Not the Monthly Post

In the Company of Angels

So far in our exploration of the hidden history of American magic, we’ve talked mostly about people whose place in this nation’s history has been forgotten—or, to be a little more frank, erased.  The one exception, John Winthrop Jr., is tolerably well known by those who have some reason to recall the history of colonial Connecticut, but outside that limited circle, he’s hardly a name that drops readily off most people’s lips. As we proceed, though, we’ll also be talking about people who had a large enough role in American history that they can’t simply be ignored, but whose involvements in occultism and alternative spirituality have been swept under the rug.

There have been quite a few of those, including some very famous individuals, and the one at the heart of this week’s round of forbidden Americana is one of them. His name was John Chapman, but next to nobody remembers him by that moniker these days. You’ve heard of him, dear reader, as Johnny Appleseed.

My readers elsewhere in the world may find it helpful to know that Johnny Appleseed is an American icon, the subject of any number of children’s books as well as an unusually forgettable Disney movie. Barefoot, dressed in ragged clothes, and usually wearing a saucepan for a hat, he strides through the forests of our national imagination, planting apple trees wherever he goes. He was, as it happens, a real person, and the image I’ve just sketched out is not too far from the reality. What gets left out, or at most brushed aside with the verbal equivalent of a shrug and rolled eyes, is the fact that John Chapman was considerably more than an early American eccentric with a fondness for apples.  He was a holy man and a religious visionary:  to be precise, a missionary of the New Church, an organization founded on the visions of a remarkable Swedish scientist and scholar named Emanuel Swedenborg.

To understand the extraordinary life of John Chapman, in other words, it’s necessary to start on the other side of the Atlantic almost a century before his birth, and make the acquantaince of the astonishing figure who set Chapman’s career in motion and gave it its distinctive direction.  Born in 1688, the son of a minister, Emanuel Swedenborg—that’s him on the right—received a first-rate education with a focus on the sciences, and spent four years in London when that was the center of Europe’s burgeoning scientific revolution, when the Royal Society got to listen to live lectures by people such as Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley.  On his return to Sweden, he went to work for the government as an inspector of mines, and published scientific papers in geology, chemistry, metallurgy, and human anatomy, including a study of the human brain that introduced the concept of the neuron.

In 1744, however, Swedenborg began to have strange dreams, and in 1745 he suddenly began entering into visionary states in which he conversed with Christ and the angels. Being the kind of man he was, he immediately set out to research the spiritual world with the same thoroughness and attention to detail he had previously applied in his work as a chemist and a mine inspector. Sixteen books on the nature of the spiritual universe duly appeared, including the immense Arcana Cœlestia, a commentary on the Bible in eight volumes.  His spiritual vision seems to have given him remarkable psychic gifts as well:  when a fire broke out in Stockholm in 1759, for example, Swedenborg—who at that moment was dining with friends in Gothenburg 250 miles away—described what was happening to the other dinner guests.  Every detail he reported turned out to be correct once news of the fire reached Gothenburg by more conventional means.  He also became a minor legend among sailors on the routes linking London to Stockholm, because whenever he boarded a ship to make that voyage, the sailors could count on fine weather and a swift, safe passage.

The theology his angelic visitors taught him differed significantly from that of the Christian mainstream. He rejected the idea that the Trinity consists of three persons—to him it was simply the love, wisdom, and activity of one God—and he condemned conventional ideas of salvation by faith alone.  To him, redemption involved not belief in a set of doctrines but an inner reorientation of the self toward divine truth, expressed in a life of charity toward all. Though he never married, he wrote extensively on sexual and marital love, to which he assigned a much greater spiritual importance than most other theologians then and now.  The Second Coming?  it happened in 1753, and was a spiritual event, not the cataclysmic end of the world (followed by eternal torture for most of humanity) that so many mainstream churches so loudly predicted.  All in all, his theology was expansive, optimistic, and tolerant, and so inevitably it found listeners among those who chafed at the harsher and more dogmatic views of the mainstream churches.

Swedenborg believed that he had been chosen by Christ to restore the Christian religion to its original purity, and to help the existing church organizations clear away fifteen centuries or so of accumulated mistakes and misunderstandings.  He had no interest in founding a church of his own.  After his death in 1772, however, students of his teachings began to found reading groups, and since the existing churches showed no particular interest in having their mistakes and misunderstandings cleared away, some of these reading groups inevitably gave rise to independent churches. Britain had some of these, but it was in the newborn United States that the Swedenborgian movement found its largest following.

Inevitably, that following came to include a fair number of occultists.  The same qualities of tolerance and orientation toward personal spiritual experience that drew colonial occultists to the Sixth-Principle Baptists drew many of their equivalents after the Revolution to the newly founded Swedenborgian churches. This is a pattern we’ll be following repeatedly in posts to come:  a new religious movement is founded with features that attract occultists, they join it, and it flourishes for a time.  Then, in the usual order of things, creeping respectability sets in, the new religious movement begins to settle into the standard mold of popular American religiosity, and the occultists generally drift away.

John Chapman found his way to the Swedenborgian movement when that trajectory was still in its very early stages. Born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774, he was apprenticed to a local orchardist as a boy and learned the apple-growing trade. At that time, apples were an important crop, and not primarily for eating:  apple cider—hard cider, we’d say today, but the idea of alcohol-free cider was unknown in those days—was far and away the most popular beverage in the newly founded American republic, and was made, fermented, and drunk in quantities that seem gargantuan by modern standards.

When he turned eighteen and finished his apprenticeship, he and his half-brother Nathaniel joined the steady stream of pioneers heading west over the mountains into the Ohio River basin. They led a nomadic life for the next seven years, until Nathaniel settled in Ohio to farm.  John had too much wanderlust in him to take up a farmer’s life, though, and continued his work as an itinerant orchardist.  It was not long thereafter that he encountered the Swedenborgian movement; his wanderings brought him to Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where a local family hired him to establish an apple orchard for their farm.  They were Swedenborgians, and they found in the young John Chapman not only a skilled orchardist but an attentive listener to the teachings of their faith. By the time he moved on, he had become a devout Swedenborgian.

He spent several years living in the Pittsburgh area, working at a variety of jobs, and finally began the wanderings that made him famous.  One thing that very often gets missed in accounts of his life is that he was a businessman, not an unworldly mystic, and worked out an idiosyncratic but effective business model to meet his needs and pursue his passion for planting apple orchards.  To provide himself with stock, he visited cider mills and picked seeds by the bucketful out of the discarded pulp, which cost him nothing but labor.  Those went with him to the frontier, where he established nurseries—sometimes on property owned by a friendly pioneer, sometimes past the edge of settlement in the wilderness.

To make his wilderness nurseries, he would clear an area of scrub and surround it with brush fences to keep deer and other wildlife at bay.  A temporary shelter of some kind—as often as not a simple bark shelter, of a kind he learned to make from the local Native American people—gave him a place to stay while he planted the seeds, and kept them watered and tended until they were strong enough to be transplanted.  By then, the first homesteads would have begun to appear in the area, and Chapman would sell his saplings to the settlers for a “fipenny bit” each—a coin worth six and a quarter cents, 1/16th of a dollar, or the equivalent of about ten dollars in today’s money. With that income to cover his few needs, he would then circle back to Pennsylvania to get more seeds and more Swedenborgian tracts.

The business model I’ve just sketched out was largely defined by Chapman’s Swedenborgian beliefs, because the usual way of propagating apples—by grafting branches of an established variety onto a rootstock—was forbidden by his faith. European visionaries have an odd habit of offering detailed agricultural advice; Rudolf Steiner, who was Emmanuel Swedenborg’s early twentieth century Austrian equivalent, took that to the extent of founding the entire system of biodynamic gardening. One of Swedenborg’s teachings was that grafting was an act of violence to the tree, and so seeds were the only option Chapman could consider.

Yet that turned out to have strange consequences.  Apples are among that odd class of cultivated plants that do not breed true from seed. Plant an apple seed, and the apples that grow on the resulting tree will have little in common with the apple from which the seed came.  Many of the resulting apples are sour, mealy, and mushy, which is no problem in the world if what you want is raw material for making apple cider, and have pigs waiting enthusiastically to dispose of the leftover pulp.  Plant hundreds of apple seeds in a wilderness nursery, however, and leave it to wild bees to pollinate them freely, and some of the resulting apples will be delicious new varieties. Thus one result of John Chapman’s life work was the emergence of hundreds of new apple varieties all over the upper Midwest.

The homestead laws at that time gave him an enthusiastic market. The Ohio Company of Associates, the organization chartered to encourage the settlement of the Ohio Territory, offered settlers 100 acres of land for free, so long as they carried out certain improvements on the property within a fixed time; planting an apple orchard counted as one of those improvements. Chapman worked mostly at or near the edge of settlement, where bringing apple trees from points further east was expensive and difficult, so he had no difficulty selling his saplings. He also found a receptive audience for his religious teachings, largely because he was by all accounts an extraordinarly pleasant man, unfailingly helpful and full of abundant good humor.

Read contemporary accounts of Chapman, in fact, and it becomes clear that his spiritual life was at the center of his work.  He seems to have taken the Sermon on the Mount more seriously than almost anyone else before or since.  When Jesus said, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall be be clothed?” that was enough for Chapman. He wore only such used clothes as people gave him, and more than once was seen striding through the woods wearing only a floursack with two armholes cut in it, and a tin saucepan on his head for a hat.

He slept in makeshift shelters in the wilderness or, if offered hospitality by a local settler, on the bare floor of a cabin; he ate simply, lived simply, and preached the Swedenborgian gospel to anyone who was interested in hearing about it. “Will you have some fresh news right from Heaven?” was his favorite opening line. He and the Native American peoples of the region had a mostly friendly relationship—he respected them and their ways, and they recognized him as someone who had been touched by a sacred power and treated him accordingly.  He kept up this lifestyle until his death in 1845 at the age of seventy.  (That’s a photo of him on the left as an old man—photography was just being invented in his last years.)

Even during his life, legends gathered around him, the kind of legends that gather around the saints and sannyasins of the East.  Wild animals were said to show no fear of him; birds perched on his tinpot hat, and when he freed a wolf from a trap and healed its injured leg, it became the companion of his travels until it died.  He was said to be skilled at healing, and is known to have planted medicinal herbs all over the Ohio basin. Dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), which he planted widely, is still called “Johnnyweed” in Ohio; it’s currently classed as an invasive pest, but it’s a close relative of several very widely used medicinal herbs (Joe Pye weed and boneset) and is among other things an effective insect repellent:  something that anyone who’s spent a summer in the Ohio River basin can appreciate.

Thus Johnny Appleseed was, in every sense of the word, a mythic figure.  Writer Michael Pollan, in his book The Botany of Desire, recognized this and pointed straight to the archetype that seized John Chapman and raised him up to the borders of the superhuman: “Johnny Appleseed was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. That’s why he was so popular. That’s why he was  welcome in every cabin in Ohio. He was the American Dionysus. He was the guy bringing the booze.” This is true, of course, but anyone who knows more than a little Greek mythology knows that Dionysus is more than just the booze god. He’s the god who dissolves boundaries, the god who dances across the border between civilization and wilderness, between the human world and the world of animals, between wisdom and madness, between ordinary reality and the visionary state where Emmanual Swedenborg talked with angels and transcended space.

Those of my readers who know their way around Celtic mythology will recognize an even closer parallel to John Chapman in Myrddin Wyllt, the wild Merlin of archaic Welsh legend and poesy, an older and stranger figure by far than his later, watered-down namesake in Arthurian legend.  Like Chapman, Myrddin led a nomadic life in the wilderness; like Chapman, Myrddin had a wolf as a companion; like Chapman, Myrddin was closely associated with apple trees—in fact, one of the most famous of the poems traditionally credited to Myrddin Wyllt, is titled Yr Afallenau (“The Apple Trees”) and in translation, begins “Sweet apple tree which grows in a glade,” a line one could very easily imagine John Chapman penning. In a very real sense, Johnny Appleseed was as much the American Merlin as the American Dionysus. It may not be accidental that he found his religion and began his astonishing career in Pittsburgh, which was one of the main early centers of the Welsh expatriate community in the United States.

Was Chapman an occultist?  None of the available evidence suggests that he was. Rather, he was a holy man whose religion happened to be one that, then and later, attracted a good many people with occult interests.  In a traditional society he would long ago have been recognized as a god (if that society was polytheist) or a saint (if it was monotheist); in our rather more clueless age, he was turned instead into a folktale, Disneyfied into a state of bland tastelessness that resembles nothing so much as artificial apple flavoring, and carefully stripped of every trace of his Dionysiac wildness and mythic force—everything, that is, that might render him unsettling to those who like their world nice and neat and anesthetized.

He was far from the only person who got that treatment.  I suspect, for example, that most of my readers know who Helen Keller was.  Did you know that she was also a Swedenborgian?  That’s been scrubbed from her pop-culture biography just as systematically as it was scrubbed from John Chapman’s. For that matter, not many people these days realize that Swedenborgian churches still exist in the United States and elsewhere. (Those of my readers who might be interested can find plenty of fodder on the Swedenborgian movement online; here’s a link, for example, to the Swedenborg Foundation, which has all of Emmanuel Swedenborg’s spiritual writings free for the reading, and here’s a link to a Swedenborgian Bible study website.)

As the Swedenborgian movement found its feet in the United States, however, its ideas spread widely and veered in unexpected directions.  The American occult community in those days was in the process of outgrowing its dependence on the traditions of the past, and was wide open to new ideas.  Swedenborg’s visions in particular became an important ingredient in a bubbling cauldron of spiritual innovation.  One of the consequences was the emergence of America’s first great homegrown occult philosopher, a figure in some ways as astonishing as Johnny Appleseed, and just as comfortable in the company of angels as Chapman and Swedenborg:  the redoubtable Andrew Jackson Davis. We’ll talk about him two weeks from now.


  1. As a former member of the Swedenborgian church, and someone who still finds value and fascination in parts of the religion, I always love seeing Swedenborg referenced. His theology of correspondences has what to me were startling similarities to Western occult ideas about correspondences. (Then I found out more about how widespread those ideas were.)

  2. This post makes me think of an industrial neighbor of mine ( my machine shop). He has a cidery and calls himself Reverend Nat. He makes and sells cider, often from old apple varieties using old recipes, and peppers his bottle labels, and website with folksy sayings in an 18th century vernacular. He even looks like the John Chapman image from your post.I will have to ask him ( once the lockdown is over and I can visit the taproom) if he is familiar with John Chapman. I would bet that he is.

  3. JMG,

    I googled, “Michael Pollan, The Alchemy of Desire” and can’t find it. Did you by chance mean, “The Botany of Desire?”

  4. Fascinating. I’m not religious but it’s very interesting to learn something of the religious history of the US. Thank you for this.

  5. As soon as saw you writing about the Swedenborgians, I thought of Bryn Athyn Cathedral

    Most of it was designed and built in gothic style with the workers living on site the whole time to do the carvings. We did a tour there years ago and doesn’t have the feeling of a Roman Catholic Church, although it looks like a cleaner version of a 14th century European church.

    They designed it so acoustically the sound travels from front to back so you can hear the minister without speakers. It’s so amazing. It’s well worth a stop if anyone is in the area to see it once we are past pandemic prison.

    You’re making me want to research early Pennsylvania religious practices now. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a book written on it. I get the sense there were so many one-off groups too that never spread beyond the original founding group. I followed one group from Northumberland County, PA to Mason, Ohio and their papers are at Harvard Divinity’s Archive. I had a researcher pull and take photos of the beginning founding book and most of it was rules of behavior, nothing on the services or beliefs.

    Anyway, thank you for these posts. It’s a reminder that we were much more idiosyncratic as a people at one point and if we push it aside, we won’t understand what we once had.

  6. Interesting. Johnny Appleseed was a part of my elementary school education. As I recall, the teacher’s answer to whether he had been a real person was “Maybe, but probably not.”

  7. OMG. I loved today’s essay. I’ve known of Johnny Appleseed since I was a kid but never really knew about the person, John Chapman.

    As I read this essay I sat in shock because this man – Johnny Appleseed lived the kind of life I aspire to! I’m not kidding about that. Part of my Kriya Yoga and Element Purification practices are so that one or more of my future lives will be dedicated to rehabilitating marginal, polluted land and water. You know…be the change you want to see. It would be a “minimalist” life because once a marginal area was brought back to basic health I’d pack up and move on to the next marginal, polluted area and do the whole thing all over again
    Sort of an environmentalist-sanyasin. Or as I read today – a life nearly identical to Johnny Appleseed.

    I’ve practiced Chit Shakti where I imagine myself going out and planting assorted wild grass and flower seedlings, saplings of various sorts and even focusing intent on the water with an attitude of gratitude. Alas, right now I’m not in a place where I actually CAN do those things on the scale I wish I could. But since we become (eventually) what we frequently think about I know someday there will be real activity inspired by my practices.

  8. Hi John,
    What a wonderful story! I remember having a Johnny Appleseed rubber toy as a child (which I passed on to a grandchild).
    Your series on the occult history of the U.S. would make for a wonderful History Channel series. Has no HC researcher or development person contacted you about this?

  9. Mostly I’m not so interested in your occult posts, but this one caught my eye. I am quite familiar with Swedenborgians, having lived for 20 plus years in an area of Pennsylvania (Kempton) that had an active Swedenborgian Church. In fact, the New Church was right down the road from me, and many people I met were members of it, including my chiropractor. She is the one I knew best. Her family were Swedenborgs for generations. She herself was somewhat psychic, a very intuitive person and excellent healer. She had a rather nuanced view of her church, seeing both the good and the problematic–she once told me that her church was divided between those who were aging flower children, and those who were more like conservative Christians. I had never heard of Swedenborg before moving to that area, and it was most interesting to learn about it. Swedenborg was also a very influential figure among the early osteopaths. Although we had many Swedenborgians living in our area, Bryn Athyn, further south, is the main area for Swedenborgians in the eastern US, containing its cathedral. You may note that the name Bryn Athyn is Welsh.

  10. John–

    I just wanted to say a “thank you” for this series on lost American occultism. It is incredibly eye-opening!

  11. Good heady apple brew here John. Thank You.

    Here is an image of a statue of Johnny Appleseed in Spring Grove cemetery, within walking distance of our house, a favorite place to visit.

    The cemetery itself was designed by Adolph Strauch, a prussian born landscape architect. I wonder if any of those landscape architects of that era knew a thing or two about sacred geometry or geomancy, etc. It would be a good subject for divination in any case.

    I came to study Swedenborgianism by way of William Blake, another amazing visionary.

    I really like the idea of Johnny Appleseed as our own American Merlin. You really teased out all the mythic resonances.

  12. John,
    In light of last week’s emotional comments section and everything thing that’s been going on in this Country, this post is like a drink of cool, clean water (or hard cider?) for the soul. Stories and memories like this are what we need now more than ever. Thank you for this my brother, and blessings to you and your wife.

  13. Am I totally wrong to think of Chapman as one of the shock troops of imperial subjugation? The wilderness where he cleared trees and shrubs to plant his orchards was the home of native Americans who had lived there for millennia. What role did the natives play in his career ? What did he think was going to happen to them when European settlers crossed the line into wilderness with the help of his apple adventures? How did his Swedenborgian beliefs coexist with his role in advancing white settlement?

  14. Hi JMG, once I started reading your ADR many years ago, I found myself motivated to clear a couple of acres and start planting apple trees from seed. Who knows, maybe John Chapman is still hanging around northern WV. I’ve got a few trees that seem ready to bear fruit any year now. I’m most curious to see what I end up with. And I’m happy to report that they all came through the freeze with no problems.

    For those who might wish to grow apples from seed, it’s pretty easy! I set some heirloom apples aside in the autumn and keep them chilled. I have the best luck with seeds from the Golden Delicious variety (not the new hybrids, but the original that was discovered in central WV over 100 years ago). Sometime in January or February, I cut open the apples and get the seeds and plant them in 6 inch pots. I keep the pots outside in a protected place, since the seeds need to get some cold time before they will germinate. I keep the soil moist. I usually just use commercial seed starting mix. I let them have a half day sun in the spring, and the trees burst forth. I typically plant 4 to 6 seeds per pot, then thin down to a single tree. I get around a 50% germination success.

    Sometimes the trees grow well enough I can put them in the ground in June. But often I move them to large pots and give them a year before putting them in the ground.

    I encourage all who are interested to go forth and plant apple trees!

  15. Fantastic!

    Thank you JMG for this wonderful story.

    It seems that you are writing exactly what I am thinking about… or is it beCAUSE I am thinking about it?! 😉

    Am really enjoying your introductions to these past great souls. Very encouraging and heart-warming.

    Thank you as always,


    PS @HappyPanda all your “work” in intention and vision is already done. Thank you for your service to the Light, and for assisting beloved Gaia and All to come. A bodhisattva you are of note! Keep it up!

  16. Jsabrina, that approach to correspondences runs all through Renaissance thought, and remained a live option in Sweden and central Europe long after it had been rejected in western Europe, so Swedenborg came by it honestly. I suspect that’s another reason occultists liked the New Church.

    Clay, fascinating! I would imagine he does.

    Btidwell, thanks for catching that. I’ve made the correction.

    Yorkshire, hundreds of them. Occultists and mystics have to pay their bills somehow!

    Christopher, you’re most welcome.

    Denys, Pennsylvania was one of the hotbeds of alternative religious thought in America, so you should have no trouble finding plenty to study.

    Alex, one more example of the way that our educational system dumbs things down.

    Panda, excellent. It’s a worthy aspiration.

    Greg, nope, and I’d be surprised if they did so. The corporate media by and large has no interest in teaching people to think unauthorized thoughts about America’s past.

    Lydia, thanks for this! Yes, there’s a huge Welsh expat community in central and western Pennsylvania.

    David BTL, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Justin, yes — landscape architects and artists generally learned about the subtler aspects of geometry in those days. That didn’t get lost until much later. One of the other figures we’ll be talking about, Jay Hambidge, tried to revive the old knowledge in the 1920s; his books are still very much worth reading.

    Ethan, you’re welcome and thank you!

    Jay, of course you can force things into that ideological straitjacket if you really want to. I’d encourage you, though, to reflect on your own motives for doing so.

    Cyclone, of course he’s still hanging around. Gods and saints generally do! I’m delighted to hear that you’re following in his footsteps.

    Tanya, you and I and all other beings are part of One Life, and as Swedenborg showed, thoughts move from mind to mind much more freely than our current scientists like to think. So maybe I’m thinking these things because you are, or maybe you’re thinking them because I am, or maybe both of us are thinking them because they’re thoughts that want to find an expression just now.

  17. How much difference is there between this kind of wandering mystic and America’s Muscular Christianity / Social Gospel itinerent preachers who earned names like ‘the Labor Evangelist’ and ‘the Railroad Evangelist’?

  18. I knew about Johnny but not about Helen Keller, since, as you pointed out, Swedenborg is NOT in her biography. Very interesting! Thanks!

  19. Dear John Greer, I raise a glass of apple juice to you! This post made me smile. A few years ago, in writing a book about the secret book (Spiritist Manual) by the leader of Mexico’s 1910 Revolution, to my astonishment, I found myself having to delve into into heavy reading about Swedenborg and Swedenborgianism. Wild stuff indeed! Swedenborg recounts visits from Jesus, communications with denizens of Venus and other planets… and yet, as you point out, Swedenborg was an immensely respected scientist of his day, and his works far more influential than most of even the most well-read people imagine. I look forward to your post on Andrew Jackson Davis– in my view, the bridge between Swedenborg and Spiritualism.

  20. It’s kind of amazing to think that, with all the varieties of apples that John Chapman produced, we were pretty much stuck with “Red Delicious” and “Golden Delicious” in the stores when I was young, and that my current favorite apple, Fuji, had to be introduced from Japan.

    The new diversity of tasty apples is one of the bright spots on our cultural trajectory.

    I have an apple tree on my property, but with a house to its east, and a thriving maple to its west, it no longer gets enough sunshine to produce good apples. At least, that’s how the squirrels explain the absence of fruit. 😉

  21. John–

    This is a more general question, but your description of the church losing the fresh energy of its founder(s) as respectability creeps in made me think of wide-open imagination we have as children which we tend to lose as we become adults in the “real” world. The occultists, as you point out, gravitate to the former state and away from the latter. How does one rediscover/rejuvenate that childhood freedom as an adult while still navigating the obstacles of the world as a (supposed) grown-up? That seems to be a key point for me at this particular point in my journey.

  22. HI John
    I just realized that the sprawling mess of a story that I have been trying to write has a lot in common with your history of our Republic of Magic.

    The story starts out with journey to the Momma Chestnut festival in Cincinnati. She was a pseudo mythical person who credited with returning the Chestnut tree to Appalachia. A thousand years in the future Cincinnati is again renowned for its tasty pork fattened on chestnuts, acorns, pawpaws and apples.

    The story follows a group known as Skyriders, imagine if the Shakers were mixed with Barnum and Baily circus and theater group, they fly around in airships shaped like Koi fish and recruit the young misfits and outcasts form the places they go, because when you become a skyrider you give up having children. There are polygamists, Oneida Colonies practicing group marriage, the ungoverned, Transhumanists, SETI’ans and just about any group of weirdos form American history that I know about got tossed 1000 years into the future.

  23. Cider. Maybe its not as popular as it used to be because the stuff they sell at most stores is too sweet. So I decided to make my own dry cider. When I make it, I buy five gallons of unpasteurized unfermented stuff from my local orchard near Ithaca, NY. I dump it in my stainless steel chamber, add champagne yeast (and maybe mulling spices for the holidays), and let it sit for a month or two. That gives the yeast the time to really break down all of the sugars. By the time I am done and the stuff is bottled, I’ve got very dry cider with a very apple taste and (most importantly) not sweet. It goes down real easy but is very strong (never drink more than two at a time). The lesson? Take the time to brew your own.

  24. Wow! I literally never heard of Johnny Appleseed before. Was he everything John Muir and Thoreau wanted to become?

  25. Re: your last post from this series… isn’t Schrödingers “cat theory” an acknowledgment of an alchemical phenomenon?

  26. Johnny made it to the Turquoise Trail that goes north of the Tearful one we survive in.
    I think perhaps that is the last Mother Tree and stuff is getting crabby as it should be.
    The last of the old elk and mule deers and bears and coyotes wait for that last one to drop.
    Of course the eagles and bluebirds and such can poop out more when commanded.
    Corn and sage and chilis and chochos mostly much much older but they all seem to get
    together as needed. Sometimes even people without education grok.

  27. What a wonderful dive into the past!

    OK, Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman and Cyclone are making it look easy… I will try to grow apple trees from seed again.

    I succeeded a couple of years ago along with some lemon trees from seed. The lemons survived the long haul and the apples did not. I’m trying to grow lavender (stratified it in the fridge for a month, have it growing under plastic wrap and moistening soil daily, yadda yadda good grief) and curry tree from seeds at the moment and I’ve got two words: learning curve. In happier news, the milkweeds I planted from seed the fall before last are coming up like crazy and there are many baby monarch caterpillars on them. Just planted an white oak seedling that was a self-starter from one of the big oaks in the neighborhood. Please send your prayers for him/her to grow and thrive!

  28. Slightly OT: the book I read before a Voyage to Hyperborea was The Fall of Rome and the Collapse of Civilization, by Bryan Ward-Perkins. Ward-Perkins uses potsherds as the primary support for his argument for the decline of the complex society of the Roman world to the much simpler society of late antiquity. Then I go on a voyage to Tornarssukalik, and lo and behold! potsherds everywhere! Coincidence or synchronicity?

  29. john: i have been examining my motives for 60 years,first as a student then as history teacher. by now virtually every teacher of history can explain in detail how American history has been sanitized, it’s nastier bits scrubbed away. the standard historical accounts make heroes of slave owners like Crockett whose goal was to safeguard slavery in texas from mexico’s legal ban on the practice; of traitors to their country like Lee and Jackson and war criminals such as custer. Shall we just agree to pretend that Chapman was merely a lovable eccentric whose planting of apple trees had no relationship to conquest and genocide?

  30. Yorkshire, depends on your unit of measurement, I suppose.

    Your Kittenship, you’re most welcome.

    Matthew, that’s not surprising. I remember when Cracked Magazine used to be a third-rate Mad knockoff; these days, is astonishingly clued in. I have no idea what happened — orbital mind control lasers or something.

    C.M., that’s about as perfect a summary of Davis as I can think of.

    Lathechuck, I insist on calling them the Red Tasteless and the Sickly Yellow Tasteless varieties, because they are. Forty years ago, they were decent apples, but they’ve been inbred to the point that their flavor is right down there with the intellectual gifts of teacup poodles.

    David BTL, I wish I had a simple answer. Me, I simply refused to participate in the process, and put up with the considerable poverty that follows as a price I was willing to pay; that being the case, I’m not at all sure what to say to those who got sucked into the machine.

    Skyrider, fun! I trust you’re planning on writing that out to novel length — it sounds like a whale of a good read.

    Chris, yum. That sounds seriously good.

    Tidlosa, to some extent. I haven’t read much Muir; Thoreau was never quite willing to take the step over the line into the transrational, and so remained outside the mythic world Chapman inhabited so comfortably.

    Admin, a very tentative, almost shamefaced step in that direction, yes.

    Neal, drink deep and thrive!

    Kimberly, delighted to hear it. I’ll definitely send a blessing to the oak seedling.

  31. Sorry if this is off topic, but I’ve been thinking/meditating about some stuff related to solve et coagula, and I felt the need to write it down.

    A while ago, I was reading about ancient Iranian Zoroastrian dualism; for anyone who doesn’t know about it, it’s an ancient monotheistic faith that had a massive, massive influence on the Abrahamic faiths, but also was very eclectic, as befits a religion 3500 or so years old. In Indo-European and Zoroastrian cosmology, order and chaos are fundamental principles of existence and do battle in order to corrupt or purify different aspects of existence. This brought to mind Chinese dualism of course, since that is the well known, pop cultural reference for dualism in general. I realized though, that Chinese dualism actually had two different aspects to it. One was yin-yang, but the other was a less defined tendency to prize looseness and openness over hardness and rigidity. I’ve been thinking; what if this tendency is the brother of the Indo-European dualistic conception of cosmology? Seen another way, “chaos” is “looseness” and “order” is rigidity; it’s just a different way of conceptualizing the two concepts so that one is “good” and the other “bad.” Then I got thinking about the Druidic concept of the twin currents so eloquently laid out by JMG. It seems like the different between a healthy and unhealthy dualism, is an understanding that BOTH tendencies harmonize and combine to create something higher. Yin-yang as a concept doesn’t say you should prioritize one, it says that the human spirit blossoms when both are in balance; if I understand the Druidic concept, it is saying something very similar. Then, I was thinking about solve et coagula, and the whole thing started to make more sense to me. It seems to me that each half of the formula is sort of like yin or yang, order or chaos, except it is a step in the process rather than a form of energy. I really like this way of thinking; what kind of idiot would omit a crucial step in the process of mixing, cooking or baking something, you’d have to be a moron! Therefore, omitting a step in an energetic or spiritual process is just as stupid, even if we have an affinity to one part of the process over the other. I also was thinking about types of people. I’m much more of a solve type of person. I cut through and analyze, I get bitter about things I see as stupid, and I see problems and pressures everywhere. Someone who is more on the coagula side might have a solid worldview, be steadfast in their way of life, and have trouble with ambiguity or change even while they are an excellent citizen and family member. I’ve been trying to incorporate more coagula in my life, for example trying to have more respect and appreciation for institutions and traditions, durable things built up over time by people doing their best to create something beautiful and lasting. I get very frustrated with the inertia and corruption and contradictory nature of these big and unwieldy things, but maybe I should just see them as manifestations of their time and place, with unique virtues and vices both.

    That’s kind of where I ended. I know a lot of this is basic occult kind of stuff, but I had a lot of fun thinking about it, so I wanted to write it here!

  32. Peter, good! It’s partly because I read Ward-Perkins’ book years ago that potsherds come to mind whenever I write about archeology.

    Jaymoses, and so you fling yourself to the opposite extreme and insist on denouncing John Chapman with a degree of shrill moral dualism that would make a third-century Gnostic blush. The opposite of one bad idea, you know, is another bad idea — and both, in this case, serve the identical purpose of making it impossible to learn from history. That’s why I’m suggesting that you should examine your own motives in forcing so simplistic and narrow an ideology onto the rich and troubling complexities of the past.

    Derpherder, thanks for this! There’s a crucial distinction between moral dualism of the Zoroastrian variety — or, say, its political equivalent, which Jaymoses has been retailing here just now — and cosmological dualism of the Chinese variety. To the Zoroastrian, as to the modern political Gnostic, one side of the duality is light and truth and everything good, and the other side is absolute evil and must be stomped out of existence. To the Taoist, there can be no Yin without Yang and no Yang without Yin. The Druid teaching of the solar and telluric currents is very much akin to the latter, of course.

  33. JMG, when Cracked magazine shut down they sold the domain, that’s why the title lettering never changed.

    Skyrider, that looks like a great story, keep us posted on progress!

  34. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and hosting this site, Brother Greer. I shared this article with a forester friend, whose name is Chapman. Another take on the great Johnny Appleseed, now greater! Wow! What a character!

    So also thank you, Brother Greer, for hosting witnessing:

    Times are so strange and solitude now normal that people are open to the new perhaps.

    I admit to having built a small shrine to St. Sylvan in a circle of trees and to visiting the shrine from time to time with offerings and shared spiritual thoughts. I find it good to put a name and a face to my spirit guardian and to build a relationship with him. A bit weird, perhaps, in the materialist age, but how anchoring and comforting and strengthening.

    So in your work in the woods, woodsmen and woodswomen, remember St. Sylvan, or his old name Sylvanus, the protector of the woodsman and the guardian of the boundaries. May he protect you and keep your woods healthy and alive!

    And the One, the Source, the All bless us.

  35. Thanks for the kind response, JMG! I love reading about late antiquity; you’re comment about the Gnostics is dead on the mark. I really wish Christianity, and by extension American political culture, hadn’t taken those particular doctrines into themselves so eagerly.

    Jaymoses, if you’re reading this, I come from the same political background as you (I think), and I respect the instinct to look out for the little guy in history, but I think there’s a problem with automatically painting something as totally and irredeemably corrupt because it had some bad aspects to it. By that logic, each human being is totally and unreservedly awful because we all are flawed; it’s sort of the worst aspects of Christian determinism without any of the traditions of self-improvement through good works present in that tradition. Plus, I would add that it’s important to consider that human beings are very limited and thus I believe it’s very important to never be totally convinced of the total correctness or righteousness of any particular point of view, because it’s almost always incomplete. I wouldn’t say that we as humans should be amoral, but being sad and grieving for the effects of the Native American genocide and trying to help First Nations people is different from saying that people are endlessly and permanently stained by the actions of people they never knew. America might have done awful things, but we also produced and are producing beautiful and worthy people, even while great evil was and is being done. In my opinion, that makes us a typical specimen of humanity rather than some sort of terrible unmatched evil. I think you’re right to point out the terrible track record of American history teaching, but I don’t think demonizing a good and inspiring man is the way to try and get that wrong addressed.

  36. Reading about Johnny Appleseed makes me remember my years in a Christian grade school where they taught us to sing his song:
    Oh, the Lord’s been good to me,
    And so I thank the Lord!
    For giving me the things I need
    The sun and the rain and the appleseed;
    the Lord’s been good to me!

    A few weeks into the covid shutdown, with everyone being bored and all that, I managed to convince my mother and step-dad to finally make good on what they had been talking about for years, and get some fruit trees for their backyard – one peach and one plum. We started from saplings, not seeds, and the peach is a graft, but even so, there’s no doubt that thousands of people all over this country will come out of the current situation knowing more about how to grow their own fruit than they did before.

  37. It’s amazing how we often scrub people from history until they are bland and we shrug them off. I always knew of Johnny Appleseed, but never felt compelled to learn about him until now, when I see the rich full person he really was and the real contributions he made. Thank you for reminding me to delve off the beaten path of history and poke into the nooks and crannies for true treasures. It has made my current reading list very rich indeed!

  38. @jaymoses:

    Do you think that Johnny Chapman foresaw, or was even capable of foreseeing, what all the consequences of his apple-planting mighrt be down the road? Or do you think that he consciously intended to subjugate and oppress Native Americans? I would appreciate evidence for either of these positions, if you want to take them.

    More generally, do you think any human being is ever able to foresee that far ahead what the most damaging long-range consequences of his ordinary actions might be, so as to choose between one course of action and another on that basis?

    Do you think that there has ever been even one single human being in all of history, anywhere, who could not be deeply condemned in retrospect for some of the consequences of those very actions of his (or hers) that seemed most beneficial?

    Or do none of these considerations have any bearing on whether and how we judge this or that actual man or woman in history?

    These are genuine questions. I truly would like to know what you think the point might be of judging the past in ways such as you are doing. No matter how we judge it, our judgement cannot affect the future course of history in any deeply significant way.

    On another note, I quite agree that America’s history has been sanitized out of all recognition in textbook and classroom. It ought not to be. By all means fight that with all effective means you can. We have been a nation, more often than not, led by monsters, scoundrels and rascals since the beginning — just as has every other nation throughout human history, and also every future nation one might ever hope to build in the future. Is moral outrage then to be directed against our very species?

  39. Those Dionysus and Myrddin associations are very interesting! Apart from that, Chapman’s possessionless life reminds me also of the Yurodivy or Holy Fools of Russia. Volodazkin’s “Laurus” gives a very vivid account of these in the 15th century.

  40. Hi Jay,

    I’ve heard that argument and it has a grain of truth. However, it is worthwhile noting that nature has no particular preference for any plants and/or any other life-forms for that matter. A good analogy would be: whatever works. And I challenge anyone presenting such an opinion as yours about the apple trees to consume a diet comprised of as many early indigenous plants as possible. The lesson would be instructive.

    There is also an implicit assumption in your point of view which also suggests that humans are somehow bad and apart from nature. I believe that you may be in error with that perspective. Regardless as to whatever cruel and mean activities occurred and continue to occur, you have to ask yourself how do you personally benefit from the former arrangements that lead to where we are today? I mean it is not lost on me that being able to teach history means that you possibly don’t have to care for the land that feeds you. Looking into the soul of your words I see a person ill at their ease.

    Stuff for you personally to ponder.



  41. Never, in the ten years I’ve been reading your posts, did it ever occur to me that you’d write a post on Johnny Appleseed! (Yes, a fair number of us Canucks know who he is.) You never cease to surprise.

    I always thought of Johnny Appleseed as being somewhere between the mythic (e.g., Paul Bunyan) and the indisputably real (e.g., Abraham Lincoln) and likely a mix of both. Glad to hear that this inspired ascetic “spiritual businessman” was also a Swedenborgian. Many thanks, also, for the Swedenborgian links. Glad to see you are peeling the two-dimensional white-washed veneer off American religious-spiritual history: it is long overdue.

  42. This is a wonderful post; Johnny Appleseed takes me back to my childhood. There was a Johnny Appleseed Festival in our county (the county where Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia meet) and we had a unit on him every year in elementary school, accompanied by making applesauce or apple butter. Like someone mentioned above, he was always presented with a degree of uncertainty – real man or a myth, nobody knows. I always imagined him in the same category as Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. And both the Welsh and Swedenborgian connections were new to me, though it looks like our local festival does mention the Swedenborgian information these days:

  43. John, Jaymoses—

    John, this may be veering off-topic and I certainly don’t want to create another round of last week, but with regards to learning from history and moralistic framing…

    Jay, I’d point out that Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were no more or less traitors to their country than George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were to theirs. The key difference between them, however, is that in the latter case, the revolution succeeded (due in no small part to foreign intervention by France), while in the former case, the revolution failed (due in no small part to the failure of hoped-for intervention by Great Britain to materialize). Losing, of course, has certain consequences for the common history books, even if those who study it more fully know there’s far more involved.

    More generally, I’d say the more we’re willing to question the standard framing of history, the more likely we are to discover vast riches that have been buried for far too long, with all the contradictions and complexities of the human condition.

  44. Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for your comments about China last week, I thought they were interesting and made sense. It will be intersting to see how all this plays out.

    Cheers, Gus

  45. Hi John Micheal,

    Loved this essay, and yes it is often lost on people that every single apple has a use! Hard cider being one of them. I’m growing about maybe 30 different varieties of apples and they are interesting trees and take many years to begin becoming productive. The local parrots in particular love apples, and fortunately for me the trees are prolific producers of fruit as there are a lot of hungry parrots.

    The Swedenborgian folks clearly understand the benefits of the old saying about happy wife, happy life. Very wise. 🙂 That story is lost on many people.

    Fresh news! Like it. Hey, I’d read elsewhere that he had a mostly harmonious relationship with the Indigenous folks. An interesting character. Yeah, your conclusions sound right to me.

    It is interesting times right now – although it always seems to be. I’ve been wondering lately about whether the overall declining health of the cities is spilling over into the physical and mental worldspaces of the people living there. It probably doesn’t help that so many people push hard on the overused doom button. Dunno. Oh well.



  46. It sounds a little like the Dionysian archetype is the yin to the yang of the native changer/ trickster archetype. One dissolves boundaries, one fixes in place.

    I was wondering if there were comparable dionysian types here prior to old world settlement, as assuredly the contingent is congenial to imported tricksters too – I give credence to Bayo Akomolofe’s thesis that African tricksters did indeed come over with, or even help incite, the slave trade. (Did Neil Gaiman actually perceive without believing Anansi here too?)

    All I can think is that the cultural heroine or goddess who brings the tools of civilization (Corn Goddess, White Buffalo Calf Woman) could be an opposite to the trickster, but they usually bring “civilizing” things, rather than wildness like Dionysius. And the native trickster usually makes wild/animal/inanimate what was once a person. Though, our old world tricksters are associated with civilization tools too – fermentation and agriculture, stealing for from the gods…

    It’s that maddening switching polarity again, when comparing the two worlds…

  47. Your Kittenship, okay, that makes sense.

    Brother Newton, thanks for this! In this materialist age, weirdness is essential, and whether you call the spirit of the forest St. Silvan or Silvanus, to my mind, doesn’t matter a bit.

    Derpherder, so do I.

    Wesley, good heavens — was that hymn by Chapman! It’s a lovely one. Thanks for this — and I’m delighted to hear about the fruit trees.

    Cat, I’m very pleased to hear that. One of the core things I’m trying to do with this sequence of posts is show people just how rich, strange, and complicated the history of this country actually is. Between the people who insist on erasing every bad thing Americans have ever done, and the people who insist on erasing every good thing Americans have ever done, we’re left with a disastrously impoverished sense of our own past — which plays out in the present in the sort of pointless conflicts we’ve seen so much of recently. There’s another way.

    Matthias, it’s a common theme in Christian history; St. Francis of Assisi is another good example. What makes Chapman fascinating to me is first of all that he’s ours — I’ve literally walked up the road he and his half-brother took on their way to Pittsburgh — and second that he has so close and deep a connection with ecology, and with human ecology. If Druids had saints he’d be one.

    Ron, some bloggers get very predictable. I try not to be!

    Ip, how fun! If I ever have the get out that way during festival time, I’ll do it.

  48. Chris, that would make a lot of sense, that the physical sickness of the cities spills over into mental and spiritual issues — and I recall reading somewhere, though I’ve lost the reference, that the bigger the city, the worse the mental health. Apple cider and a wandering life sound a lot smarter.

    Pixelated, that’s an interesting question. The Native American mythologies I know best don’t really have anyone comparable, but I know only a small sample.

  49. John—

    You only referenced it briefly, but if isn’t too out of place here, could you outline the differences between the occultist and the mystic (again, as I think you’ve done so elsewhere before)?

  50. “in the usual order of things, creeping respectability sets in, the new religious movement begins to settle into the standard mold of popular American religiosity, and the occultists generally drift away.”
    There is a similar cycle in rock music. A band starts out biting off the heads of chickens on stage and by the end, the lead singer releases an album of Frank Sinatra covers and attends charity golf tournaments.

  51. Archdruid,

    Yay! I was wondering when we would get to Jonny Appleseed. He was the first folk tale I learned when my family moved to the US, Wonderful to know there was a deeper story there.



  52. We have two non-grafted but very productive (well, one got beavered, but it’s sent up good sprouts) apple trees, alas, too far West to be Johnny Appleseed’s. We have several grafted purchased apples, the Winesap being the only in production, but one of the babies was just loaded with blossoms for the first time this year. We have a wild apple that my dad taught me to graft onto as a child, which has some Golden Delicious branches and some Winesap (the purchased Golden Delicious was riddled by mice and killed one bad winter).
    And in a nice synchronity with this post we have one “Okay, who buried an apple core by the top of the retaining wall?” tree that emerged from the branches of a small flowering shrub about two weeks ago. It must be moved, and I pray it survives, all four feet of it. The location is no place for even a dwarf tree, and this cannot be a dwarf, not at that size! It must have been there last year, but covered by the shrub. It’s a nice straight little tree.

    Interestingly, as a child I learned that Johnny Appleseed was a real person. The table grace I learned by his name varies slightly from the version above:

    Oh, the Lord is good to me,
    and so I thank Thee, Lord,
    for giving me the things I need:
    the sun and the rain and the apple seed.
    The Lord is good to me.

    This is always sung, and I’ve heard another variant: a simple modernization of the second person singular from ‘Thee’ to ‘You’. I’ve also heard ‘Thee’ changed to ‘the’. I’ll add the past tense version above to my lyric options.

  53. David BTL, sure. There are three paths in the Western tradition, though — the mystic, the mage, and the occultist. The mystic’s path is the path of love, the mage’s path is the path of power, and the occultist’s path is the path of wisdom. So the mystic begins with prayer and devotion to a beloved deity and eventually becomes one with the object of his or her love; the mage begins with ritual workings to tap into the currents of power, and eventually becomes one with the power that sustains and transforms the cosmos; and the occultist begins by studying and meditating on esoteric teachings, and eventually becomes one with what certain Japanese occult schools call “the mind and eyes of God.”

    Jessica, hah! Funny. Berke Breathed, the cartoonist who did Bloom County, put that into one of the songs of his imaginary rock band “Billy and the Boingers”, which you can enjoy here.

    Varun, delighted to hear it. He’s definitely one of our national patron saints.

    BoysMom, thanks for this! The more apple trees, the better.

    Aidan, and thanks for this also.

  54. JMG, whoah cool! I haven’t heard about the three paths of the western tradition, though they certainly make sense based on cultural history alone, let along more clarifying occult perspectives. I would guess that’s probably because I’m pretty new to a non-scientific materialism point of view. Are there any resources you could point me to that elaborate on this tripartite division? Your writing has already brought me so many fantastic (heh) inspirations for my fantasy writing and worldbuilding, so I’d love to get more context!

  55. Dear Mr. Greer – I’m loving this series. Does Ben Franklin figure in, anywhere?

    I also wondered, if when you were a wee small lad (as I was), if you ever ran across a kid’s book called “The Tree Wagon?” It was based on a true story. Of how a family re-fitted some wagons, and brought some of the first nursery stock, out to the Oregon Territory. A harrowing tail of keeping the plants alive, across hundreds of miles of the Oregon Trail. A good read. Lew

  56. Wesley, BoysMom,

    I grew up singing the Johnny Appleseed hymn for one of our table graces as well!

    Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where Chapman died, has had a festival for nearly 50 years now. Next time I visit relatives there I’ll have to time it so I can attend.

  57. Greetings all

    The paralell between John Chapman and Myrddin Wyllt is fascinating. It is as if and somehow Chapman tapped and drew into the power source of archetypes and was hence transformed and transformed the land and people around him for the good of all. Well, that’s the way I understand him. Magic at work!

  58. Jessica, it happens in radical politics too. Usually couched in terms of ‘maturity’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘realism’. The guy who sold out Greece to the EU and the bankers called his book on how he did it Adults in the Room.

  59. This story also illustrates the different kinds of mental states and motivations in the spiritual life. Chapman could keep plodding on for years doing his thing. While it’s a pretty solid rule that intense revival movements last two years, often almost to the day. That’s the longest the human mind can maintain a maximal level of arousal. You’d better get what you want out of it before that time, because once it’s over, you crash hard.

    The difference between the mystic, mage, and occultist reminded me of a joke about ancient mythology: “If the gods offer you a choice between sex, power, or wisdom, take the wisdom. Then you’ll know how to get the other two on your own.”

  60. PS to my previous comment. Among the Swedenborgians was John Bigelow, a leading Abolitionist– among his several other leading roles in developments crucial to the history of the United States. My sense is that not all certainly but most historians get the cooties with the mere mention of anything metaphysical– they might give it a footnote, if they absolutely have to, then, with a supersonic whoosh, move on. As a result students of history rarely get the sense that many of these ideas were not only hugely influential, but they came out of a rich, transcultural history and a substantial and complexly interrelated literature. I sincerely salute your efforts to bring to light this part of the history of ideas in the United States.

  61. Where can we learn to apply alchemical thinking to non-chemical fields – I don’t think I’ll find the time to try the laboratory, but you said it was a much broader method, as important as the scientific one?

  62. Hi JMG and All,
    I am really enjoying this series on historical American occult figures – many thanks.
    If anyone is interested in a broad-ranging history of English occult/magic, I can recommend ‘The Book of English Magic’ by Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate. It goes from the ancient past, right through the medieval, renaissance and early modern, and up to the present day. It includes chapter by chapter things to do, places to visit, and list of resources.

  63. Mr. Greer, sorry for going off-topic, but I wanted to ask a few questions about the Lakeland Republic in Retrotopia:

    1. Are heavy industries state-owned? I mean, specifically, companies which produce forging presses and machine tools state-owned?

    2. You have written about the schools in the Lakeland Republic. Do the students use slide rules to crunch numbers in the schools or are slide rules allowed only for college students? The reason I ask this is because schools in many parts of the world (particularly the Third World) do not allow students to use any calculating aids.

    3. What is the scenario of the chemical industry like? I mean, of course, synthetic chemicals are manufactured in a far smaller quantity, and also, the variety of chemicals manufactured is far lesser than the other republics, and also our world. However, use of chemicals, especially in photography (given that the journalists there must be using mechanical film cameras) is inevitable, so I guess that chemicals must be being manufactured in small scale units, using, perhaps some kind of appropriate tech in the manufacturing process?

  64. I live in the NE in an area with the typical shallow rocky soil, so all along the edges of what were once fields there are rows of piled stones that were laboriously pulled from the soil. On top of those piles are split cedar fences that the birds like to sit on and consequently the birds have ‘planted’ the seeds of many an edible fruit tree or shrub. Similarly rodents like to live and cache in the stone piles so many pine and walnuts spring up there as well. The little critters have been the Johnny Appleseeds of the last 200 years.

    Even after the turn away from the benefits of hedgerows between fields the hedgerows of the NE remain, partly because of the scale of the work of clearing those stone piles and partly because the stony land does not lend itself to highly mechanized farming. It is best used as pasture and hay.

    The land that I bought was divided into four sections by such hedge rows: one field that is still clear, one section that was never cleared and two sections that have overgrown to the point that there is a small round meadow in the middle of a square of forest, with all the best and largest trees on or near the original hedgerows. It is obvious from satellite photos how the forest regrew from the fence lines.

    The irony is literally and figuratively delicious that it was the settler’s fences that allowed nature to flourish on the margins of their fields, and have left us and the wildlife with many apples, walnuts, berries and grapes to enjoy. Like Johnny’s, the wild apples are highly variable. One is my favorite apple I have ever had, sour and sweet with crisp white flesh that has a blush of pink when you bite it. They do not store well, so could never be commercially viable.

    Strangely, although wild apples spring up all over my little farm, every grafted apple tree I plant gets killed by something or other. Currently the last two are under relentless attack by gypsy moth caterpillars. There’s a whole forest to eat yet they seem focused on these two little trees that have like 20 leaves each. There seems to be a program and direction on this land that has little or nothing to do with me.

  65. The face of the painting doesn’t have any depth. If you want to know about the frontier, you have to read about it and not the painful cartoon version we now teach – one so devoid of facts that a teacher thinks what she’s teaching isn’t real, and doesn’t care or look if it is not. So according to her, she’s teaches knowing lies and sleeps like a baby.

    Strangely, and I know this is hard to believe, the Ohio valley was almost entirely vacant. That’s one of the astonishing things about it. So if you have a three-state area of 120,000 square miles that has only 100,000 people in it, should we very carefully never go there? There’s no one left telling anyone not to. There’s no “conquering” when there’s no borders and no defenders. So the people moving there were going to pave 1,000 parking lots for malls and open uranium mines? No, they were going to build cabins and have tiny corn plots not dissimilar to what the natives themselves had. To us, they are more similar than different, and we are more different – and more violent and less environmental than both of them combined. Read Sullivan’s March in 1779 and you’ll find the Iroquois had log cabins, glass windows, giant orchards, dooryard gardens, square streets,10,000 acres of endless corn fields…you know, exactly like the white people of 1800 that would eventually overtake them. …Now they had their own religion and matrilineal culture too, but the idea they lived in bark huts scraping deer skins is a different and more subtle form of racism that’s promoted from our side of history. They were not a “Noble Savage”, an Animal Children, one-with-nature. They had iron pots, long rifles, and were the largest standing army in North America while Washington suffered with 1/10th the men.

    So why was the valley empty? More oppression, right? Not the way you may think. When the Pilgrims landed – or the Cavaliers Lord’s sons in Virginia — the continent was already made vacant by disease, perhaps from 100 million down to 3 million. But should Irish fishermen not have traded iron pots for sealskins in 1450? Should they have kept the New World under glass forever as a type of alien experiment? Who knew? And that 90% mortality kept rolling for generations, exactly as it did back in Europe. Should we say there was a European Genocide caused by Middle Eastern traders with spices visiting Venice? The problem was the isolation, the fast impact edge, not the disease.

    That’s why America was a wonderland to the immune: all the careful gardens, clearings, rivers, all remained from the people once there, and it was not a “wilderness” at all despite what it seemed. It was like landing in Rome with the fields and terraces waiting, but when Rome was a sheep farm of 30,000 in 1800, not a world metropolis of 1.5 million.

    So why was Ohio empty? More than North America’s accidental overall depopulation, Ohio had been wiped out by the wars from the Iroquois to the East, the Seneca in Western NY. So what tribes had recovered there had been fought and wiped out, hauled off, enslaved, and genocided by fellow natives for territory and resources – they weren’t the only ones, the Aztecs were famous for this too. Since by 1800, the Iroquois, who did not unite with their fellow natives had therefore been divided and punished by a more unified coastal (and note the so-called “Unified”, “whites” –both untrue– were also divided into Patriots, Tories, French, and many more) there were precious few humans anywhere in the Ohio area.
    So looking at this more complex view of history, what should the people of central Pennsylvania have done? What would you have done? They didn’t start the smallpox, and they suffered under it themselves, though less-so. So the Swedenborgian or Quaker sons, moving 10 miles west to build a cabin by a stream are evil, but the Natives who killed every Shawnee they could find and enslaved their wives back at Fort Niagara were the good guys? History is complicated. You see the problem with flattening it. Go read what the people on the ground wrote and thought at that time. Put yourself in their shoes.

    From this distance in history, the Iroquois, all 6 tribes, still exist and still have sizable reservations. Half of the enemies of the Iroquois, like the Erie, the Neutral, the Cat, the Mohicans all have ceased to exist, some like the Hatirondack so gone no one remembers what they ever were. This doesn’t make one or the other “good,” but it does make them all human, and complicated. It’s ironic and it seems impossible that the supposed racist, violent Americans were more tolerant than many tribes, but it is nevertheless mostly true. So what was John Chapman doing there? Who was he helping? If the Miami wanted to have glass-window log cabins like the Seneca and an orchard in the yard – or even a bark house – they could, and John would have helped them. Many families did so and their children are there today, unremarked. Because they didn’t maintain genetic apartheid they are considered “white”. So what does all that mean to us and to the long arc of history? Are you a shock troop if you advise the people that things are not like the old days of 1400-1600? That was true even in Europe, with Ireland and Belgium being flattened. The Scots and Walloon or Yunnan deaths don’t matter though? Were the days of 1550 with slaving Seneca the “good old days” to the Shawnee? With the British war lost, they’re not going to avoid taxation, and there won’t be 20 miles of empty woods everywhere to hunt so they probably better farm, and we’ll teach you? What would you do otherwise? Lock the colonists into eventually space-age mega-cities of hundred-millions while Ohio remains an empty forest? How does that work militarily? What’s the plan? It’s easy to complain when you don’t have to do anything. It’s even easier to be sure when you don’t read what everyone went through, or only one side.

    There are thousands of varieties of apples easily available. The problem is with your store, and the market. If the people think Coke isn’t sappy enough and they prefer generic, discount Coke, how much worse for apples, cider, and vinegar? It’s WE that need to change and improve. The store will follow the demand, as we see with new “Foodies” today. Oh and P.S. you can buy a real Johnny Appleseed-grown tree if you want.

  66. You get the feeling that Peak West happened in the 18th and 19th c’s. The people who had no indoor plumbing and hardly any access to energy accomplished more with less than anyone living today. The 20th seemed to be a working out of some details not gotten around to and the 21st seems to be nothing but stagnation and decline. Definitely if a professional scientist started getting strange visions from the Other Side, he’d probably keep them to himself for to do anything else would be career suicide.

    Yeah, few people realize that about apples – most of them aren’t really all that good for either eating or cooking. And to get a marketable eating apple, you really have to go out of your way to do it. People now go to great lengths to find the next Honeycrisp, they do the equivalent of putting coins in 1000’s of different slot machines.

    Well, Mr. Greer, about history being impoverished – you do know the victors are the ones that write the history. And I’ll just leave it at that. It’s no wonder that most kids turn sour and sullen fast when faced with compulsory education – at some level they know what they’re being fed is near worthless and a waste of time. Maybe not consciously, but at some level deep down. I wonder, is ignorance better than disinformation? I suppose it depends on your perspective.

    Why do they even bother telling the story of Johnny Appleseed at all, I wonder? Is it simple inertia? We must tell them about him because We’ve Been Telling The Kids About It And We Can’t Stop Now? I suppose at some point, he’ll be relegated to being Just Another Evil White Man and if they are to tell his story, it’ll be about how whatever he did was Just Bad, OK, Because White Man.

  67. Jay, for what it’s worth, I thought so too, though perhaps in slightly less harsh terms. Personally, every time I hear pretty much any celebration of anything anyone has done, I wonder on what destruction it was founded, if any. Everything we do is at the expense of someone or something else, but I do believe some acts – such as the destruction of wild nature or the genocide of Indigenous peoples – are morally worse than others. I am Italian, and my part-ancestors the much-celebrated Romans built their Empire on the subjugation and sometimes outright ethnic cleansing or annihilation of other peoples. I think the challenge here is to recognize one achievement, such as literature or architecture, without forgetting its price and who paid it, and to be consistent in one’s own life – I cannot undo the Pyramids, but I can boycott exploitative corporations today, to give one example.

    So I think John was a little harsh on you there. John, you’ve hurt my feelings too sometimes, the way you reply to comments, sometimes it feels like being bullied. Still, thanks for this space.

  68. I haven’t actually studied Swedenborg’s teachings extensively, but weren’t Swedenborg’s a major influence on the Transcendentalists further on down the road? That seems to be one of the major contexts in which I’ve seen Swedenborgianism discussed. If you think about Emerson and Thoreau’s writings as drawing from the same intellectual and spiritual current as the one that informed John Chapman’s life, a distinct flavor to American spirituality emerges pretty quickly.

  69. RE:admin

    “When I hear of. Schrödinger’s cat, I reach for my gun.” –Stephen W. Hawking. If there is some purpose to discuss the infamous cat here, it’s to show by analogy that the same flattening of history is happening to science. Or maybe the pop-science?

    The Schrödinger’s cat as original version went was simplified (crude?) illustration of lots and lots counter-intuitive and nuanced math that make QM such a pain (and to this day some of those questions are unanswered). The pop-culture wrenched it out of context (because pop-culture can’t deal with more math than simple arithmetic, but can deal with cute animals) and there are decades of nonsense about and around it.

    I would be careful with constructing any analogy to alchemy… other than to say that Schrödinger’s cat in pop-culture is as close to QM as Harry Potter’s philosopher stone is to writing of Michael Sendivogius.

    If I would try to build analogy between QM and mystical concepts (“As above so below”) I would say that the quantum world is analogous to the Abyss and the Veils of Cabala – the realms of experience below (“above”) come only dimly and in round-about ways into our experience and creating concepts and approximations that express their workings is extremely hard.


    PS. Apple cinder is delicious.

  70. I remember being forced to watch that boring old Disney movie on 16mm in elementary school; I wish I would’ve known how fascinating the real Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman was.

    Reading your description of him, I was getting some Cernunnos vibes, given his role as a liminal and earthy entrepreneur, but the Merlin parallels are quite remarkable indeed. And who knows, maybe the real Myrddin even wore a tinpot on his head as well (certainly, the headpiece that Merlin wears in Excalibur 1981 could be used to make some applesauce). I daresay, it’s similarities like these which give credence to the idea of reincarnation. I wonder though, did John Chapman compose any poetry or writings? I’m sure he would’ve penned some good ones from the sound of things.

    Next time I drink some apple cider, I’ll definitely pour some out for old Johnny!

  71. Enjoyable post, although I’ll leave the apple cider alone, thank you. The idea of rejuvenation of a spiritual tradition is an interesting one, though, and, perhaps because I’ve just finished Yates’s book on Bruno, makes me think of her conjecture about what he intended for the Catholic tradition during the Renaissance.

    If we are indeed here in the garden of the Hesperides, makes sense for somebody to tend the trees.

  72. We sing that prayer clear up to Canada! Our version adds what sounds suspiciously like a ritual invocation at the end:

    “…The Lord is good to me.

    The Enchiridion of Epictetus has a relevant comment about Chapman’s lifestyle:

    15. Remember that you must behave as at a banquet. Is anything brought round to you? Put out your hand and take a moderate share. Does it pass by you? Do not stop it. Is it not yet come? Do not yearn in desire toward it, but wait till it reaches you. So with regard to children, wife, office, riches; and you will some time or other be worthy to feast with the gods. And if you do not so much as take the things which are set before you, but are able even to forego them, then you will not only be worthy to feast with the gods, but to rule with them also. For, by thus doing, Diogenes and Heraclitus, and others like them, deservedly became divine, and were so recognized.

  73. Dear Eco sophia,

    I’ve been working on making a wooden cider press, for several years now, thinking through the problems and looking at the parts and pieces of done machinery I’ve collected from here and there; I know there was a way of making large internal screw threads in the past, because many, many were made.

    On Wethersfield road not far from here is a large cast iron frame cider press, where they make and sell heirloom cider, and Cider Jelly. (take a maple syrup arch and hundreds of gallons of cider and a cord of flitches, and in a day or so you will have 10 gallons of ambrosia) They do not take drops – so can’t use our apples. We have borrowed a smaller cider press, but it is very slow, they can be found but are not cheap.

    I don’t know how many gallons this little family farm makes in a year; but I’ve seen them pressing and figured there will someday be a need for more large presses. This year I feel like all the problems I can imagine have been solved, and all the parts collected, and assembling them into a machine to make five inch diameter by three foot Hickory bolts and well, nuts to fit, and the frame for a press, is the project for this Summer.

    Another use for wood threaded machines I know of, and can see a coming need for, is printing presses. I’ve got pictures of the Gutenberg presses, and the process for making type, and plan on making a replica someday, hopefully before I die! Haha.

    I have a fantasy of someone, in the future, finding a long hidden cashe of ammunition, and not having any need for such, pulls all the bullets and melts them into castable lead, and then type, and begins printing books.

    Thanks for all the creative thinking and writing, the books and blogs, and the decorum maintained on the comments, and the people commenting with all their various wits and perspectives, for making my life much more rich, just by inspiration.

  74. Hi JMG and company,

    I’m a relative newcomer around these parts—I’ve been reading Ecosophia for a few months now—but this blog and the comments section already constitute a much appreciated stopping place among my online travels. I found this week’s reflection on the life of John Chapman especially interesting, and it reminded me in mind of a poem by the now largely forgotten American poet Vachel Lindsay titled “In Praise of Johnny Appleseed.” Per some of the comments, one could make a strong case that the poem celebrates Chapman as—from a present-day perspective—a kind of proto-imperialist sowing the seeds of American westward expansion across the continent. Be that as it may, Lindsay sure seemed to grasp at least some of the mythic resonances of this unique figure in American history. A favorite, and perhaps, given the interests of this blog, apropos, passage:

    He saw the fruits unfold,
    And all our expectations in one wild-flower-written dream,
    Confusion and death-sweetness, and a thicket of crab-thorns,
    Heart of a hundred midnights, heart of the merciful morns.
    Heaven’s boughs bent down with their alchemy,
    Perfumed airs, and thoughts of wonder.
    And the dew on the grass and his own cold tears
    Were one in brooding mystery . . .


  75. Poor Schroedinger’s kitty. Everyone makes a mountain out of that molehill. Setting the math aside, setting the ethics aside too – if you were to actually run the experiment? First, you can’t say anything about what’s going on inside the box at all. But not only that you can’t say anything about what will happen if you were to open just one box. Nothing. Nope, don’t do it. You can say NOTHING. Welcome to statistics.

    What you can make statements about are (relatively) large numbers of things. Say you have 500 boxes. You can say that if you open all of them, about 250 will have live cats in them and about 250 will not. Notice I said about. There will be some variance, it may come out to 254 vs. 246 or so.

    That’s a far cry from “it’s both alive and dead in the box”. QM is weird though and there are other concrete ways of talking about it that don’t involve cats at all.

  76. I want to add to the conversation started by @Jaymoses, @Derpherder, @Jasper and JMG.

    We saw in this comments thread two sides of an argument. One was that Johnny Appleseed transgressed and invaded a border, and another that there was no border because the Ohio Valley was purely empty when it was settled. I do not know whether the Valley was purely empty — I read a book called Autumn of the Black Snake that suggests that this was not at all the case, and there was no little slaughter involved in conquering it — but I think this misses out on the symbolic value of the border. And JMG’s discussion of the nature of Johnny Appleseed is all about symbols. Johnny Appleseed made the Valley fit for American settlement in a very specific way, not by laying buildings or walls, but by inducing the land to produce apples and wine. Even if he was just one guy who planted a few trees, people came to see the nature of the land in his particular way of border crossing, which is why his name is still sung in elementary schools from time to time today.

    There are many different ways to transgress a border, regardless of how populated it is on either side. Let us consider the possibility that if you do it the wrong way, things grow in an unpleasant way on both sides, but if you do it the right way, the resulting creations affect you in positive, unseen ways. I apologize for being vague. It’s not something I understand well but I seem to be seeing it in my own research on the development of modernity in Japan and the forms of religious worship that emerged there.

    I fell in with the Swedenborgians for a little bit in 2015 and they dislike Swedenborg’s high rationalist writing style but they are attracted in some way to the images he produces, of symmetries and spirals. There is something to his teaching that lies in a realm beyond the words he puts down on paper.

  77. @Kimberly Steele, thank you for sharing your tree video (and really all your videos). I find them incredibly helpful.

  78. There is a man named Tom Brown from North Carolina who is nearly the modern equivalent of Chapman. He, for years, has been combing the south in search of lost apple varieties. He has rediscovered over 1000 apples that had been lost for decades. It’s estimated there may have once been over 30,000 varieties of apples, just in the south!

    If you are one of the seemingly numerous folks here that long for more varieties than what is presently available in the marketplace contact Tom. He has cloned nearly every tree he has ever found and he will send you trees you can plant on your site which you probably have never heard of. I have ordered trees from Tom twice before. Each time I had not heard of a single variety of the ten trees I received.

    He writes a yearly review of all the apples he discovered in that year. These “newsletters” are priceless yet free to everyone. If you are interested in all of the apples that have been lost and found look for the book “Old Southern Apples”, by Calhoun.

    Tom’s newsletter:

  79. @ Happy Panda

    Guerrilla gardening is always worthwhile and on any scale so don’t let perfect be the enemy of finished. Throw those collected wildflower seeds down along the railroad track. Plant trees to shade your church without permission (which my elderly mother did decades ago and now St Paul’s has shade).

    I guerrilla garden, my mother guerrilla gardens, and my son does too.

    You don’t know which bees the wildflower seeds you spread today will benefit. Just that some will.

  80. It is interesting that John Chapman achieved his exalted status of a holy man without practicing any sort of discipline like ritual magic for many years. It seems like it just came to him naturally. Of course it may involve work done in previous incarnations, but there’s no way to prove it. And he was a business man too! I didn’t know that. Holy businessman, now that’s not something you hear very often. Although I suppose it’s very American in a way.

    And what are the standards for deification in polytheist societies again? It seems like it invariably requires a life of outstanding external achievement, otherwise how would anyone know.

    Also didn’t Andrew Jackson Davis originally coin the “Law of Attraction” term?

  81. Since we are on the subject of apples, I had a dream last week about apples and apple trees. In the dream, I exited a building into a small yard partially enclosed by a wall. A portion of the wall had collapsed, and a beautiful vista could be glimpsed through the opening. In the yard were two apple trees, each sporting huge red-gold apples. I went to the first tree, an old tree not much more than a stump with a few branches left, to pick an apple, but when I reached out and touched the beautiful fruit, I realized that the apples on that tree were mushy and rotten in spite of their appearance. I went to the second tree, younger and healthier, but to my dismay, the fruits of the second tree were just as rotten as the first. I wonder what Carl Jung would say about my dream?

  82. @Lydia: I’m typically not interested in JMG’s occult posts either – I mostly come here for his political insights – but his series on early American occultism has been fascinating to me purely for the historical aspects. I might not practice or believe in magic, but these stories are part of America’s cultural DNA, even if they’re glossed over in history classes.

  83. “The American occult community in those days was in the process of outgrowing its dependence on the traditions of the past, and was wide open to new ideas.”
    Another effect of the Genius Loci of which you previously and extensively wrote, perhaps? The land transforming the inhabitants, or perhaps the inhabitants called to the land?

  84. @JMG re: the mystic, the mage, and the occultist; very much like specific yogic paths. That trio again. Wisdom being the result of the Union of Power and Love. Blessed to experience ONEness with you Brother, thank you.

    @Kimberly Steele, wonderful! I recently connected with a Monarch Birch tree species from Japan. Wow! I am still reeling at my brief encounter. We have “work” to do together, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that unfolds. Very exciting.

    @David, by the lake

    I hope you don’t mind me replying to your question addressed to JMG re:

    “How does one rediscover/rejuvenate that childhood freedom as an adult while still navigating the obstacles of the world as a (supposed) grown-up? That seems to be a key point for me at this particular point in my journey.”

    In a nutshell, childhood is one of purity and innocence, joy and wonder; and unconstrained by time.

    An adult’s mind has been heavily conditioned by labels, judgments, schooling, society, life experiences – and especially trauma.

    To reclaim your inherent purity and innocence, if you can work through, and let go of anything from the past that you may be subconsciously holding on to, you’ll make more space to remember / access your True Self or True Nature.

    If you can remain as ever-present as possible, in a state of “not-knowing”; of there being no past nor future, that’s a good place to begin. A regular mindfulness and/or meditation practise helps in this regard.

    Think back to when you were a child and what brought you joy. Try and bring those activities back into your life now, if you don’t already.

    Begin to look at the responsibilities and tasks of adulthood as something fun to do. So you’re changing what may feel like a chore, to something that brings joy.

    Like, “Oh yes, I’m so excited, I get to pay my bills today! Wooohooo!”

    Give it a try… if you begin thinking in this way, you’ll start to feel lighter.

    Being mindful, and in a state of gratitude for the simplest of things, keeps your heart open.

    Simply, do more of what makes your heart happy and brings you joy. Reduce or remove that from your life which is heavy and brings you down.

    For example, I stopped watching news and TV 20 years ago. I take pleasure in being in Nature, lying on the grass and soaking up the sunshine. Like Kimberly Steele, I talk to trees and plants! I move my body everyday (yoga, walking, qi gong); I read, write and listen to music. I reflect and meditate.

    Bring a sense of balance back into your life by adding activities that make your heart sing, every day… even if you can only manage a small amount. That will soon expand and your love and joy from those activities will filter into your responsibilities as an adult… you, as a big, grown-up child 😉

    Expect change, and welcome it into your life. You’ve asked for it… say, “Yes!”

    Sending waves of joy and wonder on the next few steps of your journey. Exciting times!

  85. To all who replied:

    Thank all of ya’ll who responded about the cell tower. I will repost when I know the outcome, whenever that happens to be.

    Gratefully, Luna

  86. (In my video) Note the prophetic image of the burning buildings toward the end.

    George Orwell said it best in 1941 that the average English intellectual (in his time and now) would be more ashamed of standing to attention during God Save The King than of stealing from a poor box.

  87. @ Wooler – that is a fascinating account of trees growing out of the rocks. That is what happens on this sheepfarm (in Donegal, Ireland), too. The trees that grow themselves into existence all start in a rockpile, which may be the old fallen walls of a house, or an old stone wall surrounding a field, which got there, as you say, by generation after generation of taking rocks out of the fields and adding them to the boundary walls. Out in the open, they’ve no chance of not being grazed while still tender.

    There are some beautiful and majestic trees near me, that grow in the shape of a square defined by the old, almost but not quite level stone walls of a cottage that probably started falling in more than 100 years ago. They create a “grove” that I find perfectly suited to my personal grove practices. Not quite a circle, but a nicely tree-surrounded grassy space.

    @ JMG – thanks for this. I shall be interested in looking into Johnny Appleseed more, and especially his views on seeds vs grafts. I do know that seed-saving is becoming almost a subversive act, but the seeds themselves must be happy to be championed and moved around by humans as much as by birds and animals.

  88. Derpherder, that’s my own synthesis of a great deal of disparate information. I don’t know any other source that uses exactly that set of definitions and exactly that trichotomy.

    Lew, nope. Ben Franklin was a great guy and a fine author, but he was a hardcore rationalist — to the extent that he took a leading role in the rationalist sandbagging of Franz Mesmer, the archetype that Carl Sagan and the Unamazing Randi followed in their turn. The closest he got to occultism was his membership in the Hell Fire Club, and as far as anyone knows he joined that for the booze and the orgies. As for The Tree Wagon, no, and I’d remember that if I had! It sounds like a good read.

    Kimberly, when it becomes the new normal, a good half of our problems will be over.

    Karim, exactly. That’s something that mystics tolerably often do.

    Yorkshire, good! The Odyssey also has some things to say about Athena’s habit of taking care of the clever.

    C.M., hmm! Thank you for this; I’ll have to look up Bigelow.

    Admin, that’s going to be a real challenge, as most people who have a serious interest in alchemy are busy trying to preserve and rediscover the core methods of laboratory alchemy.

    ChristineS, it’s a fine book! That’s one of the things that inspired me to start doing the research that got this project under way.

    Vidura, (1) no; reread the chapters that talk about Mikkelson Industries. All heavy industry is handled the same way. (2) Depends on the school. There’s a lot of diversity in Lakeland schools. (3) The chemical industry is heavily regulated, and there’s a lot of pressure from the public — especially the hardcore Restos — to produce the least toxic compounds possible and to hold any company that uses toxic compounds strictly accountable for their handling of those. Since the laws of the Lakeland Republic hold the managing partners responsible for criminal and civil charges if their companies violate the law, and several industrialists got the death penalty early on for toxic-waste dumping that caused deaths, those rules are very strictly followed.

    Wooler, the old Pagans who spoke of earth goddesses and spirits of place knew what they were talking about!

    Jasper, thanks for this. I was going to post something along the same lines the next time somebody trotted out the typical cartoon-caricature version of history, in which people with light skin are always and only bad, and people with darker skin are always and only good, even when they engage in exactly the same behavior. History is much richer and much more troubling than that.

    Owen, have you read Oswald Spengler? His The Decline of the West does in fact place the peak of what he calls Faustian culture around 1800.

    Gaiabaracetti, that reference to how your feelings were hurt really does give away the game, you know. Only the privileged have the luxury of thinking that their feelings matter to anybody but themselves.

    Eric, excellent! Yes, in fact, that was one of the places where the Transcendentalists got their inspiration. We’ll be talking about them later on, when we begin exploring the Journey to the East that has had such an immense impact on our culture.

    Glenn, thanks for this. A fine piece of work indeed.

    Samuel, I don’t happen to know if Chapman wrote poetry or prose. It might be worth looking into!

    Fra’ Lupo, the whole Hermetic tradition has a focus on recovering that which is lost. Bruno was a great example, but of course he was far from alone.

    Dan, I don’t happen to know whether Chapman knew about Epictetus, but you’re right — he’s a great example of Stoicism in action.

    James, thanks for this! I didn’t know about the Lindsay poem — VL was a brilliant but politically incorrect poet, and has been exiled to the outer darkness in the usual way because he didn’t have the precognitive ability to figure out what people in 2020 considered good and right and true. I find with a little searching that “In Praise of Johnny Appleseed” can be read online here — and oh, my, is it a splendid incantation!

    Avery, thank you for this. Yes, that’s a helpful way to look at this.

    Les, I’m delighted to hear about Brown! May he and his trees thrive.

    Ecosophian, no, it didn’t come naturally. Chapman was a mystic, not a mage or an occultist, and so his disciplines were those of prayer and devotion. Nor does it take outstanding outward achievement to achieve deification in a polytheist society, any more than that’s needed to achieve sainthood in a monotheist society — what it requires, of course, is that other people notice something superhuman and transforming moving through the person in question, in life and in death.

    Danaone, have you meditated on it?

    Renaissance, exactly.

    Tanya, you’re welcome and thank you. The classic yogic distinction among bhakti yoga, raja yoga, and jnana yoga is one of the things that got me thinking about that way of understanding the different Western paths.

    Scotlyn, more subversion, then, say I!

  89. JMG, I’m curious as to what your take on this is:

    I’m reminded of the situation with ADF and Bonewits you discussed on Magic Monday a while back. Robert E. Lee wasn’t a religious figure, but he was definately a part of Virginia’s civil religion since long before I was born, and had more statues and more things named after him here than many of the founding fathers. It seems to me that a better solution would have been to add a statue dedicated to Virginia’s slaves to Monument Avenue, such that both the good and bad parts of our past could be remembered and learned from. (South Carolina did exactly this to the State House-in between all the Confederate generals, there’s now a memorial to South Carolina’s slaves and civil rights leaders, as there should be.) But in addition to Lee, Richmond’s Democratic mayor is already talking about removing all the rest of Monument Avenue too. It was a beautiful place (I say this from personal experience) and it will be sad to see it destroyed.

    And on a completely unrelated note, what do you think of Swedenborg’s idea of the Last Judgement having happened in 1743? I wonder if its related to the transition from the Piscean to the Aquarian age, and if Swedenborg somehow picked up on that. (And maybe that means Swedenborgianism, or some descendent of it, will be the Aquarian Age version of Christianity.)

  90. @ Jasper “Because they didn’t maintain genetic apartheid they are considered “white”.”

    This actually wiggles something in my brain. A crippling aspect of the racial conflict that the US has had holding it back from being the melting or it claims to be is the legacies of the ‘one drop rule’ that has been particular to the US as a colonial country. Others may have had colourism (Latin America, India), but not based on actual beliefs about blood quantum.

    Like so much about Canada, we went half way between the US and others, and we allowed for the Métis – which is defined as anyone who belongs to a specific culture derived from any amount of mixture of native and European and other heritage. But only that one mixture from one geographical area established during a defined time period of the fur trade gets an official Indigenous status, all the other mixed cultures don’t have official recognition, (and are not happy about that.) I assume the state realised what happens if they have to acknowledge mixing is a verifiable, genuine cultural and human expression that can arise in a place, with infinite varieties of lively new things being born and deserving respect… The centre does not hold. The unified national myth controlled by the old centre of power crumbles. The walls of racial enmity can’t stand against the fact of a new culture loyal to itself born of people celebrating or at least accepting all their ancestry rather than searching their history to tease out who to damn. Able to recognize the fluid intricacies of human relations distinct from the rigid roles and treaties of a state.

    There was a fascinating study of this phenomenon where the US literally could not recognize the concept of not-white and not-Indian at the cemetery where some of my family was buried. White historians from town and the Indian tribe were using their best talking slowly voices to explain to the feds that they were their cousins, but not theirs. Now, if you aren’t fully white and aren’t fully Indian, you can’t quantify your admixture so they can tell which arbitrary box you go in – which section of the cemetery to put you in – the US says you’re not human remains, and were allowing it to be entirely ploughed up, bone fragments in the rows and all. Only the intercession of the Manitoba Métis saved a portion of the cemetery, because the same community existing on the other side of a rather arbitrary border became a protected indigenous group, and were able to say “they’re ours”.

    Reading Dreams From My Father was one long heartbreaking grapple by one man trying to figure out how to deal with being the personification of America’s inability to use binocular vision and accept both eyes are seeing a real part of the world that has depth only because they’re NOT precisely the same. It’s sadder knowing now how he guessed wrong how to fix it.

    Bayo Akomolafe calls it the trickster “making hybridities and opening new centres of power” in one essay, but in another describes the creatures that stay liminal – out of the old world but not of the new – monsters. The slaves who died on the ships and the shore, saved from a new life as slave, but unable to escape it, either. Monstrous things, like titans, that the gods killed to make the new world of their flesh.

    Bayo A. says now is the time of monsters, and I hope he’s right; too many Métis have begun buying into the binary again, too soon. The gods of Social Justice or Ethnic Nationalism would both tear their bones and blood to make the waters to separate the earth from the sky again, reanimating the sterile corpse of old ideologies rather than letting a new thing be born from that new centre of power.

  91. JMG that makes sense, now that I think about it. Maybe that’s good that there isn’t a book for it; I’ll meditate on it rather than indulging my instinct to obsessively study.

    Avery, I love that concept! I’m reminded of an earlier epoch in Japanese history, the Yayoi and Kofun era consolidation of the Yamato state, ethnicity, and cultural complex. Certainly lots of positive and destructive border-crossings there! I actually studied early modern Japan in college but my research group/classes focused more on social history and ideology rather than religion. Do you have any recommendations for stuff about religious practice in early modern Japan? Weirdly, I know a fair bit about Okinawan religion in that vague time period, but almost nothing about the main islands.

  92. I have been re-reading Oswald Spengler in parallel with Arnold Toynbee. Recent events have shown Spengler to be even more relevant than before, as we see a senile and decrepit plutocracy desperately trying to cling to power against the rising tide of Caesarism. A great deal of what has been happening lately, from the Russiagate hoax to the stage-managed looting and rioting we see going on right now, has been motivated by the plutocrats and their hangers-on among the comfortable classes trying to hold on to their power and status by any means possible. But to paraphrase former vice president Dick Cheney, they are “dead-enders” fighting a war that has already been lost.

    One of the other public intellectuals I follow, the American philosopher John David Ebert, recently pointed out before the latest turn of events that there has been a major resurgence of interest in Spengler, including in the academic world. Along with our host, he was one of the first intellectuals to predict that Donald Trump would be elected president in 2016 and did so based on Spengler’s theories. Ebert has already stated he believes Trump will almost certainly be re-elected in 2020.

    He just started a new lecture series on Spengler that Ebert is calling “The Oswald Spengler Project” in which he is doing a very detailed analysis of and commentary on The Decline of the West. He expects this lecture series will eventually total around 200 video lectures! He plans to do similar analyses of Spengler’s other works, including essays that have never been translated into English.

    Here is the link to the first lecture of The Oswald Spengler Project:

    And here are playlists for two earlier lecture series he did on Spengler:

  93. One of my favorite things about this exploration from the past was recognizing the amount of knowledge and wisdom that was once transferred from person to person, especially that which helped in agriculture. Throughout my encounters with the folks who know the history of the area I live in, the Iron Range of Minnesota, there were countless tales of families growing their own grapes and making their own wine, and their parties with accordion accompaniment. There are huge maple trees dotting all the cities here, some which have recently been fallen due to the expert foresters not being able to, nor really given a chance, to care for them. I’m reminded of the many articles I read about how the area managed to grow enough food to supply themselves and the community of Duluth, not needing to transport foods from distances far away. If you ask anyone today about growing plants for harvest, the vast majority say it’s too cold. The history says otherwise. John Chapman’s story gives a great example of how one can live a different life which is fruitful, and helps exemplify the benefits of diversity, and remind us of how much knowledge and wisdom we’ve scorned.

  94. On a trip to Southern California a few years ago we came across the Wayfarer’s Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes which we learned is home of local chapter of the Swedenborgian Church and also the National Memorial to Emanuel Swedenborg, with dramatic architecture by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank) set high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There was also a very informative museum, worth a stop if you’re in that area, though the coronavirus has them shut for now.

    On Lydia’s remark that Swedenborg was a big influence on the early osteopaths—his study of the brain was the first to describe the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid, but because he had no medical credentials, he couldn’t find a publisher. It was finally published more than a hundred years later, by which time others had made the same discovery and received the credit. His interest in the brain was part of his quest to find where spirit and matter came together in the human body—his descriptions of CSF flow were way ahead of their time, and did have a rather mystical flavor.

    The early osteopaths were also very interested in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid flow. In the subspecialty of Cranial Osteopathy, developed in the 1920s, subtle movements of the individual cranial bones—also accurately described by Swedenborg—are monitored by an exquisitely light touch and gently coaxed into more coherent organization. A popular version of this work is known as CranioSacral Therapy, and is practiced by chiropractors, dentists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, and massage therapists, as well as osteopaths.

    This paper goes deep into the Swedenborg/Cranial Osteopathy connections:

  95. I was thinking about St. Francis and Johnny Appleseed in a larger context*, and “solve et coagula” came to mind. St. Francis – like Socraties – applied a solvent to his culture. But I have seen that when you bulldoze a yard full of trash and don’t immediately plant it or build on it, the weeds will take it over, and passers-by will throw more trash onto it. Socrates’ solve had to wait for Plato and his successors for the coagula; the Franciscans, when they became scholars and charity workers.

    Johnny Appleseed was “coagula” all the way.

    *The meditation topic on how you know what you know and how you can trust it is turning into a massive solvent for me. Fear of that expressed itself in a vivid dream; but the earlier resolution about “patient and laborious as a gnome but generous and with better manners” is the “building on the bulldozed yard” for me. For what that’s worth.

  96. So, can the method of thought be glimpsed from the texts you mentioned by reading – or is it something that only opens up by doing the work?

  97. @JMG: “Gaiabaracetti, that reference to how your feelings were hurt really does give away the game, you know. Only the privileged have the luxury of thinking that their feelings matter to anybody but themselves.”

    I don’t know anything about Gaiabaracetti, or about his privilege status, but your response to him made me cringe. So, if Gaiabaracetti thought his feelings would matter to someone other than himself, then as a matter of empirical fact, he was correct, as you can see. You could, of course, have said “your feelings don’t matter to me,” which would at least have been factually accurate (presumably). I think I can guess why you didn’t.

    As for your general statement (privilege/feelings): I see no evidence for it. Oh, sure, there are plenty of people who *think* their feelings matter to no-one other than themselves. But (a) that’s got nothing to do with privilege (unless “privilege” simply means not living in a highly atomized culture, which is a somewhat odd way to define it), and (b) those people are almost always wrong to think that in any case. Even convicted killers will tolerably often have someone (say, a prison chaplain or some such person) who cares about their feelings. And most of us aren’t killers, after all, convicted or otherwise.

    Finally, cultures may differ in this regard, but where I’m from, the legitimately privileged aren’t really into feelings talk. Why would they be, when they can just take/steal whatever it is that they want (using violence if necessary), without any discussion of feelings, theirs or anyone else’s?

  98. As Retrotopia is on topic for this post, I realised I missed something the two times I’ve read it.

    With automation being severely restricted my first thought was as things go downhill there’s going to be a worsening labour shortage. So why not automate everything that can still be automated, to free up people to do what only they can do? That is something I’m still curious about.

    Then I was reading some Marxist economics and came to the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Listening to Marxists discuss this can get pretty esoteric and is kind of like hearing Christians talking about pre-trib or post trib. But the short version is that as capitalists replace workers with more machinery and technology, their profit generally falls. This is what ultimately causes economic crises. So limiting the amount of new technology capitalists can use, you get a system that theoretically may never destabilise and go into crisis. Sneaky. 😉

    So I imagine it would become a golden age for management consulting. Improving organisation systems, workflow, and capability of the workers would become one of the main fields to compete on. And now I’m seeing consultants becoming like wandering martial arts masters. 🙂

  99. I was hoping you’d write about Swedenborg. A few weeks ago I was doing some research on the town of my youth and came across the Wayfarer’s Chapel, a chapel I had been to as a child and teenager for weddings. It was described as Swedenborgian — a denomination I had never heard of up to that point (was raised Catholic). I figured you’d have something on it, so I ran a search on your site pulled up a few comments here and there, but this latest post really helps contextualize it. Thanks!

    Oh and of course its an interesting synchronicity — an obscure (to me) Christian denomination I had never heard of pops up on my radar just a couple weeks before you do a post on it!

    The Wayfarer’s Chapel is in interesting mix. Some aspects are beautiful and some not so much. They push it as a wedding venue real hard. Fees are high but not as extortionate as some I’ve seen. I guess they’ve got to pay the bills somehow. And it looks like some of it goes to support a local “Garden Church” in town.

  100. Archdruid,

    Does the prominence of comedians in US culture have roots in the country’s magical history?



  101. Hi JMG,

    In the spirit of ask 3 Druids get 5 answers…

    You said above that Druids don’t have Saints. But of course that isn’t true, as Christian Druids revear many saints of the Christian church. And it’s also likely become popular for non or semi Christians to work with saints in a magical context.

    Given that, is there anything to stop an enterprising Druid from lighting a candle and burning some incense for St Johnny Appleseed?

  102. Tolkienguy, I hope someone has the common sense to warehouse those statues until the current rage for erasing the past has gone by, as it will. It’s a fairly standard feature of certain radical ideologies to try to remove all vestiges of the past; it’s not often taken as far as, say, Pol Pot took it — his idea was to kill everyone who was more than 10 years old at the time of the Khmer Rouge takeover — but the spirit is much the same. Of course the results are always bad; those who forget their history, after all, are condemned to repeat it…

    As for Swedenborg’s version of the Second Coming, it was in 1753, if I understand correctly, and it doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with the Aquarian age. Still, if the New Church becomes more popular in the future, I don’t think that would be a bad thing.

    Derpherder, my main exposure to material about Japanese religion is more recent than that, but you can probably find some interesting leads in Carmen Blacker’s The Catalpa Bow.

    Galen, I hope he puts some of his work into print formats; I don’t do videos — I find little blobs of color jerking around on a glass screen to be perhaps the most supremely boring experience there is.

    Prizm, that’s an excellent point. The induced cultural senility of our time, with its deliberate erasure of the wisdom of the past, has foreclosed a great many options; fortunately there’s still time to save some of what’s left.

    JohnKojis, I’m delighted to hear about the Lost Apple Project! That’s interesting, too, about the role of Swedenborgianism on osteopathy — I’ll clearly have to look into it.

    Patricia, that’s an excellent point — and I’m also very pleased to hear about the meditations.

    Admin, it requires doing at least some of the work.

    Irena, this may be a difference between your culture and mine. In America, until fairly recently, “You hurt my feelings!” was something you heard from six-year-olds, not from adults. To me, this makes a great deal of sense; when somebody says “You are to blame for my feelings, and you have to do whatever I tell you will make me feel better” — which is normally the subtext here — we’re well into emotional blackmail territory, and I see zero point in playing that game. Of course that may just show that I’m as much a child of my culture as you are of yours, but there it is.

    Yorkshire, alternatively, since the Lakeland Republic values stability and general prosperity over innovation and kleptocracy, the management consultants may have to find other jobs! Innovation in management is still innovation…

    JWWM, and I’m fascinated that two of my readers on the same day have mentioned the Wayfarer’s Chapel, which I’d never heard of before.

    Varun, I have no idea. That’s a fascinating question.

    Steve, nothing at all! In fact, a really enterprising Druid might start making St. John Chapman novena candles…

  103. @JMG: “when somebody says “You are to blame for my feelings, and you have to do whatever I tell you will make me feel better” — which is normally the subtext here — we’re well into emotional blackmail territory, and I see zero point in playing that game.”

    Indeed, that’s the game that some people like to play, and there’s little point in playing it. But “you hurt my feelings” can also mean something like “let’s work this out in a way that works for both of us.” (And no, that doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships.) After all, what’s the alternative? Shaking your head and just avoiding the person entirely from that point on? That, too, works, and it is indeed the best option some of the time. But if it can be avoided, then that’s usually the better outcome.

  104. Hi John

    Interesting post as always.

    I had no idea there was such a deep occult history within North America and how well established astrology it particular was in the past. A fascinating series of posts.

    On a slightly different point, this poll (which has got little media attention) suggests Trump is more in touch with the public than his critics in the media like to think.

    “Some 58% of registered voters polled by Morning Consult support the deployment of the military to aid police responding to protests, with 33% of the 1,624 respondents saying they’d “strongly support” it and only 30% opposing.”

    I also saw Biden say that 10 to 15% of Americans are bad people. He seems to have a tendency to insult his own people!

    I was a bit skeptical when you first started suggesting Trump could win by a landslide in November but starting to think you might be right on.

  105. When you think of religious travellers (which is apparently the catch-all term for pilgrims, preachers, mystics, etc), you assume they try to convert people to their belief system. The same as touring politicians and activists. But there are exceptions to that – voter registration drives in America, and preparations for the Constituent Assembly election in Russia. They didn’t promote a particular stance, but encouraged interest and participation in politics, and provided civics education. Have there been cases where a wandering sage advocated the spiritual life, then advised people of their options?

  106. @pixelated

    Thank you for your lucid and inspiring essay discussing the “one drop rule” and its impact.

    Along similar lines, the topic of “cultural (mis)appropriation” comes to mind.

    “The appropriation debate peddles a comforting lie that there’s such thing as a stable and authentic connection to culture that can remain intact after the seismic interruptions of colonialism and migration.”

    Like the wild apple trees, human societies will adapt to the environment they find themselves in, using whatever is at hand that works. The rocky hedgerows become the fertile birthplaces of new forms.

    Reminds me of an old song:

    “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow,
    Don’t be alarmed now,
    It’s just a spring-clean for the May Queen.”

  107. @Derpherder, about religion in early modern Japan, I am currently doing a PhD on that very topic and there is a lot of fascinating stuff that has never been written down in English. I agree with JMG, The Catalpa Bow is a great source because it combines early modern records with the author’s own encounters with survivals in the 20th century. It’s also one of the easiest, most accurate, and most spiritual books to read on this subject. Another book that can supplement it is Schattschneider, Immortal Wishes: Labor and Transcendence on a Japanese Sacred Mountain, which mentions herbal magic, although with not nearly as much detail as one might wish.

    Off the top of my head, the following books are also good reads. Not so magical but just as informative. Just check out the description and table of contents to see if it’s what you are looking for.

    – Williams, The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan
    – Miura, Agents of World Renewal: The Rise of Yonaoshi Gods in Japan
    – Josephson, The Invention of Religion in Japan

    Just need to conclude by insisting, most of the “introductions to Shinto” in English are 100% nonsense… David Chart’s new Kindle publication is the only one I’ve read that didn’t make me want to throw it at the wall

  108. To Irena:

    As measured as galabaracetti’s comments were to JMG via his address to Jay Moses, his/her last sentence about feeling bullied was an absurd attempt at guilt manipulation which likely emanated from an unexamined portion of his/her subconscious.

    We have seen many attempts of unintentional and intentional cacomagic recently as one camp tries to bait the other into following its orders with race guilt. Paranoia about grandma’s heath and/or Russians wasn’t enough to topple Caesar, so die Amateurhexen have have only one bullet left: accusing the lot of pale skinned humans of being the Great Satan of Racism. I believe this is the spirit in which Jay Moses posted. It’s one thing to throw poop on Facebook or Reddit and quite another to march upon an eccentric Druid’s nature blog and expect him to fall into lockstep with the elite virtue signaling that is de rigueur these days.

    The notion that such tactics may no longer be working is absolutely terrifying to both puppet and puppeteer and may serve to explain why their braying has become far more shrill and their tactics increasingly uncivil and desperate.

  109. Some thoughts about hurt feelings and evil acts – Whether your feelings matter to others or not, if you can’t control whether their feelings matter to you and have to feel hurt by what they say, well, that’s not the road to happiness, I’d suppose. Of course there are situations when it’s very challenging to stay equanimous and I’m perfectly aware that there are spots in me some people are able to touch that will let me just blow up. Still, my experience is that if you don’t let yourself been drawn away by what your counterpart is throwing at you, you can steer most talks that start in an unpleasant way to a rather pleasant conclusion. After all, in most cases the other does not want to hurt YOU but there are a myriad of reasons for this behavior. That’s an approach to avoid creating enemies and possibly even find friends.

    And about evil acts – they’re done, after all. While, for example, the thought of what might or might not have happened during the conquest of the American continent by the Europeans saddens me and if I imagine what it possibly could have been like (a lot of unknown variables and assumptions here, right?) to be slowly overrun by those white barbarians can sometimes even terrorize me, there’s nothing I can do about it. Still I can learn a lot from the past, either how to be a barbarian conqueror, or how to prevent being overrun by barbarian conquerors, or to find that part of history which I assume to be most wonderful but lost in my own life and cherish it and make it blossom, or … If in all this turmoil somebody planted apple seeds out of what seems to be an inner need or mission, why condemn the fruits of his labors and continue the tragedy?

    Fitting, that I’ve just read Steppenwolf. As long as you disgust the animal inside you, you’ll never be able to leap forward. If there’s such a powerful force inside you (be that “you” a person or a nation), you possibly should not try to kill it for is misdeeds (which you can’t and even if you could this will not undo what it has done) but to cultivate it and learn to wield it.

    Apples – to stray not too far off-topic: I’ve not known about Appleseed and enjoyed this essay a lot. It creates a very warm and hopeful feeling. Last year, we’ve been gifted a small apple tree grown from a seed. And in our garden, an apple seed, possibly from a thrown away apple core, sprouted to another beautiful, small tree. Even in this early stage, the two trees are totally different beings (growth, leads, everything) – just like children 😉 Luckily, we have the space to plant a small apple orchard to see what they and possibly a few more will be like once they’re grown up.


  110. Irena, if someone comes to me and says, “I’m uncomfortable with this thing you’ve said, can we talk about it?” — well, you’ve been reading this blog long enough to know that I’m quite willing to talk about it, because the person saying that is taking responsibility for their own feelings and we can have an adult conversation on the subject. It’s when it’s phrased as “You hurt my feelings!” that I shrug and walk on by, because that’s pretty much always grounded in the bizarre but pervasive modern notion that if A hurts B, A is by definition evil and B is by definition virtuous — a notion that’s played a very large role in setting off today’s insoluble social conflicts.

    Forecasting, yep. Rasmussen (the one polling company that called the 2016 election correctly) is also saying that their poll of likely voters in the African-American population gave Trump an approval rating above 40%. There’s a widening gap between the 20% or so of Americans who support what we could call corporate progressivism, and the 80% or so who don’t — and Trump is doing an increasingly good job of making his case to the 80%.

    Aidan, if it follows the usual trajectory — for example, that of the anti-New Dealers after FDR’s 1936 landslide — it won’t burn out as such. It’ll simply lose its grip on power and end up as an angry, bitter, self-isolated minority sure of its own rightness. As for the redefinition of “the oppressed,” that’s been building for a long time — it’s part of the strategy by which the privileged insist that nobody gets to pay attention to the way they treat the working classes.

    Yorkshire, what a fascinating idea. No, I don’t know of any tradition along those lines, but it would be great to see.

    Bowman, thanks for this!

    Nachtgurke, Steppenwolf has a lot to say to our current situation, which is probably why Hesse was so wildly popular for a while over here in the late 1960s and 1970s, and then became one of those writers You Do Not Talk About thereafter. I may just end up doing a series of posts on his mature novels one of these days. Delighted to hear about your nascent apple orchard!

  111. Hi Golden Hawk,

    Is it “sprinkling “? All these years I’ve heard it as “spring-clean.” Oops. 😊

  112. Thinking about it, has anyone else noticed that the modern-day left is what the right used to be 15 years ago? Shrill, one-dimensional, morally absolutist, convinced that if you don’t 100% support it, you’re a terrible person and ought to be shamed and browbeaten until you repent. A couple of years ago, I remember an article in The American Conservative quoting a Liberal newspaper columnist (Its been a while, so I don’t have either the link to the article or the name of columnist) saying something along the lines of “I’m embarrassed to think that I used to consider moral complexity and nuance signs of intellect…now I realize that the world really is that simple, and complexity and nuance are just ways horrible people live with themselves.” WTF happened? Its almost like these people are under some kind of spell.

    Speaking of actually complex history, my grandfather (and grandmother before she passed on) has done a good deal of geneological research, so I actually know some of my family’s history all the way back to before the American Revolution. Our original ancestor came to Virginia in the 1600’s. Later on, in the 18th century, some of his descendants left Virginia and moved to the border region straddling North and South Carolina that I’ve always thought of as our family’s ancestral home. They must have been quite well-off, because several of them came to own plantations with ~10 slaves each. A county seat in northern South Carolina was founded by one of them, and still bears our family’s name.

    By the end of the 19th century, though, my branch of the family had lost most of its wealth (I suspect due to the general economic collapse in the South after the Civil War), and thus we get to my great-grandfather, who lived as a sharecropper* in North Carolina. He was very poor and ran his farm mostly through his and his family’s labor, and this is how my grandfather grew up. As a teenager, my grandfather was drafted into the US military and wound up doing a desk job at Fort Jackson-a large military base in Columbia, South Carolina-for the entire length of his service, and settled in Columbia after he left the army. Thus both my father and myself spent most of our childhoods there.

    Is it weird thinking that some of my distant ancestors were slaveholders? I’ll admit, yes. But on the other hand, the most recent part of my ancestry lived a dirt-poor life on a rented farm, pouring their labor every year into cotton that, for the most part, they would not get to profit from. Materially, they would not have been much better off than the poor black sharecroppers in that part of North Carolina. As I type this, I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t indeed some familial karma involved-but all the same, the whole idea that American or Southern history boils down to evil rich whites oppressing virtuous poor blacks, and that this is all you need to understand, is frankly fatuous.

    *A sharecropper was someone who rented farmland from a landlord, and in return was obliged to give a fixed amount of his main crop-typically cotton-to the landlord every year in lieu of cash rent. Whatever was left over, which was usually not very much, could be sold, and this was the sharecropper’s main source of income

  113. Also, (and apologies for the double comment) another thing that has been bothering me…BLM was primarily mad about police killing unarmed black people…why not focus on that? Why immediately start talking about Confederate statues and “systemic racism”? Most of the incidents (Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, George Floyd) BLM is angry about occurred in northern cities-somehow, I doubt there’s a statue of Robert E. Lee in Minneapolis.

    This website compiles nationwide data on police killings (it seems to be run by Leftists, but since there’s no federal database on the topic, we’ll use it)

    Playing around with the filters a bit, one finds that in 2019, 114 unarmed people were killed by police in the US. Of these, 28 (24.5%) were African-American. This is disproportionate-African Americans are about 12% of the US population-but still leaves a whole lot of non-black unarmed people killed by police. Where’s the conversation on police brutality and trigger-happy cops we need to be having?

  114. JMG, Avery, thanks so much for the recommendations! It might be a while before I get to them, because right now I’m writing and worldbuilding for a Iranian/Central Asian Turkic inspired world. However, Japanese culture, religion, and history was my first intellectual love, and something I haven’t come back to very often since I was about 16 for some reason. I’m psyched to dive in!

  115. @Aidan Barrett

    That article is real gem. It’s an excellent example of transferring the notion of progress onto language and identity. Or in the author’s words, “evolution.” So you make one marginalized group, then create uber-victimized sub-groupings, forming new, fine-grained hierarchies of status in the victim games. Then repeat, ensuring we are ever more “evolved” with our victim caste-system.

    I notice the author is a sophomore in college. Since she is a POY (Person of Youth) we should give her a break, but I guess that would be ageist.

  116. Steve Miller of the University of Wyoming is also doing something similar with apples in Wyoming, a state with some of the most difficult growing conditions for any fruit. An internet search for the Wyoming Apple Project will provide a summary of what he’s discovered so far.

  117. While reading about the history of weather forecasting, I came across the pre-numerical weather prediction part of the process, where, weather prediction was done using calculations involving the use of specialized tables and charts of meteorological data by people operating slide rules and mechanical calculators instead of computers. After L. F. Richardson pioneered NWP, these methods were relegated to the background, and were replaced by mathematical models which were solved by iterative numerical methods. Naturally, as these required huge amounts of calculations, the teams of people who did these calculations (they were called ‘computers’) were replaced by supercomputers with the passing of time (another factor for this development was that the weather is a chaotic system, and thus supercomputers are the only means that we currently have of doing these calculations to a high degree of accuracy).

    Interestingly enough, we can generalize this to all scientific and engineering fields. Where engineers of the mid-19th century to the 1970s used slide rules and nomograms, engineers today use complicated mathematical models which can be meaningfully used only if we have FEA software to simulate, for example, the buckling of a beam. However, given the crisis of industrial society, could it be possible to combine mathematical models with the old pre-NWP style of using nomograms to do weather prediction, for instance? This would combine the conceptual understanding of mathematical modeling with the low computational cost of a nomogram. Granted, this process would possibly not be as effective as using a supercomputer, as we would not be able to use sophisticated models, but in a post-peak oil world, this method might possibly be the only way out if we want to get the best of both methods. In all probability, the ecotechnic societies of the far future might use such methods. Just a thought.

  118. @Lady Cutekitten

    Robert Plant clarified that in a radio interview on NPR’s Fresh Air several years ago. It is “Spring Clean.”

  119. JMG: “Irena, if someone comes to me and says, “I’m uncomfortable with this thing you’ve said, can we talk about it?” — well, you’ve been reading this blog long enough to know that I’m quite willing to talk about it, because the person saying that is taking responsibility for their own feelings and we can have an adult conversation on the subject.”

    I’m not a mind reader, obviously, but I think that was indeed the spirit of gaiabaracetti’s comment.

    JMG: “It’s when it’s phrased as “You hurt my feelings!” that I shrug and walk on by, because that’s pretty much always grounded in the bizarre but pervasive modern notion that if A hurts B, A is by definition evil and B is by definition virtuous — a notion that’s played a very large role in setting off today’s insoluble social conflicts.”

    I understand where you’re coming from (I am well aware of the fact that this is indeed the current fashion in certain segments of society, especially on American elite college campuses), but I just don’t think that’s what’s going on with gaiabaracetti. At the very least, there’s an unverified assumption in there. Just because that sort of thinking is currently fashionable in certain parts of the English-speaking world (and as far as I can tell, only among certain social classes) does not mean that this is where an Italian commenting on your blog is coming from, even if he happens to use some of the same words. (To clarify: it’s not that this sort of thinking is unheard of in other parts of the world. It’s just that, in certain segments of American society, especially in certain academic departments, it’s become something close to an official dogma. Elsewhere, it is more likely be recognized for what it is: personal pathology. May it remain that way.)

    The other thing is that, when you reply to someone in the comments section, you’re not just replying to that one person; you’re replying to everyone else as well (otherwise, you’d reply privately). You described one popular toxic way of thinking. Here’s another popular toxic way of thinking: “not a single human being in this whole wide world cares about me.” (As you like to say: the opposite of one bad idea is usually another bad idea. Indeed.) The probability that a certain number of your readers are genuinely, if almost certainly erroneously, convinced that this is the literal (and perhaps unchangeable) truth is really quite high. It’s by no means impossible that you have dozens of such readers, in fact. To be sure, the underlying reasons for this have nothing to do with you or with your writing. Nevertheless, you are a popular blogger *and* a religious leader (even if retired). Would you want someone who already thinks this way to say “the Archdruid agrees with me, I have a direct and unambiguous quote to that effect, and that proves that I was right all along”? I suspect you’d be rather uncomfortable with that, in fact.

  120. This series is really interesting reading and should make a wonderful book, assuming that is where the material is going. Thank you.

    iirc Michael Pollan stated that apples, before the mid-nineteenth century, were the way most people were able to experience sweetness – before the importation of other fruits and sugars and mass production of syrups and honeys. I do enjoy the idea of young children drinking hard cider in quantity – would have made for a much more interesting childhood! And hard cider is so easy to make – apples, juicer, a little yeast, big bucket and 6 weeks in the basement. Admittedly each batch I’ve made tastes different, and couple were downright awful – but they all gave the world a most pleasing hazy glow.

  121. Tolkienguy,

    the whole idea that American or Southern history boils down to evil rich whites oppressing virtuous poor blacks, and that this is all you need to understand, is frankly fatuous.

    It would be most helpful if the true history of slavery were taught in the schools. In fact there were free blacks who owned slaves in every state of the union. Most black slaves were purchased in Africa at already-existent slave markets, where they were sold by either other blacks or Arabs. Whites have been enslaved many, many times and have also kept slaves many times. Native Americans did sometimes enslave their captives and were also enamored of the practice of torture of their vanquished foes. Slavery was pretty endemic to middle eastern cultures. The last couple of countries to outlaw slavery did not happen until the 1980’s due to political pressure, not any kind of internal desire to reform. Well, I guess they still have slavery in Sudan. I don’t really know anything about the history of slavery in the far east or Asia/India.

  122. To JMG and those who have commented on what I said, I’ll try to be extremely brief since I don’t want to make this about me but rather about the issue I raised.
    All I meant (truly) was that I feel that sometimes some responses of our host to some commenters are very harsh, and I imagine that said commenters might be hurt, as I once was here. If bullying is too strong a word, I take it back. I did not mean to play games or manipulate.
    I agree with Irena that most people do care about how other people feel. That’s why I raised the issue – I would want someone to tell me if I hurt them rather than just walk away and avoid me afterwards.

  123. @Jay Moses

    Here’s the thing: whoever you are, if you’re alive today, then you can be pretty certain your ancestors killed a whole lot of people. It’s quite likely they perpetrated genocide. Repeatedly. The only question is how long ago it happened. Alas, that is the story of humanity. So, what shall we do about it? One option is anti-natalism ( Other options? Well, you could do a whole lot worse than plant apple seeds and encourage others to do the same. It makes life better, after all.

    (The anti-natalism comment was tongue-in-cheek, but should anyone take it at face value, consider the fact that you’ll never convince everyone, and the unconvinced will inherit the earth, for obvious reasons.)

  124. My father grew up in the New Church. He ended up leaving for reasons similar to why people leave so many other conservative churches, there was a lot of dogmatism and fundamentalism. They may not interpret the Bible literally, but many do get to the level of fundamentalism about Swedenborg’s writings. I understand that there are at least a couple of branches of the church, however, and not all of them are like that.

    Personally, I’ve read a bit of Swedenborg’s writings, and had a similar reaction that I do to reading most Christian ideas about Heaven (and most New Age visions too) that it just doesn’t seem like the amazing place that the authors clearly think it to be. Sure, it sounds better than Hell, but all Christian descriptions of Heaven don’t give me the sort of emotional response that they’re intending to.

  125. Maybe the Sprinkling Company was contracted to do the spring-cleaning for the May Queen! 😊

  126. JMG & Commentariate

    A mythological figure with a tangible history. I am in the camp that didn’t know this story had an origin in recent history. I like this historical character. To possess a kind of wide eyed way of looking at the world that children have, profess a unconventional spirituality, and build a developed Orchardist business are certainly not in the realm of usual archetypes.
    I wonder what characters are roaming among the mostly unpopulated northern lands of this continent as we speak. I had a neighbour once that claimed he built an entire log cabin by hand on crown land unebeknowest to everyone else.
    The legend of Johnny Appleseed also brings to mind so called feral children, such as Victor of Aveyron, who was similarly connected deeply with nature in a joyous sense and likely had no need for the trappings of the material life.
    However, unlike Chapman, Victor was completely wild in every way, non verbal, and disconnected from everything in the world. Interesting that John’s apprenticeship shaped his destiny so strongly.

    Concerning this debate on the importance of feelings:

    Something I often run into is the display of feelings of one kind or another getting in the way of actually addressing the root of an issue. Feelings can be used as leverage, or a bargaining chip, to achieve an end. Sometimes that end is avoidance, although I’m not saying that is the case here. I assume this is a blog where respect and debate count more. Constantly dealing with other’s feelings online here would perhaps turn the place into a counselling group. People do, in my experience, tend to stay on track better when there are harder limits present.

    I’ve also been trying out this idea that history does not progress in conversation with people at work. It seems to help turn the dialogue more towards clarity surrounding current predicaments.

  127. My very first remark here was a joke that made JMG snarl at me (and if you think it’s easy to snarl through a computer screen…). I said “You were supposed to be amused!” He said he was on the autism spectrum and so jokes went over his head a lot, especially on the Internet. I said my kid is autistic so I quite understood, and I’ve tried to mark with a laughie anything else I say that I intend to be funny.

    From this uneasy beginning, I moved on to enjoy his erudition in his field and his unconventional discussions of various topics, and he in turn not only granted me kitten privileges and elevated me to the peerage, the other day, when things were particularly tense on the site and someone asked for an extra kitten, he allowed as how it was a good idea. He also gives us plenty of leeway regarding “staying on topic.” To me these are not the actions of a bully.

    2,000-year-old good advice (and I bet it wasn’t new then): “By their works you will know them.” Pay attention to what they do, not what they say.

    What he says: snarls occasionally.
    What he does: Donates quite a bit of time to educating his readers, which, considering that TSW and that this is a spiritually illiterate society, may save someone’s life one day. And he says what he believes to be correct, even if it’s unfashionable; e.g. he doesn’t believe you can make your own reality and says so. And if he doesn’t know, he says so. I feel he’s passed the works test.

    Finally, bloggers, writers, readers, and experts are all human and all have bad hair days. Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said, “I shouldn’t have hit Send.” So let’s all give our fellow grumps one more chance. And I’ll stop here before we all end up in a group hug. (You guys want to, go right ahead, but I hate casual hugging and will be glad when it’s out of style.)

  128. @David By-the-Lake @gaiabaracetti @interested Ecosophia readers

    DBTL said: “How does one rediscover/rejuvenate that childhood freedom as an adult while still navigating the obstacles of the world as a (supposed) grown-up? That seems to be a key point for me at this particular point in my journey.”

    This is where body-based tantra excels. Because there are body-based practices that give you back exactly that childhood freedom of joyful response. Technically speaking what teens and adults lose is akasha in their mind and body system. Without a certain amount of akasha in your body and mind it becomes very difficult to “stay in the present moment” as so many well-meaning meditators advise. Without enough of it (Akasha) humans constantly suffer either from ruminating on their memories or ruminating their imaginations. All suffering that takes place in your mind comes down to one of those two (assuming you’re not actually being attacked or tortured by someone else at that very moment, that is).


    With enough of it (Akasha) one gains freedom from one’s own thoughts and emotions as well as freedom from either praise or blame from other people’s thoughts and emotions too. This was one of the great secrets of practicing Stoics. Done right it transforms not just attitudes about life but actually transforms the body-mind too.

    Akasha is the key because it’s the lubricant in the mind and body without which strengthening one’s Will remains difficult no matter how many years you’ve been doing it. FYI, JMG’s banishing ritual helps build up akasha in the system.

    But if you want to add akasha beyond daily Banishings you can try adding the following.

    1) *Shambhavi Mudra – there are 2 versions of this. One from Hatha Yoga and one from Tantric lineages. The link to the one below is hatha yoga. Do this consistently often enough and you will build up a lot of akasha in your system. The result is that natural joy that comes so easily to todlers. It connects you to your own inner source of bliss that is completely independent of outer circumstances. As such it makes an excellent addition for fans of practicing Stoicism.

    2) Nadi cleansing – brings corresponding peaceful stability to the body-mind. Also a great addition for fans of Stoicism.

    P.S. It’s clear to me that Johnny Appleseed had boatloads of Akasha in his body-mind. 🙂

    *Shāmbhava/Shambhavi means “sham bhu” meaning “the source of bliss” (your True Self in a manner of speaking, not your ego/persona/emotions, etc) and is another name of Lord Shiva in the Hindu tradition (colloquially called Shambhu). Shiva is not another deity though it is typically depicted as such as an aid for Devotees for ascent back up the Planes. Shiva technically is the term in Hinduism for That-Which-is-Not. That-Which-is-Not is beyond space-time.

  129. OT: JMG, I was trying to find the Magic Monday FAQ on days of the week best for which sorts of workings. I have the broad outlines from my astrology notebook anyway, but could you point me to this?



  130. Hi Happy Panda,

    Thank you! Sounds like akasha is as close as I can get to the woods, and the oodles of poodles, of my childhood. Are these techniques safe if you know nothing about Hinduism or yoga?

  131. We’re discussing Led Zeppelin lyrics in the comments section of a post about Johnny Appleseed and his Swedenborgian mysticism on a blog about esotericism and ecological living. This is the coolest place on the internet.

  132. @kashtan: “Personally, I’ve read a bit of Swedenborg’s writings, and had a similar reaction that I do to reading most Christian ideas about Heaven (and most New Age visions too) that it just doesn’t seem like the amazing place that the authors clearly think it to be. Sure, it sounds better than Hell, but all Christian descriptions of Heaven don’t give me the sort of emotional response that they’re intending to.”

    Ha! That immediately reminded me of this:

    “Heaven is as great a flop as Utopia though Hell occupies a respectable place in literature, and has often been described most minutely and convincingly.” -George Orwell

  133. Tolkienguy, yep. It’s really quite eerie. As for slaveholders and sharecroppers in the family, that’s the sort of complexity real history contains. Along similar lines, my paternal ancestors were driven off their ancestral land in Scotland during the Highland Clearances and ended up settling in far western Washington, where they occupied lands that had belonged to the Chehalis tribe. So were they victims or victimizers? Both — like everyone else in human history.

    Vidura, good question. Mathematics is far from my strong suit, so it’s not something I’m going to explore, but I hope somebody looks into it.

    Aidan, the article’s fascinating. As for the video, you know I don’t watch those.

    Irena, well, you’re certainly welcome to your opinion.

    Mark, thank you. Yes, all this is raw material and first drafts for a book on the magical history of America.

    Morfran, thanks for this. Unherd is rapidly becoming a go-to place for the kind of thoughtful reportage you don’t get in the corporate media any more.

    Gaia, as I noted to Irena, that may be a cultural difference — as well as a matter of class privilege, of course. I’ve seen, over and over again, people on this side of the pond respond, when a discussion veers off topic and bogs down into a squabble about how X hurt Y’s feelings, by dropping their heads into their hands in despair and saying some equivalent of, “Oh, f*** your feelings.”

    Kashtan, that’s one of the more fascinating shifts in modern spiritual culture. Clearly the Christian vision of heaven as endlessly related in pre-20th-century books was immensely appealing at the time, and it still has a potent appeal for some, but many people these days no longer find it appealing at all — and quite a few find it a very depressing prospect.

    Ian, fascinating questions! I hope that you’re right and there are mythic figures striding through the woods as we speak. As for the whole business about feelings, well, yeah.

    Aidan, we’ll see how things pan out from here.

    Your Kittenship, thanks for this.

    Patricia M, I don’t think I’ve done anything like that. Have you looked at the material on about planetary magic and symbolism? It covers a lot of the ground.

  134. Hi Ethan,

    It is, isn’t it? And we have kittens, too!

    Hi JMG,

    🎼Feelings, woh-woh-woh feelings…🎼. Those of you who are too young to remember that song, you’re lucky. 40 years ago, you couldn’t get away from it.

  135. @LOLcat

    LOLcat Q: Are these techniques safe if you know nothing about Hinduism or yoga?

    Yes. The practices I linked to come directly for free from Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and are technically Upa-Yoga (pre-Yoga). Think of these practices as the “cleaning up and hauling out the garbage” stage of buying an old, run-down fixer-upper house.

    True Yoga begins the actual “fixer-upper” stage and is far more powerful and best practiced at only certain times of the day or evening and deals directly with the Shakti power (“use the Force, Luke”) that JMG’s path (one of 114 possible) makes one proficient in.

    I will say that if you do all of the Upa-Yoga practices for at least one year consistently then I’d bet JMG’s path would 1. become surprisingly more powerful (less friction in the body-mind system) and 2. you’d take to his practices easier “like a duck takes to water.” I daresay they can probably be done concurrently.

    There is also one other thing I could link to that other people might find beneficial. There is an old corespondence course from the 1920s (complete with afirmations) called The 8 Spiritual Breaths that is available in a small book from Santosh Sachdeva. Early 20th century Americans went to Tibet, got it from some Tibetan Buddhist masters and brought it home and experimented long enough and widely enough among various people to figure out how to optimize it into a 9 week correspondance course. The original Tibetan version was much longer and was arranged for monks who have loads of hours each day to practice spiritual disciplines. The trial-and-error experimentation by these 1920s Americans re-worked it for householders. And their re-work has stood the test of time.

    Anyway, these Americans then published their course in the back of magazine classifieds all across America. Later a traveling Indian came across the course and decided to take it back to India where he renamed it Brahma Vidya. And that is the course Sachdeva teaches. It also builds up Akasha in the system as well as builds Shakti power and I think some people might find it fun and beneficial as well. For those who are ok with videos you can also find descriptions of these on Youtube.

    ISBN: 8193863208

  136. BTW, I forgot to mention that up until this essay, I thought Johnny Appleseed was just a made-up children’s story akin to Paul Bunyan, with the moral being the importance of staying true to oneself and one’s calling despite public disapproval or ridicule. At least, that is the way it was presented to me, in children’s books and I vaguely recall a TV cartoon.

  137. @ Tanya and Happy Panda

    Re lost childhoods and the recovery thereof

    Thank you for your considered replies. More meditation is in order!

    @ All

    Re race, accusations of racism, and the like

    Things have certainly gotten lively on this front of late. Between the Glee-star battle royals (see: the Good People, their own petards, and hoisting thereupon) and TV show cancellations, it’s hard to keep up with who’s done what to whom. (Not that I try, but I catch glimpses of the furor every now and then.)

    @ JMG

    A bit more on-topic, re the three paths of the Western tradition

    As I’m always looking for structural and systemic parallels, the triad of paths brings to minds the other various triads we’ve been discussing (the three pillars, the Druidic elements, etc.). Are there traditional correspondences among these? I’d offer guesses, but my search for structure has occasionally been shown to be shoe-horning relationships into a desired form. (That said, mystic:nwyfre, mage:gwyar, occultist:calas?)

  138. John—

    Also re the three paths

    My default lens is to think of this as choosing a course of collegiate study. I’d very much like to double-, or even triple-major in this regard, but I suspect that I am once again using an improper paradigm and trying to put new wine in old wine skins which long ago finished serving their purpose.


  139. Aidan Barrett:
    “BTW, many SJWs are already deciding to shift their definition of “the oppressed” just to Blacks and Indigenous People”

    It’s racial Calvinball. The rules change all the time, always with the intention of leaving the white guy (or gal) on the losing side.

    (For our friends outside the US and unfamiliar with the terrific comic strip, “Calvin & Hobbes”, Calvinball is defined as ‘a game that you never play the same way twice. Anyone can add a rule, and not all parties must agree for a change to be implemented,’ kind of like the ever-shifting definition of racism.)

    The Washington Post has been keeping a database of fatal police shootings since 2015. Tucker Carlson broke down the numbers in his monologue a few days ago, here’s a link to the video and transcript:

  140. OT: but I can’t resist good news locally – a summary of a story in the Gainesville Sun today

    Krishna House, which has been feeding lunch to hungry students for almost 40 years has been handing out free lunches to health care workers. Then, as their donations increased, they started knocking of doors in low-income neighborhoods and offering free lunches daily. They said their only cost was the food, since they were doing all the cooking and distributing.

    The one catch is, as you might expect from a Hindu-based religious center, it’s all vegetarian. But rice and lentils, potatoes and peas, and vegetables of all sorts, *are* food, and pretty filling. I’ve eaten in East Indian restaurants with my vegetarian younger daughter and family, and can vouch for that.

    Kudos to the Krishnas!

  141. Ethan, well, I certainly have the coolest readers on the internet.

    Your Kittenship, one of my odder habits is that I like to rewrite the lyrics of really bad songs, as a form of revenge. I like to think of that one as “Felines, meow-meow-meow, felines…”

    Renaissance, yep. If you can’t erase ’em completely, turn ’em into sticky-sweet cartoon parables. Bah.

    David BTL, it’s certainly a good subject for meditation. 😉 I don’t know that anybody’s worked out the correspondences in detail. As for which you choose, it’s standard for people in the early to middle stages of the Path to do some of each, and in fact some schools very strongly recommend this. It’s later on that specialization happens, and that’s less a matter of making a choice and more one of figuring out what you were really seeking all along.

    Patricia, delighted to hear this! Vegetarian Indian food is good satisfying stuff, too. Good for the Hare Krishnas.

  142. To Jasper:
    Thank you for that small essay which summarizes my thoughts and beliefs so succinctly. All my life I have contended, first with people who wholeheartedly believed the simplistic “Manifest Destiny” version of history and now the antithesis “Woke White Oppression” version, and neither are either real or true, since they both depend on denial of objective facts.
    To JMG:
    A favourite quote of mine, from Neal Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age” goes:
    “The difference between ignorant people and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between intelligent people and stupid people — and this is true whether or not they are well-educated — is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations — in fact they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.”
    So it is with these history lessons, including both of yours, as an intelligent tonic to the overly-straightforward narratives that dominate in the world.

  143. I wanted to add an extra bit about Shambhavi Mudra (or as its sometimes called Shambhavi Mahamudra).

    I recommend listening to this guy because he explains why the pose works in bringing back Akasha to the system by examining what’s happening during the practice session to the your spinal column, pineal gland and Ajna chakra. You can either watch it or listen to it as a podcast. Either way works.

  144. It’s not really my intent to take this conversation into current events, but it’s difficult to avoid to what is in the minds and attention of so many of us collectively. Even when I was watching a movie, trying to distract myself from what is going on, the current events tangled into the movie. The movie was Lala Land, and at first I thought it was terrible. Somehow I managed to watch it long enough to learn about the connection with jazz this movie had, and that really left an impression on me. Several times jazz has been mentioned in the blog and especially amongst the comments. Honestly, jazz and jazz as a metaphor really helps understand the American expirement better than anything I think. Jazz, as invented and became appreciated in the USA, was a conversation between the different musicians, their instruments, and the beat. It provided a beautiful opportunity to allow improvisation, giving different musicians and instruments the lead in their voice. The others followed along, all matching the beat, and some responded back with their own voice. There usually isn’t room for more than two really having a voice in the performance despite there being multiple instruments. The American expirement has always been this way. We’ve always seemingly been divided but managing to march along based on similar feelings, or beat. Some were revolutionaries, and some were loyal. Some were farmers, and some were entrepenaurs. Some were slave owners, some were against slavery. Some were against alcohol, some were not. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans. There have always been two opposed parties. Through it all, through the dichotomies, the beat has kept us marching along. The beat has been the ideas of liberty, freedom, and justice for all. John Chapman was a great example of our American story. A pioneer, a Wild Merlin. He was a voice and a connection with our agricultural and wild side, at a time when people were quickly becoming more urbanized and domestic. That’s why he lives on, even as just a story or myth. A society that has become highly urbanized will never understand the importance of the land and the fruits which it bears, nor will it understand the choice of such a lifestyle to depend on the land and the fruits which is provided, especially when they’ve been taught that industry, understood as machines, is the source of the production of our sustenance. His voice may not be as strong, but it still is incorporated within our culture.

    Likewise, we have subconscious recognition within our society of our privileges and the injustices it causes the rest of the world. We’ve spent a couple of months having to look within ourselves and collectively, many realized there are injustices spread across the world to give us our privilege. One great example is Afghanistan. The Intercept recently reported 7423 bombs were dropped in 2019, and 60% of the deaths were children. The US Empire has made injustices upon a great many people. How do we justify that?

    For many, they can’t reconcile it. Perhaps the world is too big a place. I don’t blame them; it is. America does have a lot of influence in the world but it isn’t a one stop shop. The easiest way for many to understand is what the media is currently peddling them; a way to appear virtuous by appearing to fight against racial injustice. There is no easy way out. I sincerely feel that the current situation in America is a lashing out against injustices caused by the American Empire through injustices caused against our own people.

  145. Hi Kimberly,

    It is indeed a very odd situation whereby a person raises an argument, is rebuffed, and then does not engage with the counter argument. There are mental tools available for this process (and claims of bullying is admittedly one such tool), but I have a hunch that we are not being taught more socially appropriate mental tools, and the outcome is a very brittle society. As an example, it is appropriate to politely agree to disagree with another person – there is nothing inherently wrong with that outcome. There are plenty more tools to apply to this situation too and I’m sure you could think of a few.

    As far as I am aware, and I’d be curious as to your thoughts in relation to this observation: We are under no obligation to all agree with each other. In fact it would be a poor outcome to do so, as the unexamined narratives may be entirely dysfunctional. It’s possible.

    Of course I acknowledge that there are power imbalances, but then what of that – we are not free to do as we please anywhere, anytime we want. Such a belief in a state of affairs is an ideological goal and nothing more than that. It is worth noting that plenty of people have power over my doings where I wish they did not.

    Dunno, but it is a curious thing this situation.



  146. JMG, please consider doing your posts on Hermann Hesse’s novels sooner rather than later. This is bedrock literature for me; Emil Sinclair (subject character of Demian) and Harry Haller (of Steppenwolf) are far-and-away the characters in literature I most closely identify with. They captivate me so much I’m convinced that if I can understand enough about them, I’ll learn something important about myself. Odd how you appear to understand Hesse’s symbolism as a tool to interpret current, surely historical, events; I have regarded him as a psychological guide…

  147. my Johnny story.
    John came through my local area more than once. There are apple trees along the river of the local county seat which claim to be his.
    More directly, on my family farmstead, there is a small walled grave on top of our hill.

    Story goes: there was a local fort. There were settlers. There were indians. And Johnny was the one guy who was always pretty much okay anywhere.
    Some settlers killed some indians. Indians got riled up and decided to avenge themselves. Johnny finds this out and the word is put out that if you want to be safe, best head in to the fort until the anger blows over. The family who lived on our hill before we did, they got the message and chose to stay home. They were killed by the indians revenge party. If I recall correct, it’s 4 graves, dad, mom, 2 kids.

    Also the story of how the homestead was available for my family to begin living there.

    (middle ohio)

  148. Lady Cutekitten re “🎼Feelings, woh-woh-woh feelings…🎼. Those of you who are too young to remember that song, you’re lucky. 40 years ago, you couldn’t get away from it.

    Oh, yes. Gaaaah! Not to mention “PEEE-pul, Peee-pul who need peee-pul, are the luckiest people in the world!” And I was raging at that because that sort of clinging needyness is like handcuffs made of sticky taffy to the person being needed! Not that I don’t have my share of it myself, as my local daughter would be the first to tell you under a truth drug.

    The sweet stickyness of the period outdid the early 50s, which IIRC, was full of teenagers in unrequited love and/or dying in car wrecks or jumping off the Tallahassee Bridge.

  149. @JMG – for “Felines, meow-meow-meow, felines…” You Go, man! I now proclaim you an honorary filker, with a virtual songbook full of parodies as your reward. Available in print from my own stash upon request. I wrote a ton of them in my day.

  150. Re the complexities of history and our (in)ability to manage them

    More stories this morning re the toppling and removing of Confederate statues, which a number of others commenting here have noted already. As a study of history, this pains me. Moreover, while I live in WI and was a Navy child, I grew up more south of the Mason-Dixon Line than north of it and my alma mater was once the plantation of John C. Calhoun, so I am somewhat familiar with the South and its issues.

    You don’t address the moral complexities of a failed revolution, however, by erasing the memory of the losing side, and certainly not by dishonoring those symbols which have been created. This is only going to drive the “other side” underground and further the cultural and emotional divide between them and the rest of the country, something that hardly fosters unity.

    Granted, dissolution of one sort or another is inevitable for this Union as our empire dies, but there are better ways and there are worse ways that it can happen. How do these kinds of events counter or reinforce those disintegrating forces which are slowly building? How do these acts embrace the very complex and contradictory cultural fabric that is the United States of America?

  151. In reading more about Swedenborgians, I learned that poet Robert Frost was brought up in the New Church (at a much later time period than Chapman’s, of course), which got me wondering whether for Frost, that experience was more likely a direct inspiration or a thrust-block. Was the neighbor in “Mending Wall” patterned after someone he met in that setting? Which got me re-reading Frost instead of contemplating Chapman this week.

    “There where it is we do not need the wall:
    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.”

  152. John—

    Re the three paths

    So instead of the Pauline triad of faith, hope, and charity, we have wisdom, power, and love.

    With re to studying and the Path, alas, I have gotten started so late that I despair at times of reaching any serious degree of competence, much less getting to the point where specialization sets in! I suppose something is better than nothing, however.

  153. @Jasper, Avery and others:

    I liked the additional information on why the Ohio valley was rather empty in John Chapman’s time, from infectious diseases to the wars with the Iroquois. However, it is also important to consider the exact years we are talking about. According to JMG above, Chapman was born in 1774 and first entered the Ohio valley at 18 years, so approximately 1792. That was towards the end of the war with the Northwest tribal coalition that Avery alluded to (Autumn of the Black Snake). So while the Ohio valley may have been less populated in e.g. 1776 than in 1500 because of the reasons Jasper explained, it was even less populated in 1792 than in 1776 because of war with the United States.

    The main point remains: John Chapman wasn’t responsible for that war and did not partake in it. He entered the valley on his own and lived his own life.

  154. @Prizm,

    “The US Empire has made injustices upon a great many people. How do we justify that?”

    We don’t. We can’t possibly. We can only repent, and beg forgiveness. And that is not going to happen.

  155. Renaissance, many thanks for the Stephenson quote! I won’t argue with that at all — and of course that implies, in turn, that a great many US institutions of higher education produce people who are educated but stupid.

    Prizm, thank you for this. You may well be right — though I also think another factor driving this is an attempt by the comfortable classes to feel good about themselves in the light of their treatment of the US working classes.

    LunarApprentice, I’ll certainly consider it.

    Stinkhornpress, thanks for this. That’s a classic!

    Patricia M, why, I parodized that one too. “People, people who eat people, are the hungriest people in the world…” For some reason saccharine pap always brings out the satirist in me. One of the parodies I worked out in full was inspired by Michael Harner’s atrociously watered-down shamanism; I titled it “White Shaman,” and of course it’s to the tune of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

    David BTL, of course they don’t embrace that fabric — they’re a frantic attempt to deny its existence, and to force everything, in George Orwell’s words, into “an eternal present, in which the Party is always right.”

    Walt, fascinating. I wonder if Frost had any occult involvements; a fair number of poets did in his time.

    David BTL, you have all the time in the universe; it’s just divided up a bit into different incarnations. Relax.

  156. Hi JMG,

    Just wanted to say thank you for sharing this story. Like many above have said, I certainly knew of ole’ Johnny but never quite the full story. Great and inspiring stuff.

    I was thinking of what it would be like to a Johnny Appleseed in today’s time, and funnily enough, America’s most famous farmer, Joel Salatin, popped into my head. Like Appleseed, Salatin is a devout man, yet also an extremely shrewd and successful business person, and has enthusatically helped to spread a regenerative agricultural model throughout the country. He (Salatin) is also a remarkably honest, authentic, and humorous guy, its hard not to like him (I’ve meet him in person). I wonder if a century or so from now folk legends will spring up around him, particularly in his part of the country.

    Here is a little youtube clip, in which Salatin and host discuss these interesting times we are in. I think readers of this blog will enjoy it. Salatin’s solution to bolstering the immune system in response to COVID-19? He drinks water out of the same stock tanks his cows do!

    I also like this idea of praying to St. Appleseed! I think i’ll have to explore adding that to my daily practices!

  157. The orchestrated rioting we have seen going on reminded me of a classic song from Hawkwind, “Streets of Fear”

    What is this that I see here
    You’re walking through the streets of fear
    What is this did I consent
    Armed guard of punishment

    What is life and what is death
    You may laugh or gasp for breath
    I ride the streets now filled with hate
    Carve pathways through the lines of fate

    With my energising ray
    Power is the game I play
    I can murder steal or rape
    Panic is the rule I make
    Panic is the rule I make
    Panic is the rule I make

  158. Oh yes soppy songs–“Teen Angel” in which the girlfriend runs back to the car stuck on the railway tracks to retrieve the boyfriend’s high school ring (sign of ‘going steady’ back in the day— Australian singer Rolf Harris wrote a hilarious parody of it titled “Tame Eagle” in which the protagonist’s pet eagle goes back to the motor scooter stuck on the tracks to retrieve the RSPCA certificate ‘clutched in his talons, tight’ . The chorus is “Tame eagle can you see me, Tame Eagle can you hear me? Are you somewhere up above, swooping on a lonely dove?” One could do a several hour presentation of teen/car death songs from the 50 and 60s.

    OTH, before modern safety concerns such as seat belts, better engineered highways, etc. driving could be pretty scary. In fact one of the most frightening things I ever read was a reprint of the “Death on the Highways” article in a Readers Digest anthology. It contained graphic accounts of deaths in auto accidents. I was probably about 8 when I read it and didn’t really understand some of the terms, but it was just chilling. Ironically, I managed to avoid all the showings of the notorius “Death on the Highway” film which was a regular part of high school drivers’ education classes. Just happened to be out sick or on a field trip for another class or something each time.

    Speaking of soppiness, I also loathed the catchphrase from the film “Love Story” of ‘love means never having to say you’re sorry.’ Really? that is the stupidest idea ever. Would anyone except a complete masochist love and stay with someone who never said they were sorry?

    And on the topic of death in popular songs–was I just being paranoid to notice that the local oldies station seems to be playing “Don’t Fear the Reaper” more frequently since Covid19 struck? Are we Boomers being given a hint to shuffle off?


  159. The fact that such protests have mobilized such a sizable portion of the urban, educated classes in cities around the world (even in Japan and South Korea!) shows how hilariously ironic it is to see a global, cosmopolitan class that claims to be strongly supportive of cultural diversity in the one hand but waves the EXACT SAME SLOGANS on their English-language signs on the other!

  160. Abolish the police!

    It’s not police today’s Americans need, it’s babysitters. This is the non-PMC version of the anti-social media pile-on.

    I wonder if, in another ten years or so, anti-social media will be abolished? I imagine a good case could be made for same, on grounds that, just as free speech should not allow you to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, neither should it allow you to destroy the lives of fellow citizens, physically or financially. (Anti-social media bullying has been implicated in a number of suicides.)

    It’s a shame, because even now, anti-social media can be used for good purposes. It helps people find lost pets, freecycle, market their small businesses, join clubs that interest them, be alerted to road closures. And it has done a fine job of replacing the old Global Joke Faxing Network.

    For you youngsters, a fax was a device that looked much like a small printer, except instead of waiting for paper to come out, you fed paper in, and the machine transmitted what we would now call a printout to the person on the other end. You had a “fax cover sheet,” the first page you sent, which showed your name, the recipient’s name, and how many pages you were praying would arrive, legible, on the other end, and whatever Cartoon or inspirational saying your company would allow you to have on the sheet. DOD personnel favored Biblical quotes and Christian stuff, and oddly enough, so far as I know neither the ACLU nor American Atheists ever sued DOD over its personnel’s fax-cover-sheet habits.

    Companies and governments strictly prohibited faxing material that was not related to business. So what would happen is, your phone would ring, SK2 Smith at the Naval base would say “Hey, I’m sending a good one!” You would stand at the fax machine so that no one, such as your boss’s boss, would pass by and notice (ominous chord) Non-Work Related Material coming through addressed to you. Very often, a 75-page contract would be coming through, and you’d sort out all the piled-up faxes so you could look busy while you waited for the biggun to finish and your joke to come through. It would arrive, and if you liked it, you’d fax it all over to other jokers, and THEY’D fax it, and so on.

    All this activity kept happily busy people who would otherwise have been fretting about whether their housework was divided EXACTLY EQUALLY among adult family members and about how many genders there were. A pale echo of the time can still be found today, as a little-known, arcane section of the Hippocratic Oath requires certain doctors to insist that their patients fax in any required paperwork. (A friend of mine sees a doctor who won’t even let her drop off the papers. They must be faxed.). Patients of those doctors are still kept busy, but not happily; they run from business to business trying to find a fax, not easy since no one today has fax machines except doctors and the occasional UPS office.

    I saw my first fax machine in 1990, when my boss taught me to use one. We were faxing 5 pages. It took two hours on our end; the paper went through a fraction of an inch at a time, and you couldn’t go off and do something else meanwhile, because it had to be watched in case it jammed. Later fax machines moved faster.

    Next time, kids, Grandma Cutekitten will tell you where the headlight dimmer switch used to be located. You’ll never guess.

  161. Hi Rita,

    *chortle*. “My girlfriend died trying to save my class ring from an oncoming freight train.—I sure am glad I never had the opportunity to have kids with her.”

  162. Having grown up near “Paul Bunyan” territory, I should correct the assertion that he was created for the entertainment of children. My memory (supported by Wikipedia) is that the tales arose in the bunkhouses of the lumber camps of Michigan (or Wisconsin, or Minnesota). Logging in Michigan (in the latter 1800s) was done in the winter, when the roads could be glazed with ice for easier movement of the heavy logs to rivers, which would carry the logs long distances during the spring high water. So there were long, cold nights in the bunkhouse for the telling of tall tales, and the seasonal workers could swap tales heard in other camps in prior years.

    The Disney version came much later (as with Johnny Appleseed).

  163. Aidan, thanks for this! He just scores one hit after another.

    Andrew, I certainly hope that Joe Salatin becomes a legend. He’s put in the necessary work.

    Galen, many thanks for this blast from the past. Like a lot of young men of my generation, I got turned on to Hawkwind via fantasy writer Michael Moorcock, who was a good friend of the members and wrote a novel, The Time of the Hawklords, about them.

    Aidan, yep. “Diversity” must never include a diversity of thoughts!

    Your Kittenship, if the world were fair, every person who insists that the police should be abolished would be mugged in the next week or so. Alas, karma isn’t that fast.

    Patricia M, but of course! You’ll have to imagine Grace Slick warbling the following:

    “One book makes you famous, and gets you lots of bucks
    And you fill up weekend workshops with a mob of New Age clucks
    Ask Mike Harner if the payoff sucks

    “So if you go chasing tenure, and you know you’re going to fall
    And your scholarly credentials aren’t worth anything at all
    Ask Mike Harner what you have to scrawl

    “For a starving academic, there is just one way to go
    Write some crap that sounds shamanic, and you’ll soon be flush with dough
    Ask Mike Harner, I think he’ll know

    “When Carlos Castaneda does his fieldwork in his head
    And Lynn Andrews babbles bull****, and Le Plongeon still gets read
    Remember what your agent said:
    It’s worth bread! It’s worth bread!”

    Lathechuck, thanks for this!

  164. On the whole “abolish the police” thing…so this happened in Minneapolis:

    For those who’d rather not watch videos, Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, goes to a BLM protest. (He’s in the center, dressed in jeans and grey T-shirt like a scruffy college student and wearing a face mask saying “I can’t breathe” on it.) He does an almost ritualistic confession of his own racism to the protestors, who then try to shout him down before one of the organisers asks him if he will commit, right their on the spot, to abolishing the Minneapolis police. Frey tries to pervicate on this for a minute or two, but the organiser, in an increasingly hostile tone, insists he give a yes or no answer to the question, and he finally responds by saying “I will not commit to abolishing the Minneapolis Police Department.” The protestors then proceed to run him out of the crowd.

    And not only this, “Abolish the Police” has come to my home state:

    I’m quite sure the bulk of these marches (if not their organizers) are drawn from Richmond’s lower-class black population, and I almost feel sorry for them-my understanding is that Richmond is going through a whole lot of gentrification right now, and so a lot of these people are being priced out of their homes in favor of white Yankees with Master’s degrees. (Something similar was going on in Columbia when I lived there). Our current political situation being what it is, though, the gentrified and the gentrifiers both tend to vote for the same political party…which is run by the gentrifiers. So the gentrified have no recourse other than voting for the very people who are making their lives miserable. Honestly, one can’t blame them for being mad…and at some point, I hope they realize that the “Abolish the Police!” end of the left aren’t their friends either.

  165. @Tolkienguy “Thinking about it, has anyone else noticed that the modern-day left is what the right used to be 15 years ago?” Yes, I remember the Moral Majority and how everything offended their sensibilities. Their end game was to say that the country was going to end up depraved with all kinds of uncouth behavior (to use their terms). I don’t recall them ever making people apologize, kneel, and renounce their relationships with their families.

    In terms of your late 1800’s family’s wealth being lost…..was it uncovered in the genealogical research that your family lived-in a burned county? Burned counties are ones were the Union troops burned down the courthouses which had records of land ownership, slave ownership, as well as probate records. If your family couldn’t produce proof of ownership of land or slaves through some kind of paperwork, that land would have been given up when the original owners died. The Union troops burned as many courthouses as they could through the Carolina’s and Georgia, essentially wiping out wealth.

    In fact this is one of my great fears of the protesting now, that their will be push to burn courthouses and archives. It will be considered all “white people history” or “the history of oppression” and up in flames it will go. Many archivists are very SJW and vocal in that ideology and maybe they’ll unlock the doors.

    Records after 2007 or so may be all digital, but that doesn’t mean they are backed up off-site, etc. Plus the historical records supporting land ownership would be wiped out. But I can’t tell people to save what they can download now from their courthouses, because that would be racist.

  166. Regarding Musa Al-Gharbi’s point:

    As he noted, “Consider: up until the 2012 elections, Republicans tended to have a larger share of college-educated voters than Democrats (an effect that was even more pronounced among white voters). Most of us on the left did not take this as evidence that Republican policies were consistently more ethical and well-grounded than those of Democrats. Instead, many interpreted these trends as a sign that the Republicans were the party of elites, while Democrats were the party of ‘the people.’

    Yet, now that the educated class has shifted their allegiance, condescension and elitism have become increasingly vogue on the left, while populism has become something of a dirty word.”

    You see so many on the liberal-left nowadays lament the fact that they no longer score LBJ-style landslides. Yet, the one demographic that LBJ failed to gain in 1964…was white voters with a college degree!

    The fact that “simple-minded” peasants and labourers who never set foot at a university (and often not even high school) were the constituencies that gave landslides to FDR and LBJ is problematic to the highly-credentialed contemporary left that regards such constituencies as provincial deplorables.

    In another article Musa Al-Gharbi describes how the correlation between increased education/knowledge availability and increased socio-political dysfunction would have been inconceivable to Enlightenment-era figures (flirting with the idea that a society can become “over-enlightened”). He proposed ways that universities can stop being part of the “problem”

  167. Two interesting interactions this weekend:

    First this was our first weekend being “open” since March. I went out friday night to a bar to meet some friends. Of course we talk about current events because that is all anyone has to talk about at the moment. A friends girlfriend ended up leaving the bar, and after he and she texted for about 30 mins after she left, he left. Yesterday at another bar sipping some nugget nectar on a bench in the sun. An older gentleman maybe in his 60’s was standing nearby and going on and on about trump. I interjected America isn’t any different then it was under obama. He stormed off, these are the people who are supposed to be the most open minded? The anger and hatred they spew, and the nonacceptance of anyone who doesn’t agree with them is frightening.

  168. Lady Cutekitten – Re: Fax machines. I have a “multifunction device” next to my computer. It’s used mostly as a printer and page scanner, but amazingly enough, it can scan a page in my house, and print it out either at my house (copier mode), or at my doctor’s office (fax mode). A moment of on-line shopping reveals that CDW sells a Canon model for about $110, or you can get a dedicated fax machine for just twice the price.

  169. I bet 99% of the people pushing to “abolish the police “ live in suburbs—which have their own police departments. They won’t have to worry about their lives becoming even more Hobbesian as will the people in a police-less town the size of, say, Chicago.

  170. @ Darkest Yorkshire

    “Have there been cases where a wandering sage advocated the spiritual life, then advised people of their options?”

    As good a description of Ecosophia as any I’ve heard. 🙂

  171. Gaiabaracetti, I totally understand. That said, Lady Cutekitten’s comment makes a lot of sense.

    Moving on…

    Here’s another vote for a post on Hesse’s novels. I’ve read several of them, and one of them (Steppenwolf) several times. I’m not sure what relevance Steppenwolf is supposed to have to the current situation (above and beyond its relevance to any other time I’ve been alive, that is), but it must have been over a decade since I last read that book, and it’s entirely possible that I didn’t focus on the same aspects as our host! So, I’m intrigued. (And maybe it’s time for another re-reading.)

  172. Hadn’t heard of Swedenborg but enjoying looking into his take on things.

    One thing it reminded me of is an issue I have accepting the traditional view of Heaven / Paradise (as a place where the good go, where there is no bad, where there will never be any bad and will last forever etc) in that if I cannot ever choose to do evil am I still in possession of my free will … if you were to spend *insert huge number here* years in whatever idyllic pastoral / modern / whatever scene wouldn’t you eventually get tired of it … and in both cases are you still you if you *can’t* choose and never even desire to move on etc?

    Re taking offence (not specifically to scenario on here it just reminded me of it) – I don’t mind it when someone is offended by me and talks to me about it … what I have always found less helpful is when someone takes offence on someone else’s behalf based on either their assumptions about that offendee or because it gives them an excuse to exert power over another. Sure there are people who literally cannot defend themselves (eg small children, severely mentally handicapped etc) and stepping into the breech on their behalf is one thing but doing it say on behalf of already ‘triggered’ college types (who are already denying their own agency by declaring themselves ‘triggered’) or other folk who are (or could/should be) fully capable seems to be more about (hmm didn’t our Archdruid write a post on this!) the virtue/power of the rescuer and less about the ‘victim’ you have declared incapable of coming to their own defence?

  173. @Denys: RE Looting the courthouses. It’s not just the archivists: my local library ( the Providence Public Library, the library of record for the State of RI), has been slowly emptying out the stacks. Somehow they found $25 million to renovate the building to:
    “provide open, user-friendly, and collaborative teaching and learning spaces where communities can connect, experience, create and achieve.”
    OTOH, they couldn’t manage to keep either the abridged or complete versions of Toynbee’s A Study of History.

  174. @Darkest Yorkshire

    On a point of order – the guy who wrote Adults in the Room is Yanis Varoufakis – the then Greek finance minister at the time of the collapse and EU bailout. The book is, of course, the story of how he fought his hardest to NOT sell Greece out to the EU and the “liberal elite” and how the neoliberal forces pressured The Greek PM, and crushed him and overturned Varoufakis’ defiance to sell Greece out (forcing him to resign).

    It’s anything but how he sold Greece out. The book was crucial in me understanding enough about the EU to decide (as a Brit) that Brexit was a good idea and that I didn’t want my country as part of such a poisonous structure.

  175. And on queue he comes across the Swendenborgian take on his Heaven/freedom comment ….

    “The more closely we are united to the Lord, the more clearly we seem to have our own identity, and yet the more obvious it is to us that we belong to the Lord. It seems as though the more closely we are united to the Lord the less sense of identity we have. This is indeed how it seems to all evil people and to people who believe on religious grounds that they are not subject to the yoke of the law and that none of us can do anything good on our own. These two kinds of people cannot help seeing that if they are not allowed to think and intend what is evil, but only what is good, they have lost their identity. Since people who are united to the Lord are neither willing nor able to think and intend what is evil, the outward appearance leads others to believe that this amounts to a loss of identity yet it is the exact opposite.” (Divine Providence section 42)

    It that system the only ones who are that close to God are the ones who are that close to God (well that sounded deep) in that the only people who are that close are those whose true selves are already in alignment with His love etc … the folks who are not that aligned or not that comfortable have pulled themselves further away to the point where they have the level of God that they can stand.

  176. OT: Really from Magic Monday, but I caught it too late.

    About the proposal for the Minneapolis police. The article I read said the Minneapolis City Council wanted to do exactly what was successfully done in Camden, NJ, about 7 years ago. Camden had an ongoing, intractable problem with police corruption. So the Council found a police chief elsewhere who had a reputation for integrity, gave him a free hand to bring in whoever he wanted, and when he was in place, fired the entire police force and let the new Chief rebuild it in a better image.

    I see no problem with any city which has an ongoing, intractable problem with police brutality doing the same. The issue of excessive fore for minor offenses is front and center now – and as far as I can tell, has a record of throwing gasoline on the flames.

    I didn’t understand the comment “ecosophian” made about “enter the warbands.” If you’re reading this blog, ecosophian, did you mean the cops who were fired would turn gangster? Or did you mean you thought the Minneapolis force would be disbanded without any replacement coming in? Which would be incredibly stupid of the Minneapolis city government, but these days it’s very hard to predict what anyone or any group will do.



  177. Speaking of Jacob Frey publicly humiliating himself while apologizing for the crime of being white, here is a great editorial from the New York Post.

    Some highlights:

    Minneapolis’ soy boy of a mayor, Jacob Frey, proves that no matter how much you abase yourself to the mob, you can never be woke enough.

    In a scene reminiscent of a Maoist struggle session, he stood before two black protest organizers Saturday and confessed through a mask into a microphone that he was “coming to grips with my own brokenness.”

    But the organizers, standing on a platform above him, weren’t interested in providing therapy for this 38-year-old man-child.

    Someone should tell this half-price Justin Trudeau to stop wallowing in his own brokenness and start repairing his broken city.

    There is no patience for self-indulgence amid the ruins. If Minneapolis had a grownup mayor instead of a snowflake, the rioting and looting of the past two weeks might have been nipped in the bud and America spared more pain piled on top of the pandemic.

    Instead, the nation suffers due to one man’s inadequacies.

    Frey is the perfect representative of a Democratic Party that has moved so far left, it is eating itself alive.

    There is much more, but I will leave it to those who wish to read the article. To a great extent, Jacob Frey is a typical example of a white liberal these days, a spineless, deracinated hothouse flower of the sort that tends to sprout and thrive in the decadent, overcivilized megalopolitan cities that metastasize in the later stages of a High Culture, just like Spengler described. The sort of hothouse flower that tends to wilt when faced with real adversity. However, it is precisely the failings of the decadent urban elites that sets the stage for the rise of Caesarism, followed by barbarism. When white liberals talk about “white fragility”, what they are really talking about is their own fragility, projected in classic Jungian fashion onto others.

  178. Tolkienguy, I expect to see a lot of antics along those lines between now and November 3.

    Patricia M, you’re most welcome. 😉

    Trent, remember that they’re going through a shattering crisis of faith just now. The secular religion of progress is becoming very difficult to uphold. Pandemics are among the things that are supposed to belong to the Middle Ages, not to our enlightened times, and we just had one; equally, a lot of middle-class white people responded to George Floyd’s death with shock that this long after the Civil Rights movement, such things still happened. To their minds, we were supposed to be on the brink of the Star Trek future by now — not reeling from one crisis after another, with the Bad Orange Man not only ensconced in the White House but going on the offense after seeing off on attempt to oust him after another, and those awful deplorables increasingly unwilling to hold their tongues and accept whatever crumbs their betters decide to give them. It would take impressive levels of self-discipline and self-knowledge for them to respond to so painful an experience without anger and hatred — more, certainly, than most of us have these days.

    Your Kittenship, or they live in gated communities with private security. Yes, exactly.

    Irena, duly noted! Steppenwolf is among other things a novel about class privilege. Harry Haller is very much a middle-class intellectual, who clings to the corresponding cultural trappings — the classical music, the poetry, the nose-in-the-air attitude toward popular culture — and his encounters with Hermine and the Magic Theater involve coming down off his pedestal and letting himself enjoy the deplorable culture of his time — yes, jazz had that status in Germany between the wars. Of course there’s also a political dimension — the dinner where Haller makes such a fool of himself is among other things an unsparing portrayal of how to support a good cause in a way that guarantees that other people will reject it, a lesson quite a few people could stand learning just now — and there’s also half a dozen other themes, but the class dynamic and the political dimenison are especially relevant just at this moment here in America, where a lot of Harry Hallers are picking fights over portraits of Goethe…

    Warren, granted — the standard notion of heaven has always struck me as overwhelmingly dull. As for being offended, also granted — and especially when “I’m offended!” serves as a convenient cover for “I get to tell you what to do” — as it so often does.

    Patricia, I think it’s quite sensible for a police department to engage in that kind of sweeping reform where it’s called for. I also think there’s a lot to be said for the parallel proposal of spinning off some duties now assigned to the police — for example, dealing with mentally ill people who are melting down in public — to a newly created set of city personnel who are trained to handle such things without resorting to violence. Third, there’s a huge amount to be said for going with less militarized forms of policing. A local anecdote: here in East Providence we had an armed standoff situation on our block a while back. The police cordoned off the house, and there were snipers in place, but they’re trained in deescalation methods. Instead of going in shooting, they talked the guy down, and nobody got shot at all. That was successful policing. If that was all that the various activists were calling for, I think most people would support it.

    Galen, the New York Post really does seem to have turned into the Trumpista newspaper of record! That’s not a complaint; it’s refreshing to have less of a monoculture in the media.

  179. Could the movement to “abolish the police” be part of a greater trend towards greater state surveillance in the cities, especially considering the fact that most of the companies that manufacture these cameras are based in China? hmmm….. Cui bono?

  180. Irena said, “Here’s another vote for a post on Hesse’s novels.”

    Hear, hear. Taking the hint dropped here recently, I’ve pulled my old copy of The Glass Bead Game out of the bookcase, dusted it off, and am re-reading it. Like Hesse’s other novels, I’ve noticed that its meanings have evolved and expanded as I’ve gotten older.

  181. Re: de-fund the police, but fund others to respond to non-criminal emergencies? I heard an interview on NPR this afternoon with a police union representative, who sounded quite sensible to me when he said “responding to mental illness and domestic violence calls involves the risk of violence, and if you’re expecting someone other than police to do it, well, those people don’t exist.”

  182. If I may, regarding _Steppenwolf_:

    Count me as another person who would love to read a discussion of _Steppenwolf_! The themes of _Steppenwolf_ are, to my mind at least, relevant to this post. That is, I considered it one of the most Dionysian books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading with the basic arc of the story, to my mind at least, concerning Harry Haller’s Dionysian initiation into wholeness. Furthermore, it’s so breathtakingly Jungian! I can hardly believe that Hermann Hesse had the courage to write in his own Anima as one of the main characters! The story really reminds me of _The Bacchae_ but a version in which Pentheus comes to his senses and realizing that he can actually choose to live! Especially towards the end, _Steppenwolf_ seems to me like a retelling of that achingly beautiful scene where Pentheus, nervous and stuttering in his mother’s clothing, asks Dionysus, “A-a-am I beautiful? And Dionysus touches him and says “you are.” And then, rather than getting torn to pieces, he gets the to enter the Magic Theatre.

    _Steppenwolf_ is one of the few books where I sob at multiple points throughout each time I read it, and one of the few pieces of literature that touches me as deeply as Euripides. I would be absolutely delighted to read your thoughts on it and how it’s relevant to these times.

  183. 1. From the Watts riots to Rodney King to today, it just keeps cycling on and on. Most humans can’t see past one week into the future. People think this is a new thing? No, this has been going on for a while now. I guarantee you in 2040 there will be another race riot and people will go “Where did that come from”.

    2. I’d say we’re seeing Peak City. It used to be that cities were where everyone wanted to go to, because that’s where all the jobs and action was at. I’m going to claim that’s now going to go all the other way from here on out, with interludes of recovery.

    I’d say like with small biz, getting out of the city is something you should’ve done back in 2016-2018 and it’s really too late to react and respond to the cities circling the drain.

  184. @JMG @Patricia

    De-escalating mentally ill people in public does take a particular skill. It requires acceptance of the person’s condition and an ability to be on the same page as that person so to speak. I have no problem talking to people who are extremely paranoid, or have cobbled together far out belief systems via schizophrenic thought patterns. Whether the issue includes government agents, betrayals, or massive anxiety it’s all about attempting to understand and work from that point. I watch my voice tone very carefully. You get a feel for it eventually but I’m not sure if it comes easily from doing police work. It comes from doing a lot of one on one work with people with said conditions.

  185. Frankly the Maoists scare the hell out of me. They just get crazier and crazier. And as we just saw with Candace Owens, no one is safe from being targeted by the SJW lynch mob. Owens, an African American woman, got deplatformed because she dared to point out some inconvenient facts. And she is far from the first conservative to face that kind of treatment because the “social justice” crowd bullied social media platforms into banning them. It makes one wonder who is next on the target list, because every time someone liked Owens gets the banhammer dropped on them, it just emboldens the mob even more.

    What worries me is that as our host has pointed out, we narrowly avoided a civil war when Trump was elected. Now, thanks to Trump’s missteps, we are looking at the very real possibility of a Democrat landslide. I don’t worry so much about Biden per se. He’s just a senile old hack. But he’s going to be under a lot pressure to appease the radicals in his own party. And as noted before, these people just keep pushing and pushing while getting crazier and crazier. As president, Biden would be little more than a figurehead. But a figurehead for who?

    Meanwhile, we have ordinary working class Americans who have seen the first real progress and signs of hope in decades, only to see that progress coming to a screeching halt thanks to the government’ s overreaction to what amounted to a bad flu season. Suddenly, everything got locked down with huge numbers of people out of work and as usual, its the working class that got screwed the hardest. A few good years and then all that got yanked out from under them. But these people tend to be heavily armed, with millions of military vets in their ranks. What happens if the Dems take control and go back to the same policies that devastated the working class starting in the late 1970’s? What happens if we see the government being used as a tool of repression against those who are opposed to the shibboleths of the liberal left, which we got a relatively mild taste of during the Obama years? We saw what lengths the Obama administration was willing to go to try and derail Trump’s candidacy using methods that were legally dubious at best and we got a small glimpse of just how dangerous institutions like the FBI and IRS could be thanks Obama’s relentless campaign to politicize law enforcement, the intelligence services and the military in the name of “progressive” political goals. We also saw Christian business owners being persecuted and driven out of business because of their opposition to gay marriage.

    If we see the return of these policies, it’s only a matter of time before the Deplorables start taking up arms out of anger, fear, desperation and a sense of betrayal. You can only push people so far before things erupt, especially with so many guns in circulation. If that happens, you know there will be even further repression by the Democrat controlled government and their allies on the far left, which will just fuel the cycle of hate and violence. Its very possible we could end up with a major insurgency or even a civil war. I lived through the last couple of decades of the Cold War, when everyone was scared about the possibility of a nuclear war. I am downright terrrified of what may happen in America in the next few years.

  186. Scotlyn, I had that thought after I posted. One specific thing I was wondering though was how a prophet would follow up their inspiring speech in the town square if they weren’t going to tell people exactly what they should do. How do you go from that to exploring people’s options? 🙂

    SomeGuy, some alternate views on the whole affair are here:

    But yeah, Greece and Ukraine were big parts of turning me towards Brexit as well.

  187. re: Mentally Ill

    Back in the Bad Old Days, they were swept up off the streets and sequestered into state run mental hospitals, where they were neglected until they died. In this modern, more compassionate era, they are left to make do as best they can on the streets, where they are – neglected until they die.

    I guess the big difference is who pays for neglecting them? Instead of paying extra taxes to fund a badly run mental hospital, each citizen and shopkeeper has to spend extra time and money avoiding them and cleaning up after them instead? And the cops have to spend extra time and money doing their best to beat them up? One might cynically say that society is spending the same amount of money dealing with the problem, only the amount spent is hidden and shifted. Kind of like how a cat uses the litterbox – burying and hiding the, um, costs.

    I suppose deploying medical specialists to deal with mentally ill homeless people is probably a step in the right direction but these are not, what the right words to describe these people? Fixable? These are not fixable people, by and large. They are fundamentally broken. Maybe you can fix a small fraction of them, and that might be worth it but it won’t get rid of the bulk of the problem.

  188. >Now, thanks to Trump’s missteps

    Are you sure that Trump has misstepped? Or maybe, perhaps, humor me here – he is just as much of a puppet as any other politician? I guess his selling point back in ’16 was that “Hey vote for me because I’m not a traditional politician and I have my own wealth so maybe I won’t be a puppet”. Perhaps he was only kidding around about that? Ha ha, funny joke, right?

    >As president, Biden would be little more than a figurehead

    And that all the other presidents (including Trump) weren’t figureheads either? I’d like for you to contemplate that maybe Orange Man isn’t either Good or Bad but perhaps, just maybe Irrelevant? That Orange Man Doesn’t Matter. Just roll it around in your head and see if it explains what has happened over the past few years. Maybe the thought is too offensive for you? That’s fine, not asking you to agree, just bat the idea around, like a cat batting a ball around with its paws.

  189. @JMG

    I completely missed the class aspect of Steppenwolf! I basically read it as a treatise on a particular kind of personal psychology (which is what it is, of course, at least in part). But yes, that makes a lot of sense (and maybe I should re-read the book, as I said).

    In other news, I’ll let you and the commentariat form your own opinions about this:

    (arXiv is essentially a repository of preprints of academic papers in certain STEM fields.)

  190. The universe works in ways I do not understand. For years on and off I’ve been researching the Wilmer family in late 1700’s Philadelphia and Kent County, Maryland.

    Unusual things happen each time I go back to this research. In January when I opened a folder to begin reading a set of the family’s letters in an archive, the glass lamp shade next to me shattered into pieces. Now I find a transcript of Reverend James Jones Wilmer’s diaries and see he was an advocate for making Swedenborgianism the national religion of the U.S., the same week you write of the faith.

    Here’s a link if you are interested in the diary. Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume XIX, September 1924, beginning on page 220.

  191. @ Owen:

    I will overlook your snarky comment in the name of peace and comity. Instead, I would prefer to discuss matters of real substance.

    In all seriousness, I think President Trump did try to make changes in a number of important areas, including trying to wind down our idiotic wars in the Middle East and backing America away from the globalist policies that have benefited the elites and their upper middle class hangers-on at the expense of not only the American people but huge numbers of other people around the world, from Mexican farmers whose livelihoods were ruined by NAFTA to Chinese sweatshop workers slaving away over at Foxconn to make iPhones and other overpriced consumer gadgets for the well-to-do.

    Unfortunately, these efforts were undermined in part by Trump’s own failings and in part due to a relentless campaign of sabotage, foot-dragging and monkey-wrenching by the establishment. To a great extent, all politicians are prisoners of the system within which they must operate. But at least Trump tried to change a number of things for the better. Contrast that with President Obama, who ran on a campaign of “hope” and “change we can believe in” and then promptly chucked those ideals right over the transom even before he even took office. Even Obamacare turned out to be little more than a thinly disguised corrupt giveaway to Big Pharma and the insurance industry.

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