Not the Monthly Post


One of the things that makes the magical history of America so, well, magical is the number of astonishing individuals who have played a central role in it. Even among the extraordinary gallimaufry of figures who are part of our story, though, the subject of this week’s post stands out. His name was Paschal Beverly Randolph, and he was an American original:  the first internationally famous African-American occultist, the creator of traditions of magic and occult wisdom that remain active today, and—well, we’ll get to the rest of it as we go.

Paschal Beverly Randolph

Randolph was born in a down-at-heels New York City neighborhood in 1825 to Flora Beverly, an African-American woman, and a white man named William Randolph. Whatever the nature of the connection between his parents, it didn’t endure long; when Randolph was five years old, his mother died, and he spent some of the years that followed in an orphanage and others living with his half-sister Harriet and working as a shoeshine boy. While in the orphanage, he had a vision of his mother, who spoke one word to him:  “Try!”  That became his motto for the rest of his life.

At the age of 12, like many enterprising young men in his time, he ran away to sea, taking a job as cabin boy aboard the brig Phoebe and sailing the world around.   He later described the eight years he spent at sea as “miserable,” but somewhere in those years he added to the minimal education he’d received at the orphanage, and became a voracious reader and an unusually good writer and speaker.  When he left the sea in 1845, after an injury sustained chopping wood, he went to work as a barber and began to study medicine, with an eye toward working as a doctor in the African-American community.

Those plans changed suddenly in 1848 when, as described in an earlier post in this sequence, the Fox sisters started hearing tapping noises, and Spiritualism burst on the American scene. Like several of the other figures who play a central part in this stage of our story, Randolph turned out to have a natural gift for trance states, and he combined that gift with a quick mind, a magnetic personality, and a talent for oratory—a mix that made him an instant hot property on the American lecture circuit.  In 1853, as interest in spiritualism was building in Europe, he booked a lecture tour in England, which was a rousing success; while overseas he also visited France and some parts of the Middle East—and thereby hangs a tale.

Randolph left the United States in 1853 as a gifted but otherwise ordinary Spiritualist. By the time he returned in 1857, he claimed to have received some form of Rosicrucian initiation and to have been given a set of esoteric teachings by the al-Nusairi, a heretical Muslim sect in Syria. (At the time the name of the sect was spelled “Ansaireh” in Western languages, which is more or less how it’s pronounced in the Syrian dialect of Arabic; Randolph thus called the teachings the Ansairetic Arcanum.)  All this sounds very much like the sort of origin story many other figures in nineteenth-century American occultism liked to use to deck out their own inventions in borrowed finery, but in Randolph’s case he may have been telling the truth.

To begin with, there were Rosicrucians, or people who claimed to be Rosicrucians, to be found in the 1850s in London and Paris.  While in England, his lectures attracted the attention of influential members of the British occult scene—Kenneth Mackenzie, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and especially Hargrave Jennings, whose 1870 book The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries covered much of the same ground Randolph would explore in his own work. Randolph referred to Jennings in one of his books as “the chief Rosicrucian of all England,” though they later fell out with each other.

Paris in those same years was in the first years of an extraordinary revival of occultism—the first volume of Eliphas Lévi’s Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic, the book that kickstarted the modern magical revival, hit the bookstores the year after Randolph sailed to Europe, launching a furore that was still in full swing when he left to return home.  In Paris Randolph met the American alchemist and general Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who brought him into Parisian high society and later introduced him to Abraham Lincoln.

Ethan Allen Hitchcock

According to Randolph’s later account, Hitchcock also put him in touch with a French Rosicrucian group.  That group apparently issued him a charter of some kind—this was a standard procedure at the time; quite a few American occult groups of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came into being because an experienced American occultist went to Europe, met the right people, and received a charter to found lodges of a European occult order in the United States. (That was, among other things, how so respectable a group as the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry got here.)

As for the al-Nusairi, the court of Emperor Napoleon III, the French head of state at the time Randolph visited Paris, had very close connections with the Ottoman Empire, and French commercial interests were heavily involved all over North Africa and the Middle East. If an aspiring American occultist wanted to make connections that would allow him to contact Muslim religious groups, Paris in the 1850s was one of the best places in the world to do it. It’s possible that this is exactly what Randolph did. It’s also possible that he learned the core of the Ansairetic Arcanum from someone in Paris who had learned it in Syria, and embroidered his later stories to provide the kind of romantic background to his teaching that was standard in those days.

What makes it clear that some connection with non-Western spiritual traditions had to exist is that the core of Randolph’s teaching was something that nobody in Spiritualism or the Western occultism of his day had yet dared to discuss:  the spiritual dimensions of sex.  We’ve already discussed the frankly deranged notions about sexuality that were pushed on Victorian women by the physicians and pundits of their day.  It was a standard belief among physicians in the English-speaking world in the 1850s that women were incapable of sexual desire and that the female orgasm did not exist. Later in the nineteenth century, that view would finally face serious opposition; in the twentieth century, it would be tossed into history’s dumpster; but in the 1850s it still ruled unchallenged.

Randolph’s main book on sexual occultism

Yet here was P.B. Randolph, passing on a body of teaching that insisted, first, that women as well as men have sexual desires and are capable of orgasm; second, that sexual release is essential to most people’s physical and emotional health; third, that the male partner was responsibile for helping the female partner achieve orgasm; and fourth, that the supreme magical act is a working in which the two partners in the sex act concentrate on the same intention at the moment of simultaneous orgasm, thus directing the raw creative power of the cosmos into the intention.

That was the Ansairetic Arcanum, the innermost secret of Randolph’s system of magic. It became the secret teaching of the first documented Rosicrucian lodge in America, which Randolph founded in Boston in 1858, and the first documented American Rosicrucian order, the Third Temple of the Rosie Cross, which he founded in San Francisco in 1861. It also became the basic stock in trade of a network of “Rosicrucian Rooms” in large American cities, which may or may not have had any direct connection to Randolph but certainly used his ideas.  As far as anyone knows, these were the first version of that durable Victorian institution, the sex cult, which offered sexual freedom under the veil of occult initiation to several generations of otherwise prim and proper men and women in Victorian Britain and America, in between the inevitable police raids.

There was more to his system than sex, to be sure.  Randolph taught students exercises in clairvoyance using a specially prepared mirror, and he distinguished between two kinds of clairvoyance—zorvoyance, which brought visions of what he called the “Middle Spaces,” the realm of dreamlike images that later occultists called the astral plane, and aethaevoyance, which brought perceptions of what he called the “Ineffable Beyond,” the realms beyond thought that later occultists called the spiritual planes.  He divided every magical act into the three phases of Volantia, or calm focus; Decretism, the fixation of the whole will on a desired object; and Posism, or entering the silence.  His students also took in a cosmology in which ours is one of forty-nine universes and were taught what at the time was called the Pre-Adamite Theory—that is, the idea that human beings and the Earth itself had existed for more than the 6,000 years allotted them by literalist interpretations of the Book of Genesis.

The full impact of all this on American culture had to wait a little while, though.  Not long after the founding of the Third Order, cannon blazed at Fort Sumter, and the Civil War began.  Like many other African-American intellectuals in that era, Randolph went to work recruiting young African-American men for the Union Army, and when the Confederacy was finally crushed in 1865 he went to New Orleans as part of a project to teach literacy to newly freed slaves, and became the principal of a school there.

He did make time to publish two books during the war:  Pre-Adamite Man!, which argued that civilized human beings existed on Earth 100,000 years ago, and Ravalette, or the Rosicrucian Story, an occult novel. (That wasn’t his first novel; his first novel, published in 1854, had the intriguing title Waa-Gu-Mah.  As far as I know, no copies have survived, so what exactly that utterance meant is among the mysteries surrounding Randolph.)

Not until 1870 did he return to full-time involvement in occultism.  That year he settled in Toledo, Ohio, founded a publishing house to carry his books, and began systematic efforts to attract students to his organization, which he renamed the Brotherhood of Eulis.  This was officially founded in Nashville, Tennessee in 1874, and shortly thereafter changed its name to the more resplendent moniker of the Triplicate Order of Rosicruciae, Pythianae, and Eulis.  Meanwhile he finished his medical studies, practiced as a doctor specializing in sexual issues, was an advocate for birth control at a time when even mentioning that topic in print was against the law, married an Irish-American woman, and had a son named Osiris.

The organizational history of the Triplicate Order was made more complex than it had to be by Randolph’s own personality.  He described himself as “cross-grained”—in the jargon of the time, this meant “difficult to get along with”—and that quality became more deeply entrenched as he reached middle age.  He had good reason for at least some of his irritability; as an African-American man in nineteenth-century America, he had to deal constantly with racial prejudice, and was particularly irate at the very large number of American occultists who were perfectly willing to borrow his ideas but wanted nothing to do with him because of his race. There’s some reason to believe that he may have suffered from bipolar disorder. Even so, the Triplicate Order was beginning to spread rapidly at the time of Randolph’s sudden death.

The one detail about which every account agrees is that he died of a gunshot wound.  The media at the time declared that he had committed suicide.  The local court ruled the death accidental, while another of the colorful figures in our story, the Rosicrucian teacher R. Swinburne Clymer, stated many years later than one of Randolph’s associates had confessed on his deathbed to having shot Randolph in a fit of jealous rage.  Randolph was 49 years old.

Freeman B. Dowd

While that was the end of his story, it was not the end of the Ansairetic Arcanum or the rest of his teaching—not by a long shot. To begin with, the Triplicate Order survived Randolph’s death, and passed into the hands of his longtime student Freeman B. Dowd.  Though it’s been through further reorganizations since that time, it still exists. Its current name is the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis (Latin for Fraternity of the Rosy Cross) or F.R.C., and it continues to teach Randolph’s system, with additional material brought in by Dowd and Dowd’s successor, the already-mentioned R. Swinburne Clymer. You can find its website here.

Elbert Benjamine

At one remove from this direct line is the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor or H.B. of L., which was founded in England by students of Randolph’s teachings and includes much of his system along with a great deal else.  The original H.B. of L. went out of existence in 1886 but reorganized in the United States as the Brotherhood of Light; in 1900 it recruited an enthusiastic young astrologer named Benjamin Williams—another figure we’ll be discussing at some length later on—who became its head, took the nom de occultisme Elbert Benjamine, veiled that identity further behind the pen name C.C. Zain, and transformed the already extensive teachings of the Brotherhood into an immense correspondence course and a successful occult school.  It still exists, too; its current name is the Church of Light, and it continues to teach a system clearly descended from the H. B. of L. work, with ample elements of Randolph’s lore present and accounted for. You can find its website here.

Theodor Reuss

At a second remove from this direct line is the Ordo Templi Orientis (Latin for Order of the Templars of the East) or O.T.O., which was founded by Karl Kellner and Theodor Reuss, two former members of the H.B. of L. who had been left in the lurch by the collapse of that order and decided to create a new organization to pass on the H.B. of L. teachings in a modified form.  In 1912 the order went public and began looking for someone to help spread the organization in the English-speaking world.  It was the O.T.O.’s decidedly mixed fortune that the occultist they chose was none other than Aleister Crowley, who proceeded to rework the organization from top to bottom to make it comform with his new religion of Thelema.

Grady McMurtry

Crowley’s erratic management ran the Order into the ground all over the English-speaking world, and at the time of his death in 1947, the O.T.O under his jurisdiction consisted of one lodge in Pasadena, California, which broke up a few years later. In 1969, though, Grady McMurtry—a genial hippie with a solid grasp of occultism who had studied with Crowley while stationed in Britain with the US Air Force during the Second World War—announced that Crowley had made him his successor as head of the O.T.O.  McMurtry proceeded to make good on the claim by transforming the inchoate mass of material left behind by Crowley into a coherent system of magical training and building a durable international organization. The O.T.O. as refounded by McMurtry still exists; there isn’t all that much of Randolph’s teaching left in it, but by all accounts the Ansairetic Arcanum remains as the heart of the system. You can find its website here.

Gerald Gardner

At a third remove, finally, is the creation of another occultist who studied with Aleister Crowley in the Beast’s last years, an Englishman who spent his working life in the Far East and took up occultism of a distinctly sexualized variety on his return to Britain.  Yes, that would be Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca. Plenty of material from other sources flowed into the system Gardner pieced together, but the Great Rite—the ritual sex act at the center of Gardnerian Wicca and quite a few of its first- and second-generation offshoots—still shows traces of the original Ansairetic Arcanum that Randolph taught to his students in the 1870s. As far as I know, there’s no central website for Gardnerian Wicca, but if you ask around you can probably find someone to talk to about it.

This is the way that real occult lineages work, by the way. Whenever you see a claim that some occult tradition descended unchanged through the centuries, passed on by an endless sequence of interchangeable third-degree grandmothers turned out by some granny factory in the New Forest or what have you, you’re looking at what people in Randolph’s time used to describe in such colorful terms as “bullfeathers!” and “buncombe!”  When you hear somebody saying, “Well, we got this from here, and that from there, and nobody quite knows where this other thing came from but it really works well, and that thing over there was invented in 1972 by so-and-so and everybody else tried it and decided to keep it”—in that case, you know you’re getting the real story or some close approximation to it.

There are good reasons for this.  Occultists are magpies—they assemble as much lore as they can from as many sources as they can access, and then spend years trying to figure out how to make it all work as something like a coherent system. Many occultists are also tinkerers—they like to fiddle with things to see if they can get something to work a little better or do something other than what it was originally designed to do. Some occultists, finally—and Paschal Beverly Randolph is a great example here—are also highly creative, and come up with completely new ideas and practices which then get borrowed and adapted in various ways. “Try!”—Randolph’s lifelong motto—has been the keynote of occultists since long before his time, and doubtless will continue to be so into the far future.


  1. JMG – I’m enjoying how you are tracing the various strands of occultism from the past to the modern movements. It reminds me of what musicians sometimes do by identifying who taught them what, and then figuring out who taught their teachers. Go back a few generations and it becomes apparent that we all stand on the shoulders of giants.

    When Randolph taught literacy in New Orleans, was he doing it on behalf of the Freedman’s Bureau? I keep hoping that the records from that organization will be collated and digitized. It would be an amazing resource for research of the post-war period.

  2. From this quick reading I like Randolph. He seems like a man of creativity who had cast off most of the hidebound notions of his age. Perhaps many of todays “woke” protestors would do well to take a time-out from pulling down the statues of Frederick Douglas and Thomas Jefferson and bring forward a few accomplished figures from the past such as Randolph.

  3. If I died while my children were young and could somehow get one word through to them, Try! might just be it. At least, it would be now.

    Thanks for another great article.

  4. Thank you so much for this history of Randolph and the movements that followed. It is fascinating on two counts (besides him being African American): his sexual practices and the information that extended the history by thousands of years earlier. Thank you for informing us about a history I know I wouldn’t have known otherwise but appreciate very much.

  5. “[H]is lectures attracted the attention of influential members of the British occult scene…Edward Bulwer-Lytton” — I had no idea Baron Bulwer-Lytton, who is most famous for “It was a dark and stormy night” and has an award for bad writing named after him was an occultist. The things one learns from you never ceases to astound me! By the time your series is over, your readers could do a game of six degrees of separation with any American occultist and quite a few in Europe as well.

    Speaking of which, “[A]t the time of his death in 1947, the O.T.O under [Crowley’s] jurisdiction consisted of one lodge in Pasadena, California, which broke up a few years later.” This connects not only Crowley and Randolph to Grady McMurtry, but also to Jack Parsons, Sarah Northrup, and through Sarah to L. Ron Hubbard. The web of connections among occultists really seems to bind “The Magic Republic” together more tightly the more one looks!

  6. With the sex cults, were there any that involved ritualistic sex, but didn’t go as far as making it an act of devotion or operative magic? I’m thinking of how Inside a Magical Lodge describes the outer rituals having a charge, but not a magic one. The same way Freemasons enjoy and benefit from their rituals, even if they could get similar results in other ways, I could see a ritually-minded person being drawn to a similar approach to sex. It’s kind of like the difference between a regular gym and an Iranian House of Strength. Or going to a cafe compared to attending a Japanese Tea Ceremony.

  7. This was a great read! Thinking back about my prescribed history studies and reading this feels like two different worlds and history is more colorful now

    Also wondering if “I try!” by itself would make a nice affirmation

  8. Your Kittenship, given the number of third-degree grannies claimed by Wiccans in the US in the 1970s and 1980s, it would have taken a big factory working three shifts to keep up with the demand!

    Gollios, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do here. The occult scene in the US suffered a bout of self-induced amnesia in the era of pop Neopaganism, forgot about the long, colorful, and splendid history of American occultism, and replaced it with a bunch of Mists of Avalon-themed kitsch. Now that that era’s ending, it’s time to remember our real roots, and learn something about the extraordinary people who are our spiritual ancestors.

    As for Randolph, I don’t happen to know, but it’s plausible. If I recall correctly, the school where he was principal was the William Lloyd Garrison school in New Orleans, LA — that might be something you can track down.

    Clay, if there was a statue of Randolph they’d pull it down too. He doesn’t fit the covert narrative of white supremacy that underlies the entire BLM movement as it presently exists — the notion that black people can’t solve problems by themselves, but have to wait for privileged white people to hand out the goodies. Why do you think they trashed a statue of Frederick Douglass?

    Minorplanetjeffers, it’s excellent advice. You’re most welcome!

    Ifateyo, glad to hear this! There’s plenty more of the same kind ahead.

    Vincelamb, if you haven’t done so already, take a few days sometime to read Bulwer-Lytton’s novels Zanoni, A Strange Story, and Vril — the guy knew a great deal about occultism. As for the Pasadena OTO lodge, why, yes, we’re going to discuss it at length — the inimitable Marvell Whiteside “Jack” Parsons will be a significant figure in our tale, among others.

    Yorkshire, very much so. We’ll be talking about sex cults in some detail when we get to Oom the Omnipotent; they ranged across a spectrum from sex clubs with a little occult-themed window dressing, through groups practicing ritual sex without a specifically magical dimension, to groups that worked with intensive erotic mysticism and magic.

    Nomad, the history that kids get taught in American schools hasn’t just been dumbed down, it’s been lobotomized and neutered. Take most other aspects of American history and do some digging, and you’ll find a tale just as colorful and interesting as the one I’m exploring here. As for the affirmation, yes, but you can also just use the single word: “Try!” Repeat that silently to yourself a hundred times a day and watch the world blossom into a galaxy of opportunities and experiments.

  9. Intriguing biographical sketch – it seems like there are a lots of missing pieces in this story.
    Possibly, given the history of Mr. Randolph, “Waa-Gu-Mah” could be a corruption of an Arabic word or incantation, which generally is spelled without vowels. The ‘Gu’ could be a couple of letters. Sadly, my knowledge of Arabic is sketchy, and I can’t figure out what word it would be to ask an Arabic speaker. Would be interesting to find out.

    Thank you for this series – I love hearing about little known history.

  10. Dear Mr. Greer – Several sources claim Mr. Randolph was well acquainted with President Lincoln. I wonder if he ran any of Mrs. Lincoln’s seances in the White House? Lew

  11. JMG,

    You so enthrall me! Truly, I don’t know what’s more entertaining… your much appreciated humor or the actual stories themselves. It’s a tough one.

    Haven’t heard “buncombe” in a while – love it. Might get over-used by me, given the amount of buncombe in the world today. 😄

    Thanks for another great read!

    ~ Tanya

  12. @JMG – Do you have a link for who pulled down the statue of Frederick Douglass? I haven’t run across any indication of anybody knowing who did it, and for all anyone knows, it could have been the same sort of people who attacked the protestors. I’d give that a “not proven” until someone catches the vandal, because all sorts of people have been out there making trouble; left, right, and bored, idle idiots. Not to mention diehard Old Confederates, who I’m sure (writing from the South) are also out there, mumbling and grumbling. Also the sort of young men who shoot up workplaces and schools and show symptoms of schizophrenia. And throw bombs into churches.

  13. PatriciaT, there are indeed a lot of missing pieces; John Patrick Deveny has written a lengthy bio of Randolph, where you can find many of them. As for Waa-Gu-Mah, that’s certainly one possibility.

    Lew, it’s entirely possible. The sources I’ve seen indicated that Gen. Ethan Allen Hitchcock introduced Randolph to Lincoln, and since Hitchcock knew both men it’s far from unlikely.

    Tanya, you’re welcome and thank you. “Buncombe” is a highly useful word these days. 😉

    Patricia M, I didn’t keep links to the story. Let me see if I can find it.

  14. I can’t help but to inject a bit of pop culture in relationship to the title of your post.

    In the words of the small green Jedi master from the remake of “The Hidden Fortress”.

    ” Do or do not, there is no try.”

  15. Thank you for this reaffirming example of occultism’s adaptability and experimental method, namely experiential corroboration (what we usually call the scientific method.) Oops, mustn’t frighten our scientific overlords’ monopoly! I am not at all surprised that Randolph could open enough room in his thinking for female sex drive and a pre-biblical history for the earth, at a time when the scientific establishment were religiously policing such heresies. Everyone I’ve met who can pass more freely through the veil into trance state has had a greater tolerance for challenges to presumed orthodoxies in thought and experience. At least, once they get over the shock of their initial crossing over.

    It is also intriguing how many different directions Randolph explored in his education and then in his professional undertakings. How did life at sea, barbering, showmanship, recruiting, teaching, and writing affect him and change his understanding of the world? Back when truly creative insights were a dime a dozen in the West, the syncretic lifestyle of the Renaissance man was not unusual. Today’s binding of people’s loyalties through scarcity of good schooling and employment work well to prevent such broad interests from ever taking root. However, occultists do continue to be magpies and tinkerers; the most interesting things are always happening in out-of-the-way, unsanitized places that scare away the squeamish and the excessively fragile.

    That’s part of the reason I expect so little to come from the orchestrated sturm und drang being endlessly promoted all around us — those who need massive PR roll-outs to make them feel brave or outraged or anything other than numb as their world view fractures, are too fragile to risk thinking creatively. This revolution’s post-mortem will unfortunately probably continue to overlook its critical drop in creativity as its cause of death. Truth be told, I do rather enjoy watching the elites’ studied posturing as a dangerous, unsanitized menace. Yes, Johnny, Mommy really gets so very scared when you stomp around in your dinosaur slippers — you are such a frightening little Tyrannosaurus! They could become great comedians when their jobs start drying up, if they could just learn to laugh at themselves.

    Being able to “fiddle with things to see if they can get something to work a little better or do something other than what it was originally designed to do” seems like it used to be a pretty common American trait. Still is in a distorted way, like imposing sanctions on individuals, using constitutions to void popular elections, or using protests as a cover for terrorism. Hopefully we will be able to rekindle the healthy tinkering spirit as we are faced with having to do more with less. Do you think that the United States could reclaim our creative, tinkering roots any time in the near future, or are we looking at a near-term trajectory of warmed-up leftovers from our glory days? Do you think that our romance with things occult is a natural part of North America’s spirit or more of a temporary overlay from being settled by so many refugees?

  16. Clay, I’ve always found that one of the least useful notions from those movies. The muppet in question apparently forgot that there is such a thing as doing your best and failing.

  17. Jmg and clay

    That scene with Yoda is apparently one of David brins reasons that he dislikes the Star Wars movies, he has frequently expressed his hatred of yoda on his blog and in his books.

  18. Getting the strong sense that this guy occupies the well known liminal space where occultism and intelligence services interact. Al Nusairya wouldnt be the Al Nusra group today that is generally launched by the US against the remaining Arab socialist dictators ? . Here we get into the realm of the Muslim Brotherhood, an org used by Masonic UK intell elites to penetrate the heart of Islam. Still being used today to effect various colour revolutions around the place. Like General Hitchcock who died in Georgia and whose brother was Chief Justice in Alabama , Randolph seems to be a go between of the Union and the defeated Confederacy as the elites moved to put things back together after the conflagration. Of course his colour would have made him expendable at the time and this coupled with being a perhaps unwitting intell cutout would surely have made him grumpy. The UK masonic elites were as usual on both sides of the struggle and quick to bend towards the windsock as things resolved. Amazing how these types of arrangements have persisted into the “War on Terror”.

    Glad you pointed out that these occult orgs are not monolithic or static. The OTO has a shocking reputation in various parts of the world and i guess a lot depends on who is currently handling those forces under its banner, (or being handled by the forces).

  19. Hmm, interesting. I happen to know a little about Islam and Islamic mysticism, and have never heard of any Islamic esoteric tradition having a sexual component. It frankly comes off as something I’d more expect from South Asian Tantrism. (Then again, a lot of what I do know about Islamic mysticism came from a rather conservative Muslim Traditionalist professor, so he might now be an unbiased source!) I had also never heard of any group called the “al-nusairi”, though according to Google its another name for the Alawites. The Alawites come from the mountains around Latakia, in northwest Syria, and even today are a rather important sect-in the mid-20th century they monopolized control of the Syrian military’s officer corps, and thus control of Syrian politics, and have not given it up. I’m sure of the commentariat would recognize the name of their most successful general-politician, Hafez al-Assad-and doubtless you’ve heard of his son Bashar, he’s been in the news quite a bit.

    Like many heterodox sects of Islam, the Alawites have historically suffered a great deal of persecution from their Sunni neighbors, and have responded to it by keeping the true tenants of their religion secret and not allowing converts. From what I’ve read though, they appear to hold a number of Gnostic or Neoplatonist-influenced beliefs, including believing in reincarnation and teaching that Allah had a series of Qabala-type emanations, one of which was Muhammad’s cousin Ali (who is also revered by more mainstream Shia Muslims.) Apparently, the Alawites also practice a communion-style ritual in which they drink consecrated wine believed to be the transubstantiated essence of Ali. (As a side note, the Alawites aren’t the only Gnostic-influenced Islamic group. There are several others, the most well known being the Druze of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, but also the Mandeans of Iraq and Iran, the Ahl ul-Haqq [People of Truth] in eastern Kurdistan, and the Yazidis of western Kurdistan, who appear to mix pre-Islamic Kurdish religion in with their Gnosticism and Islam. All of these groups-uniquely among Abrahamic religions-keep the true tenants of their faith, and its scriptures, secret and don’t proselytize, so even today their theologies are still not fully understood by Western scholars. Many have also been targeted by ISIS and other Sunni fundamentalists, and forced to flee their homes-the Mandeans in particular exist today as a community of refugees scattered around the world, with their religion in serious danger of dying out.)

    As to the subject of this post, the Alawites secretiveness about their religion, and the hatred they experienced from the surrounding orthodox Muslim communities, has made them the subject of a great deal of rumors and speculation. If someone in the Victorian era had wanted to invent a system of “sex magic” and assign it to come obscure Middle Eastern group, the Alawites would be a natural choice. And while its possible the Alawites did/do have something like “sex magic”, I find it highly unlikely. Considering the above-mentioned political situation in Syria, I’m sure that, if such a thing were true, fundamentalist Sunnis would have found out about it by now and made sure the whole planet was aware of it.

    Also, in what contexts is “sex magic” used, and when is it something other than an excuse to get laid? Honestly, the majority of my adult life I’ve been Eastern Orthodox, and that tradition considers sex in general to be self-indulgent and vaguely bad. Using sex in any sort of spiritual ritual comes off to me as slightly blasphemous, to be honest.

  20. JMG,

    I believe it was Mary Todd Lincoln who was enamored of seances, particularly after the passing of Willie T Lincoln in ‘61. I’m not sure that President Lincoln fully endorsed his wife’s occultism, but he didn’t try to stop it, and in any event, even if interested he was probably too busy conducting the war to involve himself in seances.

    Interesting that P.B. Randolph taught that the supreme magical act is mutual simultaneous orgasm with a shared intention. I know next to nada about Tantric sexuality, but I’ve heard that the general idea is to remain as fully conscious as possible during orgasm. Randolph’s version of sacred sexuality would seem involve more of a Western-style “discursive mutual orgasm” as compared with the Eastern version, the latter of which simply might emphasize Self, though I’m not sure about that.

    Will M

  21. Thank you for this series, JMG, and for the term “spiritual ancestors” you used in your response to a fellow commenter above. Upon reading those two words, it felt as if a window in a stuffy room in my mind opened and in came a wonderful fresh breeze.

    Sometimes the obvious just isn’t until it is. I was once a bit uneasy about my magpie tendencies: Heathenry, BOTA, Order of Essenes plus a dash of natural magic. If impressive people such as Mr. Beverly and others took a bit of this and a bit of that, sounds like eclecticism is an honorable path.

    The criteria for success seems to be that practices must gear together; they won’t necessarily be of identical origin. Because life is complicated.


  22. When I read this, I had this image in my mind of history as one of Stephen Wollfram’s 3-D hypergraphs in his Unified Theory. Branches sprouting from nodes in a section of vast, multiplying shape.

    Suddenly, it reaches the “geburah” stage of the equation, and an entire set of nodes and branches is deleted; the structure folds around the gap where the previous set of branches held them apart, twisting the entire structure into a new shape with all the other undeleted segments twisted into new configurations relative to each other, like a toy Magic Expanding Sphere. Nodes that used to be held apart now touch; branches run parallel that formerly had no relation. But they don’t attach to each other yet.

    As the hypergraph moves into it’s next expansion stage (the ‘netzach’ one, I call it) the new branches and nodes growing from the newly reshaped surface of the object link together and create new branch-lines permanently knitting together the formerly disparate sections of the hypergraph, sealing over the hole where the deletion gap was.

    Now do that, over, and over. The shape by turns twists and pulses and collapses, with some branchlines and nodes remaining for eons, from the beginning, and others being deleted again at the next deletion phase.

  23. JMG,

    The writer in me sees a lot of potential for a work of fiction based on sex magic. Are you aware of any that have been written?

    Recently, I’ve been reading some female erotic fiction (for research purposes, I swear!) and a common trope there is a woman going through a ceremonial sex act, although I didn’t see any that were related to magic. It seems to me that combining sex and magic could be a bit like combining heroin and cocaine: very likely to go off the rails. I imagine some of these sex cults must have produced some interesting stories.


  24. Wow! What a rollicking good story!
    It’s interesting to contemplate how back in the day people could become adults at such a young age. When I was still in nursing school I met an old man who took care of his large family from the age of 14 when his father and 2 older brothers went to WWII. He ended up putting them all through high school having never gotten a diploma himself.

    Although I am guessing that Randolph was 75% white, and although he encountered some prejudice, he sure didn’t let that stop him from accomplishing a heck of a lot.

  25. In defense of the muppet, the verb to try has developed a parallel meaning as “to make an outwards pretense of an effort, without much intent of success”. The illogical utterance Clay references is just in character for the fake zen-ish senility of the Great Green.

    If you like something with more flavor, you may put the same idea in the mouth of another Jedi Master, let’s call him Mr. Violet, who would surely utter: “Don’t you dare “try”, Maggot-Tracker. TRY!!!!”

  26. “Clay, if there was a statue of Randolph they’d pull it down too. He doesn’t fit the covert narrative of white supremacy that underlies the entire BLM movement as it presently exists — the notion that black people can’t solve problems by themselves, but have to wait for privileged white people to hand out the goodies. Why do you think they trashed a statue of Frederick Douglass?”

    There are a number of African Americans, from Candace Owens to rap star Lord Jamar, who have made that same point and have said they believe BLM is a tool of the white liberal intelligentsia. Lord Jamar gave an interview in which he was asked if he supported BLM. This was his reply:

    “I’m not a Black Lives Matter supporter,” Jamar said in an interview on SCUM.

    “You’re not?” the interviewer asked in surprise.

    “No, absolutely not,” responded Jamar. “Because it’s not our movement. This is a movement that was given to us by, you know, George Soros and his f***ing boys. Because they saw how things were going and they didn’t want to go back to the 60s to where we started having our own organic movements. That was a big f***ing problem for them. So let’s give the people a movement that we can control. We’ll provide them the leaders and all this type of s**t. That’s what black lives matter is.”

    Moreover, as the article points out, the people running BLM are professional activists who describe themselves as “trained Marxists”. I wonder how many people who support BLM and are out there protesting realize they are being manipulated like puppets by professional Marxist agitators, who are in turn are acting as cat’s-paws for white liberal elites like George Soros, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton?

    PS – I have been reading Kimberly Steele’s recent series of blog posts on demonolatry and the Left. Based on the arguments she presents and after observing the events of the last few years, I find it very easy to believe that quite a few leftists and “privileged progressives” are demonically possessed, or at the very least demonically obsessed.

    PPS – Dmitry Orlov has been echoing Lord Jamar. He paywalls his blog posts these days except for a short teaser from the beginning of each post. He accepts both Patreon and SubcribeStar, but recommends the use of the latter. Orlov has a disclaimer on his blog posts saying to use Patreon “if you want some of your money to go to BLM and from there to the DNC and the Biden campaign—none of that is up to me, mind you!”

  27. JMG, fascinating as always. I was wondering what kind of advice you would give or books you might recommend to couples who aren’t ready for the kind of sexual magic that Randolph taught, but who are on a spiritual path together, both practice meditation, and who want to begin seeing sex from that perspective? So much of the information out there along these lines either seems very misguided (most New Agey pop-Tantra books come to mind), or just plain unrealistic and unhealthy like some of the neo-Gnostic teachings.

  28. Very interesting story! The Nusairites or Alawites are quite secretive about their practices, so it is no wonder that doctrines and practices such as Randolph attributes to them would not be public; however, what surprises me more is that Alawite doctrines and practice are said to have, in addition to Islam, Christian, Gnostic and Neoplatonic sources. Ritual sex would not seem to be a Christian influence (though Apuleius and other accused Christians of orgies…), and from my limited knowledge I wouldn’t have thought of it as part of Gnostic or Neoplatonic systems either.

    Matthew Melvin-Koushki used to post here, he might be well placed to comment on this.

  29. Reminds me of the lineage of masters in the Tibetan tradition, one in print for example, “The history of the Sakya” (iirs) by Choje Trichen. Also once in a meditation room in Barre MA, while chanting a mantra, a small dark gray snake, with a yellow colored ring around the neck, came out of the rustic stone fireplace, and made it’s way slowly across the room, between rows of lay practitioners, and on out the door, which someone kindly opened for it. I got a good look at it, as it passed in front of me, and I was next to the fireplace. The next day a fire puja was done for it’s benefit. They knew what they were doing, those crazy Tibetans. And they didn’t attack materialists, just materialism as an extreme position. And it must be becoming clear to more people now, just how dysfunctional the materialists are, taking total control without total wisdom, or even a whit of wisdom, as far as I can see.

    Do you think it would help mages in the becoming stages to recite the names of the line of, well, improvisation, before their chosen work?

  30. Fun fact: the Nosairi (or Alawites) are the ruling sect in Syria. They are highly esoteric but don’t practice sex magic as far as anyone knows. Also, they seem to be strongly patriarchal.

    Wild guess is that Randolph met somebody with knowledge of antinomian Hindus or Sufis. Think Krishna and the gopis in Vrindavan…

  31. Have you considered whether this book could benefit from one of those timeline/genealogy/map/flow charts that show how different streams connect with and flow into one another over time, like the ones you sometimes see for things like musical genres or rough geopolitical history?

    I’m loving the detail in these chapters. When you started on the topic I didn’t expect to be more than mildly interested, but it’s been tremendous. I don’t know if “fun” is something you had in mind when conceptualizing this treatment, but I think a lot of readers will find it so. I certainly do. Learning the origins and interrelationships of the various bits and pieces in ones own magpie collection of practices and philosophies (including fragments gleaned indirectly after they escaped into e.g. genre fiction) is a big part of that. At the same time, over the long term even the broad outlines have too many moving parts to keep it all in my head at once.

  32. JMG:

    Your title immediately reminded me of my first-grade teacher in 1975, an African-American woman who one day held up to the class a sign with only one word: “try”. She explained that whenever one of us came to her complaining that “I can’t” do something, her first response would be to point at the sign. I’ve never forgotten that, and I wonder now if she knew of Randolph.

    Thank you so much for this series and for ALL of your writing – “the meatiest stuff on the interwebs!”

  33. Question. You said mention of birth control was against the law. I know that knowledge of birth control was indeed suppressed, but how is it possible to go against the first amendment and make such a law?

  34. @All
    I find the term ‘Buncombe’ Offensive and demand that it be stricken from the mouths of the Commentariate immediately!!!

  35. A bit off topic but not entirely: there is an interesting theory that W D Fard, the founder of the Nation of Islam, was an apostate Druze from Lebanon. A real Mideast master after all these years!

  36. Christophe, it used to be very common for Americans to have the kind of patchwork career that Randolph had. I don’t know if we’ll be able to get back to that, or to rekindle the enthusiasm for tinkering that once made this nation such a fertile source of oddity. As for occultism, though, I think it’s deep in our national character and will be here for the long term — it’s been so pervasive so far!

    J.L.Mc12, good heavens. Brin and I agree on something.

    Asomatagnosia, no, the al-Nusairi isn’t al-Nusra as far as I know; they’re generally known as Alawites today, and they run most of Syria — thos are the people al-Nusra is fighting against. Your broader point is of course accurate. Occultists have been up to their eyeballs in espionage, and vice versa, since ancient times; you probably know that Elizabeth I’s court astrologer John Dee was also one of her secret agents, and that Aleister Crowley worked for British intelligence as an agent provocateur during the First World War. People who are good at secrets are good at secrets…

    Tolkienguy, it’s entirely possible that Randolph simply borrowed the name, but some Gnostic sects apparently got into sacramental sexuality back in the day, and there’s been a certain amount of exchange of ideas between South Asian and heretical Muslim mystics going back for a very long time. As for the Christian attitude toward sex, well, yes, it’s got its hangups about that. In most of the rest of the world sex is not seen as anti-spiritual, the way it is in so many Christian contexts, and so the use of sex in magical rituals and religious ceremonies is quite common and applied in many different ways.

    Will, it was certainly MTL who was into having seances, but Randolph wasn’t just an occultist, he was also working hard for the Union cause, so it’s quite possible that he and Lincoln had things to talk about. I don’t know enough about tantra to be able to compare it to Randolph’s system.

    OtterGirl, your magpie tendencies are shared by most occultists. Relax and make good use of them!

    Pixelated, good. That does seem to be more or less how it works.

    Simon, sex magic shows up quite a bit, at various levels of explicitness, in 20th century occult- and mystical-themed fiction. Are you at all familiar with the Illuminatus! trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson? There’s some of it in there, for example. There’s a lot more that could be done with it, however.

    Onething, most 14-year-olds could do the same thing given some education in self-reliance — it’s just that our whole society is oriented toward denying that kind of education to young people.

    CR, oh, I know. But I’ve seen that phrase flung around in a very flip manner, and that irritates me.

    Galen, I know. The idea wasn’t original to me.

    Ethan, just about everything I’ve seen has been wretchedly bad. Mind you, I haven’t looked all that intensively — for wholly personal reasons, I prefer to enjoy sex as sex rather than tangling it up with magic or spirituality — so there may be something worthwhile out there. Anyone?

    Matthias, some Gnostic groups apparently engaged in sexual rituals, though many others did not. The Alawites? I obviously have no way of knowing.

    Mark, I have no idea. I don’t know if anyone’s tried it.

    Tidlösa, also a possibility!

    Walt, no doubt it would, but I’m far from sure I could do a good job of that without four-dimensional graph paper… 😉 And yes, it’s supposed to be fun. The history of ideas is great fun when it’s taught the way it should be. Historians who make history dull should be tarred, feathered, and run out of the profession on a rail.

    Econojames, you’re most welcome. She might have known of Randolph!

    Onething, the courts have ruled over and over again that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to obscene content, and talk about birth control was labeled obscene.

    Ian, what a bunch of buncombe!

    Tidlösa, good heavens. What a fascinating theory.

  37. Hi JMG

    Off topic:

    I’ve begun reading Revolt Against the Modern World. I recall a while back you did a piece on Evola, which I would like to review. Can you point me in that direction?


  38. Eh, I feel people are being slightly uncharitable to the little green alien here. Sometime between Paschal Beverly Randolph’s time and 1983 “try” picked up a secondary connotation of “give a half-hearted (or more accurately half-[bleep]ed) effort to show willing”, and while iunno about body language (not being able to read it) as I recall the Luke line that leads to the “do or do not” response has exactly the vocal tone you would expect from that genre (presumably because Luke “sensibly” and wrongly believes he’s being asked to do something impossible) so a response of “don’t half-bleep it, make a serious attempt” makes sense. I’d be moderately hesitant to use “try” as an affirmation these days for exactly that reason.

    That said, Yoda’s alternative has the opposite issue regarding the possibility of giving full effort and still failing mentioned above. (I get the impression this was and is a fairly common fail state for a lot of New Thought-inspired movements, along with things like “all you have to do is want something really hard”). If I was looking for a one-word affirmation along those lines these days my first thought is “Attempt!”; for longer versions “take your shot” comes to mind (there was another one that came to mind earlier but has since slipped it).

  39. Great post! I have been searching for the story of this guy ever since I bumped into John Patrick Deveney in Kyoto some years ago. Deveney wrote a full-length biography of Randolph, if anyone is interested in this character. He said that he became interested in Randolph because Randolph was the only American who René Guénon discusses in an other-than-negative light. Guénon (who always felt that the sources of things were relevant) considered Randolph to be the true originator of the teachings of the H B of L.

    I quickly forgot the relevant names to look this up, and one is hard pressed to find a specific citation in Guénon’s corpus, so now I am pleased to hear the full story for the first time. I see that Guénon simply describes Randolph as “a very enigmatic personage.” Surely he was not much more enigmatic than Blavatsky, whom Guénon tears apart in another book, or even a figure like Meister Eckhart whose esoteric knowledge appears to be sui generis. I wonder if Randolph’s skin color contributed to this evaluation of mysteriousness.

    Ethan, speaking from my slight familiarity with the premodern Japanese sex magic practice called Tachikawa-ryū, I think you will find that sex magic works as magic only when it relies on symbols of things other than sex. That is to say, and here I rely on Alenka Zupančič’s theory of sexual desire, simply digging up a book is not enough if the symbolism of the book isn’t already powerful to you. With that caveat, Diana Richardson’s “Heart of Tantric Sex” uses the language of mana/energy to describe the flow of sex, and this is so widely applicable that you may find her book helpful regardless of your own tradition. The central effect of Richardson’s book is to build up the willpower to engage in coitus reservatus; if you want to skip her magical framework, you can find free material about that online by googling for “Karezza,”

  40. I would ask though, where are the people on the order of Randolph or Parsons right now? Is there anyone who has picked up that baton or has the baton been dropped on the ground? For better or worse, they were remarkable people who could do quite a number of things. One of the things I would claim is that the conditions that attracted such souls to incarnate in the West are for the most part – gone. And so are they. Maybe it is the nature of things and that the cycle turns.

    I think the factory from what I can tell makes the Granny model but also the Beardy Weirdy too, if I may wax cynical for a moment, looking at things from the outside peeking in. There’s a certain stereotypical look that I’m sure I’m not the only one who has picked up on here. You never see an occultist wearing Ray-Bans and sporting a crew cut for some strange reason. I find it interesting they all look rather normal up to about the 1920s onward and then they start looking weird compared to the general populace. Something happened, I guess, what it was I have no idea.

  41. Reminds me of Leslie Hutchinson, top American recording artist of the 20’s and 30s, rich, huge success, records sold to every good American household. …Oh and he was also black and gay.

    Seems like they missed all that in history class. And college. And black studies. And textbooks. And music history. And…

    So except for Hutch, Randolph, Frederick Douglass, Nancy Green, James Armistead Lafayette, Crispus Attucks, Colonel Tye, James Forten, Salem Poor, Captain Wm A. Martin, Prince Whipple, Phyllis Wheatley, Hiram Revels, Joseph Rainey, Stepin Fetchit, Hattie McDaniel, William H. Carney, Samuel Cornish, Edward Bouchet, Benjamin Banneker, George Washington Carver, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Biddy Mason, CJ Walker, and about ten thousand other notable black Americans, there weren’t any black Americans out there, being famous, getting rich, and being successful. Hundreds of years ago. All along, really.

    History, we hardly knew ‘ya. Is it really lost when you never bothered to read it? Is it really an exception when everywhere you look, you bump into such men? And women, and occultists, and sex progressives, and… No, we just purge the past to create the present that gives us power, as in “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” So the hundred-thousand notable black Americans are purged from history more completely than any Goebbels could to uphold the false narrative that racism and oppression are worse than 1860 and 1960, that races have no free agency, and that there is no opportunity today. Therefore vote for something-something. Because Randolph, Hutch, CJ Walker and Frederick Douglass never were.

  42. JMG & Co.:

    I did some digging and Randolph did indeed work for the Freedman’s Bureau. He was a principal, and the school was named after the editor of the abolitionist newspaper “The Liberator,” which eventually became ‘The Nation.” The Bureau did a lot of interesting work providing education and health care to former slaves, and they also provided what we now call alternative dispute resolution. Freedmen that were now working on wages or their employers could submit any issues to a judge who would try to work out an equitable solution. We now use mediation or arbitration commonly, but at the time it was an innovative attempt to get southern society/economy working again. This series is really making the history nerd on me happy.

    On iconoclasm…I bet a lot if it is opportunistic and to the degree that it is targeted the Antifa folks probably just want the biggest, easiest targets that will be likeliest to provoke a reaction. However, I wonder if there is any malicious working happening behind the scenes influencing the mob. Targeting symbols of self reliance in the black community like Douglas seems to work opposite to the things that would help our black brothers and sisters excel. Also troubling is targeting Lincoln, Grant, and Lee, which many if us were taught were symbols of reconciliation. Lee’s surrender was admirable, Grant let the officers keep their sidearms and refused Lee’s sword, all the former Rebels could keep hunting rifles and horses because it was plowing season, and when Lincoln heard he had the band play Dixie. Although dumbed down, this is a powerful story about reconciliation, and one that was once part of our national mythos. It may be that either unconciously or consciously some people skilled with magic want us to forget reconciliation is possible.

    Thanks to all…this is a great community.

  43. Hello JMG & fellow Ecosophians,

    It was great to learn more about Randolph. I knew some folks who were into the C.C. Zain material. I was always curious about it. I didn’t realize it connected back to Randolph. Nor did I realize his connections to Reuss et. al(eister) but those definitely make sense.

    I love mudlarking & magpies. Seeing what gets washed up on shore and cobbling it together into some kind of nest base to fly the coop from.

    @Galen, Clay, JMG et al (eister): from a word nerd perspective the initials BLM are rather close to the word BLAME. Not that useful of a strategy. Also, I’ve wondered about protesters shouting “No Justice, No Peace”. It seems like a rather counterproductive mantra. If that is what they “Want” than that is what they are getting. Especially in terms of their own inner peace.

  44. The occult scene in the US suffered a bout of self-induced amnesia in the era of pop Neopaganism, forgot about the long, colorful, and splendid history of American occultism, and replaced it with a bunch of Mists of Avalon-themed kitsch. Now that that era’s ending, it’s time to remember our real roots, and learn something about the extraordinary people who are our spiritual ancestors. – Mr. Greer’s answer to a poster.

    Question: what caused the amnesia?

    Is this big tent idea that pop Neopaganism keeps talking about? How did the monoculture of Neopaganism start? Did the Mists of Avalon have anything to do with it?

    I remember growing up in northern Maine that there was a rich occult vein in New England. We had folk lore and Spiritualism and Transcendentalism that we learned in school and at home. I went to a four room school for the first few years. Was the growth of suburbia and the homogenizing of the culture was a factor in erasing as much of that as possible?

  45. Pre-Adamite Man!, which argued that civilized human beings existed on Earth 100,000 years ago – from post.

    Over at Inner Traditions/Bear Company, they have quite a cottage industry of writers following Randolph’s footsteps. A plethora of books. This an old notion that Randolph picked up or is it new to him? I remember that some years later, the Atlantis and Lemuria ideas became quite popular.

    Would the idea of ancient Witchcraft i.e. Wicca and all those grannies flow from this idea of ancient civilizations (beyond Atlantis)?

  46. Thanks for this series, JMG. I am quite enjoying it.

    In thinking about the likely origins of the “Anseiretic Arcanum,” it seems to me that while Randolph may well have learned this “sex magic” from somewhere beyond Europe, it must have been his own innovation to place it at the center or pinnacle of a magical system. The reason being that in a culture like his own where sexuality, and women’s sexuality in particular, were the subject of such complex emotional attitudes, denial,and repression, sex magic would have a special kind of potency, that it would not have, to anything like the same degree, in a society with a more balanced and healthy attitude toward the subject.

    I compare this with the “toilet magic” you’ve discussed elsewhere, where one magically eliminates some less material thing from one’s life along with the more obvious. Apparently this works powerfully for some people, but I’m not one of them, precisely because I’m not particually grossed out by using the toilet in its mundane way for the more obvious process of elimination. So for me, the emotional or psychological power is vastly diminished.

    It seems like it was Randolph’s great insight to acknowledge the specially intense, viseral power of sexuality that could only be found in a culture where the power was as repressed as his own.

  47. @VInce Lamb – and from Jack Parson to Robert Heinlein, who influenced a lot more readers than Parson et. al. ever did. That he knew something about such matters is not in doubt; that he was an actual practitioner, is open to questions, but he certainly knew Parsons and his second wife was apparently in that scene.

  48. @JMG – the story I read merely said it had been pulled down but not by whom.

    And,so Randolph was the source of that “simultaneous orgasm” bit that infested some of the “how to have good sex” material that was around hen I was a young woman. Another source os stress for those who felt they had to live up to media-raised expectations (insert expectoration here. Pfui!)

    @Galen: I can well believe the professional activists, Marxists, etc, have their paws in the Black Lives Matter movement. That it’s actually white-led doesn’t jibe with the many statements by black people who’ve had it up to here with some of the stable-sweepings (and henhouse-sweepings) they’ve had to put up with and don’t mind saying so.

    The theory that it’s white-led seems perilously close to exactly what JMG is complaining about – the idea that they can’t *possibly* be doing it for themselves! For good and sufficient reasons! To which I would only reply “Stuff and nonsense!” and many stronger terms than that.

  49. Considering some of the ideas mentioned by Christophe, well, I have been reading a book by a Christian healer (Divine Healing Made Simple) and apparently there is far more of this going on than I had thought. I just finished the chapter on deliverance from demons. Hmm. Sometimes, according to him, physical ailments won’t budge if a demon is causing it. It of course is a bit far out to the modern mind, including my own, but I also feel that I had several years ago a nudge by my spirit guide (whom I call my guardian angel) because I had been living for some years in a state of bliss in which everything was good. The nudge told me that evil is real and that there are evil disembodied beings.
    Having said that I must add the caveat that I don’t believe evil has intrinsic existence, but good does.
    Naturally, and the reason I’m reading it in the first place, is because of my own health issue. I have felt intuitively that my situation probably had two main causes – prolonged emotional stress at my job and a situation that arose with a certain relative in which my entire organism, and I mean body and soul, was consumed with rage. The teaching has long been that demons gain entry during times of vulnerability. The rage was so all encompassing that I guess one could say that the house was left empty, nobody home to guard it.

    Now I have done quite a lot of serious emotional inner work, knowing full well from the beginning that cancer can have such causes. It took me about two years and a couple of not-quite-there efforts but I do think that I have gotten rid of that demon of anger. It was very difficult to overcome even when I wanted to and understood intellectually how stupid it was.

    So I have been puzzling over our current world situation and its unfolding horrors and have thought before that when a nation, say Russia, undergoes something like a Bolshevik revolution with its ensuing murder and destructiveness, that it is like some bizarre collective nightmare. I am now updating this to include – what are the role of demonic forces? Even in new age circles it is considered that demonic beings like to foment and bask in the negative energies. That they foment and encourage urges toward war and such.
    None of the supposed demands of the destroyers right now are rational at all. And it is gobsmacking to watch leaders, and corporations, and bureaucrats fall like dominoes in fear of them when just the least spine ought to suffice to send them into the corner. We are seeing a manifestation of anger, hatred and destructiveness with no bright side to it. Now in spiritual thought, whether Christian or shamanism, a demon or demons may attach to an individual. But I am wondering here how it might work on a mass level. But I wouldn’t be surprised if when people fall into too much wallowing in this incredibly negative thought-emotional pattern, that they are able to be infested en masse. Like the demons named Legion who left the man in the gospel and ran into a herd of swine.

  50. Owen,

    I’m an occultist and I have pretty good camouflage. I’m a round middle aged lady and can blend inconspicuously when I want to (which is most of the time- one avoids unwanted interference that way).

    I know plenty of others who don’t look especially “weird”. Perhaps you mean intentionally public occultists? I suspect they are the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

    We aren’t seen because we do not wish to be seen.


  51. Thanks for this wonderful series. I think you speculated that Randolph might have been reincarnated as Crowley. What made you think that? Who would you rate as the better occultist?

  52. Ethan Allen Hitchcock was also one of Edgar Allan Poe’s teacher’s at West Point. — The single most interesting work of Hitchcock’s, IMHO, is the sale catalogue of his personal esoteric library, which he arranged to have sold as a unit. Among other books and manuscripts of interest, it includes as its final entry a manuscript copy of the Solomonic grimoire “Lemegeton”! Hitchcock seems to have studied a much broader range of esoteric topics than he covered in his published books.

    Here’s a like to a PDF of the catalogue:

  53. Edward Bulwer-Lytton may also have been the mysterious “first master” whom Madame Blavatsky says she met in London, well before she had made contact with the better-known masters who figure in her books. Sten Liljegren makes a very good case for that identification in his short monograph, “Bulwer-Lytton’s Novels and Isis Unveiled” (1957).

  54. @Avery:

    Pat Deveney is also one of the main players in the group of people who are responsible for that superb on-line resource, The Interational Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist Periodicals (IAPSOP), which has made hundreds and hundreds of volumes of forgotten Spiritualist and esoteric periodicals freely available on line, as well as many hundreds of books on similar topics at The Standard Spiritualist and Occult Corpus (SSOC).


  55. As for “granny factories” and the associated “granny stories,” it’s often not a simple case orftrue or false.

    Just as there are, for example, “Freemasonic families,” in which the men have always or usually been Freemasons for many generations, or “New Thought families” (ditto), so too there have always been esoteric families, where successive generations have cultivated various esoteric or occult interests–including, but definitely not limited to, interests in alternate, non-mainstream religions. A grandmother or great-grandmother who actually held seances and talked with her dead ancestors, who scried in her crystal ball, who used opium or hashish, who read cards, who made her own herbal medicines, who say faries in her garden, etc. etc., is very easily recast as a “Witch” by her descendants–though she might never have applied the word “Witch” to herself, not even in the privacy of her own mind.

    In my own case, I have hard documentation of my mother’s family’s predilection for heretical and/or alternative religions for over 400 years, back to the last years of King James I of England, and I can also document its interest in esoteric matters as far back as my great-great-grandmother (1850-1910), whose scrapbooks I still have. Our esoteric interests were largely, but not entirely, confined to the women in the family; our predilection for non-mainstream religions was shared by the men and the women alike.

    I know of one current Witchcraft tradition where the family (on her father’s side) of the woman who founded it had esoteric and occult interests for at least two generations before her, but so far as can be documented she herself was the first (beginning in the late 1960s) to apply the word “Witchcraft” to what they had done and what she did. See my book “The Rede of the Wiccae” (2005) for documentation.

  56. @barefootwisdom

    In general, magical practices which strongly transgress or violate the accepted norms of their culture gain a great deal of extra power from their very transgressiveness, and they lose that power somewhat as the practices in question become less transgressive over the decades. Sometimes the taboo that is transgressed is sexual, sometimes it is dietary (maybe even cannibalistic), sometimes it involves crossing caste lines, etc. etc. etc. Pick your own transgression according to your own culture, but don’t expect it to work as well for your descendants five centuries later.

  57. Owen wrote, “You never see an occultist wearing Ray-Bans and sporting a crew cut for some strange reason.”

    As far as crew cuts go, I got one last week, as I do every summer. Some occultists just prioritize practicality over fashion. Summer is hot, so less hair works for me. Over the winter I like to grow my hair out, including a bushy beard to keep warm. Also, one of our pools finally reopened last week (Hurrah!), so the crew cut also helps with minimizing the amount of effort I have to put into maintaining chlorine-damaged hair. And that leaves more time for infusing elixirs, reading, and meditating!

    Yet I certainly do not wear Ray-Bans, as I dislike obscuring my eyes, the windows of the soul. Mostly that is because, when I pass people wearing sunglasses, I get so little affect from them and am in no way drawn to interact with them. Mirrored glasses are even worse, not only obliterating of the wearer’s affect, but arrogantly and hostilely declaring that the wearer can somehow be a reflection of the viewer. How they could accurately reflect anything other than wearer’s right-back-at-you hostility and defensive hiding is beyond me.

    Admittedly, there are certain situations where light-blocking eye coverings are necessary like skiing, sailing, smelting, and desert walking or driving. Plus there are some rare medical conditions that require blocking too much light from reaching the eyes, for instance lupus and delayed pupil contraction. However, the officially declared scientific “need” for sunglasses for everyday eye health strikes me as corporate-funded research, which just happened to line up with the entitled classes’ desire to express our haughty superiority while obscuring our identities from accountability. The research showing increased eye deterioration with age (really, you don’t say?) was heavily marketed at the over-funded boomers. A profitable marketing choice, but it has caused a plague of absurdly big-eyed sexagenarians to descend on outdoor gathering places.

  58. John,

    Very good reading. I had no idea that Randolph even existed but it seems this rather obscure character had such a strong influence in Human occult history. It is a shame his story is not told more as I have to say, he did lead a very adventurous life.

    Anyway I do have a question for you but what is your thoughts on the concept of a pre-adamite man? The more research I do, I do think that civilisation did exist on Earth before us…I’m sure you are familiar with the Annunaki theory but it does seem to hold alot of good points.

    If I am honest, I do think that an extraterrestrial civilisation of some kind did play a role in our evolution. What do you think of this concept? I think maybe Randolph could have been hinting in this direction as well…

    Also in regards to demons, I think that demons are not necessary spiritual but also can incarnate on the physical plane too. But so can angels and other powerful spirits. I don’t think the Earth is just populated by Human souls if you know what I mean….

    Regarding the Russian Revolution, just take one big look at Rasputin and you can tell that guy was demonic. Another surprising contender who I do believe was demonic was none other than Leon Trotsky. From what I have since learned about him, he really was the brainchild of the entire revolution and pretty much organised the early Soviet state….

  59. Avery – I am very familiar with karezza, but I’m not sold on it. One reason being that it has become sort of a YouTube fad with the “NoFap” crowd. I don’t know of any initiates who actually practice it themselves (of course I could be mistaken here since there is a lot initiates do that they don’t discuss) which lead me to my next point: I don’t believe sexual magic is something that aspirants in the early stages of their path should be dabbling in. Most people do not have the level of emotional balance to practice magic, let alone sex magic. There is very good reason why the Mysteries are mysteries and have been kept secret for thousands of years. There is much in esoteric circles today (especially in America) that is talked about in a flippant manner without respect, and I think we could all stand to take a few cues from our forebears with regard to having a healthy respect for these things. Bookshelves are filled with the latest pseudo-spiritual self-help books on the latest Tantric techniques for “mind-blowing sex” with very little teaching on mastering one’s emotions or real ethical development so that they can have a healthy relationship in the first place. If esotericism only serves your ego so you can get your rocks off, but doesn’t actually have the power to help you change the aspects of your self that are out of balance and thereby become a better wife/husband/mother/father, than what use is it? Anytime real power is involved it takes a level of maturity before one is ready to handle it.

  60. @Matthias and @JMG,

    Another possibility is that, Randolph might have learned sexual practices from Sabbatean community (a branch of Crypto-Jewish people who follow Sabbatai Zevi’s doctrines) in Ottoman Empire, or their Western section – Frankists. Even long before the time of Randolph, Frankists’ sexual practices had already diffused into some unorthodox Christian societies like Moravian Church and also influenced some prominent mystics like Emanuel Swedenborg. Since there was a large cross-membership basis between Sabbateans and some Ottoman Sufi orders at that time, Randolph might have been confused about the actual source of that influence, or have deliberately hidden it under “Nusairi” guise for some reason (perhaps, to avoid causing an antisemitist furore in America).

  61. @bonnie

    I’m just looking at the trend of the photographs he lays out. It’s a timeline of sorts, you can just scroll down. Normal 19th c dude, another normal looking 19th c dude, beardy weirdy (but that was a thing back then for a few decades so somewhat normal for parts of the 19th), normal 19th c dude, and then you get to the 20th and the trend goes away from normal at a more rapid clip. Jack Parsons did not look normal for his time or ours. Crowley I guess looked sort of normal – when he wanted to.

    But you do make a good point, what passes under one particular streetlight at midnight in the bar district may not be indicative of how the inhabitants of the city as a whole look like. But I would also say, that’s how the city will be judged though for wrong or right, better or worse. That’s the only impression a lot of people will get of the city as a whole. If you do run across a notable occultist with aviator sunglasses and a crew cut – please let me know, I would love to see that picture. Or just someone clean shaven and clean cut wearing a t-shirt and cargo pants – you know, normal looking.

    I do find it deliciously amusing that such normal looking people could publish such relatively (for the 19th) scandalous ideas about sex. Maybe being all go and no show is the way to be?

  62. Klcooke, you can find it here. It’s specifically a discussion of his writings on magic.

    Username, oh, granted. As I noted earlier, though, I’ve seen Yoda’s utterance flung around rather too often for my taste, and used to blame people for their failures, thus my distaste for it.

    Avery, for some reason the Traditionalists generally liked Randolph. Evola wrote a foreword to the Italian edition of Magia Sexualis, if I recall correctly.

    Owen, the bearded-sage look actually goes back a long ways. Did you note the picture of Freeman B. Dowd (1828-1910) in the post? It’s been one of the standard options for American occultists very nearly since the time of Johannes Kelpius. That wasn’t why I took it up, but I’ve seen no need to change my own sartorial habits — and as it happens, I know quite a few occultists with short hair and conventional clothing.

    Jasper, Hutchinson had eight children by seven different mothers, only one of whom was his wife, so “gay” may be a bit of an overstatement; his flings with Cole Porter and Ivor Novello certainly qualify him as bi! As for your broader point, though, no argument there at all.

    Gollios, thank you — that’s a data point I didn’t have. As for the iconoclasm, there may be something malicious going on. Did you know that several statues of Gandhi in the US and Britain have been defaced by rioters?

    Justin, if you start with Randolph and trace things out as far as they go you end up covering something like a third of 20th century Anglo-American occultism in one way or another. Mudlarking indeed!

    Neptunesdolphins, I’m not at all sure what caused the amnesia. That’s an important question, and deserves reflection. As for the relationship between ancient civilizations and the granny factory, there’s a connection, but the creation of the idea of modern witchcraft goes back quite a ways also. We’ll be talking about some of the figures involved, notably Charles Godfrey Leland and Matilda Joslyn Gage.

    Barefootwisdom, that makes a great deal of sense.

    Patricia M, I’m not sure if he was the only source of the whole simultaneous-orgasm business, but he probably had quite a bit to do with it. The one thing I’ll say in his defense is that if I recall correctly, he meant that to be solely a rule for certain specific magical practices — not something required for everyday lovemaking.

    Onething, from the point of view of occult philosophy, the egregor or group mind of a group of people can be obsessed by a malign spirit, in much the same way as the mind of an individual. That explains the way groups of people sometimes go careening away into self-destructive behavior patterns. Thus you’re quite correct — this is a mass-level obsession.

    Bridge, Crowley used to claim that he had been Eliphas Lévi in his previous life. The problem with that claim is that Lévi’s personality and Crowley’s don’t match at all; Lévi was a quiet, studious, rather private person with few enemies, many friends, and a genuine affection for the Catholic church. Randolph, on the other hand, was an emotionally unstable genius obsessed with sex, drugs, and magic who could never deal with the fact that the rest of the world didn’t admire his genius as much as he did. You tell me which of these men was more likely to reincarnate as Aleister Crowley! As for which was the better occultist, I’ve never known how to answer questions like that — I don’t have a nice crackle-finished occultoscope calibrated in millimerlins to measure the two, you know…

    Robert, thanks for both these hints! As for my jibes about “granny factories,” no question, some people redefined their Spiritualist or Theosophists or Rosicrucian grannies as witches, but out on the West Coast, at least — where I saw most of this in action — there was also quite a remarkable number of people in the Neopagan scene early on were very obviously faking it — whose conveniently dead third-degree grannies somehow had taught them stuff straight out of early Scott Cunningham, or whose conveniently undocumented grannies conveniently taught them whatever the latest fad happened to be. Gordon Cooper and I had a betting pool going after our article “The Red God” came out, as to just how soon somebody’s granny would be redefined as a member of one of the Woodcraft groups that played such a large role in the prehistory of Gardnerian Wicca; Gordon won, as it took a little less than six weeks from the day that issue of Gnosis hit the newsstands before some already established Pagan was suddenly claiming a Woodcraft lineage!

    Sven, it’s a fine word! I forget which science fiction parody took place in the Galactic Gallimaufry…

    Ksim, Randolph deserves much more attention than he’s been given, but then the same thing is true of a lot of people we’ll be discussing. As for pre-Adamite man, the evidence known to me suggests that there may well have been human civilizations before and during the last Ice Age, but I don’t see any reason to drag in extraterrestrials. All you have to do is doubt the official historical narrative, according to which human beings identical to you and me lived in caves for a quarter of a million years, and then suddenly up and went from primitive squalor to industrial civilization in five thousand years. It seems much more likely that Homo heidelbergensis, which had a brain capacity equivalent to ours and was around half a million years before us, evolved civilizations of their own during the last interglacial, and that other species of humans did the same during the Ice Age that followed. We’re quite clever enough to manage the feat without extraterrestrial assistance!

    Minervaphilos, that’s an intriguing possibility. It might be worth researching.

  63. I was going to wait for the next open post to ask this but it occurred to me that it’s on topic this week so I’ll ask now.

    There was a book written by an American I believe in the first half the 20th century which was a list of “keywords”. “Try” and “Attempt” would be examples.

    His theory was that these were words the conscious mind could use to access the subconscious. I don’t believe the man was involved in the occult officially. I think he was a salesman or something.

    Does anybody know who I’m talking about and what the name of the book was?

  64. I have no idea if George Lucas thought about this from the following perspective, but I think we have to remember that everything said by a ‘master’ or an ‘adept’ to a disciple probably should not be taken as a maxim for every disciple or to posterity generally. That is, in this particular case (and of course we are talking about a fantasy world here, but it holds more broadly) perhaps Luke needed to hear ‘do or do not, there is no try’. But another student may need to hear “No! there is no doing and there is no not doing. Only try!” The true teacher will teach to level of the student.

  65. Archdruid,

    You know, what I really love about this series is how many wonderful spiritual traditions werecreated from rigorous study and practice. One of the most annoying features of the neo-pagan traditions that I’ve repeatedly encountered is their insistence on yelling “WE WERE FIRST.” I’m guessing this is part of the problem about emerging as a tradition in a Christian society, where being first is some kind of proof of validity.

    It is, by the way, one of the biggest reasons I started practicing your teachings. The humility to admit that you weren’t some ancient lineage going back to the stone age, but a younger tradition with only about 300 years of history, was so refreshing. Plus, pretty much everything you’ve taught works as promised.

    I wish it were the forms of Christianity that you’ve talked about in this series that were taking root in India. They would be such a beautiful compliment to the Vedic traditions.



  66. “I find the term ‘Buncombe’ Offensive and demand that it be stricken from the mouths of the Commentariate immediately!!!”

    That’s not enough. We must delete any posts that used the word.
    Oh, wait. Does that include JMG’s essay? Well, so it goes!

  67. Jasper, re your post of 8:57 am

    This is an issue dear to my heart. I used to work on an orthopedic floor with a bunch of doctors, and one of them, a black man, would bring in calendars for black history month, just chock full of interesting and very impressive characters. And I was so surprised and wondered why have I never heard of any of these people? It’s a plot I tell you. By over aggrandizing Martin Luther King to the exclusion of all others, they make it seem as if black people are all pretty unremarkable and not unique.

  68. JMG – Would you like to have an occultoscope? If you have a schematic diagram, I probably have enough old redactors, transluctors, and insisters around here to put one together. Do you want one probulator with it, or two?

  69. The science-fiction parody was a graphic novel (i.e. extended comic strip) called Buck Godot. It’s written and drawn by Phil Foglio, currently doing the wonderful, complex, wildly chaotic steampunk strip ‘Girl Genius’.

    The Gallimaufry is a mega-space station inhabited by a wide range of alien civilizations and it was obviously built piecemeal with lots of secret passages, hidden sections, and a lot of ‘you can’t get there from here’.

    Here’s Wikipedia about Buck (always available but never free):

    Here’s Girl Genius:

    They are both terrific.

  70. For those interested in giving a spiritual turn to their sex lives may I suggest choosing a sex positive deity and visualizing that deity sharing the energy of the orgasm. There is a Christian practice of offering up one’s suffering to Jesus (I have never understood why Jesus would need or want more suffering myself) so why not offer up one’s orgasm instead. Not as a magical practice to accomplish a goal, but in the same spirit as sharing the wine and cookies with the gods–‘here, this is good, tap into our human senses to have some too.’

  71. Owen – the occultists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting happen to be very well dressed, well kept, and very “normal looking” people. Perhaps the inner work on the soul manifests itself outwardly in a pleasant appearance.

    By the way, the conditions for advanced souls to incarnate are always the way they need to be. There have always been advanced teachers incarnating, they are here now, and they will always be here. Just because they aren’t always in the public eye, doesn’t mean they aren’t here. Blessings to you on your path sir.

  72. Simon, I don’t. Anyone else?

    ShamanicFallout, if it had been an actual teacher talking to an actual student, rather than a Muppet talking to an actor for millions of people to see, I’d have just shrugged.

    Vbhaskarsee, I know the feeling! All those frantic attempts to backdate newly invented “traditions” to three weeks before the dawn of time got on my nerves, too, which is why I talked AODA’s Grand Grove into being honest about our origins.

    Onething, another fine piece of buncombe! 😉

    Lathechuck, let me see — I used to have a circuit diagram for the Hieronymus machine around here somewhere, which is about as close to an occultoscope as you’re likely to get!

    Teresa, thanks for this! We actually have a Buck Godot book, but it’s been a very long time since I last read it.

  73. Oh, I think your jibe at granny stories, JMG, is entirely warranted by the huge majority of them that I’ve run into over the years. The very very few stories that I take seriously are always just stories of esoteric or magic-using families that at some point deliberately rebranded themselves as Witches, for one reason or another–sometimes even for an extremely frivolous reason.

  74. PS “Faking it” is, of course, a major component of the action that has established many of the world’s “great” religions ever since the axial age. If the founders weren’t faking it, some of eavemn their earliest followers were. And of course a lot of “faking it” happens below the threshhold of consciousness, so that the fakers can continue to delude themselves that they are the genuine article. (Of course, there are also “genuine articles,” but fakers outnumber them. We are a species that hates to see itself reflected in any honest mirror. One very prespicacious linguist argued that humans developed speech so that they could tell lies, to themselves as well as to their fellows.

  75. Is “buncombe” an unDruidly word or not?

    Spellcheck wanted to change it to “bun comber.” 😳

  76. John Michael wrote, “He doesn’t fit the covert narrative of white supremacy that underlies the entire BLM movement as it presently exists — the notion that black people can’t solve problems by themselves, but have to wait for privileged white people to hand out the goodies.”

    It is nice that one can usually figure out how any human being is misbehaving by paying attention to what he shrieks about whenever others do it. That knowledge has made being an early childhood music teacher much easier for me than I ever expected. “What are you screaming about, Amber? Well then, I suggest YOU stop doing that.” Their little eyes go so wide. Wouldn’t it be nice if anyone had the cajones to say that to our terrorist wannabes and their handlers? “What are you screaming about, Antifa? Well then, I suggest YOU stop practicing white supremacy.” Alas, their little eyes would go very narrow, just before they started breaking bones.

    Are all elites always this thin skinned, or has this trait been specially bred into our particular bumbling overlords? In a recent article Alastair Crooke described a 1994 book by Christopher Lasch, “Revolt of the Élite,” in which he predicted this social revolution by radical children of the bourgeoisie. “The new elites are in revolt against ‘Middle America,’ as they imagine it: A nation technologically backward, politically reactionary, repressive in its sexual morality, middle-brow in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy.” I am intrigued by anyone who could see this mass temper tantrum on the horizon a full 26 year ago. Have you read Lasch’s book, and, if so, would you recommend it? Also, has Crooke been reading Ecosophia? He wrote, “They share a belief that humanity is on a Grand March toward Progress. It is the splendid march on the road to ending institutional injustices: It goes on and on, obstacles notwithstanding.” I think you have quite noticeably shifted the Overton window! Crooke’s article is at:

    When the elite pretend to hold a revolution, you can always rest assured that their aim is not to disperse over-concentrated power but to consolidate even more of it. Black lives certainly matter to the elites’ profit margins, but I rather doubt our elites ever considered actually empowering disenfranchised commoners. Should that unwelcome outcome unexpectedly befall them, I don’t doubt they have a contingency plan prepared for such an unfortunate eventuality. If not, their shrieking would go on for a very long time, probably cycling through all their potential enemies in a never-ending loop. Wait, we’re kind of already there…

  77. Hi Rita,

    The idea is you offer your suffering to be united with that of Christ.

  78. Hello JMG,

    With regard to American magic generally, to what extent could we envision Columbia as a goddess? Is it possible that Columbia is a real goddess that we could work with? This might be very useful indeed for those of us who want to heal and bless Amercia.

    I know that Britannia in her original Roman conception was personified as a goddess. Do you think Britannia may still be around in her goddess form? She seems to still be very strong as an archetype.

  79. @Robert Matthiessen: I have always felt transgressiveness for the sake of transgressiveness to be childish and unworthy of a free adult. It is then strange to imagine that it would give so much power!

  80. @Rita:

    I guess if you know that it is actually a godform you are offering up your sex energy to, and not a parasite parading around as a godform… Spiritual parasites do like to play dress up.

    And there are plenty of parasitic beings feeding off the etheric energy released by sex already. Especially on the seedier end of things. That’s partially how people get “addicted” to these sensations (outside the range of a healthy drive -which is of course on a spectrum itself)

    These parasites then drive the behavior in the human and get a tasty meal for themselves in return.

    Nothing against the parasites though. They are part of the ecology too and have their place. I’d just be careful about who and what you choose to feed with such powerful energy.

  81. @ShamanicFallout – I’ve thought for a long time that Jesus’ advice to the rich young man – “Go, sell all you have to give to the poor, and follow me,” was intended only for him – and of course, for any others whose wealth was getting in the way of their enlightenment. Not for everybody. But then, Christianity did what other faiths in a similar boat have done before, and made it an ideal for monks and nuns, which makes better sense. Since your average householder simply can’t do that without impoverishing his or her family! St. Anthony, the best-known example of someone who took the advice literally, had only his little sister, whom he left in the care of the local nuns before retreating to the desert.

    A wise teacher will prod the reluctant mule, but rein in the feisty warhorse.

  82. I’ve come away from my second reading of the essay with the impression that Randolph must have been one of those scary bright individuals that eventually comes to find the rest of us irritatingly slow on the uptake. I wonder how many languages he spoke apart from English? French at least by the sound of it.

    Pratchett used to define the Thaum as enough magic to generate one white pigeon or three billiard balls. Since you are using the Merlin, I suppose Pratchett was describing the metric measurement.

  83. “toilet magic”
    Whaaat? Did I miss something?

    “a nice crackle-finished occultoscope calibrated in millimerlins”
    Just checked Amazon; not in stock.

    As to “Try!”: I always liked the quote “Knowledge is not enough, you must apply. Willingness is not enough, you must do”. This seems to address the problem of trying in a weak, half-hearted manner just so as to say you gave it a go. I first heard of it being quoted by Bruce Lee and thus thought it came from Eastern wisdom teachings, but then found out it was actually Goethe who said it.

    Joy Marie

  84. All right, I’m going to ask: what is a “third-degree grandmother”? Is it just a great-grandmother? Or maybe a great-aunt…?

  85. Galen,

    I joined Orlov’s blog via Patreon a couple of years back but I now use a different email, could not see how to change my email on Patreon so I decided I should delte the account and start over. No matter how I try, I cannot find a way to stop paying for this. That is bad practice! I asked a geekie friend about it and they told me they also could not figure out how to close an account, although they maybe found some workaround…I couldn’t understand. So I’m stuck and I’m a little mad. Now, if they also support BLM then so much the worse. I went to a help page about it and after much searching seemed to find what I was looking for, but their steps made no sense and I couldn’t do it.

  86. @Rita,

    I have done exactly what you describe and I have had intensely beautiful, powerful spiritual experiences as a result. I also offer up the pleasures of a good meal or a beautiful moment as well.

    @Justin Patrick,

    The same can be said of offering uour suffering to Jesus. A lot of parasites feed on suffering.

    Thst being said, etheric parasites are very easy to avoid by using common, easy techniques like daily spiritual practice (especially purification) and self- reflection.

    Also, I doubt there are many deities who will allow a parasite to usurp energies their offered energies for very long.

    Moreover, it’s pretty easy to tell if your practice is yielding good results just by looking at the trajectory of your life.

    Jessi Thompson

  87. An interesting tidbit about the word “Buncombe” – it’s not quite as outdated a term as one might think.

    Its spelling mutated to the more phonetic bunkum, and was then shortened to bunk, whence, today, if you point out the falsities of a particular claim, you are debunking it.

  88. @Jessi: “The same can be said of offering uour suffering to Jesus. A lot of parasites feed on suffering.” True dat! How do you think the various churches have become so parasitized…? That’s been one of the ways… People who are addicted to drama in their lives also come to mind. That’s big feasting ground…

    I just thought I would mention that not everybody who comes answering your call is who they say they are. And those who haven’t practiced this magic or occultism, but want to dabble, might not be aware that they could be feeding someone who is saying they are Aphrodite or Jesus, but is basically a spiritual entity in drag, happy to get a free meal. (Remember how JMG has said not all Christian churches are worshiping the same God… different beings are attracted to the different energies of the various denominations… some of them quite different than what a typical Christian might think they actually are worshipping.)

    Whether or not a person chooses to feed whoever it may be on the other end, is their own choice of course. Parasites can feed good emotions back to you too, so they will get asked back for dinner again.

    I agree that parasites can be cleaned up after, and that meditation, purification practices, etc. offer a good protective layer from them in the first place. But I did want to mention what else might come along to the readers of these comments, just so they can be more intentional about it if this is something they are going to do.

    Just putting in here for discussion.

    All the best,


  89. @Matthias Gralle:

    And yet, magical experience seems to show that it does add power, and not only in modern times. Cannibalism, where it occurs, seems very often to be a ritualistic act restricted to certain rare sacred contexts. The same for nudity in societies where going around naked is generally taboo. Incest between brother and sister, where it is generally forbidden, may nonetheless be almost a requirement for any presumptive heir to the throne in a royal dynasty (e.g. in Ancient Egypt). Amd so forth …

  90. & oh, just one more thing re: parasites. When a civilization and culture is in decay, as ours is, these being are already much more prevalent acting as detritivores on the destruction around them. Good reason to keep up meditation practices, magical baths, purifying incense & sound waveforms and the other purifying / protective practices of your traditions.

  91. Robert, one of the things that doesn’t get enough attention in histories of occultism is the extent to which it’s so very often a matter of entrepreneurship. Rebranding an existing product to fit a changing market, labeling it “new and improved” or “old-fashioned,” etc. — it’s all in a day’s work for your ordinary self-employed occultist. It’s something I’ve done myself more than once! As for faking it, well, of course — in a certain sense, that’s the nature of ritual magic: you act out in ritual terms the thing you want to achieve in everyday reality, and do it with enough intensity and focus that faking it becomes making it.

    Your Kittenship, buncombe is a perfectly Druidly world, along with its synonyms bullfeathers, malarkey, horsefeathers, balderdash, codswallop, poppycock, tommyrot, flapdoodle, piffle, claptrap, fiddle-faddle, bosh, tosh, and hokum.

    Christophe, I was amused the other day while reading a discussion of the art of cold reading; one of the basic pieces of advice is that when you talk about your client’s enemy — always a part of the standard cold reading schtick — you always take three details of the client’s own appearance and mannerisms, and use those to describe the enemy. The client will be convinced that your psychic powers have shown you the enemy! As for our current crop of outrage junkies, they’re a little more thin-skinned than average for a decadent aristocracy, but not much. Christopher Lasch? Always worth reading — and thanks for the heads up about the article by Crooke. Playing games with the Overton window is one of the central things I try to do with my writing…

    Logan, there’s only one way to find out, the classic Pagan way: get an image, set up an altar, burn a little incense, say some prayers, and see what kind of response you get. My guess is that the results will be quite good, but we’ll see. As for Brittania, again, good question — maybe some of my Pagan British readers will give that a try too.

    Andy, I have no idea how many languages he spoke, but I suspect it was rather more than two. As for the thaum, yes, that’s the metric measurement — I prefer old-fashioned merlins, thank you very much! (A merlin, of course, is the amount of magical power needed to thrust a sword through an anvil into a stone so that only the rightful king can pull it out, which is why most occultometers these days are calibrated in millimerlins…)

    Joy Marie, the toilet magic thing is a trick I learned from one of William Gray’s magical books. When you feel a bowel movement coming on, choose something you want to let go of — a habit, a mood, or what have you — and imagine it flowing out of the rest of you and concentrating in the fex. (Yes, that’s the singular of “feces.” You’re welcome.) Then as you let it go, concentrate on the idea that the thing you want to let go of is going with it. Keep that concentration in place as you flush. It works remarkably well. As for Bruce Lee quoting Goethe, that’s the kind of thing Lee did all the time — part of what made him so brilliant is that he wasn’t afraid to borrow from the West as well as the East.

    Irena, no, not quite. In Gardnerian Wicca, there are three degrees of initiation, and once you have received the third degree of initiation you can initiate other people. So a third-degree granny is one who can initiate you into Wicca. Lots of people in the US who wanted to start Wiccan covens but didn’t want to go to the trouble of being properly trained and initiated simply pretended that their grandmothers had been third degree Wiccan initiates, who had initiated them when they were young. If you hear jokes about mass-produced third degree grannies, that’s the target.

    Brendhelm, true enough! That said, I like the old-fashioned spelling.

  92. Onething wrote, “I joined Orlov’s blog via Patreon a couple of years back but I now use a different email, could not see how to change my email on Patreon so I decided I should delte the account and start over. No matter how I try, I cannot find a way to stop paying for this.”

    Call your credit card company and tell them you’ve lost your card. They will send you a new one with a new number, and Patreon will be out of luck. You will have to contact any vendors with recurring payments (except Patreon) to give them your new card number. It works every time because you only gave them permission to keep charging your old card number.

  93. Regarding toilet magic, my toilet flush handle has a little sign hanging from it that says “Press to Send Next Door.” That’s because one of my adjoining neighbors is the town sewage treatment plant. It’s a good reminder that “away” for material flows is illusory, but I suspect it might impede the toilet magic, at least a little bit.

    Regarding four-dimensional graph paper… yeah, that’s the trick with graphics, to display multiple dimensions of information with visual clarity. The seminal example (due in part to Edward Tufte’s enthusiasm for it) is the Minard map of Napoleon’s campaign in Russia, which supposedly displays six dimensions of data. (One of those, “direction of movement” as indicated by the beige versus black portions of the march line, is rather minimal. Then again if Minard had modern day full color printing available, he could have elegantly folded another full analog dimension in there.)

    For a chart of broad outlines of American occult history, one axis of the chart has to be time. The second could be location (perhaps “unfolding” the country going north to south along the west coast, east along the present day Mexican border, south to north up the Mississippi, east across the Great Lakes region, then north to south along the Appalachians and the east coast), or it could be relative similarity like in the rock styles chart. In either case, color can then indicate the other characteristic, or one or two different additional characteristics (since hue and saturation can be separate dimensions). Text labels and thin solid lines would represent influential individuals, while wider bands or regions would represent groups and movements.

    As these chapters go on I’ll “Try!” some proof of concept sketches. (I’m talking about the same level of art sophistication as <a href="this kitten-free diagram of the Breakfast Paradox. Any final version would require the skills of an actual graphic designer.)

  94. As for “toilet magic”, just be sure that you really, truly, want and are ready to get rid of whatever intangible thing it is you’re associating. Otherwise, you might find yourself, um, unable to follow through. You don’t want to be stuck with both a bad habit and a bowel movement! That can make you physically ill.

  95. Regarding suffering feeding etheric parasites: what about other negative emotions? The left has always talked of “the struggle” as its focus, whatever the oppression was believed to be (economic, racial, sexual, etc.). It would seem to me that if you made struggle the center of your being, you would never be free from struggle, you would see it everywhere and pull it towards you. You would most likely always find something to struggle against, even to the point of reinterpreting words or actions that previously wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar as oppressive. Thus today’s state of the world and nation. Who or what are the modern day “strugglers” feeding?

    It reminds me of some of the people in my former liberal (actually progressive) church. They used to sing a song that had a verse “We are a gentle, angry people….”* I used to be amused by it and think “Why do you chose to be angry?” but I never questioned them. I just didn’t sing that verse! By the way, in the discussions of one of JMG’s previous posts, I mentioned I was thinking of having the church drop me from their mailing list, as I had been absent for around three years and really didn’t plan on returning. I recently did that, so no longer have even a minimal connection to them. If there is any blowback in the cards for them, I didn’t want it to splash any Raspberry Jam over onto me.


    Joy Marie

  96. @JPM,

    Thank you for clarifying, and you are absolutely right. It’s good to talk about the pros and cons of any spiritual practice 🙂 I think society would benefit a great deal if more people had these sorts of discussions in general, about all sorts of spiritual practices.

    Jessi Thompson

  97. Walt, some proof-of-concept sketches would be great. I don’t have much of a visual imagination so this sort of thing is not my strong suit.

    Lathechuck, of course!

    Joy Marie, “gentle, angry people” is right up there with “celibate harlot” and “vegetarian carnivore” in terms of raw oxymoronicity.

  98. @Onething –

    I don’t think you can delete your Patreon account, but you can set your contribution to Orlov to $0. Log in and click on the button to access your account settings and choose ‘Manage Memberships’. From there you should be able to set the amount of your contribution to $0.

  99. Speaking of Crowley and Randolph,

    I seem to recall that when you mentioned the theory that Crowley was a later incarnation of Randolph, you said something implying that Randolph’s teachings were highly unbalanced and that the successor orders had to fix issues to make them workable. Am I remembering correctly? What I’m getting at is, do you think there’s an issue with Randolph’s primary source material such that it wouldn’t be wise to trying working with it without already having experience in one of the later groups?

    (Also, this post had 93 comments at the time I posted this.)

  100. Jmg re:pre-adamite man

    I’ve wondered if Australopithecus or homo erected may have had far grander technology than is currently thought to have occurred, but being made of wood no trace of it is left.

    Maybe giant treehouses made of sticks arranged like a nest, or sharp sticks and flints stuck into the ground around campsites to act as caltrops.

  101. I’ll try the fex hex on my bad habits.

    (“Do or do not! There is—“)

    —Oh, shut up, you little twerp.

  102. Well, not quite vegetarian carnivores, but Prachett had a cult of vampires who had Taken the Pledge and refused to drink blood. (Well, at least human blood.)

    I remember the song and took it to mean they were angry but committed to using peaceful means to get their point across. Remember, it was written by and sung, largely, by women, for whom the velvet glove and soft voiced politeness have been in their arsenals since Eve. Southern women have raised it to a high art, though I’m sure those in other regions have, too.

  103. Just as a follow-up to Tolkienguy’s observation above, yes, the Nusayris, like a host of other sects (especially Shi’i) deemed heretical by the (usually Sunni) heresiographers, were often accused of extreme sexual behaviors and general licentiousness — basically sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. But in virtually every case this can be shown to be a mere polemical trope by actually looking at the sects’ own texts, which often do go to theological extremes, but rarely sexual ones. So your positing of a tenuous Parisian connection rather than a direct Syrian one is almost certainly correct: the Nusayris had been routinely tarred as sex maniacs for almost a thousand years by the time Randolph rolled into town, and so that heresiographical trope, learned at second- or third-hand, became a handy peg to hang his hat on and use for much more constructive purposes!

    By the way, just a quick fix as you’re revising for the book: the proper group name is the Nusayris (in Arabic Nusayriyya), not “al-Nusayri,” as they’re most likely named after an early author in the movement, Muhammad ibn Nusayr (d. 873).

    As for actual Islamic sex magic, plenty of juicy instances are to be found rather in grimoires by perfectly orthodox Sunni and Shi’i authors, though no one took it as a central focus, as far as I know — it was just considered a normal part of a balanced magical diet in a culture without an insanely pathological view of sex, as you so rightly point out!

  104. Hi John Michael,

    Hope you are well, and thanks for posting these fascinating series of histories.

    The magpie technique is a goodie, and I have to fess up to using it myself here on the farm and in the surrounding forest. If it works…

    What did they used to say about: “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”?

    The tinkering with the systems and also piecing them together into a coherent whole is my work and where value is added to others work.

    Anyway, reconstructing systems from scratch with new thinking hardly seems to work given your mention of Mr Crowley.



  105. Christophe,

    “Call your credit card company and tell them you’ve lost your card. ”

    Wow, thanks but no thanks. I wonder if they could reverse or not honor the charges though. Obviously this is a problem with their business model though. It should be challenged.

  106. About the occultic ancestors: Somebody had to write this: Matt Auryn : Our Problematic Occult Ancestors

    From the blog:

    We can look at their culture and time period and the common beliefs of the people for a bit of an understanding of their cultural attitudes, but it doesn’t give them a free pass, and excuse their problematic ideas and statements. We shouldn’t pretend they weren’t problematic in areas or that we should neglect all of their work that built the foundation of what we do today. It means that we should read with discernment and an understanding that we are here to make progress on that legacy and do and be better than they were as people, magicians, and theorists.

    That certainly answers a part of my question on cultural amnesia and Neopaganism. They were bad people and we must clean up their messes.

  107. Still pondering cultural amnesia and Neopagans.

    My family moved to Bridgeport Ct for employment when I was a teenager. Things were changing in Maine in the logging industry. Bridgeport was a gritty old industrial city that still is fiercely protective of its clown heritage. The home of Tom Thumb and burial place of P.T. Barnum, who was the mayor. They fought off the circus over trademark rights to the name Barnum. When I left in mid-seventies, people were into Tarot and summoning demons as amateurs. They were noodling around trying to find occult information. Bridgeport and area was a good place for it since it had a rich history in oddness and the occult.

    Later my town was flooded out in the Flood of 1987. We lost our land which the state of Maine took. I felt a profound sense of loss. (The town was downgraded to a plantation, since it now only has 30 people. I wonder if the state will change the name of tiny, itty bitty villages.)

    As I was musing about the cultural amnesia question, I realized that a lot of Neopagans starting in the sixties and seventies ended up in places that were not their original homes. Suburbia came to the landscape, uprooting everyone. With no roots and no history, they searched for both. Along comes Starhawk and the Goddess movement, voila, ready made roots and history that reflects the sameness of suburbia. No oddness in neat rows of houses on recent land. New cities in deserts washing away old history. No room for oddness with the monoculture that grew up. No mess occult was the rule.

  108. @JMG, others

    Re religions in which sex is good vs. religions in which it is bad, I have always seen the whole sex-positive/”puritan” dichotomy as a poor way of categorizing anyone’s actual beliefs. And this would include the original puritans, who looked down on virginity, encouraged their people to marry young and have large families, and reserved their true odium for the real sinful pleasures such as dancing, card-playing, celebrating Christmas, amd eating pies.

    My own religious tradition, Mormonism, appears to me to do a pretty good job of combining strict sexual morality with a highly positive view of sex and bodily existence in general – just look at Brigham Young, who had more children than any other US territorial governor for a reason.

    Even after the “one wife” restriction was in place, raising a large and devoted family remained the pinnacle of the Mormon concept of masculinity. And when teenage Mormon boys recite their weekly promise to “prepare to become a worthy husband and father,” they know exactly what sort of bodily exertions that entails.

    At the same time, any young Mormon whose heart is set on marrying in the temple and siring a large, loving brood of children is going to find the idea of experiencing sexual initiation in a more transient relationship to be noxious.

    Obviously, this ethos (like any other) isn’t going to have an equal hold on everyone. In the social circle that I grew up in, for instance, most of the boys were all in on the Mormon ideal, and remained virgins until their wedding nights, while most of the girls spent their teen years sleeping with non-Mormon boys. Nevertheless I am quite sure that the opposite experience is at least as common!

  109. Onething – an update to my earlier comment: instead of setting the dollar amount to zero you can cancel the subscription. Still no way to delete your account, though.

  110. The targeting of Lincoln and Gandhi is simply because they were racist (by the standards of late 20th century western liberalism, not by the insane standard of 2020 Wokists). On this, the BLM crowd are correct.

    Gandhi expressed racist views while in South Africa although apparently changed somewhat in later life.

    Lincoln intended that the freed slaves be deported to Africa. He also said this:

    ‘I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social andPage 146 political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen to my knowledge a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever heard of so frequently as to be entirely satisfied of its correctness—and that is the case of Judge Douglas’ old friend Col. Richard M. Johnson. [3] [Laughter.] I will also add to the remarks I have made, (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject,) that I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes. [Continued laughter and applause.];view=fulltext

  111. Neptune’s Dolphin has an excellent point about the mass uprooting of people in the I’ve Been Moved years and corresponding loss of roots contributing to the neopagam movement. I agree.

    Mildly OT but to one of the other points raised here: two cases of doing the right things for the wrong reasons, from today’s newspaper.

    The NCAA basketball coaches are urging an end to using standardized testing requirements to determine eligibility to play. The wrong reason? Exams such as the SAT and ACT are “longstanding forces of institutional racism.” Any whiff here of Mighty Whitey Rides Again is, of course, purely subjective.

    and the Pentagon has issued a clear, specific concrete list of what flags may be flown on US military bases. Essentially, the US flag, state flags, flags of allies and partners, the POW/MIA flag, and official military unit flags. The wrong reason? They wanted “find a creative way” to ban the Confederate flag from their bases (fair enough) and not raise free speech issues (which shouldn’t be an issue here, any more than banning non-uniform decorations on militarily uniforms is) and to do so “without contradicting or angering President Trump.”

  112. P.S. Getting a sensible agenda through by calling it “anti-racist” is actually quite creative, though an obvious tactic, once thought of.

  113. @Jeanne Labonte

    The other early female personification of our national spirit, predating both the Statue of Libery in New York Harbor and Uncle Sam, was the figure of Liberty herself. Almost every United States coin minted up to 1913, if it had a human figure on it at all, explicitly identified that figure by an inscription as “Liberty.” (That’s where the word “Liberty” on our current coins came from. Its origin has mostly been forgotten.) Even the so-called “Mercury head” on older silver dimes was actually meant to be a bust of Liberty herself.

    It was only in 1913 that the first Presidential bust appeared on US coinage, with the Lincoln penny. The Washington quarter and the Jefferson nickel followed in the 1930s.

    Coins featuring more recent presidents started to appear only after WW2, that is after 1945, which is exactly when the toxic “Cult of the Savior-President” (and its shadow-cult, the Demonization of the Evil President) really took root and began to flourish. There’s a very strong connection between these two events. (I’m just old enough to remember an America where whoever happened to be President at the moment was not thought by most citizens to matter all, that much. Congress counted for more than any President back then.)

    Coin iconography is very important as one tries to understand the history of a nation. For those able to sense it, all coins are redolent of magical and/or spiritual power, not just because of the metals from which they are made, but also by virtue of their iconography. Hence, IMHO, the magic power of “Mercury dimes” that is recognized in the hoodoo tradition.

    And yes, after the 1916 election, I sent away for a small reproduction statue of Columbia as She stands atop the Capitol building, making sure to buy one cast with powder that had been ground from discarded marble saved after the most recfent restoration of parts of the building. I also sent away for a replica of the New York Statue of Liberty at the same time. They stand side by side on a shelf over my computer where I sit and write.

  114. Robert Mathiesen – “After the 1916 election, I sent away…”? Either you’re much older than I am, or (as I am) just old enough to assume that dates always begin with “19”. 😉

  115. Yucca, Randolph’s teachings weren’t so much imbalanced as incomplete. Each of the groups that took up his legacy had to fill in a lot of blanks. I’d encourage anyone who wants to work with Randolph’s own material to make sure they have a solid background in some well-established system of occultism first — possibly one of the successor orders, but not necessarily. As for 93, a very Crowleyan bit of synchronicity!

    J.L.Mc12, we simply don’t know.

    Your Kittenship, give it a try. 😉

    Patricia, fair enough. Maybe it’s just that I grew up very far from the South, but the women I recall who made a habit of being angry were anything but gentle. They also weren’t particularly effective — well, at anything other than making their own lives and the lives of everyone around them miserable.

    Mmelvink, fair enough. If it’s Nusayriyya, though, how did Europeans get to “Ansaireh”? That certainly looks like a blurred initial “al-“.

    Chris, that’s a pervasive problem these days in the lightweight end of the occult scene — people who’ve never actually studied and practiced an effective system of magic trying to design one from scratch. The results are pretty consistently ineffectual, but try telling them that — cough, cough, Michael Hughes, cough, cough…

    Neptunesdolphins, a fine example of chronocentrism. That’s the historical equivalent of ethnocentrism — where the ethnocentrist judges everyone else in the world on the basis of the norms of his own culture, the chronocentrist judges everyone else in history on the basis of the norms of his own historical period. The one is just as bigoted as the other. As for Neopaganism as the suburbia of occultism, that’s brilliant — thank you.

    Wesley, it’s the usual problem of mistaking a spectrum for a dichotomy.

    Dot, see my comments further up about chronocentrism.

  116. Robert MAthiesen – do you remember who you ordered those statues from? I’m deeply interested. You can email me privately at mathews55-at-msn-dot-com.

  117. Dear John Michael Greer,
    I am reading this series of posts with keen interest. Speaking of Rosicrucians, my own research into (the leader of the 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico) Francisco I. Madero’s library turned up a book inscribed to Madero as a fellow Rosicrucian from its author, Arnold Krumm-Heller, aka “Maestro Huiracocha” (who also happened to be Madero’s personal doctor at the time– a cover for his work as a German spy). I mean to say, indeed, there was such a rich nexus of often very unlikely connections in these metaphysical associations and movements… Certainly Randolph should be better known than he is. Your book will be a much-needed contribution. I look forward to your next post.

  118. JMG, I’ll think of you every time I go to the litter box.😄. And if I get rid of a bad habit that way I will post results. Does it also work with tinkling?

  119. On sex positivity–most pre-industrial cultures have strong taboos around sexuality.Sex is correctly perceived as a very powerful force. These taboos may include restrictions on permitted acts, on permitted partners, on the times at which sexual acts are allowed, etc. Attempts to find rational sources for all such rules run aground on the fact that human physiology and the range of sexual desire seems fairly uniform but the restrictions imposed vary immensely from one culture to another and at different times in the same cultures. Some feminists have assumed that all such restrictions have their origin in patriarchal oppression of women’s sexuality. While that is certainly a factor, it is not the sole factor. If restrictions on sex were only intended to control women and deprive them of pleasure, why would athletes be cautioned not to indulge before the big game? or hunters and fishers before joining the hunt? or a canoe builder forbidden to have what my local museum coyly described as ‘family relations’ before and during the construction of a canoe?

    Humans have tendency to set up taboos around areas of importance. Food is another such area. Table manners, conventions such as white wine with fish, salad is not for breakfast, taboos on foods that our neighbors may regard as delicacies–have a nice fat grub anyone? are all ways of saying that we are people, not animals, we can control ourselves. We eat beef, not pork, chicken but not frogs, lobsters but not their cousins the locust–_those_ people over there are not civilized–don’t let your cat out, everyone knows _those_ people will eat it.


  120. @ Robert Mathiesen

    I used to work for a mail order business which sold collectible coins. A number of customers expressed
    loathing for the more recent clad coins (after 1964) considering them debased coinage. The quality of newer
    coins has really gone downhill in recent years. The Presidential dollar coins with images of deceased presidents were touted as being highly collectible but their drab design and poor quality metal (copper coated with a brass cladding) which would often become mottled in appearance soon after minting did little to
    commend them. I can’t see much magic of any kind being done with those.

    There are silver and gold coins being minted with the Liberty figure on them but they are strictly
    for collectors. The eye watering prices the US Mint site asks for some of the gold Liberty coins
    ensure they will not wind up in anybody’s change purse anytime soon.

  121. Archdruid,

    for the magpie occultism: I need to thank you for the write-up of Sphere of Protection. Over last several months, I re-worked it into ritual to establish astral elemental balance within and around my surroundings according to Bardon’s symbolism. It work.. well, like magic 😉

    Second, because working with it and recent events (pandemic semi-quarantine) brought me to the topic I would like to ask for consideration as a post for this month fifth Wednesday. It also relate to the last part about Cosmic Doctrine and sublimation of energies from last week and that what really made me think about it for the past week.

    You remarked that the waking up with shallow trance and more.. sharp intuitive perception and senses is something that occult study does. Bardon say the same results are expected.. And over last half-year I think I experienced it quite literal. And the biggest thing is, I find most of the urban land-space, especially constant noise (not only cars, but car engines at night are loathsome…) near unbearable. It’s not a instant shift, just something that build-up for the last year in my experience. Smells too. Three week ago I was visiting my parents (family house at the outskirts of very small town) and the sound of heavy rain town and evening quiet brought me near to the tears.

    How to deal with society that is set-up for the dull and dulled senses? I started to stay late for the quiet of late night or wake up for the blessed hours of 4.30. How you deal with it?


  122. My first into to Randolph was via one of Jocelyn Goodwin’s books on the subject. As far as the lost novel “Waa-Gu-Mah” goes, have you tried Zuber on Ebay? Zuber has everything!

  123. JMG wrote: Mmelvink, fair enough. If it’s Nusayriyya, though, how did Europeans get to “Ansaireh”? That certainly looks like a blurred initial “al-“.

    Not Mmelvink of course, but I have studied Arabic and this actually seems like genuine dialect. The “al-” is the Arabic definite article (thought due to the peculiarities of Arabic grammar and writing, it shows up much more often than “the” in English). However, in front of certain letters, called “moon letters”-I forget the whole list, but n, s, and r are definitely three of them-the l in “al” changes to whatever the next letter is, so “al-nusayriyya” would be pronounced “an-nusayriyya”. This is also where names like “Abdur-rahman” come from. (To go into more detail, “abd” is either “servant” or “slave” depending on which translator you talk to, and “rahman” means “compassionate”, which is one of the Names of God. “Abd ar-rahman”, the original form of the name, means “servant/slave of the Compassionate One”, ie God. As mentioned, God has 99 names, and they call can be used to create personal names like this-any Arabic name starting with “Abd al-” or its Anglicization “Abdul” means “servant/slave of [Name of God]”

    Also, do you know if the FRC still includes the “Ansairetic Arcanum”? Rosicrucianism sounds interesting but I’m still kind of wary of this bit of Randolph’s teaching. At some point, could you do a post on all the extant major Rosicrucian organizations, the differences between their teachings, and what they charge?

  124. Re “Ansaireh”: in Arabic the article ال (“al-“) changes its consonant to assimilate to certain following letters. So النصيرية (“al-Nusayriyah = the Alawite”, which would probably be used as someone’s name) is pronounced “an-Nusayriyah”, formally. In fast speech it’s not too far from “Ansaireh”.

  125. Re Changeling’s mention of the toll industrialization takes on the senses: Tristan Gooley has written several good books on how to recover the knowledge and skills we’ve lost to industrialization. His methods worked well for me. (I kept thinking, “Oh, yeah, I did this when I was a kid!)

  126. C.M., I’m familiar with Krumm-Heller — he’s a significant figure in the history of New World Rosicrucianism — but I didn’t know about his association with Madero! It would be great sometime to see a book or a series of posts on the magical history of Mexico — what little I know about the subject makes me think that there’s an extraordinary story to tell.

    Your Kittenship, no, because warm liquid won’t hold subtle energies in the same way. You need the solid substance.

    Rita, true enough. Zoroastrians consider dogs to belong to the side of Ormuzd, the good god, and so when Islam emerged it declared dogs to be unclean — that way you could tell instantly who wasn’t really a Muslim…

    Changeling, delighted to hear it — would you be willing to post your version? I’d like to be able to offer it to others who are working Bardon’s system and want a banishing ritual. As for dealing with sensitivity to the ghastly conditions of modern life, hmm. I have a mostly nocturnal existence, partly for that reason — up at the crack of noon, that sort of thing. I also use dietary factors to adjust the volume — animal foods turn it down, a more vegetarian diet turns it up. But I’ll consider doing a post.

    Phutatorius, no, I haven’t. None of the archive sites I know of have copies of Waa-gu-mah or his second book, another novel titled Lara.

    Tolkienguy, that was my understanding — that “Ansaireh” is not far from how “al-Nusayriyya” is pronounced. As for the FRC, like most of the old occult societies, they don’t make the nature of their inner teachings public, so I can’t say for certain; however, this essay from their website certainly sounds like the Ansairetic Arcanum, so it’s likely.

    Kulibali, thanks for this. So Europeans would have gotten confused between “the Alawite” and “Alawism,” in effect — thinking that “Ansaireh” was the name of the tradition, not a moniker for a person who belonged to it?

    Your Kittenship, I’ll have to see if the local library system carries any of those. Thank you for the heads up!

  127. Sonkitten is also a night person, but he was like that before he suffered brain damage. Were you a night person in utero? He was. (If you don’t know, call one of your parents and ask—they will definitely remember the nocturnal gymnastics!)

  128. Dave,

    Seems like if they had offered the ability to cancel a subscription I would have seen it but I will try again. Eventually.

  129. JMG,

    I’ll need to translate my notes in English and put a lot of hedging at the beginning: I am not expert or adept and it works for me based on my work with the system and meditations on the theory in Bardon’s first book – I started it as a pure exercise to test my understanding of Bardon’s ideas about God’s fourfold attributes.

    So I don’t claim to have universal Bardonian version of SoP ritual for students, just one that work from my perspective and level of development.

    But perhaps some other occult magpie will see value in it and tweak it for their own uses: I was inspired by you and I am glad to pass it back. I’ll write it in next few days and post it under next open post/send it via dreamwidth.


    Ps. So I am not getting crazy by changes in my sleep and sensitivity to outside world – I knew it, but it is still good to have a kind word from someone more experienced. Turning [partially] nocturnal is strange thing and due to it and pandemic I will need to consider lots of changes in the work-life a lot of adapting in coming months… the post about “Try!” and having multiple careers is just wonderful right now for my sanity.

  130. Restrictions around sex often have more to do with birth control than anything else. It is similar for food taboos. Don’t eat the parent animals till the young have time to grow; don’t eat foods that might go off at certain times.
    Perhaps I should sign as the Pragmatist but I won’t.

  131. @Jeanne Labonte

    Thanks very much!


    Do you think it might be worth the effort to compose an Orphic hymn to Columbia?

  132. @Jeanne Labonte

    I quite agree about recent US coinage; it’s loathsome.

    If I had been more careful of my words, I ought to have written ” all coins are redolent of some degree of magical and/or spiritual power.” With modern US coinage, that degree of power is a very very low one. I view it as symptomatic of the impending end of the US as a viable nation, which I foresee happening within the next 50 years, maybe even within the next 20 years.

    Base metals instead of precious ones, forsooth! And debased pseudo-art instead of powerfully designed iconography!

  133. @Patricia Mathews:

    I bought my Columbia statue from the United States Capitol Historical Society: Look for “Marble Statue of Freedom” in their giftshop.

    I don’t remember just where I bought my Statue of Liberty, but most likely from the Statue’s own gift shop, which seems to be offline just now.

  134. What sort of attitudes to sexuality were there in the physical culture movement?

    The only aspect I remember reading about was how Strength and Health magazine had a large gay readership. The editor was totally innocent about the whole thing, and really didn’t understand lot of the letters he got. But the assistant editor was very familiar and could keep that market segment happy without crossing the line for anyone else. 🙂

  135. @JMG – a Toby Gilman moment! I believe, when I talk about velvet gloves, and you talk about angry women, we are talking abut two different sets of women. And it’s not a matter of, class, political affiliation or anything like that. Rather, I’ll wager none of your angry women are a day over 75 years of age; and all of the ones I’m thinking of are at least that. (Some over 100! )

    In fact, you could probably line up the ones you see with my daughters’ yearbooks and not be too far off.

    My daughter is extremely irritated by my – and her mother-in-law’s – pussyfooting around what we want. They were raised to demand what they wanted unless there was a power differential; the way we were raised, it was a serious taboo. She scolds – in fact my inability to get that off my mind even though there’s no no chance of seeing her in person actually had me baffled. It still intimidates me, and sets my teeth on edge when she does it to her sons. So … mystery solved. At least for me.

  136. On the subject of chronocentrism I came across this article today. It’s refreshingly honest given the whitewashing of history going on.

    “Nigerian journalist and novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes that one of her ancestors sold slaves, but argues that he should not be judged by today’s standards or values.”

  137. Dear John Michael Greer,

    There already are some blog posts here and there on Dr. Krumm-Heller in Mexico… some are on my “Madam Mayo” blog and some of the most richly interesting are by Heribert von Feilitzsch, who wrote IN PLAIN SIGHT, the book that revealed the identity of the German spy Felix Sommerfeld, until then one of the great mysteries of the Mexican Revolution.

    More about Dr. Krumm-Heller and Madero is in my book, METAPHYSICAL ODYSSEY INTO THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION.

    Madero’s Spiritism did not have much to do with indigenous magical traditions, and his large personal library, heavy on French and English tomes on Spiritism, Spiritualism, Kabbalah, hypnotism, and French occultism, does not give evidence of such interest, apart from the book inscribed by Dr. Krumm-Heller aka “Maestro Huiracocha,” who did write on Aztec and Inca subjects (if memory serves me, it was astrology). Madero was raised a proper Catholic with a Jesuit education and he had his conversion experience to Spiritism while a student in France. Then he discovered the Bhagavad Gita, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    But I’m going on, as I love to do about Madero. Thanks for hosting the comments section. I’ll offer another one when you get to Emma Hardinge Britten.

  138. @Robert Mathiesen –
    Can you suggest how I might obtain a copy of Sten Liljegren’s “Bulwer-Lytton’s Novels and Isis Unveiled”??

    I’ve done a search through the internet booksellers, who list the title but have no copies on offer.
    A number of arresting coincidences have lined up for me that tell me I need to know about Edward Bulwer-Lytton. His fiction does not appear to rise to the level of his esoteric reputation, but The Voice in my dreams and the eclipses of the sky are telling me I have business with this guy.

    Is there perhaps a library that could put a copy in my hands?

    It’s so handy to have such savants in the commentariat!

  139. Your Kittenship, I haven’t spoken to my mother in almost thirty years and don’t propose to change that, and I doubt my dad remembers. In my case it’s more a habit than a necessity — when I still had to work outside the home, some of my jobs were day shift, and I got up early and went to bed early.

    Changeling, I’ll look forward to it! Next week will be an open post, for whatever that’s worth.

    Jill, that doesn’t really follow — think of all the taboos about sexual acts that don’t involve any risk of conception. It really does seem to be less pragmatic than that!

    Yorkshire, the physical culture movement was pretty enthusiastic about sexuality. Of course there were sharp limits to what you could say in print if you wanted to send things through the US postal system, but the general attitude seems to have been that, ahem, vigorous physical activity was to be encouraged.

    Patricia, you’re mostly right, but not entirely. My late mother-in-law would be closing in on her century if she was still alive, and she was an out-of-control rage junkie of the first order so long as nobody outside the immediate family was present. I never got to see one of her meltdowns, for which I consider myself very lucky. Still, your general point stands.

    JeffinWA, thanks for this!

    Bridge, fair enough — but if she was white, that would never have gotten into print.

    Lew, I don’t know. Gray didn’t mention that use, and when I want someone out of my life I haven’t had to resort to magic. Still, it would be worth experimenting!

    CM, thanks for this! I see I have some intriguing reading ahead of me. BTW, I dropped you an email — some of my emails lately seem to be ending up in spam filters, so if you don’t get it, let me know.

  140. @KKA

    There doesn’t seem to be an online version of Liljegren’s thin little book (60 pp) anywhere that I can find. We have a copy in my university library, but that is closed for the duration of the pandemic. I did check with the best Scandinavian antiquarian book aggregator site (, but they don’t list a copy for sale.

  141. @JMG,

    About where Mormons fit in when it comes to religions attitudes to sex, I really think it’s less a matter of mistaking a spectrum for a dichotomy, and more a matter of it being flat-out multidimensional. I don’t think it’s so much that we Mormons managed to find the right balance between two extreme views, as that we have a generally positive view of sexuality, while at the same time having very strong beliefs about who should do it and when.

    It’s a pretty common belief among Mormons – though probably more so in the late 20th century than now – that extramarital sex is the sin next to murder. At the same time, you can often hear prominent authorities in the Mormon church say that sexual intercourse between a properly-married husband and wife is the highest and most sublime expression of human love.

    Now, I personally don’t put much stock in either of these ideas, and I don’t think that a typical medieval Christian would have, either. But they’re the sort of things that you get when you have a culture that idealizes the husband-wife relationship, recoils against the negative view of material existence which (as we see it) hobbles many other branches of Christianity, and at the same time is big into boundary-policing – i.e. it is easier to divide the world up into people who fornicate and those who don’t than, for instance, those who are too focused on the mote in their brother’s eye, or those who neglect the poor).

    @Robert Mathiesen,

    Agreed that the quality of America’s coinage is way below what it used to be. I think we peaked in the late 19th century – Lady Liberty on all the coins, and have you seen the gorgeous notes that were introduced in 1896?

    And your talk about coins being “redolent of magical and/or spiritual power” makes me wonder if the first-ever appearance of bats on a quarter this January was some sort of omen.

  142. My late ex-mother-in-law never raged, though she grumbled at her husband – he was the temper tantrum expert! – but when it came to snide remarks and undermining people, she was Old Lady Amberville of Kingsport to the life. And yes, to say her ancestors were registered with the kennel club was a gross insult to the sweetest, sanest member of the family, who I spent a lot of time petting, when I didn’t retreat to my room and close the door.

  143. JMG, my grandma , like Sara’s, was a rage junkie too. We always feared picking up the paper one day to learn Grandpa had finally snapped and strangled her. Not a jury in the world would have convicted him if he had. She must have been aware she wasn’t right, as she spent a lot of time at church (Nazarene—she took me a few times but I remember little). In modern times they ‘d probably call her bipolar and keep her doped up. Mom went through a lot, as you may imagine, and she wasn’t right either. I have done my best to break the cycle. We may have all been victims of a generational curse; my great-grandfather had a (dare I say) fiendish bad temper. The curse, if there was one, may not have started with him, he too may have been a victim.

    It’s very difficult to find a priest whose bishop will let him address generational evil, and was even more difficult in the 20th century. Fortunately St. Michael is very decent about sending help. (The guy’s an angel, I tell ya! 😄). Anyway, to get to the point, if your problem with your Mom is also caused by the evil of a generational curse, a 30-year rift isn’t surprising, and I wish I knew how to help. I think there’s a lot more generational suffering out there than most people realize.

  144. @ Patricia Mathews

    In the women in my family, the “anger” gradient runs the other way. I was fortunate enough to know my great-grandmother who lived in the same house as my grandmother. As a child I was terrified of both women. They weren’t wilfully cruel (most of the time) but they had tongues sharper than a serpent’s tooth. If you stepped out of line you were in deep trouble. That went for the adult men too.

  145. Wesley, so noted!

    Patricia M, funny. The portrait of Leticia Amberville in The Nyogtha Variations was based on several elderly women I knew in fraternal-lodge circles in Seattle, and yes, I’m a little surprised that the Canine-American community hasn’t filed an objection to Charlotte d’Ursuras’ comment!

    Your Kittenship, as far as I know it’s not anything like that, but thank you.

  146. Dear Robert Matheisen and Gyren’Gimble:

    Thank you for your help. It looks like when the Fearful Plague is past, I can get my hands on a copy from a library in my city.

    On the subject of Bulwer-Lytton, I find that his work, the early stuff especially reproduces the tone of erudite farce that is so notable in the writings of the original Rosicrucian furor, and even uses some of the same scenarios and plot devices. Looks like B-L cut his teeth on Rosicrucian literature. Definitely a connection, there!

    In fact, I begin to see that clowning is part of the Rosicrucian egregor, alternated with discreet secrecy, scholarship, and a penchant for schism and vicious ad hominen attacks. Controversy seems to operate to keep the tradition alive.

  147. @Wesley My experience with the Mormon religion is much different.

    My grandmother’s father killed himself when it was discovered he sexually abused all of his daughters. My grandmother was semi-functional for the rest of her life due to anxiety and depression. My mother’s friend was impregnated by a church leader when she was nine (my Mom was born in 1921, so that’s the timeframe). In 2nd or 3rd grade, my first “boyfriend” wanted to play doctor and introduce me to the other two girls he planned to marry. My daughter went to the prom with an LDS kid who then informed her she wasn’t good enough and he only asked her to get next to one of her friends. It is fantastically common for LDS boys to have a non-LDS girlfriend and dump her to go on a mission.

    I’ve given LDS church a couple good college tries, Methodist, and Assemly of God (the latter being very embarrassing to admit). I know JMG has expressed some admiration for the Mormons – IF they could return to their magical roots. I don’t think they can. The unique thing about the Mormon religion is that they get men genuinely involved. That is because only men have the priesthood and are able to perform certain functions, even though Joseph Smith ordained women. If women regained the priesthood and could do what men do, I think the men would split and the empire would crumble.

    Who gets the priesthood in a gay marriage? Both? None? That question explains the Mormon’s strong opposition.

    I feel confident there is just as much pedophilic sexual abuse in the Mo church as the Catholic. The difference with the former is that the victims are mostly female.

  148. To get a view of positive view of sexuality from a Christian point of view I would recommend reading _The Wicker Man_–the book is different for both film versions. When the police officer is being tempted by the pagan girl he is thinking about his fiance and anticipating the joys of giving his virginity in the context of the sacred relationship of Christian marriage. In the film he just looks like a prude, at least the Christopher Lee version. One of the things to remember is that some early Protestants reacted to the Roman Catholic valuation of virginity–celibate clergy, monks, nuns, etc. by formulating a vision of the marital state as sacred. Consider that the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England used to include the following line in the wedding service: “with my body, I thee worship.”

    My ex, who had a Mormon 2nd wife, said that the saddest thing at Brigham Young University was young women who had been being faithful to their fiances who went on 2 yr. mission only to have the fiance return and declare that they needed to see other people. The young women were then cast back into the dating pool just as they expected to be planning their weddings.

  149. @Patricia, JMG, re pre-human civilizations

    Thank you for sharing that article. My own view on the subject of the visibility of mankind’s impact on the planet is that it will be very difficult for any future intelligent species that does extensive mining to miss it. You’re going to see an a boundary layer with an abrupt absence of fossil fuels and other mineral resources from the rock below the boundary. At the same time, sediments from the boundary itself will contain abnormally high amounts of lead, chromium, and other industrial metals that our civilization is shedding into the environment.

    Contra our host’s view on the idea of the “anthropocene,” I think that if our history unfolds in the optimistic way he presented it in “The Next Ten Billion Years” then it will be a good label for the eleven-million-year-or-so epoch during which the human race is alive, and during which we extensively reshape the earth’s ecology by our practice of agriculture. Pre-industrial societies have already shown that it’s possible to sustainably put about a third of the land in the Earth’s temperate zones under the plow.

    Thus, an epoch in which a large portion of the Earth’s plant and animal life inhabits ecosystems radically different than anything that came before would, in my opinion, justify the “anthropocene” name. (Which means that – optimistically – we are currently living in the Pleistocene-Anthropocene transition). And the same also goes for the Cyons, Corvids, etc. If they engage in agriculture or otherwise modify the ecology of large parts of the Earth’s surface for several million years, then they get an epoch named after them.

  150. @Logan Jones @JMG

    Trying to get this in before it’s too late.

    For what it’s worth Yogiraj Satgurunath says many Brits had prior lives in ancient Rome. He specifically mentioned that the karmic desires for conquest and hegemonic influence that shaped ancient Rome played out again in Great Britain’s rise to power.

    As an aside when one of his disciples asked he said many Americans had prior lives in ancient Greece.

  151. I’ve not read the Wicker Man, just seen the Lee movie. I tend to like the idea of marriage having deep meaning but I certainly can’t opine as to whether that or ritual orgy produces stronger magical outcomes. Maybe it’s personal preference. Maybe it depends on your objective. I’m unsure that sex is important to magical practice at all.

    I’m fine with men and women being different and having different roles. I don’t mean to sound like a feminist.

    Advertising and other forms of propaganda/deception are magic. In that sense, the mainstream LDS church is magical. The Lost Mormonism website portrays something unrecognizable to today’s average Mormon. But I think it’s what the Daybell/Vallow people were doing – their kids are dead and buried in Idaho.

    There is an episode of the Simpsons where Bart’s mom is pregnant with Lisa and has a splitting headache. Bart has a pot that he’s banging with a spoon while yelling “I am so great” over and over.

    That image of Bart springs into my head as the personification of the Mormon church. I hate for JMG to feed it’s ego.

  152. Patricia, thanks for this. Of course the Ice Age and preglacial civilizations needn’t have been industrial — they also needn’t have been our very specific kind of industrial society, leaving traces that we would recognize as the products of industry!

    Wesley, fair enough. My critique of the Anthropocene label was focused on the assumption made by its proponents that something like modern industrial society would be around long enough to have an epoch named after it. That said, field agriculture is only about five thousand years old, and it could well be replaced by other means of food production in the millennia ahead.

    Panda, hmm! Interesting.

  153. Tangentially related to the topic and to a number of the comments:

    A book that may be of interest: ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ by Harriet A. Jacobs (1813-1897); edited by Jean Fagin Yellin (Harvard University Press, 1987). Annotated.

    I just finished reading this fascinating autobiography. The author (and the editor in many of the footnotes) made clear the evils of slavery and wreckage it created in the lives of of its victims and perpetrators. There were many surprises, including this nugget, which Ms. Jacobs related (this was in New York state, c. 1843): “My answer was that he colored servants ought to be dissatisfied with themselves, for having too much self-respect to submit to such treatment; that there was no difference in the price of board for colored and white servants, and there was no justification for difference of treatment. I staid (sic) a month after this, and finding I was resolved to stand up for my rights, they concluded to treat me well. Let every colored man and woman do this, and eventually we shall cease to be trampled underfoot by our oppressors.” (p. 177, chapter XXXV).

    An earlier chapter XIII (The Church and Slavery) mentioned how certain African cultural practices were condemned; a footnote lists a few examples: the use of coffee grounds for divination, cards for conjuring, and the making of balls filled with roots. Footnote references listed 1) Robert F, Thompson, ‘Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy’ (New York, Random House, 1983), and, 2) Newbell Puckett, ‘Folk Beliefs of the of the Southern Negro’ (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1966).

    Ms. Jacobs was a friend of Amy and Isaac Post, who were not only abolitionists but early believers in Spiritualism.

  154. This is probably too late in the cycle, but thinking about the idea of “Try!” and the similarity to the “pursuit of happiness” phrase in the Declaration of Independence. It’s no wonder really that occultism has been a much more important part of our national identity than perhaps we realize.

  155. OT: On The Grand Mutation, you speculated about the caused of population loss during the ling descent. Yesterday’s Gainesville Sun had an article in the Health section, claiming the rate of death from heart attacks and strokes was quite high among younger workers whose paychecks kept getting smaller and smaller. IIRC, the headline said something like “Pay cuts are killing young people.”

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