Monthly Post

A Prophet and a Loss

A word or two about history before we proceed.

Two weeks ago, in response to my discussion of John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed, I fielded the inevitable comment from the inevitable reader who insisted that Johnny Appleseed was a Bad Person because he played a role in the westward expansion of the United States. When I responded by saying, sure, you can impose that sort of rigid ideological judgment on Chapman if you want to, I got a tirade back, talking about how awful it was that history classes used to teach that people like Chapman were Good People, because now we know that they were Bad People. My response to this, in turn, expressed a lack of enthusiasm for this sort of stunningly simple-minded flattening-out of history.  That was the end of the conversation; I didn’t mind this too greatly, because the other standard move from the other side in that type of conversation is a shrieking profanity-laced meltdown, and I find those very dull.

Such reductions of history’s rich complexity into cheap morality plays are embarrassingly common, and of course—as my reader noted—they’ve been common for a good long time, though which historical figures have been called Good People and which have been called Bad People has of course changed repeatedly with the vagaries of fashion. The current fad for simplistic denunciations of American historical figures can be seen, in fact, as blowback from the era of equally simplistic glorifications of those same historical figures.  Both these simplifications have the same goal, which is keeping people from learning anything from history.  Only when you get past dumbed-down caricatures of history stocked solely with Good People and Bad People, after all, can you use the past to help you recognize the mixed motives and bitterly tangled ethical status of the personalities and movements of the present day. Only then can you ask questions such as “And what happened the last time that was tried?” and others equally lethal to the pretensions of the status quo.

These reflections are relevant to the current theme of posts, because most of the people we’ll be discussing have been assigned the status of Bad People in a slightly different version of the same shoddy historical melodrama.  They’re labeled Bad People, to be precise, because they failed to conform to early twenty-first century industrial society’s notions of the onward march of science and reason. The last thing I want these posts to do, accordingly, is to convince anyone to flip that label around and label the people I’m discussing Good People, while insisting that those who did further the onward march blah blah blah are therefore Bad People. History is richer, more complex, and far, far more troubling than that.

With that in mind, we can proceed.

Johnny Appleseed, the central figure in the essay I posted two weeks ago, wasn’t a diviner, a mage, an astrologer, an alchemist, or any of the other standard types of American occultist. On the other hand, he was an American archetype of a kind very well represented in the history we’re exploring.  In and out of occult circles, our culture pups them remarkably often:  ordinary people from ordinary backgrounds who up and reinvent themselves in some uniquely individual way, and go on to have an outsized impact on our national life.  Johnny Appleseed was one of these, and so is the figure I want to discuss in this week’s post, Andrew Jackson Davis, the Poughkeepsie Seer, the first important homegrown American occult philosopher.

In the middle years of the nineteenth century, when Davis hit his stride, occultism in America was still mostly drawing its inspirations from European traditions and teachings. (Phineas P. Quimby, the man who would change that, was already brooding over the powers of mind by then, but his ideas didn’t erupt like a supernova in the skies of American occultism until later.)  Just as it took the visions of Emanuel Swedenborg to send Johnny Appleseed striding into the forest to become America’s red-cheeked Dionysus, it took the labors of another significant figure of Europe’s alternative spiritual scene to make the Poughkeepsie Seer what he was.  Davis wasn’t the only American occultist to be inspired by the figure in question, either. It’s safe to say, in fact, that American magic would never have become what it was without the influence of Franz Anton Mesmer.

Franz Anton Mesmer.

Most of the people these days who have heard of Mesmer think that he was the inventor of hypnotism.  He wasn’t; hypnotism was manufactured out of fragments of his teaching long after he was dead.  What Mesmer actually did was something far, far worse. He transgressed against the most jealously defended taboo of Western science and touched the electrified third rail of the Age of Reason.  That is to say, he discovered the life force.

Outside the modern industrial West, it’s worth noting, this wouldn’t even make the local news. The vast majority of human cultures around the world and across the ages have known that this curious thing we call “life” is closely associated with a force or influence which can be concentrated, dispersed, stored, directed, and worked with in a range of ways, using methods that don’t vary that much from culture to culture or from age to age. The vast majority of human languages have a common word for the life force, usually but not always associated with breath. If you’re Chinese, you talk about qi; if you’re Japanese, you talk about ki; if you’re speaking one of the many languages of the Indian subcontinent descended from Sanskrit, you talk about prana or some very close equivalent; if you’re a member of the !Kung tribe of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, you talk about n|um—the ! and the | are both clicks, which are used as consonants in the !Kung language.

For that matter, if you watched the first Star Wars movie (“Episode 4”) and let the others sink into the oblivion they deserve, you won’t be too far off track, because the Force was George Lucas’ version of the life force (borrowed from ki, which features in the Japanese samurai flicks he looted so systematically). In that original movie, furthermore, the things that the Force does—clouding minds, controlling muscles, extending perceptions—are things that people have been doing with the life force since before we finished becoming human.  I sometimes think that all the absurd and flashy special effects the later movies loaded onto the Force happened because Lucas suddenly realized how close he’d come to tabooed territory, and hurried to fill his later flicks with cheap fantasy as a kind of self-inflicted penance for his sins.

Not the Franz Anton Mesmer you’re looking for.

Franz Anton Mesmer didn’t make films, so he didn’t get away so lightly. He was an Austrian physician, born in 1734, who made the mistake of trying to apply scientific methods to one of the subjects that scientists aren’t supposed to think about exploring.  His experiments convinced him that a life force, which he called “animal magnetism,” emanates from all living things; it surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.  (Yes, he almost said this word for word.)  He found that he could concentrate, disperse, store, and direct animal magnetism, and worked out various ways to use it for healing.  One of the things he learned to do with it was to put people into trances.  As far as I know he never used it to make somebody say “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” but the principle was pretty much the same.

Mesmer’s complicated career is a story all its own, but it’s not particularly relevant to our tale. What matters here is that mesmerism, the system of working with animal magnetism that Mesmer created, turned out to be easy to teach and easy to learn, and books brought it to the newborn United States in due time.  By the 1830s, traveling mesmerists made a living all over the young republic giving lectures and demonstrations, and so it was that in 1843 one such mesmerist named Dr. J.S. Grimes arrived in Poughkeepsie, New York with that in mind.  In the course of one of the lectures, he tried to mesmerise a young man named Andrew Jackson Davis, the dirt-poor son of the town drunk.  That initial attempt at trance had no effect.  After Grimes left town, however, a local tailor who had learned a little mesmerism tried again, and not only put Davis into a deep trance, but found that while in trance Davis could diagnose illnesses at least as well as professional doctors, and accomplish a variety of other impressive feats.

The young A.J. Davis.

Many more trances followed as these abilities became widely known.  On the evening of March 6, 1844, however, Davis suddenly plunged into a spontaneous trance, and came out of it the next morning forty miles away from home in the Catskill Mountains.  According to his account of this experience, two spirits were waiting for him there—the Roman physician Galen, and none other than Emanuel Swedenborg. These two spirit guides proceeded to instruct him, and then sent him home.  From then on he traveled widely giving public teachings and lectures, and dictated a whole series of sprawling books while in trance. These became wildly successful—his first major work, The Principles of Nature, was published in 1847 (Davis was just 21 at the time) and went through 34 editions in less than 30 years, and his sprawling six-volume treatise The Great Harmonia, published in 1850, saw 40 editions.

Davis liked to insist that he had only read one book in his life, and that was a novel.  As it happens, this wasn’t true; it was simply part of the colorful persona he adopted, that of the unspoiled and untutored child of nature whose visionary gifts made up for an absence of schooling.  In reality he read voraciously, and large sections of what he read tended to turn up in his trance discourses, sometimes in highly recognizable form.  As this suggests, like many of the greatest American occultists, he was a bit of a con man and a bit of a snake oil salesman, perfectly willing to paint the lily and gild refinéd gold if that would help him get his message across and make enough money to pay his bills.  Yet Davis was far more than an occult-themed grifter.  He believed devoutly in his own revelations, and scored some remarkable anticipations of later science—he predicted in advance the discovery of two more planets beyond Uranus, for example, and taught the evolution of human beings from animals well before Darwin did.

Davis’ economic situation got a lot less challenging when he went on a speaking tour in New England and met Catherine de Wolf.  A wealthy woman twenty years his senior, she became his patron, his lover, and (after getting a divorce via a special act of the Rhode Island legislature—that’s what it took in those days) his first wife.  The runaway success of The Principles of Nature added to Davis’ income, too, and it also made his reputation in another way.  In there among the colorful descriptions of cosmic evolution, he had written:  “It is a truth that Spirits commune with one another while one is in the body and the other in the higher spheres—and this, too, when the person in the body is unconscious of the influx, and hence cannot be convinced of the fact; and this truth will ere long present itself in the form of a living demonstration. And the world will hail with delight the ushering in of that era when the interiors of men will be opened, and the spiritual communion will be established.”

The Fox sisters.

The “living demonstration” arrived promptly the following year.  It was in 1848 when three girls in the town of Hydesville, New York—Catherine, Leah, and Margaret Fox—started hearing tapping noises in their home, and found they could communicate with the invisible tapper through arrangements of the “tap once for yes” kind.  The taps ended up spelling out an ordinary ghost story—a transient murdered and buried in a basement, seeking proper burial for his bones—but this once, the tale didn’t stay in the usual habitat of late-night firesides and the like. It leapt into the newspapers, became a cause celebré on an international scale, and encouraged first dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of people to try to contact spirits on their own.

What made this significant is that they didn’t wait around for phantoms who had the trick of making tapping noises.  Instead, they used the mesmeric trances that Andrew Jackson Davis had helped make famous, and found that they could get voices—apparently, the voices of the dead—to speak through their lips while they were entranced. Very quickly the most successful practitioners began to attract followings of their own, who came to listen to messages from their dead relatives.  The era of Spiritualism had arrived.

Scholars of the history of religions have sketched out the rhythms by which new religious movements arise—first the charismatic era when wonders abound and attention focuses on iconic individuals whose unique personal talents and foibles give an abiding shape to the newborn movement; then the institutional era when organizations are founded, buildings constructed, doctrines hammered out, and respectability sets in. Spiritualism is among other things a classic example of that process in action.  The history of the movement in the nineteenth century was dominated by individual mediums, some of them international celebrities, who were surrounded by adoring crowds and dogged by accusations of fraud and immorality.  In the twentieth century, by contrast, the history of spiritualism was one of congregations and organizations, most of them very quiet and well integrated into their communities.

These transformations also had a significant impact on the American occult scene.  Two weeks ago I mentioned the way that certain new religious movements attract occultists in their early days, and then shed the occultist portion of their membership once they become older and more respectable. Spiritualism is one of the examples.  In its freewheeling early days it was wide open to almost every form of alternative thought, and a great many American occultists then and for some time thereafter discovered that they could make a tolerably good living going into trance and letting an assortment of dead relatives of audience members speak through their lips.  The traveling Spiritualist medium soon joined the traveling mesmerist on America’s roads and early railways, and then largely displaced him.

Davis in his glory days.

Andrew Jackson Davis, for his part, jumped on the Spiritualist bandwagon the moment it started rolling.  In order to find its feet and establish itself as an enduring presence, Spiritualism needed theory to accompany its first hastily assembled body of practices and its uneven but occasionally astonishing demonstrations.  This Davis was ready, willing, and able to provide.  By the time the Fox sisters became famous, he had learned to enter conscious trance states on his own, without having to rely on the services of a mesmerist.  In that condition he wrote essays, articles, and books in great profusion, proclaiming the Spiritualist gospel to the world.  In the process, he created much of that gospel, using raw materials taken from popular Christianity, Swedenborgianism, Western occult traditions, and his own trance experiences.

He has been called the John the Baptist of Spiritualism, but it’s more accurate to think of Davis as a kind of madcap fusion of John the Baptist and St. Paul, the man who proclaimed the coming of the Spiritualist revelation and then gave the new religious movement its enduring theology and conceptual form.  In the process, though, he lent his charisma and his following to the new movement, and in the normal way of things, those who loan these things to a religious movement can count on never having them returned. In a nutshell, that’s what happened to the Poughkeepsie Seer.  He morphed from Andrew Jackson Davis, unique American visionary, to Andrew Jackson Davis, promoter of a movement that had many other prominent advocates and could afford to ignore him if he left the fold.

That movement, furthermore, turned out to have serious problems of its own. To begin with, the glorious era of easy communication between the living and the dead proclaimed by the early Spiritualists never quite got around to showing up. Part of the reason was that evidence proving that the utterances of mediums really were messages from beyond the grave turned out to be frustratingly scant.  There were some astonishing individual cases, but the great majority of what came through was trite and formulaic, and there were a great many embarrassing failures—for example, missing people who were contacted in the spirit world and later turned out to be quite alive, or information received from spirits that later evidence proved to be dead wrong.

Far more troubling than this was the explosive growth of fraud in the Spiritualist movement. Given some acting talent, some skill in reading an audience, and a few sleight-of-hand tricks, it’s possible to become a very successful fake medium, not least because so many of the people who attend seances so desperately want to believe that they can contact the dead. Spiritualism thus came to the attention of the mighty army of grifters, scammers, and con artists who have played so colorful a role in our national history, and the profession of fake medium became one of the standard career options for those talented souls who aspired to something grander and more lucrative than common or garden variety bunco schemes. By the last decades of the nineteenth century, as a result, public exposures of fraudulent mediums drew even bigger crowds than the mediums themselves did.

As the twin specters of failure and fraud became an ever more important presence at Spiritualist seances, Davis decided to wash his hands of the movement he helped to found and guide, and set out to reclaim his former career as an independent visionary and occult teacher.  His declaration of independence was an 1873 book titled The Diakka and their Earthly Victims.  The Diakka, in Davis’ complicated cosmology, are lying spirits.  While Davis insisted that some of the spirits contacted by mediums were genuine spirits of the dead, he noted that many Spiritualist mediums were clearly under the control of dishonest and deceptive entities.  He went on to write many more books expounding the Harmonial Philosophy, as he called his version of occult philosophy, but he was never able to attract more than a very modest following.

Davis in his last years.

The fact of the matter was that by 1873, Davis had been left behind by the main currents of American occultism. By then New Thought had leapt out of Phineas Quimby’s imagination to become a massive presence in the occult scene and American culture in general, and occultists in New York City were weaving together a network that two years later would give birth to the Theosophical Society. Davis accordingly went to medical school in New York, where he met and fell in love with his fellow medical student Della Markham, who like his first wife, happened to be married to someone else. (He’d had a second wife in between Catherine and Della, but that marriage ended in divorce.) They graduated with matching M.D. degrees, she got divorced, they got married, and the couple relocated to Boston, where Davis practiced medicine for a while and then opened a bookstore selling progressive books of all kinds.  By the time he died in 1910, he was almost entirely forgotten.


  1. My first takeaway upon reading the story of Andrew Jackson Davis was the extent to which people of that era were preoccupied with the realm of the mind, and the spirit as opposed to today’s consumer society where most people are preoccupied with the realm of physical objects. Even much of todays religious life has been reoriented to the realm of the physical in the form of “prosperity gospel”. The traveling salesman of today ( though they mostly travel on the internet) usually make a living promising a better body, more health, fancy houses and cars, or the promise of “financial independence.” Perhaps we are nearing a point where the supply of physical objects to acquire dries up and the masses will once again return to the realm of the mind and spirit.

  2. How did the business of travelling spiritual performers work? For example were there agents and promoters who specialised in the field?

  3. I have long known elements on the “right” of America prefer a ‘whitewashed” version of history. It has only been in recent years, and particularly since 2016, that I have ascertained a desire within much of the left to wipe out most of history. All of the founders of this thing we call Western Civilization were racist rich white guys and so everything they said is off limits, in this way of thinking. Word is you can’t even read outloud MLK Jr’s Letters From A Birmingham Jail in some Universities without fear of losing your job, because it contains a word that cannot be said. Matt Taibbi has written some interesting articles lately about censorship emanating form the left. Lee Fang at the Intercept has felt it of late, excoriated as a racist and a misogynist. Even Michael Moore has felt the wrath for daring to question the underlying assumptions about renewable energy saving modernism as we know it.

    It makes me want to leave the city, retreat to the relative wilderness in trance, to see about that 3rd rail, to make a worthy life outside the influence of woksterism on the one hand, and the boosterism of the holy (ecologically pathological) market to fix all things on the other.

  4. I wonder if the life force is related to Ruppert Shelldrake’s “morphic resonance”?

  5. “the profession of fake medium became one of the standard career options for those talented souls who aspired to something grander and more lucrative than common or garden variety bunco schemes”.

    That’s pretty funny! I know well a couple of mediums/channelers, one of whom I’m married to. And I also see a medical intuitive now and again. Some of the information they provide can be so spot on and insightful, some seems true but ho hum, some more obviously a reflection of their own biases and some can be just flat wrong. And it also seems likely that channeled spirits could be just kinda dull or not very well informed or, as we used to say in England, “taking the mickey”. I believe strongly that there is some thing useful there, but you have to apply a good degree of discernment and be able to tolerate some rabbit holes. So I can see how poorly that might come across in the context of organized religion, where people expect more of a guaranteed experience.

  6. Just in regards to your mentioning at the beginning about how we too often label things in history and all associated with those things as either good, or bad.. I noticed this in action recently with public radio. I enjoy listening to the old time radio dramas, and one from nearby Wisconsin in particular. While reviewing their website, I came across the announcement that the Old Time Radio Drama show was to be cancelled nearly immediately. Upon reading the reasoning, it was explained that “Many of these plays and productions were produced more than 60 years ago and include racist and sexist material. Despite significant effort over the years, it has been nearly impossible to find historic programs without offensive and outdated content. And, ultimately, these programs don’t represent the values of WPR and The Ideas Network’s focus on public service through news and information.”

    I am a bit appalled, but as you noted, this is par for the course as history goes.

  7. JMG said:
    “As this suggests, like many of the greatest American occultists, he was a bit of a con man and a bit of a snake oil salesman, perfectly willing to paint the lily and gild refinéd gold if that would help him get his message across and make enough money to pay his bills.”

    This is something that I struggle with. Like a ridiculous TV show said: “I want to believe”. The problem is that digging into any of this occult, spiritual etc trends, most of what I see is lies and conmen.

    I understand that 90% of everything is crap (Sturgeon’s law) and I also understand that these are sensitive issues because like healthcare, people are eager to suspend disbelief simply because of fear of death. Just like healthcare this opens the door for a lot of abusers to come in and extort money in exchange for false promises.

    The problem is that the effort to dig through the muck in hope of finding anything worthwhile is more than I can do. What is the correct level of healthy skepticism and open mindedness?

    I was never attracted to the latest fashion and to me, spirituality, like new age or witchcraft follows the fashion of the time and changes accordingly. I don’t see the continuation – the grand old books that are debated and updated according to the newly acquired knowledge.

    I hope that the book you are writing as well as this series of posts, provide a framework that will allow me to understand this cultural phenomenon.


  8. Clay, even in Davis’ time America was famous elsewhere as the land where worship of the almighty dollar trumped every other concern, and there were vast armies of traveling salesmen roaming the land selling material goods, fraudulent or otherwise. The contrary focus on mind and spirit is also one of our enduring national characteristics — I wouldn’t be able to make a living as an author of occult nonfiction if that weren’t the case! But it does happen from time to time that the focus on mind and spirit becomes more visible and more widely accepted, and it would be very helpful if one of those could be kickstarted in the near future. Yes, I’m working on it. 😉

    Yorkshire, yes, of course there were. In the days before electronic entertainment media, performers of all kinds traveled from place to place, going from one performance venue to another; the owners and managers of auditoriums and theaters vied with one another to book interesting performers of all kinds, so that the auditorium that hosted an Andrew Jackson Davis lecture one night, for example, might host a concert the next night and a performance by two jugglers who did a comedy patter the night after that. The better grade of performer had managers who contacted venues and booked them in advance; the lower echelons simply traveled from town to town, looking for a spot where they could perform. It was very lively, and much less of a mental monoculture than today’s mass entertainment media.

    Marlena13, did you know that Lucas ripped off the plot of the first Star Wars movie from one of the films that made Mifune’s career? The title was Hidden Fortress, and it’s a better film than Lucas’ production. In place of Obi-Wan, it had a samurai general, played by Mifune; in place of Princess Leia, Princess Yuki; the two droids were two peasants; Darth Vader was an enemy general, and so on. Very nearly the only addition to the basic plot was Luke Skywalker. More broadly, Lucas had clearly been watching a lot of Kurosawa samurai flicks when he put together the plot of the first movie. So it’s not surprising he offered a role to Mifune!

    William, yes, I’ve been watching with astonishment as the American left has turned into the exact image of everything it used to oppose. It’s really bizarre. That third rail, by the way, is perfectly safe so long as you don’t mind being on the receiving end of saliva-spraying diatribes by self-described rationalists; the only thing it will electrocute is your chance at respectability.

    Raymond, good. Morphic resonance is a good description of the way that patterns form and propagate through the life force.

    Mark, exactly. Mediumship is interesting stuff, and it’s been used in many cultures as a way to tap into the deeper levels of consciousness, with results that are often quite useful. The problem with American Spiritualism is that it was massively overhyped by its promoters — Andrew Jackson Davis among them — and then failed to live up to its inflated billing.

  9. Prizm, now surprise me. Public broadcasting these days functions as the propaganda arm of the movement I’ve called “privileged progressivism,” and that movement is frantically trying to erase the past just now. I hope some other radio station, perhaps one of conservative leanings, picks up the Old Time Radio Drama and runs with it; “offensive and outdated,” translated out of wokespeak, generally means “providing a different perspective on the world.”

    NomadicBeer, you won’t find the continuity in the mass-market versions of spiritual pop culture, and — with some exceptions –Wicca and the New Age scene fall squarely into that category. On the other hand, there are plenty of grand old books being discussed by serious occultists; I’ve translated some of them into English, in case you’re interested. 😉

  10. I’ve always felt that history has to be studied, not just told. One of the more interesting things for me was to read other countries written histories of what happened within our own country – as they are outside spectators and many have no skin in our games.

    It’s important to know other things transpiring at the same time – for instance, one can tell you that the southern states seceded and the Civil War was thus begun. But what was happening concurrent with these things? What were people doing in different states and regions that allowed or reinforced the division? What did other writers from other countries see from where they were observing?

    Flattening history to a timeline is some very severe dilution and 2-D thinking IMO. If you look around today, what is driving the craziness we are witnessing across the country? I have found that reading other news outlets from abroad is very enlightening when compared to the lockstep press here in the US. And this is rapidly being woven into our own history day by day.

    I’m glad you broached Spiritualism, as it was a rather large chunk of our occult back in the day.

    But even more, it’s good for people to grok that it is a ‘force’ that has been readily identified across the planet and throughout history – thanks for roping that into your essay. When I watched the original Star Wars movie, the mention of “the Force” had me smiling as I sat there munching popcorn…

  11. JMG,

    I’m enjoying this series. Lots of new information for me. Just one question, you’ve pointed out numerous times the fact that science refuses to investigate things like the life force and astrology. They say astrology is a sham because there’s no evidence for it, so they won’t look for any evidence. This may be true, but when did that attitude take hold? You’ve also pointed out repeatedly that Newton was an alchemist. So when did science decide these topics were off limits, and how did that happen? If the phenomena are real, and scientists once believed they were, why did they ever become off limits to science?

  12. It’s interesting to see how the waves of popular movements pick up individuals and cast them aside as they crash onto shore. On the other hand, as you evidenced in your reply to Clay, there is a lot that an individual can do. I guess there’s much to be said about the kinds of egregores one invests time and energy into…

  13. I can recommend The Hidden Fortress, it’s a blast. I read that when Kurosawa and the scriptwriter were working on the script, at the end of each day they’d put the princess and the General into an impossible predicament. The following day was spent getting them out of it.

  14. Hi JMG,
    Your descriptions of Davis, his trances and medical intuitions remind me of Edgar Cayce. From what I’ve read about Cayce, he is supposed to be essentially a one-off that hasn’t appeared before and never will again. What do you think?

  15. Oilman2, thank you for this. There are quite a few strategies that are used to keep people from being able to learn anything from history, and eliminating alternative perspectives is one of them. Getting foreign perspectives on our history — or, for that matter, on their own history — is a good antidote. One exercise I found very useful was to choose a single year and find out what was going on all over the world in that year. What were the big news stories? What were the controversies? What nations were the center of global economic and political activity — and if it’s a year before 1700 and you name a country in Europe, by the way, think again. That sort of perspective is extremely helpful if you want to pop yourself out of the mental monoculture that flattens history into a straight line — or erases it completely.

    John, it happened between 1650 and 1700, as science stopped being the private hobby of a few eccentrics and turned into the ideology of the mercantile (and, later, capitalist) classes. I’ll do a post on that one of these days.

    Isaac, got it in one. Choose your movements carefully.

    Your Kittenship, it’s a great film! Kurosawa generally is great, but I like his earlier films most.

    Bird, it’s a standard part of the marketing of figures like Davis and Cayce to claim that they’re one of a kind — which they most emphatically are not. They’re a standard type, and we’ll be talking about more of them as this narrative proceeds.

  16. Prizm,

    Well, NPR and WPR and suchlike are not independent radio anymore. They are now liberal mouthpieces. I, on the other hand, look for older content (in movies for example) because I am just so heartily sick of the obvious manipulation in the newer stuff. So eye-roll worthy.

  17. Yeats was no stranger to seances. I came across this spirit photo of him recently that was supposed to have been taken at a seance in 1914.

    Looks a bit dodgy to me.

    Thanks for this enlightening series. As for the poster trying to make Johnny Appleseed a Bad Person, this has got to be the unacknowledged hypocritical shadow of the modern Good Person projected.

  18. Oilman2,

    I, for one, would be interested in any good takes you get from outside countries’ news. My general impression is that the European news on things American are even more spare and lockstep than here, lacking nuance because it is all mainstream.

    Certainly I am aghast to discover how wide the deep state is. I thought of it as a US situation, but that is obviously not so.

    I confess that I have not even read the last two Dion Fortune posts as I have been emotionally unable to tear myself away from the awful and fascinating details of our current national distress.

  19. John, it happened between 1650 and 1700, as science stopped being the private hobby of a few eccentrics and turned into the ideology of the mercantile (and, later, capitalist) classes. I’ll do a post on that one of these days.

    But didn’t it really pick up steam after 1800 or thereabouts? I, for one, would really enjoy that post.

  20. JMG and All – hello

    The first part of your post brought to mind a fairytale – “Red Riding Hood” and the “Big Bad Wolf”.

    These archetypal players or figures; good vs bad, dark vs light… and exactly as you say, it has kept us from looking at what really needs to be looked at.

    Yes, fairytales are based on stories from the past. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if people of today viewed the past as a fairytale?

    To see the lesson behind the story and, as you say to learn from it, instead of being drawn into a drama that was.

    What’s happened is instead of learning from the past, some people, who continually look back at the past are literally stuck there.

    What’s worse is that past energy is being brought forth now.

    So the now that we could be experiencing is being sabotaged by a past that isn’t even ours.

    So the past is merely being repeated. Those old groves getting deeper and deeper; similar to those “tracks” which Dion Fortune refers to.

    All of this just keeps the human race from questioning and asking what is really important.

    Like how we can all work together (including Mother Earth / Gaia in the equation) vs being stuck in the illusion of separation and duality.

    Anyways. A wonderful story you have shared. Love your “declaration of independence” quip. Very funny!

    I’ve discovered that, like applying discernment to those who cross our paths on the physical realm, it’s equally, if not more so, important to be discerning when it comes to formless “forms”.

    A malicious or chaos-loving entity would take every opportunity to play with unsusceptible humans. And then you have to wonder whether those humans have just brought it all upon themselves.

    And then this ties into the past being repeated. Who or what is really pulling the strings, when humans are blinded by egoic greed, fear, narcissism etc.?

    Ahh! But we have so much “work” to do! 🙂

    Sending you all joyful vibes ~

    ~ Tanya

  21. Raymond Reichelt….Oooo!! Rupert Sheldrake !! Haven’t heard mention of him in decades!! I was also thinking of Wilhelm Reich, and how the Powers had to discredit his findings.
    JMG, so funny that many of the “great” US movie plots are thinly veiled rip offs of other films. Since those other films don;’t have sequels, the US screen writers are left to their own devices, and the decline is obvious. Not only with Star Wars, but in the older “Magnificent Seven ” sequels. Ive even seen a 7 hour version of “The Seven Samurai”. Isn’t one of the signs of a collapsing society the loss of originality, and the copying, over and over of something that once worked, and now needs more and more “special effects” to mask it’s true emptiness?

  22. I would also like to read how the merchants/early capitalists co-opted the intelectual/scientific discourse in the late 17th century. More information would be much appreciated.

  23. Does the scientific method have weaknesses that make science prone to getting stuck in ruts? Before doing an experiment scientists are supposed to have a hypothesis of what’s going to happen and why. To a certain point you do need to have some idea what might happen, if only so you have the right kind of fire extinguisher on hand. 🙂 But doesn’t that build in confirmation bias?

  24. Hello JMG,

    When the decline of Spiritualism gave way to newer currents of occultism (like New Thought and Theosophy), the focus of mediumship also seemed to have shifted from ordinary human ghosts to higher orders of beings (like deities, angels, inner plane adepts etc.). In that respect, the occult revival of the second half of 19th century contains a reaction against the “lower” focus of Spiritualism. Was it because of the piling up of fraudulent cases in the Spiritualist scene, or some subtler factors in higher planes?


  25. Back in the old days, my husband got to an extremely high level of karate. At the super-high level, there was a secret move taught that could kill with a soft blow, almost no more than a touch. It had to be in a specific point of the body, and if the person who used it wasn’t an absolute expert, it simply would not work.

    The killing touch was obviously a life energy disruptor.

  26. I discovered a useful concept yesterday while reading in a recent book about neoliberalism and the Mont Pelerin Society: the concept is “the Overton Window.” That is to say, the range of acceptable public discourse. The claim was made that the MPS neoliberals had “shifted the Overton Window.” All public discourse lying outside the Overton WIndow is unacceptable or at least not respectable. I suppose we know where discussion of occultism in general and Rupert Sheldrake in particular would land. Franz Mesmer and Wilhelm Reich,also. Maybe this blog could shift the Overton Window.

  27. I spent one school year in British Columbia (8th grade). My first shock was that the BC schools considered themselves to be in advance of American ones, so they insisted that I repeat 8th grade. I didn’t really mind since I had been skipped a grade (did 5 & 6 in one year) and this put me back with my age group. Eighth was the year for Canadian history, as 7th had been world history. How many Americans know that the Revolutionaries invaded Canada? They hoped the Canadians would join the revolt, but since the majority at the time were French Canadian Roman Catholics they didn’t believe they would get a better deal from Puritan New Englanders than from England itself, since England had restored French law and guaranteed religious freedom for Catholics earlier. The US invaded a second time during the War of 1812 and were repulsed. Never learned about any of this in US history classes.

    And we won’t even get into Samuel Johnson’s famous comment, “how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of negroes?”


  28. The insistence that everyone in the past be either pure evil with a side of evil sauce or all loving goodness without a speck in their hearts seems to be a way to pretend the people of the past weren’t human beings. I’m not sure what to make of it, but it seems like it’s important.

  29. My wife has been interacting with her old high school classmates from Maui on facebook since her reunion this summer. To a person they have not been upset with the economic situation in the current times, but instead seem happy to be rid of the meaningless tourism jobs they have in normal times. They are most pleased that the tourists are gone because in their words, they don’t respect the Pono or the Aina. These two Hawaiian words are not easily translated in to english but together they can be taken as a kind of Hawaiian version of the force. Aina means respect for the land as a life force, and Pono can be roughly translated as righteousness, but means doing the thing which puts you in harmony with the world. My hope is that this “time out” will help reinforce this old way of thinking, at least in Hawaii and perhaps spread elsewhere.

  30. The recent exploration of early 19th century occultism has been very interesting for me. I was raised in the Mormon religion and parted ways with it philosophically after a detailed study of its history caused some very strong cognitive dissonance over the very different beliefs and practices employed over that religions diverse history.
    The founders of mormonism in the early 19th century were from New England and attracted early converts from many open minded congregations throughout the region and definitely borrowed heavily from the occult traditions, incorporating communications with spirits, visions from god, spiritual magic, and the restoration of “true” Christianity similar to Swedenborg. All in all it’s been very education to fill in some of my knowledge gaps of the history of American occultism and the antecedents of many of the religious ideas I was raised with.

  31. Star Wars in general was not about breaking new ground but about rehashing things that other people had already cooked, warmed them up and served those leftovers hot and not-so-fresh. If you thought that the Force was a derivative idea, just check out the music, nothing but warmed up leftovers there too. Skip to 8:43 where he starts comparing music tracks with what went before, but the whole video is rather good if you have the time.

    You just get the feeling that the old 19th c America was a lot weirder and more energetic than the tired old Murica that can barely get out of its own way in the early 21st.

    Whatever else you may critique about scientific materialism, it does have a mechanism (when followed) for weeding out fraud and corruption. I will grant you that the mechanism is rather creaky and rusty at this point though. One of the things you really have to be careful of when going “spiritual offroading” is the fraud, it’s so easy for people to be fraudulent and it’s really hard to tell whether they’re incompetent and well meaning – or fraudulent and malicious…

  32. A couple of observations – on your intro, rather than the main body of the post. First, that the human race is avidly living down to Martin Luther’s famous comparison of it to the village drunk on the back of a horse. First falling off on one side, and then on the other.

    To extend the analogy, Dobbin will get back to the stable for certain. The drunk, however, may end up in a roadside ditch and wake up all muddy, hung over, sick, and wondering “what the blazes was I THINKING?”

    Or he may be rudely awakened in the hay by a bucket of water in the face and the business end of a broom being applied to his backside. And he staggers through his front door under a rain of broomstick blows and to the tune of a berating of operatic length and volume and a fair number of dire threats amounting to “and there had better not be a next time, or your goose will be well and truly cooked.”.

    The second is, that all those who have read and believe in the Fourth Turning model have been complaining since the Reagan years that this cycle’s Idealist generation failed to – many said, ‘chose not to’ – take up the moral authority that so marked their predecessors. Like the Transcendentalists, who saw “the glory of the coming of the Lord” in the most destructive war to hit our nation. Or like the reformers who preached the Social Gospel and practiced what they preached and inspired my father and his contemporaries and Bernie Sanders et. al.

    Well, I’m here to tell your readers, out of their own and your mouths, they didn’t drop the ball at all. They’re the SJW’s of today, as totally moralistic as John Brown, whose body does lie mouldering in the grave. And they see things of black and white, good and evil, just like the Transcendentalists over the slavery issue. And have assumed the moral authority with a lot more shrillness than those stately bearded basso profundos but with the same self-righteous certainty.

    Now, I happen to think the Transcendentalists were right, and the war inevitable, as long as the South clung to slavery as tightly as their contemporary writings indicate. And that while the turn-of-the-century reformers paved the way for a lot of centralizing, mild authoritarianism, and the rule of theories over common sense, they also did a lot of good and made some needed reforms. That’s beside the point.

    BTW, yes, they are all of the chattering classes. So were their predecessors. As surely as your tyrants are aristocrats who carry the populist banner, as surely as revolutions* eat their own children, your idealist moral authorities -s self-appointed, but followed by those who want their certainties – are the intellectuals and generally have been.

    *The American Revolution was not in the classic mold of revolutions, but in the classic mold of wars of colonial independence. As some old Yankee of the period said “We want to govern ourselves, and they were not about to let us.”

    Excuse the rant! And the length of it! And yes, real history is made of of some very colorful and spotty characters, and anyone who needs as plastic hero or plastic villain has the emotional maturity of the kid asking if Catwoman in the cartoons is a good one or a bad one. (The answer is, “yes.”)

  33. For anyone interested, I would highly recommend The film “KWAIDAN”, directed by Masaki Kobayashi – a series of four ‘ghost stories’ he adapted from Lafcadio Hearn’s collection of Japanese folklore. Superb imo .. the sets alone are worth the viewing, and for 1965, would put Holywood to shame!

  34. Dear John Michael Greer,

    As one who has written about Andrew Jackson Davis (as part of a brief history of the metaphysical ideas leading to Spiritualism, and thence to Spiritism, specifically, the late 19th-century Spiritism that Francisco I. Madero encountered in France), I was delighted to read this richly researched and fascinating post– the best thing I have yet read about Andrew Jackson Davis. I assume this will be part of a book– one that is indeed much needed for a fuller understanding of American history. I look forward to reading more. Thank you!

  35. JMG – Since you mention “not the droids you’re looking for”, I’ll mention that THAT little bit was stolen from Dune. In Dune, it (plausibly) only worked on its object (“victim”) for a moment, but sometimes a moment of compliance was all one needed to change the balance of a situation. (I rationalized it as “in every everyone’s life, there was some person who you learned to obey by reflex, whether mother, father, or Drill Instructor, and anyone else who could impersonate that person could trigger the same reflexive obedience. Or, maybe you just redirect the ki and they go with the flow.)

    Star Wars “light sabers” had everything to do with Japanese kendo sparring, which I took up around the time that the movie came out (the first time, when Han Shot First). The nice thing about fighting with a weapon is that when the time for fighting is over, you can put the weapon safely away. That’s not so easy to do with hands, elbows, and feet as weapons.

  36. This is synchronicity, right here.

    This morning, I was reflecting on how my brain wants to tell me dooooom, as I spend my days trying to track policy to the economic and social fallout in our community, and read the world’s news that lines up so well with astrological forecasts… But when I ask each day what I should see, my divinations keep being like “it’s spring, hurray for spring!”, and other commenters have said they felt heavy things begin to shift early this year, and, well, Johnny Appleseed, Johnny Appleseed. Those of us with gardens can see it – we are not green thumbs, but we harvested our first cucumber June 13 in the soggy Pacific Northwest. The oldest tagged grizzly bear in BC just had quadruplets, and the deer known for having her fawns outside a university lecture theatre in town had triplets this year. I dropped all my other books to start to reading The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage on a whim, and only then, (because like the Simpson’s joke goes, I’m Canadian, so I’m a little slow, eh…) did I figure out it. Then I opened today’s post.

    The life force itself must be moving? Growing? Intensifying? right now. And that makes sense, if my brain thinks the world I live in is ending, it must be because another one is being born. This is not an either/or proposition, death or life intensifying. Today, the card was Daleth. It makes sense my brain is afraid of that, because colts and canaries don’t live beyond the eastern wall, only unicorns and fairies. And when they become tame again, settlers and reservations grow instead of the forests that Johnny and the tribes lived in. The new world didn’t remember its birth very long, or its former lives.

    So… Plant apples, I guess, neither stripedest kitten, prophet, nor tiny tiger ever remain, but their children’s great grandchildren may still drink cider. And at any time, a person born in the old world can still choose to run with the rabbit and lay down with the stream until their own trees overtake them in the new (the way they’re supposed to anyway).

  37. Bostjan mentioned wanting to learn more about “how the merchants/early capitalists co-opted the intellectual/scientific discourse in the late 17th century.” Has the same thing happened in recent years, wherein the merchants (large monied elite) co-opt control scientific discourse to benefit themselves financially? A most overt example of this is the control of “science” inside (but not outside) the U.S. to declare that hydroxychloroquine does not work with zinc as an antiviral, in favor of a big merchant’s overpriced and generally ineffective remdesivir. Can we learn anything from such comparison? For example was the co-option of intellectual/scientific discourse by American merchants seen as a purely American phenomenon wherein the scientific reality differed in Europe or other places that lacked the American merchants? In this context I note that for many years now, basic “psychology” science principles differ in continental Europe compared to those same truths in America. The Soviet Union had Lysenko-ism in their agricultural science. I wonder if anyone has provided a method for discovering this co-option of truth by the merchant.

  38. As I got about halfway through, to your description of “…an army of grifters, scammers, and con artists…” I had to laugh, because what sprang to mind was Canada Bill Jones’ Motto, “It is morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.” and P.T. Barnum’s saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
    It seems to be a common theme throughout history, but America seems to have elevated it to an art form with an especially extensive gallery of colourful characters indeed.
    More seriously, thank you for this series, since my only available access to learning about “the occult” aside from communing with the life-force of trees in the woods, has hitherto been new-age bookstores with absolutely no institutional memory of any of these people.
    It is as if all occultism began with something called Rosicrucianism, then about 100 years later, the Hellfire Club, an acknowledgement of a few historically-minded people reviving Druidry, and then really only began with Mme Blavatsky and Aleistair Crowley, got a boost from Margaret Murray, and then disappeared until Gerald Gardiner and then skipped right to San Francisco in the late 1960s.
    Then everyone in the scene claimed some occult grandmother who managed to somehow secretly pass down (exclusively in the female line, of course, and right under the noses of “The Patriarchy”) a genuine religious tradition from ancient times. This despite the *extremely* aggressive Holy Inquisition by a pervasive Church. These are the same people who routinely repeated the “9 million” story, which makes claims of genuine survival of an ancient religion extremely improbable, not to mention slightly psychotic, since if the Church was being that aggressive, how in the world did they manage to find partners who could keep their mouths shut so they could keep passing this Big Secret on to the next generation, &c.
    Ahem. Apologies.
    Aside from loving history in all its glorious complexities, I also tend to be fascinated by both irony and people apparently do not experience cognitive dissonance.
    What I mean to say is this fascinating tour of the real history of occultism in the colonies is an excellent balm from the daily events unfolding as The American Empire crumbles in the twilight of Western European Faustian Civilization.

  39. Possibly an astrological tie with the Jupiter/Saturn/Pluto conjunction, which is (to an extent) running in retrograde right now: an inward-facing (retrograde) desire to destroy (Pluto) as much as possible (Jupiter) about the past (Saturn).

    This is also, I think, the flailing of the moribund civil religion of progress. Social progress was dealt a major blow when Hillary Clinton failed to be elected on schedule in 2016, which I think to them was roughly the equivalent of Jesus beginning to ascend triumphantly into Heaven only for Satan to ride up on horseback and shoot an arrow into his heart, re-killing him. Economic progress has been co-opted by this orange-haired devil, and besides, “everyone” “knows” it “really” only benefits the privileged rich, and scientific progress was recently dealt a blow by the coronavirus pandemic (which isn’t a thing that should be happening Here In The Year 2020, at least not in rich countries!).

    Progress having failed, they are turning to apocalypse. The wicked past, manifested most prominently in the persona of Donald Trump and his blasphemous slogans (“Make America Great Again” implies (1.) past-America was great, (2.) present-America is not, and by specious syllogism the past was better than the present, and That Must Not Be), must be eviscerated. Oldthinkers, after all, unbellyfeel Ingsoc.

  40. Kwaidan is a great movie too! Although in the Snow Lady sequence I did FF past the men’s (very long) struggle through the blizzard. The other 3 sequences zipped right along.

  41. JMG :”Scholars of the history of religions have sketched out the rhythms by which new religious movements arise—first the charismatic era when wonders abound and attention focuses on iconic individuals whose unique personal talents and foibles give an abiding shape to the newborn movement; then the institutional era when organizations are founded, buildings constructed, doctrines hammered out, and respectability sets in.”

    I have certainly seen this in the history of the evangelical denomination I used to attend. At first, they made a name for themselves by being separate and different from the mainstream Protestant churches of the time, and attracted people who wanted that. Then after a few decades, they established a national headquarters with a board to run it, colleges, national meetings, etc., and soon they were part of the mushy sameness of American Evangelicalism. Of course, those who didn’t like the changes left and founded new movements, and so on. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    So how do we avoid this in occult circles? Or can we? Perhaps this is just another example of the cycles we have to deal with as part of the human race. Not only that, it may be necessary for religions and other groups* to go through this process, or there would be no inner growth, only stagnation.

    *I think this applies to not just religions, but corporations, clubs, even (dare I say it) nations.

    Joy Marie

  42. JMG, I was trying to read your discussion on the sanitization and domestication of historical figures, but the noise of falling and crashing statues made it hard to concentrate…
    OK so maybe some of them we could do without, even so…

    On a perhaps related note, do you have a take on Howard Zinn’s work?
    Michael Clark

  43. Hi JMG,

    This story reminded me of something I realised in relation to music. In a discussion with friends we were talking about our favourite live music performances and I realised that almost all my favourite performances were from bands or musicians that I had never heard about prior to the performance. I just happened to be at the same pub or venue on the night that the band/musician in question was playing. This was true even when I was there to see a band that I considered one of my favourites (i.e. the unknown support band turned out to be far better than the headline act).

    Perhaps one of the lessons of history is that there is absolutely no guarantee of meritocracy. Those with the big names are not necessarily, perhaps not even likely, to be the greatest of their times and that far greater souls lived and died in obscurity.


  44. Bridge, dodgy indeed. That sort of thing was generally done in Yeats’ time by double exposure, which was easy with the very sluggish emulsions used in those days. Yeats himself wrote a very engaging essay about his visits to mediums, “Swedenborg, Mediums, and the Desolate Places,” which makes it clear that he was by no means an uncritical believer: “I did not go there for evidence of the kind the Society for Psychical Research would value,” he wrote, “any more than I would seek it in Galway or Aran. I was comparing one form of belief with another, and, like Paracelsus who claimed to have collected his knowledge from midwife and hangman, I was discovering a philosophy.”

    Onething, it did indeed. The 19th century was when the de facto alliance of science and Protestant Christianity finally shattered, and the propagandists of science ramped up the intolerance and dogmatism to peaks not seen again until the days of Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins.

    Tanya, glad you enjoyed it! Waking up out of the trance of greed and fear takes work, of course, but I’m glad to see people busy at it.

    Marlena13, yes, that’s a sign of a society in decline, but it’s also the sign of what Spengler called a pseudomorphosis — a situation in which one society uncritically embraces the habits of a different culture. American society still labors under a European pseudomorphosis, which is why we spend so much time endlessly rehashing European fashions and follies, with occasional ripoffs from other cultures thrown into the mix. Eventually we’ll get around to creating our own high culture, but that’s still centuries off.

    Boštjan, duly noted. I’ve got an essay on the subject in my collection The City of Hermes, if that’s of any interest.

    Yorkshire, of course it does. The scientific method is still pretty new, and there are still a lot of bugs to be worked out.

    Justin, and it’s got plenty of options, from first class compartments down to roomy boxcars for esoteric hobos. All aboard!

    Minervaphilos, very few occultists are satisfied with having conversations with dead Aunt Mildred — they want to commune with beings who might actually know something about the cosmos! So that was a factor; revulsion against the frauds and scandals of the Spiritualist scene was a factor; and there may well have been influence from the inner planes as well — that’s certainly what people said at the time.

    Kimberly, it is indeed. There are several versions of dim mak, as that technique is called in Cantonese; one of my martial arts teachers passed on a version to senior students, though I never received it. The theoretical material in that school, though, identified it as the inverse of acupressure, which messed over a particular meridian in such a way as to cause a sudden collapse of life energy, leading to a steep drop in blood pressure and brain death.

    Phutatorius, the Overton Window’s a useful concept, but it has to be taken in context. In every society there are several competing Overton Windows, and the one promoted by the corporate media and the officially approved talking heads may not be the most important. One of the things I’ve been doing with my blogs from the beginning is defining an alternative Overton Window for those who want to talk about things the official version excludes.

    Rita, did they also teach you about the Fenian raids in 1866 and 1870-1, when Irish revolutionaries based in the US tried to invade Canada? History has a lot of fascinating things like that.

    Kevin, it’s very important indeed. I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out what’s going on, and will be posting something about it in due time.

    Clay, I wonder if there’s any way they can shut down the tourist economy for good — it would be of huge benefit to the islands and their people.

    Irena, exactly!

    Newanon, I’m going to be talking about Joseph Smith in due time as well. Myself, I see nothing unlikely in the possibility that a ceremonial magician could be chosen by a god to proclaim a new faith — it’s happened tolerably often in history — but I know the Mormon hierarchy doesn’t see things that way.

    Owen, I’ll pass on the video, but thanks. You’re right that 19th century America was impressively weird, far weirder and more creative than our society is now. As for fraud, yes, that’s an issue in spirituality, but here again there are ways to guard against it — it’s just that, as so often in science, those aren’t used.

    Patricia, I certainly never made that claim about the current crop of Idealists; they’ve been crazed moral absolutists since day one. The question is simply how far they’ll get before the inevitable blowback hits.

    Polecat, thanks for this.

    C.M., thank you! Yes, all this is raw material for a book on the magical history of America, aka the history of American magic.

    Lathechuck, I’m not sure if Lucas lifted it from the Bene Gesserit Voice or from one of a half dozen other similar things in science fiction from around the same time, but it certainly wasn’t original.

    Pixelated, I’ve sensed the same thing — and someone my wife knows online is feeding 48 people with leafy greens from two apartment patios’ worth of container gardens. Things are definitely moving. “Wind is changing!”

    Mots, England rather than America was where science first became the ideology of the mercantile classes, but it’s gotten far louder and crasser here of late.

    Renaissance, exactly. The canned narrative of pop-culture occultism these days makes less than no sense; one of the things I’m trying to do with these posts is give today’s occultists a little more perspective.

    Brendhelm, got it in one. I’ll be posting something on my journal about this sometime soon.

    Joy Marie, I think the cycles are necessary. There’s much to be gained from having to go out on your own and found something new and fresh, and that wouldn’t be necessary if the last round of formerly new and fresh creations didn’t sink into respectability.

    Michael, it’s been a very long time since I’ve read Zinn’s work; the one piece of his I remember was a fine bit of cherrypicking, but useful back in the days when his viewpoint hadn’t yet been coopted by the corporate establishment.

    Simon, that’s an important point, and one of the reasons why it’s always wise to go looking for the unfamiliar and unexpected.

  45. The name Obi-Wan Kenobi has a very Japanese sounding ring to it, so I would not be at all surprised if Lucas created the character with Toshiro Mifune in mind and then had to find someone else to play the role when Mifune turned it down.

  46. JMG,

    You are one of the best history teachers anywhere — this stuff is fascinating.

    On another note… One of the most inconvenient issues about the current “bad people” witch hunt will be the fact that the Democratic Party has been mostly on the wrong side of history with regards to slavery and discrimination. Yet another circular firing squad.

  47. Very timely, as we watch statues being pulled down. I’ve been thinkiing perhaps we should only put up statues of horses, and other animals. Humans, sooner or later, will be found out to be flawed in some way.

  48. Love what you did with the title there. Thanks for making a sane space on the internet.

  49. Galen, that makes sense. Yes, it does sound faux-Japanese.

    TJ, true enough. It’s been a source of wry amusement to me that nearly all of the Confederate generals whose statues have been at the center of some of the recent frenzies were registered Democrats.

    Christopher, or we can stop pretending that anyone is perfect, and put up statues based on who was interesting and important.

    Aloysius, you’re welcome and thank you.

  50. John—

    I despair of ever getting through enough of these books to be able to synthesize a coherent system! Alas…

    Your intro re Good People and Bad People reminded me of one of my more interesting exchanges: I was discussing my points around economic nationalism and got handed “nationalists are Nazis,” to which I responded by pointing out that Gandhi was an Indian nationalist, you know, who sought to free the people of India from the British Empire so that they might chart their own political and economic course. The result was an amazing sputterfest.

    More on point, however, I feel that there’s simply so much here that I’ll never get more of a smattering of these or those ideas, certainly not enough of a grounding to make sense of it all. (Rather like Owen and Dr. Whipple discussing all the languages he should learn in chapter one of Innsmouth.) Which of Davis’s writings would you recommend as a good introduction to his thought?

  51. A point I just realized from this series of post is that there have long been a number of unusual people in what came to currently be known as the United States of America. They’ve managed to occur at the right time and be in the right place to have their five minutes of fame, some even managing to provide some influence on the direction that society has gone in. It’s inspiring to know that at some point, in some way, we may be provided the opportunity to go off some path not taken and it may make a difference. Sorry for the Frost reference!

  52. JMG–I don’t recall learning anything about the Fenians–but there was a mention of some kind of border skirmishes in the prairie provinces. Eighth grade is probably not the place for the lesser details of history. I would say it might do everyone some good to be a foreigner for some period in their life–not a tourist, but thinking “this is it, I have to get along here and everyone is looking at me funny because I don’t know the words to their anthem.” Canada was pretty easy since they speak English.Of course I then came back to the states spelling color as colour and neighbor as neighbour.

    I can’t remember who said it, possibly Gilbert Keith Chesterton, but someone mocked Spiritualism on the grounds that there was no reason to believe that being dead made your Uncle Whoever any smarter than he had been during his earthly life. Of course most people going to mediums just wanted some reassurance that their loved one had a continued existence, not just blotted out. They were not expecting secrets of the universe. The Civil War in the US and later the Great War in England caused an increase in Spiritualism, with so many mourners. OTH traditional reasons for necromancy included the assumption that the souls of the dead, having stepped outside of time and place did have knowledge of the past and future and of other places, such as the location of treasure. But the Uncle Whoevers seem mainly to be asked the location of the will or the combination to the safe.

    Has anyone in the commentariat ever attended a Spiritualist service?


  53. Hi JMG. This post caught my attention a bit more than the past few because AJ Davis was cognizant of qi, which you and study in tai chi and qigong. I learned from this post that he was involved in the Theosophical Society. I have read and gained some benefits from the talks of Jiddu Krishnamurti, who as their Maitreya candidate, ended up embarrasing and leaving them. Jackson was ahead of his time in those “eastern” studies.



  54. It just occurred to me that, while the subject of samurai movies is relevant, one of the greatest (and one of the all time great films) is Harakiri.

    I can’t reveal much about the plot without spoiling it, but the movie is a meditation on institutional corruption and features a statue which plays an important symbolic role in the story. It would be a very rewarding watch in light of current events.

  55. >scientific progress was recently dealt a blow by the coronavirus pandemic

    What if, just maybe, perhaps, the coronavirus was genetically engineered? A product of – scientific progress? The solution is also the problem? Perhaps if we had less scientific progress, we might not have had a coronvirus to deal with. Perhaps.

  56. JMG, Justin, and newanon,

    The Transcendental Express! Such a beautiful image. Thank you, JMG and commentariat, for helping me aboard. The boxcar is indeed spacious, comfortable (but not TOO comfortable), and the companionship and food are second to none.

    My maternal line was Mormon from the days of Joseph Smith. There are many colorful family tales. Just my opinion, but it seems the mojo headed for the church exit door about the time the polygamists were thrown under the bus, and then stuffed down the memory hole by their descendants.

    A re-weirded Mormon church would be something to behold! Looking forward to the post on Joseph Smith.


  57. To all the other “Kwaidan” fans: My favorite tale was “Hoiche the Earless.” That one scene of the people going over the side of the ship, with their kimonos billowing … like blossoms falling on water. Wow! After seeing that, I got very interested in Lafcadio Hearn. (Isn’t that a great name?). I picked up a few biographies, about him. And, some of his writing. Every once in awhile, I dip in. Lew

  58. @JMG Re the intro, per the Good People and the Bad People, rewriting history has extended to computer science. There’s an (admittedly very offensive) terminology of “master/slave” within computing (

    That terminology was ported, in part, to version control (how we store and keep track of our code), so that there’s a “master” branch. There are no “slave” branches. Rather, we develop on our own branches and merge to master where the code gets tested and ultimately deployed. So it’s “master” in the sense of the main/principal branch, the record of note for our codebase.

    Well, in light of events, some of the younger folks were very concerned about the connotation of the word “master”, the possibility that someone could be offended and/or misinterpret the meaning and subsequently started a campaign to change it. Similar campaigns have sprung up at other companies and they felt compelled to act.

    I argued for keeping it as-is, with the arguments above. I saw it as naked virtue signaling at its finest and said so. The sole person defending me was an African immigrant who basically said that if people misunderstand, that’s their problem and they should grow a pair. Being a middle aged white guy, I had to be more diplomatic 🙂

    I lost the fight obviously. It’s not even that I objected so much to the rationale for changing it. I just found the motivations suspect.

  59. Archdruid,

    It’s that constant reminder about the nuances of history that helps keep me calm during the current storms. When the right started freaking out about the occupation of Capital Hill in Seattle, I was reminded that armed occupations are a common theme in the history of American protest. Just under a decade ago we had the Brady brothers offer armed resistance to the feds, and they were right-wing according to our political discourse. Similarly if you turn back the pages to the 1960s…well I don’t think I need to list all the successful, and unsuccessful armed occupations that occurred during that era.

    As I said many times before, the left and the right in this country are mirror images of each other. Both intent on “exposing” the worst behavior on the other side, while exemplifying that same behavior. One side demonizes the police, the other side venerates them, and what about the third side that sees the problem and works slowly toward reform? Ignored in the never ending melee.

    People don’t want to study history because they want to control it so that they can declare victory over the other side. Of course the victory the get won’t be one of grand parades and a return to normalcy.

    I especially like the ending of this particular entry. It was a life that made a tremendous mark and quietly faded into obscurity, which is like the vast majority of events. Lots of sound and thunder as the storm is over head, but eventually the storm passes and nature grows over the damage.

    That trend of American occultists as con-men and hucksters makes perfect sense, and may shed some light on my question about the place of comedians in Americas magical past. The most nuanced discussions I’ve seen about the current crisis in American law enforcement, the ciris of the black community, and the crisis of the poor comes from Dave Chappelle, Joe Rogan, and others…a set of people whose whole job is to make fun of the straight collar ways of society. Then when society itself goes mad, the only way they can be funny is to be serious. There’s something there, the way these figures ride the currents of American culture as an exact counter-balance the flow of the mainstream…

    Maybe its just because I’ve read so many of the his books, but the name William Walker Atkinson keeps coming to mind here. He was a huckster and snake oil salesman, but the product he was selling actually worked!



  60. David BTL, that must have been some entertaining spluttering. As for Davis, I haven’t actually read more than snippets of his writing — as you quite sensibly noted, there’s too much material for any one person to make sense of it all! One commonly recommended intro, though, is this book, which is available for free download.

    Prizm, that’s one of the enduring possibilities of our culture. Make the most of it!

    Rita, that sounds like Chesterton. No, I’ve never been to a seance.

    Mac, no, he wasn’t involved in the Theosophical Society — that emerged after he’d become a has-been, and I don’t think he ever joined.

    Simon, thanks for this.

    Ottergirl, one of my abiding ambitions is to see Salt Lake City become the flashpoint for a new renaissance of American occultism, unde the banner of a re-weirded Mormon faith. Improbable, maybe, but here’s hoping!

    Brian, that doesn’t surprise me at all. “The possibility that someone could be offended…” The fact that this is treated as such a big deal these days is among the funniest things about the whole business.

    Varun, that’s one of the reasons I’m talking about what I’m talking about, of course! And we’ll get to Atkinson in due time. This story wouldn’t be complete without him.

  61. Current series is indeed much appreciated. American folklore has been almost entirely erased from mental landscape of my old millennial cohort, replaced with the woke-approved and Disney dominated crap that drowns our lives with ceaseless noise and ugliness. I say almost because despite the best attempts of the Borg to control all media, weird things like regional wrestling promotions and Japanese anime still have a lot of power over the hearts and minds of young men…

    Where these remnant forms tend to lose their pull is in the group that I have been thinking a lot about recently, men between the age of ~ 25 and ~ 40 (and growing) who are dispossessed of any spirit and conventional economic prospects. I, along with two close friends, have been talking a lot since covid lockdown about starting something akin to a school/gymnasium for men (and eventually women) who are ready to take a different path than the mainstream menu offers but how does one re-introduce esoteric monasticism in a world where old school Christian forms are spent/tired, Japanese style animism lacks much currency, and anything else is immediately labeled “gay” (for better or worse, whether it is used in the classic or contemporary sense of the word the label tends to have a chilling effect on male collective endeavors, particularly coastal former Catholics)?

    In short, is inspiration a life force that can be summoned? Is it a purely spontaneous? Somewhere in between? My own experience with the production of artistic works suggests the combo but this kind of inspiration involves sharing a vision, not fully defined in its detail, amongst a group…

  62. Always enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for the great discussion and history lesson every week. How you opened this one, everything being overly simplified, (good vs bad, black vs white) is pervasive and exhausting. My husband and I have been having an ongoing discussion this spring about how the world seems to have just lost it with every issue. Everyone is a good guy or a bad guy, with us or against us. I personally don’t form a lot of opinions, especially political ones, or make many comments. I am more interested in ideas and the back and forth. It’s so nice to have a place to go read a well written interesting blog post (and comments!) without all the histrionics. So, thank you.

    What are your thoughts, if any, On Dr. Joe Dispenza? I just discovered him recently and he strikes me as maybe a modern version of one that channels Life Force. He puts a lot of “science” into his message- to give it more legitimacy, I suppose. I don’t really have an opinion, just curious what you’d have to say about someone like him.

  63. JMG, this post reminds me a bit of some ADR posts where you talked about the flaw in binary thinking, or extreme views. The good person/bad person switcheroo in history is certainly going full throttle lately. You lost me a bit though with your last line in the third paragraph, about history being “far, far more troubling than that.” I’m unsure what you meant.

    As a side note, I decided to re-read “Gone With The Wind”, which I thought was a fantastic novel when I first read it 30 years ago. (Seemed appropriate considering the current events – never cared for the movie though) As I was reading along, I couldn’t help but compare the work, written over a decade from about 1925 to 1935, to the extreme views of today and how politically incorrect some of the content might seem to a first time reader today. I could still get the sense the incredible work of fiction that it is, but my brain has been scrambled by 30 year’s worth of propaganda.

    History, as I’ve come to slowly realize, is a lot of hard work – when done right.

  64. Hi JMG,

    I’ve recently, and deLIGHTfully re-read the Hermetica. Please can you share or send the link to your City of Hermes essay?

    Thanks kindly,

    ~ Tanya

  65. @JMG,

    Again, thank you for the article! Having known hardly anything about any of these people to begin with, I am always happy to learn more about these sides of our history. I am curious, though, what you think of the late-life “confession” made by one of the Fox sisters – i.e. the one where a newspaperman allegedly paid her $1,500 for the story.


    I watched the video you linked to about Star Wars, and it seems pretty accurate to me; both the film and its music are very imitative of earlier works. But I just don’t see that nearly as negatively as you seem to – successful artists know how to rework the creations of the past, and “great,” and “original” need not be the same thing, otherwise people wouldn’t still be admiring Shakespeare and Virgil.

    @Newanon, OtterGirl, and JMG,

    I too look forward to a future post on Joseph Smith and us Mormons. Right now – though I am sorry to say it – Mormonism looks like just another Magian religion bleeding members because it can’t make a convincing case to be the One True Faith. But there are certainly some people trying to take it in another direction, i.e. the creator of this Tarot deck, illustrated entirely with scenes from the life of Joseph Smith:

  66. I was writing an essay about the left’s love affair with the F word and it struck me that they are all still mentally in 1960. 1960 represents a date when black people in the US were still legitimately, genuinely oppressed by whites, when going to college and/or working hard meant almost guaranteed financial security, and most importantly, almighty Progress was going to sweep us all into a Star Trek future.

    To add to the gardening (Zone 5, northern Illinois) success stories, I have been supplying the local vegan restaurant with boat-loads of fresh lettuce for the last week! I just dumped another load on them this evening after work with plenty to spare from a single 4 x 4 raised bed. The feral cats who patrol the beds don’t ask for much, just a little food and shelter.

  67. Brian, JMG,

    One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen was someone trying the “this might offend minorities” thing, over something or other (I don’t remember what it was), and a Cree friend of mine, the only racial minority there, loudly exclaiming “I’m offended you think this might be offensive!” I very nearly burst out laughing, but managed to avoid it, but he looked completely serious. However, he later told me he had to fight very hard to keep a straight face and not burst out laughing at the reaction to it: I’ve never seen anyone get nearly so flustered as the guy who had been pushing the “this might offend minorities” narrative.

  68. Hi Simon,

    Harakiri is brilliant but also one of the most depressing movies I’ve ever seen.

  69. Always enjoy your tidbits of history, JMG. I still have not been able to transcend my scientific education and get into your series about Dion Fortune’s book, but maybe some day.
    I just read an interesting post-modernist, feminist essay about a trilogy by Octavia Butler. I usually don’t have patience for such things and they sound like the authors are trying to feel superior by their use of new words, and also rehash the same “white man bad, feminists and non-european cultures good” trope. However, I’d be curious what you think about it. Here is a short sample:
    “If to generate hypotheses is an inferential process that entails a close engagement with practices, with doings and using, then it is logic of and for instrumentality, too. Here, however, the elaboration of thinking from doing involves not simply mimicking existing practices. Instead, as with Butler’s envisioning of Lilith as the originator of a new species, the instrumental argument for an alien political subjectivity capable of politicizing unknown unknowns from a non-paranoid perspective requires that she—the experimental instrument—is a sorcerer and not a mirror of the actual state of things.”
    The essay can be found here:
    @Onething, good to see you here again. Would love to catch up.

  70. I’m curious as to your take on John Edward, and his show from 2001-2004 “Crossing Over”. I used to find that fascinating.

  71. I would say one of the basic problems is Science only looks at things they already know and read in textbooks instead of the things they DON’T know and don’t fit present theory. That’s not just where science can expand, it’s the ONLY place we progress. Einstein did this in tiny flaws in observation of gravity (Mercury), but we have panoscopic world-bending flaws in the universal proofs of ESP or whatever the mind-stuff is. They’re such complete sissified wusses they refuse to look at anything, any misplaced archeological find, any unexpected effect in new technology, any uncomfortable conclusion in psychology, any unexpected failure in medicine, anything at all in my opinion. Maybe because they are A-students who went there because they are follow-the-book types instead of wild Edisons. And because of who’s backing and paying for it, any real scientist could move to their garage and get much more done, and many have. For me right now, Science is the failure of Science, presently against everything it stands for, every method, and everything it can discover. Strange how all things have the same life-arc. Birth, softness, growth, strength, ossification, decay. Begin bright, end by contradicting themselves. I believe there is a quote of this.

    Same with movies, as we see being made in a backyard, on YouTube, right now. Movies made by Weinstein’s accountants aren’t worth the time.

    There are prophets and tigers a-plenty. They are felling joggers in Colorado and elsewhere every day. Hardly more or less wild than ever. Behind every mall is a brushy forest with campfires of wild men and women, down every railroad the fences are still cut. Are today’s VR-dwelling drug-enhanced mechahacker and fully-tattooed otherkin really less interesting and wild than the 19th century? That’s just the size, where you put your eyes…

  72. @ onething re: outside news

    European news, and especially anything from Britain, is more propaganda filled than our own. I usually try for news from SEA and Latin America. There are some Mexican outlets, but many are heavily CIA influenced, so a pound of salt and a nose for BS is required. Anything from China is highly suspect (social credit scoring anyone?), as is anything from the sandbox (no democracies there, and some very brutal governments).

    You cannot rely on a single source, not even with news aggregators. Zero Hedge has obviously been co-opted by a certain faction over this last year. Drudge has been sold, but they signed an NDA regarding who they sold to, which happens to expire Nov 4th…hmmm… Asia Times has long been a spook outlet, but limited hangouts are easiest to see,

    If you are skimming headlines across the planet, you will rapidly deduce what is promulgated by various factions (MI6, CIA, Central Bankers, MB, etc.). Those are how the factions want you to frame an argument, and not even about the headline material to begin with. Once you sort that out, you begin to get into stories where nuggets of truth are visible. The op-eds are also instructive, as long as you have looked into the backgrounds of each author – where you can spot their biases rather quickly.

    This is why it takes practice – there are no unbiased reports or stories any longer. IMO, there never were because prior to the internet, keeping a lid on things and controlling narrative was easy-peasy due to limited number of outlets to control. The current Tower of Babel that is news is simply due to the inability of the big players to completely control narratives due to internet and smart phones – it is no longer a simple thing to direct humans in what to think.

    Similarly, it is no longer as simple as picking up the NY Times if you want real news with truthiness – we are in a very different age and time…

  73. Kimberly, JMG

    Interesting about the dim mak- if I remember correctly that is something like “death touch” or similar.

    There are rumours that Bruce Lee was killed by an expert practitioner sent from China to punish him for teaching their secrets to Westerners and after he was defeated in a fight by the assassin (with the dim mak or a similar technique that was slower), the guy offered to reverse the effects and heal him using similar methods if he agreed not to teach any more secrets and apologise. Apparently Lee was confident enough in Western medicine to refuse and he died.

    IOnly a rumour of course but an interesting perspective.

    Although since you said karate, my first thought was the ikken hisatsu or one punch kill which I was coincidentally posting on the other blog about last week. That is karate based but my understanding is that there isn’t anything etheric about it (or not primarily) – it’s equally rare as the dim mak and disrupts organ functioning and causes organ failure and death.

    But perhaps it is also related to the Chinese dim mak..

  74. A long time ago… in a galaxy far, far away… you wrote about an epiphany that ‘one story is death’ to a culture.
    And here we are, everyone trying to reduce everything into one simple story and getting frantic when inconvenient facts keep escaping from the straitjacket of their preferred narrative.

  75. Rita-I have. It was spectacularly underwhelming. Most of the service was standard pietist hymns, the sermon was mostly about how the Bible did not condemn spiritualist, but spiritists [might have got that backwards…] and the messages to me from the spirits…you would think they were broad enough to apply to anyone, but at the time they specifically weren’t relevant to me! I noticed the messages were much more specific and detailed to people who were well known and went there often, but I’m sure that was just coincidence.

  76. I found the introduction on history quite trenchant, reading through Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, on the mid-14th century now.

    I had previously been on a few right wing-dominated online fora where some “Traditionalist” talked about how the mediaeval era and monarchy obedient to the Church are still the ideal forms of government. To be honest, I had some sympathy for the romance and simplicity of their views, but don’t subscribe to them myself.

    This book made me quite uncomfortable even having sympathy for those views, almost to the other extreme. Tuchman depicts a society cleft by social divides and casual violence, where aristocrats imposed harsh taxes for wars, tourneys, and luxuries who applied chivalry and honour only to members of their own class, and resorted to banditry when not occupied at war, while peasants and townsfolk themselves were no kittens when pushed to the extremes either.

    I do wonder how accurate her portrayal of that era is, maybe that era did represent the breakdown in the Western European feudal system and the transition to an urban society with the Renaissance. This was also the era of the previous Air triplicity, which was one reason I started reading the book.

    I like these stories of various idiosyncratic figures in American history in this series, I saw some of your sources in the previous posts and I guess some are quite local and hard to access from overseas.

    Would you have anything similar in the vein of biographies of less well-known occultists across different eras to recommend?

    Or even besides that, lives of non-aristocrats. My general impression is that it wasn’t particularly common for non-aristocratic, non-religious (saints etc) lives to be recorded in literature before the Renaissance.

    A funny synchronicity: I randomly discovered people making pseudo-“mediaeval” covers of modern pop songs on YouTube just starting around late May/early June. I wonder if something of those times is coming back. This was the most popular song although I don’t think it’ll be much to your taste. 🙂

  77. @Brian. You are talking about the GitHub debacle, right? It saddens me more than it should, given that I left the Industry some 3 years ago, but… the heart is gotta feel.

    Maybe you can propose that those who voted for changing the name should write to their respective universities and publicly renounce their Master of Science titles, in solidarity with the Slaves of Science? (that’s what you’d call Post-graduate students if you were uncompromisingly honest) I am pretty sure they would hesitate to jump at the politically-correct letter-soup game if they had a bit of actual skin in the game.

    Disclaimer: I have a MsC. in Electrical Engineering, and did drop out of a Computer Science PhD program in 2006, after one year of chasing after my own tail.

  78. Hello,
    I am a long time reader, but this is first comment I have made.

    My mother’s family were Spiritualists from The Forks Maine, a town of 60 people near Moosehead Lake. They were all practical people who lived in the woods but felt the need for something more. Since there were so few people in the area, mainline churches only held services once in a blue moon. The local priest had his masses for Easter, Christmas on two consecutive days at the local Fish and Game building.

    My mother became an atheist since she married my father, who was one. Oddly, his family in Nova Scotia were Pentacostal. What was interesting was the undercurrent of … something was out there…. but not God within our family. As for me, I talked to squirrels as my mother talked to birds.

    I did go to a Spiritualist church but by then 1960s, it was corporate unlike the church of my grandmother. They had the local medium hold sessions in his home, which everyone would attend. The Spiritualist church in Bridgeport Ct was an actual building, like a regular mainline church. The head medium ran the service like a basic Protestant one with readings from spirits included. I had to quit because the head medium was only interested in young females for one purpose only…… The church did fail after that.

    By my user name, I am a Polytheist who has an altar to Roman Gods. SO the Spiritualist experience made me more open to other Beings and to listen.

    One side note – in the Pagan community (I separate them from the Polytheists), they have decided to root out all of the Pagan books that are TERF, pro-white, and pro-colonial and of course anyone who committed sexual impropriety. They are burning them etc. And have the new list of current authors to read instead. So I have kept my bad old books from Julius Evola to spite them. And for people to know what it is they are not supposed to read. (I support freedom to read whatever.)

  79. Thanks for another really interesting installment JMG.

    A question that has been repeatedly occupying my mind for the past several months is how to or whether I can discern amongst the various beings that are not embodied. Since spirit guides are mentioned here, it seems on-topic to ask about it, although perhaps it’s more a Magic Monday question. Please can you direct me to any sources you would consider solid about how to learn to discern amongst the various kinds of non-embodied beings that I think I am perceiving? Is it something that can only develop with my spiritual practice over decades, or are there any good hints? It seems I and that people around me are sometimes influenced by non-embodied factors of various kinds that I dimly perceive but that’s about all I can tell. I know some of these influences are vast, and others don’t seem so vast but I want to know more.

    If it’s relevant I’m christian and have kids at home, have been able to keep a regular practice of bible reading, scriptural meditation and prayer for about eighteen months but have not done any other esoteric training unless our Quaker group’s worship counts. Apart from Paul’s scriptural injunction to ‘test the spirits to see if they are of God’ in 1 John 4, which encourages me that it’s possible but doesn’t provide much more, I don’t know what to do apart from praying whole-heartedly to be affected mostly by the God I’m worshipping.

  80. Hi JMG

    Looking forward to the book form of this series. History as it should be taught.

    One consequence of blm and recent happenings seems to be that Aunt Jemima, a childhood friend in our kitchen when I was young, is losing her job. Collateral damage I guess in the ongoing war of stupidity. Just another statue being torn down.

  81. Neptunesdolphins–now my curiosity is aroused–a Pagan Index Librorum Prohibitorum. How is this information being promulgated? Is there a blog or Facebook list or other source I could peruse?

    KMB- sounds as if you would have gotten a more interesting experience from a con artist skilled in the art of “cold reading.” Of course cultures that really expect the spirits of their ancestors to stick around and guide the family usually give some incentive in the form of regular offerings, family altars or even burial in the dwelling. Being summoned to a building full of strangers to discuss family business doesn’t seem quite polite.

    JMG–wondering whether Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science are on your list of American occult figures? The youth hostel I stayed at in Boston is near the CS ‘mother church’ a very impressive set of buildings. And despite comparatively small numbers the CS denomination has an enduring influence in pressuring for laws allowing avoidance of vaccinations and rights to refuse medical treatment.


  82. Pixelated wrote:
    “@ David by the Lake: Sorry, Gandhi is a Bad Person now, too, didn’t you know?

    Pixelated, I wonder what Kenneth Aliu in the article would say about Abraham Lincoln. He certainly had controversial views of black people (not viewing them as equal to whites), although he did temper them after meeting (if I remember correctly) Frederick Douglass. Lincoln wanted to send the slaves back to Africa (to Liberia), not because he felt bad for them for being taken from their continent of origin, but because he didn’t want them mixing with and debasing the white race. His wife’s family, the Todds, owned slaves, though some family members later freed them.

  83. Jasper, the failure of science is now quite visible in at least some fields. For getting new insights in particle physics, it was proposed that a 100 km-long particle accelerator would be needed to be built; even so, there is no guarantee that new particles or other new things would be discovered.

    In a similar vein, the James Webb Space telescope has been delayed for years due to rising costs. There are quite a few scientific studies which simulate that the James Webb Space telescope would be needed to make any progress in characterizing atmospheres of terrestrial extrasolar planets. All in all, hugely expensive and complex technologies are needed to gain small amounts of additional data.

  84. Chris, inspiration is one of the functions of the life force. It can’t be summoned, but it can be invited, and any activity that deepens and enriches your inner life brings it closer; any group that has some shared inner practice in common creates what occultists call an egregor, a group consciousness that can very easily become the vehicle for inspiration. As for Japanese-style animism, though, put it in a visual framework drawn from anime and manga and I think you’ll have far more success than you expect.

    Wendy, you’re welcome. I don’t think I’ve heard of Dispenza, so I don’t yet have any opinion at all about him!

    Drhooves, my point is that history messes with your head. It doesn’t respect anybody’s boundaries and it doesn’t care whether it offends you. If you’re going to encounter history honestly, you have to check any sense of entitlement you may have at the door, and accept that the past is what it is and doesn’t care what you want it to be. Many people find that profoundly troubling.

    Tanya, it’s a book rather than an essay, and can be ordered here.

    Wesley, I remain entirely agnostic as to whether the Fox sisters were honest, fraudulent, or some mix of the two. It’s appropriate that the ambiguity about Spiritualism goes all the way back to the beginning. As for the Mormon faith, I expect interesting things to happen on the fringes first, as they always do.

    Kimberly, that makes a great deal of sense. To add to your list, Russia remains the big bugaboo, just as it was in 1960 — the number of times in the past four years that people on the left have shrieked about evil Russian bots conspiring against our way of life is just bizarre.

    Kevin, that does sound like the Native American sense of humor!

    Iuval, it’s a basic rule of literary criticism, as of philosophy, that the more sesquipedalian the prose, the more negligible the content. That paragraph looks like something that came out of a random postmodern prose generator; it certainly convinced me not to read the essay.

    Dave, if it’s a television show that aired after 1980, you can assume that I didn’t watch it and don’t know anything about it.

    Jasper, it’s a little subtler than that. Scientists are still looking for unknowns, but they insist that whatever is discovered has to be compatible with the existing body of theory. That guarantees that they fixate on problems with relatively predictable solutions. Have you by any chance read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions? If not, you might find it thought-provoking.

    Anonymous, I don’t have much background in karate, so used the Chinese term — it’s also the one most commonly used in the American martial arts circles I’ve encountered. Thanks for the Karate term!

    Renaissance, yep. I’ve been thinking about that post — the fourth blog post I ever wrote, as it happens — quite a bit of late.

    Alvin, Tuchman gave her book the subtitle The Calamitous 14th Century for good reason — it was a very, very difficult time, far worse than most of the Middle Ages. As for biographies of occultists and non-aristocrats, I’m not sure what to suggest; that I know of, nobody’s done a good general history of American magic before, and histories of magic generally tend to be much shorter on biography than I think they should be.

    Neptunesdolphins, can you point me to anything online relating to the current Neopagan book purge? I’d like to look into it — and then make fun of it.

    Dishwasher, the standard practice among those Christian mages I know of is to request a spirit to speak the name of Jesus. Malign spirits, according to these mages, can’t do that. You can also speak the name and trace the sign of the cross in the air between you and the spirit; again, the standard lore is that this will cause malign spirits to flee.

    JeffinWA, now surprise me.

    Rita, why, yes — we’ll be talking about Eddy shortly after we talk about Phineas Quimby, from whom she plagiarized her core ideas.

  85. The post was on FB by a Senior ADF priest:

    Years ago, when selection was smaller and dog whistles were harder to hear, I was reading a lot and building my occult library. Today, I spent some time going through my books and pulling out books that can’t seem to escape the taint of colonialism, TERFism, and white supremacy.
    Literally none of these books have ever created a substantial value in my path, but for a while, they were recommended and I picked up what was recommended.
    There were fewer than I feared there would be (only a small box), likely because as my path developed, it moved quickly toward more feminist, inclusive, accessible work, and the purchases I made reflected that. Plus, I have a lot of good friends whose content I purchase, which helps.
    But it was a good exercise. My shelves are lighter, there will be fewer things collecting dust, and I have room now for some exciting new content that is either now available, or upcoming, from more diverse writers. And, frankly, some of it is just so much better than those books I started with, it’s not even a contest.
    I highly recommend it. If you haven’t looked at your shelves recently, now is a great time to do just that.

    He adds I don’t think the original tone was one that suggested anything other than an alternative to my recycling option.

    At the end of the day, there is no actual difference in the method of disposal when individuals do it. In fact, there is no difference in the circulation of ideas if I just leave them on my shelf: they are not being read or contributing to anything… except that I would have to look at them and wonder why I have them in the first place.

    State- or institutionally-sponsored censorship is an entirely different animal, and that’s not even remotely part of my post or the thoughts surrounding it. That idea is introduced before Chelly’s response: she didn’t suggest that at all in her first comment.

    A commenter added:
    The s*** needs to be made forbidden to remove it from use so that society can actually start to not be a racist s*** hole any more though.
    If we don’t make the problematic things forbidden, at some point, how will people not be exposed to those ideals ever again?

    I would like to send a private message with the link which includes the 80 person comments.

  86. Here are some more from Patheos Pagan: Which is goldmine of all those sort of stuff.

    A curse employing Lilith to fight the wronged.

    Police Violence Seeing the Fnords

    Tea Addicted Witch aka Scarlet Magdalene has a raft of postings of how Pagans have to get rid of those very bad things…. This particular posting is the latest.

    As for me, I read a lot of things all over the place.

    If there are any more discussion, I will off-line until tomorrow.

  87. If we extend the Star Wars analogy, then I guess “the dark side of the Force” corresponds to imbalanced use of either solar or telluric current.

  88. @JMG, @drhooves,

    “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

    – Aleksandr Solshenytsin

  89. @ JMG – I’ve been researching occultism and magic traditions of Pennsylvania as background for an alternate history novel I’ve started. I came across a German folk magic tradition referred to as ‘powwow’. What little I can find about it insists that it is a folk magic tradition unrelated to native American traditions, and that it is mostly for healing and good health. Are you familiar with this tradition? Will you be touching on it in this series of posts?

  90. @JMG – wonderful, thank you for that.

    @Dishwasher, in addition to JMG’s advice, a couple of other protective decrees you may like to try. I have found these very powerful.

    Archangel Michael is the best, once you establish a rapport with his energy, you’ll really feel and notice the difference. You could use that decree daily.

    With regards to banishing in Jesus’ name, what’s important is to stand your ground, fierce, firm and strong; with authority and utter conviction.

    Remember that what you focus on persists. So if you’re aware of something, try and pay it as little attention as possible. That saying, “If you ignore it, it goes away” generally applies.

    Unless there’s a specific reason you may be attracting certain entities, so be mindful of any fear-based thoughts and negativity. The purer your heart and mind, the less likely any form of negativity will stick, or hang around.

    I generally attract entities, because they know I can see and feel them, so some like to get my attention on purpose. When in public places, others will hide away as much as possible, because they know what’s coming to them if they make themselves known to me 🙂

    If I feel something has become attracted to me, I merely say, “yes thanks, nice to see you, but you are not welcome here. Begone. Begone. Begone.”

    The power of three is crucial. If you banish something with conviction three times, rest assured it will go away.


    ~ Tanya


    Archangel Michael Protection:

    “Archangel Michael to the left of me, Michael to the right of me, Michael above me, Michael below me, Michael all around me, Michael within me, please shine your sword of everlasting Truth and Light, protect me from all evil and negativity and fill my heart with love and compassion, thank you.”


    Banishing evil spirits in Jesus’ name:

    In nomini Padre,
    et Fili,
    et Spiritus Sancte
    Abbe Male Spiritus
    Abbe Male Spiritus
    Abbe Male Spiritus
    In nomini Padre,
    et Fili,
    et Spiritus Sancte
    In Nomini Jesu Christi

  91. @ Lady Cutekitten

    I was thinking about the Harakiri movie this week. Not in relation to the protests but some of the stories coming out of New York hospitals in relation to the thing which shall not be named. Awful stuff.

    It sounds like you know your samurai movies, but if you haven’t seen it, Kurosawa’s “Sanjuro” is a more uplifting variation on the institutional corruption theme where Toshiro Mifune teaches the bad guys a lesson.

  92. About erasing history: two stories from the Gainesville Sun.

    There was talk of removing the term “plantation: from the name of the Haile Plantation subdivision, built on what was once a working plantation. The descendant of one of the plantation slaves pointed out that if you know something was once a plantation, it’s easier to trace and honor your enslaved ancestors..” I hope they listened to her.

    Another proposed renaming that makes sense: an elementary school named for some obscure Confederate general with very few ties to Gainesville. School board and students pretty much agreed it could use a new name, and there is a “name the school” contest on right now. Judging from the names suggested so far, it will certainly be something more local and meaningful.

    It seems to be a quiet day here; the other front page story was about an embezzling city employee who – surprise – skipped town before her hearing date. Seems she had a long record of fraud and embezzlement elsewhere. Ah, business as usual on the white collar crime front.

  93. Neptunesdolphins, okay, that makes perfect sense. Not all that long ago. ADF had its own Index Expurgatorius of books you weren’t supposed to read, so to some extent they’re just reverting to type, with a different set of Bad People. (I’m on the list either way; my Druidry is the Druid Revival stuff that Isaac Bonewits of dubious memory spent his whole career denouncing, and of course my skin color and gender make me a Bad Person by the current standards.) Thanks for this, and for the links; I won’t need the comments, though.

    Minervaphilos, it’s any form of abuse of the life force, whether from the solar or telluric currents or from any other source.

    Sgage, thanks for this.

    Ben, do you have C.R. Bilardi’s book The Red Church, or the Art of Pennsylvania German Braucherei? If not, you should — braucherei is the same thing as pow-wowing, and BIlardi’s excellent book gives detailed instructions in how it’s done. I’m not yet sure if I’m going to discuss it in this series of posts — we’ll see.

    Patricia, thanks for these.

  94. @ Pixelated, jgregg78, JMG

    Re Gandhi and my being behind the times

    Granted, the conversation I referred to took place a couple of years ago when I was still active on PolitcalWire, so my choice didn’t reflect up-do-date revisionism, but still I have to say, with respect to the article Pixelated cited, “Good freakin’ Lord.” [facepalm emoji here]

  95. I was also raised a Mormon.

    As a child of perhaps 10 or 11, I participated in a ceremony called “baptism for the dead,” which might be a Mormon example of a spiritualist-type attempt to communicate with dead souls. In this case, the intent was to offer those who had died before having received the gospel (i.e. before Joseph Smith began teaching it) a chance to be saved in the afterlife and be admitted to Mormon heaven.

    A number of kids about my age were proxy-baptized in a huge font borne on the backs of sculptural oxen, located deep inside the LDS Temple in Los Angeles. We descended into the warm water on a metal staircase, wearing white garments. A long list of names was read out, then each of us was plunged beneath the water to receive the gospel on their behalf.

    A strange memory, surreal and mysterious…I haven’t thought of that experience for many years….

  96. Might a possible reason science doesn’t acknowledge e.g. the life force be that such forces aren’t detectable by the methods of science? I don’t mean just the current theoretical frameworks and instruments and methodologies, I mean any methods that could or would meet the scientific requirement for objectivity.

    Imagine a person who routinely feels and manipulates other people’s life force with their hands from a few inches away. They’re tested for that ability, and in the test, cannot tell whether another person is present on the other side of an opaque screen that they stick their hands through. The scientist says that shows the the person’s claimed ability to sense a life force is a false or deluded claim. The occultist says the apparent failure of such a simple reliable interaction to be verified by a simple test shows someone’s cheating or suppressing results. But what’s actually been shown is that the person cannot feel the life force without conscious engagement with the other person’s presence. It’s only cause for centuries of acrimony if one assumes that the sensing of the life force works materially and objectively like solid matter or an electric field, without any need for the participation of consciousness. Yet such an assumption appears to contradict occult philosophy as well as common sense.

    It’s distressing knowing that the colorful frauds and charlatans you’ve described in this post, to half of my friends, represent all occult philosophers, teachers, and practitioners. Just as it’s distressing knowing that those scientists who have been dogmatic, blind, or involved in conspiracies to manipulate or suppress results, to the other half of my friends, stand for all scientists.

    Those who’ve expressed hope that science will come around to a more compatible way of modeling reality, in the near or far future, might want to consider that all bridges have to be built from both ends.

  97. “Does the scientific method have weaknesses that make science prone to getting stuck in ruts?”

    It does. It’s easier and more acceptable to add special cases to the existing theory than to toss it all out and start over. Eventually though, the mass of exceptions becomes overwhelming and someone comes out with a new theory that explains things more completely. Plate Tectonics being one example. The magnetic stripes in the seafloor killed the slow-shrinking-earth model dead, but it took years for the last holdouts to give in.

    Harlan Bretz’s floods in the Pacific NW are another example. Currently, Dark Matter is in deep trouble. But if there isn’t such a thing, then what is making the the galaxies spin at the wrong rate? Since they have no answer to the galactic rotation, they keep looking for ghostly particles.

    And the Standard Model of quantum mechanics has not resolved why the neutrino has mass. It does explain a vast number of other observed particles, so it’s not completely wrong. But it’s not completely right either.

    In the old days, Caloric was a theory that worked very well. But there was one thing it could not explain, why the cannon barrels got so hot when they were being machined. Science is an iterative process, which many people seem to forget.

  98. Iuval,

    Ha, well I’ll tell you what I think of it. I dislike it and have disdain for that sort of pompous writing. Maybe it makes me feel stupid. I can’t make heads of tails of what was being said.

    “If to generate hypotheses is an inferential process that entails a close engagement with practices, with doings and using, then it is logic of and for instrumentality, too. Here, however, the elaboration of thinking from doing involves not simply mimicking existing practices. Instead, as with Butler’s envisioning of Lilith as the originator of a new species, the instrumental argument for an alien political subjectivity capable of politicizing unknown unknowns from a non-paranoid perspective requires that she—the experimental instrument—is a sorcerer and not a mirror of the actual state of things.”

    You can email me, or I you.

  99. CR Patiño, I unfortunately still work in software and today we talked about changing master to ‘DOMINATOR’…

  100. Neptunesdolphins,

    I saw the same post, and was very nearly ill. I fled in a hurry. Thanks for posting that here; I was meaning to do the same thing. It makes me very sad indeed that an organization that I belonged to and loved until not that long ago—and makes their “exceptional scholarship” their claim to fame—has now got into the habit of book burning, while everywhere else iconoclasm has become the rule of the day.

  101. I love Mifune Toshiro AND St. Michael. A pity Mifune never got a chance to play the Archangel.

  102. It seems you cannot mention “life force” without being dismissed by the mainstream, whether East or West now. Materialism seems to have gained the upper hand by various means, but among them concentration of material wealth until the only voices that are allowed to be heard are those that are in full agreement with that paradigm and the mechanisms of wealth concentration. This is leading to a very real crisis now, that has both political and environmental dimensions, the former in unbridled Orwellianism and the latter, most typified by the loss of insects, which one can still mention in polite company. Ridicule of opposing views, of which “life force” is one facet, has given away recently to censorship and coercive legislation, including jail time (South Africa, and proposed for the EU) for so-called “fake news” that is disruptive to the mainstream agenda, as the crisis brings people to the streets on the other hand.
    It is in this context that Arthur Firstenberg, author of The Invisible Rainbow, Quoting him:
    “I am reaching out to everyone who has a connection to Elon Musk, his family, or his investors, as well as to scientists who should understand what it will mean to pollute the source of life’s energies with billions of electronic pulsations: doctors of oriental medicine, doctors of Ayurveda, and practitioners of qigong.
    “Please contact me if you can help in any way. Those interested in learning about the connections between the ionosphere, the global electrical circuit, and the life force are urged to read my 2018 article, “Planetary Emergency,” and chapter 9 of my book, The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life (Chelsea Green 2020).”
    (He hasn’t posted this on-line that I can find, though he said he would do that. He also mentions the COVID-5G connection, which he says is quite robust. That will get you censored on most platforms now.)
    Of possible interest to many people here (and I apologize for not waiting for next week) is a ditch-your-cellphone initiative, with June 20-21 as the suggested day for cancelling one’s mobile subscription. See I don’t have figures, but it seems to be a very popular proposition judging from responses to an article I posted about it on Op-Ed News and a new organization with that and even more ambitious goals springing up in France (Collectif Dring Dring).

  103. @Wiliam Hunter Duncan,
    I would invite you out to our place, but it’s hard to get to Japan, and even harder to stay there. I do urge you to do whatever you can to get out of the city. Even if it is hard to make a living there, you can claw back your happiness and sanity.

  104. @Nomadic Beer,
    Conmen (and conwomen) are a dime a dozen in spirituality. My beloved Shinto is simply crawling with them. Also, I see very sincere, dedicated people who refuse all compensation and live in poverty who get tarred with the same brush. The former are the bathwater and the latter are the baby. This is why I think it is important to study up on conmen-types, especially if you were the victim of one at an early age, in which case you were probably carefully taught how to be useful to them (and dysfunctional everywhere else). “Snakes in Suits” by Robert Hare is a good place to start.

  105. Thinking about learning from history. In addition to proper facts that were, there is also the value of folk tales. My favorite folk figure in American history is John Henry. Because he fought the machines that came to take our jobs. I love that hero figure, and will meet any weed eater with my scythe in his name.

    I have discovered something horrific. The last three folks under the age of 26 I have mentioned the steel driving man to have never heard of him! This stuns me, for John Henry is so dear to me, and I recall him being thick in the back ground of culture when I was growing up. I am 32, only 6 years older. I don’t know of an American older than me who ain’t heard of him. Sure some versions of the story I grew up with were fluffed much, but the essence was there. I checked in and Johnny Appleseed isn’t forgotten but one person described him as “he planted apples, and was kind to animals.” which is on the ragged edge of forgotten.

    Alas, and woe!

    Oh well, its nice getting to tell the story to folk that don’t know it, and going all ham on the story!

  106. A couple of old sayings came to mind when reading some of this post and relies:
    There’s so much good in the worst of us
    And so much bad in the best of us
    That it never behoves any of us
    To talk about the rest of us.

    The faults we notice in others are so often the ones we know to be true of ourselves.

    So keep our mouths shut lest we give too much away.

  107. Roman Catholic trivia: the books were the Index Prohibitum Librorum. The Index Expurgatorius listed the offending passages.

  108. JMG,

    I know that you are quite aware of the more recent drama surrounding Isaac Bonewits and his Archdruid Excommunicatus status, as you’ve posted about it. I’ll refrain from commenting on that affair directly, but I wonder if you are aware of the extend to which he’s become the baddest bad person on ADF’s still very much enforced Index Expurgatorius?

    As of a several months ago, when I quietly let my ADF membership expire and ceased to have any connection to the organization, one of the few forms of discussion that still occurred on the ADF email lists involved someone discovering that an author on the reading lists for one of the study programs was a known or suspected wrongthinker, and a flurry of dramatic replies that were basically abuse directed at the (volunteer) administrators for not removing the offender’s books from the study program fast enough (regardless of how promptly they were in fact removed). That was occasionally mixed in with some slightly out of touch person (usually a newbie) actually attempting to discuss a book they had liked that wasn’t explicitly about social justice, and inevitably receiving their due verbal punishment when the book was revealed to have been authored by a wrongthinker (most books are, you know).

    The full brunt of that turned against Bonewits after he was excommunicated, and most of the discussion around the time I left involved the struggle to find replacements for every single book and every single article that he had ever written (or was suspected of writing) that was referenced in any study program or article.

    One of the last bits of drama I witnessed before removing myself from all of the lists for sanity’s sake was when the website was updated. It occurred after most of Bonewits’s more obvious writings had been purged, but the tech person had some trouble with some detail of the design and copied a section of code from the old version of the website as a placeholder while working on the new one. There was a huge blow up because that section of code had inadvertently included a link to something Isaac had written and the tech person had to frantically explain how they hadn’t done it intentionally against the torrent of outrage.

    I’m really not sure why I stuck around for so long . . . .

  109. @Wesley, “the One True Faith” is Mormonism’s Achilles heel, I think, along with the insistence that apostates are as evil as murderers. That is a good reason to be wary about joining, as one would be careful about choosing a life partner. A religion should be able to breathe.
    The religions I’ve been involved with recently are hard to enter and easy to leave. They regard all religions as valid (which is how I participate in three at the same time) and also behold Mormonism along with other monotheistic faiths as lovely, with many points in common with theirs and a lot to learn from–just don’t get trapped by the apostasy thingie. We are like the blind men before the elephant.

  110. @Kimberly Steele,
    Oh how fascinating! Just yesterday I was eating at a restaurant and heard a lively conversation featuring frequent and fluent use of the “F” word. Never in my entire 35 years in Japan had I heard anyone speak like that in public. Young tough guys in 1990 in Canada spoke like that. From a distance it sounded like chickens. My husband thought it must be American military guys, because we were maybe 20 minutes by car from a base in suburban/rural western Tokyo, but I’d never ever heard the military folks talk like that. I could not imagine such a loss of discipline among them. So I stole a few glances. The loudest and most vulgar was Caucasian, early 60s, medium length hair–clearly not military, and the others, all taking selfies, were speaking either Tagalog (Philippines) or Spanish among themselves when not talking with the white dude. They were younger and seemed to be having quite a good time.
    It struck me as really bizarre and a total mystery, but your explanation of the recent behavior of the American left gives me new insight.

  111. Thank you for this series! I definitely plan to buy the book 🙂

    I also want to say I agree with Onething, I would also be interested in your analysis of the schism between science and spirituality, when you have time. It’s a subject I’ve poked and prodded a bit but I’m sure you could teach me a few things 🙂

    Jessi Thompson

  112. David BTL, the circular firing squad is hitting its stride. Before long social justice activists will be turning on each other for deviationism, or whatever they call it this time around, and the whole movement will shred itself the way the New Left did in the 1970s. Grab some popcorn; it’s going to be a spectacle.

    Walt, you’ll see the acrimony from occultists decline promptly once the acrimony from scientists does. In the 1960s and 1970s, certainly, when there were significant numbers of scientists publicly interested in spirituality, parapsychology, etc., they were welcomed enthusiastically by occultists. The resulting trust and openness to scientific investigation was the vulnerability that the Unamazing Randi exploited. It took quite a while for the occult scene to realize that his tests were fraudulent — that, as Randi said, he always had an out — and that and other antics on the part of his fellow pseudoskeptics left scars that will take time (and some decidedly different behavior from scientists) to heal. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is after all a fairly common reaction to getting burned.

    Now of course you may be right that the life force can’t be detected by scientific methods, but there’s reason to believe that this isn’t the case. Carl von Reichenbach and Walter J. Kilner were among the 19th and early 20th century scientists who found ways to research the life force; if today’s scientists were interested in following up on their discoveries, rather than trying to disprove them, I suspect quite a bit could be turned up.

    David BTL, you’re most welcome.

    Patricia, all the more reason for those of us out here on the fringes to talk about it.

    Ray, clearly what’s called for is for those of my readers who play music and sing to learn John Henry’s song and belt it out in public! I’m not surprised that it’s been erased, though — since it raises doubts about the superiority of the machine, and that’s a big taboo.

    Your Kittenship, duly noted! Thank you for the correction.

    Former Member, the end of this story is that everyone who’s still in the organization up and decides that ADF itself is evil because it’s Indo-European in its focus, and the Indo-Europeans were Bad People. We’re probably not more than a year from that, either. Once the current ADF leadership did a 180° on Bonewits and went from praising him as an Honored Ancestor to reviling him as the evilest evil that ever eviled, they wrote their organizational death certificate; you do that, and the formerly honored ancestor becomes a vengeful ghost who can and will mess with the thoughts and feelings of the weak-minded.

    Jessi, duly noted. That might make a very interesting series of posts.

  113. JMG, if you win a million dollars on Jeopardy for knowing this, I get ten per cent!

    Had Isaac Bonewits actually done anything wrong from the viewpoint of his organization?

  114. JMG and Onething, well I empathize with you for not wanting to read it. I recently was asked by someone I didn’t know on youtube to watch youtube videos on how Ashkenazi Jewish Bankers are the source of all wars and other evils, and declined. I thought, if I knew him better and trusted his subconscious motives, and had more time, maybe I would oblige. I watched one of the first videos he suggested and thought it was reasonable, but that one didn’t make such an outlandish claim with a previous history that led to pogroms and more nasty things. It was only about how Israel may have had prior intelligence about 911 and did not share it with US.The channel where I met this individual specializes in denouncing the hypocrisy and witch-burning tendencies of modern feminists (obvious irony, which lends credence to my claim that much of what we see today in the political sphere is due to collective traumas on both the left and right, which led to Jungian shadow formation), but the channel author has become a scapegoater himself, not only of modern feminists, but all feminists throughout history, and now of George Soros as a supposed funder of Antifa and violent protestors. I have an unusually open mind and do not usually feel defensive about anyone’s ideas, but even I have some heuristics about what I allow in. Sometimes it’s only “been similar places, and it didn’t work for me”, as in my mormon friends wanting me to read their bible.

    But with that post-modernist essay, it was sent to me by someone from the Santa Fe Institute whom I had already established some trust with, and it was for a book club with the Butler trilogy as the next set of books to read and discuss. So I read it and actually understood most of it, I think they are trying to say that somehow they can transform the revulsion to being taken over by AI and hacked/used to make someone else money and controlled into a welcoming of a new type of consciousness that unifies and communes, the way some feminists transformed their revulsion to evolutionary psychology (they poured ice water on EO Wilson’s head at a conference long ago) into an alliance with it (to justify such practices as monogamy).

    For now I am following JMG’s advice of reading things from the past. I just finished Maya Angelou’s Heart of a Woman (so many lessons for today’s SJW’s in there) and just started reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…Maybe it’s a gateway to Dion Fortune 😉

  115. Off topic (sorry), but of interest I hope.

    I received my much anticipated ‘The Mysteries of Merlin’ late yesterday and spent a few happy hours reading through the first few few chapters. Then, in the kind of synchronicity that seems to rule my life lately, this description of the Berlin Gold Hat popped up on one of the technical sites I look at:

    …the link with the traditional pointy hat of a wizard seems obvious. Another survival from the past?

    @Brian, I did consider offering ‘Mistress’ as an alternative when this was recently discussed at my place of work. Caution overcame valour though.

  116. Re: Index Librorum Prohibitorum

    A number of years ago (must have been over a decade) I realized that pretty much all of my favorite French authors had been put on this Index. So, I had a Eureka moment and decided to consult this Index thing for reading recommendations. Alas, it turned out it was discontinued. I was disappointed.

    I do wonder if the SJW’s have their own Index, though. Does anyone know? Could be a valuable source of reading recommendations.

  117. One more thought on the Index. I did check out the latest edition (decades old by now). The problem with it was that it contained so much bona fide junk (in addition to a number of masterpieces, of course). This rather decreased its utility as a source of reading recommendations. But with the SJW attack on merit, I’m hoping that a SJW Index might do a better job banning books of high, you know, merit. And that would make the thing quite useful.

  118. @Ben Johnson

    The exhibit and catalog that Sam Chevre recommends were the work of Patrick Donmoyer, himself a trained Braucher/Powwower. He now has a whole book out on Powwowing: “Powwowing in Pennsylvania: Braucherei and the Ritual of Everyday Life” (2018).

  119. I see several people have discussed my ADF postings. Actually the whole thing in Paganism started with Rhyd Widermuth and his article on fascism. After that, it has been building steam. Julius Evola was the first to be banned with writings by Z. Budapest. One fascist, the other TERF. From there it branched into banning Sannion (House of Vines) and his writings (fascist), Galina Krasskova (fascist, anti-Islam), Raven Kaldera for UPG and BDSM. From there it morphed into a cancer on tumblr where Honorthegods and AnswersfromAndahiem decided to set themselves up as arbiters of what was bad/good. They formed the Valkyrie Squad tmblr site to vet blogs that are anti-whatever – disabled, fat, etc. And to list blogs that are safe to read.

    The reason is that they do not want people to be triggered, microagressions, and safety. What has happened is they want to control information and to gain unearned power.

    I was called out by this squad for being ablest. I have a traumatic brain injury, and have spent my time being as independent as possible. I counsel other TBIs to do the same. They said that is an ablest attitude.

    I guess to tie it back to the week’s posting is that something does start out good and then people use it to gain power for themselves. I see all of this as Paganism leaving its core mission of spirituality and moving into an emptiness of politics. I guess a part of these new movements die off when they move beyond the roots of their spiritual power and move into materialism. Rather than to allow themselves to enter the Mystery, it is easier to corral the Mystery into a domesticated safe thing.

  120. I don’t know if this comment is appropriate for this post Mr. Greer but I was wondering if I could make a suggestion for a future post.

    I was thinking that you could make a post on the purpose and future of higher education broadly.

    The populations of developed countries (and increasingly the rest of the world) are more educated than perhaps any time in human history. But as Musa Al-Gharbi’s article notes, highly educated populations don’t necessarily lead to societies that are “enlightened” or even well-functioning ( Studies and literature have consistently shown that highly educated people are more likely to be highly partisan or ideological, more likely to become fanatically obsessed with a moral or political cause (, and more likely to desire imposing grand, utopian schemes on the rest of society (

    The fact most those who populate higher education today tend to lean left and are the harshest critics of inequality of all kinds (racial, sexual, economic, etc) but can’t see themselves as part of the equation leads to much of the ideological fundamentalism we see in metropolitan, educated populations today (

    Here is Musa Al-Gharbi’s latest on the issue (

  121. Oilman2

    Could you expand on how Zerohedge has been taken over by a particular viewpoint? I read them regularly and while they obviously have their slant and viewpoint (Libertarian, anti lockdown, pro Trump etc), I haven’t noticed anything much change.

    Of course they are not objective,but they are useful reading to balance out the New York Times (also I suspect they are lower priority target for manipulation because they are still a niche site, albeit one of the largest of the niche sites).

    May I recommend Shari Attkisson’s book Smear? She’s a very good former CBS News investigative journalist (among other things she broke the Fast and Furious gun running to Mexican drug dealers scandal in the Obama administration and won a Pulitzer) and has written a fantastic book about the precise mechanics about how characters and causes are smeared by political gain, how astroturfing happens, how journalists are influenced and manipulated by access journalism, how stories, viewpoints and political positions are manufactured and so on, as well as how Trump managed to beat the system.

    All stuff we know happens,but reading the precise details and mechanics was very interesting. I will never look at an op ed in the same way again. Of course I knew already that Op ed writers have agendas, but I didn’t realise the hollowness of the entire system till I read the book.

    (She also has an older book about the details of some key stories she worked on and issues she faced in terms of interference with journalism etc – that is more about her).

  122. @Rita Rippetoe – I appreciated your comments in this thread very much. I am a Canadian admirer of the traditional American ethos (of freedom and so forth), which gives me the credibility to say that I deplore the way that so much American-Canadian history has been memory-holed.

    I object to your statement about revolutionaries “invading” Canada and the French Catholic response – that might have been true in places, particularly when you consider that *at the time*, “Canada” meant what is today Ontario and Quebec. But in other parts of today’s Canada “revolutionaries” were homegrown. If you don’t know about this one, then get ready to have your mind blown, which is that the Canadian maritime provinces nearly became the 14th colony to join the new USA:

    Hardly anyone on either side of the border knows about this nowadays.

  123. Archdruid,

    So I spent all spring trying to get some apple seeds to germinate without any luck. Do you think it would be a good idea for me to contact Mr. Appleseed about my problem?

  124. Interesting reading, especially the parts about how the SJWs want to tear down statues of historical figures. In my country (India), many SJWs, especially university professors in humanities departments, using ‘rationalism’ and ‘women’s rights’ as a cover, villify Rama (or more properly, the prince Ramachandra of Ayodhya, who was a historical figure later deified in the post-Gupta age and made an avatar of Vishnu). They use the part of the Ramayana in which Sita is exiled to the forest by Rama as justification for their claims. That the part where this happens was a later interpolation/addition to the original text just doesn’t matter to them. Nor does it matter even if you point out that, even in this potentially objectionable part, after Rama banished Sita, he did not take a second wife (Sita was Rama’s only wife in his whole life), and in fact, he installed a gold statue of her and had it kept next to him when he performed the Ashvamedha Yajna aka horse sacrifice (it can only be performed by a married king).

    I guess this comes from the desire to establish a Utopia of some sort. Personally, I am not too keen on such a thing happening, even in the hypothetical event of it being actually possible. After all, why sacrifice the rich tapestry of human life and replace it with a bland, dull Utopia? Just a thought.

  125. Luval Clejan: “If to generate hypotheses is an inferential process that entails a close engagement with practices, with doings and using, then it is logic of and for instrumentality, too……”

    JMG: That paragraph looks like something that came out of a random postmodern prose generator.

    Yes indeedy it does. Would anyone like to take a look?

    This link might have been posted here some time before, but it’s always good to share again! It’s fun to refresh the page a few times for new examples, to really get a feel for how so many words can mean so little.

    Joy Marie

  126. Former ADF Member,

    Yikes. I let my membership quietly lapse two years ago now, when I saw politics starting to creep into everything and the leadership caving into the mob. I was there for the initial Bonewits scandal and the reaction to that was alarming enough, even before his excommunication (which I got to watch from a safe distance, thankfully). I thought to myself then these trends could only lead to destruction and I didn’t feel like being along for the ride. Between you and Neptunesdolphin (sorry to say I did go look at that post; yikes again), it’s depressing to see how much worse it’s gotten. I had hoped to be wrong.


    Never commented here before. Just want to say I’ve been really enjoying this series of posts, definitely buying the book when it comes out.

  127. A Former ADF Member says:

    I quietly let my ADF membership expire and ceased to have any connection to the organization…

    One of the last bits of drama I witnessed before removing myself from all of the lists for sanity’s sake…

    I’m really not sure why I stuck around for so long …

    Thank you for helping me come to a decision regarding a quite liberal religious organization I used to attend. It was liberal once in a good way; allowing people to follow their own path, holding freedom of thought dear, stressing helping one another and being a positive force in the world. It is currently going through the same tumult our society is, with certain groups within the organization pushing the super progressive agenda. I was only a member a short time, and resigned years ago (I’m not much of a joiner anyway). I still attended periodically as there were some good people locally, some services were good and interesting, and not everyone were as wild eyed as the radical members but things changed, especially after the 2016 election. Also it seems like their headquarters is going full tilt crazy just like your example with the ADF, and the minister and some congregants are fully on board. I really haven’t attended for a several years now,(the meltdown after the election was something I didn’t really want to deal with) but I’m still on their email list and receive the newsletter. I will now contact the church and request that my name be removed from their lists, as I do not plan on returning. I don’t know why I haven’t done this before. But I really don’t think I should maintain a connection with them, especially with the coming crash of the far left. I don’t care to stay with a ship that is tacking in the wrong direction anyway, and get sucked down into the eddy with them.

    Joy Marie

  128. onething:
    I have heard NPR referred to as ‘New Pravda Radio”. If the shoe fits . . . .

    A National Public Radio blogger declared that it’s time to ‘decolonize your bookshelf’ by removing the works of white authors. That might be a good place to start.

    Did you stratify your apple seeds? Many kinds of seeds need to go through a period of cold in order to break dormancy and I have been told apples are one of them. Any number of gardening websites will give you directions.

  129. Regarding the purging of Julius Evola: I saw a documentary* once that showed a black man at his late father’s house. On the shelves were many different books on magic and the occult, including the now scorned Julius Evola. So were these black men not black enough, or woke enough, that they tolerated such trash in their midst?

    *The United States of Hoodoo.

    Joy Marie

  130. The latest in madness is declaring food logos Aunt Jemima – the updated version, looking like a lady on her way to church – Mrs. Butterworth, and Uncle Ben to be racist. I’ll give them a mild pass on the pancake mix box,considering its history. The syrup bottle is more sexist than anything else, if harmlessly so – and we witches used to buy an Italian Liqueur called Strega, which came in a bottle shaped like a frankly *fat* woman, and considered it a tribute to womanhood.

    But to consider a picture of a black chef to be racist! When being a chef is an honest trade I’d have been proud to see any of my children take up if they’d been so inclined. I want to write these people and ask WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING A CHEF?

    OTH, I consider Juneteenth to be a fair substitute for Lincoln’s Birthday, back when he was still known as The Great Emancipator (or maybe that’s just a Yankee thing?), and before the holiday was rolled into the formless blob/February Salesmas called President’s Day. Now if we could only revive Washington’s Birthday!

  131. @Joy Marie – are you talking about the U.U. Church? I have personal reasons for wanting to know this, and it sounds like them.

  132. Although I have really posted a comment here, I just want to thank both John Michael Greer and all the other posters here for having created such a stimulating and though-provoking forum, an intellectual salon and relative sea of calm amid an increasingly turbulent and strident outside world.

  133. Beekeeper,

    I haven’t tired that! I’ll give it a shot!


    Additional question. I was planning to do some spell work tomorrow because of the new moon and solstice falling on the same day, but I’m aware there’s going to be a eclipse over parts of Asia and Africa. Is it safe for a person living in the US to do the magic?



  134. @ JMG and Others regarding the collapse of ADF:

    It seems to me that this might be a great opportunity to launch an alternative Druid spiritual organization– that is, a church– for those who are interested in communing with the gods in a group ritual setting but who aren’t interested in abusing people for being insufficiently woke or “reconstructionist.” I know that the Gnostic Celtic Church and AODA already exist for this purpose, but it seems to me that ADF was offering something different from these– something more like an organized religious institution, with room for lay members, than the monastic system of the GCC. And I suspect that many people would still like to be able to participate in this kind of thing, but without the insanity.

    I’ve been making notes, compiling devotional material (including a prayer book with the working title “A Druid’s Devotional,”), and working with simple liturgical forms of the sort that someone with more of the calling of a priest or a minister, rather than a magician, could perform, for some time now. Would anyone– perhaps especially the ADF refugees– be interested in this kind of thing? JMG, what do you think?

    (Also, I realize this is off-topic for this week, and only mention it because it’s come up… if it’s too far afield, please feel free to delete this!)

  135. Your Kittenship, Bonewits was posthumously accused of one count of child molestation. There was a great deal of very heated debate, which I don’t propose to get into, about whether the accusation was credible. The ADF leadership had been perfectly willing to make Bonewits an Honored Ancestor despite a well-earned reputation as a complete sleazebag toward adult women — literally every time I was in his company, he was hitting on somebody, and I don’t recall ever seeing him take a simple “no” for an answer — but after that accusation surfaced, the ADF leadership held some kind of secret proceeding and condemned him. So, in fact, Bonewits had spent decades doing things of which ADF in theory disapproved — they have the usual on-paper policies about sexual harrassment — but that wasn’t what got him denounced.

    Iuval, duly noted! You might like Dion Fortune’s novels, by the way — The Goat Foot God is very approachable.

    Andy, fascinating. In the words of Elrod the Albino, a tall pointy hat — that’s status, boy!

    Irena, I wonder if we could encourage the social justice activists to come up with a comprehensive list of prohibited books. You’re right that it would be a fine reader’s guide.

    Neptunesdolphins, many thanks for this. I well remember Rhyd Wildermuth’s attempt to whip up a witch hunt, not least because I was one of his targets — he did a lot of angry mutterings about archdruids who quoted Spengler, and there’s only one of those! I don’t imagine my online essay critiquing him had much effect, but then I didn’t expect it to do so. As for the soi-disant “Valkyrie Squad” calling you out, I’m sorry to hear that, but not surprised. There’s a certain class of privileged liberal that gets apoplectic if the people they’re trying to “help” try to speak for themselves.

    (“Valkyrie Squad.” From far to the north, I hear the mordant laughter of a one-eyed god.)

    Aidan, I’ll consider it.

    Varun, sure, but you might also find a good book on apple culture and see if the seeds need something you didn’t provide for them.

    Your Kittenship, there’s a fine parodic story out there, “Ralph Wollstonecraft Hedge: A Memoir,” by Ron Goulart; its subject, an author with a remarkable resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft, had a lifelong terror of squirrels, and was finally carried off by them. Hmm…

    Rajat, I get the impression — having read a fair amount in Indian newspapers at this point — that certain elements of the educated classes in India ape Western intellectual fashions in a peculiarly clueless way: roughly as clueless, to be precise, as those Westerners who do the fake Hindu routine. Thus I’m not surprised at all.

    Joy Marie, funny! There are some other first-rate generators here — I particularly recommend the Beer Brand and the Nostradamus generators.

    Seaside Hermit, thank you!

    Yorkshire, fascinating. It makes sense, but that’s a field I know nothing about and so it’s intriguing to see the same patterns repeat.

    Joy Marie, well, you know what Joe Biden thinks about that!

    Patricia, I’m waiting to see the social justice types insisting that any portrayal of a person of color in media, advertising, or popular culture is inherently racist, and therefore all such portrayals must be removed!

    Alan, thank you. It’s not actually that hard to encourage this kind of space. If you have a courtesy policy and enforce it strictly on all sides, deleting offending posts and banning those who won’t take a hint, this is what happens. I hope other people consider trying it on other forums!

    Varun, just don’t do the work during the actual interval of the eclipse — 11:45 pm Eastern time tonight through 5:34 am Eastern time tomorrow morning. You might want to wait a few hours after it’s over, too.

    Steve, I think it’s an excellent idea. The crucial point — and the success of the entire project depends on this — is that the new church must not use the symbolism, liturgy, or organizational structure of the old. Those are all part of what occultists call a “tainted sphere,” and if you copy them, the same problems that occurred in ADF will occur in your new organizations. You need new symbols, an entirely different liturgical structure, and a different (and less Byzantine) organizational structure; it would also be helpful for the first round of clergy to receive some kind of ordination from an outside source. Contact me offlist sometime if you’d like to discuss possibilities.

  136. @Rita Rippetoe @M T

    Yep definitely there are little know homegrown revolutionaries in Canada. They never seemed to be successful though. This guy here: is an ancestor and he marched on Toronto with a hundred men. It didn’t work out..according to the family story he escaped to America dressed as a woman to save his life. He also tried to start the Patriot War and was a Freemason founding Hunter’s lodges in several places.
    He basically became enraged after going to Britain and getting no audience from the Colonial Office on reforms he wanted. To add to this his son died when he was on that trip and so he entered into a kind of determined revolutionary direction. Not everyone in Canada accepted and loved British rule apparently.
    Footnotes because they failed and the Empire kept their stories small. I never heard his name in school of course.

  137. Hi John

    Many thanks for your post, after reading “Andrew Jackson” I thought “Oh my!” cause in this period of History revision praising the 7th president of USA could be quite controversial right now (I know you don’t mind at all)..,But anyway at the end he was another A.J.

    While the (cold) war continue between the “popularis” and “optimates” I have reading a “COIN” study about the recent protests:

    I’ve laughed a lot with it


  138. John, Steve—

    Re new orders and ecclesiae

    This discussion prompts me to ask a question I’ve had for some time, which is: how do the originators of an order/church become initiated, since there’s no installed member to do the initiating? What are the methods by which that first group gets started?

  139. Andrew Jackson Davis was certainly a colourful character and a person whom I would have loved to have met. Thank you for introducing many of us to him.

    I guess the one thing that sticks the most in my mind as I reflect on your telling Davis’s story is the dual layers of deception: one layer being the occultist/medium who deliberately tells lies to better impress their audience; the other layer being the Diakka who deceive the medium and audience alike. Many “upright” folks who encounter the occult are put off by so much of a “whiff” of deception – their loss, I guess. But it is a tricky issue which I am still not all that comfortable with. What helped me to make peace with the preponderance of “lying and deceiving occultists” was Patrick Harpur’s book Daimonic Reality (which you have recommended from time to time in your blogs and I took up that recommendation – so glad that I did!) and a deeper understanding of Mercury who presides over so many beneficial types of knowledge as well as deception and theft.

    I am so glad that you portrayed Davis in the context of his time where deception was so rampant in the medium movement and how he ended up seeing the deeper side of it and turned his back on it to follow his own path off the beaten track. The kind of guy I can relate to (back in the ‘80s I had a friend who was a professional medium and what ultimately happened to him is quite the cautionary tale).

    Can hardly wait for the next American occultist on your list!

  140. @Darkest Yorkshire, re flim-flam
    I can report that the same happens with hang gliding, and what was happening there appeared to be a microcosm of what was happening overall politically (in Japan). Flim-flam folks (I love them despite their destructiveness) seem to need more stimulation than the rest of us, so you see them a lot in dangerous or extreme sports, where they try to egg you on into taking risks you’d rather not take.

  141. @Neptune’s Dolphin, if you haven’t read Lobaczewski’s “Political Ponerology” I urge you to have a look. The heart of his book is what you have noted: organizations start out as benevolent, but once they gain some success and a good reputation, certain types of people who are gifted in certain ways come in and at first they seem to add to the organization, empowering it to do further good. Then they use their popularity to oust anyone standing in their way. The author and a group of anonymous sociologists and psychiatrists in the Soviet Union analyzed the phenomenon quantitatively. The data were mostly lost, but after Lobaczewski managed to emigrate to America he wrote down what he could remember of it.

  142. Wesley and commentariat,

    Some time ago, a Mormon commenter here posted a link to the website of a small group of Mormons who were interested in the possibilities for esotericism and magic in Mormonism. I bookmarked it, but only had a passing interest at the time.

    Recently, I’ve developed a much more significant interest in the esoteric potentials in the LDS movement, but I seem to have lost the link and all the googling I can do can’t get past fact that searching for any word related to “Mormon” and any word related to “magic” in combination leads to an endless torrent of Evangelical screeds attacking Mormonism on one had and Mormon apologetics responding to those attacks on the other.

    Would anyone happen to know what that website was? Or any other websites devoted to similar topics?

  143. “Valkyrie Squad”? Don’t they realize that name comes from the Nordic mythos, the most doubleplusungood out of all of them?

  144. DFC, too funny. The Duffel Blog is great.

    Steve, just remember not to actually start the project until the Mercury retrograde is over! This is the time to research and get a sense of the possibilities.

    Aidan, thanks for these.

    Patricia, the company ought to fire them all and hire new staff. There are plenty of people who are qualified and eager for jobs in publishing.

    David BTL, there are two standard approaches. The first is to be founded by people who have some other relevant initiation; the other is to do the work of self-initiation. Both can work very well indeed.

    Ron, it’s an issue I had to wrestle with, not least because one of my teachers was a living example of the classic type — a serious occultist who was also more than a little of a mountebank. I’m glad you’re finding the story entertaining!

    Brendhelm, somebody ought to start a rumor that the people on the quote Valkyrie Squad unquote are all covert Nazis…

    PatriciaT, you’re welcome and thank you.

  145. Patricia Mathews said: Are you talking about the U.U. Church? I have personal reasons for wanting to know this, and it sounds like them.

    Yes, it’s the Unitarian Universalist Church. They are again aping the far left and the SJW crowd and adopting their techniques to fight “systemic racism” (which seems to require being anti all sorts of things besides actual racism). Ministers and others within the church are pushing back, not because they are against fighting racism (most of them would be considered liberal and have a history of participating in the struggle for equal rights for all), but because they are concerned with the methods being used by the UUA and the ministers association. There is a push for top down control from Boston headquarters going on, and it’s causing a major rift among the membership. I’ve learned that they’ve gone through this phenomenon at least twice before; in the late 60’s and in the 90’s. There was even a book written about the situation in the 90’s called The Anti-Racism Trainings.

    If you’re interested, two books to check out about the current situation are The Gadfly Papers by Todd Eklof and The Self-Confessed White Supremacy Culture by Anne Larason Schneider. The Gadfly Papers is a collection of three essays written about the negative impacts the emerging culture of Political Correctness, Safetyism, and Identitarianism is having on America’s most liberal religion. The book by Schneider introduces readers to the new “White Supremacy Culture” (WSC) anti-racist movement of the left and several closely related concepts: White privilege, implicit bias, microaggressions, and White fragility. The analysis examines the potential impact of these ideas on anti-racist social justice work and the unintended negative effects on fundamental U.S. values such as free speech, freedom of conscience, individualism, objectivity, logic, reason, efficiency, and others. (Both of these descriptions I’ve lifted from Amazon.)

    There is also a reddit group that was formed to discuss the current troubles, largely because established UU groups and forums have pretty much made it impossible to discuss such topics and question the current trends from different viewpoints. I lurk there, but don’t post. I see there’s a new post by a POC* who is “exhausted by UU” that I need to read!

    Some of the infighting is also because of other differences, such as rifts between the rationalist Humanists and those seeking a more spiritual path. There seems to be a power struggle going on as to who is going to run the show.

    And personally, I think that the left (both in general and those among the UU membership) are using POC* for their own political agendas. This isn’t going to look pretty when it’s over.

    *POC is Person or People of Color

    Joy Marie

  146. I hadn’t considered the retrograde, despite already having gotten whacked upside the head by it! Well, I dashed off an email to you earlier tonight with everything I could think of, but I’ll wait til after the 12th to hear back from you 😉

  147. @Yucca Glauca:

    You might enjoy these two books on Josep Smith Jr and magic:

    D. MIchael Quinn. Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987; 2nd ed., 1998. [Each edition has important primary-source material that is not in the other.]

    John L. Brooke. The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

  148. Dang quote about the morality of leaving money with suckers got stuck in my craw. Its such a funny quote, because it is a moral dictum I would never have anticipated hearing, but when I try to attack or defend in philosophically it holds and folds so like to so many more common moral claims. It is hilarious to try visualizing a whole society that takes it seriously and earnestly; particularly if you imagine paralel universe SJW types defending the ethic at all cost; it is a wryly anti-capitalist notion, as are we not all suckers, therefore depart with money? Is there then a moral guard rail that one must have non-monitary wealth enough to survive on, so that the liberating of money not do harm? For if the sucker is not threatened in their life, then the loss of money is a loss of lux and status, and is it moral to waste such essentially scarce things on suckers? And should you hope to hold onto any money, hadn’t you hone yourself against being a mark? In a large enough trial run the ethic plays out as guilder era capitalism, where a winner take all con of all agenst all leads to the elite with money from all the suckers: modernity. Those holding the wealth from the suckers go soft are are inturn going to get sucked; turn sjw, and start coming up with rococo definitions of what a true sucker is.

    Sorry for all that, but weeding today I was much pleased by the dreams. For myself I like to tease and prank friends, but I don’t have the fang to uphold this moral dictum, or maybe I know myself to be a sucker in some ways, and therefore conning some other sucker out of their money would do no great service in demonetizing the suckers.

    One more serious thought on it though. Rationalism and tricksterism have a glitch in their relationship that runs to the marrow. If you are trying to hold to one of the grand schemes of rationalism, then tricksters are just the worst! If goodness and truth are one and the same then those tricksters are nasty. And if you are guilty of the charges Nietzsche put to rationalism, the will to make the world knowable, then tricksters are a tough thorn. Their bread is buttered by the unknown! They use the tools of reason and thinking and figuring to promote something exactly for not being true, and enjoy their sins too. Maybe in a few millennia the thinking Bateson stated on in Steps to an Ecology of Mind might make the tools where tricksters is just another of those rational evens in the world of rationalists yet unborn.

    Of course you can love using reason and love tricksters. Indeed who loves reason more completely than the Trickster? loving and cherishing Reason’s strengths and foibles both dearly! The Rationalist loves Reason only at a safe distance where the flaws aren’t intimate.

  149. Steve T, JMG,

    Add me to the list of people interested. I’d love a group that was Piety first and aimed at Polytheists who want to worship first and not to be a subsidy if either political party. If you want shoot me an email!

  150. Patricia O, Hang Gliding Flim-flam and Japanese Politics sounds like it was made by a random book title generator. 🙂 What was going on in Japan?

    I’ve been reading theories of ‘why people suck’ – authoritarian peronality, fascist personality, bureaucratic personality, etc. I hadn’t heard of ponerology but I like it. You can put the same kind of emphasis into poneros as you can Spanish and Italian insults. 🙂 Ironically the best depiction I’ve seen of the poneros personality doesn’t come from the great Soviet dissident novels like The Master and Margarita or Life and Fate, but the character of Cad Spinner in Planes: Fire and Rescue 🙂

  151. I’m reading a history of the LDS church now and it makes passing mention of an abundance of prophets in 1830’s America. One story is of Robert Matthews also known as the Prophet Matthias who claimed to be a true Israelite and the apostle Matthew reborn. Matthews didn’t end up with a following like Joseph Smith, but it made me wonder is there an inventory of all these new prophets/religions? Are you writing a book on the occultists? Where do you draw the line around the occultists? Or is it Christians draw the line around the Christians and everything else is occult? That doesn’t seem right either.

  152. @Varun Apple trees are reproduced by grafting these days. You might need the seed of a more heritage type tree that produces what we today would call ugly small fruit unsellable in stores.

    My apricots this year only got to half size when they started to ripen this past week. So I basically grew apricot seeds. I thought they had enough water from rainfall. Now I know why people keep detailed logs of the weather for their own growing space.

  153. This discussion of flattened and bleached history raises for me a troubling question I’ve struggled with for many years: How do I choose what to read, knowing that my time is limited?

    A parallel: When I worked in bookstores, I noticed the books that had to be updated annually. The one that gave me most pause was an A to Z Guide to Movies. Because new movies were being released every year, the book just got bigger and bigger. I wondered whether the publisher would opt for publishing it in multiple volumes, or just condense and/or delete reviews for the older films. The one option made the thing unwieldy, the other curtailed its usefulness.

    It’s sort of the same with history. There’s too much to learn. Over time, the dissemination of history has been fragmented, boiled down, winnowed, and sometimes completely overturned, all while steadily growing larger and more voluminous. Consensus is often taken as truth, at least until a new consensus is reached.

    How do we choose? How can anyone become well-educated in history? How much blind trust is involved?

  154. “Once the current ADF leadership did a 180° on Bonewits and went from praising him as an Honored Ancestor to reviling him as the evilest evil that ever eviled, they wrote their organizational death certificate; you do that, and the formerly honored ancestor becomes a vengeful ghost who can and will mess with the thoughts and feelings of the weak-minded.”

    Does this mean that formerly honored ancestors like Robert E. Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Christopher Columbus, Edward Colston and Cecil Rhodes will also become vengeful ghosts?

    I did wonder if pulling down statues was really such a good idea…

  155. For those interested in the Valkrie Squad on tmblr.

    From their into:
    This blog was created to combat the issues most prevalent in the Heathen community.
    Racism, sexism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia and transphobia will not be tolerated.
    We are the Valkyrie. We are many.
    Our Safe List

    From a current conversation:
    They are controlling people who don’t want to be ignored on the internet in their blogs:

    hello! i found this blog really helpful! so, thank you for making it. also can i please be added to the safe list? there’s actually not much in my blog, most of it are reblogs from my fandoms, but i wanted to be part of the community im entering! im still new to everything. sorry for rambling!

    It’s ok! Rambling can be good! Your blog has been vetted and added. Also check out some of the blogs on the safe list. There’s tons of people there who love to blather on about all of this stuff. Please ask questions, please learn… even if it means sometimes being told you’re wrong. Harshly.
    –mod gwwh


    Standard writing about Krasskova:


    Please be aware that Wyrd Curiosities at Etsy is owned by Galina Krasskova, a racist, antisemitic, and xenophobic supporter of the alt-right who has also endorsed the rights of any religious group to be racist, antisemitic, xenophobic, white nationalist, homophobic, and transphobic. Sources: X, X, X. Wading into her blog is a wtf? experience: X

    Wyrd Curiosities sells, among other things, prayer cards featuring the art of @gracedpalmer, a wonderful artist whose works I reblog, and who is very much opposed to racism, antisemitism, and white nationalism. I strongly encourage those who, like me, admire and wish to support the art of Grace D. Palmer to purchase from the artist’s own Etsy shop.

    Mod gwwh:

    Reblogging since ‘tis the season to shop at Etsy and to support pagan and polytheist businesses.
    It’s always a good idea to check out everything a shop has for sale. Sometimes you’ll find a hate symbol or two for sale or notice an alt-right dog whistle in the shop profile or photos. Google shop names and owners’ names. Ask around tumblr.

    Don’t be hard on yourself if you find out later that you inadvertently supported something you don’t agree with. A lot of us old-timers – including me – bought Galina’s books, stuff from her shop, and Neos Alexandria’s devotionals before we knew about her politics. Live and learn.
    (The mod gwwh has a peculiar hatred of Krasskova that has been ongoing for years.)
    My commentary: the people who run this have self-identified as mentally ill and are on welfare/dole. They have decided to dominate the Polytheistic conversations based on their peculiar hatred of Krasskova and expanded it beyond that. There are only two people running this list.

    So in my opinion, a lot of the people who divide the world into Good/Bad people seem to have some sort of underlying mental problems. I have noticed it in the Magic Resistance crowd (I have mutual friends with M. Hughes.)

  156. Interesting that Mormonism came up. I don’t see occult Mormonism becoming a thing as long as the official LDS church organization has such a grip on it-they can and will excommunicate anybody who does anything too weird, and a Joseph Smith tarot deck would probably fall into that catagory.

    On the other hand, in addition to the Mormon magicians discussed on here a while back, there’s somebody named Denver Snuffer. For the last few years, he’s been writing books to the effect that the official LDS hierarchy is unnecessary-Joseph Smith’s revelations were given by God and are what they are, and every priesthood holder (ie, most Mormon men) has a direct relationship with God and can receive revelation-so therefore, there’s no need for some old ex-CEO in Salt Lake City to receive revelation for everybody. Some people have actually called Snuffer’s movement “Mormon Gnosticism”. AFAIK Snufferism doesn’t have any occult leanings, but it seems like it might be a good home for those who do.

    Also, amid all this talk of Left-wing book purges, one has to ask…isn’t it so disheartening to see the Left turning into what the Right used to be? I spent part of my childhood in the same city in Virginia where Jerry Falwell lived and where his university still is-and you just could not have any sort of reasonable discussion with his followers unless you already agreed with them. Even the slightest dissenting opinion got met with “Why do you hate America?”, “Why do you hate the troops?”, or the real kicker, “Why do you hate Jesus so much?”. Back then, Liberal websites like Daily Kos seemed the only place to go for sanity-and they actually had thoughtful articles and reasoned debate. Fast forward to 2020, when the smartest website on the internet is called The American Conservative and Liberals throw around “racist”, “sexist”, and “fascist” the same way Falwellites used to throw around “un-American”, “anti-Christian”, and “satanic”. It used to be the Right that couldn’t stand a differing viewpoint, and spent considerable resources trying to get “bad” books taken out of libraries…now the Left is apparently passing around lists of books and authors you can’t read. And I can’t count the posts I’ve seen on social media over the past few weeks of people triumphantly announcing they’ve de-friended every Trump supporter on there friends list. Plus the endless screeds about how if you don’t like BLM you’re a Bad Person and should be ashamed of yourself…again, its the EXACT SAME THING Falwell people did when I was growing up (and sometimes still do). I just don’t understand it-I really thought the Left was smarter than this…

  157. My second comment: Thanks for the info on organizations.

    What I have noticed is that the organizations no matter how old have the DNA of the original founders. One example is the Boy Scouts founded by Lord Baden Powell who was a homosexual. They have had problems with inappropriate relationships between males. A.A.’s Bill Wilson was a noted womanizer, who had people follow him to warn females of his predations. A.A. still has that predation problem.

    ADF follows this pattern since Bonewits was like Wilson. I have a friend whose daughter dated his son, Arthur. She met him as her policy of meeting the parents of her daughter’s boyfriends. He was inappropriate with her and her daughter. So, it would follow that it would have that particular problem.

    I do wonder about “new” religious movements, if that is not a problem as to how they die off. How leaders cannot transfer power or how they embed their peculiarities into the movement.

    I must comment about squirrels, as I am known as the squirrel whisper. It is a squirrel planet in the squirrel universe governed by Admiral Nut. (An actual fox squirrel who was decided to be a saint by the local Buddhists in Austin Tx. When he died, they had a traditional funeral for him.)

  158. JMG – Re: remove all people of color from advertising? The Babylon Bee’s already run that story.

    excerpt: “Anywhere we see a person of color, we see racism. So we must end racism by making sure people of color are not depicted anywhere,” said white liberal activist Petunia Faucett.

    The Bee has been BUZZING lately. There are so many stories to lampoon!

  159. Neptunesdolphins,

    I can’t fathom wondering where this organization or movement has gone a bit wrong. Something many people are particularly vulnerable to is believing that someone or group is about spirituality just because they pretend. If all someone has to do is lie, what an easy mark you are.
    This is a brainwashing cult you are talking about. Brainwashing is much on my mind these days as 10 or even 20% of the American populace has been successfully brainwashed and it is a dangerous and unpleasant thing. Absolute avoidance of outside information is a main hallmark of brainwashing and cults.

  160. Joy Marie @ June 19, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    After reading your post my curiosity is, if possible, heightened. If life is but a dream, is this phenomenon we are witnessing (large groups giving themselves up to brainwashing) some sort of Jungian collective nightmare?

    I also sometimes see this as a choice between good and evil, but I do realize that that might irritate some people. I haven’t in the past been strongly political, and certainly thought more that we had a uniparty than that one party was significantly better than the other. Yet somehow at this time it appears that people are just literally lining up on one side or the other, and to my opinionated mind one side looks like it represents nearly everything awful – intolerance, cruelty, mob rule, emotion unhinged from rationality, full of deception of the worst sorts and ultimately, pure violence.

    On a spiritual level, it appears people are making a choice. Choosing a nightmare could be part of how they make that choice, because by definition sleeping is on a lower level of consciousness than being awake (in this I am not at all negating that the dream and sleep states can also be portals to other and higher dimensions).

    Thoughts, anyone?

  161. Patricia, the company ought to fire them all and hire new staff. There are plenty of people who are qualified and eager for jobs in publishing.

    Hear, hear! But we never see this kind of courage! Nothing but company after company going out of their way to grovel to the rule of insanity.

  162. @ Patricia T
    Thanks for the link to the Nancy Green (Aunt Jemima) story; what a family John has collected here.

  163. Steve, you may hear back from me before then, but it will all be a matter of reviewing some of the issues and suggesting angles for research and reflection.

    Ray, good! I’m in favor of anything that makes people stop and think.

    Jruss, duly noted; I’ve copied down your email address.

    Denys, fascinating. What’s the title and author? I may want to read it. Yes, I’m writing a book on the history of American magic, or the magical history of America; these blog posts are rough drafts of sections of that book — and there’s a vast amount of Christian occultism, so that’s hardly a line I propose to draw! What makes someone an occultist is that they believe that (a) the material world is created, sustained, and shaped by non-material forces, and (b) it’s possible for individual human beings, with appropriate training, to learn how to work with those non-material forces directly (rather than through the intermediary of a god or spirit).

    MizBean, “so many books, so little time!” has been the lament of literate people since ancient times. There’s no easy answer.

    Logan, the case isn’t quite the same, in that Bonewits was literally being worshiped — as in, having ritual offerings made to him, being invoked in religious ceremonies, and prayed to. As far as I know, nobody’s been doing that with General Lee et al.! (If they have, on the other hand, things could get very hairy indeed.)

    Neptunesdolphins, thanks for this. For what it’s worth, I know Michael Hughes — we’re both Freemasons, and met each other by way of a certain Masonic organization — and I keep shaking my head when I think about what’s happened to him. He wasn’t like this before 2016.

    Tolkienguy, there have been schisms in the Mormon Church before, and if occult Mormonism gets going, I expect to see one or more schismatic LDS churches get started; alternatively, one of the existing schismatic churches might end up becoming a haven for people who use the Joseph Smith Tarot et al. As for the Left turning into the Right, yes, I’ve been watching that in complete disbelief — not least because I know people who were leftists in the old sense, aka strongly in favor of civil liberties and the right of the individual to dissent from the party line, who have turned into shrill little Stalinists over the last few years. “Disheartening” is the right word for it.

    Neptunesdolphins, “by their fruits shall ye know them.” The organizations I’ve always found attractive had founders who were very strange, but not abusive or corrupt. As for new religious movements, the vast majority of them implode not long after their founders die, if it takes them that long; to keep going, it’s necessary for the group to develop a collective personality of its own distinct from that of the founder. Very often the collective personality is at least partly modeled on the founder, but it can endure long beyond the limits of a single lifespan.

    Lathechuck, I should have known that they’d gotten there first. That’s a Bee with a deadly sting!

    Onething, I suspect it’s going to happen in the next six months or so; the woke brigade will try to organize a boycott, and so many people are so sick of wokesterism that they’ll run out and support the business, giving it a record profit that quarter. That’s generally the way this kind of hysteria implodes. Someone grows a pair (testes or ovaries, take your pick) and stands up to the mob, and becomes the lightning rod for the backlash against the mob’s behavior.

  164. In other words, lean into the REtrograde with REview, REsearch, and REflection?

    (Sent from a bench outside of the apartment despite the gathering rainclouds, because I’ve locked my car keys and house key inside. Sigh, Mercury…)

  165. Joy Marie – THANK YOU! My daughter goes to the local UU church because everything in these parts is done through the churches, and only there, when she first came to Gainesville, did she find people who shared her values. Our new minister is “nonbinary” and goes by “they,” which I still find jarring: I know it’s been used as a singular for a long time, but the context has always been “person or persons unknown.” And whose sermons sound like the ones described in Shoggoth Concerto. (Without the undertones of “something else happening here”) Yet their original ideals are great.

    And yes, they tend to strain at the gnats of pronouns and microaggression and swallow the camels of class and poverty. I have written down the names of both books abs what they’re about.

    P.S. – a story plot bunny came came to mind this morning and wouldn’t let me go. Brief outline: a woman much like my daughter is hiking in the back hills of Appalachia and encounters two local bad boys along a dirt road. They grab her backpack, she fights them off, they punch her in the throat and knock her down so she falls against a log and is visibly injured. A cyclist races by, making miles, and shouts at her to get out of the road. An electric car whizzes by and doesn’t stop.

    A fat old woman in a MAGA hat stops her pickup truck (rifle in a rack on the back), hauls out the first-aid kit and a water bottle, drives her into town (one step above the “one church and a dollar store” hamlets that dot some of Florida’s country roads.) The old lady gets her a room at the local motel, drives her to the doctor (insert bit about “It’s out of network with my insurance,” “don’t you worry one little bit, honey…”), calls the sheriff, and buys her a milkshake at the diner….. uh, I think most people would go “facepalm” here and finish the story for me on the spot.

    Though when the sheriff arrives, he and his deputy (one of each race) greet the old woman with mutual hugs and thanks …. the cyclist had a run-in with Those No-Good Johnson Boys and has been screaming at him and demanding a real investigator and making nasty cracks about dumb hick sheriffs….

    Anyway, the hiker gets a tour of the town and comes back with a new respect for country folks in these benighted parts.

    And along these lines – poor Dana Blankenhorn had a youthful awakening along similar lines, the same one my ex-husband got in the army. And while Dana conflates race and class, this is actually worth reading for once:

  166. Onething, I was thinking the same thing about them.

    Mr. Greer, I have pondered that very thing. What I believe is that lurking inside many people is a delicate balance between goodness and badness. Since it is so fragile, a crack can happen to split or shatter a person.

    In my experience, both as a brain injury survivor and a mental illness survivor, that most people are not put through extremes and do not develop emotional resiliency.

    I also believe that Donald Trump and Barack Obama are two sides of the same thing. And the shock of both, split off people’s psyches in two. Obama is the light and Trump the shadow.

    Also, since there are multiple beings in the Cosmos, and we live in its ecosystem, that something else is using, riding off of this deep emotions.

    What I have noticed is the Spirits, etc do speak to people, but few are either trained or allowed to deal with them. That was what i ran into with my particular mental illness. The conventional way was to deal with rationality rather than to allow the nonmaterial to exist.

    I know this is a bit off topic. But I think people like John Chapman lived fully in ecosystems of the Cosmos. Problem is others were trained to deny or to separate from the ecosystem. And see him in arbitrary terms.

  167. Thank you for this forum. It has been a long time since I was this active in discussions. Most of the time, I am silent because my friends are so dogmatic. I see things grey, greyer, and greyest.

  168. Varun – Not only are very few apple trees grown from seed, but there are specific varieties grown to be used as rootstock, and others as scion. That is, a sprout may come up near the base of a tree and be cut free to become the root of a new tree, and a twig or bud from a tree that bears desirable fruit grafted onto that rootstock. The rootstock must have leaves of its own to keep the plant alive while the graft becomes established, but once the grafted scion is growing vigorously, the rest of the top growth is pruned away. On the other hand, growing from seed is the only way to discover a new cultivar, but as with so many things, random changes rarely produce superior results. Johnny Appleseed got away with it because he was growing cider apples, not dessert apples.
    As far as I know, every apple of a named cultivar, such as “Fuji” or “Red Delicious”, was grown on a branch that grew from a piece of the one original tree of that cultivar, though it may have taken hundreds of generations of grafting to distribute it.

  169. Varun – PS: Stephan Sobkowiak has a series of YouTube videos on “the permaculture orchard”, which are seriously informative.

  170. Regarding your prediction that critical social justice will implode in the near future the way the New Left did two generations ago (I have shown in previous posts how most “woke” concepts originate in the New Left), there are many potential counter-points to that:

    1) The structure of social media inherently enforces a mob mentality on society that causes moral outrages and moral grandstanding to spread like wildfire ( Of course moral outrages and mobs have occured throughout human history, often for offending traditionalist sensibilies, especially those related to religion (as we generally think of religion). But it is not traditionalists who predominate on social media (

    2) Society is at least warmer towards the radicals stated goals (i.e. anti-racism, anti-sexism) than in the 1960s and 1970s making associations more vulnerable to takeover and coersion by said radicals.

    3) The success of the original New Left radicals “Long March through the Institutions” like academia and the arts means there is little venue around which those opposed to their successors demands can rally.

    4 (and most important)) The natural constituencies of a fair, just, and equitable society as the original New Left radicals saw it (minorities, students, and activist professionals) are much bigger constituencies numerically than in 1968 after two generations of mass Third World immigation and (especially) ever-growing expansion of the highly educated populations through the reciprocal phenomena of the growing academic industry and anti-communal striverism in developed world populations.

    This last element (over-education) is particularly relevant due to how it feeds into Peter Turchin’s model of “elite overproduction” and how highly educated people tend to be more partisan and ideological ( and more likely to grow fanatically obsessed with a moral/political cause ( All of these elements coupled with Turchin’s cycles of violence model (it peaks every fifty years) as well as a lack of elite confidence ( make this movement significantly harder to mellow out in my opinion.

    There’s a reason why Portland and Seattle seems to be going particularly batty at this present moment. Its young denizens imbide themselves with so much critical theory to prove they’re smart their brains are falling out! Goldie Hawn had a point ~50 years ago (

    If only you could use archdruid magic to halt elite overproduction by turning a substantial number of aspiring college graduates into jocks and bimbos 😉

  171. Seaside Hermit (if I may), I’ve added your email to the list.

    Steve, bingo. Anything that begins with “re-” goes great during a Mercury retrograde. Alas, that includes re-gretting leaving the keys inside!

    Neptunesdolphins, I think you’re quite correct about the lack of emotional resiliency. Our education system made the fatal mistake of trying to build self-esteem in children by shielding them from the consequences of their actions, and so we’ve ended up with way too many emotionally fragile people who literally can’t cope when the world refuses to cater to them. As for Obama and Trump, which is which depends on where you are in the class hierarchy — to a lot of working class people, not all of them white and male by any means, Obama is the shadow and Trump is the golden one. As for powers in the ecosystem of the Cosmos riding the waves now rolling in, no argument there at all; I wrote a four-part series of essays here on that: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four; you might find them of interest.

    And you’re welcome! One of the reasons I’ve been so active as a blogger since 2006 is that there are so few other places online that encourage these kinds of conversations.

    Aidan, I’m quite aware of those points. I stand by my prediction; we’ll see who turns out to be correct.

  172. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is after all a fairly common reaction to getting burned.”

    I missed most of the academic parapsychology era in the 60s and 70s, but I did a lot of sifting through the debris in the 80s and part of the 90s, wondering where those many intriguing paranormal possibilities so enthusiastically touted in my childhood had gone. In the end I don’t get the impression of anyone trying to fool anyone; it’s more like two sides who both thought they had an agreement but because they never spoke the same language, neither turned out to have any idea of what the other thought they had agreed to. The crux of most of the misunderstanding, in case after case, turned out to be what degree of evidentiary value could be afforded to subjective impressions (especially by scientists outside the parapsychology department).

    Rand was a bit later on the scene, part of his appeal being in response to what seemed a fair criticism by both sides that parapsychology research was chasing tiny effects down statistical rabbit holes that bore no relationship to the kinds of experiences that drew people to parapsychology in the first place. “Tell me what paranormal skill you have, and we’ll agree on a way to test exactly that” seems a reasonable enough idea, but posing it in an utterly adversarial format was a recipe for… exactly what happened. And then everyone drew the wrong conclusions that they’d wanted to from the start. The last thing I’d want would be for the same fustered cluck to be repeated over again.

    I’m interested in perspective and in useful models of the world, not in ultimate truth. (Well, I wouldn’t turn town the latter, but I don’t think it’s available.) I do want to know such things as, when I feel the emanation from an energetic talisman in my hand, how can I model what is happening? If my eyes are closed, can I still feel it? Yes. If I have a friend hold it and bring it close to my hand, can I still feel it? Yes. But if I close my eyes and have the friend hold it and move it (without telling me), can I still feel it? No, I tried and I cannot. I sometimes think I can but I’m wrong half the time. Maybe that’s not true for other people and maybe it wouldn’t be true for a different object and maybe someday with more work it will be different for me, but for now it’s how, on two different levels, my conscious perception interacts with the talisman.

  173. Neptunesdolphins, good to see you here. I don’t have much to do with the Roman gods, but I enjoyed your blog when it was active, and I’ve found your essays in “Walking the Worlds” very thought-provoking.

  174. Onething said: If life is but a dream, is this phenomenon we are witnessing (large groups giving themselves up to brainwashing) some sort of Jungian collective nightmare?

    I don’t know, but I believe the left’s attempts at urging others to be “woke” are misplaced: they are the ones who need to be awakened.

    Joy Marie

  175. Patricia Mathews said: THANK YOU! My daughter goes to the local UU church….

    You’re welcome! I might add that every UU church is different and not all are caught up with the Boston PC line. If your daughter’s church is not to her liking, is there another one within driving distance? If I lived where it was necessary to attend church to gain any type of respect or cooperation (I’ve heard some areas of the south are like that; true?) I might also consider a Unity church, or other type of New Thought church. I would just let the fluffy parts of the sermons float by me. I have no idea if the New Thought churches are being affected by extreme leftist beliefs.

    And I like your retelling of the Good Samaritan story! That parable can be shared in so many different ways, using whomever it is at the moment who is being scorned and reviled.

    Joy Marie

  176. John Michael, I don’t mean to treat this discussion as an open post, so if you want, please delete this. You were talking to Steve T regarding the Mercury retrograde. If this isn’t a good time to make big decisions or changes, or start new projects, should I wait on my plans to be dropped from the church mailing list, making some financial changes, and such? I looked up some info, and one source said water signs Scorpio and Pisces will be impacted the least by the retrograde. I’m Scorpio; do I need to wait on things?

    Joy Marie

  177. JMG- This article (from 2018) may not be directly applicable to this week’s essay, but it’s about how people interpret evidence that agrees, or disagrees, with their prior beliefs, and whether published research on this topic is replicable. (Spoiler alert: it’s not.) And, ironically, new research which contradicts prior research is not even publishable, perhaps because it would require a change of beliefs on the part of the academy.

    My contribution is that when a study sets out to challenge “incorrect beliefs” (such as “Saddam Hussein had WMD”), the see of possible beliefs is assumed to be {yes, no}, when in fact, I’d say the set is {“proven yes”, “not proven yes”, “proven no”}. Proving that “no WMDs were found after the invasion” is not the same as proving that WMDs were ever present during the period of interest. Too much is unproven, one way or the other. So, if my study tells you “no WMDs were found; now, do you believe that Saddam had WMDs?”, it is not necessarily a cognitive defect to say “yes”.

    More currently: if a study proves “HCQ given to COVID-19 patients on respirators does not improve their chance of survival; do you still believe that HCQ could be useful in treating COVID-19?” One might answer “yes (because that’s not the right dose, at the right time, with the right other medications)”.

    But in both cases, the researcher seems prone to a spluttering fit. “I just TOLD you the right answer! Why can’t you learn it?” “Because the truth is too complicated for your silly research survey” might be one reasoned answer.

  178. In all the lively discussion, I almost forgot—if the solstice is a religious holiday for you, I wish you a very happy!

  179. JMG: What makes someone an occultist is that they believe that (a) the material world is created, sustained, and shaped by non-material forces, and (b) it’s possible for individual human beings, with appropriate training, to learn how to work with those non-material forces directly (rather than through the intermediary of a god or spirit).

    What is the difference between a non-material force, and a god or spirit?

  180. Walt, a book I’d encourage you to have a look at, if you haven’t already, is James McClenon’s Deviant Science: The Case of Parapsychology. It’s a useful exploration of what happened to parapsychology, using the lens of the sociology of deviance, and it includes some research into the attitudes of scientists toward parapsychology that’s eye-opening. Another, less academic but funnier, is Robert Anton Wilson’s essay “The Persecution and Assassination of the Parapsychologists as Performed by the Inmates of the American Association for the Advancement of Science under the Direction of the Amazing Randi.” As for your ability to sense the charge in a talisman, one of the persistent findings of psychical research is that such abilities vary dramatically from person to person; it’s quite possible that you need to bring conscious perception into the mix, but it’s not safe to conclude from that data point that everyone does.

    Your Kittenship, your email has been added.

    Joy Marie, Mercury retrogrades are specifically difficult times for Mercury things, such as writing and communicating. It so happens that there are quite a few planets retrograde at the moment — Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn, in addition to Mercury — but most other retrogrades aren’t anything like so challenging. (Though I don’t recommend changing your interior decor, buying new clothes, or doing anything else aesthetic until after Wednesday night, when Venus goes direct.) So I wouldn’t worry about it; make your decision with as much thought and reflection as it needs, and then act on it.

    Lathechuck, that’s certainly one factor. Another factor is simply that so many people these days are used to being fed falsehoods by supposedly qualified experts, that when somebody who claims to be a qualified expert says something, a great many people automatically discount it. That’s especially true when there’s a class difference. Do you recall the study right around the time that Trump got elected, that had working class people sit through a video that was supposed to make them oppose Trump, and the experimenters found that the viewers became even stronger Trump supporters? There was a vast amount of handwringing over that, but as far as I know nobody talked about the most parsimonious explanation: working class people are so used to being lied to by salary class people that when somebody from the salary class pushes an idea at them, their instant response is to discount it.

    Your Kittenship, thank you!

    Someone, what a fine theme for your next week of meditations!

  181. @JMG @neptunesdolphins

    Encouraging resiliency in the face of mental illness and resulting domestic chaos is perhaps the most important variable when attempting to rebuild a shattered household…among other things.

    It can be likened to the metaphor of walking through a dark swamp that appears to have no end. You keep walking even though it’s hard and there is no light. You keep going as the consequences of stopping are perhaps the end of something entirely valuable.

    It’s the hard path when dealing with big problems but once you walk it a few times your resiliency becomes well worn and stronger. You might say you become something like the archetype of ‘he who knows all wounds.’ This is also sometimes a way to avoid a pharmaceutical solution, although I could be hung for saying that.

  182. – Aidan Barrett (and JMG)

    I would argue the reason the woke left is becoming so absurdly shill (even worse than usual) at the moment is because they sense they are losing power/ control over the narrative. I myself would have been something like in the woke left maybe 10-5 years ago, but I’ve slowly moved away because of how fanatical and absurd these people are becoming.

    As for institutional control (the long march through the institutions), a lot of the power of the woke left comes from the salaried class, whose prosperity depend on the government funding universities and large bureaucracies (imposing socially liberal agendas). Both of these things will I suspect have their funding drastically cut in the coming years, removing a lot of the political and economic clout of the ‘woke left’.

    The new power bases economic and political will be in the emerging self employed small to medium size business class, who are generally by their nature more socially conservative.

    Also just on the Star Wars movies and ‘the force’, yeh I’ve never considered that George Lucas overlaid the other star wars movies with techno- special effects because he realized he was getting too close to breaking the taboo of the universe not being a cold dead place (except for human brains!)…

  183. Late this week, but I wanted to say that appreciate the ongoing magic series, and especially today’s writing on Mesmer’s doctrine. Fun fact: animal magnetism eventually made its way to Haiti, home of African and African American supernaturalism, and especially the spirit lineage system of Vodou which assimilated some of these ideas. Also, as mentioned above, African American magic/Hoodoo appropriates the John Henry folklore, apotheosizing the legendary John the Conqueroo mythos and the African Hyphaestus, Ogun. Most readers are not aware of parallel narratives of African American occultism and magic that have been subverted by the “white” histories. Could this be due to racism or white supremacy? Perhaps this current moment, “SJW” and Leftist excess notwithstanding, provide opportunities for those who want more balance to consider uncovering the hidden transcripts of black life in this arena.

  184. Ian, true, and important.

    BB, that’s certainly my take on what’s behind the current consternation. The professional and managerial classes have fatally overplayed their hand; their power depends on institutional arrangements that can easily be disrupted. (Imagine the impact, for example, if the federal government got out of the student loan guarantee business and allowed student loans to be discharged by bankruptcy; bankers would then only lend to students who had a reasonable likelihood of being able to repay loans from future income…and there goes every Critical Studies department in the nation.)

    Y. Chireau, some readers may not be aware of the importance of African American people and traditions in the history of American occultism, but we’ll be talking about those at some length as we proceed. I’m sure you’re aware of P.B. Randolph; we’ll be discussing him fairly soon, and going on from there. Not sure if you’re aware of this, but most American occultists I know who are interested in the history of occultism here are perfectly well aware of the African American aspect of that…

  185. JRuss, Seaside Hermit, and JMG– It occurred to me that it would be very helpful to hear from former ADF people about what specifically drew them to that organization and what they loved about it. Ideally, I’d like to see an organization that was not simply an SJW-free ADF replacement, but rather a different type of organization where former ADFerrs but also revival Druids like myself (and even practitioners of Christian Druidry?) could all find a home. Still, since my own background is in occultism and the revival end of the Druid tradition I’d be very helpful to hear from former ADFers about what they were and are looking for and what ADF gave them.

    Maybe there is another venue we can move the conversation to?

  186. @BB and JMG

    I probably would have been woke left in a past life due to a certain desire for cultural experience in my psyche. However, the cultural left more broadly is about closing minds rather than opening them up to diverse experiences (as they claim).

    There were few prophets of our strange times more prescient than the pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty.

    During the time of Trump’s election four years ago, a certain quote of Rorty’s went viral:

    “Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

    At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots”

    Rorty wrote this quote in his 1998 book “Achieving Our Country”. He feared that America in the future may become vulnerable to the suductive appeal of a reactionary demagogue who promised to Make America Great Again. The potential for such a leader would be driven by a combination of cultural and economic despair by the disenfranchised working class.

    His book was aimed mainly at the left and especially what he called the “cultural left” whom he held as just as culpable in such an outcome as the demagogue himself. Why? Because the cultural left was driven by an insular self-righteousness that was completely unsuitable for effective politics. Like many other observers of the cultural left since he described their beliefs as to akin to religion:

    “The Ubiquity of Foucaldian power is reminiscent of the ubiquity of Satan, and thus of the ubiquity of original sin-that diabolical stain on every human soul…in commiting itself to what it calls ‘theory,’ this Left has gotten something which is entirely too much like religion…What stories about blue-eyed devils are to Black Muslims, stories about hegemony and power are to many cultural Leftists”

    Rorty traced this disillusionment back to the aftermath of the Sixties when the left adopted a “spectatorial” approach ot social problems and retreated into the academy while immersing themselves in “apocalyptic French and German philosophy [postmodernism and critical theory]”.

    He even noted how, “The cultural left has a vision of an America in which the white patriarchs have stopped voting and have left all the voting to be done by members of previously victimized groups, people who have somehow come into possession of more foresight and imagination than the selfish [white] suburbanites. These formerly oppressed and newly powerful people are expected to be as angelic as the straight white males were diabolical”

    In short, the cultural left’s basic pathology hasn’t changed much in a generation. The differences are that combination of the mob culture of social media, the continued march through the institutions, the socio-economic disillusionment of younger generations due to a combination of factors (War on Terror, Economic Crises, corruption, climate change), and mental health crises making younger people more receptive to Marcuse’s notion of “repressive tolerance” have only amplified the problems that Rorty identified almost a generation ago!

  187. Wesley
    re: Fox sisters – specifically Margaret Fox Kane

    I’ve never been able to find any info about newspapermen paying anything to either Margaret or Kate.
    But there is some amount of documentation to the following:

    Margaretta (aka Margaret or Maggie) was betrothed to the (then) famous Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane (some claim a secret marriage). The plan was that he would come back from his last expedition, and they would marry, he would hit the lecture circuit and she would be a proper wife, etc. etc.
    But, he never came back.
    Margaret then asked for her portion of his estate, as stated in the will. His brother the executor of the estate refused. Margaret sued, and won. The brother refused again. Margaret sued again, and won again. So the brother and rest of the family (“good Christians”, supposedly), made a deal – “you recant, and we’ll pay you (some)”.
    Margaret was by then old enough (and controversial enough) that her marriage prospects were dim to say the least, so she recanted.

    But later she recants the 1st recantation.

    A decent modern reference:
    Talking to the Dead (2004)
    Barbara Weisberg

  188. Hi John Michael,

    Happy solstice to you!

    Out of curiosity, do you believe that there is truth in history being a form of narrative? Or possibly that we as a species are hard wired to see it so?



  189. @Beekeeper in Vermont

    Re: the NPR article. Well, the problem is that they don’t have any concrete banned books/authors there. You know, actual names. So, that limits its utility. It’s a step in the right direction, though.

    @JMG: “I wonder if we could encourage the social justice activists to come up with a comprehensive list of prohibited books. You’re right that it would be a fine reader’s guide.”

    Right! And we could put in a good (or bad, depending on one’s perspective) word for you to get you on there. I bet it would help sales! ::wink:: ::wink::

  190. JMG – If college student loans, taken out by the students (and not their parents or grandparents) were dischargeable by declaring bankruptcy, a visit to the campus bankruptcy lawyer would be part of the whole Graduation Week festivities: a goodbye party with the college friends, renting/returning a gown, skipping out on the landlord (he’s got a security deposit to cover the rent and damage), and loading up the car for the First Real Job. A graduating student typically has no assets worth pursuing, and the diploma can’t be repossessed or foreclosed upon. Therefore, students with even the most profitable majors wouldn’t be able to borrow money without a vulnerable co-signer (e.g., parent). But then, students with no co-signers would have to rely on grants and pay-as-you-go employment. Tuition and fees would have to come down, and I’m sure many fewer students would graduate. And then, employers would have to find some other way to screen potential employees before training them for actual job skills.

  191. Sister crow:
    I am still writing – just click on my name here.

    I find freedom in writing what I want. It is something to counter the “correct-thinking” memes out there.

    This is why I read this blog since it is engaged in critical thinking. There are few places that actually ask questions, investigates, and ponder things and still retain a non-political bias.

  192. @Joy Marie – there is only one UU Church in Gainesville, and she’s pretty well entrenched there now. She doesn’t mind the SJW aspect; it’s the vagueness of the sermons (except when the minister is talking about trans & nonbinary issues) that irritates her, and not as much as it bothers me.

    It’s not necessary to attend a church in order to get any respect or cooperation; it’s just that if you don’t, you’re not where the things calling for cooperation are being done. Like not being among the people of the Great Old Ones in Arkham, MA; there’s an entire network there you can’t see.

    Thanks again – I’ll attend with Carol as a family matter, I have a friend in the choir who moved here from Albuquerque shortly after I did, and I’ll socialize with the members. Their pamphlet rack also put me onto the local conservation cemetery, in which I plan to buy a plot as soon as I get my head out of the fog.

    P.S. I ran my parable past a good friend and she said “There’s someone like that around here. “He would stop in a blizzard to haul members of his Despised Minority Group and help them out any day.” My question is: does she have evidence that he despises a certain group? Or just infer it from his politics? Small town, people know things about each other. My guess is, if true, he may make a distinction between “Them !@#$%’s” in the abstract, and “Joe and Mary Tsosie down the road.”

    But her automatic assumption is utterly telling.

  193. I came across this in my reading, followed a link from SST website, which I read.

    It’s an interesting bit of history “that almost was”, and would have caused this country to turn out very differently. It’s real, and important to know with all the spin and misinfo out there on our own history.

    It’s something I never even knew existed…thread very much worth reading!

  194. @neptunesdolphins: Interesting, every time I’ve checked on your blog the same post from August 2017 has been on top, the one about Vortumnus, so I’d assumed it was dead. A formatting problem, perhaps?

    I agree with you 100% about this blog–I came to The Archdruid Report after seeing the article about JMG in PanGaia, already primed for the peak oil message and half ready for the Druid path. What I did NOT expect was the training in rational thought (and myself a Philosophy minor, back in the day)! Like his ritual/meditation/divination formula for beginning mages, it’s a long and subtle initiation, but very effective in transforming one’s relationship to the world.

    JMG, feel free to reply to that with a “heh heh heh,” if so moved!

  195. Steve T. et al: I am happy with the AODA and plan to continue as a member (and, I hope, as GCC clergy), but I too would be interested in an overtly Polytheistic Druid organization, especially if it focused on the Celtic pantheons rather than the whole range of Indo-European religions as ADF does. I attended one ADF public ritual, coming away repulsed for reasons I couldn’t understand at the time, and since then I’ve searched in vain for another Celtic-centered Polytheism that was, as JRuss says, centered on piety and not on politics. JMG, please add my email to the list!

  196. Wow, turns out that Yale was founded by an actual slave trader, not just a slave owner.

    Can’t wait to see where this one goes…

  197. I would appreciate being added to the list under discussion, please and thank you.

  198. Steve T, that strikes me as a very good idea. Would you like me to put up something on my Dreamwidth journal to provide a place for that?

    Your Kittenship, as with all things Druidical, that varies wildly from Druid to Druid. Some Druids do rituals to call down energies of healing and balance, which are then radiated outward to benefit the land and everything living on it; some Druids do rituals to attune themselves to the energies of the seasonal cycle, for the purpose of self-initiation and inner development; some Druids simply have a party; and the list goes on. Outside of Druidry? You’ll have to ask elsewhere.

    Aidan, fascinating. I’ll have to look that book up.

    Sunnnv, as with everything related to Spiritualism, there are plenty of colorful stories!

    Chris, and a happy solstice to you too. My take is that human beings think with stories as inevitably as we walk with feet and eat with mouths. Whether or not history is a narrative, we inevitably experience it as one.

    Irena, but of course!

    Lathechuck, exactly. That is to say, conditions would return to what they were before the universities metastasized, when a lot of people went to night school to advance themselves, or did a tour in the military in order to get GI Bill benefits. I’ve been looking for a downside, and can’t find one…

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Oilman2, fascinating. I’d read about those amendments in old books on the history of the run-up to the Civil War, but never in that kind of details.

    Sister Crow, heh heh heh. 😉

    TJ, I think every university that was founded by anyone involved in the slave trade should immediately close down and donate its entire endowment to charities helping the African-American community, and all the students, professors, and administrators of those universities should go do a year of unpaid volunteer service in inner-city ghettos. I’m sure we can get the radical wokesters at Yale et al. to agree to that! 😉

    JeffinWA, so done.

  199. @pixelated thanks for the link to the New Republic article, “Now Do Lincoln.”

    It occurred to me that this periodic tearing down and desecration of idols has been going on for a very long time in the cycles of history. It’s why the noses are broken on so many ancient Egyptian statues, for example.

    “These statues have broken noses because many ancient Egyptians believed that statues had a life force. And if an opposing power came across a statue it wanted to disable, the best way to do that was to break off the statue’s nose…the statues have a life force, and the life force comes through the nose, that’s how you breathe.”

    The breath is a recurring motif: the massive cutting down of the forests (the lungs of the planet); the coronavirus attacking vulnerable human lungs, especially of city-dwellers who breathe polluted air; the killing of George Floyd (“I can’t breathe”). All connected.

    Also, it seems to me that lately, things are happening in shorter and shorter recursive cycles, and the pace of change is accelerating.

  200. JMG,
    Please add me to the email list? It could well be the beginnings of the message I sent you on LinkedIN…

  201. @JMG: “TJ, I think every university that was founded by anyone involved in the slave trade should immediately close down and donate its entire endowment to charities helping the African-American community, and all the students, professors, and administrators of those universities should go do a year of unpaid volunteer service in inner-city ghettos. I’m sure we can get the radical wokesters at Yale et al. to agree to that!”

    Gah. I was gonna write something very much like it, but you beat me to it!

    @Aidan & JMG

    The SJW ideology is nuts and quite easy to mock, of course, but if you stop paying attention to what they’re saying, and think of it instead as an increasingly bitter intra-elite competition caused by elite overproduction (as per Turchin’s theory), it makes perfect sense. It’s one set of elites (or elite aspirantes) trying to push out competition. Well, okay. There are too many elites and elite aspirants at the moment anyway. The problem is that the losers are likely to be bitter, change their tune, and start leading a counter-movement, with no shortage of followers (given popular immiseration). JMG has argued that if the shooting starts, it’ll come from the right, because that’s who has the guns. Exactly. Today, some elite wannabe loses his job at the NYT or what have you because of a gross overreaction to a silly remark (or even a perfectly reasonable remark). Tomorrow, that loser has changed his tune in order to woo a right-wing following. The day after tomorrow, well, you see where this is going…

  202. If there’s an email list for the polytheistic organization, I’d like to be added. If you make a dreamwidth post about it, I’ll also post there. There seems to be a decent amount of interest here.

    When I decided I was no longer willing to remain in ADF, my thoughts immediately turned to the Reformed Druids of North America, which was something of a precursor to ADF: Although I really do think ADF members did some valuable work exploring primary source material and taking polytheistic interpretations seriously at a time when that was fairly rare in the dominant Neopagan scene, the free-form nature of the RDNA seems like an overall better structure to allow that to grow naturally and adapt to local preferences and religious experience, and perhaps to outlive that same Neopagan scene. Plus many of the key elements of ADF ritual that (in my experience) people tend to find most valuable were already present in RDNA, so someone with RDNA initiations could, in a sense, reconnect those rituals with an older current outside of ADF.

    @Tolkienguy and Robert Mathiesen,

    Thank you for mentioning Denver Snuffer and for the book recommendations. I’ve started looking into both and they seem quite interesting.

  203. Lady CuteKitten – “What religious rites occur on solstices?” Speaking only for myself, but recommending this to others, I find that putting money into this blog’s tip jar on the solstices is a schedule that I can remember without the inefficiency of more frequent, smaller transactions. How much? About the same as what I give to my local public radio stations, and about as much if I bought a new book every solstice, and the whole amount went to the author.

  204. I don’t know if you would class Uri Geller as a fraudulent medium, but certainly many people believed in his magical powers. He came to South Africa at the height of his fame, late ’60s IIRC, and allowed three people to test him: a scientist, a reporter, and one other. The scientist was my physics lecturer, John Juritz (who also incidentally played the bassoon in the philharmonic orchestra).

    Mr Juritz presented his report-back at a packed-out New Science Lecture Theatre. Uri Geller was big news in those days and we all wanted to know if he was the real thing.

    None of the three investigators knew each other. Geller’s rule was no cameras, recording instruments, or written notes. The investigators got together briefly beforehand and agreed they would try to remember exactly what had happened, write their memories out immediately afterwards, and then compare notes.

    They met Geller in a dimly-lit hotel room gathered around a coffee table. Geller did his usual thing, tapping (mechanical) watches to make them go, stroking keys to straighten them, etc.

    Comparing notes afterwards, they realised Geller actually failed a lot of the time. They would hand him a house key to straighten, he would stroke it, then say he’s not feeling the power and put the key on the table, and go on to some other thing. Then at some later stage he would pick the key up and say oh look it’s straight. They’d look at the key afterwards and think, was it so really crooked to start with? Is it truly straight now? You could probably bend it if you has strong fingers. And old watches always go for a bit if you tap them, but for how long? Are they truly fixed?

    Mr Juritz gave us several more examples along the same lines and concluded that they couldn’t say with absolute certainty that Geller was a fake, but they were pretty sure he was.

    At that point an astonishing thing (to me) happened. The Dean of the faculty of science, i.e. Juritz’s boss, stormed onto the platform. He was a white-haired, burly older guy and he was red in the face with emotion. He told us to ignore what Mr Juritz had said, that Geller’s powers were real, and that he, the Dean, had personally witnessed similar powers in a 12-yr-old boy.

    He said he had tested the boy by handing him a mass of mangled metal and told him to untwist the bit in the middle using mind power alone. The boy held the metal mass in his hand and focused, then said he couldn’t concentrate with the Dean present, and went into another room. He came out of the room a bit later with the central bit untwisted. So you see, mind power is real, the Dean concluded.

    Of course, we were all sitting listening politely but thinking what is this old fool on about. Obviously the boy poked the metal with a screwdriver or something while nobody was watching. How could a person be such an idiot as to believe it was done with mind power.

    What it taught me was that people will believe what they want to believe, even very clever people. In fact, the smarter you are, the more ways you can twist the facts to fit your belief.

  205. @JMG – heh-heh-heh — I LIKE the idea of a year of unpaid service in the inner city ghettos for our snowflakes. Though I’m not sure how well the people in those ghettos would like having a bunch of Yalies dumped on them!

  206. Hi Martin,

    I’m so old I saw both Geller and James Randi on late-night TV shows! Geller’s conditions for performing made me suspicious of him. Also, it came out that when he was a professional magician, he was listed in a directory of same as specializing in small-scale magic—such as spoon-bending. I’m morally certain he’s a mountebank. And that he and Randi deserve each other.

  207. Hi John Michael,


    Interesting, following on from your thought that: “Whether or not history is a narrative, we inevitably experience it as one.”:

    I’m not expecting a response on the matter as it would be incredibly long, but given that generally it is easier to destroy something than to create something, do you feel / believe that the current round of destruction has given much thought to the old adage that nature abhors a vacuum? Rarely can a group intent on destruction also be the same folks who can create, and so that leaves err, fertile ground for all sorts of mischief. I’ve been wondering about that story of late and history gives something of a guide, and was wondering if you were mildly concerned about it as well?



  208. Tanya, you’re on the list.

    Irena, please spread the idea around! As for your analysis of social justice as a vehicle for intra-elite competition, that strikes me as spot on.

    Aidan, it reads to me like a typical piece of Neoreaction, and like most products of that movement, unconvincing to anyone who isn’t already on that particular bandwagon. It would work better if Pol Pot was over there on the left where he belongs. (And why radishes?)

    Yucca Glauca, RDNA is certainly an option, and one that I explored to some extent — I was ordained as a Third Order priest of Dalon ap Landu in 2009, though it’s not something I’ve really done anything with.

    Martin, from everything I’ve seen, Geller is a fake. I always thought the reason Randi hated him so much is that Geller was so much better at monetizing his skills.

    Ben, you’re most welcome.

    Steve, Magic Monday is about to begin, but Tuesday or thereabouts I’ll post something.

    Patricia, oh, granted, it’s hideously unfair to the poor inner-city residents!

    Chris, the very short form is that the political Left has been burdened since the late 18th century with Rousseau’s delusional notion that if you just get rid of the “unnatural” institutions and habits that supposedly make people behave badly, and have everyone just do what comes naturally, then everyone will behave like angels and Utopia will arrive. It never works, but learning from one’s mistakes — oh, that’s so bourgeois…

  209. TJ, I think every university that was founded by anyone involved in the slave trade should immediately close down and donate its entire endowment to charities helping the African-American community, and all the students, professors, and administrators of those universities should go do a year of unpaid volunteer service in inner-city ghettos.

    After they have disbanded the police, of course.

  210. @Steve T,

    My goal for this group would be a place for Polytheists of all sorts to gather and worship. I’d love it’s focus to be on piety first with the powers worshiped at the center of everything we do, perhaps look to the AFA’s model of doing things, with two temples an a third being funded and already ground work for a forth they are doing something right! Buuuut let’s not have the folkish stuff.

  211. Denys:
    “Now I know why people keep detailed logs of the weather for their own growing space.”

    You betcha. The bigger our garden gets, the more obsessive I get with weather and rainfall. I got a gauge that measures to the 1/100 of an inch and keep meticulous logs of every drop, along with day and night temps and wind. My husband thinks I’m overdoing it, but he doesn’t complain about the produce from the garden.


    It seemed to me that the NPR blogger painted with a rather large brush in advocating the decolonizing of one’s bookshelf. These days, at least in the English-speaking world, colonizers are seen as exclusively white, historical facts be damned, so the immediate meaning of decolonizing is to dump white authors. Over the last few decades there’s been a push from the left to eliminate ‘dead, white males’ from the canon of literature to be read in schools and universities; the NPR article is pretty much more of the same.

    If you could unearth a university reading list from the 1950’s or so – when serious literature was still taught – you could do well to start there. No woke university would require students to read many of those authors anymore, the poor darlings might get triggered.

    You could also extrapolate whose books are worth reading by gauging how strongly the SJW battalion denounces them. Linguist John McWhorter and economist/social theorist Thomas Sowell (both black) are excellent, intelligent writers who are despised by the left. You might find their books to be enlightened commentary on contemporary events.

  212. I got busy and forgot yesterday. To all of you who are, or have, dads—Happy Belated Father’s Day!

  213. I live about 25 miles from the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp in Florida. Some time ago my SO and I used to attend Sunday services there at the Colby Memorial Temple. The services would begin with a guided meditation, a hymn or two, and a New Thought/New Age homily, and conclude with a medium delivering an open reading. To me the “messages” seemed widely applicable to most human beings. We would usually attend with another couple from the area and afterward have a pleasant picnic and conversation at nearby Spirit Lake. [Sweet memories of past friends moved on.]

    I was not connected to Spiritualism in any formal, or informal, way, but began to visit Cassadaga because a Dakota friend and advisor lived there. He had been a Baptist minister in NJ but was now a pipe carrier for the Greasy Grass clan. I had first heard him lecture on Dakota spirituality in the Andrew Jackson Davis Building…So, Davis’ name is still alive in the 21st Century, at 1112 Stevens Street, Cassadaga, Florida. The building is also the location of an excellent bookstore stocked with esoteric and occult books.

    Also wanted to thank one of the commentariat for a mention of “The United States of Hoodoo”. I spent 20 years in New Orleans, and will testify that “the veil is thin” in that wondrous and unique city.

    Looking forward to more essays on “old weird America” by JMG.

  214. Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat: For the solstices, I have no idea what anyone else does, but I go down to the Providence River, sprinkle sage and cast a shot of local rum on the waters, and thank the River for its blessings.

    TJ: Our local Institution of Woke, Brown University, was not founded by a slave trader, although one of the men who wrote the charter did invest in a slave voyage and received a young Negro boy as part of his share in the profits. The University changed its name to Brown in 1804 after a large donation from one of the Brown family. This particular branch had turned against slaving after losing an entire investment on a slave ship, although other family members continued the trade. A decade back, Brown spent several years investigating how the slave trade supported the development of the University (TLDR: it did). They then created the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. Despite the name, as soon as any controversy arrives, the Center heads straight for the hills instead of supporting Justice. To cap it all off, Brown patted itself on the back by commissioning this sculpture: . Since I am a cynical sort, I can see that the broken chain represents Brown freeing itself from the taint of the money from slavery, and they are now free, at last.

  215. @Justin. How rude, not to mention chauvinistic. You might as well go all-in woke and change it to DOMINATRIX.

  216. @Irena

    It’s already happening on a small scale I think in Academics in Canada. I recently was made privy to a conversation between academics calling for a very specific kind of person to be brought on as a mentor. The request garnered several responses from people that almost fit the bill. The responders were vying for the position using their skin color, sexual orientation, and socio economic background. I found the language sickening but also understood there was a certain amount of fear involved as the person showing me this text was scared.

  217. The Mormon People by Matthew Bowman. I borrowed through the Libby app on my phone since our libraries are still closed. Only read through the first couple of chapters since I was most interested in the part where Joseph Smith stayed in PA for awhile before moving to Ohio. It was written around the time Romney was running for president. I’ll probably borrow it again to screenshot the bibliography.

    I think I’m going to focus the third season of my podcast on Pennsylvania genealogy on the religious practices of the people here and where to find their records. I would love to interview you and have you share about your book. Genealogists are insatiably curious about the past and know we haven’t been told the whole story through our history classes.

    Now I just need HSP to open back up. The protests continue everyday in Philadelphia and it sure looks like they are keeping it closed to prevent it from being rushed by a mob and set on fire.

  218. John–

    I would also like to be added to the email list being discussed. While I am getting indications that my path is more solitary, an organization of that nature may nonetheless be helpful.

  219. JMG-“Both these simplifications have the same goal, which is keeping people from learning anything from history.”

    Thank you for summing up the feeling I had about current events that I couldn’t place my finger on. In America we are already so disconnected to our history and my fear is this round of sanitization and cleansing will disconnect us even further. People without a history are more likely to glum onto the mass culture and buy its ideas/products not seeing alternatives like the hidden worlds this series on American magic is revealing.

    It seems to me like this current cleansing of history is a campaign by the worshippers of progress. They are starting to see the “ever forward” religion is hitting some stumbling blocks so they are attacking history (which can’t fight back) in an effort continue to make the promised continual progress. So now they can say “see we are still progressing. see no more beyond monuments to historic tragedies” since the progress science religion is unable to offer solutions to COVID19, climate change etc…

    Also JMG for your history of magic in the US also consider Daniel Leeds and his son Titan Leeds. Almanac publishers whose dabbling in astrology, Christian occultism and mysticism got them shunned by their 17th Century New Jersey Quaker communities. They are tied up in feuds with Benjamin Franklin over astrology and linked to the New Jersey’s prized cryptid the Jersey Devil.

  220. First, a heads up: I’ve just posted something over on the Dreamwidth account asking for people to tell their stories of what attracted them to ADF and why they quit; you can find it here.

    Now, a few responses:

    Onething, of course! And emptied all the prisons, because of course the rights of criminals are far more important than the rights of the people they victimize.

    David, so done.

    GP, thank you for this! Can you recommend some sources on the Leedses? They sound like exactly the kind of people I want to welcome back into historical memory.

  221. Late in the cycle, but perhaps worth a mention. I sat down this Tuesday evening to a very pleasant family meal of apple and sausage casserole – we eat it perhaps once a month. Apart from the obvious ingredients it contains around a pint of cider, the alcoholic kind as is most UK cider. It prompted the memory of the essay a fortnight past and I gave a rather garbled history of Johnny Appleseed, not such a well known figure here.

    Afterwards I was browsing through clips on YouTube and blow me down – a history of Johnny Appleseed popped up from ‘The History Guy’, a channel that really doesn’t come up very often. In the past I’d have put this down to mere coincidence, but nowadays I’m forced to ask ‘what sorcery is this?’.

    I’ve seen the Baader-Meinhof effect in text many times in the past, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it in a YouTube video.

  222. Thank you John for the great posts. Do have a recommendation for good book(s) about Mesmer? Thx

  223. @Andy Dwelly

    I had to Google Baader-Meinhoff. Thanks for that!

    Which brings up another possibility (besides coincidence, synchronicity, sorcery, and the Baader-Meinhoff effect):

    Google algorithms parsed your visit to this site a fortnight ago, and your reading of the conversation here about Johnny Appleseed. Google owns YouTube.

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