“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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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…
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
—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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
***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 ) Radiation is a force that can mutate humans into superhumans (Spider-Man ). There are secret schools for these mutated humans (The X-Men ). The effect of these characters and ideas on youth for the next four generations will be incalculable. Just look at Hollywood. Just look.
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.
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–).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
****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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*****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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
******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.
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.
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.
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.
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.