike.
The short 1868 sale catalog of part of Hitchcock’s library gives an excellent sense of the very wide range of his occult interests. (It even includes a manuscript copy of the Lemegeton, or Little Key of Solomon, written in 1512.) You can find it on-line at
Arthur Versluis has commented on Poe’s occult interests and their possible sources in his “The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance” (2001).
You have incidentally provided clarity over three years of life events for me by explaining the straying and returning Christian narrative, thank you, narratives are powerful and carry over lives. Now to see where that soul decision to not return will take me 🙂 Slight bit of existential insecurity comes with breaking it lol.
To Chris of Fernglade,
That is interesting about your cold at the end of last year. We live about 2000 kms north of you and in September my husband and I both had a dreadful cold that lasted for 2 weeks. We even started to get takeaway as we were having trouble cooking for ourselves. It was all in the chest with a dreadful cough. After the cold we drove to Melbourne. Did we share a preview? I was low with it for 6 weeks and my swimming has still not picked up to what I was able to do before. Not that I am much of a swimmer.
It has crossed my mind that maybe it was Corona but where did I get it? We do have a lot of foreign students and workers in this area.
@JMG a quick thank you before we move on tomorrow. For the last few days I’ve been researching my Pennsylvania Dutch History (which it turns out is the majority of my paternal side). I managed to track down a family cemetery where my 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Great Grandfathers rest. I never knew!
It’s on the old family farm that goes back to the early 18th century. Certainly explains a lot about who I have become in mid-life.
And the rest of my PD family lay in the St John’s Cemetery with the Witch of Ringtown. This would have happened when my grandmother (adopted mother) was still living there!
I’ve noticed the leaders of most countries talk about protecting their citizens. U.S. “leaders” and talking heads talk about protecting the economy.
I wonder where the Cathars fit in with all of this, and the Huguenots. Other free thinkers that left Europe, rather than being burned at the stake for unwillingness to conform to the Catholic Church of domination colonizer christianity. Would you have any books to recommend on their roles? I haven’t heard of them being called occultists, but rather heretics. And witches.
I’m very interested in this series of essays, since synchronicity seems to be poking me with a big stick on the topic lately. In the past two weeks or so: my bargain-book recommendation app (Bookbub) offered me “Occult America” for $1.99, so I bought and started reading it; I received an unexpected packet of family history information in the mail from an elderly relative, revealing that I have Pennsylvania Dutch and Mennonite family background that I was unaware of (I did know that one of my great-grandfathers on the other side of the family was a German Lutheran minister, and now, thanks to this post, my mind is spinning with possible reinterpretations of that image); JMG started this series of essays; and yesterday my favorite podcast, Futility Closet, dropped an episode on the Public Universal Friend (Jemima Wilkinson). It’s getting so that all these sources are blending in my head. I may be a bit dense at times, but it’s pretty clear to me that I should sit up and pay attention.
JMG, I’ve heard about some of these figures and movements before, but without a framework for taking them seriously, at the time I basically shrugged and thought, “Huh. Weird”. Your descriptions of what it means to be a hard polytheist and your comments here about your confidence that Jospeh Smith and others have indeed received some sort of revelation or- gnosis? Is that the word?- have substantially changed my thinking on what is possible. My question, which perhaps you will be addressing later in the series, is: how can you tell the difference between these folks and your garden variety crackpot, charlatan, sufferer of mental illness, power-and-attention-seeker, person whose followers got it all wrong, etc.? (And I’m aware that just because someone may also fit into one or more of the categories above doesn’t mean that they haven’t also actually seen a glimpse of the Divine.)
I realize that this is very late in the week for a question, so if you don’t get to it, I’ll repost on the next Open Post.
–Heather in CA
Lew, I’ll put it on the look-for list. Thank you!
Irena, that sounds like a good strategy to try.
Jay, the agreement between the Saudis and the Russians to keep the oil market propped up has broken down hard, and both sides are pumping for all they’re worth — meaning that every other oil producing country is facing serious pain in that sector of their economy. If they keep it up, we’ll get to see just how close the Saudis are to serious depletion. Meanwhile oil-producing countries will be frantically puiling money out of their sovereign wealth funds to keep the lights on. The upside of all this is that nations that consume more oil than they extract — for example, the United States — will be getting an economic windfall in the form of lower fuel prices. How long will that continue? Until (a) somebody blinks, or (b) the Saudi oil fields start to run short — at which point the Middle East goes up like a crepe suzette. Interesting times…
Aidan, he’s missed the fact that the conservative movement is changing rapidly in response to exactly those demographic shifts he’s noted. The old blend of traditional religious morality and punish-the-poor economic policy is dead, no question, but that’s not what the new populist conservatives are offering — as witness Trump and Johnson, both of whom have been busy jettisoning old-fashioned conservative policies and personalities (cough, cough, Safid Javid; cough, cough, John Bolton). So West is right in the realm of abstractions and wrong in the realm of practical politics.
Beekeeper, if we were eternal beings, we could do that. As I see it, we’re not eternal beings, so we live in the timestream, having our lives one at a time.
Ian, I’m no fan of chaos magic, but if it enables good (graphic) literature to be written, so be it. As for the whole good vs. evil business, no argument there. I’d like to see at least a little more flexibility in our myths!
Steve, thanks for this. Since I don’t do mass media — I haven’t owned a TV in my adult life — I wasn’t aware of the nice clean interface between news stories and product promotion, but I’m not at all surprised.
Ethan, that’s something I’m still studying and so I’m not prepared to make any definite comments yet.
Chris, that’s interesting — and you’re quite correct that we have no idea how long this virus has been circulating. As for applying the logic of love and reverence to the Earth, of course — and that’s all the easier if you have a polytheist definition of deity and can reverence the Earth in the traditional manner, as a goddess.
Peter, in a way, that’s good to hear — he gets the fact that his prayers aren’t as powerful as he’d like. Now if he could simply figure out that his prayers could be much more potent than they are, given a little work with some readily available practices… 😉
Rita, thanks for this!
NomadicBeer, I’m still far from sure that anybody (outside of a few inner circles of a few governments) has any clear idea what’s actually involved in this, and I’m going to withhold judgment until I get more information. As for the atheism thing, I was simply expressing a personal value judgment — of course your mileage may vary.
Robert, many thanks for this! Hitchcock’s a figure who deserves more attention; I’ll see if I can bring him some.
Rose, glad to be of help!
Tude, fascinating. I’m delighted to have helped with that.
Spinky, I’ll have to look into both of those — this is still very early days in my research.
Heather, I will indeed be dealing with that complex matter as we proceed. One of the people I want to talk about, the remarkable Hiram Butler, was responsible for a major movement in American occultism that turned out to be following a theory that was completely wrong. Stay tuned!
We don’t have too many really reliable sources for what the Cathers (aka the Bogomils in the Slavic Balkans, the Paulicians in Armenia) really believed, so it’s quite hard to assess their esotericism or occultism. Also, their beliefs may have changed over the many centuries of their existence.
The Huguenots are another, simpler matter. They were merely French Protestants (of the Calvinistic sort) who were guaranteed the freedom to practice their form of Protestantism in France by the Edict of Nantes in 1598. When that Edict was revoked in 1685, many of those Protestants fled France for various Protestant countries, including the British North American colonies. Rhode Island, with its firm principle of religious freedom for all, got a great number of them. (One of my wife’s remote ancestors, Thomas Durfee (d’Urfé), was among their number.)
As you surely know, Manly P. Hall thought highly of Hitchcock’s work, and even reprinted some of his books. That’s a major recommendation, at least in my eyes. And many thanks for the reminder about Hiram Butler! I had completely forgotten him.
That’s true regarding larks and owls. And there’s also a factor of how far east or west in your time zone you actually live. (The Eastern Time zone is particularly wide.)
And a large part of larks vs. owls relates directly to age. Though of course there are young larks and elder owls, statistically, far more teens are innately owls, and most of them turn gradually into larks as they age and the circadian rhythms paced by the superchiasmatic nucleus in their brains speed up. “Early bird specials” attracting seniors has a basis in neurobiology.
Which makes enforced early hours, for instance in schools or the military, a convenient excuse for older people to oppress younger ones. Unless it’s really an honest attempt to instill some kind of industrious early-rising virtue, or a precaution against/preparation for dawn attacks. The sheer enthusiasm usually displayed by elders charged with waking up groggy sleep-deprived youngsters could be for either reason, I suppose.
“…at which point the Middle East goes up like a crepe suzette. Interesting times…”
Not to mention even more fun times ahead in Syria. No one expects the current cease fire to last very long and both sides are clearly gearing up for the next round. To make things even more interesting, both the Russians and Turks have been developing some very interesting new military tech, such as hypersonic missiles on the Russian side and cheap and very effective attack drones by the Turks. We got a preview of things to come in last weeks outbreak of fighting, when the Turks unleashed massive drone strikes in response to an airstrike against one of their military convoys in Idlib Province, followed by efforts by the Syrians and the Russians to adapt. The Turkish air campaign has been described as the first major air war in which nearly all of the airstrikes by the attacker were carried out by drones.
As another blogger I follow pointed out earlier today, the war in Syria will be studied by general staffs and military historians for decades to come, especially since the situation appears to be coming to a head.
JMG, the following Twitter thread shows the hard decisions being made in a hospital in a developed nation a day or two ago due to CoVid-19. I see no reason to believe it has been made up or embellished. This is not just a case of a cold and a bit of flu for a significant minority. This is human suffering on a large scale that looks to be repeated in several other countries who have seen nothing like this for many decades. This can’t make anyone here comfortable.
Re: your ancestor research
I don’t know your age, but I’ve found that as I get older I become more and more like my parents and grandparents, sometimes disconcertingly so. I’m also more able to appreciate them in a way that just wasn’t possible when I was young and knew everything, so there’s that as well. For better or worse, we inherit so much from the people who came immediately before us and, through them, the people who came long before that. Egregore is probably not the right word for it, but I’ve thought that families pass down a lot more than just genetics.
Might this be one of the things that drives a lot of adoptees to try to find their biological families too, regardless of how happy they are with their adoptive parents? It seems to be a lot more involved than just wanting to know one’s family health history.
@Chris of Fernglade and JillN, so you guys had that thing too! I was beginning to think, nah, couldn’t have been COVID-19, but our host is right–we really don’t know how long it’s been circulating before it started causing real havoc in China with its blighted environment. I guess it depends on how much credence we give the official explanation of its derivation, which remains rather murky. It could turn out we had a precursor to it. Chest only, bit of a fever, and apparently long incubation.
I continue to see “5G” pop up in connection with major outbreaks. Here is one account: http://emfrefugee.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-emperors-new-virus-china-5g-and.html Dietrich Klinghardt also mentioned a couple of hospitals with 5G installed and presumably on standby, and I think he was referring to Washington state, but I wasn’t paying close attention and will not have access to a replay for a while to confirm it (I hate video). An Australian group opposed to testing of 5G with millimeter waves (the higher frequency band about which there are more concerns) in Melbourne noted that in Europe only Italy was using millimeter waves in its 5G and that Iran, Korea and Japan also use it, the latter in testing/standby now for service to start later this month. I’d be wary about 5G and learn ways to reduce exposure to man-made EMFs to keep your immune and cardiovascular systems in good shape.
Gosh I bet I sound like a broken record.
JMG, and Chris, sometime last year (not in fall, I believe) I had a cold with a cough somewhat nastier than usual. At that time, I wondered if new, more aggressive cold virus strains may be evolving. But I believe this thing may have be too soon to be the Coronavirus.
Onething and JMG–
I had some bad experiences along the lines of controlling clergy in a Calvinist Presbyterian Church over a number of years; The head pastor talked a good game about encouraging his congregation to ‘seek maturity in Christ,’ and to ‘build one’s personal relationship with Christ.’ I was, for many years, involved in small groups meeting in each others’ homes for dinner and a Bible Study, and to share each others’ lives. This resulted in spiritual maturity, which quickly resulted in opposition from the pastor and his staff, and the forcible breakup of the small groups.
Before that happened, the participants helped each other with family emergencies, visited each other in the hospital, and spontaneously started to come up with community-building activities for the larger church. Oddly, we kept hitting roadblocks that prevented us from doing activities in our own church building. So we did them outside the building.
When one of our small-group friends became terminally ill with cancer, my wife and I visited her in the hospital as she lay dying. We ran into her assigned elder, who was surprised to find us already there, and said things like, “what are you doing here?” with a bit of hostility. It never occurred to us not to go, because she was like a dear family member to us.
I remember particularly well, being called to a meeting with the senior pastor as I was involved in developing more small groups with other ‘laypersons’ who also wanted to meet in their homes. The vibe from the church secretaries was hostile when I got there, and the pastor opened the meeting with, “I understand you are involved in setting up more home groups, with some of the church members– What are their names?” And he then proceeded to call all of them in and shut down their activities….
The shutdown and resistance mystified me at the time, but I now believe that the real objective of that church was to keep the congregants weak in their faith and maturity. Guilt added to the weakness allowed him to pressure us to give money each week to keep it going.
Also, while we were allowed to pray silently, or sometimes aloud, getting answers to prayers was frowned on, along with spiritual disciplines like fasting, and rituals like foot-washing and doing a passover seder supper, or talking about spiritual power.
I hope that there are happier and healthier Christian churches out there, Onething, but in my experience at that church, the pastor and his staff seemed to be gardening us like vegetables, primarily as a way to raise money for themselves. But if you have had experiences like these, Onething, don’t let them discourage you from pressing on–
I would like to suggest to us all that there is/are good god or gods who are more interested in our positive growth and development than we are. Though I no longer believe that I am smart enough to explain what they are doing, I am still convinced that God is good and helps those who seek the light.
Very late entry – apparently today (11 March) is Johnny Appleseed Day!
Regarding your coronavirus comment, bonkers indeed.
I’m astonished the Hong Kong Flu of 1968 killed (not just infected) one million people worldwide and somehow has been largely forgotten to history. Here is an old newspaper article of the period describing its impact:
Look at the infection percentages at that time! The Spanish Flu was even worse. Yet, there seems to be a meltdown everywhere. German Chancellor Merkel, ever the drama queen, somehow put the estimated infection rate at 60-70% nationwide(https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-us-canada-51835856)!
Perhaps people panicked less in the past because they were too busy going out and protesting in 1968!
This brings to mind what we discussed regarding crime rates. In outgoing times, people make themselves more vulnerable to crime and hence criminals have a field day. I think the same goes for disease. The same for terrorism for that matter. The Golden Age of Terrorism was the 1970s, when a terrorist wing for a radical group was as essential as a slogan! There were 89 terrorist bombings on US soil in 1975 but none were panicking like in the social cocooning of the 2000s.
“But THIS time it’s DIFFERENT!” Courtesy of USA Today
“The theme being, I think, that the greater the mage’s understanding is the more subtle their interventions become.”
Is that why god seems non-existant?
I know it’s not Magic Monday, but – does anyone know a spell or ritual to protect someone from getting sick, when you’re not where she lives? My daughter’s mother-in-law, who has a compromised immune system, has isolated herself to keep from getting the corona virus. She does not believe, but I’m about to email her and ask her permission to do so. I have colored candles, incense, vinegar, and kitchen supplies, and that’s it.
Pat in Gainesville FL – where there is now a case of the virus.
(Extremely late entry, but as none of this pertains to Cos.Doc. and is all a response to comments here…)
@ Booklover – I had what I took to be sinusitis in mid-December,
@ Walt F. – For the military, part of it may legitimately be hazing, but I suspect most of it is either (1) carryover from before electric lights, when you’d have to pack up camp in preparation for the day’s march, and for obvious reasons you wanted to maximize daylight during a march, or (2) the fact that you do occasionally need to train your new recruits in a sleep-deprived setting so that you know they’ll be able to function in wartime under that condition – the enemy isn’t just going to politely afford you your full eight hours, after all. (Now, yes, you could change the basic training day from 0500-2130 (or whatever) to, say, 1000-0230, with the occasional early-morning “surprise attack” wake-up call, but why waste daylight?)
As for schools, recall that our public school system is largely derived from the late-19th century Prussian model, which was designed to teach students how to become good and productive workers in the industries of that day… so you started school more or less when the factories started work. (I presume you ended earlier to let kids work their chores on the farm or part-time to help bring extra income to the families, or because common sense says kids need time to play, or simply out of the pragmatic need for teachers to have time to grade work and do administrative stuff.)
@ Aidan Barrett – I agree; I think the reason it’s so extreme right now is because we’re very close to if not at the zenith of the cocooning era… in fact, this might be the event that ultimately starts the pendulum swinging the other way. Once any quarantines are over, extroverts in particular (who make up the majority of the population) are going to be desperate for social interaction and real human contact, and even some of the less-shy introverts might want to as well.
Just look at the recent Sixties themed pop culture. Cultural trends are often echoes of two generations before (50-60 years). The 2020s will be the neo-Sixties as the 2010s was the neo-Fifties. What people say about “iGen” today, they said about the Silents in the Fifties (uptight, boring, conformist, killjoys, unimaginative) as both generations only knew cocooning and falling crime.
The later were likely perspectives by the Lost Generation who grew up in the fun-loving Twenties and saw the young as boring. Indeed, the similarity of “safetyism” between the pre-Boomer” and iGen generation are astonishing accordingly to this comparison regarding tolerance of speech:
The similarities on sexual activity (but not sexual standards) are also astonishing
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