All About the Woo: A Short History of the New Age

“Can you blame us, grabbing for whatever remains of the sacred still exist in such an absurd world?”

It is too easy in our secular world to characterize New Age thought as a mélange of Asian, Levantine, and obsolete metaphysical ideas, only fit for those who have become spiritually lost in the wake of a seemingly broken Abrahamic culture.

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In both theory and practice the “New Age mindset” can be seen as a reforming force against rigid religious and scientistic beliefs that resulted from the technological age and the fundamentalist religious reactions against them. Many skeptics call New Age “irrational” or “anti-rational” but this is only true in specific cases.

It must be put in a broader social context. There have been two Great Awakenings in American history, those of the 1730s, and then the first half of the 19th Century, and there is a good case to make that New Age thought amounts to a third—this one embracing not just grassroots Christianity, but contact and introduction of global religions and traditions that could only have been made possible by mass communication, mass travel, and computer technology.

“New Age” culture is a rediscovery of spirituality by way of a variety of practices in which one seeks direct contact with the Otherworld that our blindered consumerist bubble’s thunder and fury tries to hide from us. Many times, the New Age lifestyle involves syncretism between spiritual belief-systems, a “rediscovery of ancient wisdom” with a therapeutic spin to it; it thus has elements of reformation against our control-obsessed and nature-negating society.

Consciousness-alteration (through psychoactive plants, drumming, patterned breathing, or meditating) has always been a pathway to supernatural and divine experience. It directly bypasses the effects of what sociologist Max Weber called the “bureaucratization of charisma.” By “bureaucratization” Weber meant the hierarchy of priests who interpret and rein in what constitutes genuine religious illumination—or, in our present day, the parallel hierarchy of experts, scientific and managerial, who decide what is knowledge itself and what are legitimate experiences/practices and spread those criteria via mass media.

But we have to go way back to determine what makes so-called New Age thought stand out today, as a reaction against.

The Catholic church hierarchy existed partly to control the social effects of an charismatic individual’s mystical illumination and the reforming, evangelical movements that almost always follow in that person’s wake. German abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) barely managed to escape indictment for apostasy by the Man when she codified and illustrated her divine visions in a series of books, and became a spiritual healer via trance and herbalism. Her plainsong compositions are the pinnacle of ethereal trance music.

Joachim of Flora (1135-1202) drew inspiration from John’s Revelation and propounded a vision of evolutive ages that he identified with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; Joachim viewed the Trinity as the movement of millennial ages—the purpose of all history as motion towards a paradisiacal New Age.

Joachim said we will move from secular, human laws to become free beings existing only under the law of love.

The Man did not like this eschaton one bit, because according to Joachim, the Church would play no part in bringing about human salvation; it was a covenant between God and all humanity.

This idea of ceaseless movement towards perfection would influence many philosophers, especially the mystic Jacob Boehme and philosopher of history Georg Hegel. Joachim’s vision of the “perfectibility” of humanity would resonate down the centuries and find a secular form in the “material progress” promised by Enlightenment science. Ultimately, it will lead to our present-day transhumanist utopianism as expounded by thinkers such as Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec.

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When the Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment ratified direct contact between the individual and God, without mediation of a clergy, believers were no longer limited to the rituals and top-down worldview of Abrahamic-Aristotelian beliefs as fixed by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

But the Reformation rose simultaneously with the scientific method and the concept of “fact.” This created an impetus for an even more strict system of dogmas against two entwined respective enemies:  Satan and the “superstitious” folkways that encompassed everything from fairy belief to the maleficarum of the cunning person.

For many radical Reformists, there was little difference between the “magic” of the Catholic liturgy and that of a necromancer. With the Puritans and evangelists came an ever-shrinking epistemology and ever-growing set of rules micro-managing every aspect of a Christian believer’s life.

The elite scientific establishment functions as a secular priest class. With Renaissance humanism and Francis Bacon’s empiricism, the Enlightenment rationalized and elevated the individual conscience to a divine right. Prior to the rise of methodological science in the 18th century the folk wisdom and folk remedies of the cunning person (eventually called the witch) prevailed in the healing of the common people’s minds and bodies. These traditional methods were centuries old, and the priests punished its practitioners. Science then joined in the censure as a system of repression of folkways taking countless forms, from a rationalizing of cosmogony/cosmology to the Malleus Maleficarum of the witch hunters.

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Marcilio Ficino translated the supposedly Pharoanic-era Corpus Hermeticum sometime in the 1460s; a century later it was determined to be a post-Egyptian Hellenistic forgery. Regardless, its principles founded the western esoteric tradition (and were corroborated as having some genuinely ancient provenance by the discovery of Gnostic and Arabic alchemical texts in the 20th century).

When Renaissance scholars like Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, and Tommaso Campanella revealed this esoteric corpus, an alternative stream of knowledge sprang into existence that would run parallel to the new science of Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes. Occult practice became a field of study, with scientific experimentation and personal anecdote to add to the ancient body of works.

The Reformation, coupled with the Renaissance scholars’ discovery of esoteric philosophy, allowed ideas such (as Joachim’s) that humankind was unfinished as opposed to fallen to burst forth with the power of a psychic tsunami.

Except for the experiences of reformers such as Saints Bernard or Francis, most of the products of these mystics such as Hildegard or Joachim’s were stamped out before they could become charismatized. Occultists, doctors, healers, and scholars such as Raymond Lull, John Dee, Giordano Bruno, Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, Cornelis Agrippa, Athanasius Kircher, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and Count Saint-Germain claimed visions and familiarity with unseen forces that often schooled them in the manner of shaman-guides. Many of them paid enormous social prices for their explorations, including the ultimate: the stake.

In reaction to the Enlightenment’s rationality, the 18th-19th century Romantic movement’s “individual conscience” included room for products of Imagination, as Coleridge and Blake defined them: poetic visions and art as religious experiences, and vice versa. Coleridge believed all these came from the same timeless realm of the World-Soul. 

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Our destination will appear scattershot. Incongruent. But these are virtues. The end picture of this essay will be—well, there won’t be one, because let’s face it we’re approaching a time when it’s an ask-a-fish-what-water-is moment. You have been affected by New Age thought in some fundamental ways, even if it’s as insignificant as pouring fuel on your cynicism, or rolling out your yoga mat, or putting up your dreamcatcher. The story culminates in the absurdities of The Secret and the film summation What the (Bleep) do we Know? and in a no man’s land between religion and science.

But the above is a sort of pre-prehistory of woo-woo. As we’ll see, the majority of these “New” ideas represent traditions supposedly destroyed by the acid bath of scientific modernity–despite the fact that modern science evolved from activities of the Royal Society of London, which was founded in part by the second and third generations of mystic Rosicrucians; chemistry as a discipline, and arguably science as we know it, would not exist if it weren’t for the experiments of those “poor, blundering” alchemist-occultists of the preceding millennium.

The so-called New Age as we now know it was proclaimed as early as the turn of the 17th century—by this Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, also known as the Rosicrucians. So here we go:

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The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz is published in 1616. It is claimed, then disowned by German priest Johannes Valentinus Andreae (1586-1654). This “joke” novella, along with two anonymous tracts published a few years earlier that heralded the coming of a secret anti-Catholic brotherhood, inspires the creation of a real Society of the Rosy Cross, a brotherhood of healer-scientist-mystics, that exists to this day. In fact, there are no less than 37 separate organizations claiming lineage from “Rosenkreuz’s” Sufi and Egyptian-inspired movement.

In Frances Yates’s excellent The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, she claims that the foundations for Rosicrucian principles are partly to be found in British mathemetician Dr. John Dee’s activities at Rudolph II’s court in 1589 Bohemia. On this trip, Dee met with alchemist and author Heinrich Khunrath. Over the previous century since Ficino had translated Plato, the Neo-Platonists, and the Corpus Hermeticum in the 1470s, a network of ceremonial magicians, alchemists, and Kabbalists had come into existence across Europe, helped in part by the followers of Ficino, Giordano Bruno, and Tommaso Campanella. It is very possible that this Prague meeting and the alchemical-hermetic writings of Dee, Khunrath, and alchemist Michael Maier inspired the creation of the “legendary brotherhood” of Rosicrucians, by persons unknown.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)—scientist and philosopher posits, without explanation, the pineal gland as the interface between the immaterial soul and the body. Three centuries later, this tiny organ within the brain will become a contemporary New Age “fairy dust” explanation for a host of phenomena, from DMT visions to astral travel to the body’s self-healing powers. But we all know what also issued forth from Rene’s pen: a totalistic philosophy of biology=mechanism from which we’re still recovering like pernicious anemia.

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In 1726, Jonathan Swift (1640-1667) publishes Gulliver’s Travels, whose third episode involves a disc-shaped flying island-city full of highly intelligent but absurd beings. Swift’s characters claim Mars has two moons a century before this fact is discovered. Swift’s imaginative gesture will eventually be quoted by some of today’s parapsychologists as an example of “precognition” or “reverse causality,” as (eventually) will many elements of the science fiction and horror stories of H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Clarke, and Philip K. Dick.

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Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) moonlights in studying alchemical texts while discovering the laws of motion and gravity and forever revolutionizing our understanding of the large-scale universe. He also firmly believes in the principles of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus and the secret of the Philosophers’ Stone. Scientists and historians will blush at this, wave their hands, and mutter over this scandalous “hobby” of rationalism’s patron saint. Those in the know, however, know.

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Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) is a polymath and trance medium, and has extended intercourse with angelic and extraterrestrial beings, and in The Earths of the Universe (1758) details his experiences.

Before age ten, he teaches himself breathing techniques that induce deep relaxation and a form of conscious hypnagogia that helps him think—and, one might say, access by mild oxygen deprivation a field of consciousness greater than the finite one into which the physical brain has thrown him (we will encounter this “reducing valve” concept of the brain’s normal function 150 years later in the works of Frederic Myers and many other theorizers of the source of altered consciousness).

By age 14 Swedenborg is attending Uppsala University. Over the next four decades, he becomes a parliamentary lord, the national overseer of the Swedish mining industries, a journal publisher, and designs submarines and weaponry. 

Always his pastor father’s injunctions against “self-love” keep him humble in the face of these achievements, yet he seeks fame. In 1734, he publishes his first “scientific” work on the human soul. In it he anticipates the idea that the source of the universe’s forms are fractal holograms that emerge from a subatomic field—a concept that will be conjectured by neurosurgeon Karl Pribram in the 1980s. He moves to London.

During 1743-44 he suffers increasingly vivid visions of hell and the worthlessness of his scientific endeavors and writes about these experiences in his Spiritual Diary. 

He exhibits clairvoyance several times, most famously when he sees a fire threatening his own home in Stockholm while he is 300 miles away in Gothenburg. He is at a soirée at the time and remotely tracks the progress of the fire and is relieved to see it has been extinguished only a few houses down from his. Several days later, word is received from Stockholm that there was a terrible fire—and its path was just as he described. 

After his breakdown of 1744, he is transformed, drops his scientific studies and begins “astral travel” in his long hypnagogic and trance states. He claims to visit heaven and hell, and learns that they are in effect the products of an individuals’ own inclinations and actions in life; all thoughts and actions “echo” in another dimension of vibrations where we create our eventual spiritual realms that we shall confront after death. This concept is startlingly akin to Sufi meditational-recitational practices in the alam al-mithal or transfigured earth, in which the Sufi creates their “palace” within the imaginal realm that exists between the earth and the absolute. Swedenborg describes a threefold heaven whose first level is much like earth life. His encounters with angels reveal specific traits that will be repeated many hundreds of times when people encounter otherworldly beings, especially “ufonauts”: a cascade of information entering the mind that later cannot be recalled; extreme compression of meaning into multi-dimensional sounds and written characters; instant mystical intuition of the connectedness of everything through a very intense light. 

He warns of dealing with some classes of elemental spirit beings, and denounces human attempts to interact with them—which will, of course, go unheeded to this day…

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(1501-1804) Slaves from Nigeria, indentured by the British and French to Haiti and the Dominican Republic colonies, encode their Iwa pantheon into Roman Catholicism and syncretize a new religion called Santeria. The use of patterned drumming and dancing to induce trance is used, preserving their shamanist techniques of deity-invocation to the present.

 

Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815): German investigator of altered states of consciousness produced by “animal magnetism,” experiments with them and discovers pure psychical gold. Mesmer uses the alchemist and naturopath Paracelsus’s 27 axioms on magnetism in biology, as well as publishing a dissertation on astrological influences upon living beings. A species of this “mesmerism” is later called hypnosis, whose reliability and even existence is still debated. He designed special circular devices to treat multiple patients called baquets replete with iron bars into which he passed his “magnetic current”. He also practiced a form of proto-reiki, passing his hands over the patient’s body while staring into the entranced’s eyes. His student the Marquis de Puysegur experiments with telepathy in induced mesmeric trance, trials that will be replicated 90 years later by the Society for Psychical Research, psychologist Pierre Janet, and medical professor Charles Richet. Investigating councils into mesmerism (one including Benjamin Franklin) concluded autosuggestion was the answer; Mesmer’s actual body had nothing to do with the cures.

The fact that current psychology still has no idea how autosuggestion physically works can only cast doubt on this doubtful explanation.

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Banker Thomas Taylor (1758-1835) has a mystical blow-out while reading the Neo-Platonist philosopher Proclus. He translates Plato, Aristotle, and the Neo-Platonists into English, influencing the Romantic poets Shelley, Keats, Blake, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, as well as Emerson. He lectures encyclopedically on the ancient mysteries to the leading lights of the day. An animal rights activist, he publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes. Many scholars agree that without Taylor there would have been no English Romantic movement—the counter-Enlightenment to “Newton’s sleep” of materialism, as Blake put it (perhaps Blake was unaware of Sir Isaac’s moonlighting career in which he independently studied almost everything Taylor was lecturing on). Neo-Platonism will live on as the main stream of esoteric thought for three hundred years, up to the present.

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Captain John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (1779-1829) claims that the Earth is hollow and a civilization exists within it. He bases this idea on a hypothesis made in 1692 by astronomer Edmond Halley (1656-1742), with added help from Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher’s Mundus Subterraneus (1664). Symmes’s “Circular 1” announced his intention to form a group of adventurers to reach the entrances at the North Pole. Finding no takers, he pseudonymously publishes the utopian novel Symzonia in 1818, naming this inner world magnanimously in his own honor.

The hollow earth’s civilization, long believed in by Buddhists and Hindus as “Agarttha,” will becomes a running theme in both alternative spiritualities such as Theosophy and contemporary accounts of ancient races that have plagued humanity, such as Richard Shaver’s “Detrimental Robots” (the “Deros,” 1944).

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby’s (1802-1866) bouts with tuberculosis as a young man are temporarily remissed by self-induced “excitable moments,” leading him to conclude the arrow of causation between mind and body occurs in that order, with mind taking precedence. He cures himself of TB and becomes obsessed with Mesmerism and hypnosis. He uses the techniques to alleviate and even cure patients of ailments by way of an easily-hypnotizable young man who diagnoses the patients and then plants healing autosuggestion in their minds. Quimby eventually rejects Mesmerism in favor of the “mind-cure,” and writes many books on the “New Thought“–a forerunner to the New Age movement whose importance via its offshoots cannot be overstressed, as we shall see. Amongst his adherents is Mary Baker Eddy, who will later disavow the New Thought movement and start the First Church of Christ, Scientist or Christian Science in 1879, which to this day eschews modern medicine in favor of faith healing.

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Joseph Smith (1805-1844): treasure-hunter and dabbler in Freemasonic occult practices, claims contact at age 23 with a greater intelligence calling itself the Angel Moroni, who eventually shows him the location of gold tablets that become the basis of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. He translates the pictographic language on the tablets by means of a special scrying stone. He gathers hundreds then thousands of converts whose social practices and occult spiritual beliefs clash with those of the Man. Were these events to happen today, Smith would probably suffer the same fate he did back then: lynched at the hands of an angry mob as a “sorcerer.”

*****Starting in the 1820s, following the arrest and disappearance of anti-Freemasonist William Morgan (who threatened to reveal the brotherhood’s secrets) an anti-Masonic hysteria engulfs America, culminating in the creation of the Anti-Masonic political Party in 1832. Although several of the American republic’s founders were Freemasons, the secretive fraternity has spread voluminously yet suffered under increasing rumors of back-room political machinations and religious subversion. This continues off and on until the 1860s, when the Civil War provides an opportunity to charge the Masons’s trans-state status as a perfect cover for spies. There will be periodic flare-ups of anti-Masonic feeling in America from this point forward. They will be seen as a front for the Illuminati, about whom rumors plagued Washington and Jefferson but in reality was a small Bavarian group internationally banned in 1776.

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Frederic Hervey Foster Quin (1799-1878) brings homeopathy from Germany to England in the 1830s, about the time mesmerism also becomes enormously popular there. Homeopathy’s originator Dr. Samuel Hahnemann’s (1755-1843) edict that “like cures like” via sympathetic vibrations is a restatement of 16thcentury Paracelsian principles. Homeopathy will be popular in Germany to one degree or another to the present day, enjoying resurgences especially during the lebensreform back-to-nature movement of the turn of the 20thcentury. Nobel winner Luc Montagnier (1932-), discoverer of the HIV virus, becomes a scientific investigator of homeopathic principles in the 2000s and be ostracized by the scientific community as a result.

*****The New England Transcendentalists engage with both nature mysticism and spiritual raptures of in an American brand of Romanticism. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) rejects industrial society for a natural anarchism and does a night in jail for refusing to pay taxes. A century later, his Walden (1854) will form a philosophical cornerstone of the back-to-earth hippie movement, and his Civil Disobedience inspires Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Just at the dawn of Spiritualism’s overwhelming outbreak in America, British writer Catherine Crowe (1803-1876) publishes The NightSide of Nature in 1848, an attack on the positivist pretensions of scientism and an investigation of ghosts and their attendant phenomena. Crowe had already translated and published The Seeress of Prevorst, an account of a clairvoyant and healer Friederike Hauffe written by Goethe’s friend Justinus Kerner. Adept at astral travel, the mortally-ill Hauffe could also apparently read texts with her stomach.

Like what befalls many a paranormal investigator, Crowe briefly suffers a psychotic/demon-haunted episode in 1854 but recovers. NightSide remains a classic in open-minded rationalism towards the paranormal.

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In 1848 in upstate New York, two of the three Fox sisters, Katie and Margaret, claim contact in their house with the ghost of a murdered peddler through wall-rapping, successfully communicating with it and inaugurating the Spiritualist movement, which would be enormously popular until the present day in various forms, especially America. Many charlatans jump on the bandwagon, including their older sister Leah. The sisters travel to England and Europe demonstrating their seances. By 1853 people trying their hand at seance table-rapping and spirit-raising sessions experiment in just about every town in America. Within 20 years there are hundreds of formally-organized spiritualist associations in America, the UK, and Europe. The scientific establishment mercilessly attacks both the mediums and the believers–anyone, really, who believes in anything “supernatural”.

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A year before the rappings began, medium Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910) published The Principles of Nature. Barely literate and considered “slow,” Davis expounds on truths in erudite vocabulary beyond his normal consciousness while channeling. He will become a ghost and poltergeist investigator, testing the authenticity by his second sight. During the Reconstructionist period, Spiritualism steps into the breach of a demoralized America in which people desperately want to connect with their passed-on kin from the Civil War. The movement is roundly attacked by almost all big-ticket, organized religions as a practice either 1) treading on God’s territory (the afterlife) or 2) the work of Satan deceiving people away from the traditional churches.

After his wife leaves him, ex-priest and radical socialist Alphonse Louis Constant (1810-1875) meets Pythagorean mystic Jozef Maria Hoene-Wronski in 1852, whose ideas on the creation of the universe awaken Constant. He then studies the Kabbalistic Zohar and other texts, but only in translation (knowing Hebrew was a prerequisite to be a true occultist since the 2nd century ACE). He changes his names to Eliphas Levi and after 1854 publishes a series of books that spur on the practice of ceremonial magic and 19th century’s occult revival, influencing Helena Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and many other groups and individual practitioners. Crowley considers himself a reincarnation of Levi. Arthur E. Waite will translate Levi’s corpus into English within a few decades. Levi’s equating the Tarot’s 22 major arcana trumps with the Tree of Life’s 22 paths is considered by Kabbala experts as a spurious interpretation, yet still taken as a basis for analysis and meditated upon by practitioners to this day.

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1856: French Mesmerist Hippolyte Ravail (1804-1869) experiments with mediumship and hypnosis. He believes the spirits of the dead are communicating hidden knowledge of spiritual evolution through mediums and automatic writings. He transcribes The Spirits Book under the pseudonym Allan Kardec. Reincarnation and a karmic economy figure in this cosmic scheme, as well as the idea that nature spirits (“elementals”) can incarnate as humans through their painfully slow spiritual evolution. While this is a common belief in Hinduism and Buddhism, the notion will also be popularized through Madame Blavasky, Annie Besant, and Alice Bailey’s brand of Theosophism. Five decades later, in the 1950s the same concept will appear as the “Starseed” movement, this time involving extraterrestrials beings incarnating on earth to help humanity’s evolution.

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Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879), a 14-year old asthmatic girl, encounters a “little white lady” after entering a trance before a Pyrenees grotto in Lourdes, Southern France in 1858. It appears to her 18 times. She visits the grotto every day for two weeks, receiving instruction. On the 9th appearance the Lady tells her to drink from the stream and eat the herbs beside it, which she does. The muddy waters of the stream are said to have gone clear from this point forward. On the 13th visit the Lady asks that a chapel be built. In the 150 years since her vision, 69 cures have been found inexplicable by the medical establishment. This area about the grotto had a history of “fairy” apparitions prior to Bernadette’s experiences. Archaeological survey has discovered that the caves of this part of the Pyrenees were used as dwellings during the Paleolithic period some 10,000 years ago. Pieces of earthenware are wall paintings have been discovered in the area. Doubtless shamans used the cavern systems for their rituals and performances.

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Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) travels the world and establishes himself as a trance medium in the 1850s. After a career teaching freed slaves to read, he founds the first American Rosicrucian order, the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis, in 1861. The Fraternitas avoided his teachings on the spiritual aspects of sex (a form of tantric practice) but these are accepted by the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. He preaches on pre-Adamic humanity and that the human race was at least 40,000-100,000 years old–now a commonly accepted fact (if not far older). His writings influence Helena Blavatsky, who we’ll meet very soon. For 20 years before his untimely death he published dozens of books on sacred sex and the manifold nature of humanity.

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Freemason R.W. Little founds the Societas Rosicruciana in East Anglia in 1860. It attracts Eliphas Levi, Pascal Beverly Randolph, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Wynn Westcott and Samuel Mathers, the latter two who will go on to form the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Theodor Reuss, who will eventually head the Ordo Templi Orientiis, is also a member. Masonic Scottish Rite Grandmaster Albert Pike charters an American lodge in 1880. Public accusations of tantric sex done in both theory and practice douses the British SRIA in cold water.

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American “electro-alchemist” Cyrus Teed (1839-1908) uses electrical fields to self-induce altered states of consciousness. He succeeds in 1868 in materializing a perfect female deity who opens the energies of his pineal gland, which in turn activates his entire chakra system (his words). He discovers he is immersed in a sea of vibrations. Through visions he intuits that matter and energy are the same phenomena under different descriptions. He comes to believe everything in the universe exists in a hollow sphere and founds a mystical religion. In 1869 he communicates with otherworldly beings that impel him to found “Koreshanity,” a utopian communal religion that founded its “New Jerusalem” in 1894 in Estero, Florida. Teed teaches that the universe is concave, and that the earth is a hollow concave sphere.

Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886) astounds thousands of people with feats of levitation, psychokinetic manifestations, and trance-channeling. He becomes the least-maligned spiritualist in history, convincing many scientific skeptics of his abilities, amongst them Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. On one occasion, he is said to have levitated eight feet into the air inside a building, traveling through an open window and reentering through another. All scientific investigations of him find no evidence of fraud, unlike hundreds of other mediums.

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Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886)—saint, mystic, and trance medium gains an enormous following in India and preaches universalism in religion. His “Gospel,” over two thousand pages transcribed by acolytes, is still in print.

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In 1870, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)–politician and Spiritualist/Theosophist adherent we’ve met before as a Rosicrucian–excretes the ghastly novella Vril: The Power of the Coming Race, a piece about a technologically advanced underground alien society. Lytton, a friend of Eliphas Levi, had previously published the esoteric novel Zanoni. The mythology of “Vril,” a super-powerful energy force, will be believed wholesale by the radical right-wing German Thule Society in 1917 (progenitors of the Nazi Party) and eventually the esotericists in Himmler’s SS. In the early 1940s, Vril will also become a PR ploy to sell Bovril, an equally ghastly popular soup made of liquefied cow.

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Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901) publishes Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882. We owe so much to Plato: His one mention of a destroyed super-advanced civilization in The Timaeus dialogue 25 centuries later spawns a huge cottage-industry of spurious research, overreaching speculation, and just plain nonsense.

1882: American Spiritualist dentist John Newbrough (1828-1891) engages automatic writing via angels to channel Oasphe: A New Bible. This 900-page work contains information on ancient languages and events supposedly impossible for this small town tooth-wrangler to have known, and tells the history and order of the universe, ethics, and the new “true” history of the Bible.

It will find vicious competition 60 years later with the Urantia Book, which deals with the same brand of alternate cosmic history. The theme from “Jaws” quietly begins in the background.

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The hidden  “Great Mahatmas” of the Himalayas telepathically contact Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre (1842-1909). He writes The Mission of India in Europe in 1886, followed by The Kingdom of Agarttha, a text about the corrupted state of the world and an underground technologically and spiritually advanced race that, as John Symmes believed in 1810, long ago withdrew from the fallen surface-dwellers. D’Alveydre preaches Synarchism, a new politics based upon proto-fascist politics and hardcore Rosicrucianism. ****When you hear talk today about the anti-modern world alt-right’s “natural affinity” for the “irrationality” of the occult, this is the primary source of what they’re talking about. A line can be traced directly from d’Alveydre to the figures Gerard Encausse (“Papus”), Rene Schwaller de Lubicz (who may also have been the mysterious “alchemist” Fulcanelli), Julius Evola, SS “Vril”-worshippers, the neo-Nazi Savitri Devi, and today’s heathen reactionaries who entirely reject Judeo-Christian religion. What they seem to have in common is the view that western modernism is the ultimate expression of the Kali Yuga, the corrupt, dissipative, greed-soaked, and evil world period described Hindu thought…so anything opposing our principles of materialism, egalitarianism, democracy, and humanism is ipso facto at least a part of the solution. Thinkers like D’Alveydre, Rene Guenon, and Julius Evola consider traditionalism the basis of their philosophies, but where it leads some of them is straight back to monarchy, “Platonic”/Hindu caste systems, hatred, and pitiless destruction of the “Other.”

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Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) founds the Theosophical movement in 1875 along with journalist Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907) and lawyer/occultist William Judge (1851-1896). The medium Blavatsky single-handedly popularizes the idea that a hidden civilization exists in Asia (the “Hidden Wise Men” of the Himalayas, or the “Nine”) and that the human cosmos is controlled by the Great Mahatmas, spiritually advanced once-human angelic beings of a higher dimension. She also expounds on the lost civilization of Atlantis—a hot topic. She is also eventually proved a fraudulent medium by the Society for Psychical Research (more of whom later).

Darwin’s theory of natural selection (which, incidentally, was concisely prefigured by Scottish philosopher David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) presented in clear exposition the principle of organic mutation towards a more fit relation to an organism’s environment. This, Blavatsky and her followers claim, is a minor biological-materialist spin of Vedantic ideas thousands of years old. All beings are moving from life to life towards perfection, if not just physical fitness to a contingent physical environment.

But the influence of Blavatsky’s movement in “New Age” thought and practice cannot be underestimated. Theosophy would impact just about every aspect of society: art (premiere abstractionist painter Wassily Kandinsky’s influential essay “On the Spiritual in Art”); avant-garde music (Scriabin); politics (Annie Besant was a major socialist activist before and during her Theosophical leadership). Mohandas Gandhi would praise Theosophical principles his entire life, and Nehru as well. Jack London, L. Frank Baum, and painter-mystic Nicolas Roerich are all practicing Theosophists.

Eranos

1889: Swiss Parliamentarian Alfred Pioda plans on turning a small village called Acona into a Theosophical community. The initial attempt fails, but a decade later pianist Ida Hoffman and Belgian industrialist Henri Oedenkoven name the place Monte Verita. It is another experiment in back-to-earth, vegetarian living. Dancer Isadora Duncan and occultist/O.T.O. founder Theodor Reuss among many others visit for extended periods. “The Mountain of Truth” lasts two decades. In conjunction with, perhaps due to the Acona community, the German lebensreform (living reform) movement is named in 1896, although it had been in existence perhaps since Goethe’s time and inspired by his nature communions. Vegetarianism, nudism, abstinence from alcohol, and sunbathing figure in this health reform. Writer Herman Hesse is an enthusiastic living reformer and pens his novels about natural spontaneity and non-conformity that influence the Beat writers then the hippie movements four decades later. An amphitheater near Monte Vertita is transformed into Casa Gabriella by the very rich Dutch socialite Olga Frobe-Kapteyn into the site for the Eranos Conferences, chaired by analytical psychologist C.G. Jung. Eranos becomes a brand name publishing house for cross-cultural religious and occult studies, involving such names as Erich Neumann, Mircea Eliade, Gershom Scholem, Joseph Campbell and James Hillman.

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Pharmacist John Uri Lloyd (1849-1936) writes the popular novel Etidorhpa (spell it backwards) in 1895, a double-framed hollow-earth story. When it is first published, Lloyd claims that he discovered the manuscript. The second frame story involves a protagonist, Drury, who receives visits from a ghostly projection of “The Man,” who tells Drury about his encounters with a small, bald, being-guide who resembles an alien. The being expounds a philosophy that extols the evolution of human consciousness, anticipates Einstein’s energy=matter equation, the zero-point flux field, and attacks then-contemporary materialist science. Naming one’s daughter Etidorhpa becomes a short fad on the success of the work.

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Philologist Frederic Myers (1843-1901, pictured) and a group of scholars and scientists found the Society for Psychical Research in 1882 to investigate mediumship, telekinesis, clairvoyance, trance communications, automatic writing, and evidence of reincarnation. It attracts membership of renowned physicist Sir William Crookes, philosophers Henry Sidgwick, William James, and Henri Bergson, writer Arthur Conan Doyle, and many others. Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder with Charles Darwin of the theory of natural selection, is a hardcore Spiritualist and wary of the skepticism he encounters when the SPR exposes fraudulent mediums (which they do a lot). Lawyer Edmund Gurney, Myers, and Frank Podmore publish Phantasms of the Living in 1886, detailing hundreds of “crisis apparitions” of persons seen by friends and relatives usually within 24-0 hours of that individual’s death. Podmore and Gurney, both skeptics, determine that many times the apparitions are seen at the very moment of that person’s death, or just after. The duo spent years personally tracking down both the percipients to the apparitions and witnesses to the person’s death, timing them and gaining details as to their environment, what is said, etc. This is followed in 1889 by the Census of Hallucinations, a compendium of 1,684 “veridical” apparition sightings/sensings culled from a survey of 17,000 persons’ stories. This core set, like those of Phantasms, was carefully checked. The tentative conclusion: a species of telepathy (as Myers called it) must be posited in order for these occurrences to be possible.

Leonora Piper

The SPR investigates many dozens of spiritualist mediums then eschews on the whole, debunking most as frauds. Its American branch, however, would introduce Leonora Piper’s astonishing mediumship to the world. Like Daniel Home, all attempts to prove her fraudulent through “cold reading,” “hot reading,” accomplices, etc. fail. She is active for 17 years as an SPR case study.

Myers writes a compelling, rigorously scientific book on hidden human powers, Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, which many even-minded readers consider the best book ever written on the paranormal. In this work, Myers distinguishes between the Supraliminal Self and the Subliminal Self, the latter being equated with all the unconscious memories and forces latent in humanity (recall that this was pre-Freud and Jung). His two-part model equated with Ego-Superego and Id respectively, but without the negative associations Freud brought to the Id’s animalistic drives. For Myers it was a purposeful élan vital with creative aspects. He viewed aberrant states of mind and body such as neurotic hysteria, spontaneous trance, and psychosis not necessarily as negative states but evolutive potentialities making themselves known. It is our no-nonsense, get-back-to-work-Jack culture that marginalizes and medicalizes “sloth” and “hysterias” as anomalies begging correction–states that would in earlier times be considered demonic possession and even earlier as signs of the blessed “second sight” or the spirit-election of a shaman. By means of the Subliminal Self, Myers attempted to explain most of the altered states of consciousness that produce paranormal activity–clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy, psychokinesis, poltergeists, knowledge of “past lives” (which could, to Myers, have been memories by loved ones accessed telepathically of those passed on).

Although numbering Nobel-winning scientists in its roster, the SPR’s goal was to create a bridge between oft-mysterious human powers and hard science. In this it failed, but laid the groundwork for scientifically sound experimental psi study by J.B. and Louisa Rhinein the 1930s, the Stanford Research Institute’s remote viewing program 1972-1995, Charles Honorton’s autoganzfeld telepathy technique in the 1970s-1980s, and Helmut Schmidt’s micropsychokinesis studies in the 1970-80s.

*****The SPR’s early founding members definitely have a spirit of reform against the “only atoms and void” ontology preached by the scientific representatives of materialism. They see (as well as experiencing themselves) the disenchantment and existential despair Wallace/Darwin’s hypothesis and the biology-reduced-to-physics is beginning to cause in people, to say nothing of the damage geological studies are doing to “Biblical truths.”

Ultimately, the SPR seeks recognition from the dominant hardcore materialists of the intellectual world but fails to get it. 

Since investigation such as the SPR’s has come under unrelenting attack by scientists since the early 1800s, psi researchers eventually develop such strong protocols for weeding out confounding factors that these designs became adopted in mainstream psychology and even the biological sciences—a little-known historical fact!

The multiple honest meta-analyses that have been done of all experimental psi studies show that telepathy and psychokinesis do in fact exist, although still unexplained in their mechanism. 

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Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941) publishes The Golden Bough between 1890 and 1916, an exhaustive and culturally condescending account of magic and world mythology.

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In 1893 Chicago, Ramakrishna disciple Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) speaks on yoga and Vedanta at the Congress of World Religion at the World’s Fair. He remains in America for four years, lecturing from coast to coast. He visits the UK lecturing for a spell. Yoga becomes a semi-fad.

French psychologist Theodore Flournoy (1854-1920) publishes From India to the Planet Mars in 1899, a “subliminal romance” channeled from the subconscious of Elise Muller, a Swiss medium. While hypnotized, Muller writes in “Martian” and “proto-Sanskrit” and claims to have been a princess on Mars—as well as Marie Antoinette. The book causes a sensation. Flournoy diagnoses it a case of cryptomnesia, in which unconsciously absorbed information comes to the fore, elaborated into fantasy and perhaps—perhaps—by means of telepathic connection. Muller later renounces her claims and becomes a fantasy painter whose works eventually inspire the Surrealists—and her fellow Swiss Dr. Carl Jung’s interest in the contents of ritually/”pathologically” altered states of consciousness.

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Julia Seton (1862-1950) publishes Symbols of Numerology in 1907. She regularly attends meeting of the League for the Larger Life, founded in 1916, with Ernest Holmes. The LLL is a part of the New Thought movement, a forerunner to so-called New Age, which was founded using the previously mentioned Phineas Quimby’s ideas on the supremacy of mind over matter.

Let’s let the eloquent William James nutshell this movement’s concept of “mind-cure”: “One of the doctrinal sources of Mind-cure is the four Gospels; another is Emersonianism or New England transcendentalism; another is Berkeleyan idealism; another is spiritism, with its messages of “law” and “progress” and “development”; another the optimistic popular science evolutionism of which I have recently spoken; and, finally, Hinduism has contributed a strain. But the most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement is an inspiration much more direct. The leaders in this faith have had an intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes as such, in the conquering efficacy of courage, hope, and trust, and a correlative contempt for doubt, fear, worry, and all nervously precautionary states of mind. Their belief has in a general way been corroborated by the practical experience of their disciples; and this experience forms to-day a mass imposing in amount.”

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2006’s The Secret’s “magical thinking” regarding instant wealth creation via wish may seem like the absurd culmination of New Age worldview, but its deep historic roots are a variant on an ancient theme. The historical origin of the magical thinking for which New Age is most sharply criticized and laughed at is difficult to pin down…Perhaps because so many popular permutations of it flourished in books and pamphlets in the Gilded Age of late 19th and early 20th centuries. To find a singular source we could go as far back as Paracelsus’s researches into the mental state’s effects on health, or Franz Mesmer’s animal magnetism cures which led to the New Thought movement. But these weren’t concerned with material wealth. New Thought was adapted to material prosperity in a series of books, most famously Pushing to the Front (1895) by Orison Swett Marden, The Science of Getting Rich (1910) by Wallace Wattles, and The Master Key System (1917) by Charles Haanel. Haanel’s book would deeply influence Napoleon Hill, author of the Depression-era Think and Grow Rich (1937), as well as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936).

Levi Dowling (1844-1911) channels The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ from the “Akashic record” and publishes it in 1908. It purports to relate the activities during the “18 missing years” of Jesus of Nazareth’s life, when He visited Tibet and India. One must conclude that an inspired Nazarene carpenter could not have had personal visions enough to inaugurate a revolution in Palestine in particular and humanity in general.

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1908: The Kybalion is published by the Yogi Publication Society. Written by a New Thought devotee, lawyer William Walter Atkinson (1862-1932), and possibly with the help of others, it purports to contain the essence of ancient esoteric philosophy, that of Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus. Many believe Swami Vivekananda, whom fellow New Thought member Atkinson met, was one of the shadow-authors of the work. As then, so now.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) devoted his life to boosting the Corpus Hermeticum and Christian Kabbalah. He claimed that Kabbalistic interpretations of the Old Testament proved in a near-scientific manner the real existence and successful mission of Jesus Christ. His interpretation involved the practice of Gematria, in which Hebrew letters are assigned numbers and complex transformational operations are performed on these numbers/texts to reveal inner or hidden meanings. For this “added bonus” blessing Pico received a drubbing by the Catholic authorities, who forced a retraction from him; his Kabbalah, tainted with the Hermetic sciences of the ancients, was tantamount to black magic. Eventually he renounced all occult studies, falling in with his reactionary firebrand friend, Fra Savonarola, by 1492. Pico died at 31, the possible victim of poison.

Through the works of Dee, Khunrath, Boehme, alchemists Michael Maier, Robert Fludd, and scholars Athanasius Kircher and Johannes Reuchlin Christian Kabbalah was passed down the centuries via Pico from Córdoba, Spain where it was first systematized by the Jewish mystics in the 13th and 14th centuries. After Renaissance esoterists Pico and Reuchlin founded their non-Jewish Kabbalistic tradition, it would never leave the current of occult secret societies to this day.

Thus, Freemasons and former New Thought advocates William Woodman, William Westcott, and MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918) found the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1887, researchers and practitioners of esoteric magic and lost lore. Mathers received a “cypher manuscript” from a “Fraulein Sprengel,” a member of the German Golden Dawn. It was composed in what would later be discovered as the Enochian alphabet that had been wrangled from the aether by Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley through a system of grueling channeling sessions two and a half centuries earlier. Translation of the document provided the basis of an initiation system. Pico della Mirandola’s Kabbalah, Egyptian religion, the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, pagan traditions, and much else concern them. Its system involves ten degrees of initiation based upon the Sephiroth, the ten emanations of YHWH in Kabbalah. By working upward through these ten levels and their corresponding 22 paths (mirrored by the Tarot’s 22 major arcana symbols), one climbed a “stairway to heaven” and achieved a uniting with God and one’s Holy Guardian Angel.

At the same time the Society for Psychical Research were investigating the somnambulistic states of mediums, telepathy, clairvoyance, the Golden Dawn was you might say, approaching the same grail with the opposite strategy. For the Golden Dawn, the phenomena the SPR were trying to establish as real to the scientific community were already accepted launching-off points. The GD required their members to develop willpower to harness these natural submerged human gifts—hence their extensive system of ritual to bring it forth. They denigrated Spiritualism in general because it entailed acceptance of the medium’s passivity in submitting to the trance state and the “beings” through which it acted as a “field.” The magicians were concerned with developing the will, not abandoning it entirely as did mediums. Florence Farr’s Sphere group of Second Order initiates attempted to not only autohypnotize by means of sigil and symbol meditation but to create second and third bodies by these means in order to travel on other planes. Mathers’ version of John Dee’s Enochian angel-language system was used as preparatory entry into the astral field.

Poet William Butler Yeats is a member. Poet Aleister Crowley will join, fight over successorships, then quit to take over another, German-based group, the Ordo Templii Orientis, then form his own Thelema (“will” in Greek) church called the Astrum Argentum (Silver Star).

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Golden Dawn associates Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942) and artist Pamela Colman Smith (1878-1951) colloborate on creating a new tarot deck. It becomes the canonical set of these mysterious cards, whose imagery as pages in a book first appeared in southern France during the era of the troubadours and became turned into game cards popular during the Renaissance. Although no-one can claim with final authority exactly where the tarot originated, it is conjectured to be an ancient Egyptian esoteric work that made its way West through Arabic alchemist/Sufi scholars into the courts of Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 14th Century.

Aradia

Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903) publishes Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, in 1899. Leland, a researcher into the beliefs of the ancient Etruscans, the Celts, Native Americans, and the European Roma, writes of the legend of Aradia, the witch goddess created by a union between the witch queen Tana (moon) and Lucifer (sun) destined to teach humankind the proper way of nature. Leland can be seen as a much tamer forerunner to British magician Aleister Crowley in that he was a freethinking anarchist whose Aradia preaches “my law is love unto all beings” to which echoes Crowley’s primary injunction, “the law is love, love under will.” Leland’s book has a strong influence on the Wiccan movement and Neo-Pagan resurgence five decades later.

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Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)—Goethe scholar and founder of Anthroposophy, a holistic psychology. After breaking with Theosophy, he lectures and writes voluminously on how humanity’s core spiritual traditions have been superseded by materialism. According to Steiner, materialism is not evil per se but a step in human evolution—a necessary evil to propel us further towards our cosmic goal. He starts schools that become known as Waldorf learning centers, which continue his education methods and beliefs, to this day.

Bucke illuination

After an intense philosophical discussion in the English countryside with friends about Romanticism, 35-year old Richard Maurice Bucke (1837-1902) gets into a hansom cab and sees a fire that is somehow outside and within the car. Suddenly he realizes this flame is within him, illuminating the space outwards. For several minutes he experiences consciousness outside spacetime and feels blessed with a glimpse of that perennial mystical state of oneness that inspires poets and ancient philosophers. Twenty-seven years of historical and religious study later, he finished Cosmic Consciousness (1901) , a huge compendium of mystical experience and its continuing elusive presence in humanity’s progress. Bucke stresses that such events portend evolutionary change in both consciousness and human abilities, an idea that Teilhard de Chardin, Esalen institute (1961) founder Michael Murphy, NDE psychologist Kenneth Ring, alien abduction researcher Dr John Mack and many others will amplify upon in the next century. 

****1904: Rudyard Kipling’s sister, a psychic medium, begins receiving eloquent communications via automatic writing (in distinction to the usual vague spiritual platitudes and near-Dada nonsense that comes through). The wife of a Cambridge don, a Mrs. Verrall, receives equally high-minded messages that conclude with the words “record the bits, and when fitted they will make the whole.” Over the next two years a dozen more unconnected mediums worldwide write communications of the same quality. One is signed “Myers.” When brought together the pieces seem to indicate that SPR members F.W. Myers, Henry Sidgwick, and Edmund Gurney, all of whom had passed on by 1903, were attempting communication from “the other side.” The messages individually make no sense, but when brought together form coherent envois from the deceased philosophers. This will be known as the “cross-correspondences,” and some of the best evidence for life after death that has ever been documented.

Saraweiss

In 1905, author Sara Weiss publishes the “scientific romance” (as science fiction was then known) Journeys to the Planet Mars, or, Our mission to Ento (Mars): being a record of visits made to Ento (Mars) by Sara Weiss, Psychic, under the guidance of a spirit band, for the purpose of conveying to the Entoans a knowledge of the continuity of life.Despite its genre association with science fiction, Weiss is a medium and claims the book is one of genuine contact. It is a channeled work, complete with phonetic dictionary.

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—In a perfect example of early American-brand techno-mysticism, the “rappings” of Spiritualist mediums 1850-1900 were conjectured to mirror the Morse code of the telegraph. Thomas Edison, in his later years a believer in Spiritualism, claims Guglielmo Marconi’s radio device can communicate with the dead—and, conveniently, Edison’s new phonograph will be able to record the transmissions with loved ones. So buy one now.

Journalist Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932) collects tens of thousands of news clippings of unexplained anomalies, becomes a total skeptic of the positivist claims of science, and writes humorous books of his findings that become very popular. A Fortean Society is formed in Baltimore, counting amongst its members H.L. Mencken. Fort himself appropriately refuses even to join, much less chair the group. Any strange event—frog rains or stone falls, UFOs, out-of-place archaeological objects, Bigfoot encounters, teleported objects—becomes christened a “fortean” phenomenon. The society still exists, in both online and print magazines.

Before the outbreak of World War One, Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) and Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) both claim to receive strange, coherent transmissions via radio they cannot account for (which may have been sferics, natural pulses of electromagnetic energy in the atmosphere). Tesla posits that the earth emits standing waves—further, that they can be altered, and used to transmit energy anywhere in the world. He claims he can harness them and proves he can transmit electricity wirelessly. Just imagine if this technology had been combined with a small telephonic unit.

Ouspensky

Piotr D. Ouspensky’s Tertium Organum (1912) causes waves in the public and in Theosophical circles both. Ouspensky (1878-1947), a writer, has been traveling the Levant and Asia searching for “true” lost knowledge of ancient civilizations. In 1914, he finds it in the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff. He writes extensively about Gurdjieff’s odd mix of Gnosticism, Sufism, and Pythagoreanism and becomes a booster for the “Fourth Way” or the “Work,” as Gurdjieff calls his techniques of waking oneself from the hypnotic sleep of consciousness. By 1921, Ouspensky is lecturing to packed houses that include T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Algernon Blackwood, and many other intellectuals.

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Three shepherd children, Lucia Santos and Jacinto and Francisco Marto, begin to see a glowing “white lady” near a tree in Fatima, Portugal in May of 1917. They identify her as the Virgin Mary and she visits them on the same day for four straight months. The church attempts to censor the news but fail. Crowds grow each time, and witnesses see nothing but the children in trance-raptures before the tree. Some see a glow. In September a crowd of 10,000 witnesses hear a buzzing sound about the tree during the spectacle. The next month, October, 50,000 people show up on the rain–and are not disappointed. The clouds open and the sun dips down, spinning. Another disc-like lighted object is seen. People 20 miles away either sense or can see the strange lights on the horizon. There are healings, and the heat of the “objects” dries hundreds of pilgrims’ clothes instantly. Lucia is given three prophecies, only two of which have been made public and involve the “penitence of Russia, which has fallen from God” (remember, this was before the Bolshevik Revolution which eventually claimed hundreds of thousand of lives and ushered in Stalinist USSR) and generally rebuke people for turning away from the church.

AMORC

American Henry Spencer Lewis (1883-1939) founds the Ancient Mystical Order of Rosea Crucis (AMORC) in 1915 and publishes many books on the occult and mysticism, particularly the Pyramids, reincarnation, and esoteric teaches of Jesus. The tenets of the New Thought movement spread outward and interest people like Lewis into investigating Rosicrucianism. An invention, the Luxatone, converts sound into color for help in his lectures. AMORC would for decades publish small advertisements in the backs of popular periodicals enticing the reader with occult powers, introducing thousands of the respondents to “secret” material culled from the Golden Dawn, OTO, and other esoteric orders.

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1918: Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) teaches that a universal “supermind” exists. It is our ultimate purpose to develop our latent faculties and actualize them. This thesis will later be echoed by others, with Teilhard Pierre de Chardin’s “noosphere” (intelligence-sphere) being the primary example. He develops Integral Yoga, predicated upon the notion of the involution and evolution of the spirit. Since all is ultimately spirit, the involution stage is likened to a theater-representation of spirit, using the material universe as a mask. With yogic practice one’s spiritual evolution can be sped up, as opposed to a “natural” material evolution that requires ages to unfold. Humankind is at a point between the natural and realizing our potential to actualize spirit. Between these two is the Supermind, an increasing connectivity between humanity’s consciousness and that of all in nature.

In 1921, Egyptologist Margaret Murray (1863-1963) publishes The Witch Cult in Western Europe, which advances the thesis that a “Dianic Cult” existed up until recent times and was what caused the witch hysteria and hunts of the 16th-18th centuries. It was primarily a fertility cult along the lines of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and was a legacy of the ancient religions of the pre-Christian Celts. According to Murray the esbats and sabbats were times of revelry and shamanistic trance and celebration of the Janus-legacy god’s yearly revival. It is criticized as a fanciful work, but nevertheless her book will form one of the founding anthropological texts for the Wiccan revival of the 1950s to the present. She follows it with The God of the Witches in 1933 and The Divine King in England in 1954.

Alice Bailey (1880-1949)—After missionary work in India and a failed marriage to an abusive clergyman, in 1914 Alice Bailey reads Theosophical literature regarding the Great Hidden Mahatmas and realizes that two encounters with a talkative apparition earlier in her life were with Master Koot Hoomi, one of Madame Blavatsky’s spiritual guides. She accepts a mission to become a promoter of the Great Hidden Mahatmas and spirit guides both individual and collective towards a future New Age of peace. She begins publishing channeled material in what will eventually become 24 books on Atlantis, Lemuria (an ancient civilization like Atlantis) using her corporation, the Lucifer (eventually Lucis) Publishing Company. The publications run through 1922-1960. Hard-boiled New York songwriter Lou Reed is a Bailey fan, and urges her works on all his friends.

***During the 1920s, the Christian evangelical Holiness movement extols the transformative powers of conversion and trance. The Holy Spirit for them is a direct presence that can be channeled. This leads to divine healing and glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and gifts of prophecy. Ideas of the New Thought movement sneakily underpin the working practices of faith healing; the Christ within heals by means of changed (converted) attitude. The Pentecostal-Apostolic movement begins, echoing shamanic techniques thousands of years old and universal in scope.

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Mikao Usui (1865-1926), a devout Buddhist, draws on the Taoist principle of chi (energy form) and Buddhist tantric ideas to develop a form of energetic healing that uses hand motions upon a patient’s chi field. He trains over two thousand adherents. Chujiro Hayashi (1880-1940) spreads the practice of Reiki, teaching Hawayo Takata (1900-1980). She further brings it to Americans by way of Hawaii. By the present day, there are two million practitioners worldwide.

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After meeting a secret Egyptian adept who teaches him of lost parts of the Koran, Timothy “Noble” Drew Ali (1866-1929) founds the Moorish Science Temple of America in New Jersey and Chicago. Ali draws upon Egyptology, Freemasonry, Gnosticism, Taoism in a syncretic mix. After his death his disciple Wallace Fard Muhammad (1893-?, pictured) founds the Nation of Islam in 1930. Fard’s disciple Elijah Muhammad develops and expands the organization when Fard disappears in 1934. Malcolm Little (1925-1965) accepts Elijah Muhammad’s teaching in prison after being visited by an apparition in his cell, and is christened Malcolm X.

1923-1942 a group of people in Chicago led by physicians William Sadler (1875-1969) and Lena Sadler (1875-1939) receives communications and notes that are eventually collected and edited into The Urantia Book, published complete in 1955. Like the Book of Mormon and Oasphe, it expounds a vast cosmology and alternative history of the Earth. In 1923, Sadler and Lena had conversations with the voices channeled from a “sleeping man” in their apartment building. He revealed that he was “a student visitor on an observation trip here from a far distant planet.” For almost 10 years their daughter Christy took notes. In the 1920s a group of friends put together a list of 4,000 questions for these beings and a few weeks later the sleeping man furiously wrote a manuscript that answered all of them.

After investigating deeply, skeptic and Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner discovers that it was Sadler’s brother-in-law, Wilfred Custer Kellogg. Sadler had been duped by other channelers in the past, most notably Ellen White, the founder of Seventh-Day Adventism, but he believed his brother-in-law was the real thing. Lena Sadler was the niece of Dr. John H. Kellogg of the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium, which treated celebrities like the Rockefellers, Montgomery Ward and even Thomas Edison. Kellogg was a notorious eugenicist and founded the Race Betterment Foundation, whose goals were “to call attention to the dangers which threaten the race.” Here’s a nugget from paper 51 of The Urantia Book: “The earlier races are somewhat superior to the later; the red man stands far above the indigo — black — race,” and “each succeeding evolutionary manifestation of a distinct group of mortals represents variation at the expense of the original endowment.” Furthermore, “The yellow race usually enslaves the green, while the blue man [which corresponds to Caucasians] subdues the indigo [black].”

Hate was in the air. Forty years later, in 1969, Mo Siegel, founder of New Agey Celestial Seasoning Teas, will discover the Urantia Book and devote his life to it, eventually becoming President of the Urantia Foundation.

The theme from “Jaws” gets louder in the distance.

Paintings by Roerich

Nikolas Roerich (1874-1947)—This Russian Himalayan explorer and painter is instrumental in promoting the Hindu/Tibetan legend of the Hidden Kingdom of Shambhala and the Kalki Avatar’s emergence from it to purge mankind’s evil at the end of the Kali Yuga. The verifiably ancient Asian prophecy eerily mirrors Christian, Mayan, and Hopi eschatologies.

In 1925 Alfred Watkins (1855-1935) publishes The Old Straight Track, introducing the idea of ley lines, or energy meridians within the earth’s surface that link ancient dolmen and rath sites in England. The earth, he claims, is cross-crossed with natural living forces that can be discerned and even controlled—an ancient technology long lost. Forty four years later, John Mitchell’s A View over Atlantis (1969) popularizes Watkins’s theories and ley-finding (dowsing) clubs are formed in England, the continent, and America.

The mysterious French alchemist Fulcanelli (who may in fact be Egyptologist and proto-fascist R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, who we’ll meet) publishes The Mystery of the Cathedrals in 1926, claiming the structures contain eternal metaphysical truths embodied in stone. Much will be made of this book in the 1960s-present, by way of Pauwels’s & Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians, Colin Wilson’s The Occult, and Ernest Scott’s The People of the Secret.

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Ernest Holmes (1887-1960) publishes The Science of Mind in 1926. Holmes was a New Thought advocate whose work touches on the New Prosperity paradigm, a Gilded Age school of self-improvement which leads directly to the get-rich-by-thought-alone absurdities of The Secret seventy years later. A mild form of ideal monism still underpins this philosophy.

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1927: Folklorist W.Y. Evans-Wentz (1878-1965) publishes the first translation into English of the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead) with an introduction by psychologist Carl Jung. He also collects vast amounts of fairy lore in the monumental Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, which along with Reverend Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth will eventually provide a multitude of cross-cultural parallels with “alien encounters” by researchers Jacques Vallee and John Keel.

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1928: At 26, Freemason Manly Palmer Hall (1901-1990) publishes The Secret Teachings of All Ages, a massive compendium of occultism Western and Eastern that is very popular from its publication to the present.

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1928: Israel Regardie (1907-1985) becomes secretary to Aleister Crowley for a mere four years before being put off by the Great Beast’s habits. But, having absorbed quite a lot of esoterica in the process, he goes on to publish several influential books on Kabbalah, a biography of Crowley, and joined the 1900-born Stella Matutina (Morning Star, in distinction to Crowley’s Silver Star order) which was another offshoot of the Golden Dawn. Regardie then publishes what ostensibly is the entire ritual system of the Golden Dawn, but is actually the Stella Matutina’s take on the Enochian/Kabbalah/merkavah (chariot “stairway to heaven”) mysticism. These and Crowley’s writings will spawn many homespun study and ceremonial groups across the world, and help spur the interest amongst celebrities, notably the Material Girl Madonna Ciccone.

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From a young age, John William Dunne (1875-1949) has “contacts” with an invisible presence that assures him he will achieve a great accomplishment in his life. He goes on to become an aeronautical engineer. The presence speaks to him through dreams. He publishes An Experiment With Time in 1929, which gives an account of infinitely regressing (“serial”) types of consciousness to which humanity is subject, the second of which is “timeless” can perceive the future and past. Dunne logs precognitive dreams both he and others have that have come true. His books have a big impact on fiction writers and challenge horologists to this day.

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In the 1920s, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) begins concocting an alternate history of the earth told through his horror tales about malign ancient extraterrestrial and interdimensional races of beings. The tales are full of “lost books” and forgotten civilizations whose psychic influence remains to plague modern man. Lovecraft creates a book called the Necronomicon, a book of spells to conjure ancient deities, within his stories that thirty years later will inspire the creation of a version of it. The stories are hugely popular to this day, spawning an entire subculture of devotees to the Cthulhu mythos.

J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)—young polymath (pictured, bottom) chosen by Theosophist Society heads Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater to lead a world peace and enlightenment movement. In 1929 he rejects this role and goes on to author many books on spirituality, mysticism, and evolutive consciousness.

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Rene Guenon (1886-1951): beginning in 1921, this French Sufi, Freemason, cultural critic of modernity, and expounder and defender of traditional ideas writes many books on vanishing religious traditions. His critique of a “quantitative society” based upon technocracy and material science is some of the most insightful and damning evidence against “the Western way of life” ever written.

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At 12 in 1915, a sickly boy named Sylvan Muldoon’s consciousness leaves his prone body, attached by a “silver cord” to his brain. He returns. Chronically in ill-health as a child (as many mystics, clairvoyants, and mediums historically seem to be) Muldoon (1903-1969) finds that he is adept at temporarily separating a part of his consciousness and traveling out of his body. After reading a failed treatment on the subject of “astral travel” by a practitioner, Mr. Lancelin, quoted in one of psychic researcher Hereward Carrington’s books, Muldoon writes Carrington (1880-1958) directly to give him a wealth of techniques to control the astral body once it leaves. They publish The Projection of the Astral Body in 1929. It is followed in 1951 by the more popular The Phenomenon of Astral Projection. Both are how-to guides, and inspire people to experiment with this ancient siddhi to the present. 

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Novelist Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) conducts experiments in telepathy and what will be eventually called “remote viewing” with his wife Mary. Sinclair claims she successfully reproduced 65 images and partially reconstructed 155 (out of 290) painted by her brother she had never before seen. His book on the experiment, Mental Radio (1930) popularizes “telepathy” as a term and Albert Einstein writes the forward to the German translation.

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Violet Mary Firth has visions of her past lives at age five. She comes under “psychic attack” by her horticulture college warden at 23, leading to a breakdown which leads her to study psychology. She reads Theosophical literature and joins the Golden Dawn-offshoot Alpha et Omega lodge in 1919. Trance mediumship in which she encounters one of the ubiquitous Ascended Masters follows. Her mentor Freemason Theodore Moriarty teaches her about Atlantis and its lost knowledge. Through the lodge and her other mentor, Maiya Curtis-Webb, she became adept at Christian Kabbalah. Firth forms the Fraternity of the Inner Light, which emphasizes the works of Jesus, in reaction to the lack of deep interest in Christianity by Theosophists. At Glastonbury, The Cosmic Doctrine is channeled by Firth and her friend Charles Loveday via “inspirational mediumship” (subconscious contact). Again, seven planes of existence are taught to exist. This idea goes back through Theosophy all the way to Egyptian religion and probably earlier, due to the association of the seven planetary influences (Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Venus, Mars). **This working procedure, minus the Theosophical-historical associations, will be echoed some 40 years later when despondent psychiatrist Helen Shucman receives a “voice” that will dictate to her A Course in Miracles with colleague William Thetford as scribe.
When Moina Mathers, widow of Golden Dawn founder McGregor Mathers, rejects Firth’s rising star-status and new organization and having the wrong “signs in her aura,” Firth again comes under psychic attack. The world of ceremonial magic is showing itself as worse than straight-up secular politics.
Firth obtains land at the foot of Glastonbury Tor and a headquarters in central London. Etheric contact is established at the Tor. She becomes head of the Christian Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1928 then abandons all contact with Theosophy. Firth abandons the Himalayan Great Mahatmas doctrine. She publishes occult-themed novels, then books related to her work with the higher realms under the name Dion Fortune, including Psychic Self Defense (1930) and The Mystical Qabbalah (1935) the latter which showed her increasing interest in ceremonial magic.

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949) —explorer, sacred dance teacher, writer, musician, and expounder of “esoteric Christianity” he calls the Fourth Way teaches publicly in Paris and establishes the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. Claiming to have traveled extensively in Asia Minor and Tibet, and gaining access to remote monasteries where lost disciplines had been preserved, Gurdjieff teaches that humanity is in a state of walking hypnosis/sleep as the result of a genetic change that occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago. By intense Work on the three basic aspects of human existence—body, emotion, and intellect—one can create concentrations of energy that activate higher levels of being, and one can gradually become awake and possess something resembling “will.” Russian journalist and speculative philosopher Piotr D. Ouspensky (1878-1947) discovers Gurdjieff’s system in 1914, popularizes his ideas, then breaks with him. John Godolphin Bennett is also an acolyte, founding a center in England to continue the tradition of inner development.

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Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)—poet, magician, trickster, druggie, mountaineer, author. An upstart Golden Dawn member who, after being ejected from that body, joined the English lodge of a German esoteric group, the Order of the Eastern Templars (Ordo Templis Orientiis: OTO). An OTO successorship battle causes him to form his own magical group, the Silver Star (Astrum Argentium, or A A). His studies of astrology, Kabbalah, Egyptian lore, and hatred of Christianity lead him to form the philosophy of Thelema, which is channeled by an entity called Aiwass through his wife Rose in 1904. This crucial year becomes for Crowley and his eventual followers the beginning of the New Age of Horus, the Conquering Child. After a grueling ritual in the Algerian desert in 1909, Crowley crowns himself the “Great Beast 666.” Christianity will be wiped out by his new religion, Thelema (Greek for “willpower”). He styles himself the sole prophet of the Aeon of Horus–and serious controversy follows him everywhere, mostly due to the adoption of Tibetan and Hindu tantric sex practices adapted into his own ceremonial forms. In 1918 in New York he performs the “Amalantrah Working” to meet his Holy Guardian Angel and contacts an interdimensional being called LAM, which is accompanied by a glowing egg. Crowley sketches the being:

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Looks like something we’ll get to know a lot in the post-war years…Speaking of which, his student John Whiteside Parsons (1914-1952), a chemical engineer, “alchemist”, and ceremonial magician, continues the quest. Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard and Hubbard’s wife try to complete the Babalon Working, a magick sex ritual with the “Scarlet Whore.” It is meant to produce a “moonchild” who will have stupendous psychic and occult powers. Ironically, Parsons fails to detect in the ether his own death by experimental rocket fuel combustion at his house in 1952. Hubbard abandons the OTO and goes on to create the ultimate tax dodge, brainwashing experiment, and extraterrestrial-worshipping cult all in one: the Church of Scientology. The Church heroically battles Werner Erhard’s est (now Landmark Forum), the German government, various tax agencies, and rival cults for human souls to this day.

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Edgar Cayce (1877-1945)—prodigious Christian trance channeler and psychic becomes the most accurate prognosticator in history. His lifelong work of personal “readings” of individuals’ karmic situations revives American interest in reincarnation and Atlantis.

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Japanese scholar Daisetzu Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966) writes Essays in Zen Buddhism (1927-1934). Translated into English in the 1950s, they have a gradual but subsequent enormous impact upon Western culture via the expositions of Alan Watts, Paul Reps, and many other writers and lecturers. ***The character Master Yoda indirectly teaches the Tao-Zen philosophy to hundreds of millions through the Star Wars films; when we first meet him in The Empire Strikes Back he is performing a Bodhidharma-like character of the holy fool—until Luke Skywalker’s impatience causes him to drop the facade. 

In 1934, theosophist Guy Ballard (1878-1939) claims he has met the Ascended Master alchemist Count St. Germain on Mount Shasta in California. He is taken beneath the mountain, where he is counseled by 12 Venusian Masters. He and his wife Edna spend the next five years spreading the gospel of the I AM Activity, the first explicitly extraterrestrial contactee movement, 15 years before UFOs and their occupants become widely reported and an underground occult phenomenon. Back in 1905, a book called A Dweller on Two Planets was published by Frederick Spencer Oliver, which tells of Lemurians escaping the destruction of their home and taking up residence under the mountain. Although written between 1883/1884 and 1886, it was published after Oliver’s death, and was allegedly channeled through automatic writing. Ballard was probably influenced by this work, and introduced the term “Ascended Masters” to the world.

As we’ve seen, Swedenborg, Madame Blavatsky, D’Alveydre, Andrew J. Davis, Cyrus Teed, Aleister Crowley, Edgar Cayce, Sara Weiss, Helene Smith, and the Sadlers have all claimed contact with higher intelligences that guide their pens and plans. In the future, Helen Schucman (A Course in Miracles, 1965-1974), Jane Roberts (The Seth Material), Philip K. Dick (as the basis of his final novels), Billy Meier (Plejaren communications), and countless UFO contactees will continue receiving on different frequencies. Channeling is as old as humanity, and continues to this day. 

1935: Physicist Erwin Schrodinger’s interpretation of the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky quandary regarding the entangled states of quantum particles uneasily implies that observation and measurement is necessary to create definite experimental results—and by extension, the results of any experiment whatsoever. Some theorists (decades later) even claim that a mental corollary to the “collapse of wave functions” is necessary to produce any conscious phenomena. Schrodinger regards his “Cat in a Box” thought experiment as a reduction ad absurdum argument, but there is no viable alternative to counter its ridiculous conclusion that the boxed cat, at the mercy of a decaying uranium chunk that will trigger a poison gas, is in a superposed state of being both alive and dead until the box is opened and observed. Seven years earlier, Werner Heisenberg discovered the limits to measurable observation of the subatomic world with his uncertainty principle. Together, it seems that physics has hit a wall…Thirty years later, Scottish physicist John Bell will propose that an experiment measuring the changed polarization of one of a set of twin particles (“born” at the same time but moving in opposite directions) might solve the entanglement problem–but, given a simultaneous change in the sister particle, it would negate Einsteinian locality, that is, the absolute speed of light that Einstein claims is inviolable for an observer. The experiment has been performed, and the non-local entanglement proved, at least four times. How is the polarization information communicated faster than light speed between the particles?

 

*****By this time, active interest or participation in non-Christian traditions is tolerated as eccentricity. Behind the Judeo-Christian facade of America however, Freemasonry has spawned hundreds of similar fraternities, from the International Order of Odd Fellows, the African-American Prince Hall Order, the Shriners, the Rotarians, et cetera. America has become a nation full of secret societies–the KKK most notoriously. Esoteric belief systems with Egyptian roots are running parallel to members’ public affiliation with the varieties of Christianity and Judaism practiced across the land. In 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt mandates a Masonic eye/pyramid symbol be placed on the US $1 bill. This will inspire much speculation decades later and bring the Freemasons under scrutiny again.
With technological wonders such as the Hoover Dam and the turbine engine striking a magickal resonance in the American psyche, the machine seems to be writing its own hagiography into the soul. The new is rightfully displacing the old. Medicine is rapidly advancing against disease. Science fiction works show visions of machine-run worlds of the future.

It is this backdrop of “perfectibility” of humanity via technology that the Transhumanist movement will eventually arise five decades later, in the 1980s, a melange of Silicon Valley know-how and Timothy Leary-style techno-dreams of human immortality. This end-project was long ago prophesied by Sir Francis Bacon and the Rosicrucians.

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In 1934, Nazi SS officer and scholar Otto Rahn (1904-1939) writes The Crusade Against the Grail, about the suppressed French-Spanish Cathar (Albigensian) sect of the Middle Ages and the Cathar’s connection to the Holy Grail. He is first to conjecture that the true Grail has something to do with a royal bloodline—an Aryan bloodline, of course. We see what Dan Brown does with this in his Da Vinci Code. It’s not pretty.

The Long Island Church of Aphrodite is formed in 1939 by Russian exile Gleb Botkin (1900-1969). Botkin despises the gynophobia of the orthodox Christian churches and has personal revelations of the Goddess as primary deity. Convert W. Colman Keith writes Divinity as the Eternal Feminine in 1959 and helps set in motion American goddess worship.

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Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) moves to America from Austria in 1939. A dissident Freudian psychoanalyst, Reich comes to believe in an energy force he calls orgone, which peaks in humans during orgasm. He builds a machine to accumulate the energy (without any of the fun), claiming it can cure disease. In 1954, he develops the “cloudbuster” (shown above) to dissipate the negative energy (deadly orgone=DOR) unleashed by both nuclear weapons tests and the UFOs he believes are plaguing him and his followers. His cloudbusting machines apprarently work, and farmers call him to use the simple machine to create rain. After the AMA and FBI get wind of a growing movement, his works are banned, his orgone accumulator machines are destroyed in a witch hunt that rivals the Nazis’s destruction of “non-Aryan” literature and art, and he dies in prison. He must really have been onto something!

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In 1944, Amazing Stories editor Ray Palmer (1910-1977) publishes (the likely schizophrenic) Richard Shaver’s tale I Remember Lemuria. It inspires paranoia in many of its readers, who begin to send in their own tales of encounters with Shaver’s “Deros”, a malicious underground robotic race who inhabited the surface of the earth millennia ago. As we’ve seen, a good/evil/powerful society in the hollow earth is an idea thousands of years old in Hinduism.

A folk phenomenon like Palmer/Shaver’s will be echoed forty years later when “experiencer” Whitley Strieber receives tens of thousands of letters from people recounting encounters with paranormal beings like the ones he described in his book Communion.

In 1946-47, Palmer publishes Harold Sherman’s Green Man tales, which also appeared in Amazing Stories. The tales, featuring Numar, the green-skinned main character, were apparently inspired by Sherman’s own odd experience in 1945: Sometime in the year 1945, when Martha and I were living in Chicago, I had a series of visions wherein I saw Space Beings, possessed of high intelligence, visiting our Earth in space ships of different shapes and sizes, for the purpose of exploration and eventually to fill our skies with large space vehicles, coming in force, hopefully on a friendly mission to help Mankind save itself from self-destruction.

Sound familiar? Klaatu barada nikto!

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***With Dr. Mystic (1935), a psychic detective, comic books regularly treat the paranormal and supernormal in their stories and characters. Superman (1939) is an extraterrestrial. The ancient gods and hidden occult forces are real (Captain Marvel [1939]) Radiation is a force that can mutate humans into superhumans (Spider-Man [1962]). There are secret schools for these mutated humans (The X-Men [1963]). The effect of these characters and ideas on youth for the next four generations will be incalculable. Just look at Hollywood. Just look.

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In 1946, Parmahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) publishes The Autobiography of a Yogi, which eventually introduces millions of people to meditation and yoga, including Beatle George Harrison in 1966 and a teenage Steve Jobs. The book becomes a spiritual classic.

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1946-1953: Dr. Meade Layne (1882-1961) works with trance medium Mark Probert (pictured) to channel knowledge about “extraterrestrial” entities, who claim they are actually intra-dimensional beings who hack our terran and human energy fields to materialize their vehicles. This early pre-flying-saucer craze hypothesis is ridiculed during the classic UFO years (1947-1973) in favor of the nuts-and-bolts, mechanical spacecraft theory, until Layne’s intra-dimensional theory reemerges with a vengeance, beginning with John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse (1970) and The Mothman Prophecies (1975) and the ET-skeptical works of mathematician/ufolologist Jacques Vallee (1939–).

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R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961) studies mathematics and mysticism while growing up. On a trip to Egypt in the 1920s, the asymmetrical Temple of Luxor fascinates him. He spends the next twelve years measuring the structures and discovers knowledge of both the Golden Ratio and Phi encoded in the architecture.  This leads him to a series of interpretations of abstract symbolic messages in the whole of the Egyptian architectural history. He believes their religion was embodied in buildings that reflected advanced astronomical knowledge that was not entirely endemic to Egyptian genius, but the legacy of a previous highly advanced civilization that has been lost to history. His Temple of Man published in 1949 kicks off a new paradigm with which to study the Egyptian religion. He also is an adherent of d’Alveydre’s Synarchist movement, which preaches a rigidly theocratic society, and is friends with Hitler’s right-hand man Rudolf Hess. His Egyptology will be boosted by John Anthony West in the 1970s to the present, and Graham Hancock will boost West’s ideas in the 1990s with Fingerprints of the Gods. Here’s the beginnings of pyramid power mysticism…

***1946 onward: Extended contact with UFOs and supposed messages from the “extraterrestrial intelligences” begins, continuing to the present day. A very short list of persons would include: Guy Ballard, Mark Probert, George Adamski, George King, Eugenio Siragusa, Pierre Monnet, Billy Meier, Ruth Norman, Truman Bethurum, George Hunt Williamson, Orfeo Angelucci, George van Tassel, Claude Vorilhon (“Rael”), Woodrow Derenberger, Marshall Applewhite, Howard Menger, Betty Andreasson, Carla Rueckert, and Whitley Strieber. “Space Brother” contactee George Hunt Williamson proclaims a “New Age” in connection with the equinoctial turn to Aquarius in 1953…As mentioned above, in the 1960s and 1970s journalist John Keel and mathematician Jacques Vallee are the only two real skeptics about these being extraterrestrial contacts, and they cover the progress of cult-like movements surrounding contactees in their books. They warn that utilizing single frames of reference when dealing with UFO phenomena and believing anything these “ultraterrestrial” (Keel’s term) beings say will invariably bring ruin to investigator and devotee alike. They are proven correct many times, most notoriously by the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide in 1997.

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Poet Robert Graves (1895-1985) publishes The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Mythin 1948. By analyzing the Celtic and Levantine myths, Graves sees his project as a deeper continuation of Frazer’s The Golden Bough and posits an ancient goddess cult, for which “white goddess” is the moon, that was product of matriarchal cultures. For Graves this was something of a Golden Age that fell with the warring gods of Babylon and the Hebrews. The book will influence paganism and the Wiccans following Gerald Gardner’s movement, despite archaeological and anthropological criticisms of its etymological methods and conclusions.

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While operating on a conscious epileptic person in 1952, neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) electrically stimulates parts of the brain’s temporal lobes apparently connected to memory: the patient reports vivid relivings of past moments in their life. Penfield finds he can do this at will with other patients as well. Some philosophers and scientists come to regard this is evidence that everything done in life is in fact recorded—yet even the billionfold neural complexity of the brain could not contain an “informational database” so large, what with all the other constant tasks it must perform. Some see this experiment as implying consciousness does not reside in the brain, but that the brain filters down its experiences from a greater field into manageable parallel currents; in other words, Penfield’s electrodes disrupted the smooth functioning of the filtering operation and caused the patient’s conscious ego to “jump” to an earlier spacetime point. Others think it is evidence that the Akashic Records can be scientifically proven to exist (there is just a small difference between the two ideas). Although Penfield’s tests have been replicated, materialist-minded neuroscientists, ever-fearing the taint of a non-computational model of the brain, prefer to call these “hallucinated memories.” Penfield’s studies will be referenced in dozens of New Age books touting the Akashic Field, Huxley’s Mind-at-Large, and the holographic universe model. 

L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) in 1949 publishes Dianetics and in 1953 begins the Church of Scientology to capitalize on and exploit the emptiness caused by Western materialism, the fearful paranoia of the Cold War, and the spiritual vertigo caused by the massive insanity of World War Two. Thousands succumb to cheap electrical skin galvanic meters, quasi-Freudian/Reichian emotion-repression theory, and fork over increasing amounts of scratch to advance up the hierarchy, only to learn they’ve joined some sort of UFO cult. Hail Xenu!

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B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014) teaches Hatha yoga in Pune, India in 1934. Amongst his students is J. Krishnamurti. Befriending violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1952, Iyengar becomes an international guru and popularizes the ancient body-contact practice worldwide. His 1966 Light on Yoga is a bestseller, begetting a second-wave interest in the discpline seven decades after Swami Vivekananda’s American and British tours of 1893-7.

 

Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979) publishes in 1950 Worlds in Collision, detailing his theory of gravitational instability in the solar system and its relation to ancient mythological stories. The scientific establishment attacks him in what only can be called an Inquisition second only to the martyrdom of Wilhelm Reich seven years later. The publisher is forced to retract the book. His predictions on Venus turn out to be true. Comparative mythologist David Talbott (1942-) will vastly advance Velikovsky’s work in the 1990s to the present, drawing upon a new plasma-electrical physics of the universe.

In 1951 psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) collaborates with physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958) to produce Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, a study of how personal meaning is generated from odds-defying events observed in the “outer” world. Two decades and a half later, Arthur Koestler will popularize Jung’s idea with his Roots of Coincidence. Sting of the Police will never be the same. What a pity.

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With the 1951 repeal of the Witchcraft Acts in Britain, Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) formally inaugurates the Wiccan movement. He claims he was initiated into a goddess-worshipping coven by a woman in 1939. He publishes a series of grimoires and instructional books on supposed lost traditions, some borrowed from the Golden Dawn and Leland’s Aradia, this latter published fifty years earlier. His beliefs are aligned with Margaret Murray’s, that an ancient nature and goddess worshipping tradition existed up to the present, hidden by familial and coven successions. A friend of Aleister Crowley, he also lifts much material from Crowley’s OTO and Thelema material for his Book of Shadows, leading many–especially esoterically-informed fundamentalist Christians–to think Wicca is a “gateway” practice to Crowley’s dark visions of the Age of Horus and the overthrow of Christianity. Although critics have a field day dissecting what he invented and what he borrowed, his work is the single most influential in the development of Wicca.
******I must mention here that both Elliott Rose’s and Isaac Bonewits’s virulent critiques of Wicca and Neo-paganism in general are steeped in the obsessive scientistic practice to classify, taxonomize, and operate on the principle that by examining pedigree and progeny one can simply dismiss a social phenomenon as less than legitimate or even bogus. This could in effect apply to any religious system, negating the approaches to a deep spiritual well. The matter is less one of authenticity to a tradition than a spirit of reverence that finds outlet spontaneously in what appears to the practitioner. The practice of ceremonial magick, especially in a group setting, can wrought deep psychological transformations in people, for better or worse (from experience, mostly better).

 

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) experiments with peyote and writes The Doors of Perception in 1954, a touchstone in psychonautical literature that explores the nature of religious visions.

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The Urantia Book appears in mass print in 1955 after thirty years’ private circulation.

Chinese philosophy scholar and Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) publishes The Phenomena of Man in 1955, an exegesis positing true mental evolution of humanity, coining the term “noosphere,” a concept similar to Plato’s realm of Forms and Sri Aurobindo’s Supermind. The noosphere is akin to a “field” for mental memes, or Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance (1981), but with more emphasis on ideas’ causal efficacy in the human mental realm. They can effect changes in the minds that receive them, and have almost an independent existence in which to evolve. With the noosphere, Chardin anticipates James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis but with a decided anthropocentric spin. Technology—Marshall McLuhan’s “extensions of man”—will make all humans cosmopolitans and eventually, mentally interconnected. Chardin conjectures that there will be an eventual Omega Point to consciousness in which all will fuse into one field that yet preserves the individuality of each of its “moments”—individual minds. This end-scenario also echoes medieval monk Joachim of Flores’s eschatology of the New Age 900 years ago—and for Chardin caused equal trouble as Joachim had with authorities. The Jesuit was in constant trouble with the Vatican over his philosophical musings and his acceptance of evolution; it took The Phenomenon of Man 15 years from completion to get publication permission from the Holy See.

1959: The 14th Dalai Lama and his entourage begin to disseminate Tibetan Tantric ideas to pilgrims in Dharamsala, India, after forced exile from their homeland by the Chinese Communists.

Buddhism was brought to the Himalayan plateau in the eighth century and evolved several different lineages. Tibet’s indigenous Bonpo shamanism involved many nature deities; a continuity with this is the Tibetan Buddhist state authorities’ consulting with the Nechung oracle, who can become possessed by spirits to induce clairvoyance and see the future. The Bonpo deities became incorporated in many cases into symbols of emotional and mental aspects of human psyche, giving Tibetan religion its oft-bewildering variety of beings. Its advanced tantric practices, in some cases believed to be thousands of years old, are meant to acclimatize oneself to and subdue the many “demons and angels” created in ignorance by the personality. This leads one to the possibility of cultivating compassion and eventual release from incarnations by nirvana.
In 1964 seeker Robert Thurman makes his way to Dharamsala to learn directly from the tulkus and the Dalai Lama himself, becoming the first officially ordained non-Himalayan Gelugpa monk. He goes on to academia and becomes professor of religion at Amherst then Columbia University, lecturing to thousands about Tibetan culture and introducing the Dalai Lama to America in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s.

***The Beats: Fascinated by Zen and Buddhism, the novelist Jack Kerouac (1922-1969, bottom) practices meditation and incorporates Buddhist philosophy into his characters’ worldviews. Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997, upper right) also expounds Buddhist and Vedanta ideas in his poetry. Neal Cassady (1926-1968) is a sometime acolyte of the psychic Edgar Cayce. William Burroughs (1914-1997) flirts with both Scientology and Wilhelm Reich’s theories of orgone energy. The widespread popularity of these authors introduce millions to Eastern religion, magick, and “fringe science” ideas. 

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May 1957: R. Gordon Wasson (1896-1986), Vice President of J.P. Morgan bank, ethnomycologist, and no woo-woo kind of guy, writes an article about his experimentation in Mexico with psilocybin mushrooms and shamanic experiences in LIFE magazine, coining the term “magic mushroom.”

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Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008) begins a relentless series of world tours promoting Transcendental Deep Meditation that last from 1958-1968. 40,000 TM teachers are trained around the globe. The Maharishi’s movement attracts celebrities. Inevitable commercialization sets in.

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****The atom bomb and the lunatic children masquerading as world leaders playing chess with them make tens of millions of relatively sane human beings question the very philosophical foundations of our “civilization.” The reigning answer to this predicament, especially for alienated youth, seems to be: anything but this, anywhere but here, anytime but now. Thus:

Thomas Szasz (1920-2012) scathingly criticizes the field of psychiatry as lacking objective, falsifiable criteria that would establish it as a science in The Myth of Mental Illness (1960). He also takes to tack its unspoken purpose—as a form of social control. Using voluminous examples from the Soviet Union, he claims psychiatry and psychology are easily amenable to abuses both political and social—and the same can happen here in America as in the USSR. Along with Columbia University professor C. Wright Mills’s critiques of the “Power Elite”/military-industrial complex and the New School for Social Research’s many thinkers excoriating the technocratic society, views such as Szasz’s grant intellectual imprimatur and inspiration to the many social liberation movements of the 1960s.

 

Ufologist Brinsley la Poer Trench (1911-1995) publishes The Sky People in 1959, the first book to explicitly advance an “ancient astronaut” theory. With Trevor James Constable, he eventually propounds that UFOs are actually living beings with which we share the earth—effectively cutting him out of all polite “nuts-and-bolts ETs” ufological discussion to join a long list of also-rans.

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Jacques Bergier (1912-1978) and Louis Pauwels (1920-1997) write The Morning of the Magicians in 1959. It introduces young French and English-speaking audiences to the ideas of G.I. Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, Rosicrucianism, astrology, Freemasonry, alchemy, Forteana, extraterrestrials as cultural gods, the Pyramids, the 1554 Piri Reis map showing subglacial Antarctica, the only-visible-from-the-sky Nazca figures in Peru, and Naziism as an occult-magical political religion (especially Himmler’s SS and Hitler’s “invisible familiar”). It is considered a seminal text of the countercultural 1960s.

***After extensive unsuccessful experimentation as a truth serum, torture agent, or potential assassination tool in the 1950s under project names BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, and MKULTRA, the CIA unwittingly (?) unleashes the psychedelic revolution on American public by making LSD available to universities for volunteer psychological testing in 1960. The LSD experiments under ULTRA are but a single strand in the CIA’s enormous covert search to create unconscious assassins, spontaneous amnesia, “zombies” who will follow any orders, and spies impervious to interrogation and torture. LSD’s unsupervised recreational use surges until it is outlawed in 1966, but continues to blow minds and make people shun clothes for three decades.

 

Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof (1931-) In 1960, Grof pioneers the use of LSD and altered states of consciousness as therapeutic tools to heal patients until the drug is outlawed in 1966. He explores distinctions between the hylotropic and holotropic modes of consciousness; the former is the ordinary, “consensus reality” we daily inhabit, and the latter in which a person feels oneself as part of a greater whole. These differences are found in the Hindu Vedanta teachings—just one example demonstrating the New Age is merely the oldest of wisdom, rediscovered.

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Alan Watts (1915-1973)—Episcopal priest who studied Eastern religions and popularized Zen Buddhism begins lecturing to crowds of young people eager to “get with it.” Through his eloquence, erudition and charm he gains an enormous following and writes many books on spirituality.

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1962: Michael Murphy and Richard Price found the Esalen Institute on the Big Sur California coast to explore human potentialities in a communal setting of inquiry and practice. On its cliffs one day, Don Draper meditates with a group, has a revelation, and decides to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

1962: Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) writes the classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and introduces the concept of “paradigmatic science.” In his theory, the anomalies encountered during the course of normal scientific experiments are ignored until they pile up and can be ignored no longer; perhaps newer technology or a flood of new practitioners into the discipline amplifies their observed occurrence. A young practitioner’s mind, free of the older expert’s long training, notices a pattern within the anomalies invisible to the older practitioner’s eyes, theorizes on it, and makes falsifiable hypotheses. It is then tested without failure. More young practitioners discover the same result. It is not accepted as a viable theory by the old practitioners, but over time the young scientists fill in the new theory’s gaps and accept the theory. The old practitioners die off and the new theory reigns. Is it closer to “truth”? Kuhn says perhaps—but it can always be undermined by a broader theory that unifies it under a new “law” due to a further set of resolved anomalies.

The term “paradigm” is picked up by the business world and used to sell changes in commercial and bureaucratic practice as capitalism goes transnational in the 1980s, then used by various psychologists and parapsychologists, who try to apply the conjectures of quantum physics to consciousness and paranormal abilities in particular. With ecological destruction becoming more evident, the “control” ideologies of technological/industrial society, as paradigms of social functioning, comes under unrelenting assault to this day.

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1962: marine biologist Rachel Carson (1907-1964) writes Silent Spring, the opening salvo of the ecology movement. Although the book focuses on pesticides, and leads to the banning of DDT, it alerts millions to the potential effects of our petro-based chemical way of life on the environment.

Frank Waters (1902-1995) publishes The Book of the Hopi in 1963, outlining the history, ontology, and mythology of the Its timeline for the end of the Fourth (current) World dovetails eerily with the end of the Mayan long-count calendar and also the dates projected for the close of the Kali Yuga (dark age) in Vedic literature.

Shamanism, especially that of the Native American and northern Siberia Irkutsk peoples, becomes an academically popular subject through Mircea Eliade’s book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasyin 1964. Eliade’s work gives detailed descriptions of culturally universal initiations by these spirit-chosen healers that will eventually be compared to out-of-body and near death experiences, faith healing, crystal healing, holotropic breath work, and so-called alien abductions. Five years later in 1969 Carlos Castaneda will further popularize shamanism with his fictionalized Don Juan Matus series. In 1980 Michael Harner will reintroduce Americans to the practices, especially with the use of drumming and hallucinogens, of spirit travel to the underworld and overworlds.

Yates

With Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964), Dame Frances Yates (1899-1981) explores the role of Neo-Platonist philosophy during the Renaissance in the creation of both science and the occult. Philologist Marsilio Ficino’s and Bruno’s translations and printings of Plotinus and Plato spur a new mysticism of mind-nature with micro-macrocosm. Yates follows this with the influential work The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (1972), which posits that the three mysterious Rosicrucian tracts of 1604-1618 may have been the work of a secret society of alchemist-protoscientists begun by John Dee, Francis Bacon, Heinrich Khunrath, and Michael Maier some 30 years earlier in Prague, functioning both as a anti-Catholic “psy-op” and call to esotericists to unite. She speculates that a real Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, whose creation followed in the 1620s, would eventually form the core of Francis Bacon-inspired empiricists who began the Royal Society of London. Thus the scientific method and the oldest scientific fraternity in history explicitly emerge from a non-existent group of mystics whose coming was foretold in the manner of a quasi-science fiction narrative. Can the world get stranger?

Well…look at this:

1963: dissatisfied British Scientologists Robert Moor (1935-) and Mary Ann MacLean (?-2005) leave the Church of Scientology while continuing to explore its techniques of self-analysis. After finding success with an increasing group of core analysands, they collectively travel to Xtul on the Yucatan peninsula to establish a commune. There they are contacted and bonded together by a “higher intelligence” during a group meditation. Moor (now Robert “DeGrimston”) and MacLean found the Process Church of the Final Judgment and prosthelytize in London and America, preaching a psychological development based on individual identification with four archetypes they call Jehovah, Lucifer, Jesus Christ, and Satan. Controversy and kitschy black clothing follows them everywhere.

Dark rumor also follows them everywhere, from involvement in the Manson family killings to the “Son of Sam” shooting spree of 1976-77. All of this, according to journalist Maury Terry, hinted at a nationwide underground network of drug dealing, snuff films, “Satanic” rituals and assassins. Charles Manson, fresh out of jail, was in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury during the 1967 Summer of Love and was couch-surfing just down the block from a Process center and definitely interacted with its members; Processeans also visited him in jail after his arrest in 1969…In 1975, “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz shot to death several German shepherds in his Bronx neighborhood, a breed of dog beloved by Mary Ann MacLean and the Process’ inner circle, before going on his killing spree. By the time Berkowitz killed the dogs, MacLean had dumped DeGrimston, had changed the Church’s name to the Foundation Faith of the Millennium, and had been living in Pound Ridge, Westchester County, New York, 35 miles north of Berkowitz’s neighborhood. Terry suspects Berkowitz interacted with Process/Foundation members via the Carr brothers John and Michael—the two sons of Sam Carr, Berkowitz’s neighbor in Yonkers—who were reputedly members of Satanist cult. At the time, MacLean was attempting to procure German shepherds for their own burgeoning dog shelter (the Foundation Faith would morph into the Best Friends animal shelter in Utah in 1982). As Terry tells it, Berkowitz feigned insanity when arrested to protect himself and his family members from assassination by the cult members—yet left voluminous clues to its existence in his letters, apartment wall scrawlings, and post-arrest rants. What is a “Son of Sam”? Berkowitz first claimed to receive “orders” from a demon-possessed telepathic dog owned by Sam Carr, when in fact Carr’s sons were beyond doubt involved in some sort of cult activity that had roped in Berkowitz just before his dog-killings. According to Terry, the answer was staring the cops in the face once Berkowitz was arrested, that the Carr brothers and the “Satanic” cult they were associated with were a part of the killing spree. Sam Carr’s sons John and Michael both died under suspicious circumstances, John by suicide in 1978 and Michael in a 1979 car accident.

tedowens

Science fiction and comic book writer Otto Binder (1911-1974) pens Captain Marvel for Fawcett then works for NASA and becomes fascinated with UFOs. He meets Ted “The PK Man” Owens (pictured), who claims to have inherited powers of clairvoyance and psychokinesis from a UFO encounter in 1965. Owens remains in regular contact with the higher intelligences from space. He meticulously records predictions and prophecies, has people sign affidavits verifying the date he made them, and a good number of them come to pass. Meeting Owens convinces Binder that the human race is already an alien hybrid and we all have slumbering powers that the other race is attempting to activate. This worldview will become standard fare for UFO cultists over the next three decades.

Charles Hapgood’s (1904-1982) catastrophist ideas of magnetic polar reversals, crustal displacement, and an unknown ancient seafaring civilization that mapped the world 12,000 years ago (1958 & 1966) challenge standard history and once again resurrect Atlantis/Mu existence debate–and produce a theatrical disaster in 2012. Albert Einstein writes the preface to Hapgood’s book; the works of Graham Hancock provide additional supporting evidence for the existence of this civilization.

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1965-1970: Kerry Thornley (1938-1998) and Greg Hill (1941-2000) publish the Principia Discordia, a tract praising anarchism, free thought, and worship of Eris, the goddess of Chaos. Here we see the beginning of what will be known as chaos magick. What is taken to be a mock religion will evolve into paranoia as a way of life, inspiring the Reverend Ivan Stang to proclaim Slack in the tracts of the Church of the Subgenius. The Church’s founder J.R. “Bob” Dobbs becomes the ultimate salesman of spiritual snake oil—the kind you can grease your own mental cogs with and run your Yugo.

bobthurman

In 1965, scholar Robert Thurman (1941-) becomes first Westerner ordained into Gelugpa Buddhism by the Dalai Lama and eventually expounds it as writer and professor of Indo-Tibetan religion at Columbia University. His beloved and awesome daughter Uma will go on to be cheated on by a completely moronic second-tier actor who has no idea what he did.

Backster

After founding the CIA’s polygraph interrogations unit after World War Two, Cleve Backster (1924-2013) discovers in 1966 that plants respond to verbal abuse, violent thoughts, and even remote violent events against life forms. He calls this “Primary Perception” and that all life is in telepathic communication on different wavelengths or timespans (for example, the 2.4 mile wide honey fungus in Oregon, the largest living organism on earth, would communicate on a wider biofrequency than Methuselah, the oldest tree on earth). Although in line with many strains of panpsychism and religions such as Hinduism, the scientific community thoroughly shits on his experiments, finding them unduplicatable and poorly designed. Nevertheless, his conjectures leads to the book The Secret Life of Plants (1973) by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, and a later documentary with a soundtrack by Stevie Wonder.

leary

1960-1967, Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary (1920-1996) popularizes the Tibetan Book of the Dead along with the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs, especially LSD. Journalist Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007) boosts Leary’s ideas for the next two decades, especially those in which Leary describes the “eight circuits of psycho-physical existence” (which closely mirror G.I. Gurdjieff’s cosmology).

Ken Kesey's Bus

With Leary’s help, Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, and dozens of other psychonauts participate in a series of “acid tests” at Kesey’s California property in 1964. Their house band is the Grateful Dead, known then as the Warlocks. They go on a cross-country trip spreading LSD and accompanied by “New Journalism” writer Tom Wolfe, a chronicler of subcultures, who publishes The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in 1965.

schucman

1965, psychiatrist Helen Schucman (1909-1981) receives an inner voice dictating to her. With her colleague William Thetford they transcribe A Course in Miracles, first published in 1976.

trungpa

Chogyam Trungpa (1939-1987)—practitioner of “crazy wisdom”, his own Zen-influenced offshoot of Tibetan Buddhism, writes the first popular books on his spirituality. A scamp in the manner of Bodhidharma, the sage who brought Buddhism to China, Trungpa drinks and womanizes himself to death.

 

****The musical Hair popularizes the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, the passing of the scepter from Pisces to the water-bearer. Beads mimic rosaries, drugs the communion host. H.D. Thoreau becomes the patron saint of the hippies. Tens of thousands of mostly young people reject technological society to start farming communes. Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog embodies the do-it-yourself ethos, from food to housing.

Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) spends 40 years doing field research and collating evidence of reincarnation in children aged 3-8. He has strict criteria for doing a full investigation. Each child recollected names of previous family members, their occupations, major events that befell them, the layout of their houses, how they died–and in some cases, found objects hidden by the deceased that not even the previous families knew about. Many children had birthmarks or birth defects such as a deformed limb that corresponded to injury or the cause of death in the previous life. A majority of the cases investigated occurred in India–which is natural, considering the deep and ancient belief in karmic reincarnation there. His Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (1966) is a classic study of the phenomena. He also founds the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies, one of the only academy-based paranormal study centers on America.

Adamsferaferia

Inspired by Robert Graves’s novel Watch the North Wind Rise (1949) and The Recovery of Culture by Henry Bailey Stevens, Frederick Adams (1928-2008, pictured, top) starts the visionary utopian community Feraferia (“wilderness festival” in Latin, an ancient forgotten tradition) through his writings and artwork. It is all devoted to reclaiming the Kore (maiden-goddess) as supreme presence inherent in all nature. Deeply ecological and anti-industrial age in nature, Feraferia attracts only a few hundred hardcore converts over its existence, who believe in reclaiming nature. Adams writes many tracts and rituals for his uniquely artistic spin on the Goddess.

CAWgreen egg

1961: college students Tim Zell and Lance Christie bond over the rabidly individualistic philosophy of Ayn Rand, then Abraham Maslow’s concepts of a “hierarchy of needs” and the goal of “self-actualization.” Rebelling against the conformist society they perceive around them, they begin to find like-minded young guys and establish Atl, a “brotherhood of the water.” Along with thousands of other alienated young people, they then read Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and imagine a utopian community of highly intelligent rebels who will preserve freedom against a tyrannical technocracy. The Church of All Worlds, based on Heinlein’s protagonist’s organization, is born in 1968. Their publication the Green Egg becomes the first newsletter for alternative “Pagans,” a term appropriated from Kerry Thornley’s Erisian and Discordian movements to describe total rejection of technocracy. Encountering the burgeoning ecology scene, Zell embraces its cause as central to the CAW. They find fellow spirits in Fred Adams’s Feraferia collective and abandon the Atl group’s principles. The earth is a single living being that Zell calls Gaea, and views humans as an out of control virus whose job as stewards has been subverted. The concept parallels James Lovelock’s, and throughout the 1970s will gain currency.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004) studies terminal illness’s effects on the psyche. Her 1969 book On Death and Dying outlines the five stages of grief. Over the next decade she investigates out of body experiences, near-death experiences, and channeling.

In 1969, Erich Von Daniken (1935-) publishes Chariots of the Gods? which claims to be the first “ancient astronaut” theory book—only if you discount classical Vedic literature, Sumerian mythology, the Book of Enoch, the book of Genesis, Dogon cosmology, Hopi cosmology, George Hunt Williamson’s The Secret Places of the Lion (1958), Pauwels and Bergier’s eponymous Morning of the Magicians (1959), and The Sky People (1959) by Brinsley le Poer Trench. Von Daniken is the patron saint of the ancient astronaut crowd, and over the next five decades his conjecture spawns hundreds of books denigrating the human genius of ancient peoples and results in an exasperatingly reductive History Channel show.

Anthropologist Carlos Castañeda (1925-1998) publishes The Teachings of Don Juan as his dissertation in 1968, popularizing shamanism. It is discovered he made up many parts of the narrative.

rosemarysbaby

*****Hollywood in late 1960s and early 70s belches forth a slew of occult-themed big budget films following the success of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). The 1969 Manson Family murders induce a moral panic towards drugs and mind control and “Satanism.” The Exorcist is nominated for best picture at the Oscars in 1973. Friedkin’s film takes the existence of the demon Pazuzu and evil seriously, and occult menace films become even more popular. Unease over the sexual, mental, and spiritual freedoms unleashed by the hippie movement, feminism, student rebellions, finds outlet in ancient abstractions projected onto our screens.

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1968, the Beatles go to Bangor, Wales to attend seminars with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Transcendental Meditation, popularizing the TM movement. After witnessing the Yogi incessantly hitting on female devotees, John Lennon leaves in disgust and pens “Sexy Sadie”, whose original lyrics run: “Maharishi, you stupid cunt! You made a fool of everyone!”

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At age 24, Colin Wilson (1931-2013) published The Outsider in 1956. It brings instant acclaim and success. He follows up this study of existential and social alienation with books in the same vein, then writes The Occult in 1970. A survey of the paranormal from Hermes Trismegistus to Aleister Crowley and Gurdjieff, Wilson searches for humanity’s engagement with what he calls Faculty X, the numinous state of connection with a greater reality.

Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy Page (1944-) shows his deep and continuing interest in the occult by purchasing Aleister Crowley’s Boleskine House on Loch Ness, Scotland in 1970 and opens an magick-themed bookstore, The Equinox, in London. Page’s band’s use of runes on the cover of their fourth untitled album and the themes of Celtic and Scandinavian mysticism in their lyrics inspire a generation of teens to seek out the meaning of the symbols–and thus acquaintance with Aleister Crowley and esoteric ideas. On the other hand, Black Sabbath’s 1969 debut album and subsequent career combine kitschy horror film gestures and existential dread in equal measures, a combo entirely lost upon teen stoners seeking to freak out peer and parents alike.

Unhappy childhoods of unremitting abuse are known to produce dissociative personalities. Dissociative personalities in turn are known to be prone to what Frederic Myers called “subliminal uprushes” in which alter personalities and even “spirits” can induce clairvoyance in them. American writer Dorothy Jane Roberts (1929-1984) had such an unfortunate childhood—with the concurrent superhuman abilities Myers sought in full force. After experiencing a trance state in which she underwent a bout of automatic writing, in 1963 she began using a Ouija board and found herself communicating the words of a spirit named Seth. The board was abandoned when Seth began to speak directly to her. The channel lasts from 1963 to the time of her death. With The Seth Material Roberts would become the most famous medium in the world and popularized the sentiment that “we create our own reality” which will become a New Age truism. Her books, along with A Course in Miracles, are the canonical texts of New Age thought.

Physicist Hal Puthoff (1936-) and Laser pioneer Russell Targ (1934-) meet psychic Ingo Swann (1933-2013, pictured, left), who demonstrates extraordinary ability to “remotely view” objects and people and even events in the past. Swann teaches them his technique. Targ and Puthoff, diehard scientists, test Swann and discover his abilities far exceed statistical randomness. In 1972 they obtain contracts with the Defense Department and CIA to develop a cadre of psychics at the Stanford Research Institute to remote view targets in Russia and China, which continues for 23 years.

1972: Uber-Conservative Gary Allen (1936-1986) publishes None Dare call it Conspiracy, the first indictment of “Eastern establishment” Ivy League technocrats as secret communist plotters bent on enslaving the world through the policies of the Council on Foreign Relation and the new Trilateral Commission. He fingers the Rockefeller family as the main drivers of the plot. No occult angle is apparent—yet. This will come later. And, of course, the Reptilians behind it.

1972: Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) publishes The Roots of Coincidence, which popularizes Jung/Pauli’s concept of synchronicity twenty years after the duo’s work was published.

Lindisfarne

1972: Funded by Laurence Rockefeller, channeler David Spangler (1945-) and writer William Irwin Thompson (1938-) start the Lindesfarne Association, a loose think-tank of sorts that attracts many intellectuals over the next 40 years. Dedicated to the creation of a world culture, the ideas of Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser (1905-1973) figure prominently in their discourse. Promoted is a neo-Hegelian metanarrative that posits our imminent transition into an “aperspectival” age in which consciousness includes all moments of history. The ideas of Gebser and Sri Aurobindo will both heavily influence the integral philosophy of thinker Ken Wilber in the 1980s and 1990s.

gaia

Inventor, polymath, and Lindisfarne associate fellows James Lovelock (1919-) and biologist Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) propose the Gaia hypothesis, reviving metaphorically the ancient idea of a world-soul by way of the biological symbiosis of all life and the homeostasis by which our 12,000 years of stable climate provides. Throughout the 1970s and 80s Lovelock and Margulis sponsor Gaia conferences focusing on ecological concerns, especially noting that a change in one part of this ecosystem eventually affects every other part; mankind’s overwhelming resource-taking actions on the planet are disastrous from this standpoint—a situation from which we may not even be able to extricate ourselves. He is one of the first to sound the alarm on human-caused global warming forcing by way of increased CO2, and predicts 80% of humanity will be extinct by 2100.

 

Arthur Janov (1924-) theorizes and publishes work maintaining that the repressed traumas of childhood and resultant anger (which traditional psychotherapy claim causes “complexes” and neuroses) cannot be fully and adequately addressed by the rational discourse of the therapeutic setting. Instead, he prescribes Primal Therapy—the expression of those buried, blocked energies through screaming. Due to a poverty of clinical evidence showing results, it is a short-lived but notorious footnote in the history of therapy.

1973: The American-made wheels start to come off. Watergate, the oil embargo, the Yom Kippur war, the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, increasing airplane hijackings and terrorists attacks worldwide, all stress the population. In the fall, a UFO sighting wave of spectacular proportions occurs worldwide, with entity sightings and “abductions” occurring. The first canonical abduction tales involving extraction from a domicile, examination, and genetic procedures occur.

spear

Trevor Ravenscroft (1921-1989) publishes The Spear of Destiny in 1973, which claims that the lance of Roman soldier Longinus that pierced the side of Jesus on the cross was sought and found by Adolf Hitler’s SS, offering the Third Reich supernatural evil power—like they needed it. At war’s end it was lost and passed into the hands of George S. Patton, who died in a car accident after the war (ostensibly also losing the cursed object). Indiana Jones was nowhere to be found—though George Lucas apparently paid Ravenscroft tribute by naming Jones’s mentor Abner Ravenwood in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

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Physicist and parapsychologist Andrija Puharich (1918-1995) claims 23 year-old Israeli Uri Geller (1946-, pictured) possesses prodigious psychic abilities including, most notoriously, psychokinesis in which he bends metal objects (mostly spoons) by running his fingers across them and sometimes by merely staring at them. Puharich’s bio of Geller reveals the young man believes he is in contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence aboard an orbiting ship and they have granted him his powers. Further impossible feats such as teleportation, apportation, remote viewing supposedly follow as Geller is tested. Stage magician the Amazing Randi challenges then debunks Geller’s spoon bending and mind reading on The Tonight Show before a bewildered ex-magician Johnny Carson, knocking the Israeli down several notches. Many still believe in his powers however, it being the downer 1970s and all when meaning was sorely needed in the growing American spiritual vacuum.

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In February and March of 1974, prolific science fiction author Philip Kindred Dick (1928-1982) has a series of mental breakdowns/revelations that lead him to pen an 8,000 page “Exegesis” about a higher intelligence that controls human consciousness—the VALIS—and produces the ideas of his later novels. Exegesis is finally published, in greatly abbreviated form, in 2011. This period of “high strangeness” 1973-1974 also afflicts author Robert Anton Wilson (more below), who experiments with psychedelics during this time and receives telepathic information about the star Sirius’s connection to ancient Egypt, extraterrestrials, and Israeli psychic Uri Geller’s abilities.

Robert Pirsig (1928-) publishes his philosophical novel Zen & Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in 1974, a worldwide bestseller. An “Inquiry into Values,” it contrasts a “Metaphysics of Quality” counterposed against the scientific, quantitative paradigm reigning in America (as cultural critic and Traditionalist Rene Guenon pointed out five decades previously). Pirsig come to believe a blending of rationality and moment-by-moment mindfulness can co-exist in the Western mind.

***1975: The youth culture’s intercourse with Eastern and ancient ideas over the past 15 years, whether flirtatious or serious, causes severe irritation in conservative American critics who do not seem to notice the soulless vacuum that the very American mainstream consumer culture they defend has become. Ironically, these searchers do not signify to them the very “freedom” they seem constitutionally allergic to actually exercising.

illiminatuswilsonpyram

1975: Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007, above) and Robert Shea (1933-1994) publish the satirical Illuminatus! Trilogy, a mélange of occultism, fringe science, multiple conspiracies, Discordianism, and anarchist politics. It is the first melding of political conspiracy with the occult ideas of Freemasonry as the driving force in this idiotic world (ideas long ago hinted at, in more beneficent form, by Blavatsky and Bailey’s “Himalayan Masters” and more recently by Pauwel and Bergier in The Morning of the Magicians). Wilson will go on to write many books on a wide variety of paranormal, scientific, and conspiratorial subjects, remaining an open-minded skeptic—a “zeteticist”—in the tradition of Charles Fort. Wilson’s books are very popular in the counterculture.

CSICOP

Paul Kurtz (1925-2012), agnostic/atheist philosopher founds the Committee for the Scientific Investigation for Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) in 1976. A few actual scientists (B.F. Skinner, Marcello Truzzi, Carl Sagan, and Ray Hyman) join. Seven years earlier, Kurtz founded Prometheus Books to promote secular humanism and fight what he perceives as anti-rationalism of the occult explosion.

His baby CSICOP makes exactly two scientific investigations—the first into astrology, which statistically fails to disprove the claim that a high number of extraordinary athletes are born while Mars was rising or transiting the sun. The scandalous findings are covered up, then when the cover up is exposed causes the resignation of a few genuine scientists in the org, including the expulsion of CSICOP member astronomer Dennis Rawlins for hammering Kurtz and the others and eventually writing an article about the affair. This teaches CSICOP that they shouldn’t actually attempt science, because they might get their asses handed to them. The second “experiment” is informally connected to CSICOP but involves replicating biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s experiments showing that dogs can sense when their owners are on their way home and wait in anticipation. Again, the attempted debunking fails due to shoddy sample size and ignoring the recorded evidence that, in fact, the dog reacted in just the way Sheldrake had predicted.

There are many “fellows” inducted into CSICOP membership who are in fact scientists but very rarely speak out on the paranormal matters. CSICOP changes its name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in 2006, and continues to fail scientifically to disprove anything psi-related but still has millions of adherents whose pseudo-skeptical ideologies and Westboro Church-like commitment to debunking annoys equal millions.

Hebrew and Sumerian reader Zechariah Sitchin (1920-2010) publishes The 12th Planet in 1976, expanding and clarifying Von Daniken’s ancient astronaut theory by way of the Sumerian mythology of the Annunaki (the mysterious Nephilim in the Book of Genesis). According to Sitchin, the erratically inclined planet Nibiru, which enters our inner solar system every 36 centuries, collided with a planet between Mars and Jupiter and the debris created earth. During a close pass, the Annunaki race from Nibiru came to earth seeking minerals, enslaved homo erectus for mining purposes then genetically altered them into Homo sapiens. Sitchin published his spin on the Sumerian creation myth through 13 more books and influenced the belief system of former race car driver Claude Vorilhon’s Raelian “alien-masters” movement (catch the v-ril in his name?) whose symbol cheekily combines a swastika and the Star of David. Sitchin’s beliefs will influence a generation of both New Age star-seed and Satanic-influence-obsessed fundamentalist Christians, the latter seeing ancient Annunaki “demonic” imagery in every Super Bowl halftime show, Olympics opening, and Hollywood’s “subliminally subversive” movies.

Using a mélange of Alfred Korzybski’s linguistic theory, Noam Chomsky’s transformational grammar, and shamanistic trance-inducing techniques, Richard Bandler (1950-) and John Grinder (1940-) develop a cognitive form of therapy named Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that claims to be able to model and transform a subject’s conception of self and the world to achieve more effectiveness in their life. Conspiriologists will eventually see in NLP the ultimate New World Order brainwashing tool, a ubiquitous technique that will, for instance, catapult Barack Obama to the White House, convince you to buy gold, or be the lurking monster behind rap and hip-hop’s popularity.

Eduard “Billy” Meier (1937-) restlessly travels the world, dogged by an alien presence that seems to be tutoring him. Flying saucers appear, disgorging Nordic-looking “Plejaren” from 80 light years beyond the Pleiades. Meier photographs, films, and records audio of these craft. Debunkers have a field day easily dissecting this “evidence.” Still he generates and continues to have a devoted following of acolytes, and still dispenses messages from the Plejaren today.

Also this year of 1975, Fritjof Capra (1939-) publishes The Tao of Physics, an exploration that equates some of the conclusions of particle physicists with both Eastern thought and ancient ideas of the soul. Niels Bohr, it is learned, was a Vedantist, and Werner Heisenberg a mystic. Pauli and Jung’s synchronicity and the double-slit particle-wave experiment are taken as examples that the concepts inside/outside, here/there are simply nominalist fictions. It is a bestseller, as is Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters four years later, which explores the same basic science-mysticism equivalences. The concepts are associated together in the minds of millions of people to this day—thanks largely to Oprah Winfrey’s 1980s talk show, where Zukav was a regular guest.

Wayne Dyer (1940-2015) writes Your Erroneous Zones in 1975 and in 1976 becomes a bestseller. Its philosophy is seen as an antidote to the irrationally critical inner voices the Puritan ethos has instilled, for better or worse, in Americans, a message the so-called Me Generation (into which the hippies had morphed) accepts gleefully. Clearly in line with works such as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) and Norman Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952).

Terrence McKenna (1946-2000) and brother Dennis (1950-) engage in psychonautical voyages using every kind of hallucinogen and in 1975 write The Invisible Landscape, which contains a theory of recursive, fractal space-time as a critique of Western ideas of measurement. Terence’s ideas of time spiraling to an ever-repeating singularity around the year 2012 almost single-handedly revives interest in the Mayan long count calendar’s end. In The Archaic Revival (1992) and Food of the Gods (1992) he becomes an eloquent and ubiquitous advocate of exploring the alternate realities presented by ayahuasca and pure DMT experimentation. He believes the ingestion of magic mushrooms by early man created new neural “circuitry” and led to the imaginative thinking processes. Ayahuasca tourism, in which Americans and Europeans travel to South America to undergo ritual ingestion of the brew, becomes a big business by the second decade of the 21st century. Beware the DMT machine elves—but more so shady “packaged shaman” snake oil tourism industry.

1975: Dr. Raymond Moody (1944-) publishes Life After Life, an enormously popular bestseller about his researches into the Near Death Experience. These experiences are as old as humanity (an early example being Plato’s account of the solider Er awakening on his funeral pyre to tell of the world of light beyond death). Over the coming decades, advances in trauma medicine will pull many thousands of people from the brink of death who otherwise would have died—1 in 3 of them telling stories of meeting light-beings, dead relatives, angels, Jesus, and even extraterrestrials in their NDEs.

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The notion that “star seeds,” or half-extraterrestrial people, exist to help humanity due to their voluntary birth on earth or as “walk-in” souls can be traced to Brad Steiger’s 1976 book Gods of Aquarius, but the idea has much deeper roots, going back through Madame Blavatsky’s Hidden Mahatmas on through the wisdom imparted by Allan Kardec’s spirits in The Spirits Book (1857) and, of course, is an ancient Hindu belief. The only difference here is the alien or “cosmic citizen” aspect, in distinction to the nature-spirit (deva or devi) or “old soul” who has made the rounds many times reincarnating in human form.

1976: Helen Schucman and William Thetford’s A Course in Miracles is published. A “channeled” work, it becomes an instant classic and perhaps, along with The Seth Material, the reigning text of the contemporary “New Age movement,” with its gently corrective theology involving the importance of forgiveness and grace. Within a decade there will be hundreds of study groups and seminars on the book. Writer Marianne Williamson will become the book’s main popular proponent, discussing its spirituality many times on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

 

1976: Robert Temple (1945-) publishes The Sirius Mystery. It tells of the Dogon nation of Mali, who claim extraterrestrials from the star Sirius birthed them thousands of years ago. Their ancient dances, artwork, and tales are all found to contain knowledge about Sirius and other heavenly bodies that is only discovered in the 20th century—such as the fact that Sirius has an “invisible companion”, which turned out to be the dwarf star Sirius B which orbits the main star. These facts, which any reasonable person would conclude go well beyond coincidence, are the best genuine evidence for an “ancient astronauts” theory.

Mycologist Gordon Wasson (who popularized the term “magic mushroom” in a 1957 LIFE magazine article), Albert Hofman (1906-2008, the discoverer of LSD), and classical scholar Carl Ruck (1935-) research the ancient and perplexing Eleusinian mysteries of Greece. Although the meaning of the pilgrimage has always been clear–the celebration of Persephone’s return from Hades to visit her mother Demeter and inaugurate spring—no records of the spiritual experiences undergone in the ritual’s Telestrion temple exist, except the itinerary and the recipes of the brew which the pilgrims drank prior to entry. Studying the local flora, the trio reach the conclusion that a form of ergot, a barley fungus rich in a variant of LSD, was deliberately used by the hierophants who presided over the ceremonies for two thousand years in Eleusis. The participants thus experienced an intense entheogenic trip in the pillared, cave-like Telestrion hall, probably augmented by a theatrical display by the hierophants. In short, a formalized shamanic initiation for the Greek masses. Their Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries ignites controversy when published in 1978.

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1979: Wiccan priestess and NPR host Margot Adler (1946-2014) publishes Drawing Down the Moon, a survey of Neopaganism and Wiccans in America. It is the first contemporary book to offer an even and sympathetic look at revived ancient and “alternative” religions in a country where evangelical Christian fervor is once again heating up (see Hal Lindsay below). Adler, a long-time friend of writer Whitley Strieber, also incidentally happens to be present at the author’s upstate New York cabin on a night his “visitors” make an appearance in 1987.

The evangelical Christian surge of the 1970s brings along with it interest in angels & faith healing & apocalyptic end times scenarios via Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey (1929-). This will confluence with other eschatologies, such as the Mayan, Theosophist, Hopi, Buddhist-Shambhalan, and other belief systems that peg the last decades of 20th/early decades of the 21st century as the dawn of a New Age, social and religious upheavals, and rise of an Antichrist.

 

The 4th century Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts, discovered in 1945, are first published in English in 1979, spurring prodigious scholarship and inspiring interest in the medieval Cathar and Bogomil religions, whose spiritual views are very similar to one another—and considered heretical to all mainstream brands of Christianity. This find will have incalculable effects on both religious and secular culture. Until this discovery, the Gnostics were only known through the Early Christian apologists, who relentlessly attacked their heresies and doctrinal mistakes. Gnosticism was never a monolithic belief system; in fact was just the opposite. Simon Magus was perhaps the most famous Gnostic and known in the New Testament apocrypha as St. Peter’s adversary in a theurgical battle in which Paul kicked his ass, earning “simony” a coinage that means the buying of pardons from sin, which the Magus was dispensing by means of his magic. But the many Gnostic sects’ deep origins go back to strands found in Zoroastrianism, Plato, and the religion of the Egyptians. Foremost amongst their beliefs is that the universe is a botched creation of a hubristic lesser architect-deity (most times, Jehovah). The misguided Aeon Sophia, however, caused “sparks” of the true universe (the Pleroma, “splendorous fullness”) to become entombed in matter. This remnant of true creation resides in every human, and Jesus Christ was an emanation of the Pleroma sent to present the elements of ascent back to the true God. This repressed philosophical spirituality presented a powerful alternative and antidote to mainstream Christianity (women were always equals in the Gnostic clerisies, and knowledge “gnosis” and living a strict moral life valued over faith and hierarchical fripperies). Thousands of books have now been written about the Gnostic schools, Gnostic churches established, and its ideas still live in works such as Philip K. Dick’s later writings and “The Matrix” trilogy.

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In 1979, ufologist Jacques Vallee publishes Messengers of Deception, a study of UFO contactees and cults. Among them are an ascetic organization called Human Individual Metamorphosis (HIM) which is led by a man and woman known variously as Bo and Peep, Do and Ti, or the Two (pictured, right). Vallee is alarmed at the credulity of its followers, failed prophecies of UFO landings with no loss of face, and the apocalyptic tone of its messages, which include an extraterrestrial Rapture. With journalist John Keel’s warnings against “saucer cults” four years earlier in his Operation Trojan Horse (1975), Vallee is deeply concerned over the mind control aspects of the entire UFO phenomena. His worst imaginings are exceeded. The cult changes its name to Heaven’s Gate and its core 39 members commit suicide on March 26, 1997, after hearing a rumor via radio host Art Bell that a “spaceship” of some kind may be following the Hale-Bopp comet. They believed it was their mothership coming to take them home.

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1980: Michael Harner (1929-) publishes The Way of the Shaman, reinvigorating interest in archaic journeying to contemporary people. Through his workshops, thousands learn techniques of trance through drumming and experience non-human intelligences that act as spirit guides.

1981: plasma physicist David Bohm (1917-1992) publishes Wholeness and the Implicate Order, an inquiry into the existence of a field he calls the “holomovement” which would account for quantum particle entanglement. When combined with Karl Pribram’s conception that phenomenal reality consisting of waveforms that some part of our brains “decode” using Fourier transforms, the concept that the universe may be a hologram, emanating from “another dimension,” become viable.

Cambridge biology professor Rupert Sheldrake (1942-) ignites controversy with his books A New Science of Life (1981) and The Presence of the Past (1988), postulating that natural laws are constant due to what he calls a “morphic field”, a “scientized” version of the Akashic record. All laws of biological life and behavior are the result of repeated imprintings/repetitions of form within this field (which he calls “morphic resonance”). He spends the next 35 years defending and honing his theory against accusations of pseudoscience due to the theory’s unfalsifiability. Yet he gamely develops experiments to test the theory.

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1981: Painter and alien abduction investigator Budd Hopkins (1929-2011) publishes Missing Time. This will be followed six years later with Intruders. UFO history scholar David Jacobs chimes in with Secret Life and begins hypnotic-regressing “abductees,” like Hopkins, without training nor a license and revealing dozens of near-identical, tediously repetitive stories involving light beams, levitation, induced pregnancies, alien-hybrid births, sexual abuse, weird psychodramas, and Men In Black visitations. Dozens then hundreds of therapists worldwide begin investigating missing time episodes, strange, realistic dreams, and UFO experiences in their patients using hypnotic regression and coming up with the same basic stories.

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On May 14, 1982, Theosophist and George Adamski UFO cultist Benjamin Creme (1922-) holds a press conference announcing to the world that Maitreya, the world redeemer who will simultaneously fulfill the roles of Imam Mahdi, the Jewish Messiah, and the Kalki Avatar of Hinduism, is alive and well and living in a London flat after having descended from his Himalayan retreat. Creme knows this because he has been in telepathic contact with the Himalayan Masters Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey first expounded on. The Second Coming will occur on June 21st of that year. In the time-honored tradition of spiritual prophecy tricksterism, as ufologist John Keel always successfully predicted, nothing happens. Crème makes the same prediction several more times. Creme founded Share International Foundation as a non-profit to spread the message via Transmission Meditation and a monthly magazine.

Parapsychologist and psychic Nancy Ann Tappe claims throughout the 1970s to be able to read the colors of peoples’ auras—furthermore, that she has since the late 1960s observed special children with an indigo birth-aura. Tappe publishes the book Understanding Your Life Through Color in 1982 describing the concept. The idea is later popularized by the 1998 book The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived, written by husband and wife lecturers Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. Countless conferences and mythologizing of these kids begins. Several films have also been produced on the subject, including two English feature films by New Age writer James Twyman in 2003 and 2005. ***The almost epidemic emergence of 1) ADHD 2) “restless child syndrome” and 3) autism spectrum disorders concurrent with the appearance of this metaphysical aura-color theory (1995-present) allows many parents to find a positive meaning in their children’s “disease”—accompanied by the fact that the world expert on ADHD, Dr. Leon Eisenberg, admitted in a Der Spiegel interview in 2009 that the diagnosis is so overapplied as to be meaningless, the American Psychological Association’s classification systems have alarmingly broadened in the past decades to pathologize what once passed for normal child behavior. No-one scientifically ventures to seriously investigate the possibility that the tsunami of new electromagnetic fields (cell phones, PCs), genetically-altered, nutrition-free food, and toxic chemicals parallel these “epidemics’” emergence.

Actress Shirley Maclaine (1934-) publishes Out on a Limb in 1983, freely discussing her experiences with reincarnation and metaphysics. She is roundly made the butt of jokes to the present day for her claims and candor.

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By July 1984, a full-blown “Satanic panic” sets in in California, especially against the workers at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles, where 360 children are suspected of being sexually abused. No physical evidence of any kind is apparent—but the authorities believe the children’s tales of witchcraft, ritual sex abuse and even human sacrifices. People blame the deteriorating morals of a society that has become far more sexually permissive since the 1950s. Experts come forward by the dozen testifying to the power of hypnosis to unlock memories—only to be countered by the “False Memory Syndrome” advocates, who seek to prove memories can be confabulated with or without hypnosis by the very act of interrogation. Over the 1980s and into the early 1990s many hundreds of people go to jail for child abuse on no more than hearsay and rumor, having their lives forever ruined. The trials against Peggy McMartin Buckey and her grandson Raymond Buckey (pictured) last seven years, end in complete acquittals, and cost taxpayers $15 million–the most expensive legal case in US history. Only in California!

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1984: Right-leaning radio host Art Bell (1945-) sickens of politics and decides to begin a free-form show where people can call in with ghost stories, UFO sightings, and general spookery. It becomes a success and within a decade goes nationwide as Coast to Coast AM, the most popular overnight radio show in America. Bell hosts exorcists, UFO abductees, Bigfoot researchers, conspiracy theorists, ghost hunters, fringe scientists, etc., giving a platform for channelers and mediums.

*****By the early 1980s the American people have been enervated by the various social malaises of the 1970s. Faith in institutions has steadily eroded—religion, political engagement, civic organizations, bureaucratic ennui. The Baby Boomers who once protested the foundations of the West have mostly joined the mainstream—professionally at least—but still harbor unsettled spiritual compasses. They remain seekers. Psychic fairs, group retreats, human potential movements like est and Scientology promise self-improvement with a decidedly secular bent. But the deeply instilled consumerist mentality is still at work, insisting that the true nirvana perhaps exists in the next system, the next movement, the next group consciousness raising.
Feminism has thoroughly altered the thinking and behavior of both sexes–and invigorated a goddess movement to challenge the patriarchal culture that has prevailed for at least 6,000 years. The traditionally marginalized and feared practice of witchcraft surges in popularity, thanks in part to Gerald Gardner’s Wicca movement. Alongside this are revived interest in Celtic and Scandinavian mythologies as alternate possibilities for religious revelation.
Fired by the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, the gay liberation movement, and radical feminism, conservative Christians rally around these social issues and become politically active, aligning themselves with Nixon’s Republican Silent Majority. This fundamentalist stance of course includes opposition to anything not Christian–such as esoteric metaphysical philosophies, from alchemy to Sufism, ouija boards to tarot divination. The New Age comes under steady attack.

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1987-Novelist Whitley Strieber (1945-) publishes Communion, his personal account of interactions with paranormal beings he calls “Visitors.” He never once claims they are extraterrestrials. It hits number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Published just before Budd Hopkins’s Intruders, which also charts on the Times’s bestsellers, Communion and the former inaugurate a new era in what the public believes UFO activity encompasses: multiple abductions, genetic medical procedures, holographic representations of global cataclysm, telepathic communication. Strieber writes three further books detailing his continuing strange encounters and struggles with memory-bubbles of his troubled childhood.

Harmonic Convergence

After helping organize the first Earth Day in 1970, art professor Jose Arguelles (1939-2011) goes on to teach Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere theories and that humanity is approaching an ascension from its linear 3-D existence. To this end he organizes the world Harmonic Convergence on August 16-17, 1987, a mass meditation event that involved several hundred thousand persons. The event was timed to coincide with the end of the Mayan “hell cycle” which began with Cortes’s landfall in 1519. A grand trine of eight planets synchronized on this date, forming an equilateral triangle when seen from earth. This particular grand trine (it is quite common as an astronomical event) also began the 25-year countdown to the end of the Mayan long count calendar, fueling speculation that some supernatural event would occur on December 21, 2012.

1987: Joel Whitton pens Life Between Life, an exploration of the reincarnation process using hypnosis in which “life reviews” by a “council” are prevalent in the accounts. These experiences fit neatly into the channeled visions of alien contactees and abductees, who also have come into contact with “Nordic”-appearing elder beings for the past thirty years (especially George Adamski).

“Saucer nests” have been reported in conjunction with UAP sightings since the beginning of the postwar phenomenon. Most people think they are possible evidence of extraterrestrial vehicles but swirled circles in grass and grain fields have been reported for centuries; they were thought to be the product of whirlwinds or witchcraft or fairies (the latter because swaying and darting lights were often reported in the fields where they later appeared, as far back as the fifteenth century). In the late 1980s the circles began to show up in profusion in England near ancient megaliths like Stonehenge. By the early 1990s they were almost epidemic on the island—and two men came forward claiming they had created the circles at night using no more than string, a pole, and boards attached to their boots. Many others undoubtedly formed circle-making clubs to hoax the public. But cereologists (crop circle experts) claim to tell the difference between the hoaxed and the genuine: footprints, signs of broken stalks, etc. figure in the former and uniform flattening with no breakage and even cellular alteration in the latter. The increase of absurdly complex and huge crop patterns that APPEAR OVERNIGHT in the late 90s-present would seem to counter the “all hoaxes” answer. Many New Agers see them as messages from ET or the earth trying to communicate through sigils, a coded language to a coming “earth ascension.” Witnesses on the sites claim to experience trances and altered states of consciousness. Conventional explanations range from total hoaxing to geomagnetic disturbances to secret satellite technology to as-yet unknown atmospheric phenomenon.

Psychology professor and “near-death experience/out-of-body” researcher Kenneth Ring (1936-) reads Strieber’s Communion and discerns parallels between the “afterlife” of Near Death Experiences and “alien abductions.” He conducts surveys of both groups, discovering overlap in both personality-type and experiences: He publishes The Omega Project in 1991, suggesting that these interactions are neither fully physical nor mental but occur as liminal states of the “mind-at-Large,” a concept very similar to the Sufi imaginal realm, Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic field, Sri Aurobindo’s Supermind, and Chardin’s noosphere.

Journalist Graham Hancock (1950-) publishes The Sign and the Seal (1992) and Fingerprints of the Gods (1995). The latter work draws on Charles Hapgood’s theory of crustal displacement, the mysterious 1513 Piri Reis map that shows the landmass beneath subglacial Antarctica, von Dechend and Santillana’s Hamlet’s Mill, and the work of dissident geologist Robert Schoch and archaeologist John Anthony West. It provides much evidence for the compelling conjecture that an advanced marine civilization existed prior to the last ice age and survived until about 11,000 BCE.

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Dr. Rick Strassman (1952-) is granted government license to inject prescreened subjects with pure DMT, one of the most potent entheogenic substances known. It causes relatively short (20-30 minute) but intensely involving trips in which the volunteers’ consciousness enters a different but coherent “reality” that turns out to have consistent elements, some of which are comparable to Near Death Experiences and alien abductions. In 1990 he publishes DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which ignites interest in the medically therapeutic use of so-called psychedelic drugs, a trend that continues to the present. Thousands of psychonauts take DMT both in pure doses and in its augmented form, the Amazonian brew ayahuasca, which produces 4-9 hour trips. Many of them are countercultural authors who write books on the archaic revival (as Terence McKenna calls it), the rediscovery of “shamanic otherworlds” by citizens of the “industrialized West.”

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******We’ve now seen the sedimentation of many strands of hitherto marginal movements achieve a symbiotic relationship with one another. Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey’s Theosophical philosophy of the cosmic-guide Great Hidden Mahatmas of has continued in the channelings of many mediums. Hundreds of books are annually published of trance-formed teachings that speak of reincarnation and vanished civilizations like Atlantis, Mu, and Lemuria. Their messages exhort the evolutive potentialities for the whole of humanity, ideas gleaned from sources as diverse as Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre to Sri Aurobindo to Teilhard de Chardin. Almost all mediums speak of a coming Golden Age for humanity. Although the extraterrestrial angle of the psychic communicants has morphed into purely angelic forces, it has not gone away. Hundreds of thousands of people are meditating and adopting rituals of Buddhism and Vedanta. Retreats have sprung up and been successful, inspired by the Esalen Institute and communal movements.

1991: With the publications of Truth Vibrations, Former TV presenter David Icke (1952-) begins a 25-year reign of terror upon common sense and the “Reptilian-Rothschild-Zionist banker” New World Order with his lectures and books, an unholy mélange of “The Matrix’s” ideas, paleo-anti-Semitism, anti-Freemasonry, particle physics, Russian hollow-moon theory, ancient astronaut theory–a bit of something for everyone. Icke brings together many strands of New Age thought in a barely-palatable narrative to explain a screwed-up world and maintains a following of millions.

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1995: knowledge of the Pentagon’s terminated Stargate program of remote viewers is declassified, to public ridicule. Begun in the early 1970s at the Stanford Research Institute, it at first gained NASA funding then $$ from the CIA and DIA. After disclosure was made, over the next fifteen years almost all the members of the project begin teaching the psychic technique and giving accounts of some of the amazing feats their cadre succeeding in carrying out over the program’s 23 years (many operations and their targets are still classified). Joseph McMoneagle (pictured), Ingo Swann, and Major Ed Dames become celebrities in the psychic world. There are currently close to half a million web pages dedicated to teaching this technique.

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March 26, 1997, 39 members of the extraterrestrial cult Heaven’s Gate are found dead of phenobarbital poisoning and asphyxiation in their compound. Having been in existence 25 years, its leaders Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles used full-spectrum cult techniques honed over the decades to convince coverts that they would be taken “home”–home appearing in the form of a spaceship that Applewhite believed was tailing the Hale-Bopp comet, which appeared visibly by February and reached its brightest March 22, four days before the suicides. Ufologist Jacques Vallee warned of this cult’s activities as early as 1978 in his book Messengers of Deception. Many believe Applewhite got the “trailing UFO” idea from radio host Art Bell, who discussed it on the air with amateur astronomer Chuck Shramek on Bell’s popular overnight show Coast to Coast AM.

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According to Terence McKenna, the coming end of the Mayan long-count calendar corresponds to an increasing novelty in experience and consciousness in the “noosphere” (as Teilhard de Chardin styled it) and that it will culminate in a singularity beyond which the world will suddenly become unrecognizable or utterly unpredictable. He can be credited in kick-starting 2012 mania, which will take many forms in various New Age communities. The Mayans’s ancient calendar simply ends on December 21, 2012 (or 2011 in some interpretations); there is no implied destruction of the earth or civilizations (although some would argue for the latter as having come true). Nevertheless, people stock their bomb shelters and say their prayers.

Ken Wilber (1949-) publishes his Kosmos Trilogy (1995-2000) a synthesis of evolutive thought similar to Sri Aurobindo’s but more akin to philosopher Georg Hegel’s or Jean Gebser’s, trying to give an account of everything. The philosophical metanarratives for thinking, history, and spirituality wheeze along.

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1986-2011: Oprah Winfrey (1954-) gives free rein on her talk show to Deepak Chopra (1947-) on holistic health, Gary Zukav on the quantum physics/consciousness connection, Marianne Williamson (1952-, pictured) on A Course in Miracles, Eckhart Tolle (1948-) on living in the present, and provides a platform for dozens of other spiritual gurus who preach various versions of the preceding thirteen decades’ belief systems. She single-handedly brings New Age thought into mainstream American culture via her show.

 

 

Einstein on the Beach: Train 1

 

A moving tableau: a living shadow box.
Traditional theater elements separated from each other, then mixed.

Time moves only by way of the events on stage and their relationships.
The actions of the separate elements—actors, dancer, train, fog, light, screen—are events measuring spacetime relative to each other, requiring the viewer’s effort to induce meaning. Einstein is framed then unframed.
The diagonal is thematic, and simultaneity is a rehearsed accident.

Daemons (work in progress)

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The demon Ashmedai in a Hebrew incantation bowl

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The Kelly-Hopkinsville entities of the 1955 encounter.

 

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Dr. Naama Viloszni’s collection of Hebrew incantation bowl illustrations during the Babylonian captivity.

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The otherworldly beings of the Day family abduction, Aveley, England, 1974.

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Aleister Crowley’s LAM, encountered 1918 during the Amalantrah Working, NYC.

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I believe (on no present evidence whatsoever) that Ted Jacobs was either asked by Strieber or independently based his iconic Communion cover on Crowley’s LAM entity. Strieber notes in the book that Jacob’s painting is a far more anthropomorphic vision of the being he repeatedly encountered. Note the “erased” areas above LAM’s “eyelids”. They have the characteristic teardrop or almond shape persons have described “grays” possessing…The left area also contains what appears as an erased or shaded patch that perhaps was once, or is meant to “subliminally” suggest, a staring eye. Thus compare Crowley’s LAM drawing with this drawing by Betty Andreasson of the “angel” Quazgaa in 1978:

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Above: Set of Enochian characters scryed by Edward Kelley and elaborated by Dr. John Dee, 1582.

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“Alien” language channeled by Dr. Mario Pazzaglini.

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The “universal language of space,” channeled (with phonemic elaborations) from “an alien intelligence” by psychoanalyst W. John Weilgart in the 1960s, meant for expression of specific concepts without ambiguity. An article on Weilgart: https://www.anomalist.com/reports/language.html

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“Angelic music writing”, written spontaneously by 4-year old, 1944, (courtesy Mario Pazzaglini)

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Alien writing via contactee, 1992, to “manipulate minerals and light.

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Asemic writing.

Interview with Dr. Mario Pazzaglini: https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/esp_vida_alien_54.htm

 

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Painted figures at burial site, Altai, Siberia, 3000 BCE.

Marcel Duchamp’s Collaborative Alchemical Game with the Given

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I used to have this postcard portrait of Marcel Duchamp stuck on my car’s dashboard. This image is both ironic and a fitting sentiment of the artist. Perhaps whoever made it also was trying to reference Magritte’s The Treachery of Images:

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Duchamp never wanted to be a role model. The art world filled him with ambivalence. After he failed by his own admission at “fine” painting, all he wanted to do was pose questions and experimentally answer those questions with punning riddles in the guise of paintings, sculptures, films, iconologies for existent and non-existent works, writings, and music. And play chess.

I’ve had very few art experiences in life where a transformation of my world occurred. Encountering Duchamp’s readymades was one of them, especially his criterion for choosing them: “visual (or aesthetic) indifference.” He chose them precisely because he’d never considered them in any aesthetic terms. An object you’ve lived with your whole life, ignored, invisible, suddenly announces its presence as a form. Nothing has changed. Everything has changed. You’ve just “enshrined” the object but just as it begins to glow with significance it fades once again into the background, inert. It’s lost, but you never possessed it in that way in the first place; you were indifferent. It’s free to reappear in its own time.[1]

With this oscillating “frame” of significance Duchamp anticipated (perhaps created?) the cultural world we now live in; the repurposing of objects has become known as appropriation or the mash-up.

At some point early on he discovered that the norms of the art world were more important than, and actually preceded, the physical objects which they instantiated. To make a game out of aesthetic choices, and art a realm of “possible worlds” an artist could by choice inhabit or change, was revealed. Duchamp just showed us that we play hide and seek with our own and society’s values, our artistic success depending on a host of occult and marginalized factors.

Duchamp couldn’t be a role model because he was a singularity. He was his own “factory” long before Warhol could envision a Factory to produce the “aura” (aurea=gold) of art. Duchamp tried via his readymades to break the barrier between the mundane and the sacred, the haute monde of art and the mass produced culture, decades before Warhol; Warhol is unthinkable without Duchamp—as well as hundreds of other famous artists. He’s arguably the most important artist of the 20th century.

Duchamp was attracted to alchemical texts and imagery because they were the product of symbolic codes between solitary practitioners. He could understand his own position vis a vis society and the art world through the lens of the consummate outsider/insider, an inhabitant of the liminal space—the trickster. Hermes-Mercury, the trickster-messenger figure, was also the patron of magic and alchemy. To the public, alchemical texts made no sense, just as they were designed to. Their arcane vocabularies, neologisms, and often-violent imagery were meant to protect the sacred truths against profane eyes (as well as confuse the authorities who might detect a whiff of necromancy).

Many of the Dadaists and Surrealists were interested in alchemical jargon and images, but only because it satisfied their taste for apparent irrationality; they understood them only as hallucinations or automatisms brought on by the alchemists’ chemical experiments or drug ingestion.

We have since learned much more about the history, methods, codes, and goals of alchemy. At its most basic you might say alchemy is the transformation, by natural yet hidden means, of elements that make up everything known in the universe. Traditional alchemy concerned obtaining the prima materia, the unchanging essence that underlies all elements, and using it to transform metals into “nobler” forms. All of the procedures had counterparts in the psyche of the practitioner, and, some say, originate and end there.

The Philosopher’s Stone is, of course, most associated in the popular mind with the turning of lesser metals into gold. We could easily interpret the concept and execution of a readymade as an attempt at inducing mental and emotional alchemy on the spectator—but only those who might already be primed to understand such a thing.[2] At some point in 1912-13 Duchamp claimed a retreat from the plastic arts and denigrated them as retinal art: “retinocentric,” we might now say. We could expand this criticism to include time and notation as superfluous in music, as John Cage eventually did, and typography of linear words and their significations, as e e cummings, say, did in poetry—and center art in the mind. The perception makes the thing intelligible and special to the viewer, who co-creates the art experience. Duchamp in a sense democratized the art experience to be whatever moved one to experience it as such.

Obviously this tremendously undermined the social values of the art world and its tendency (at the turn of the 20th century) towards increasing commodification.

Duchamp was an atheist, but did he hold any spiritual values? He certainly denigrated art’s power as a surrogate for religious sentiment…At some point, with material science replacing the qualitative values of religions into the quantitative values of the physicist and technocrat in society, the plastic arts came into their own as a source of spirituality. Eliphas Levi’s occult writings, the Spiritualist movement, and Blavatsky’s Theosophy inspired a counter-current to the quantitative mindset that was indoctrinating millions of minds. Along with these came waves of art movements: Neo-Classicism (Academic art), Impressionism, Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Orphism, Die Brucke, and pure abstraction (the Blaue Reiter movement, with Theosophist Kandinsky as its proponent). The manifesto-mills were at full capacity.

Duchamp, however, shared in the burgeoning technological fascination and the cult of automation. He was enamored with the machine’s anti-aesthetic, it’s pure functionality, and viewed them as allegories for social relations, sex, and certain modes of human consciousness, a multi-variant mirror that yet was not “reductionist” as we’ve come to know that term. His stance was more like a prefiguring of Marshall McLuhan’s view of technology as extensions of the human form, senses, and capabilities. For Duchamp high technology was more material to be worked with, to other ends than the pragmatic—to engage the “useless beauty” of the artistic gesture. Here was yet another reversal of values.

Then came the Great War. In the wake of this catastrophe, “civilized” values became suspect to the art world in the political oasis of Zurich. Freud’s ideas of the unconscious thanatos drive in the European/American psyche spread and found expression in the Dadaist’s shocking destruction/deconstruction/dismissal of “bourgeois” aesthetic standards, a social counterpart to the deaths of the war and1918 flu pandemic. The techniques associated with Spiritualism (trance states, automatism in writing/poetry-making and painting and drawing) and utilizing chance became working procedures for artists via the Dadaists.

Duchamp never formally associated himself with the Dada movement; he’s rather considered via the readymades their “patron saint” or an isolated inspiration. His conceptions of the rationale for the readymades changed over the decades; he was never certain, in retrospect, what impelled him to make such a move in the first place. But with the readymades, a transformation of consciousness perfectly in sync with the alchemists’ project was made possible. Collage had been used in Picasso’s and Braque’s Synthetic Cubist experiments, and by 1917 the Dadaists were cutting up all sorts of things into collage. But to hack the art world by recontexualizing an everyday object, unaltered, whether a coat rack or bottle rack or tilted urinal, was unthinkable until Duchamp did it. Puzzlement and derision followed Fountain (1917), now considered the most important work of 20th Century art.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968

He did many variations of readymades. Some, like Pharmacie, were “rectifications:”

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This is a simple store-bought painting, “completed” or “redeemed” by the addition of two dots, one red and one green—the colors associated with drug stores in France. What he did was reverse the arrow of signification in Walter Benjamin’s “age of mechanical reproduction”: he took a “pre-reproduced” object and exhibited it as a unique object. He reversed the value of the negligibly valueless. But only a small number; the majority of his readymades were “rectified” objects or altered to fit his idiosyncratic personal mythology. Other rectified readymades were deliberately provocative, like the goateed Mona Lisa, LHOOQ:

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In French, this title phonetically sounds like the phrase “she’s got a hot ass.” Besides repurposing the trivial, Duchamp’s other long-time exploration was with gendered identity. His alter ego Rrose Selavy (eros, c’est la vie—a bad pun, indeed!) appears on several works. Here’s his Belle Haleine/Eau de Voilette (1921), a title, via the transposed letter V for T, apparently meaning “Beautiful Breath of the Veil Water”:

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It’s unfortunate, but there seems to be a rule that both modern and (post)modern art’s meaning to the audience and art history, as measured in the amount of ink spilled in explaining it, is oft times in inverse proportion to the amount of “craft/skill/representational talent” the given work being explained actually displays. This thought occurred to me while reading Clement Greenberg’s and Harold Rosenberg’s defenses of Abstract Expressionism—and a similar thought formed the basis of Tom Wolfe’s notorious screed The Painted Word.

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With Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, or The Large Glass, we have this tendency to explanation brought to its absurd extreme, and all the hermeneutics done by the artist himself in the subsequently published Green Box, a collection of all his notes, diagrams, and explanations of the iconology of the piece. So we have an artist imagining the context, history, function, and critique for his own piece in advance of and alongside its creation, a dialogue with his unconscious. He was thus ahead of his own posterity in creating his own mythology…The same occurred when the Philadelphia Museum of Art revealed Duchamp’s final work, Etant Donnes: la chute d’eau 2. La gaz d’eclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas) which he’d secretly spent decades on and seems at once a condemnation of the museum-goer/haute monde critic/collector as voyeur, and a literal wooden “façade” behind which a “truth” is to be discovered.

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This is its “aesthetically indifferent” facade.

Get up close and personal, gaze into a certain crack in this mask, and hello!:

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Inside

——–

Many thousands of artists can claim Duchamp as a direct inspiration (or those inspired by him as a secondary muse). Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, and the other quasi-Pop artists of the late 1950s and 1960s incorporated found-object (readymade) elements in their work. Collaborations between Rauschenberg, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and John Cage resulted in multi-media events that prefigured the late 60s Happenings. Some of Warhol’s films elevated the mundaneness of the “retinal” to absurdity, yet they prefigured the video painting-installations of Bill Viola. Stripping art of its need for embodiment led to the jokes of Piero Manzoni and Yves Klein, the Arte Povera movement, the whimsical “experience recipes” of Yoko Ono and Fluxus, and the artist’s ego dissolution into actions like Joseph Beuys’s. Individuals from the “postmodern” dance world, influenced by Duchamp via Cunningham and Cage, came together with Robert Wilson’s unique theatrical visions to produce tremendous operas that almost defy rational explication. Out of the Sixties’ Happenings and theater such as Wilson’s came the performance art of the 1980s, embodied most successfully in the multimedia presence of Laurie Anderson.

But this latter movement produced very few memorably shocking events (comparable to Fountain) that erased further the boundaries Duchamp had begun to; those had been rehearsed and “perfected” in performances during the free-for-all 1960s and 70s, like Chris Burden’s Shoot, Ono’s Cut Piece, Shigeko Kubota’s Vagina Painting, or the multimedia conceptual works of Sophie Calle and Genesis P-Orridge.

When we talk about contemporary international art, which names come up? Tracey Emin? Banksy? Jeff Koons? Damien Hirst? Christo? These persons are more like rock stars. Damien Hirst gets pounded all around for his faux-whimsy and creative bankruptcy and is perennially sued for plagiarism. Emin has coasted on the notoriety of one Biennale piece for quite a while. At a more “normal” level of “craft” we have Gerhard Richter, Matthew Barney, Anish Kapoor, Andy Goldsworthy,

 

 


[1] This recalls a story the composer John Cage, a Duchamp disciple and friend, once told about visiting a woman friend and having a few drinks while some strange music played from her stereo speakers. He enquired what it was and she replied, “you can’t be serious?!” It was a recording of his music, probably one of his star-map derived scores that were meant to mutate with each performance; the scores had come from transparencies laid across star clusters that Cage used the I Ching to determine which would be notes and which would be tone-clusters. The pianist-interpreter would read these as notes. Cage wanted to create pieces that were free from human ego as possible, for them to become a part of the world of sounds as sounds spontaneously appear to us. For him to unexpectedly encounter in the world the product of a “recipe” he’d devised must have delighted him.

[2] A person’s opinion of Duchamp’s readymades—whether they are brilliant ideas that expand one’s conception of art, or a bad (and poorly executed) joke—largely determines how one views many of the 20th century’s art movements (such as Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, art brut, arte povera, Fluxus, etc.). The irony is, Duchamp would probably disavow the former and mildly agree with the latter!

Bill Viola’s “Tiny Deaths” and the Inversion of the Gallery Space

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Video artist Bill Viola’s oeuvre spans four decades and hundreds of works. Known best for his tableau video installations and huge scrim projection works, there is one “minor” work from 1993 that I think is his most intriguing and startling. Confronting it was a life-changing aesthetic event.

Tiny Deaths is an installation piece for a very darkened square room. As one enters, muted distorted voices become apparent, softly moaning and speaking unintelligible mantras from some undefinable space, as if unconnected to the room. The immediate effect is spooky as hell. The walls are soon found to be shimmering in very dark grey-scale projection, like the snow of an old television screen with the brightness and contrast at zero. But the projectors are hidden. As one walks about the dark you will come to notice a shadow—perhaps your own—is on the barely lit wall before you. But it stands still as you move; it is a phantom presence. You inspect it. The mutated voices are growing louder and illumination is bleeding rapidly into the space. Suddenly the sounds crescendo in a whoosh and there is a flash behind you. You turn but everything is the same: three barely shimmering walls. Your eyes once again must adjust. The voices murmur low. You look back at the shadow before you, which seems washed out by the intense flash. But it’s still there and growing dimmer. If you choose to concentrate upon it, over a period of a moment and a half or so you notice it has begun to take on details. There is a face. Eyes, a mouth. Clothes. It is glowing slightly brighter with a light that is somehow generated by the image itself and not from a projector. The details appear quicker. The voices are growing louder again. Suddenly a person in black and white in full detail appears before you but is gone in a flash before you discern fully any details.

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On reflection you discover that the light is acting two ways, as projection and reflected illumination, causing a “third realm” in the gallery—or the viewer’s mind—where the viewer(s) is a part of the work. You are gradually washed out by the light and equally disappear to the other patrons.

This is one of the greatest works of art I’ve ever experienced. You have to be there a while to get it. The flashes create a “liminal space” between the depicted persons and the spectators. You can view a two dimensional representation of a person on a wall or a living person standing beside you in the gallery space and the same fleeting effect occurs, but the latter is the “real” world—the world of mortal beings who grow old and die. The images could theoretically cycle through eternity.

Thus the work has a subtext about the visual preservation of the human form that photography grants but can never encompass. We in the gallery are the real subjects of the piece. Viola has reversed the arrow of signification on us, brilliantly.

Illumination in a spiritual sense. Viola has been a Buddhist for 40 years. Suddenly the frail human being appears from the nigredo of a roiling, dimly sparking wall, only to vanish in less than a second and return to darkness. We witness a sudden, finite drama on a two-dimensional surface that reflects its light onto our three dimension world. But like these trapped representations, we exist coursing along the dimension of time as well…The voices drifting through the room offer no condolence or condemnation. They are beyond legibility and meaning. And so is this mystery of existing as a representation of something beyond this four-dimensional and ceasing to inhabit it. It asks us: to what realm are we akin to these persons displayed upon the wall?

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“Alien abduction” as Shamanic Initiation: The History of a Mystery

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Transverberation: The soul being inflamed with the love of God which is interiorly attacked by a Seraph, who pierces it through with a fiery dart. This leaves the soul wounded, which causes it to suffer from the overflowing of divine love.

–St. John of the Cross

“While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [August] I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person who presented himself to my mind’s eye. He had in his hand a sort of weapon like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, and nothing was spared. From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony.”

— Letter from St. Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto, Aug. 21, 1918.

————–

“The spirits cook (the shaman’s) flesh to ripen it.”[1]

—————

The “angel” Quazgaa to Betty Andreasson, 1967:

“We prefer our food burnt…by food we mean knowledge, knowledge tried by fire.”[2]

 

HISTORY OF CITATIONS

As the second epigraph indicates, motifs of a celestial or infernal being injuring a “chosen” person that induces ecstatic agonies is not confined to the beliefs of traditional shamanic cultures. Padre Pio (1887-1967) was a Capuchin monk who went on to possess powers of healing, bilocation, levitation, and stigmata. These feats were verified and documented by the stringent Catholic authorities as authentic and he was canonized.

Had he been born in an Amazonian village, the elder shamans would surely have ordained him a powerful curandero.

One current in alien abduction literature links the experiences of the abductees with that of shamanic initiation. No such reverse paralleling—from academic shamanism studies to the abduction experience—has to my knowledge been explicitly made, except for a very short article by UCLA professor Douglass Price-Williams in 1999. Such a connection could only have been made possible after the abduction experience had been reported hundreds of times, and the recurring elements noted; these were enumerated and clarified through the published work of folklorist Thomas Edward Bullard in 1986-87.[3]

When the extraterrestrial explanation dominated the phenomenon in the 1950s-60s it was considered outré to posit any sort of initiatory aspect to the experiences. The alternatives to the “ET visitors” hypothesis were very few. Only English professor and psychic researcher Dr. Meade Layne and his group Borderland Sciences saw “etherian” or interdimensionality as the answer (1946-1956); contactees such as Guy Ballard, George Adamski, and Truman Betherum preached on higher realms and their inhabitants via Theosophical language, but the vehicles they claimed to interact with were strictly made of unearthly metals. Carl Jung (1959) considered the UFOs’ religious and mythic aspects and their effects upon culture, but hedged upon the physicality of the “objects.”

To the hardcore science-minded, any connection to shamanism was not only absurd but unthinkable during that period, because shamanism was still considered a hallmark of the “primitive.” Mircea Eliade published his classic Shamanism: The Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy in French in 1951. It was translated to English a decade later, finding a limited academic audience. The book was a turning point in anthropology, however, because it showed the cross-cultural similarities of techniques and invalidated the reigning conception of shamans as “insane persons mistaken for supernaturally gifted sorcerers by traditional peoples.”

It was only when the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) got jostled aside somewhat by the occult and paranormal angles of John Keel and Jacques Vallée in the 1970s that a family resemblance between “spirits” and “apparitions” and UFOs became discernable, and that was because these two investigators insisted on a more fine-grained examination of the witnesses’ lives and all the aspects of their experiences, no matter how absurd-seeming those experiences were. The ETH advocates concentrated on the “vehicle” descriptions and, once their reports were finalized in print, threw away the psychological effects on witnesses as noise-creating nonsense that was dirtying up their narrative. Keel and Vallée, however, uncovered psychic experiences including telepathy, psychokinesis, precognition, and effects on electrical devices. Vallée zeroed in on these phenomena throughout the 1970s and 80s, convincing preeminent expert J. Allen Hynek to cease ignoring the “high strange” encounters and surrounding aftereffects; Hynek, the world’s leading UFO expert, came to accept there was far more than metals to the manifestations. In addition, from the late 1960s onward, hypnotic regression came to be used in recovering “missing time” episodes associated with UFOs, led by University of Wyoming psychologist Dr. Leo Sprinkle.

But it required the “epidemic” of abduction reports 1980-1998 to bring clear symbolic meaning—and a narrative—to this aspect of the UFO mystery. By 1998, the surface parallels with shamanic initiation became undeniable. As far as I can tell, this is its timeline in the literature:

 

–While examining Native American nature spirit stories in their 1975 book The Unidentified Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark quote Eliade’s Shamanism on “little green men” who are often shamanic guardians of the Western Plateau and Northern California nations.[4] This mention is made in general relation to fairy lore and the global mythologies of small spirits.

 

–Australian researcher Bill Chalker writes an article in 1977 on the similarities between Aborigine shaman initiations and certain abduction features. This was somewhat prescient because the Betty Andreasson account (published 1979), considered the most detailed and “initiatory” encounter, had yet to be made public.

 

–British author John Rimmer concludes his 1984 The Evidence for Alien Abductions with a short discussion of shamanism with regard to abductions as mystical experiences that change the percipients into vegans, prophets, message-bearers, or healers. Apparently he drew the parallels on his own, without having read Chalker’s essay (although he cites Coleman and Clark’s The Unidentified in the bibliography).[5]

 

–Two of British researcher Hilary Evans’s books, in 1984 and 1987, reference shamanism in the context of otherworldly apparitions and UFO beings, but again, only in passing and without elaboration.[6]

 

Whitley Strieber’s 1987 Communion poses some problems. I don’t think Strieber mentions shamanism in the book, but his entire narrative amounts to an orgy of either synchronicities with or parallels with the “archaic techniques” of initiation. Several times during his encounters he feels as if his very existence as a person is dissolving, and he is subjected to intensely painful “operations” involving needles and other devices. Sexually-tinged emotions involving a “female” being similar to those of shamans with their “celestial wives” is hinted at in Communion, then made more explicit in the rest of his autobiographical books, especially 2016’s Super Natural.

 

–In 1988’s Abduction, Jenny Randles mentions in passing Bill Chalker’s study of parallels with Aboriginal myths and practices.[7]

 

–1989, the American folklorist Thomas E. Bullard publishes an article about UFO abduction reports entitled “The Supernatural Kidnap Narrative Returns in Technological Guise,” which claims “These accounts share many motifs with legends of supernatural encounters and otherworldly journeys.”[8] As noted above, this otherworld-journey aspect had long been a current in the UFO puzzle since Vallee published Passport to Magonia in 1969. As Vallee, John Keel, and Bullard were contending, otherworldly snatchings-away that involved nighttime encounters with lights, a sexual component, and transformation of the percipient have been occurring since the Neolithic period. Many times fairy encounters of the British Isles in particular involved the bestowal of “second sight” upon the percipient, allowing them interaction with the “Fair Folk” and then becoming a “wise woman” or “wise man,” that is, a community healer: the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of a shaman.

 

–Bill Chalker publishes another article in 1990 equating the two experiences.[9] He quotes from anthropologists Spencer and Gillen’s “The Northern Tribes of Central Australia” (1904), an excerpt from which we will examine below.
–By 1990, Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor John Mack informs Near-Death Experience researcher Dr. Kenneth Ring about the parallels between NDEs and certain aspects of the abduction experience. Ring had already noted the similarities between NDE experiences and shamanic initiatory ordeals (NDEs often have disturbing, transformative psychological and social aftermaths). Ring works with his graduate students on what he calls the Omega Project to determine what kind of person undergoes NDEs and abduction experiences. He finds that they seem to exhibit moderate-to-severe PTSD, possess fantasy-prone personalities, high abilities for creative visualization, ease in hypnotic dissociation, and increased psychic abilities such as telepathy, psychokinesis, and sometimes field effects that disrupt electronic devices. Most importantly, he also notes these same personality traits in anthropological and psychological studies of shamans.[10]

Angelsaliens

Keith Thompson’s great 1991 book Angels and Aliens popularizes the awareness of these “archaic” parallels growing within certain factions of the experiencer research community.[11] Thompson must have been following Kenneth Ring’s Omega Project NDE/abduction research as it was being undertaken, because the book was published the year the project wrapped up and mentions it. Angels and Aliens explicitly mentions an abduction connection to both shamanism and near death experiences on pages 88-89, and Thompson excoriates UFO investigators in failing to perceive the obvious parallels with archaic initiation and other seemingly “irrelevant nonsense” such as fairy abductions, the importance of which Jacques Vallée had clearly outlined two decades earlier.

Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe (1991) mentions Otherworldly beings such as fairies, Bigfoot, and “UFOnauts.” Given the book’s overall thesis that we perceive only a narrow band of sensible “vibrations,” he stops just short of declaring that anomalous things are part of a multiverse that our minds naturally filter out but can, at times, with the proper disinhibiting stimuli, see and interact with. He claims the entities may be part of an “omnijective” world, neither subjective nor objective. This is a clearer version of John Keel’s “superspectrum” hypothesis of the late 1960s. He brings up Ring’s work with NDE survivors, out-of-body experiencers, and their shamanic parallels and, like Thompson, mentions Ring’s (then) just-funded Omega project to make a comparative study on the three subjects.[12]

–With Kenneth Ring’s 1992 book The Omega Project appears the first apparent iteration of the “imaginal realm” hypothesis, which is similar to Talbot’s omnijective universe: that these beings and experiences occur in neither purely physical nor mental space, but a third “realm” that contains independently existing visions as well as receives those conjured up by people in states of concentration. This idea is taken from Sufi scholar Henri Corbin’s study of Sufi practices of visualization used to access the heavenly realms.

Similar practices to the Sufis’s are ancient. For instance, Hebrew Kabbalistic meditations and ritual exegesis on Pardes, Pantajali’s Yoga sutras of the 1st century, and Tibetan tantric visualizations (the creation of tulpas) all involve entering a realm of energy in which concentrated thoughts can either produce phantasms that achieve independent activity, or allow the mind/astral body access to a “parallel universe.” These roughly correspond to a shamanic otherworldly journey. The esoteric form of Kalachakra tantric practice, which is considered the most strenuous—and potentially dangerous[13]—way of achieving enlightenment involves celibacy, fasting, purifications, prostrations, prayers, and prodigious daily mantra recitation. It is essentially an extended series of rituals to achieve the type of expanded consciousness that shamans experience and use in their healing ceremonies. Thus the transformative aspects of both abductions and NDEs conceivably tie in with traditional mystical experiences—and become a part of New Age thinking.

–1994 is probably the high point for abduction-related publications. For five years, Dr. John Mack has worked with hundreds of “abductees” and is helping them accept their “ontologically shattering” memories, dreams, and experiences. He publishes Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens in 1994.[14] Mack points out that the “vibratory chaos” some experiencers feel (and as Whitley Strieber vividly described in Communion) as they are transported into the round rooms of the “ships” mirrors in contemporary terms the dismemberment phase of shamanic induction.

Jim Schnabel’s 1994 book Dark White gives a summary of shamanic initiation, from the Siberian Buryat and Australian native traditions via quotes from Joseph Campbell and ethnologist Holger Kalweit. Schnabel emphasizes the transformative aspects of abductions and the idea of objects (usually crystals) being implanted in the shaman during the initiation that turn up in a technological guise in abduction reports as “implants” in the brain, ears, nose, calves, or behind the eyes.[15]

–The same year, in his book Grand Illusions, Gregory Little tells the story of Red Plume’s spirit quest at the Big Horn Great Medicine Wheel in Wyoming in 1800.[16] Red Plume was of the Crow Nation. For four days he fasted, prayed, and suffered the cold inside the cairn at the center of the Wheel. During his initiation he met four small spirits who brought him into their subterranean world beneath the mountain. He was shown a vision of a red eagle and his soul became airborne. He awoke outside the wheel with a red eagle feather. During his subsequent purification at the sweat lodge he told the Crow elders of his experience and was given the name Red Plume. Little goes on to enumerate other aspects of the “little people” spirits of the Crow and other nations, pointing out that they all consider the “dwarves” dangerous if spontaneously encountered but benign if sought out for legitimate medicine or knowledge-seeking motivations. The beings are intimately connected to the Medicine Wheel and certain rocks in the landscape, and are essentially the same helpers Coleman and Clark mentioned in 1975 by way of Mircea Eliade. Throughout the book, Little also analyzes the ancient mounds that cover the American continent and believes they are potent and exploitable sources of electromagnetic energies that First Nations medicine people used to communicate with the spirits. Little’s book is the first to connect up “spirit” abductions, shamanism, and EM anomalies to the high strangeness of some UFO encounters. His conclusion on what UFOs are is a variant of the psychic energy/electromagnetism exposure hypothesis put forward by Paul Deveraux and expanded during this same early 1990s period by Albert Budden.

–On the last page of his unique 1994 study Gifts of the Gods? researcher John Spencer mentions the shamanic parallel to one British “abductee” in particular, Elsie Oakensen, who became a psychic spiritual healer as a result of a UFO encounter and the missing time period associated with it.[17]

Harpur

Patrick Harpur publishes the monumental and influential work Daimonic Reality in 1995. His treatment of the abductee-shamanic initiation parallel is the deepest yet, embedded within a hypothesis that all “supernatural” encounters occur in an imaginal realm neither fully physical or fully mental—an idea, as we saw above, with a long pedigree in mysticism. He calls it the daimonic Otherworld. Following Jung and James Hillman, he connects up the “paranormal” as aspects of the world-soul that are, for lack of a better term, exteriorized synchronicities of psychic/emotional states. The idea is very subtle.

–UFO-obsessed billionaire Robert Bigelow creates the National Institute for Discovery Sciences in 1995, mainly to investigate the paranormal goings-on at the Gorman ranch in Utah, which he’d bought. Centuries ago, the Spanish taught the Ute people horsemanship and pressed the Navajo into slavery, and some Ute warriors engaged in an attempted genocide against the Navajo during the Civil War. In retaliation, according to the Ute, Navajo shamans placed a curse upon them that would last down the generations—a free roaming demonic being that occupied a wide swath of their lands in Utah: “the path of the Skinwalker.” Accounts at the Gorman ranch of strange animals impervious to bullets, apparitions, unexplained lights and electrical anomalies, cattle mutilations, and poltergeist activity compelled some NIDS researchers to consider these as manifestations of the legendary evil spirit. Bigelow funded many other UFO-related projects during this period, one of them being a 1999 paper by UCLA anthropology professor Douglass Price-Williams on Shamanism and UFO Abductions.[18] (Jacques Vallee also thanks Price-Williams in his 1990 book Confrontations, so he had been involved in the UFO/folklore field for some time previous to Bigelow’s commission).

–Dr. John Mack publishes Passport to the Cosmos (1999/2011).[19] Mack interviews three shamans who have interacted with the beings known as the greys, the “reptiles,” and other alien beings. The Zulu sangoma leader Vusumazulu Credo Mutwa claims a brutal initiation by the greys, who he calls the mantindane, and continuing sexual abuse by them in several abductions. To Mutwa, the greys are vampiric demons that are at the same time a part of humanity and symbolic of our future. Conversely, he encountered benign small blue beings who helped educate him when he was young,[20] and “Nordic” appearing entities who also taught him.[21] Bernardo Peixoto was born into the Uru-e Wau-Wau community near the Brazil-Venezuelan border. Their name means “people from the stars” and they trace their knowledge of agriculture to a race that arrived in a sky vehicle long ago.[22] In 1995, Peixoto encountered three “grey-like” creatures on the Irunduba River.[23] For hours he seemed in a trance as he followed them in a state of disorientation. In the aftermath he felt psychically shattered, yet eventually a healing power entered him and he became devoted to unifying the diverse traditional peoples of Brazil against the corporate destruction of the Amazon. Third, Mack interviews activist Sequoyah Trueblood and points out the Lakota and Cherokee belief that they are descendants of people from the Pleiades.[24]

Simon Brian Harvey-Wilson publishes the monograph thesis paper Shamanism and Alien Abductions: A Comparative Study in 2000. He notes that those UFO and abduction researchers who take the largest possible cultural-historical view of the phenomenon usually come to endorse the shamanic parallels. His own research involves interviews with 11 abductees from one of Mary Rodwell’s support groups.

Supernathancock

Graham Hancock’s 2007 book Supernatural: The Ancient Teachers of Mankind[25] ties together these many strands, and solely addresses the shamanic aspects of abductions, fairy encounters,[26] and DMT experiences. He focuses on the “spirit teachers” angle by way of Jeremy Narby’s thesis in The Cosmic Serpent. In that work, Narby claims DMT/ayahuasca/psilocybin placed human consciousness in direct relation to Otherworldly beings who taught the peoples of central and South America on a molecular level about the pharmacopeia their jungle surroundings contained. In other words, the Quecha, Aztec, and Mayan shamans symbolically learned the language of DNA and how this “serpent” inhabits every living thing. DNA is the vast communication system of a single organism. Hancock rejects the ET hypothesis and instead speculates on the release of endogenous DMT as the cause of alien abductions—but recent studies have shown that the pineal gland, which secretes the alkaloid in the brain, cannot ever produce enough of it to cause the entheogenic effects because it is synthesized too quickly.

– 2013: The History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens,” in its idiotically reductive bid to explain most of the products of human genius as extraterrestrial intervention, gives us “The Shamans” in season six. The less said about this one the better.

-During the 1980s through the 2000s, philosopher Terence McKenna lectures on the similarities between shamanic otherworld consciousness and UFO experiences in many interviews and talks.

-In their 2016 collaboration, religion scholar Jeffrey Kripal and Whitley Strieber attempt to contextualize Strieber’s many strange experiences in Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained. Kripal runs through the shamanic parallels explicitly on pages 191-97, focusing on Strieber’s ear “implant,” which he has refused to remove, as emblematic of the traditional crystals that Siberian and Australian shamans have had placed into their “new” bodies during initiation.

So what in fact are the parallels? How does the evidence for this claim come together?

Skyboat

SHAMANIC INITIATION

Viewed from this angle, any “sickness-vocation” fills the role of an initiation; for the sufferings it brings on correspond to initiatory tortures, the psychic isolation of “the elected” is the counterpart to the isolation and ritual solitude of initiation ceremonies, and the imminence of death felt by the sick man (pain, unconsciousness, etc.) recalls the symbolic death represented in almost all initiation ceremonies.[27]

–Mircea Eliade

According to Eliade there are two primary ways a shaman is chosen: through hereditary profession or through extreme illness. The shaman’s actual initiation usually begins with a life-threatening physical episode, “psychotic” break, or extreme depressive episode.[28] The ancestral spirits and clan’s shamans may then visit the young person while in the delirium. The illness has induced a loss of soul, or a detachment of the astral body (soul) from the physical body. Whether “astral/spiritual” or physical, this body is then deconstructed, pulverized, and reassembled anew.

The ancestral spirits/shamans perform this work. The candidate is then led to a celestial or infernal place (sometimes both) to be taught by the master shaman-spirits. A totem animal appears and the young candidate associates with it (this may be the primordial form of the “witch’s familiar”). The animal’s spirit and the candidate’s become one. We should note that abduction researchers never tire of mentioning the animal forms—particularly owls (via Strieber’s Communion) and deer (via Virginia Horton’s experience in Budd Hopkins’s Missing Time [1981])—that are consciously associated with the kidnappings or function as unconscious “screen memories,” produced by the mind, to mask the traumatic appearance of the aliens.[29]

Eliade notes that some Yakut (Siberian) shamans have reported that their bones are scraped of flesh and tied or boiled together with iron.[30] J. Cowan (1992) writes of Australian Aborigine shamans being shown global cataclysms during their initiations.[31] Rock crystals, mostly quartz, are introduced into the shaman’s body in such diverse cultures as the Semang of the Malay peninsula, the Cabeno of South America, and the Aranda, Utmatjera, and Wotjobaluk of Australia.[32] Ioan Couliano describes how both African and Australian shamans gain power from a “rainbow serpent” that protects sacred healing crystals that are given during initiation.[33] Here’s an example from Bill Chalker’s 1990 article, quoting anthropologists Spencer and Gillen’s “The Northern Tribes of Central Australia” (1904):

An aborigine, Kurkutji, was set upon by two spirits, Mundadji and Munkaninji, in a cave: “Mundadji cut him open, right down the middle line, took out all of his insides and exchanged them for those of himself, which he placed in the body of Kurkutji. At the same time he put a number of sacred stones in his body.

After it was all over, the youngest spirit, Munkaninji, came up and restored him to life, told him that he was now a medicine-man and showed him how to extract bones and other forms of evil magic out of them. Then he took him away up into the sky and brought him down to earth close to his own camp, where he heard the natives mourning for him, thinking that he was dead.

For a long time he remained in a more or less dazed condition, but gradually he recovered and the natives knew that he had been made into a medicine-man. When he operates the spirit Mukaninji is supposed to be near at hand watching him, unseen of course by ordinary people.”

The last paragraph in particular pertains to many repeat abductees: they reports feelings of anticipation when they “know” an incident is going to occur in the near future, or sense they are being constantly monitored either by implant or telepathically by the aliens. The beings become, in a sense, “spirit guides.” Many believe that they have been permanently changed mentally, emotionally, and spiritually by their encounters—and the beings play on ongoing role in this evolution of their personal humanity. Sometimes during the period of abduction, the experiencer appears asleep or in a trance to other people; the observers may experience something strange in the environment, but the experiencer does not depart the area.[34] This implies a sort of “astral body travel” to an otherworld, just like the shaman. Often times this is achieved for the shaman via a silver or “fiery” cord that extrudes from the stomach, belly button, solar plexus, or head.[35] The shaman becomes entranced and uses this cord to climb to the heavens or spin a web on which to travel to view distant events.[36] There are a few reports of such cords in abduction literature.

Shamans are called wounded healers in part because their consciousness is only halfway “in consensus reality” due to the personality dissociation induced by their traumatic initiation—which is considered to them a gift and not a liability. Second, they consciously relive their traumatic initiation as a part of their skill to self-induce trance (but without the abreactive adjustment that heals a “crippled psyche,” as our psychotherapy would have it). A third meaning is that they have sacrificed a normal life in the clan in order to occupy their liminal office; a fourth aspect is that they literally injure themselves in the course of their medico-spiritual treatments of people through fasting, bloodletting, conscious pain induction via self-harm with needles, spikes, or arrows, and massive drug intake, all in order to enter the trance in which they commune with their spirit masters and animal guides.[37]

CAVES AND NAVES

Cavepainting

The traditions of using a cave for ritual sensory deprivation, spirit journeys, and symbolic rebirth continued from the Paleolithic well into recorded history, especially with the Greek practices of iatromancy or “sleep cures” at the night temples of Asclepius and Apollo. These were natural caves around which a temple had been built. Here the patient becomes, in a sense, a deputized shaman and charged with using their daimon-intermediaries to discover their own treatment. Climbing into the confined dark space of the caves, and perhaps with the use of either psychotropic or sedative herbs, the sick person has visions or dreams of messages in symbolic form delivered by their daimon (or perhaps even the healing gods Asclepius or Apollo). Upon exiting the cave they would approach the priest for the vision’s interpretation and then be given a course of appropriate medicines for the cure. The parallels to shamanic practice and oracular clairvoyance are obvious.

The cave has always been one of the most powerfully symbolic of places, evoking both the chthonic “womb of earth” from which all life came, the maternal womb, and a representation the celestial vault of the nighttime heaven to which we may rise in the afterlife. Most archaeologists and paleoanthropologists agree that shamans used the famous Chauvet, Lascaux, Coliboaia, and Altamira painted caves of 18-38,000 years ago for rituals and possibly for initiations.

CONTEMPORARY OTHERWORLD EXPERIENCERS

As we’ve noted from the anthropological literature, the non-hereditary candidate suffers the following events in the calling and course of initiation:

-Illness/Mental symptoms of uncontrolled “fantasy” or psychosis

-Spontaneous entrancement due to illness/psychosis

-Paralysis/catalepsy

-Dismemberment by spirit beings

-Reassembly by spirit beings

-Learning from elder shaman spirits

-Gradual reintegration of self & into society, with conversion to a healing profession, including

For a hereditary shaman candidate these same events occur, but the psychosis/entrancement are induced through some form of controlled, ritual fasting, breathing, dancing, drug-taking, chanting, drumming, or other methods and under the supervision of an elder shaman. Usually a vision-quest is required in which the candidate must remain alone in a cave or in the wilderness for a time until the requisite spirits contact them, as in Red Plume’s experience above.

As to the life-transformative aspects of abduction experiences, there’s no better example than what happened to the “Avis” (Day) family. In the 1974 Aveley, England encounter, John Day and his family saw a UFO and encountered a glowing green fog that interfered with their car while traveling home at night. The radio sparked, the car vibrated, they felt very cold, and it became silent as they passed through it. Three hours were found to be missing when they arrived home. In the experience’s immediate aftermath (and three years prior to hypnotic regression), John abruptly gave up a three-pack a day cigarette habit; the family (except one child of three) gave up eating meat; the parents became teetotalers; the child Kevin, formerly lagging in his studies, became an exemplary student; John quit his job but eventually obtained sought-after employment working with the handicapped; Elaine went back to college and became a confident artist; the couple became very concerned with environmental and health issues. There was also poltergeist-like activity in their house for several years, and both parents had recurring dreams of ugly, gnome-like beings around John as he lay upon a table.

Avisabduc

John was hypnotized in 1977. He remembered a bright beam of light hitting the car as they entered the green mist. He found himself in a big room where three tall beings in one-piece colorless suits with balaclava-like headgear examined him. They possessed cloudy, pink eyes. Only one communicated with him telepathically. They told him not to worry about his children. They ran a “honeycombed” wand-like instrument over his body. A small, furry being was also present; it made chirping sounds and seemed the helper to the tall beings. He asked where they came from; they showed him “a map but not a map”, and gave an explanation of which he could remember only the word “Phobos,” which “meant nothing to (John)” but is, of course, one of Mars’s moons. Asked why they were here, they told him it didn’t matter because they were always here, and had “more than one base.” Their propulsion system used a magnetic “vortex.” John felt he was prevented from saying any more.

Before John and Elaine’s hypnotic regression in 1977, all of them traced their life changes to their encounter with the green mist that night. The intervention of an “otherworldly force,” whatever it was, had a profound effect on the entire family. The UFO, fog, and three hours’ missing time were clues that something extraordinary occurred, although beyond conscious memory, but whatever it was, it had spiritual results in their lives.

This transformation, whether sudden (like the Day family’s) or gradual, has been documented in hundreds of abduction cases.[38] The list of parallels to shamanic initiation in the abduction literature is so long that I will just touch on a few. Most prominent are the sensations undergone at the abduction outset, in which “disassembly” by blue or blue-white “light” occurs as one passes through walls or roofs to the “craft.” Sometimes it is done via a thin or thick beam from the UFO above or outside the house/car. This seems to echo the “silver cord” or web-strand the shaman uses to climb the rope of heaven. Many repeat abductees report invasive “medical procedures” by the alien beings. These can include surgical operations, healings (curing of terminal and non-life-threatening diseases),[39] psychological “tests,” induced pregnancies, subsequent removal of implanted embryos or fetuses, and subjection to pain-threshold levels that have no discernable function. Psychotherapist Dr. Edith Fiore reported operations upon both body and the head during abductions by half a dozen of her hypnotized subjects.[40] In one, crystals were placed into the skull of an abductee, and the subject was “flayed” and their cancer removed.[41] Yet another was told she would become a healer as a result of the aliens’ interventions.[42] John Mack’s patient Karin experienced the removal and replacement of her heart.[43] Abductee Sandy Larson, in a famous 1976 case, had her brain “removed” and replaced during her experience.[44] Betty Andreasson had an eye removed to have an implant placed in her brain, and had objects placed in her spine.[45] Amy, one of the women interviewed at length for Karla Turner’s book Taken, speaks of an otherworldly council influencing Amy’s life from a young age. She was shown how to levitate objects, affect electrical equipment, and move through solid objects.[46] The chart Turner displays on pages 215-22 of Taken shows common aspects of the experiences the eight women she interviewed had undergone in dreams or altered states of consciousness: Five reported head surgery of some kind, three a “nasal implant,” five an “ear implant,” six a “spirit-body separation,” six a teaching session, four sexual activity, three witnessed surgery performed on another human present, and four seemed to be in an “underground city.” There are also many dozens of reports of persons experiencing a “download” cascade of information into their consciousness that some believe effects the spiritual transformation they eventually undergo.[47] Others think this overload is either a psychological test, or a preparation for eventual “activation” as agents of the “aliens” when a world cataclysm is to happen in the future.[48]

Caves or cave-like structures appear many times in abduction reports.[49] By the early 1990s, cave-abductions became explicitly present in the literature; many dozens of experiencers recounted being taken to caverns where hundreds of other humans were supposedly seen—as well as human military and medical “collaborators” with the “aliens.”[50] These subterranean spaces are represented either as tunneled bases built directly into the bedrock or a series of structures (and strange craft) inside a hangar-like cavern. Abductees undergo the same medical procedures as in the round rooms within the “vehicles” in these caverns.

Writers such as Colin Wilson, Graham Hancock, and John Mack have pointed out the similarities between those who undergo out-of-body experiences and the shaman’s trip to the heaven/upper world and underworld—the ability to “fly” to obtain information on behalf of their querents or ill persons, whose souls the shaman must retrieve. Many people who are adept at inducing OBEs (“astral projection”) report being very ill at some point when young. Sylvan Muldoon, who wrote two books on the subject, was sickly as a child and had his first OBE at age eleven.[51] In Holger Kalweit’s Dreamtime and Inner Space, he notes many OBE and consequent spirit journey experiences undergone by various shamans occurred while these individuals were either extremely ill or (by witnesses’ accounts) dead, in coma, or a cataleptic state. As noted above, in many instances a cord, rope, or web-strand attached to the belly button, the fontanel, or the back of the neck is mentioned that guides the spirit back to the body. [52] The shamans consider these illnesses transformative, as we’ve noted, allowing them to experience the interconnection between the spiritual and material worlds.

In many shamanic cultures, a spirit may seduce or even rape the candidate and become a “sky-wife” or “sky-husband” to them.[53] During hypnotic regression, the entranced experiencer very often speaks of already knowing the sequence of events and the (alien) beings. Sometimes they say that they even “love” these beings. Some abductees call the “leader” being (with whom they claim to be the most familiar) either their “soul mate,” or a part of their soul.[54] Whitley Strieber speculatively discusses this idea in Communion. For abductees, this phenomenon usually occurs in those who have a history of interactions going back to early childhood, but is initially remembered during the recall of a recent experience. Does this bond exist because there are in fact multiple unrecalled events that occurred earlier in their lives? Or do abductees feel this during hypnosis because they are trying to normalize, in any way possible, the beings’ appearance to lessen their shock at (re-)experiencing it? In other words, is there an emotional reversal (enantiodromia, as Jung called it) from terror to love due to the unconscious realization that these beings are a “missing” or “unacknowledged” part of humanity’s psyche, but experienced for them as a personal relationship for the abductee? For the shaman, the cosmic pairing with a spirit spouse is many times inevitable and done with great reluctance. It is the same with abductees; many are highly ambivalent about their emotional attachment to the beings.[55] For abductee-turned-researcher Karla Turner, these inappropriate moments amount to a form of induced Stockholm Syndrome (via the practice of “love-bombing” that most cults perform on a target individual) and are probably achieved by means of stimulating the limbic system and inducing an overwhelming dopamine cascade.

LIGHTNING SHAMANS

Candidacy in the Siberian cultures may involve lightning strikes or being hit by “stones from the sky.”[56] Holger Kalweit speaks of “lightning shamans,” and devotes a chapter of his book to those individuals who became shamans due to direct or close-by lightning strikes.[57] The shock may have produced in them the state of electro-hypersensitivity and its consequent array of allergic pathologies. Hypothetically this would manifest by the person’s reactions to fluctuations in the earth’s ambient electromagnetic field due to seismic faultlines and their resultant earthlights (piezoelectric phenomena), ionization of the atmosphere before storms, ball lightning, etc. Magnetized rocks and meteorites attract metals, and seem to defy the normal physical world; EM anomalies in the landscape could thus affect these individuals also. Persons deeply sensitized to electromagnetic fields may enter trance spontaneously and further be able to produce unconscious or even conscious psychokinetic effects by way of these EM “hot spots.”[58]

Lightning strikes are a minority in the spectrum of initiatory sicknesses the shaman undergoes. But these two phenomena reflect those that accompany poltergeists. Emotionally disturbed young people have been found to be the “focus” in many poltergeist “infestations,” so it makes sense that a young person entering puberty,[59] which is when these initiatory sicknesses or calls usually occur in traditional societies, could unconsciously manifest the “psychic stress overload” through environmental and electrical PK effects, marking them as potential shamans.[60] Eliade points out that in many cultures sickly or eccentric or withdrawn youths are singled out as candidates if there is no hereditary shamanism present in the society.[61] Are these kids born allergy-prone, or come to possess weakened immune systems due to malnutrition?

AN ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD CONNECTION?

Electromagnetic atmospheric phenomena must have inspired fear and reverence in early humankind—lightning foremost, of course, but also ball and bead lightning, plasmas, and static fields. What would early humanity have made of will-o-the-wisps or long-lived forms of ball lightning rolling across the landscape and darting into the sky? Or the shimmering curtains of plasma formations that covered the sky during solar coronal mass ejections that happened to strike the planet? From what we now know of these rare phenomena, and how dangerous they can be, humans in the Paleolithic and before who came close to earthbound energies most certainly were injured in both short and long-term ways, or even killed by them. The manifestations’ seemingly purposeful movement probably led to belief that they were living beings.

Did we interact with these energies—or perhaps the shamans even learn to control them?

Entopticchart

In Supernatural, Graham Hancock discusses at length the figures in prehistoric rock art that are depicted pierced multiple times with arrows, spears, or needles. These figures are commonly believed to be shamans. He puts forward the hypothesis that these depict “pins and needles” sensations the shamans experienced as the product of drug-induced trance—but these sensations could just as easily be nervous system reactions to intense EM fields, the kinds with which we are all familiar when we are accidentally shocked. Static electricity of course galvanizes the skin, and in very strong amounts can cause prickling sensations. Strong EM fields can disrupt the temporal lobes, causing hallucinations in all the senses. Further, many of the vividly colored entoptic visual disruptions that he compares to some cave drawings easily have mundane causes, such as scotoma (painless migraines that present jagged visual auras), epilepsy, and the precedent to full migraine attacks.

Piercedman

In two underrated books, British researcher Albert Budden explored the electro-hypersensitivity hypothesis with regard to abductions, and found plausible explanations for both the major and minor components of the experiences. What is important with regard to his hypothesis is the physical and symbolic sicknesses undergone by shaman and experiencer both. The EHS sufferer is physically endangered by their immune system reactions, and for Budden the “aliens” or “apparitions” are a form of warning system generated by the unconscious (or “universal intelligence” as he calls it) during altered states of consciousness that these overlapping ambient/anthropogenic electrical fields are harmful to them. Secondary abduction phenomena that Budden ingeniously explains by this hypothesis are: a sudden or gradual dampening of sound in the immediate vicinity; a humming, hissing, or throbbing sound heard just as the experience commences (both which are symptomatic of temporal lobe stimulation by EM currents); very high-pitched noises similar to tinnitus; a series of loud clicking or popping sounds (which Budden explains could be the heating/expansion of tiny bones in the ear canal reacting to the sufferer’s lowered resistance to microwaves); the “crunching sound” many have reported in the nose or brain while an “implant” is placed up the nostril (EM-stimulated magnetite motes that have been deposited over a long period in the upper nasal passages); depersonalized or out-of-body sensations (temporal lobe disruption); and the small patterned burns, scars, “scoop marks,” and bruises, which could be caused by psychophysical action upon the body while in a dissociative state of consciousness (the abduction experience) brought on by an electromagnetic field overload.

In his book Daimonic Reality, Patrick Harpur points out the shaman-abductee parallels in the case of the famous experiencer Debbie Jordan-Kauble, who was weakened by multiple illnesses at an early age.[62] Budden mentions Jordan-Kauble’s poor health in connection to electro-hypersensitivity as a direct cause of her subsequent “alien” experiences and her ability to affect electrical devices.[63]

Along with and sometimes preceding the aural disturbance, a blue-white light is many times seen at the abduction’s onset. Is this the perception of an fast strobe light, which obviously might be able to induce trance or seizures in persons? Such stimulation might also account for the feeling of one’s “vibrations’ increasing” during the opening of the event and passage through a window into the “room” where the experience occurs. San and Australian shamans report going into highly energetic trance in which the silver fire “ropes” carry them into the realm of the spirits high in the sky.

Sundrysynchronicities

SUNDRY SYNCHRONICITIES AND THE TRANCEFORMATION OF ONE’S LIFE

We have seen that one of the commonest forms of the future shaman’s election is in encountering at divine or semi-divine being, who appears to him through a dream, a sickness, or some other circumstance, tells him that he has been “chosen,” and incites him henceforth to follow a new rule of life.[64]

The appearance of a bird, especially an eagle, is interpreted as a sign of shamanic vocation.[65] Eagle is the “father of shamans” in many cultures.[66]

The world tree also figures in shamanic journeying as the source of powers. Eliade mentions the belief that the eggs hanging upon the world tree contain eagles that are actually the spirits of future shamans.[67] Some of John Mack’s experiencer patients reported eagles and other “power animals” during their abductions.[68] We already noted the animal spirit with whom the shaman binds themself and the “screen memories” of strange animals. Betty Andreasson is a deeply religious Christian, yet her first recalled abduction vision contained a pagan psychodrama from antiquity of a death/rebirth mytheme involving the shamanic animal, the eagle/phoenix.[69]

In Supernatural, Graham Hancock points out the parallel visions of the shamanic “eggs on the world tree” and the high-tech “baby nurseries” many experiencers have reported: A “wall” of amniotic sacs within cylinders or cube-shaped containers containing hybrid alien-human fetuses.[70] I don’t believe Hancock is stretching in emphasizing this similarity. One could also make the case that the column sometimes seen in the center of the “ship’s engine room” also serves the same function as a treetrunk-like symbol of power.[71] Abductee Charles Moody described the “engine” as three strut-joined half-eggs that contained diamond crystals inside them.[72]

Eliade mentions that the spirits “count the bones” of the resurrected shaman before their teaching procedures begin.[73] There are many reports of the “alien beings” touching and counting the abductees’ ribs to “see if it’s okay.” The beings never explain the mysterious procedure.

The famous Mazatec curandera Maria Sabina, who had taken psilocybin mushrooms thousands of times since age 11 in her career as a shaman, was illiterate yet absorbed the contents of a book given to her by a spirit. She received a “download,” as experiencers like to say, of an enormous amount of information about the other worlds and healing.[74] Maria was not allowed to keep the book, which “belonged in the sky”—just like the fates of the books given to Betty Hill and Betty Andreasson during their abductions.[75] The “angel” Quazgaa gave Andreasson a “blue book” in her 1967 experience whose at first blank but luminous pages contained information that at some point she was to remember. This is a universal motif (at some point in the relationships) when dealing with “higher intelligences”; Joseph Smith, occultist and founder of the Latter Day Saints, was given a special scrying/reading crystal in order to decipher the angelic language on the golden tablets the angel Moroni had shown him, which became the Book of Mormon. The tablets were given back to the being.

Mongolian shaman

THE OUTSIDER

The shaman or prophet assumes a statusless status, external to the secular social structure, which gives him the right to criticize all structure-bound personae in terms of a moral order binding on all.[76]

–Victor Turner (1969)

This “right to criticize” applied to the “space brother prophets” of the 1950s such as George Adamski (who condemned our society’s violence, our misconceived notions about time, and inability to perceive the “oneness of everything”), but equally to some abductees who have found a calling in healing professions considered marginal to mainstream medicine that involve clairvoyant or empathetic skills. Anthropologist Turner emphasized the idea of liminality, in both the shaman/experiencer’s “chosenness” and initiation by spirits and their eventual social status that results from embracing it as a reality. In the case of the shaman they are elevated in status, but in the abductee’s case it is a lowering of social status in the general community—but perhaps raising it within the boundaries of the experiencer community. Whether these initiation events occur in a “physical reality” or psychic space, their effect on the individual is the same. Socially, there is a parallel between the liminal status of the shaman in society and the “repeat experiencer.” Abductees for the most part have been shunned or denigrated by mainstream science in the same manner as ethnographers and anthropologists once dismissed shamans and even their entire tribes as irrational degenerates. Plato’s parable of the cave may be considered a shamanic myth, and its point is not unlike what the abductee claims to experience. For shaman, mystic, and experiencer, who have had Plato’s allegorical “experience of the sun,” scorn pours out onto those who stay content before the cave wall’s shadows.

Just as the shamanic vocation is considered hereditary in many cultures, some abductees and investigators are convinced the experiences run in families, as if a bloodline were being followed or manipulated over generations.[77]

Since our culture doesn’t properly ritualize the transition to puberty and adulthood as in traditional societies, there is no structure or vocabulary for the children in the “developed” world to contextualize or describe Other experiences. Their experiences, no matter their age, are “infantilized.” This “infantilization” equally applies to criticisms of adult experiencers by the overculture; debunkers relegate their memories and events to repressed childhood traumas, “birth memories,” and the sleep paralysis/“night hag” phenomenon. Young children have their imaginary companions and are eventually taught to separate this function of their mind from the real world. Those who are experiencers, however, describe the utter reality of the “weird looking” child companions they once had (especially their night visitors) and how their parents disbelieved their trips to rooms the sky where they played with both other normal children and the “strange” ones.[78]

THE EVER-TENTATIVE CONCLUSION

When we jettison the high tech trappings and examine the form of these experiences, they contain all manner of “traditional paranormality”: astral travel/OBEs, NDE-like passages, poltergeist activity, psychokinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance, “spirit meetings.” Both contemporary hereditary shamans and the “Western” individuals who have had otherworldly experiences via, say, Michael Harner’s shaman workshops do not report UFOs, aliens, or abduction experiences in their journeys.[79] For them, their shamanic experiences still involve spirits, power animals, and the traditional imagery that accompanies it. As Graham Hancock points out, Dr. Rick Strassman’s legal and public experiments with pure DMT induced in a large number of its participants the elements of abduction imagery: greys, insect-like sentient creatures, round rooms, examination tables, etc. but the subjects were simply reclining on a hospital bed when these veridical experiences occurred. Their minds entered another space.

Since shamanic initiation and abductions are only similar but not identical in form or result (many persons, after all, don’t have transformative life changes associated with abductions) and “traditional” shamanic experiences still occur without the high tech trappings we must conclude that whatever force(s) is behind the UFO phenomenon is somehow aping the vocabulary of the shamanic experience (or causing the human mind to create a symbolic shamanic-like experience). Are the results similar? We must conclude with a qualified yes: in the short term the person experiences John Mack’s “ontological shock.” Their world-views are disrupted and often turned upside down. In the long term, some are given a type of “second sight” in line with the cunning folk/Celtic shamans whose powers were often induced by fairy encounters: they continue to have interactions with non-human intelligences.


[1] Schnabel, Jim. Dark White: Aliens, Abductions, and the UFO Obsession, Penguin Books Ltd, 1995, pg. 139, quoting Holger Kalweit’s Dreamtime and Inner Space: The World of the Shaman, Shambhala Publications, 1988.

[2] Fowler, Raymond. The Andreasson Affair: The True Story of a Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind, New Page Books, 2014, pg. 35.

[3] Bullard, Thomas E., UFO Abductions: The Measure of a Mystery, 2 Vols., FUFOR, Mt. Rainier, MD, 1987.

[4] Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren, The Unidentified and Creatures of the Outer Edge, Anomalist Books, 2006, reprint from 1975, pg. 65.

[5] Rimmer, John, The Evidence for Alien Abductions, Thorsons Publishing, 1984, 138-43.

[6] Evans, Hilary, Visions Apparitions Alien Visitors: A Comparative Study of the Enigma, Aquarian Press, 1984; 235-36; Gods, Spirits, Cosmic Guardians: A Comparative Study of the Encounter Experience, HarperCollins, 1988. 41, 237.

[7] Randle, Jenny, Abduction, Guild Books, 1988. 33-34.

[8] The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 102, No. 404 (Apr. – Jun., 1989), pp. 147-170.

[10] Ring, Kenneth, The Omega Project: Near-Death Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind-at-Large, William Morrow & Co., 1992. 64-65, 85, 92, 108, 218-19, 234;

[11] Thompson, Keith, Angels and Aliens: UFOs and the Mythic Imagination, Ballantine Books, 1993. 154-58, 188, 232.

[12] Talbot, Michael. The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, 1991, 276-285.

[13] That is, through strenuous disciplines that awaken the energy coiled at the base of the spine, it is meant to wipe out the karmic accretions one has accumulated over many lifetimes within a finite time-period. For the improperly initiated or novice this can have devastating emotional and mental effects. The full Kalachakra cycle includes confronting heavenly and hellish beings which the monk or nun eventually subdues in order to use the beings’ powers towards achieving nirvana; these entities are considered aspects of the initiate’s own “compounded” illusory existence, but stripped of personal attributes; in other words, they are transpersonal or archetypal representations of cognitive-emotional states of being. Whether “imaginal” or energetically real, conquering them and utilizing their existential energy towards liberation is the goal of the initiate.

[14] Mack, John E. Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, Scribner, 1994.

[15] Schnabel (1995), 136-39

[16] Little, Gregory L. Grand Illusions: The Spectral Reality Lying Behind Sexual UFO Abductions, Crashed Saucers, Afterlife Experiences, Sacred Ancient Ritual Sites & Other Enigmas, Eagle Wing Books, 1994.

[17] Spencer, John. Gifts of the Gods?: Are UFOs Alien Visitors or Psychic Phenomena? Virgin Publishers, 1995.

[19] Mack, John. Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters, Three Rivers Press, 2011.

[20] Mack (2011), 203.

[21] Mack (2011), 208.

[22] Mack (2011), 169.

[23] Incidentally, this location is 900 miles west at the exact latitude as the 1977-84 events Jacques Vallee writes about in his book Confrontations. During that period glowing orbs and “flying buses” were shooting “beams” that killed, sickened, and burned many night hunters and villagers in northern Brazil. The area was so remote that medical intervention was minimal to none during this “wave.” Vallee personally traveled to the isolated area in 1990 to interview the witnesses and victims. See Confrontations: A Scientist’s Search for Alien Contact, Anomalist Books, 2008, pgs. 124-39, 200-226.

[24] Mack (2011), 181.

[25] Hancock, Graham, Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, Disinformation Books, 2007.

[26] Hancock (2007), 161-66.

[27] Eliade, pg. 33.

[28] It is interesting to note that many persons become writers, artists, or scientists due to prolonged illness in youth by which they either have a consciousness-changing experience, or they use their long convalescence to develop a hobby that becomes a lifelong passion.

[29] See Mike Clelland’s The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity, and the UFO Abductee, Richard Dolan Press, 2015; Vallee, Jacques. Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, Daily Grail Publishing, 2014, pg. 58; Hopkins (1987), 91-92, 100; Strieber (1987), 21-22, 116-17, 145, 298-300; Mack (2011), 152-157, 295; Smith, Yvonne (2008), 116-17, 138-49, 144-47; Anglin, Elizabeth. Experience: Memoirs of an Abducted Childhood, Vol. 1, Sacred Peak Press, 2014, pgs. 38-42; Hopkins and Rainey (2004), 230-38; Turner, Karla. Into the Fringe: A True Story of Alien Abduction, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, pgs. 84, 124-43 (the latter is an extended account of a shared hallucinatory episode at a real cabin with “screen memory” elements to it); Hough and Kalman, (1997), pgs. 78-80; Wilson, Colin, Alien Dawn: An Investigation into the Contact Experience, Fromm International, 1998, pg. 7; Boylan (1994), 115.

[30] Eliade, 36. There is a long tradition in the British Isles that fairies cannot abide the presence and even sound of iron (such as a bell). Could we thus speculate that fairies as known by the Celtic Anglo culture and the master shaman spirits, whether celestial or infernal, are not the same beings as the fee?

[31] Cowan, J. Mysteries of the Dream Time, Woollahra, NSW, Unity Press, 1992. Quoted by Harvey-Wilson, Simon Brian. Shamanism and Alien Abductions: A Comparative Study, Edith Cowan University, 2000, pg. 51.

[32] Eliade, pgs. 45-52.

[33] Couliano, I.P. Out of this World: Otherworldly Journeys from Gilgamesh to Albert Einstein, Shambhala Publications, 1991, pgs. 44-45.

[34] See Watts, Barry, UFOs Down Under: Australasian Encounters, Barry Watts Publications, 2017, for the case of Maureen Puddy, who was abducted “astrally” in the presence of two other people; Turner, Karla, Masquerade of Angels,

[35] Kalweit (1988), 48-51; Wilson, Colin. Mysteries: An Investigation into the Occult, the Paranormal, and the Supernatural, Watkins Publishing, 2006, 377-78; Hancock (2007), 126-31.

[36] Couliano (1991), 44.

[37] Kalweit,

[38] See Mack, John, 1994 & 2011; Boylan, Richard J. Close Extraterrestrial Encounters: Positive Experiences with Mysterious Visitors, Wild Flower Press, 1994, 36-46, 157-69; Rutkowski, Chris A. Abductions and Aliens: What’s Really Going On, Durdurn, 1999, 212-28; Randles, Jenny (1984), 83-84; Strieber (1989), 73-77;

[39] Dennett, Preston, and Dennett, Christine. UFO Healings: True Accounts of People Healed by Extraterrestrials, Wild Flower Press, 1996.

[40] Fiore, Edith. Encounters: A Psychologist Reveals Case Studies of Abductions by Extraterrestrials, Doubleday, 1989, 121-23

[41] Fiore (1989), 89-91.

[42] Fiore (1989), 96.

[43] Mack (2011), 142.

[44] Lorenzen, Coral and Jim. Abducted! Confrontations with Beings from Outer Space, Berkley Publishing, 1977, 63.

[45] Fowler, Raymond. The Andreasson Affair Phase Two: The Continuing Investigation of a Woman’s Abduction by Alien Beings, Prentice Hall Trade, 1982, 137-46.

[46] Turner (1994), 176-77.

[47] This is a fairly “routine” experience when a person encounters “UFOnauts,” from the contactee phenomenon of the early 1950s right up to the present day. See Bullard, Thomas E. (2010), 214; Strieber (1987), 119; Randles (1984), 103; Mack (1994), 224, 243; Mack (2011), 94-98; Ring (1992), 51; Hough, Peter and Kalman, Moyshe. The Truth About Alien Abductions, Sterling Publishing Company, 1997, pg. 111; Swords, Michael. Grassroots UFOs: Case Reports from the Center for UFOs Studies, Anomalist Books, 2005, pgs. 94-95; Turner (2013), 39, 173; Marden and Stoner, (2013), 212; Jacobs (1993), 197; Fiore (1989), 162, 182-83; Harpur, Patrick. Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld, Pine Winds Press, 2003, pgs. 184-85; Thompson, Richard L. Alien Identities: Ancient Insights into the Modern UFO Phenomenon, Govardhan Hill Publisher, 1995, pgs. 126-27; Smith, 158-65 (“induced” visions of plans for an engine).

[48] Jacobs, David. The Threat, (1999), 236; Strieber (1987), 252, 265-66; Mack (2011), 93-119,

[49] Hancock (2007), 131-132.

[50] See Mack (2011), Fowler (2014), The Watchers by Raymond Fowler (1990), The Watchers II, Fowler (1995), Taken by Karla Turner (1994), Lost was the Key by Leah Haley (1995), Reaching for Reality by Constance Clear (1999).

[51] Wilson (2006), 377-78.

[52] Kalweit, Holger, Dreamtime and Inner Space: The World of the Shaman, Shambhala Press, 1988, 48-51.

[53] Eliade (1974), 73, 76-77, 79, 133, 168, 344, 381, 421; Hancock (2007), 150-60; 188-92.

[54] Mack (1994), Boylan (1994), 69, 87, 89.

[55] In traditional Celtic lore, fairies may entrance, kidnap, and rape humans. This can produce hybrid children, whom Graham Hancock (amongst others) believes may be the changelings who are placed in substitution of stolen human children. That’s one possibility; the other is that the changelings are “pure-bred” but deformed fairy children. Yet there are also innumerable tales of humans falling in love with a fairy, whether the humans are “glamoured” or of their own will. These “marriages” often result in children who have great difficulty living in either world. Sometimes the human has been given the “second sight” to perceive fairies and their world prior to these couplings—and also become healers by fairy tutoring. See Hancock (2007), 177-81; 192-203 for the changeling-hybrid enigma.

[56] Eliade, pgs. 19, 32, 55.

[57] Kalweit, Holger, Shamans, Healers, and Medicine Men. Shambhala Books, 2000.

[58] See Shallis, Michael. The Electric Connection: Its Effects on Mind and Body, New Amsterdam Books, 1998.

[59] Eliade, 26.

[60] Heath, Pamela Rae. The PK Zone: A Cross-Cultural Review of Psychokinesis (PK), iUniverse, 2003, 167-69; Wilson, Colin, Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Haunting, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1982, 158-60, 262, 361-62; Rogo, D. Scott, Mind Over Matter: The Case for Psychokinesis, Thorsons, 1986, 84-87; Shallis, Michael. The Electric Connection: Its Effects on Mind and Body, New Amsterdam Books, 1998, 194, 207.

[61] Eliade, 24-26.

[62] Harpur, Patrick. Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld, Pine Winds Press, 2003, (1995), 235-36.

[63] Budden Albert. Psychic Close Encounters, Blandford Books, 1999, 145-46, 179.

[64] Eliade, 67.

[65] Eliade, 69.

[66] Eliade (1974), 69, 128, 160.

[67] Eliade, 70.

[68] Mack (2011), 149 for eagle; 148-152.

[69] Fowler (2015), 102-05.

[70] Hancock (2007), 160-64.

[71] Lorenzen and Lorenzen (1977), 47-49; Fowler (1982), Andreasson,

[72] Lorenzen, (1977), 48-49.

[73] Eliade, 42.

[74] This experience is also similar to the angel “transmissions” the mystic polymath Emanuel Swedenborg claimed in a trance to have received and by which he said angels regularly telepathically communicated.

[75] Hancock (2007), 142-44.

[76] Turner, Victor (1969) 116–17, quoted in Hansen, George P. The Trickster and the Paranormal, Xlibris Corp, 2001, 86.

[77] See the work of Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs, John Mack, Karla Turner, Yvonne Smith, Richard Boylan.

[78] See Hopkins (1987) 299-300; Strieber (1987), 216-22; Mack (1994), 23, 27; 116; Bullard (2010) (a psychosocial comparison with folklore), 197-200; Clark, Jerome, The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the Beginning, 2 Vols., Omnigraphics Inc., 1998, 6.

[79] See Harner, Michael. The Way of the Shaman, HarperOne, 1990, and Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality, North Atlantic, 2013.

The Risen Goddess vs. the Burn

AncientpilgrimsMetanira

THE RISEN GODDESS vs. THE BURN

Techne is a Greek word meaning skill or craft. Plato and Aristotle both used it as the definition of something done well. An athlete or carpenter both must possess techne for performing their activities. Their means and methods would be their technology, which can be taught.

In the broader sense, there is a technology to anything that is effective in creating an aimed-for change in the world.

The skilled use of language to entrance people, whether by poetry or storytelling, is a primordial techne. So are the performances involved in ritual psychodrama.

———

Imagine a 2000 year-old nightclub that holds an annual rave. At this rave, the people must abide by rules set by the MCs and bouncers. After, the ravers swear that they’ve lost their fear of death when they witnessed something inside a place called the ‘White Cave.’ It is only something a person can experience for oneself; it can’t be explained in words. And anyway, once you’ve experienced it you’re not supposed to talk about what happens in this White Cave. Discussing what occurs in the White Cave could even bring exile or prison.

Eleusis

A festival like this occurred, between 1600 BCE and about 400 ACE, in a small town called Eleusis fourteen miles outside Athens, Greece. That’s roughly 2 millennia of yearly events. Some scholars date it even earlier, and its first performances as far back as 2500 BCE, giving it another millennia of life. Some trace its roots to the Minoan culture.

Historically, the event was presided over and managed by two families, the Eumolpides and Keryces, who passed down overseeing the event for dozens of generations. The families were secretive, and did not share the magic they had perfected that could inspire identical experiences in the pilgrim-participants. Imagine the skill they must have honed over centuries by observing the effects of their event on the Athenians and others who made the trek, fine-tuning every aspect from the food and libations and music and dance to the setting and stagings, the timing of dramatic events that merged audience with performance….

The Eleusinian Mysteries was a mass ritual, willingly undergone by the people, highly anticipated, and technologically designed to transform the audience’s souls. Everyone across the ancient Mediterranean were permitted to attend, slave and free citizen alike, except “barbarians” (those who couldn’t speak Greek) and murderers. One could not attend the Greater mysteries without first attending the Lesser, which were preparatory. All hostilities including war maneuvers were suspended for the period of the festival.

The event at Eleusis had a painstaking structure to it, all based upon the tale of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, her mother Demeter’s grief and subsequent wanderings clothed as a mortal, and her tenure as a governess for the son of Triptolemos, a prince of Eleusis.

Participants fasted beforehand, and had to ritually sacrifice a pig in Demeter’s name and ritually cleanse themselves in the Illisos River. The pilgrims called upon Iakchos (Bacchus) as they walked the Sacred Road to Eleusis that originated in the Athenian cemetery.

At the pilgrims’ arrival at Eleusis, the Eumolpides family abided by a three-part program: the dromena, which were ritual actions that started with the Lesser Mysteries.

Second, on the grounds near the Telesterion temple, was the legomena: ritual vocalizations by the hierophants and the priestesses who mixed the sacred kykeon brew and distributed it to the crowd in a procession and elaborate dance.

By this point, the thousands of celebrants had been seated or stood within the Telesterion. The kykeon worked fast, apparently, causing vertigo and cold sweating.

At this point, objects were supposedly displayed by the hierophant in a wooden shrine inside the Telesterion. A pilgrim was a mystes (one with closed eyes) before this revelation, an epoptes (witness) afterwards. This was the culmination and transformative event.

In some accounts, the simple display of alphi, an ear of barley, was the final revelation.

But such a mundane depiction surely could not be a psyche-shattering event, even under the kykeon’s spell?

It is still a mystery to us today.

—————-

Who were the Eumolpides and the Keryces families?

In order to know that, we have to know the myth.[1] Persephone was upon a hillside in Nysa, picking flowers with the daughters of Oceanus.[2] Mother Earth and her brother Zeus and Hades conspired to create the most beautiful narcissus flower to seduce Persephone’s senses so Hades could abduct her. With Persephone beguiled by it, Hades roared forth from the earth on his chariot and swept her away into his chthonic land of the dead.

Realizing her predicament, and that her father Zeus had conspired, Persephone ate nothing and paid no mind to the splendor of the dark kingdom.

HadesPerseph

Demeter searched the fields for her daughter, then the earth. After discovering the truth from Helios, She despaired and wandered the earth as a crone and ended up at the Virgin’s Well at Eleusis. There She met the four daughters of Triptolemus, who convinced Her to meet their mother Metaneira. Impressed with the “old crone,” Demeter became governess to the king’s son Demophon. When offered wine, She refused it, as she considered it the transmuted body of Dionysus, who was suckled by the maenads on the same Nysa field where Persephone had been abducted (for this reason wine was strictly forbidden during the Mysteries).[3] Instead She asked for a drink compounded of barley, water, glechon (mint or pennyroyal) and other herbs (unfortunately, the only copies of the Homeric hymn are missing 22 lines here with the rest of the formula which would become the basis of the sacred kykeon drank at the Eleusis festival). Still morose, an old woman named Iambe-Baubo cracked blue jokes until Demeter laughed and broke from Her melancholy.

Every day in secret She fed the baby Demophon ambrosia and did rituals over him, intending to make a god of him. One day Metaneira caught Demeter baptizing the child in the hearth. Enraged, she discharged the disguised goddess. Demeter threw off Her human vestments and shone forth and condemned Metaneira and humanity for their ignorance of the spirit of the holy, condemning Demophon to not only a mortal life but a short one. She demanded Triptolemus build a temple to Her near the Rharian plains. He did this and there Demeter sat, still grieving the loss of Her daughter—and refused Her duties to fertilize the crops with Her thought and substance, causing a terrible famine for all of humanity.

Now, Her husband Zeus got word of this and, angry over the mortals’ inability to praise Him properly due to the ecological disaster, like any egotistical tyrant, sent goddess after god after messenger to convince Demeter of Hades’s worthiness as husband to Persephone. Demeter sent them all packing. Finally Zeus sent Hermes to King Hades to communicate His concern for humanity’s future—and that Hades should let go of Persephone at once. Persephone was overjoyed. Hades cautioned her that she would have to return to his kingdom sometime. She agreed—“sure, whatever!” Her appetite back, Hades offered her a few pomegranate seeds, four of which she ate.

Pomegranate

Hermes swiftly returned to Zeus with the news.

Demeter was jubilant on seeing Her daughter emerge. Immediately She asked if Persephone had eaten any food while in captivity.[4] She told her mother the whole story. Demeter wept: Persephone would have to spend four months of each year with Hades beneath the earth. So Demeter spent four months in mourning, Her spirit withdrawing from the living landscape to give us winter (or, more exactly, the 4-month drought season of ancient Greece).

But always the joy of the mother-daughter reunion brought back the fertility of the earth.

Demeterreunion

King Triptolemus was the patriarch of the Eumolpides family and builder of Demeter’s temple, whose structure She revealed to him in detail. From the Eumolpides clan came the hierophant of the Mysteries; their name means “of good voice.” Thus they were the cantors of the ceremony, those who taught the crowd the chant and summoned by incantation the presences of the gods and goddesses. The hierophantides to this singer were females chosen from the Eumolpides to attend the women aspirants. The hiera (the sacred objects to be displayed in the innermost place of the Telestrion) were solely under protection of the Eumolpides family.

The Eleusinian Mysteries_13.jpg

The Keryces, another royal Eleusinian family, were subordinate to the Eumolpides. The Keryces clan supplied the hereditarily-titled dadouchos, the processional torch-bearers. From them also came the hierocceryx, the bearer of tidings who enacted Hermes’s role as messenger, making the proper initiatory decrees and often enjoining the participants’ silence during certain intervals of the journey, in honor of Demeter’s grieving silence.

The phaidantes could come from either family. They were charged with maintaining and transporting the holy statues and vessels, including the huge numbers of kraters used to distribute the kykeion substance.

There were other ranks, involving those who carried the mystic fans, spread incenses and holy waters, the spondophoroi who proclaimed the sacred 10-day war-truce, the fire watchers, the flautists and singers, and the melissae (“bees”) who most likely watched for infractions of the rules and generally mingled with the initiates, who were under the control of the nine governors (archons) the leader of whom was called the Basileus.

All the family members wore purple robes, myrtle wreaths, and diadems (as we’ll see this color may have significance with regard to special properties gleaned from the grain).

——————

But what was that revealed to the mystes at the climax of the ritual?

One aspect was the revelation of the true identity of Triptolemus, who spread the word throughout the world of how to properly cultivate the grain. It had to have been something awe-inspiring that involved fire, grain, and a holy, supernatural violation of the sensory world that, combined with the participants’ heavily altered states of consciousness by means of the kykeion drink, overwhelmed the witnesses (who became epoptae). Scholars Carl Ruck, Albert Hofmann, and Gordon Wasson believe the secret ingredient may have been a special local variant of ergot, a mold that grows on wheat and barley and presents as tiny purple bulbs. The Eumolpides may have found a way of diluting the rust’s toxic properties, leaving only the psychoactive lysergic acid to be mixed into the kykeion—a powerful hallucinogen.[5]

Still this leaves the hierophants’ display in the Telestrion as a cypher. Was it a vision of burning wheat that wasn’t consumed by the flames? A Demeter and Persephone bearing wheat stalks who moved, untouched, in the huge bonfire? An image of the risen goddess made of flaming wheat that didn’t burn? Were the masters of ceremony able to control forms of electromagnetism or even plasma discharges endogenous to the Eleusinian geology in some manner? We don’t know.

In any case, the Rites of the Mysteries had the deepest possible meaning for the participants. It fulfilled a deep spiritual need of the populace, to have their fear of death purged, to feel the reverence of Gaia-Demeter and Her cycles, and to revere Her back, to cohere socially and spiritually with a random group of persons of all types stripped of societal rank, to achieve greater social cohesion via a long tradition,[6] to implant the seed of faith in the Goddess of nature both literally and metaphorically.

There was no limit for an individual’s number of attendances, and some persons went many times.[7]

The Mysteries were the original “mass programming” of a society. The Eumolpides took this responsibility seriously and acted accordingly; they were caretakers of the souls and potentially the fates of the participants. No duty could be greater in Greek society, not even war.[8]

And look at us now.

As religion scholars Mircea Eliade and Rene Guenon emphasized, there has always existed the profane space of public life, with its governments and taxes and bloody conflict, then a boundary, and beyond this boundary the sacred space where ecstasies and revelations and renewals of life and spirit occurred. They emphasize that these are sacred spaces where nothing is accidental and everything contains meaning, in distinction with secular places where accident and chaos reign. The Greeks were geniuses in contextualizing both of these realms and creating psychodramas that continuously re-created both of these “worlds” and their boundaries. In the sacred space, microcosm and macrocosm mixed in a both inner and outer hieros gamos, or sacred marriage. Hierophants are always needed to preserve the continuity of the sacred, whether the shamanic initiation, the ordination of a Christian priest or Jewish rabbi, the induction of the Sufi or imam, a Buddhist monk, etc.

Over the past four centuries, the sacred has been profaned and the profane blurred into the “sacred” of the new public temple, mass media. The meaning that enlivened sacred symbols in general has vanished along with the traditions supporting them. The forms of ritual survive, severed from their metaphysical context and transpersonal meaning. The need for catharsis lives as always in the human psyche, but is now “satisfied” through movies and television, music and concerts and raves. Adolescents and teenagers often end up having to spiritually initiate themselves into adulthood through self-inflicted hardships, whether they are conscious of their motivations or not, with dangerous drugs, anti-social and anti-authoritarian power-acts, and gang hazings/actions.

This is partially because the ritual forms that once structured life-transitions have died.[9] Traditional societies still separate the young who are on the cusp of full societal membership and amplify their liminal status through harrowing rituals in the wilderness. The elders do their best to induce a near-death experience in the adolescents through psychodrama involving drugs, masks, fire, and burials. Those who not only survive these hazings but do so fearlessly are marked for leadership in the tribe. Potential shamans are also sometimes discovered in this process.

As adults, we’ve got the weekend. Thanks to the labor movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, the inhumane “free market” capitalist wage slavery was reduced from six/seven days a week to five, with two consecutive days off. Twelve-to-sixteen hour workdays were reduced to eight…By emotional need, our society has preserved the bacchanal on a weekly basis; it is a two-day celebration of not having to work for one’s right to exist and subsist. Drunkenness (which we can call, as Victor Turner put it, “anti-structural consciousness”) and the events it unleashes are celebrated. Freedom from our nasty archons and their system is celebrated.

—————-

How are we programmed today, and what is the nature of the programming?

Television, film, radio, internet permeate the “developed” world and attempt to imprint a monoculture that merely reflects the values of capitalism, namely, a token individualism (liberty), a bogus nod to egalitarianism, “material progress” in housing, medicine, farming, entertainment delivery systems, and weaponry to protect it all.[10] Collectivism (in the Mysterious form induced in the epoptae) and capitalism cannot coexist large-scale in the population of a country like the USA. What at one time were living myths and their symbols have been converted into commodities that the Hollywood machine uses to produce thrills and chills. Very rarely are socially unconscious “collective complexes” and ideas presented;[11] the number of industry filmmakers consciously trying to resurrect/induce a feeling of uncanny wonder inside us, as a form of initiation to a greater reality, can probably be counted on one hand.

We have all been reduced to Sisyphus. Prometheus is reserved for the elite scientific class. The wonder and mystery of life has been tamed or “othered.” We are compelled to seek it out. It’s out of reach, existing only in so-called “undeveloped” traditional cultures (hence the flourishing ayahuasca and iboga tourist industries). For the majority of us, anomalous experiences for which neither psychiatrist nor priest nor scientist is equipped to counsel us may irrupt our workaday lives and cause a transformation; it is only then that the realm of the accidental/secular realm we largely inhabit is expanded and violated by the numinous/sacred.

Second, the mass media attempts to program us into a more or less permanent state of fear and vigilance. Some may think this is at least partially a government attempt to control the nation’s emotions and thinking, and there may be some truth to that. It is more certain that the economic laws of news dissemination (advertiser dollars) favors the networks leading their broadcasts with sensational and trauma/fear-inducing stories. It’s no mistake that pharmaceutical companies buy most up the advertising time on network and cable news; what they are purveying is a nice little setup for inducing mass neurosis. Foremost on their menu is catastrophe, from local fatal car accidents up to natural disasters and mass shootings. “If it bleeds, it leads the broadcast.” Terror attacks are a boon to ratings and thus advertiser revenue. The latest alarming health study is the daily bread. The goal, whether it’s inadvertent or purposeful, is to induce either mild trauma or a disorientation in the populace, making them psychologically malleable to other messages—such as the notion that the government will sincerely give you the truth, facts, assistance, protection.

To sum it all up, the populace is emotionally primed to feel helpless at this onslaught of natural disaster, terrorists, disease, etc.

Obviously, a daily diet of mass media does not create a psychologically healthy individual. With thousands of hours from birth to age 30 it creates a mildly traumatized psyche—easy material to mold. This may or may not be the “conscious program” of the networks; it certainly is for the network and print’s true masters, the government who feeds the “experts” the facts for your consumption.

We could easily trace the roots of profanation back to the Enlightenment critiques of Comte and Locke and Paine and Jefferson. Our society is Janus-faced with regard to religious or spiritual transformation. It takes a special kind of person to face the expanses of “personal freedom” after a transformation occurs and create from it a new persona. It takes an even more special person to face the void of “total freedom” and hold their consciousness/ego together enough to create a self anew from the shards of a fluxing world. Humanity is in a non-optimal cognitive passage of its evolution to live in such nihilism—or only a very few strong individuals, as Nietzsche pointed out. And Nietzsche didn’t have the producers/boosters of this scientific/media imaginary and its “only atoms and void” hucksters in mind as his Ubermensch. In a capitalist society with free-for-all religious values, prefab culture will step into the spiritual void and the entertainment-industrial-complex will fill it.[12]

wickerman

The closest thing we’ve got is Burning Man, a constellation of pathologies that is the opposite (or even an unconscious parody) of the Eleusinian Mystery, born of frivolous libertarianism, techno-utopianism/dystopianism, and “artistic freedom.” As Hunter Thompson quipped in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing on a Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the Sixth Reich.” Thompson was speaking of kitschy Vegas decadence, but it applies perfectly to the Nevada salt flats 514 miles north of Sin City, 45 years later. He lived in the real Burn world every day of his life, without the make-believe trappings. The “express yourself” Burning Man ethic performs an inverted totalitarianism, seemingly “free” but fascistic nonetheless: appear different or die—you’re not welcome on the playa otherwise…Envisuate as an individual and simulate your atomistic bubble, no matter what extreme of bad/no taste, or go fuck yourself…At the end of the week, the big Man effigy is incinerated in some pseudo-mystical echo of the “cremation of Care” ritual done by the “elites” at the Bohemian Grove saturnalia, where the pasty white guys who think they rule the world torch their worries away in front of a big talking owl.[13] How technopagan!

In the past decade, the true Burners who’ve been to the Nevada playa from its 1993 beginning have complained of the Silicon Valley billionaire types showing up by the dozen, and millionaires by the hundred, co-opting the anarchist TAZ vibe, each bringing their own private entourage and cities-within-Black Rock City. Really a damn shame, innit; if you want free expression in this new society, this new TAZ, you are going to now live by their rules, and be prepared for it to be bought and sold in the marketplace. Single BM tickets now run in the thousands of dollars, and are block-bought ahead of time in private by the big-money boys (and it is 99% boys) with connections before the public tickets hit the market.

Where are the sacred rites of passage to be found? Today’s seekers make trips to South America to drink ayahuasca in both ritual and non-ritual situations by people advertising themselves as shamans (or simply guides). Many innocent people have been burned by this “industry” in many ways: financially, mentally, spiritually by charlatans. See this, this, this and especially this.

Jung, James Hillman, and many others have explored the inner worlds that seem to slumber within us and find expression in dreams, visions, and the work of artists. But something like the Eleusinian Mysteries supposedly occurs only once, historically speaking. It is described as the product of an early human “diaphany,” as philosopher Jean Gebser put it, that is, a “making clear” of the relational structure of Greek and perhaps Paleolithic consciousness to itself and embodied into a sprit-affirming ritual.

Can such a diaphany occur more than once and be encoded once again in a mass form? Gebser thought not. Is calling the Eleusinian Mysteries historically unique just a form of “chronocentrism” based upon our conception of history as a unidirectional story? The Mysteries were a religious narrative for all of humanity (despite the prohibition of non-Greek speakers and murderers, anyone else was welcome). Was the Telestrion revelation an eternal form of revelation, or was it bound to place and time and the Hellenic consciousness structure, as Gebser, Hegel, and many other historians would have it? A ritual doesn’t last for two millennia without its being a singularly profound phenomenon in human history, whose structure and content had enormous influence to this very day. Gebser stated that our “aperspectival” age, in which a diaphanous understanding of the very conditions for historical forms has freed us from those conditions, a present in which space-time has become irrelevant, has freed us. Free to invent a new kind of collective experience.

 

 


[1] The myth is far, far older than the high Greek culture: “Dionysus was not the only Greek deity whose tragic story and ritual appear to reflect the decay and revival of vegetation. In another form and with a different application the old tale reappears in the myth of Demeter and Persephone. Substantially their myth is identical with the Syrian one of Aphrodite (Astarte) and Adonis, the Phrygian one of Cybele and Attis, and the Egyptian one of Isis and Osiris. In the Greek fable, as in its Asiatic and Egyptian counterparts, a goddess mourns the loss of a loved one, who personifies the vegetation, more especially the corn, which dies in winter to revive in spring; only whereas the Oriental imagination figured the loved and lost one as a dead lover or a dead husband lamented by his leman or his wife, Greek fancy embodied the same idea in the tenderer and purer form of dead daughter bewailed by his sorrowing mother.”

(The Golden Bough, James George Frazer, pg. 405)

[2] The etymology of this place involves the inebriates associated with Dionysus and his female acolytes the maenads, pgs. 97-99.

[3] Demeter was associated with the fields of barley and wheat that were cultivated through an ancient transmutation (the cross-breeding of wild grasses); Dionysus was associated with the cultivation of the vine and its fermented transmutation into wine. Scholars have surmised that ancient Greek wine contained about 14-20% alcohol content, although they had no words for alcohol or distillation. Their great veneration for wine was due not to the intoxication alcohol alone provided, but the spices, unguents, and other herbs mixed into the fermented “syrup.” Stimulants, entheogens, or even opioids could end up in a wine mixture. Depending on the local customs, pure wine could be extremely dangerous to drink. The hosts of house or public symposia assigned a person the task of determining the amounts of water added to dilute the wine and even the length of time a toast-sip would take. Any more than four “doses/cups” of even diluted wine could bring on psychosis or sickness—hence the notorious reputations of the maenads, Dionysus’s female acolytes who would become frenzied on their retreats into the wilderness when they drank the essence of their god. See Ruck, Carl P., in The Road to Eleusis, pgs. 50-57.

[4] Eating the food of an “Otherworld” and a resulting enchantment or captivity by its denizens is a universal mytheme, one that has survived especially in European and Anglo fairy lore.

[5] See their study The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries.

[6] Of course we’ll have our killjoys here saying “its true purpose then was to perpetuate the patriarchal war-machine that was Athenian society by defusing its citizens’ attitude (fear) towards death in a huge mind-control operation.” Fair enough. But I would retort that this was not its central purpose but a side effect; this ritual was so old it

[7] The 1st Century mystic philosopher Apollonius of Tyana was infamously turned away from attending because everyone thought him a sorcerer; this wandering “priest of no religion” was already so learned in various spiritual techniques that he shrugged off his expulsion, claiming he already knew everything about the Eleusinian Mysteries anyway (which could very well have been true, given his immense knowledge and well-attested ESP abilities). This blow-off, of course, did not enamor him any further to the proud Athenians!

[8] One might cynically say that the social and legal precedence of the Mysteries over concurrent Athenian military actions was due precisely to its removal of the fear of death—it could make the polis’ potential young soldiers immune to mortal terror on the battlefield.

[9] When did traditional rites of passage at puberty or in early teen years conceived as simulated “near-death experiences” or spirit journeys die off in the “West”? Mithraic cults survived into the 5th century. We could consider military induction techniques the closest our society comes to how the ancients practiced it.

[10] As originally envisioned, this freedom from want was supposed to allow people to have more time free to think, to develop themselves spiritually or culturally or artistically. As John Adams wrote to Abigail, “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematicks and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.”

[11] I might here note Jordan Peele’s film Get Out and its inspirations Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, and on another level Frankenstein and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

[12] This is the central thesis of Daniel Bell’s classic The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism: If a capitalist society’s culture is driven by the same unfettered business ethic as its economic sphere, that culture (defined as anything unnecessary and produced “to no purpose” other than entertainment or edification) will ultimately undermine the “Puritan work character” that built America.

[13] Incidentally, Burning Man has been slagged by many as a racist event, whether by socio-economic “accident” that its type is a college-educated tech industry/liberal arts trust fund baby (minorities are simply “underrepresented” in this category) or just plain “I wouldn’t feel welcome” by non-whites.

 

 

Two Abuses of the Renaissance Sage’s Eros-Magic: Part 1. Hermes T. vs. Aristotle: What is the Origin of Transhumanism?

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Two Abuses of the Renaissance Sage: 1. Hermes vs. Aristotle: What is the Origin of Transhumanism?

       Many conspiriologists, following writer Michael A. Hoffman, like to kick around the phrase “the alchemical processing of the masses,” and claim to see the claw-prints of ancient secret societies on all contemporary pop culture and political events. Hoffman and others like Alex Jones rant about the Masonic/Illuminati programming that readies us for the “it shall be” and “it must be” of transhumanism, which is the ultimate goal of the secret scheme: to make humans into gods (and others apparently into food for those gods).

The use of alchemy and magic as descriptors is not metaphor to these people. Although it’s easy to draw a parallel between the CIA-Pentagon’s secret body augmentation/mind control/propaganda labs and that of the alchemist or magician, many like Hoffman go further and posit that events such as the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 are “alchemical psychodramas” meant to traumatize and imprint mind control schemas upon the American soul.

Judging by what passes for “the truth,” what once were genuinely “fringe” beliefs 25 years ago has become a paranoid worldview for perhaps millions of Americans.

The origination for these ideas goes back millennia. We could speak of the anti-Mason movements of the mid-19th century, or Adam Weishaupt’s Bavarian Illuminati conspiracies of the 1760s-90s, but the genesis of psychological imprinting/priming of which Hoffman and others speak is supposedly ancient, and originates in the Mysteries that emerged from the Neolithic.

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RENAISSANCE WYZRDS

Its modern incarnation encompasses the past six centuries. As the story goes, the humanism of the Italian Renaissance originated in rediscovered ancient texts that spurred a revival in “natural philosophy”—a concept which grew to encompass a double meaning, science and magic.

This new learning eventually superseded the Scholastic model of the universe used in the Roman Catholic monasteries. In the 1460-80s, the Florentine Medici family bought and translated the ancient Greek texts obtained from scholars fleeing the sacked Byzantine capital, Constantinople. This influx had a double effect: some of the texts bolstered belief in the existence of angels, that had already been codified for the Catholic masses by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and his study of Pseudo-Dionysius’s The Celestial Hierarchy.

But some of the new texts also laid the foundation for undermining ten centuries of Nicaean doctrines. The Aristotelian-Dionysian classifications that informed the medieval “Great Chain of Being” doctrine—that a naturally hierarchical cosmos had been created only once, ex nihilo, by God—were especially affected by these textual discoveries.[1]

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       In opposition to the Aristotelian scheme, Plato’s mysticism was strengthened by new, independent sources via the Egyptian/Hellenistic Hermetica that the Medici purchased. The texts raised Plato’s Egyptian-Pythagorean theogony to a near-unimpeachable status in intellectual circles. Scholars had found the Catena Aurea (Golden Chain).[2] This was the esoteric lore concerning self-transformation and transcendence that had been passed down from adepts from the time of ancient Egypt.

The figure of the sage Hermes Trismegistus symbolized this tradition. The Greek/Arabic Hermetic writings purchased by the Medici family book-buyers were, over the next century, translated and elucidated by Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, and Tommaso Campanella.

Opposing the dominant Roman Catholic-Aristotelian view of creation, these scholars came to view humanity as unfinished as opposed to fallen from a paradise (Pico entirely abandoned this view and recanted, but was put to death nevertheless for heresy).

The Hermetic tracts Poimandres and Asclepius that had been discovered proclaim that it is possible that humanity may become “whole beings” and possess powers co-equal with God. Pico wrote his Oration on the Dignity of Man in 1486 using this idea; the tract is a blueprint for secular humanism, albeit through a mix of Neoplatonism and a proto-existentialism.[3] Humanity’s Golden Age existed in the remote past, yet processes for achieving apotheosis were still available by using theurgic ritual to channel the stars’ and planets’ energies and evoke daimonic assistance in the task.

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       Ficino developed a Christianized Hermeticism, while Pico chose a Jewish-Christian Kabbalistic method for humanity’s return to Godhood. Giordano Bruno entirely rejected the Christian worldview in favor of Egyptian alchemical/astrological religion. In 1600 the Inquisition torched him believing in an endless universe populated by innumerable worlds—or at least consensus history views it so.

There is much more to the reasons for his execution.

Essential to Ficino and Bruno’s view were the ideas of imbuing images in one’s imagination with vast emotional and psychic force, binding them to the unconscious and one’s anima (soul). Ficino viewed Eros as the prima materia or ever-present element behind all phenomena; this belief became near-dogma for the Florentine Academy of 15th and 16th century.

Eros may be characterized as the resting state of ensoulled beings; all living things possess an unconscious “self-love” that causes them to act in self-preservation in myriad ways and through sexual passion both heighten one’s sense of being and “reproduce” the self.

But for humans, sexual Eros can be very dangerous. The ancients’ conception of spirit (pneuma, “breath”) was axiomatic to Ficino’s magic; pneuma was the medium through which visual impressions passed. Drawing upon the Greek Stoics’s idea that the cosmos was all pneuma in varying degrees of tension, the individual’s hegemonikon (heart/governing principle) vibrated a pneumatic beam to its object(s) and “bound” itself with it/them. This created an impression upon the hegemonikon/heart that at times could be an eidetic image (phantasia kataleptike) of the object. These images could then be imbued, according to Ficino, with very strong mental and emotional “chains of association,” increasing the images’ (phantasia) power within the soul. Eros is normally conceived as the life-force/drive, and acts in everything from sexual vigor to sublimated forms of energy that lead to the creation of art and society’s structures.

The very effortlessness of sexual attraction is a signature that it is primordial Eros magic. The visual impressions of the beloved remain, unbidden but active, in the mind. Here they can be transformed into a higher Eros or fester into complete obsession. A very dangerous situation indeed; we think of “crimes of passion” and the extreme phenomenon of narcissism, a hegemonic-image that has unconsciously made of the world an extension of its damaged self and demands constant recognition of that self. This “black magic” is done by individuals who are spiritually lost and cannot recognize how their own hegemonikon has been captured by images of its own feeding/making. As scholar Ioan Couliano points out,

Circulating through the same pneumatic passage in which contagion of the blood is spread are images that, in the mirror of common sense, are changed into phantasms. When Eros is at work, the phantasm of the loved object leads its own existence, all the more disquieting because it exerts a kind of vampirism on the subject’s other phantasms and thoughts. It is a morbid distention of its activity which, in its results, can be called both concentration and possession: concentration, because the subject’s entire inner life is reduced to contemplation of one phantasm only; possession, because this phantasmic monopoly is involuntary and its collateral influence over the subject’s psychosomatic condition is highly deleterious.

       Interestingly, the love object plays a secondary role in the process of establishing the phantasm: it is only a pretext, not a real presence. The true object, omnipresent, of Eros is the phantasm, which has taken permanent possession of the spiritual mirror. Now, this phantasm represents a perceived image that has gone beyond the threshold of consciousness, but the reason it has assumed such obsessional dimensions lies in the deepest part of the individual unconscious. We do not love another object, a stranger to ourselves, Ficino thinks (Amore, VI, 6), thus anticipating the analytic psychology of Carl Jung. We are enamored of an unconscious image.[4]

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       But Eros is a malleable force as well and can be channeled to many uses. We can all understand these dynamics, how the beloved “infects” the imagination of the lover. As Couliano points out, the beloved can become far more than is “presented” by the simple reality of their presence. Active imagination is always at work, whether conscious or not. The unconscious may take over, leading to obsession that may entirely swallow the personality and lead to madness, the heroic fury of heightened existence:

“(Ficino writes) The lover carves into his soul the model of the beloved. In that way, the soul of the lover becomes the mirror in which the image of the loved one is reflected”….That entails rather a complicated dialectic of love, in which the object is changed into the subject, ousting the subject who, tormented by the anxiety of prospective annihilation due to being deprived of his state as subject, desperately claims the right to a form of existence.

       The phantasm that monopolizes the soul is the image of an object. Now, since man is soul, and since soul is totally occupied by a phantasm, the phantasm is henceforth the soul. It follows that the subject, bereft of his soul, is no longer a subject: the phantasmic vampire has devoured it internally. But it also follows that the subject has now grafted itself onto the phantasm which is the image of the other, of the beloved. Metaphorically, therefore, it can be said that the subject has been changed into the object of his love.[5]

What results is obsession with an internalized, living image of the anima or animus that is always existent within the soul but now finitized, active, and intensified.

At a deeper level, there is a dialectic to this narcissism. The self’s inner image of itself is incomplete, because it does not “possess” that love object (that non-self or other) for which it yearns.[6] But in Couliano’s sense the “Western” ego/self unconsciously senses it must not ever possess it, for that would be utter self-destruction, given that the other must have autonomy in order to embody its numinous nature. This autonomy would be denied it were it assimilated or fully possessed by the ego. On the other hand, the other is apotheosized, elevated precisely because of its numinous nature. So instead of attaining it directly, the ego/self must be transformed to become worthy of this “object” infecting its inner landscape; the self must become more than it presently is in order even to meet it. This requires a synthesis, and that synthesis may be achieved through theurgy and magic. This internal ideal is, in both alchemy and magic, an asexual being because it is beyond the mundane embodiment in “given,” incomplete creation. By means of a sort of secular via negativa, we could say the human ideal is not mortal, not intellectually limited, not prone to disease, not prone to sin, not gendered, not sexed, not limited by 5 senses, etc.—all the qualities of the human, all-too-human. With this erasure comes the birth of a new being with unimagined (and perhaps unimaginable) qualities. It follows in a positive sense from that it would exist beyond the laws of physics, including perhaps time’s arrow and the entropy the arrow signifies, etc.

The problem is, as always, the supposed mind-body or spirit-matter split and how one aspect of our being affects the other one. The Renaissance sages, following their Neoplatonic forebears, found a way around this apparent contradiction.

As Ficino and Bruno learned by studying the ancient texts, a magician could use this natural procedure of Erotic fixation, amplify it with intense concentrated meditations, then reverse it and imbue physical objects such as talismans, amulets, candles, shields, pens, or paintings with this emotional/psychic power.

By these means Ficino and Bruno revived the ancient tradition of statue-animation. This, too, used angelic/astrological/planet-invoking processes, most of which date back to Sumeria, Akkadia, Babylon, and Egypt—and probably long before.[7] A transmission route can be traced from Egyptian funerary and resurrection practices on through Hebraic merkavah and hekhalot (“throne” and “chariot”) meditations to Iamblichus’s Neoplatonist theurgy and into the magic revived by Ficino; at least they all share a very strong family resemblance. All involved invoking angels/daimons, ethereal beings that inhabited both the physical world and the liminal space between the physical and the incorporeal. Eros binds them all together, and becomes the clay in the magician’s hands. The sages exploited the liminal realm, the third term, the penumbral that resists Aristotle’s excluded middle and rigid classificatory systems. Humanity’s finite nature and incompleteness becomes something amenable to transformation.

For the most part, the Florentine Academy’s “Christianized” hermetics was entirely in line with the goals of Iamblichean, Platonic, Hebraic, and Pythagorean practice: to contact the higher worlds via the daimons/angels, uplift the human practitioner of magic, and gain a vision of or even henosis (subsumption) with God. To imbue a statue with celestial/stellar energies was to create both an object of contemplation and, more importantly, a launching point for absorption to the higher spheres.

These procedures, along with those outlined in the Arabic grimoire Picatrix and remnants of the 5th-Century Greek Magical Papyri, were gathered in Cornelis Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1531), which remains the largest compendium of Neoplatonic magic ever written.

And of course, statue-animation (i.e., idolatry) and binding spells that involve daimons are the foundation from which the Abrahamic religions censure all forms of magic (except that of the miracles inspired by Jesus and Mary in Catholic Christianity’s case, and those of the Talmudic sages in mystical Kabbalism). The ancient Hebrews censured depictions of YHVH and speaking the name of God; Muhammad went further and condemned even depictions of human beings as sacrilegious. But in Judaism we find the mystical traditions of Kabbalah and a representation of the All as the Tree of Life, and in the latter we discover many Platonically-inspired geometric designs on mosques and illuminated Quran/hadith texts, as well as the Arabic script itself as being divinely imbued.

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THE BLACKWHITEGOLDRED

Then there was the alchemical tradition. When these tracts were disseminated in Latin it gave emotional impetus and new material for the lone magicians and alchemists to practice “hidden arts.” Although it is an ancient global project, the Westernized varieties of alchemy are concerned with attaining the “Philosopher’s Stone.” The consensus view is that this amounted to achieving the elixir vitae, or immortality for the human soul/spirit of the practitioner through chemical/pharmacological means, or through the production of a kind of spiritual substance within the alchemist’s body that preserved itself. Central to the alchemist’s view also is the idea of a prima materia; what we see around us are merely emanations, mixtures, or “masks” of this singular substance.[8] The four elements Earth, Water, Air, and Fire and the base metals/materials of which they are comprised in varying degrees could be wedded together to produce quintessence, a fifth element that possessed the desired emergent properties, one quality of which is indestructibility because it “shares more closely in the nature of the prima materia” of which everything is ultimately made. Metals were considered double-natured, because they could be melted to liquid and fused together. Mercury was “king of the metals” because it naturally possessed both solid and liquid properties and an inherent coherence even when separated into drops of any size. No other element had this quality, so mercury was of central importance in transmutations.

Alchemy means controlling the processes of change, whether it’s transforming elements through a hierarchy of levels by manipulating spiritual essences, or changing the consciousness of the practitioner’s biological processes and ultimately their aging process.[9] The most elaborate alchemical procedures involved the practitioner observing astrological strictures and undergoing ritual purification before the Great Work proceeded. As with Ficino’s and Bruno’s image-magic, specific planets’ and stars’ powers were invoked for specific operations. The goal was not only to affect bio/chemical change but alter the spiritual essence of the elements by way of the alchemists’ will and the “gods” of the elements they used—putting them in service to the alchemist.

Secrecy was always imperative to ancient, medieval, and Renaissance sage alike. The rabble was not only considered unworthy of such knowledge, it was feared that the secular use of such techniques could be disastrous (and for the same reason, the secular authorities feared and condemned the alchemist, who theoretically could mint as many gold coins as desired, debasing the currency). So purity is a quality consistently stressed throughout the tradition, which is achieved through prayer, fasting, chastity, and cleanliness. The magician-alchemist dealt with angels and demons, spirits and elementals, demigods and gods. Opening portals to the higher or lower worlds was serious business.[10]

This did not prevent adepts from organizing themselves into secret societies and using particular rituals to psychologically affect individuals (which was the goal of most of the rituals of the Greek Magical Papyri and many Solomonic magical texts). It was a small step to believe the same processes could also be used to transform humanityif not in its material bodies, then in its emotions, thinking, opinions, and social relations. This is the central tenet to conspiracists’ views on the matter.

It is certain that Giordano Bruno and the Rosicrucian tracts of 1614 boosted this societal prospect. As Couliano points out, Bruno’s essay “On Binding in General” (or “On the Chaining of Chains”) describes how the magician can manipulate the pneuma-images absorbed by both individuals and groups to do their bidding through sympathies and the prima materia of Eros.[11] Carl Jung believed transformation of the practitioner’s soul via individuation (the conscious incorporation of its repressed complexes) was alchemy’s ultimate goal, if only unconsciously for the alchemist, through the materials and rituals.[12]

What is the difference between a magician bending a single person’s will to theirs, and the Erotic channeling of a crowd or a nation’s collective will to the ends of a mad Elite? Or the creation of a manikin through astral influence and charging? These practices are only a few steps away from robotics, artificial intelligence, or the creation of MKULTRA “zombies” after all—right? It only requires the adjustment of outlook from magic’s spiritual power to a hardcore physicalist stance. The same ends by other means. Or does it?

Perhaps we should ask the wizards of Madison Avenue, and the AI gurus of MIT, DARPA, and Alphabet?

retort

       When we combine the ideas of Ficino and Bruno’s Eros magic with the alchemical program, plus a scientific-humanist Elite bent on transforming our concept of the “human,” we get the paranoid belief-system to which millions subscribe today. Couliano alluded to this in his book in a very oblique manner (and some say that was why he was mysteriously murdered).

Although many conspiriologists see alchemy and its life-extension goals as the philosophical and practical beginning of transhumanism—and we can see how this is at least a possible rationalization—it is only plausible because of the physical aspects to its program, i.e. transmuting the elements, and by analogy transmutation (or perhaps just mutation) of the alchemist’s body, whether it be for longevity or the gaining of “superhuman” powers…By extension, according to the conspiracists’ thinking, the process implies a long-term project to transform humanity as a whole into another kind of being, as imagined spiritually in the writings of the 15th-16th century Florentine Academy and implied in the Rosicrucian tracts of 1614-18.

The Rosicrucian writings describe their members as “invisible healers.” In addition to healing diseases in the manner of shaman-physicians (by accessing the “otherworld” for help), these mystic physicians could be said to be performing theurgistic feats to convert their patients into adherents to their “new religion,” and set them on the path to spiritual perfection. This is called “perfectibility,” and its practitioners Perfectibilists.[13]

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       The principles and structure of the first Freemasonic Grand Lodge of England chartered in 1717 would expand outward throughout Europe and America. The organization preserved both the esoterica of the Renaissance/Rosicrucian alchemists such as Heinrich Khunrath, Michael Maier, Robert Fludd, and John Dee, but also material from “Solomonic” grimoires; the latters’ contents can be traced back to the Egyptian-Greek magic papyri of the 2nd century CE via the Hygromanteia.[14] Many groups split off from this Grand Lodge and there’s evidence that Masonic fraternities far predated its 1717 public establishment. The fraternity’s secrecy spawned rumors of concealed atheism and political machinations. The former charge is entirely spurious, but the latter is true to an extent (as far as the German chapters go). As the empirical sciences spread, the “science of the spirit” was taught by degrees in the Lodges; a man could thus be a scientist by day and a mystical epopt by night.

This double-face is what brought the Lodges under public censure, despite the fact that freedom of worship was a core Freemasonic tenet and the dignity of humanity as free beings, first expounded by Pico della Mirandola in Florence, was the underlying ethos of the American and French Revolutions. The connection between the Florentine “free thinkers” and the Masons’s beliefs vis a vis the struggles against monarchy and arbitrary tyranny cannot be under-stressed.

Although Masonry’s goal is to spiritually transform its members, primarily in the death/rebirth rituals of the first three grades of Master Apprentice, many scholars see Freemasonry as an extension of Rosicrucianism, or as Rosicrucianism’s evolved form, or an alternate public front for a very secret society. The great financial wealth of many of its members and their philanthropic activities, which include the underwriting/endowing of think-tanks and medical programs (some with an openly transhumanist bent) is seen by conspiriologists as proof of the long-term project to transform certain members of society into what amounts to demigods; all the transhuman research is done “under cover” of extending existing medical techniques to relieve existing diseases.

What can actually be accomplished with secret medicine goes much further, these conspiricists say, pointing to NIH, DARPA, the Rockefeller Foundation, the thousands of subcontracted medical research facilities across the globe.

But we have a problem here with distinguishing between a) the existence of a secret program, which undoubtedly openly exists as “normal science” looking to cure disease and slow the aging process, b) the technological means to carry it out, which is equally probable, c) the psychological motivation of its technical practitioners, i.e., are they covertly bound to certain institutions and expected to deliver certain results for select clients? d) and most importantly, the end-purpose of such a program.

As the techniques of nanotechnology and genetic manipulation mature, they may move from quantitative organic changes to qualitative changes, as explored in my previous essays. When humans begin toying with the molecule and the chromosome and the gene we are dealing with very unpredictable results and a range of unintended consequences—just like our toying with the atom did. Market forces supposedly ensure that delivery of new medical miracles to the public be swift and uncluttered by moral subtleties…But of course it never happens that way, does it: recouping R & D costs is always given as the reason for astronomical prices for new treatments, despite the fact that in most cases taxpayer dollars were used to fund such studies through government NIH subcontracting.[15] Only the super-rich can afford the most avant-garde treatments that cost millions a year to deliver. Religious-conservative members of the American Congress are rhetorically outraged over the use of embryonic stem cells in disease research, etc., but the secular humanist/transhumanist subtext is that we must have no illusions that other countries, namely China[16] possess no such scruples as we do, and they will be the ones to push ahead in the biological race to immortality. If you doubt, consider this:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/01/china-monkey-clones-zhongzhong-huahua/551318/

But to give the conspiracists some weak credit: Excluding the popularity of Shelley’s Frankenstein, what by the early 20th century was a marginal literary genre called science/speculative fiction has now become a 360-degree cultural bestiary. In other words, at this point transhumanist propaganda of all degrees of acceptance or critique is ubiquitous, and has almost “normalized” visions of a future humanity that just five decades ago would have been considered horror shows.

No doubt humans are intrinsically fascinated with our abilities to magically change our selves, our destinies, our capabilities—and equally fascinated with our penchant to fuck up everything we touch. Culture has reflected this from the beginning of recorded history in myth and history. So, according to the conspiriologists, the body-augmentation work goes on in secret military and private sector labs whose fingerprints are seen in published papers that do get mainstream coverage: DARPA works on “supersoldiers” who possess pharma (and possibly genetic) alterations for enhanced hearing and vision and drugs that can keep them awake for days without deleterious effects.[17] Since World War Two, arms races both real and ginned-up have been the norm between the US military industrial complex and other countries. The armed forces are always the beneficiary of breakthroughs because “national security” ensures the Pentagon and its vast network of subcontracted labs and university research receives billions to further their secretive aims.

In any case, this split between viewpoints on the original source of transhumanism seems to depend on how one views humanity: as a finished product, set for all time (as the Abrahamic religions and Aristotle’s Lyceum academy saw it) or unfinished/able to transcend by its own efforts the physical, mental, and spiritual bonds entailed by our “thrownness” into the world, as Plato, the Neoplatonists, and Florentine Academy saw it. One professing creation ex nihilo by God will see humanity as the property of God; one seeing emanation as the human matrix will see us as properties of God, blinded and unable to change our state of existence without special and hidden knowledge and techniques.

——

Generally, humanism came to mean the belief that humanity can be studied, and through that study, its behavior altered to conform to a “higher ideal” of its own choosing.

       Who does this choosing for the masses is another matter.

Secularism became synonymous with a rejection of any power perceived as higher than humanity’s intellect and aspirations, as seen in the Enlightenment’s philosophes and science’s embargo on morality in favor of “value-free” research. It is in this wider sense that transhumanism is defined—but we must never lose sight of the source of this vision of improvement or perfectibility in the alchemists’ visions.

The alchemists’ quest to “return to the cosmic origin” is a noble one. The creative, eternal force of God/Tao/Ungrund still exists, shattered by embodied nature into the “ten thousand things” of Lao Tse, or Jewish alchemist Maria the Prophetess’s axiom “from the one comes two, from the two the three, and from the three, the all (completion).”

The alchemist and Neoplatonist seek reunion with the One by various reversal and reuniting procedures for vision, guidance, and elevation, an intensification of being, a heightened sense of interdependence and connection with the Creator and Creation. In this, alchemy is ultimately a spiritual program in which salvation from the bonds of materiality may be said to be the goal—and not particularly the augmentation of the body’s existence.

No such lofty program exists for the transhumanist, it seems, except more—more of everything, pleasurable experience, edification, learning! Perhaps in their extended longevity and enhanced mind they will stumble across the reality of the eternal, a preexisting condition that operates always and everywhere, encoded into the cosmos’ very fabric. One can only hope.

 

 


[1] The ethical concerns of the resurrected “pagan” philosophers allowed morality to be purged of supernatural origin. Instead, with the “new instruments” of skepticism and Socrates/Plato’s elenchus, nature’s workings could be revealed through observation, experimentation, and logic. By the 18th century, the French philosophes promoted the idea that humanity alone possessed the means and methods to determine its behavior and morality and the scope of its knowledge.

[2] Strictly, this name refers to St. Thomas’s exegesis on the four gospels; but Thomas was himself an adept and alchemist, and it has come to mean an occult tradition passed down though time.

[3] Three centuries later, G.F.W. Hegel would extract a “dialectical movement” from natural and human history that would supposedly end in self-transparent Spirit—and the Prussian democratic state. His student Feuerbach would strip theology from the Hegelian equations, creating the philosophical bridge that allowed Marx to build his materialist story of human cultural evolution. In all three eschatologies, the emancipation of humanity from nature was destined to occur, whether by Spirit coming to itself or the dawning consciousness of the workers’ conditions and their rectification (in Marx’s case). All of these end scenarios are dark reflections of the popular but theologically irregular monk Joachim de Fiore’s vision of an Earthly Paradise under divine love (the Age of the Holy Spirit) that he espoused in the 13th century.

[4] Couliano, Ioan. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, University of Chicago Press, 1987, pgs. 30-31.

[5] ibid, pg. 31.

[6] You might say human history is the story of how we fill this lack, over and above the meeting of material needs; the monk and nun seek communion with the transcendent by any name, the shaman fulfills the spiritual needs of the community by the results of their astral journeys,

[7] These formalized procedures most likely originated with prehistoric shamanistic animation of dolls constructed for healing or harming purposes.

[8] This brings us to the Neoplatonists’s many formulations of reality, which is why alchemy is tied up with ancient Egypt by way of Plato’s supposed initiation there, and the Neoplatonist’s obsession with a “ladder” of being one could ascend to achieve the One.

[9] The most ancient forms of alchemy were Chinese and were concerned with exiles for longevity sought by emperors. See Levenda, Peter, Stairway to Heaven: Chinese Alchemists, Jewish Kabbalists, and the Art of Spiritual Transformation.

[10] I suppose they viewed their secret knowledge as akin to the blueprints for a hydrogen bomb circa 1930, as if Leo Szilard, Teller, Einstein, and Fermi had concealed from governments through (seeming) absurd symbolic codes the method for building the heinous device.

[11] Couliano, (1987), pgs. 87-143

[12] It is also possible that the chemical fumes that were produced as a byproduct (barring those that would damage or kill of course) induced altered states of consciousness in the alchemist and, by way of the psychokinetic powers unleashed, assisted in the physical transformations of the prima materia.

[13] This was the name used by the 18th-century Bavarian Illuminati sect under the Jesuit Mason Adam Weishaupt, but it has gained traction as a term for anyone sporting the attitude of limitless change for humanity through technology, whether physical or spiritual.

[14] See the works of Stephen Skinner on the history of the Solomonic tradition.

[15] See Dr. Marcia Angell’s The Truth About the Drug Companies: How they Deceive Us and What to Do About It for the full story of medical-industrial complex chicanery.

[16] The very land where alchemy is said to have originated during the unification of the first Chinese state by Tai Yu the Great in the 20th century BCE.

Two Abuses of the Renaissance Sage’s Eros-Magic, Part 2: Mind Control: Ioan Couliano and a Vision of the Internalized Archon

Wrong line

Never allow anyone the luxury of assuming that because the dead and deadening scenery of the American-city-of-dreadful-night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory gloss of “baseball-hotdogs-apple pie-and-Chevrolet” that it is somehow outside the psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these “modern” conditions precisely because sorcery is not what “20th century man” can accept as real…

–James Shelby Downard and Michael A. Hoffman II

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Many millions of people believe we are more or less living in The Matrix, an illusory reality in which our minds are imprisoned in bodies by “archonic” forces whose motives are less than philanthropic. The idea that the earth is flat has recently become a marginal fad; apparently none of its proponents are familiar with how gnomon shadows differ in length at noon, which can be proven with a phone call to friends in another daylit city…Tens of thousands of Americans (maybe more) sincerely believe “crisis actors” play both the victims and relatives of victims in mass shooting and terror events, funded by the Bond villain George Soros and other globalist-leftists bent on disarming the populace. Perhaps hundreds of thousands believe that the UN’s “sustainable development” plan Agenda 21 is a nefarious, full-spectrum plot to strip cities of autonomy, despite the fact that it’s a non-binding agreement and has no lawful status anywhere in the US. Millions of evangelical Christians think a conspiracy exists in public education and the entertainment industry to make their children gay or bisexual.

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Here’s a truism: It’s natural for people in a society to exhibit fear at the possibility of losing control, whether it’s a loss of their “destiny,” a loss of life-narrative, or loss of self-determinative identity. In America, the WTO, NAFTA, GATT and other trade agreements led to the evisceration of many industries as corporations moved manufacturing elsewhere. There is no longer any job security—and with that, one’s identity as a productive citizen. To conspiracists, your acquisitive desires, which persist despite your job loss, are not your own, but the capitalist culture-makers’ mind-control machine, that has colonized your mind from birth.

When people compensate for these existential fears by believing their self is being manipulated—or has been created wholesale, even—by forces determined to use it and throw it away like packaged goods, we should not judge them too harshly, because there’s a case to be made that their agency has in fact been compromised…just not to the degree of their brains floating in vats.

Brainvat

Truism: Trust in government has steadily eroded since the late 1960s. A direct and expanding line wends through the era of the JFK Warren Report to the Pentagon Papers to Watergate to the 1975-77 CIA Senate hearings to Iran-Contra to 9/11[1] to every “whatever-gate” since. With each revelation comes a further confirmation that the US government harbors enemies of humanity, and the American people and their freedom specifically.

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The right and the left have their own versions of this evil scheme: the right, that transnational think-tanks such as the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations have put in the fix on the American way of life for the benefit of the Elite; and the left that simple Republican Brand® greed has ended up doing the same. Both have their version of industrial society as a restaurant in which you and I are on the only items on the menu.

On the right, critics since the 1960s have condemned the depictions of “aberrant” behavior in movies, music and television; to them, portrayal alone signals normalization (and even endorsement) of behaviors…The left hammers both cultural conservatives and evangelical Christians for imposing their morality on the rest of the population via legislation, boycotts, etc.

Yet both sides in the culture wars have endured enervation in their long fights. Call it outrage fatigue.

Just the way the Power That Be want it, naturally. The PTB are playing the Big Game for the long haul.

Both sides have also their own versions of what constitutes cultural conditioning—programming—and what it means to be programmed. Analyses of herd psychology had its popular heyday in the years after World War Two, when we were given barbarous lessons in what groupthink can achieve via the Nazis and the USSR under Stalin.

This diagnosis of our enemies’ pathology was expected; to turn the critical-historical eye upon America and pathologize the “winner’s” culture was both unexpected and outrageous. But turn some eyes did, in the works of C. Wright Mills, Lewis Mumford, and the Frankfurt School expatriates. The conformity of the “organization man” and the “authoritarian personality” and Mr. Type A got a fierce pummeling in the 1950s, and the conservative-liberal establishment didn’t like it one bit.

The young Boomers took these critiques to heart before attempting to eat their own left-leaning mentors in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Truism: It is human nature to seek scapegoats; they’re much easier to use than to uncover the convolutions of events that explain why things have turned the way they turned out. To have a system as scapegoat is even easier. One has to employ tight arguments and an evidence-chain as systematic and far-reaching as what is attacked, otherwise the critique is just unfalsifiable hot air.

Today, it seems, a statement’s unfalsifiability has become not just tolerated, but almost a virtue. You can just abandon reason altogether! This is partly because the production of knowledge has become nearly transparent. It thus suffers under the burden of an infinite regression of sourcing:

Where’d you get that fact from?…Uh-huh.

And who funds them?…Of course!

And what’s the funders’ ideological bent?…Just as I thought: it’s (all-caps) fake news!

Under normal circumstances, laying bare the epistemology of facts/factoids in this manner would be a welcome development. People deserve to know how news is made and what sources politicians use to make their arguments and policy.

But to accept the “chains of evidence” for policies yet neglect the workaday methodologies used by both sides in the think-tank wars is dangerous. The social sciences are in crisis; even some of the foundational theses in psychology, economics, and sociology have been discovered to be gerrymandered or outright false.[2]

Knowledge has become shaky. The impartial and disinterested patina of High Science is very impressive to the public, until the sausage-making of High Science itself comes under study and the sociology and politics of scientific publishing and peer-review are shown to be driven by $$ and some very invested egos. Legitimate vs. illegitimate process has become equated with legitimate vs. illegitimate knowledge, and rightly so. This dichotomy directly impacts us in the realms of medicine/pharma use, the “vaccine wars,” GMO food production safety, etc.

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In our new era of source scrutiny, if only one link in the knowledge process is “tainted,” the whole edifice is then seen as tainted. The most glaring and touted example, just noted: The funding pool for scientific studies is a finite resource, and will be fought over in any field of enquiry. This means science is not immune to the market economics of capitalism.

Thus all knowledge becomes suspect as having either been purchased by a corporation for a specific result or produced solely to generate further scientific journal citations, and thus more funding or tenure-track for those academics willing to risk falsification of results in order to GET A SECURE JOB in a very insecure economy.

The long, cooling shadow of the Frankfurt School’s deconstructions of the “capitalist superstructure” once again is palpable. You can make the choice right here: believe there’s a conscious conspiracy to engineer mass consciousness towards technocratic solutions and cull the herd via compulsive high-tech science “cures,” or you can view bogus scientific studies as the product of market forces and a collapsing social structure as the truth behind the Ongoing Crisis.

But the foregoing is what we might call how the content of news is made. There’s also its form of its delivery; and to the psychology of its economic foundations—advertising revenue—we look back to the early decades of the 20th century, when Pavlov conditioned his dogs with the bell to salivate on command and Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays took Siggy’s obsession with sex and bent the public’s frustrated sexual desires into a surrogate—material acquisition—thus birthing one of the advertising industry’s mightiest axioms. T.H. Huxley took Darwin’s big idea and told us we were only hairless simians; Marx told us we were economic hairless simians seeking freedom from wage slavery; Einstein told us it was all relative; Pavlov made the economic hairless simians function like cause-and-effect machines, and Bernays bound up those causes and effects with the Eros drive his uncle had propounded.

Truism: this prison planet worldview smacks of ancient Gnosticism, particularly the two schools of Valentinus (100-160 CE) and Basilides (100-145? CE). Both believed the universe to be a botched creation of a lesser deity, YHWH, who through hubris broke with the Eternal and compounded a cosmos of matter and entropy, a mockery of the Pleroma (holy plenitude) and the principles that governed that distant heaven. The stars and planets of our cosmos are the true governors (archons) of individual human fates, and humans are utterly bound into an “invisible” evil prison from which only knowledge of Sophia and the Divine Spark within can save us.

Cue Morpheus and the two pills.

Gnostic cosmos

HISTORY OF AN IDEA

The prison idea first began, perhaps, with Plato’s cave-myth 2,400 years ago. And some strains in Hindu mysticism posited that everything was a single ever-changing illusion, which Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment “emptied” of essence in the 5th century BCE.

In the European legacy, we’ve endured Descartes’s thought experiment involving a trickster demon creating our subjective reality (and its 20th century variant, the “brain in a vat,” which still labors on in The Matrix). Within the past decades we’ve had Daniel Boorstin’s idea of the “pseudo-event” replacing meaningful discourse in American politics, and Jean Baudrillard’s ideas of the simulation being the coin of post-industrial communication.

Some arcane variants of this prison idea propose that mass literacy changed the human population’s neural patterning on a large scale, making it easily amenable to manipulation.[3] This assumption makes it possible for some critics to posit that literacy limits the thinkable and stunts our emotional intelligence or intuition/intuitive powers; the linearity of our cognitive ego-constructs therefore belabors our unconscious perception of others’ verbal inflection, cues, body language, scents, etc. The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis—that vocabulary and syntax can limit semantic conceptualization—continues to live on in conspiracists’ diatribes via the charge that Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) is a form of subtle mind-control. The deterministic hypothesis also lives on, albeit of a deprogramming kind, in Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics.

More radical critics of modernity elevate traditional, oral cultures over the literate. The “noble savage” is alive and well and can be found hawking ayahuasca ritual tours for $2,500 a pop in South America.

On the other hand, media theorist Marshall McLuhan claimed in the 1960s that the “West” was entering a post-literate age, and that image-based mentation (as opposed to alphabetic-linguistic) was actually on the rise.[4] With the proliferation of television, movies, personal computer, and Internet consumption, it’s hard to argue against McLuhan’s hypothesis. Iconography has returned via memes, emojis, acronyms, IM shorthand, computer gaming, corporate logos, YouTube videos…

Computer world

But if we go back 530 years to the Italian Renaissance we discover an obsession with images and symbology comparable to today’s. The Hermetic scholars Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and Giordano Bruno concerned themselves with images’ ability to form and bind thinking by means of “infecting” the human imagination.[5]

Images are static upon the page, but they can become living things in the mind. Ficino and Bruno constructed magical systems using phantasia that “imprinted upon the human soul.” These images inherently used our natural imagination to enliven them with unconscious mental affect. The binding element was Eros, according to Ficino and Bruno. The love of self is bound up with the love of other in an erotic-somatic sense (sexual love), but the archetype-eidos of Eros precedes all manifestations of it in the individual’s world; this is a pure affirmation of the Platonic conception of Ideas as filtered through the Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus.[6] For Ficino, Eros is the background upon which any archetypes can operate at all, for even the sensations of horror and revulsion and hate (emotions tied in with Jung’s shadow archetype in depth psychology, for instance) are at the deepest level founded upon “self-love” by way of the need for the preservation of both body and mind.

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THE STOICS

To understand the ecology of Renaissance magic we must understand parts of the Stoics’s philosophy and its winding path to the Renaissance scholars via the Neoplatonists of the 1st-5th centuries CE.

The Stoics of the 3rd century BCE believed in a universe composed of one primary substance, the pneuma (breath, spirit/soul, “wind”). The pneuma of the universe was steered by the cosmic hegemonikon (controlling center/mind) and its Logos (reason), which had created everything by means of varying the degrees of pneumatic tension of each entity.

The universe was a pneumatic continuum in differing degrees of boundedness or “tightness.” All objects and their qualities, potentialities, appearances were pneumatic phantasms.

Human beings were considered somewhat unique because their own hegemonikon, centered in the heart, could control one’s actions, emotions, and thoughts by means of its share in the logos—and this also structurally reflected the cosmic hegemonikon’s logos.

Thus the microcosm of the human being reflected the macrocosm of the universe.

The Stoic theories of phenomenology and epistemology were complex and interrelated. Since all is pneuma, the world’s tightly constituted object-appearances (phantaston) would ripple through the less-dense air to impinge upon the eyes, ears, skin, etc. These would impress themselves upon the hegemonikon as images (phantasia) with a sort of physical weight.

Our hegemonikon would thus gradually become filled with images of the world; language was simply a prop to arbitrarily label things and actions, but even in this arbitrariness it could create an intelligible system of relations.

Propositions of language could be true or false to the phantasia inside a person’s hegemonikon, depending upon the disposition of the outer pneuma-phantaston at a given instant (this theory anticipates Wittgenstein and Russell’s logical atomism by 2,300 years).

Agreement between the phantasia within and the outer world led to truth. For instance, “the cat sits on the mat” is a proposition whose truth depends upon 1) what time it is uttered,[7] 2) the agreed-upon existence and appearance of cats, mats, the act of sitting, and 3) the presupposition of both an observing human hegemonikon and the cosmic hegemonikon that in principle underwrites the truth of the entire scene. The proposition can be spoken in any one of the world’s 6,000 languages; every one of them is phonetically arbitrary but possesses a deep structure independent of language that is a direct revelation of the cosmic hegemonic logos (in this, the Stoics anticipated Chomsky’s theory of transformational grammar by 2,300 years also).

So the phantaston-to-phantasia has efficacy: it affects the disposition of the human hegemonikon in a physical manner. Much papyrus was used and ink soaked in disputations over the reality or non-reality of the lekta (“meaning”) of linguistic propositions, but being proto-epiphenomenalists, the Stoics waved away lekta as a side effect of spoken vibrations or written words. They were more concerned with the fact that the impressions could be true or false to the will of the cosmic hegemonikon (obviously, this dismissal was a huge inconsistency in their philosophy).

Their belief in pneumatic resonance and agreement between the soul (another way of saying hegemonikon) and the world soul was the important part.

For this agreement there was a special class of experience: the phantasia kataleptike (unshakeable impression/irreproachable image). The Stoics would class certain sense-experiences with this phrase, but classing it such would be dependent on conjunction of phantaston, the personal hegemonikon’s physical disposition (e.g., if we have a high fever or have ingested hallucinogens then we cannot completely trust our concurrent sense-impressions as kataleptic), and the cosmic hegemonikon. That is to say, there must be an alignment between the outer, objective world, the observer’s state of mind, and the will of God. As scholar Ioan Couliano put it,

For the Stoics, the functional relationship between the cardiac synthesizer (hegemonikon) and the pneuma was clearly determined: the hegemonikon “is like a receiving post to which all impressions received by the senses are communicated.” On the other hand, the Stoic philosophers also develop a theory of phantasms produced by the hegemonikon. For Chrysippus (the greatest philosopher of the Stoa, who clarified their doctrines), the clear representation of the sensory object formed in the cardiac synthesizer is called phantasia kataleptike or “comprehensive representation” and leads naturally to a rational adhesion (synkatasthesis). The main difference between Aristotle and the Stoics consists in the fact that the latter think the pneuma is the soul itself, whereas the former believe it to be only a kind of ethereal intermediary between the soul and the physical body. That is why the Stoics conceive of fantasy, according to Zeno and Cleanthes, as a “stamp upon the soul,” a typosis en psyche.[8] (explanation added).

To align one’s hegemonikon entirely with that of the cosmic hegemonikon was the Stoics’s ethical goal; by aligning oneself with its “will,” one could accept all that occurred in life with equanimity, tranquility, and preserve the integrity of one’s piece of the whole, our personal hegemonikon.

By this route, an individual could at least attain towards the state of the Stoic sage, a person who has done the will of God/Cosmos. At death, the coherence of this pneumatic logos-entity could survive for a time before dissolving itself into everything, like a drop of water into the pneumatic sea. This condition depends upon the clarity and tranquility of the soul, in a striking parallel to Vedantic and Buddhist state of samadhi:

Later, Epictetus is to state that phantasms are influenced by the state of the pneuma that receives or conceives them. He resorts to a comparison: “just as houses at the edge of a body of clear water are reflected in its limpid surface, so also are external objects reflected in our psychic pneuma, with the obvious result that they are influenced by the present state of the pneuma.” In order that the image is reflected in the mirror of the pneuma may be precise and faithful to their subject, the pneuma itself must be tranquil and pure. So it is that Epictetus, continuing and developing the moral preoccupations of the Stoics, combined them with the doctrine of spirit: to have a clean pneuma, a well-polished cardiac mirror, becomes the equivalent of being virtuous. Here Stoicism find itself in the company of the whole Platonic tradition, whose most important practical outcome is to obtain, by a suitable technique, the separation of the soul from the body so that the former may not be sullied by the latter. Beginning in the second century A.D., a technique of this kind is known as theurgy, which primarily designates a purification of the soul for purposes of soothsaying in the benefic exalted magic but also for pursuit of a better posthumous destiny.[9]

 

NEOPLATONIC ADAPTATION

Theurgy may be defined as ritual action intended to make contact with another sphere of existence by utilizing forces higher than the human to elevate one’s consciousness and being to that same level. It is the framework of magic as we know it.

Many Romans adopted the Stoic philosophy as a living ethic. Its ideas survived and flourished in Hellenistic Alexandria, where hundreds of cults and religion battled each other for adherents as the Roman Empire disintegrated. The religion of Mithraism utilized Stoic astronomical dogma as one basis of its beliefs.[10] Plato’s Academy survived and adopted distinctly Stoic elements. As Couliano notes,

Credit for having synthesized in an original fashion the Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic elements that make up the theoretical basis for Renaissance magic is due to Synesius of Cyrene, who, having been a disciple of the Neoplatonist martyr, Hypatia of Alexandria (d.415), ended by converting to Christianity and becoming a bishop…That is why the theurgic preliminary to any process classified among the practices of spiritual magic will be “cleansing one’s pneuma” or hegemonikon, or a “cleansing one’s heart”…While theurgy assumes the place of honor as far as (the Neoplatonic follower of Plotinus) Iamblichus is concerned, Synesius holds the pneumatic synthesizer responsible for soothsaying and magic…We have already seen that Epictetus compared the pneuma to a basin filled with water, a liquid mirror. Plutarch of Chaeronea is the first to speak of a “pure mirror,” nothing more. For Synesius this double-faced mirror provides the opportunity for two parallel surfaces to meet on neutral territory. In so far is it is the intermediary between the intelligential world and the sensory world, this mirror, if perfectly clear, will make it possible for inner judgment to contemplate the world above epitomized by the reasoning part of the soul, and will give the latter the opportunity to perceive and to judge the sensory objects whose image is transmitted to common sense through the external senses.[11]

We may then say, following Couliano’s thought, that the theurgy of the Neoplatonists is a clarification into practice of the Stoic program of achieving hegemonic purity, plus methods of aligning oneself with the gods or God.

In the Platonic hierarchy of truth, an artist’s representation of reality lay at the bottom and the Form of the True at the top, in the realm of Forms. His dialogue Timaeus presents an Egyptian-influenced vision of the virtuous souls’ destination in the stars at death. Intermediaries between the heavenly world and human beings were daimons, beings that delivered messages, portends, and prophecy, most of the time while a person was in a altered state of consciousness.

But even these living meldings of “phantaston with phantasia” had their corresponding perfect Forms in the Otherworld:

Since the phantasmic synthesizer affords the possibility of an encounter with a world peopled with divine powers, and since, according to Platonic dogma, this world is homologous to the intelligential world, there is a way of acting upon the synthesizer to invoke numerous presences. This invocation, resulting in the company of gods and demons, can be carried out by using certain substances, forms, and colors to which the higher beings are sensitive.[12]

This is the basis of ceremonial magic as it was known in the Renaissance. It is only in Eros that we share with everything, much like the pneumatic relation between person and cosmos, that we are also a part of the daimons (the intermediaries invoked by theurgy), and they of us. They slumber in our consciousness, and awake in our dreams. They invade our conscious life and speak in daydreams.

To control and strengthen these manifestations is the goal of the magician, and these spirits each are stamped with qualities that one can come to know through study and the imaginative faculty. Magicians intone chants physically through the pneuma, make physical images using pneumatic phantaston that resonate with higher powers, and internalize the resulting forces by means of pneuma.

A text called On Radiations by Iraqi philosopher Al-Kindi (801-873 CE) is the source of a theory that, when wedded with Stoic ideas of the pneuma, produces a full account of how magic physically, emotionally, and spiritually operates:

The fundamental idea of (On Radiations), only one among the 270 that the historiographer al-Nadim attributes to its author, is that each star has its own nature, which it communicates to the surrounding world by means of rays. Now the influence of stellar radiations upon terrestrial objects changes as a function of the mutual aspects that the stars and the objects produce. Besides, (pre-existing) substances receive the qualities of rays in different ways according to their intrinsic properties, which are hereditary (whence it is apparent, for instance, that the son of the king will have a natural disposition to rule and the son of a laborer to follow his father’s calling.)

Al-Kindi believed that in addition to the stars, the elements emitted rays. Thus everything compounded of the four elements emanated its unique presence. This was a novel idea:

According to al-Kindi, we find ourselves in the midst of an invisible network of rays coming from the stars as well as from all earthly objects. The entire universe, from the most distant stars to the humblest blade of grass, makes its presence known by its radiations at every point in space, and every moment in time; and its presence, of course, varies according to the intensity and mutual influence of the rays of the universe, so that there cannot be two things truly identical to one another. Besides the psychic emotions (joy, sorrow, hope, fear) are also transmitted to the surrounding world in the form of invisible radiations, which also mark their changes, according to the arrangement of every (pre-existent) substance.[13]

The Stoic idea of fate as determined by initial conditions plays a part as well, a binding force for individuals and all objects.

EROS AND BINDING

Ficino’s and especially Bruno’s “Art of Memory” play the primary role in the creation of externalized phantasia (or as the Indians and Tibetans call them, tulpas). The “memory theater” was a mnemonic system meant to enshrine the associative constellations between the stars, the elements, colors, seals, herbs, properties etc. in the mind of a magician and combine all of them into unique sigils as a sort of shorthand formula for their recollection, activation, and projection. Based upon “tagging” the parts of a building or room with individual ideas, these associations could be internalized and became living presences in the magician’s psyche. A “walk” through one’s memory palace could then instantly call up an entire rite. The magician was to meditate upon these walks for hours, for days at a time, Erotically imagining them as the architecture of both psyche and the world-psyche. In this way they could eventually be projected outward physically via the pneuma or vibrated through it in coherent form towards a target, creating the desired situation, whether it be love of a person, the death or sickness of a person, to find treasure, etc., from combinations of the symbolic-sigillic elements. The magician’s control over their personal hegemonikon’s phantasia could use the intervening pneuma between itself and the Cosmic Hegemonikon to either evoke a pre-existent “familiar helping spirit” or physically form a daimon with which to communicate and do their bidding.

To what uses these creations were put was up to the purity of the magician’s hegemonikon.

The architects of our subconscious bestiary today are not so pure—or so say today’s conspiriologists.

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THE TABULA RASA GETS A BRUTAL DOWNLOAD

Of course, systems such as Ficino and Bruno’s were dismissed, debunked, and plowed under by the empirical sciences from roughly 1650 to the present. Modern empiricism, born from Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke’s ideas of the human mind as a blank slate, matured through the positivism of Comte and the Encyclopedists (Isaac Newton’s nocturnal alchemical and Hermetic studies became an untidy historical secret until recently).

But as Couliano revealed, the system of eidos-image/emblemata/logo, Erotic binding, and “infection” of the mass imagination goes on today through media that was unimaginable in scope and sensible power by the Renaissance magician…but still recognizable in its purpose: control of humanity, by means of stimulating physical and psychological change in individual millions of hegemonika.

Human desires can be channeled by means of Eros and imagination. As PR guru Edward Bernays touted, “sex sells!” Capitalism demands you be dissatisfied with both your body and mind, and presents a million puerile cures.

Hypnotic association of the soul/psyche with one’s physical body lay at the heart of this spell. Our science hammers into us from birth that we are only atoms and void (much like the first beliefs of the Epicureans and the Gnostics). Our agency, via Eros, is tied up with this body-identification, having been rehearsed over our formative years, making our separating any deeper self from the association very difficult.

The magic that was meant for the sage’s personal illumination has been used to bind us.

As noted in Part One,

1) the techniques of magic and alchemy were kept secret by practitioners because public revelation of them meant the methods would be put to secular uses and disaster/enslavement would inevitably result.

2) We are in the midst of disaster(s); therefore,

3) secret techniques of magic and alchemy have been used by secular forces to bring us to this point (“secular forces” who nevertheless are purported to covertly believe in some “ancient religion,” whether it is worship of our “Sirian/Lyran/Vegan alien masters,” the Egyptian Ennead, Sumerian/Akkadian gods or demons, etc. and are doing these beings’ bidding until they return to earth).[14]

Many conspiracists throw around this invalid, messy syllogism. One could well argue the second proposition is false, or that the first is not a necessary truth at all (mass knowledge of the mysteries does not result in disaster, and it is safe for all to know about them), or, most cogently, that the frickin world doesn’t need the forces of perverted magic to become a disaster or tyrannous hellhole.

The paranoids are ignorant or disparaging of “mainstream” history, psychology, sociology, the history of natural magic and alchemy, information theory, complexity and chaos theory, game theory, etc.—the list could go on. Conspiracists such as David Wilcock, David Icke, Michael Hoffman, and Chris Knowles accept the conclusion/a worldview and then look for the evidence of secret societies manipulating events to fit. Improbable coincidence or synchronicity is usually invoked as the marker, both that one has stumbled upon something occultly important (to fit one’s worldview), and as the signature of the secret “game masters” trying to communicate their staged events’ meaning to the “enlightened” few.

The sense that one’s personal agency has been compromised, that one is a prisoner in either body or socially or societally, is purely subjective and dependent upon one’s unique psychological history. This fact is usually to always suppressed by the conspiracy-monger. Yes, we are processed and yes we are manipulated, to certain degrees, but the efficacy of that processing is never predestined or assured. It is possible to be exploited by the Powers that Be, but one only has to critically study the capitalist methods of consent-creation, fear-induction, and the responses many individuals have as individuals to see that the gilded bullshit is perceived by many as just that: gold-plated turds.

 


[1] 9/11 was not just “the most horrendous terrorist attack in American history”; if you’re going to say that, you must simultaneously say it was also the most horrendous bureaucratic intelligence failure in American history, entirely avoidable, and belongs on the list of catastrophic, trust-eroding scandals.

[2]

[3] This too has a precedent in Plato’s philosophy: he decries the reliance upon what we would call “book learning” instead of dialoguing and thinking itself as superior forms of philosophizing, which had a different connotation back then. With advances in understanding epigenetics, it is now hypothesized that the ability to comprehend text may be passed on genetically (in distinction to Noam Chomsky’s Platonic idea that language-comprehension is an inherent human property).

[4] With the rise of the personal computer, the internet, and “peak television,” it’s hard to argue with him. Iconography has returned via memes, emojis, acronyms, shorthand, computer gaming,

[5] I am going to frankly ignore cognitive science findings on human’s imaginative ability because 1) scientists do not use “imagination” in the sense the Stoics, Neoplatonists, medieval philosophers, and Romantics did, and 2) they have no agreed-upon idea how a modular-memory concept of imagination might be explained by the brain-area and algorithm-modeled approach they use.

[6] Iamblichus’s elevation of Eros was also inspired by the cosmology of the Chaldean Oracles, who viewed it as the binding force.

[7] Although strictly, time did not exist for the Stoics; since all was one living being ultimately, everything was in process and stages of transformation. The pneumatic vibrations of the cosmos at any given time determined the events that would follow any given instance. They were obsessed with emanations from the stars and seven classical planets that determined fate.

[8] Couliano, Ioan. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, University of Chicago, 1987. Pg. 113

[9] Ibid, pg. 113.

[10] David Ulansey believes the ultimate mystery at the center of the Mithraic cult is knowledge of the equinoctial precession, which was celebrated in the bull (Taurus)-slaying scene inaugurating the age of Pisces that the Mithraics lived under but was soon to end. This knowledge, Ulansey claims, came from Stoic astronomers of Phrygia.

[11] Couliano, pgs. 114-115.

[12] Ibid, pg. 115.

[13] Ibid, pgs. 119-120. Here we have a forerunner of ideas like the Akashic field and David Bohm’s implicate order in physics, but it is underpinned by some wild blend of Neoplatonic Oneness and Heraclitan flux, that is, a hieros gamos of chaos (the ever-changing intersectional networks) and stillness (the binding force behind the elements).

[14] This is part of the thesis of “William Bramley’s” infamous ancient aliens/Illuminati history book, The Gods of Eden, which in turn is based on the works of Zechariah Sitchin.