EXPLORING THE OUTER EDGES OF SOCIETY AND MIND

The Master Key – L.W. de Laurence and the Mysterious Influence of One Human Mind

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on June 25, 2020

“STUDENTS of history find a continuous chain of reference to the mysterious influence of one human mind over that of others.”

– William Walker Atkinson, from Practical Mental Influence & Mental Fascination (Advanced Thought Publishing Co., Chicago, IL, 1908)

The late 19th and early 20th Century was a vibrant time for the city of Chicago. No less for the fact that this period saw the flowering of an American occult renaissance with one of the most robust blooms growing from the heart of the Second City itself.

In a 2012 American Academy of Religions pre-conference event called Mapping the Occult City – Magick and Esotericism in the Urban Utopia, hosted Phoenix Rising Digital Academy and DePaul University, the history of Chicago’s esoteric publishing houses provided an interesting focus for a number of areas related to the city’s occult history. (1) Throughout the panel presentations, and in the featured presentation of occultist, artist and initiate Michael Bertiaux, themes continued to arise which flowed perfectly along the channels dug by tenacious turn of the century occult entrepreneurs.

The Occult Gospel — Theosophy, New Thought, Spiritualism

A prominent feature of Chicago’s esoteric involvement was its central role in publishing Theosophical, New Thought, Spiritualism and standard Western esoteric works through early 20th century publishers including Advanced Thought Publishing Co., Arcane Book Concern, and Yogi Publishing Society, Sydney Flowers’ Psychic Research and New Thought Publishing Company, Hack & Anderson, and De Laurence, Scott and Company . Even the great jazzman Herman Blount(Sun Ra) spent time passing out tracts of his poetry and utopian Afro-Futurist philosophy on the El (Chicago’s sub-way system.) (2)

The city with broad shoulders supported a sphere of publishers that spread a diverse, cosmopolitan and amorphous occult gospel to the globe. De Laurence, Scott and Company, was one of the most successful. A mail order shop, and publishing house, run by Lauren De Laurence, their catalog directly influenced the development of religious sects as far away as Nigeria and Ghana.

De Laurence’s Catalog of Books for Mystics: Together with a Complete “cabinet” of Materials Accessory to the Pursuit of Mystic Study as it was known,provided books, incense, magical novelties and curios to eager customers around the world. It was especially popular in the Southern United States and Caribbean, where it developed a central role in supplying Hoodoo and Obeah practitioners with the material and textual components of their practice.

Caribbean Witch-craft and High Science

In Jamaica, the name De Laurence has become literally synomous with witchcraft and black magic:

De Laurence: sb dial, also attrib; <De Laurence, a Chicago publisher of books on occult subjects, banned from Jamaica. Witch-craft; loosely, obeah.

– from the Dictionary of Jamaican English, by Frederic Gomes Cassidy, R. B. Le Page (University of West Indies Press, 2002)

People who practice “De Laurence” or “High Science,” are treated with suspicion, and even today the practice remains secretive. An article in the Jamaican Star highlights the kind of stories that circulate regarding De Laurence:

“Lottery scammers in Montego Bay, St James, are digging deep into their pockets to pay local ‘witch doctors’ to protect them against evil forces rumoured to be plaguing their colleagues.

Some scammers are said to be paying as much as $600,000 to get rid of DeLaurence spells, THE STAR has learnt.

The streets of Montego Bay are buzzing with talk that the scammers, who have made millions from conning persons out of their money, are now being haunted or even killed by duppies and spells said to have been ‘sent’ by those affected by their operations.

Some scammers are said to be having thousands of dollars mysteriously becoming ablaze in their pockets, short spells of insanity and having visitations from ‘foreign duppies’ (foreign ghosts or spirits.)

In one report from a resident, a scammer is said to have fainted after people complimented him for travelling around with a “pretty white girl” (a type of duppy or ghost) on the back of his motorcycle. The scammer, however, had no knowledge that the girl was riding around with him.

One witch doctor with whom THE STAR spoke on the condition of anonymity said the scammers have been paying between $200,000 and $600,000 to protect them against the spells.

“Mi work wid de majority a dem man deh. Some top man inna de scam link mi fi mi ‘seal dem up’. Anywhere mi deh, dem find mi,” he said. He further said that the price of the job varied according to the type of seal the scammers were seeking.

“All $500,000 or so they have to pay sometimes because you have different seals. You have the seven seals and then the 21 seals, so it vary.”

After explaining the process where coffins, bottles, jewellery and fire were used to perform the rituals for the clients, he noted that the affected men did not hesitate to fork out the cash when he named his price.” (3)

Another article from Go Local Jamaica helps to further flesh out De Laurence’s Caribbean facade:

“The many grim De Laurence stories come mainly from rural areas. Some say that their clothes have been shredded to bits even while hanging in the wardrobe. Others speak of stone throwing attacks on their houses, with no view of the stone thrower. And others speak of rain falling only on a particular house in a district.

Some strange stories speak of rain falling on one particular house.

Even recently in the Media, there was a report of a house in the Corporate Area on fire, and the witnesses which included neighbours and the fire brigade unit which rushed to the scene, could not offer an explanation as to how the fire started. The house on fire had no stove, no lamp and no electrical connection. And no one was at home at the time. Some speculated a “high science”connection.

The rationale for strange acts such as these were usually one of the following:

(1) The victim had offended someone and the person offended consulted De Laurence to take revenge.

(2) The victim owed De Laurence money. And according to some, if you owed De Laurence money, you could just place it in an envelope and address it. It would go through the postal system without any chance of being tampered with and go directly to its destination.” (4)

All of this due to a mail order catalog from Chicago. If you read carefully you’ll notice that De Laurence has become deeply associated with what hints at extortion practices, assassination and small scale terrorism.

These associations were strong enough that the De Laurence Catalog, as well as De Laurence related products, were outlawed in Jamaica. The official Jamaican Customs Department prohibition declares a ban on: “All publications of De Laurence, Scott and Company of Chicago in the United States of America relating to divination, magic, cultism or supernatural arts.” (5)

Advertisement for one of L.W. De Laurence’s most influential books (Image courtesy of The West Tennessee Museum of Southern Hoodoo History)

In his work, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, Owen Davies points out that the ban has long been seen as “a cynical attempt by the British to limit the influence of unionism and the American black empowerment movement.” Even after Jamaica declared independence in 1962, and in light of subsequent socialist governments, the ban remains in place.

Speculation on the political importance of “High Science” becomes solidified when we realize that one of Jamaica’s most powerful examples of radical politics, Marcus Garvey, was himself heavily influenced by the New Thought and Mind Science ideas that were promoted in some of the more popular publications in the De Laurence Catalog. Garvey’s Pan-Africanism was touched by a mystical strain and mythological importance garnered from tapping into the cultural movements initiated, supported and propagandized by publishing company’s such as the Yogi Publication Societyand De Laurence, Scott and Company.

Politics and the Occult

A core moment in the political history of the country is openly rooted in the potential of applied occultism, and “ the general belief that it (is) possible for an individual to exert some weird uncanny power over the minds of other persons, which would influence the latter for good or evil,” and that“accompanying belief that certain individuals are possessed of some mental power which bends even “things” and circumstances to its might.” This is not some superstitious belief in magic, but a very astute understanding of political power and charismatic influence, heightened by the areas struggles with colonial powers and the fractured cultural identity left by the ravages of the slave trade.

Mind Science, New Thought and late 19th century practical occultism all lie at the base of the success literature that has become central to 20th century business culture. The same practical philosophy which influences entrepreneurial enthusiasm in the United States can have a drastically different effect if it finds itself in a new cultural setting, and under a alternate motivations.

Techniques for personal empowerment, intermixing with strong, community-based traditions, and a social mythology that indicates an acceptable outlet for violence in cases of retribution and revenge via magic, spirit attack, etc., can be a menacing idea for unpopular governments. Timothy Knab’s work, A War Of Witches: A Journey Into The Underworld Of The Contemporary Aztecs (Harper San Francisco, 1995), outlines a similar situation in Northern Mexico in which Aztec traditions of dream work and attack sorcery played a large part in local violence which arose due to political tension among local landowners and foreign businessmen. (6)

De Laurence’s influence on traditional Obeah practices begins to become more visible in the 1930’s, a volatile time political period for the Caribbean. Garvey’s Pan-Africanism was bringing a wider geopolitical relevance to Afro-Carribean traditions, which formed a key component in bridging the gaps between the old and new world. In the 18th century, when similar pressures were being put on traditional practice through the British colonial presence, we see a similar importance, both positive and negative, placed on Obeah.

“The practice of Obeah influenced by De Laurence became very prevalent during the 1930s in Jamaica. Numerous instances are documented where it was believed that De Laurence was “set on” persons in order to inflict harm on them. However, as the practice was considered to be a branch of Obeah, it was illegal to practice it here as Obeah was outlawed from 1760.

Nevertheless, this did not curtail the number of De Laurence-related incidents and many persons were imprisoned as a result. It is possible that, it was the increase in the number of court cases of this nature that led to the British authorities implementing further legislation which banned the importing, publishing, selling, distributing and reproducing of all De Laurence publications relating to divination, magic, occultism, supernatural arts or other esoteric subjects as they were classified as being “instruments of Obeah”. Persons found to be in breach of this new legislation were sentenced to flogging and/or up to one year imprisonment.

There are aspects of the practice of Obeah, and by extension, De Laurence that still remain a mystery to this day. However, what is certain is that despite its illegality, the practice of Obeah is still common in Jamaica, making it an integral part of our heritage.”

– De Laurence in Jamaica (7)

In 1910 Reverend Drew Ali would form the Moorish Science Temple around the publication of the Circle 7 Koran, which encapsulated teachings from Levi H. Dowling’s 1908 publication The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, the anonymous Rosicrucian book Unto Thee I Grant, and, as he was traveling between New York and Chicago at the time, we can only imagine what other occult influences may have crept in. Mitch Horowitz in his study of American mystical traditions, Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation (Bantam Books, 2009), shows how effective the air of mystery and secrecy around the Circle 7 Koran was in allowing a largely derivative work to function as a powerful anchor for political and religious action. Just like in Jamaica with Obeah and the governing powers, the Moorish Science Temple drew the attention of the FBI during WWII. (8)

Fears that the group were involved in collaborating with the Japanese government, though unfounded, were heightened by the strong self identification, unity and organization demonstrated by the Moorish Science Temple followers. They also had been issuing passports that identified their carrier as a Moor, and not a citizen of the United States, which caused some concern.

Anyone familiar with the publications that De Laurence, Atkinson and other esoteric publishing outfits were putting out will recognize that the social responsibility, self determination and Will which form the focus of these works are perfectly mirrored in Ali and Garvey’s organization of the people. They also both draw on the Orientalist mythologies that allow these occult ideas to escape Orthodox criticisms by placing them outside of the authority of mainstream experts.

A Popular Catalog with Profound Results

The works associated with Chicago publishers of practical occultism find their way into many of the Afro-Latin traditions in one way or another, and reprints of many of their more popular titles (or at least the titles that were available in De Laurence editions) are still currently available in Botanica’s in Spanish language editions put out by different publishers. De Laurence’s Chicago occult publishing peer William Walker Atkinson has even found a central place in the teachings of the Circulo de Estudos Ramacharaca (Ramachandran Study Circle.) The group, named after one of his pseudonyms, Swami Ramacharaka, study what they call the “True Superior, Consecrated Science, and Spiritualism.” (9)

It is amazing to see that these niche publishing companies were able to produce practical results in the kind of cultural exchange that would later be central to the social engineering pursued by US International Cooperation Administration. The Chile Project, pursued by the USICA in the 1950’s, sought to influence Chilean economic development through a graduate exchange program with the University of Chicago. (10) It took 20 years for the effort, with established backing, to take effect. De Laurence was able to achieve an influence on the culture through a popular catalog of occult curios in approximately the same time span.

Stephan Palmie, Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, highlights the influence of the DeLaurence Company in his book Wizards and Scientists – Explorations in Afro-Cuban Modernity and Tradition (Duke University Press, 2002), saying:

“I have long thought that a solid business history of the Chicago-based DeLaurence Company – the major, if not the sole, purveyor of Western occult literature to the Caribbean in the early twentieth century – would provide a key tot the region’s religious history more revealing, perhaps, than the outmoded West African ethnography usually adduced for similar purposes. In the hands of a competent “scientist,” the pages of compendia of Western magic such as the Petit Albert or the Six and Seventh Books of Moses begin to vibrate with ostensibly weird, but morally acute, and wholly contemporary resonances, As in the case of the Bible in the hands of a Rastaman, it is a move back from text to life, comparable to those performed by contemporary African revisionists who pore over colonial ethnographies in search of an African past yet to be enacted. And is is a move comparable to those of Renaissance systematizers similarly in search of a future in an eclectically constructed past.” (11)

With such a powerful presence in the world, we might ask who was this mighty occultist, and what was this company, that wields so much sway through such subtle means. Michael Nowicki, who hosts the website Rosicrucian Salon, gives us some clues by describing his experience visiting the offices of the De Laurence Company in the 1960’s:

“I became so intrigued by the mental image in my mind of their company I couldn’t resist taking a train ride to downtown Wabash Avenue and seeing it for myself. I had visions of a large dark showroom with candles burning everywhere, incense smoke drifting across the room with swamis, mystics and masters floating around the room with their shopping carts full of strange goods.

Instead of that I found the store was on the 2nd floor of an old building. Instead of a turban wearing mystic greeting me at the door I found a short fat bald man chomping on a cigar and reading a horse racing paper! He looked up at me and using his cleverly hidden psychic powers read my mind and said “no store sales, catalog mail order only”.

What I did see behind him was a medium size storeroom lined with metal warehouse shelves holding the inventory of their huge catalog, all in a space about 20 by 30 feet.”

De Laurence himself passed away in 1936, years before Nowicki visited the office of the De Laurence Company. The De Laurence Company catalog continued to have a profound effect on the development of popular traditions in the Americas after his death, despite being little more than a small office, with an obviously disinterested manager.

The mystique of the mail order catalog had been built on salesmanship, marketing and at times bold and disingenuous advertising copy. Once it was established the process of mystification was largely mechanical, and could be maintained by anyone who could keep up the facade.

The Grand Master

During his life time De Laurence faced difficulties with the authorities due to some of his more lax business and initiatory practices. In 1912 he was under investigation for, as one newspaper article from the time put it, “evidence now in the hands of the government tends to show that De Laurence sent improper literature and forbidden medicine through the mails.” (12)

Screen Shot 2020-06-25 at 11.03.12 AM

Two occult Orders under his leadership, the Order of the Black Rose, and the Order of the White Willow, were closed by the police during the investigation which began when one of his students/initiates went to the police complaining about his practices. She claimed that after going through the “weighing in” process, which involved stripping in a mirrored closet, De Laurence remarked something to the effect that she was “too fat to be an angel.” The address listed for the Order of the Black Rose (3340 South Michigan Avenue) in the article is now a nondescript building on the campus of IIT, the original building apparently having been torn down in the 1960’s or 70’s.

De Laurence, booked for mail fraud (Chicago Daily News, 1912)

The photographer Rik Garrett, whose past projects include Occult Chicago and the Occult Guide websites, found articles detailing De Laurence’s troubles with the authorities in 1915 which continued the police investigation into his activities. (13) This time two former employees, who had traveled from Nigeria to meet the “Great Master,” were disappointed to discover a savvy, and somewhat unscrupulous, businessman, who was making $.95 a curio on selling $.05 candles for $1.00 to their impoverished African communities. Although the newspaper articles paint him in a less than favorable light, Owen Davies points out that trial records show a more complex picture of the man, who seems to have truly believed in what he was selling, if not necessarily the terms or promises he made when he sold it.

As a publisher De Laurence worked within the margins of copyright law. In the same way that he saw opportunity in $.05 candles, he found that scouting for out of copyright books on esoteric subjects was another profitable venture. This was especially true if they had been originally issued in a foreign country such as England, which further complicated questions of copyright, yet provided no barriers in terms of translation.

Catherine Yronwode, of the Lucky Mojo Curio Company, points out that De Laurence, and it should also be noted William Walker Atkinson who also published many of the same books in U.S. editions, played a large part in popularizing the Golden Dawn system of magic and the various systems that emerged from it:

“Among the Golden Dawn authors whom De Laurence ripped off shamelessly, the foremost were S.L. Macgregor Mathers (who translated portions of Von Rosenroth’s German translation of Hebrew Kabbalistic texts into English) and Arthur Edward Waite, who translated magical texts from Latin and French originals (e.g. “The Book of Black Magic and Pacts”), and also wrote many original works, including “The Key to the Tarot,” which De Laurence issued with his own name on as author!

At some point around WW I, De Laurence was either threatened by the Golden Dawn authors in question or the copyright law changed, for on later books he affixed the actual English authors’ names to the works, although he may have cheated them out of royalties. Eventually, as the list of titles by the original Golden Dawn authors played out, De Laurence hired ghostwriters who were associated with other occult orders to produce new works under his name.

For instance, I have been told on good repute that several of the circa 1920s books De Laurence claimed as his own were written by Charles Stansfield Jones a.k.a. Frater Achad, a disciple of Aleister Crowley, the latter a former member of the Golden Dawn.” (14)

Whatever his motivations, De Laurence was putting the initiatory traditions of England’s social elite into the hands of society’s dispossessed. In addition to this the Orders that he initiated and which were under investigation in 1912, were open to all regardless of race. In the article from 1912 detailing the fraud investigation, this is one of the key points drawn out to shock the reader:

“The police raided De Laurence’s ‘temple’ at 3340 Michigan Avenue yesterday after the story told by Mrs. Augusta Muerie, who escaped from the ‘temple.’

De Laurence, his wife and a gang of negroes, Indians and white women were arrested.

The chief deity of the temple was found to be a regular cigar store Indian, before which De Laurence worshiped and forced his followers to worship.”

Beyond the racist concerns apparent in the report it also seems that the authorities and media were less than impressed with De Laurence innovative use of a stock statue in his house of worship. However, De Laurence isn’t alone in courting mystery with mundane materials. As Mariano Tomatis relates, another mysterious 20th century locale has made effective use of dull decoration, and Tomatis should know, since he helped design the museum dedicated to the location, Rennes le Chateau:

“Just as in novels and movies, the alternate versions of the history of Rennes-le-Château describe its priest Bérenger Saunière as a member of secret societies, a wizard of old Egyptian cults, and the area is full of hidden tombs, chests full of treasures and clues on their trail, all linked through complex geometries, anagrams, and mysterious inscriptions. All the characters involved show a double personality: the public and the esoteric one. The esoteric side is one which cannot be found in official biographies, but only through a reinterpretation of the clues found somewhere in the area surrounding Rennes-le-Château (e.g. Nicolas Poussin and Pope John XXIII, but even Jean Cocteau and Jesus Christ).” (15)

Many of the clues left a Rennes Le Chateau itself are in the form of statuary and other decorative effects that came from a catalog put out by a sculptural firm that was popular at the time, called Giscard in Toulouse, which provided similar services to a number of other churches. During the finishing stages of Sauniere’s restoration of the Church of St. Mary-Magdalene in Rennes-le-Chateau, he used them almost exclusively to outfit the building.

Despite their common origin, when assembled at that specific place, and attended by the devotion of those active in accentuating the mythology, these everyday objects become resonant with mystery. Tomatis relates this effect to an ‘infinite game,’ in which cultural phenomena such as Rennes le Chateau become focal points for alternate histories which subvert dominant cultural narratives. As we can see, such a process is not isolated to rural naivete, but happens with equal strength in atmospheres of urbanity.

This is heightened by the aesthetics of the phenomena, and the De Laurence Company mastered the use of well crafted imagery, as can be seen from a 1941 edition of The Master Key.

Good design work can go a long way in lending credibility. Since he was republishing the work of some of the best popular occultists, the material in the books themselves was only heightened through De Laurence’s brilliant marketing. One can imagine, however, that presented in a contemporary paperback the De Laurence publications might not have had the same effect in fomenting the development of Pan-African mysticism, Black Nationalism, Afro-Carribean traditions and changing the way traditional practices were performed in Nigeria and Ghana.

Yet in the end figures such as De Laurence have achieved an invisibility in the historic memory that obfuscates any strange influences that they still exert on culture. In our digital age, all we find are ghostly traces of the vast occult publishing system that developed around the turn of the 19th century. In some ways the well crafted veneer that helped De Laurence and his peers achieve their mystique has put them today into the category of curiosity, even if under the surface their direct influence still ebbs and flows in the veins of our collective cultural experience.

For those who would scoff at contemporary, diluted versions of the practical occultism or “New Psychology,” popularized by the prolific output of figures like William Walker Atkinson and Lauren W. De Laurence, it would be good to remember that their ideas have had a widespread, and often unnoticed effect on our contemporary culture. Although the allegedly ancient truths of popular books like The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes may seem dubious, their lineage lies in mail order mysteries that changed the face of global society, and deeply affected the racially charged geo-political climate of the 20th century.

If one wants proof of the curio catalog’s promise to teach powerful secrets of “the mysterious influence of one human mind over that of others,” it seems that affecting the fate of nations from a small office in Chicago isn’t a bad start.

Additional Reading:

Through Mediums Never Before Considered – Psychotronics, Spiritual Services and the Analog Internet

They Will Not Have to Tell Me, I Will Know – Sheriff J.E. McTeer and the Succession of a Spiritual Worker

Hidden Pathways to Everyday Magic – Supernatural Living in the American Marketplace

For Our Readers That Shop by Mail – Fast Cash Money Oil and the Old Farmer’s Almanac

Seeds Sprout in Darkness – Mail Order Magick, Death Row and the Initiation of Damien Echols

Occult Science, Civil Rights and the Sears Roebuck Catalog – Is Consumer Capitalism a Master Key to Diversity?

Footnotes:

(1) https://occultcity.wordpress.com
(2) https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/collex/exhibits/sounds-tomorrows-world/
(3) http://old.jamaica-star.com/thestar/20090116/news/news1.html
(4) https://web.archive.org/web/20130115121425/http://www.golocaljamaica.com/readarticle.php?ArticleID=1520
(5) https://www.jacustoms.gov.jm/service/prohibited-items
(6) http://www.chasclifton.com/reviews/witchwar.html
(7) https://web.archive.org/web/20130218063238/https://www.expeditionjamaica.com/topics/culture-and-religion/item/8-de-laurence-in-jamaica
(8) http://www.themoorishsciencetempleofamerica.org
(9) https://web.archive.org/web/20180719063151/http://www.ramacharaca.com.br/index_1.htm
(10) https://books.google.com/books?id=-oJq_Rpcs_AC&pg=PA303&lpg=PA303&dq=%22Chile+Project,%22+international+cooperation&source=bl&ots=0RKm5Sdxza&sig=gLMwm-5ea7EyoOsTM7282xr24uw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QM7EULydEu7C0AH054GoCA&ved=0CEYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=%22Chile%20Project%2C%22%20international%20cooperation&f=false
(11) Stephan Palmie, Wizards and Scientists – Explorations in Afro-Cuban Modernity and Tradition, p. 205 (Duke University Press, 2002)
(12) https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045487/1912-11-13/ed-1/seq-8/
(13) http://occultchicago.blogspot.com/2012/04/order-of-black-rose-1915.html
(14) http://www.luckymojo.com/esoteric/religion/african/diasporic/caribbeanhinduorishaoccult.html
(15) http://www.marianotomatis.it/blog.php?post=blog/20110623&section=english


Special thanks to Tony Kail and the West Tennessee Museum of Southern Hoodoo for the image of the advertisement for de Laurence’s Great Book of Magical Art. Visit the museum’s website for more information on the cultural history of hoodoo and folk practices in the Memphis and Mississippi Delta region. https://memphishoodoo.wixsite.com/museum

This is an updated version of an article was originally published on The Daily Grail website in 2012

A Charismatic Conjuration of the South Wind – Kenneth Copeland and the Sorcerous Power of the Word

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on April 4, 2020

“Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” – Exodus 15:10-11

There’s a stunning example of conjuring in a recent episode of the Believer’s Voice of Victory daily Christian TV broadcast produced by Kenneth Copeland Ministries.

Did you listen to that?

Really listen?

This is not the rabbit in a hat or cup and ball conjuring my friends. This isn’t even your average televange’rhetorical put the money in my hand and plant a seed conjuring. This is conjuring as in sorcery!

What you hear in the above clip from Kenneth Copeland’s 2020 Virtual Victory Campaign is the televangelist performing a visceral evocation of the southern wind to blast COVID 19 from the earth.

Screen Shot 2020-04-04 at 9.39.18 AMI cut the clip out and added some sound atmospherics in the background to pull it away from the context that many folks might at first hear it in – i.e. look at the silly Christians doing their silly Christian things. Get over any Christophobia or loathing for televangelists you might have and notice the fact that this is a straight up, no questions asked, good old fashioned elemental evocation being performed.

Examples of weather working are common around the globe – from Australian Aboriginal practices to Tibetan Tantrikas and Mongolian shamans (1,2,3) to European traditions such as those mentioned in a 9th century text called On Hail and Thunder by Agobard of Lyons:

“In these regions, nearly all men, noble and common, city and country dwellers, old and young, believe that hail and thunder can be produced by human will. For as soon as they hear thunder and see lightning, they say ‘a gale has been raised’. When they are asked how the gale is raised, they answer (some of them ashamedly, with their consciences biting a little, but others confidently, in a manner customary to the ignorant) that the gale has been raised by the incantations of men called ‘storm-makers’, and it is called a ‘raised gale’.” (4)

Screen Shot 2020-04-04 at 1.30.04 PMLet’s not get too off track thinking about literal manipulation of natural forces though, despite the focus being on calling up a ‘wind’ the real meat here isn’t about weather control. What we’ve got cooking in this pot is a straight up sorcerer in action in the contemporary world – this is not a webinar wizard selling a half baked Dungeons and Dragons act, this is down and dirty southern conjure like you’ve probably only read about in books or seen in some 70’s exploitation flick. This is a popular televangelist performing an elemental evocation on par with anything we could hope for from a ceremonial magician.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, really – Kenneth Copeland is a Word of Faith preacher. That might not mean much to you, but a lot of the Word of Faith tradition’s most cherished ideas follow strange and close to the kind of denatured and folk-practice-fortified Kabbalistic ideas we find in material from the occult revival period. This is the same well where most contemporary ceremonial magicians dip their buckets, here the water’s just poured into a different cup.

Were this not a blog post written mainly for the purpose of featuring a wild sound clip of Copeland evoking the spirit of the south wind we could tramp along the fascinating historical trails that lead from 17th century ceremonial magic on up through New Thought and the Pentecostal movement and into today’s Charismatic televangelists. Instead, let’s just take a quick look at one example – Francis Barrett’s famed 19th century compendium The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer, where in Book 1, Chapter III Of Amulets, Charms and Talismans he says:

“Indeed, the virtue of man’s words are so great, that, when pronounced with a fervent constancy of the mind, they are able to subvert Nature, to cause earthquakes, storms, and tempests. I have, in the country, by only speaking a few words, and used some other things, caused terrible rains and claps of thunder. Almost all charms are impotent without words, because words are the speech of the speaker, and the image of the thing signified or spoken of…” (5)

Compare the ‘virtue of man’s words‘ being able to ‘subvert Nature‘ with this from another episode of Believer’s Voice of Victory:

“…you will learn how to take authority over your words. When you do, you will change your life through the creative, spiritual power of what you say. Yes, your words can make all the difference in your world!”


While these correlations are certainly interesting – the situation becomes downright surreal in this most recent example where we have Copeland actually summoning the southern winds, using a divine name – El Shaddai – to empower and evoke action and doing so within a prayer that is performed rather like the kind of angelic working that you find in works such as The Magus.

Barrett explains in Vol. 2 in a section on The Cabala; Or The Secret Mysteries Of Ceremonial Magic under the chapter titled Of the Names of Spirits, and Their Various Imposition, and of the Spirits That Are Set Over the Stars, Signs, Corners of the Heaven, and the Elements:

“Many and different are the names of good and bad spirits; but their proper and true names, as those of the stars, are known to God alone, who only numbers the multitude of stars, and calls them by their names, whereof none can be known by us but by divine revelation; very few are expressed to us in sacred writ. But the masters of the Hebrews think, that the names of angels are imposed on them by Adam, according to that which is written, “the Lord brought all things which he had made unto Adam, that he should name them, and as he called any thing, so the name of it was.” Hence the Hebrew Mecubals think, together with Magicians and Cabalists, that it is in the power of man, to impose names upon spirits, but of such a man only who is dignified and elevated to this virtue by some divine gift or sacred authority: but because a name that may express the nature of divinity, or the whole virtue of angelical essences, cannot be made by any human voice, therefore names for the most part are put upon them from their works, signifying some certain office or effect which is required by the quire of spirits; which name then, and not otherwise, obtains efficacy and virtue to draw any spiritual substance from above, or beneath, to make any desired effect.”(6)

Which is to say – you might not know the proper name, but if you’ve got the right intention the Powers that Be will hear and respond. Later in this particular section of The Magus there are descriptions of the various angelic names associated with the cardinal points – “There are also four princes of the angels, which are set over the four winds, and over the four parts of the world…Nariel, who by some is called Ariel, is over the south.” Barrett is pulling from sources like Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim’s 16th century text De Oculta Philosophia Libri Tres (Three Books Concerning Occult Philosophy) – and Barrett’s own work was plagiarized and reworked into L.W. De Laurence’s popular Great Book of Magical Art, Hindu Magic and East Indian Occultism, so let’s pause here to consider just how many different ways skewed hermeneutics and eccentric exegesis of the common Biblical text and somewhat less common apocrypha can lead to the same magical opportunity. (7)

CopelandCopeland certainly isn’t following the ceremonial flair of a would be Golden Dawn acolyte or intoning a proper Enochian call – but he is following in line with all of those conjures throughout history who were taught a charm by their grandmother or who happened to be given a key to the Bible that set its potential up in a more sorcerous sense. Guided by an alternative exegesis applied to the fifteenth chapter of Exodus along with whatever spirit is moving him, having been taught in the lineage of another sorcerer – healing revivalist Oral Roberts, he’s pulled off a performance that almost makes you forget how shady he is in so many other contexts. (8)

That’s the thing with sorcerers, they don’t really have to be nice people to work their enchantments. Sorcery isn’t about goodness or holiness, it’s about the manipulation of natural forces, it’s about power. The Latin term sortiarius, which is where we get our word sorcery, means “one who influences, fate, fortune.” (9)

With his private jets, massive house, disdain for the common folk, support for dubious political positions – Copeland might not make the best pastor and probably is a bit faulty in his ministry of the gospel. However, if we take another look at what he’s about – especially when he’s full tilt summoning up divine winds to wreak havoc on a global pandemic – he makes a damned fine sorcerer and a superior example of supernatural living in the American marketplace.


(1) https://www.latrobe.edu.au/news/articles/2008/podcasts/aboriginal-sorcery-with-professor-henry-reynolds/transcript
(2) https://rubinmuseum.org/spiral/war-magic-the-wizarding-world-of-tibetan-sorcery
(3) https://www.academia.edu/35395925/The_Tibetan_Weather-Magic_Ritual_of_a_Mongolian_Shaman
(4) https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/Agobard-OnHailandThunder.asp
(5) https://archive.org/details/b24926735/page/n4/mode/2up
(6) https://archive.org/details/BarrettFrancisTheMagusVol2/page/n1/mode/2up
(7) https://medium.com/@DBMetcalfe/l-w-de-laurence-the-mysterious-influence-of-one-human-mind-3c8097f9dddc
(8) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2016/08/05/points-of-contact-evangelizing-with-an-electric-touch-selected-quotes/
(9) https://www.etymonline.com/word/sorcery

Special thanks to André Gagné, Ph.D (Concordia University) for posting about this on Twitter – seeing his tweet called my attention to Copeland’s evocation – and special thanks as well to Matt Cardin, whose interview for Theofantastique – Gods and Monsters, Worms and Fire: A Horrific Reading of Isaiah – heavily colored this exploration of supernatural living in the American marketplace…

Through Mediums Never Before Considered – Psychotronics, Spiritual Services and the Analog Internet

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on September 29, 2019

71PizkqBOXL.jpg“The field of study known formerly as parapsychology is undergoing a massive renovation, extending to all its ranks, its procedural methodology and its accumulated literature. The renewal of the discipline, now called psychotronics, overlays a new technical-physical dimension on an earlier philosophical-psychological conception. The field embraces the study of many of the psychophysical phenomena discussed throughout most of this issue of Impact of Science on Society.” – Zdenek Rejdak, Psychotronics: the state of the art in UNESCO Impact of Science on Society, Volume XXIV, No. 4 / October-December 1974 (1)

1974 was a banner year for psi research.

In 1974 Unesco issues Vol. 24, No. 4 of their periodical Impact of Science on Society – this particular issue focuses heavily on ‘the parasciences’ with special emphasis on psychotronics – “the science of mind-body-environment relationships, an interdisciplinary science concerned with the interactions of matter, energy, and consciousness.” (2,3)

In 1974 G. Putnam and Sons publish Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science, an anthology edited by Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell collecting papers from some of the time period’s key researchers in parapsychology and consciousness studies – defining an agenda for research that continues to hold relevance into the 21st century.

1974 is also the year that Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ publish an article in Nature titled Information Transfer Under Conditions of Sensory Shielding, outlining results from their early remote viewing research at the Stanford Research Institute. (4)

For our purposes here – 1974 is notable as the year that the Old Farmer’s Almanac releases their 182nd Anniversary Edition celebrating nearly two centuries of continuous publication. Awhile back I picked up a copy of the 1974 edition at a local thrift store hoping to take a look at the tenor of a time when so much was stirring in the collective psyche in relation to psychic functioning – and after a previous post exploring a copy of the 2020 edition I became curious as to how the two compare in terms of spiritual service ads. (5)

What I discovered was rather surprising.

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1974’s edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac offers ads for computer aided astrology, Telecult Powers, The Ancient and Mystical Order Rosæ Crucis, strange prophecies, superconscious powers, dowsing for buried treasure, and a full front page advertisement for the Universe Book Club Inner Circle – an organization that offers in other advertisements, “a deeper understanding of life through the psychic sciences. ESP. Prophecy. Astrology. Telepathy. The Supernatural…the best in occult books from all publishers at average savings of 50%.”(6) – each of these speak to the popularity of the occult sciences when the almanac was published – and that’s before we even get to the classified section!

 

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Once we hit the classifieds we find a number of ads for dreambooks, occult directories, occult books, fortune telling cards, herbs, lodestones, incense and more:

 

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What we don’t find- outside of perhaps the fortune telling cards, lodestones and herbs – are advertisements written from the specific perspective of American folk magic traditions such as conjure, rootwork or classic spiritual work.

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In fact many of the ads – especially the Astro-Profile ad featuring a one year horoscope ‘prepared with an IBM computer’ – seem to follow closer to the theme of the Impact journal,  “(overlaying) a new technical-physical dimension on an earlier philosophical-psychological conception.” One might argue that the dowsing rods are a traditional form – but we encounter them here advertised as a ‘directional locator,’ with the marketing copy overlaying a technical-physical interpretation on an older practice.

Prior to seeing the 2020 edition this wouldn’t have struck me as particularly odd – however, when we look at the 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac we find that most of the advertisements aimed at the spiritual service market use language directly drawn from conjure and rootwork practices or language centered around psychic services as popularized by the late 20th century psychic hotlines:

 

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This is in stark contrast to the 1974 edition, which has full page ads for occult material throughout and includes occult services under a number of mundane categories in the Classified section – the 2020 edition has no additional spiritual service ads in the main sections and within the Classified section it has specific categories for Astrology, Spiritual Advice, Spiritual Healer, and Spiritualists. We find these sections included in the classifieds for nearly a decade or more if we look back at some of the editions from 2012, 2013 and 2014.

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This article from p. 7 of an 1850 edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac shows that even when black magic doesn’t make it into the ads – its outlines can easily appear elsewhere, hidden in plain sight. (7)

Advertisements in Questionable Taste

Think about that – in 1974 these services were normalized under regular categories – since at least 2012 they are given specific focus under categories like ‘Spiritual Healer’ and ‘Spiritualists’. These categories didn’t even have ads that would have fit under them in the 1974 edition!

If we were talking trends in technological progress this might be less surprising – we can imagine that earlier editions wouldn’t have ads related to smart phones – but here we have an instance when the Old Farmer’s Almanac puts MORE focus in the 21st century on folk magic and psychic services than it did in 1974 when UNESCO was publishing an issue of Impact specifically focused on ‘parascience’ and an Apollo astronaut was publishing an anthology of research papers focused on Psychic Exploration.

This becomes even more anomalous when we consider the perspective offered in this Seattle Times piece on the Old Farmer’s Almanac from 1992:

“In 1990 the periodical began courting advertising from mainstream advertisers, and now contains full-page, four-color ads for Sorel boots, Florida orange juice, Chevrolet trucks, Total cereal, and Agway stores amidst smaller black-and-white inserts for choir robes, miracle magnifying eyeglasses, hair thickener, copper bracelets, apple juicers, weathervanes, racks for holding multiple caps, bag balm for curing animal sores, toenail-fungus ointment, trusses, and insurance to help pay burial expenses. The almanac still refuses all ads for alcohol or tobacco.

Hale takes a sanguine view of the more bizarre products hawked in his pages. “Jimmy Carter was an advertiser, long before he became president; he used the almanac to sell worms for bait.” Nowadays, he says, ads fall into one of three categories: “Advertisements in good taste, advertisements in questionable taste – like the miracle cures or anti-aging products – and advertisements in bad taste, like voodoo dolls, which some people could attempt to use for malicious purposes.

“Each year, after heated debate, we happily accept ads in the first two categories.” (8)

A careful reading of former editor Jud Hale’s statement shows that spiritual services centered on what is popularly known as black magic – hexing, cursing, revenge, etc. – are out, but as long as the legal bases are covered most everything else has a chance of making it in. This draws attention to the fact that what is currently making it in doesn’t necessarily track with the emergence of the contemporary ‘consciousness culture’ market or the trends we see in the digital space related to human potentials like transcranial electric stimulation, binaural and isochronic soundscapes, sound healing, meditation and mindfulness, or anything like that.

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The Analog Internet

“In many homes almanacs were the newspaper, the magazine, and the mail-order catalog rolled into one. In other words, almanacs were the first internet.” – Lisa Chen, The Old Farmer’s Almanac: An Investigation – Seneca Review (9)

Running a Google search for the phone numbers associated with the contemporary classified ads shows that many of them come up in the Google Books preview of the 2020 edition and nowhere else. For many service providers these ads appear to be the only angle being used to attract clients.

Looking at some of the spiritual service providers that do show up in a wider search provides  us insight into the market we’re looking at.

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We’ll start with Mrs. Jewel of Rock Hill, South Carolina, whose ad in the Astrology section includes a business address:

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Mrs. Jewel, Psychic Reader – Rock Hill, South Carolina

We can also find her in a Facebook post from a local pawn shop, World Record Holder Pawn (10), which mentions Mrs. Jewel and includes some nice shots of a pamphlet advertising her services:

 

If you’ve been seduced by the mediated image of mystery surrounding traditional spiritual services it may come as a surprise to find what looks to be a standard psychic reader sitting next to someone like Dr. Sal who offers lucky bags and help against evil spells and witchcraft:

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These blurred lines peaked my attention when I first started looking at spiritual service advertisements while researching for Craigslist Conjurations – Preliminary notes on Spiritual Services, Folk Magic and Digital Advertising in 2014 (Click here for the full 53 pg. PDF version). That early research introduced me to how spiritual service providers frequently cross artificial boundaries developed by observers outside of their targeted clientele.

This boundary crossing exists between the online and offline worlds as well. These ads form a sort of analog hypertext linking a broad range of individuals and networks – mixing services offered solely through word of mouth advertising and classifieds and service providers that expand their business profile into the digital space. All connecting individuals, cultures and economies across a shared relationship with a belief in the supernatural or the super natural.

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Ann, God’s Messenger from Fayette, North Carolina is another service provider whose address is available via a quick search. She can be found on Google as Sister Ann, Reader and Advisor. Sister Ann is another boundary crossing provider who seems to make no differentiation between folk magic and psychic services, this time quite directly offering to stop rootwork.

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Sister Ann, Reader and Advisor – Fayetteville, North Carolina

Based on her service reviews some folks love her and some folks hate her. (11) Sister Ann has a basic website – sisterannreaderadviser.com – utilizing stock images suited to a psychic service provider – who would expect that beneath this almost mundane facade sits a woman offering rootwork services?

“Are you having trouble? Have you lost your job? Does life seem like it is getting to be too much? Do you wonder where to turn? I urge you to call me, Sister Ann. I am a religious holy woman and have been able to help hundreds of lost souls who have had troubles in life. Through God’s grace and mercy I have the power to heal by prayer.”

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Some spiritual service providers have been running the same ads for years. We find Spiritualist Leza from Valdosta, Georgia going back to 2012 in the Google Book results with a simple ad promising the cure all evil spells, reunite lovers, potions and luck:

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Despite the persistence of her ad in the various editions of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Spiritual Leza is not one of our providers that appear to have extended their marketing into the digital marketplace.

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Beyond the Pages of the Old Farmer’s Almanac

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Classified Section from the 2012 Old Farmer’s Almanac

There is an ebb and flow for spiritual service classified ads. For example, the 2012 and 2013 editions having significantly more offerings in the Astrology section than what we find in the 2020 edition.

These rhythms in the number of ads are regulated by shifts in the culture and in the economy. As Jud Hale says in the Seattle Times piece from 1992:

“I believe we’re a link to something. The almanac has always done well in times of recession. I think people hearken back to the traditional values in times of a crunch…The Old Farmer’s Almanac isn’t `quaint,’ It’s all about what’s happening in our world, now. It’s as up-to-date today as it was 200 years ago.”(8)

This observation on the recession is reflected in the psychic and spiritual service industries as well. Providers in these areas offer services to those who are looking for stability, direction and empowerment in uncertain times. Even so, economic factors shift the amount of income that clients can offer no matter how desperate their perceived need and the industry itself was negatively affected by the most recent recession. As disposable income has increased so has the market for and marketability of these services:

“The Psychic Services industry has grown steadily over the five years to 2018 as a result of recovering economic conditions and growing acceptance of industry services among consumers. Following a dip during the economic downturn, rising disposable income levels over the past five years have spurred demand for discretionary services like psychic readings.” (12)

Differences we see in the number of ads may have to do with certain service providers moving up market as the opportunities increase alongside increases in disposable income. It may also reflect service providers reacting to the increased potential for interest in their services within the wider market as the economy began to recover through 2012 and 2013. Moving their advertising to digital platforms could allow them to more easily capture the attention of a diverse audience. Or, it’s very possible that these service providers failed to achieve success and ceased offering service of any kind within this market.

One of the things that we begin to see as we dig in to these ads is that we are not just looking at a single market, economy or industry – we’re looking at a rather diverse and interconnected network of markets, economies and industries and services that fluidly shift and intermingle to meet the needs of their clientele.

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Rev. Jackson ad in the 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac

This network has a global reach as we can see from a service provider named Rev. Jackson who bought ad space in both the Old Farmer’s Almanac and the Jamaican Gleaner.

Published out of Kingston, the Jamaican Gleaner or simply The Gleaner is a newspaper with international distribution in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.  Founding in 1834, it’s been in circulation ever since and continues to connect diaspora communities around the world.

Rev. Jackson’s ad in both the Old Farmer’s Almanac and the Jamaican Gleaner shows us that the networks of markets, economies and industries related to these psychic and spiritual services cover a much wider geography than we might expect – and target a community with ties not only to the U.S., but the Caribbean, U.K. and Canada as well.

Seeing the reach of a provider like Rev. Jackson it is possible that the increased focus on spiritual services associated with popular notions of hoodoo, conjure and rootwork in these 21st century Old Farmer’s Almanac ads is a reflection of an increase in the estimated worth of the African American market.

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Voodoo Healer with the same phone number in a series of classified ads for ‘Psychics, Spiritualists, Astrologers, Readers‘ in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper – Thursday, August 24, 2006 (13)

According to a recent study from the University of Georgia Selig Center for Economic Growth, this market went from “$961 billion in 2010 to an estimated $1.3 trillion in 2018. Since 2000, the African American market has seen a 114 percent increase in buying power.” (14) Along with an increase in buying power comes an increase in service providers within the market, so it makes sense that we would see this mirrored in the psychic and spiritual service ads appearing in publications like the Old Farmer’s Almanac and Jamaican Gleaner which have such a wide and continuous distribution.

But…Where are the Psychotronics?

“We present results of experiments suggesting the existence of one or more perceptual modalities through which individuals obtain information about their environment…”- Harold Puthoff and Russel Targ, Information Transfer Under Conditions of Sensory Shielding (3)

Now that we’ve found some answers for the surprising presence of rootwork in the 2020 edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac – the question remains, where’s our new era of psychotronics as forecast in the 1974 edition of UNESCO’s Impact?

Just as the spiritual service ads appear to be following market trends, the fate of psychotronics exists within a wider cultural and economic milieu. The interest in developing “a new technical-physical dimension on an earlier philosophical-psychological conception”  was directly related to the further development of a cybernetic understanding of the mind/body complex being explored at the time. (15) If we want to see where psychotronics went all we have to do is look at the internet – which, as Dr. Diana Pasulka points out in her preface to American Cosmic – UFOs, Religion, Technology (Oxford University Press, 2019), developed in part from a program focused on ‘“Augmentation of the Human Intellect.” (16) 

In order to truly understand these areas it is important to de-mystify what we are talking about – the mediated image of psychic and spiritual services is a marketing ploy that is very much divorced from their everyday applications in the lives of practitioners and from the areas of study focused on by serious researchers. (17) This is also true in terms of how the underlying human potentials being tapped in these service offerings are distributed within the wider culture.

Look back at that Astro-Profile advertisement and take out the astrological language:

Prepared with an IBM computer – Your Character Analyzed – Programed by World Famous (Experts) – Individually Prepared – Based on 25 Million Pieces of Information – 12 Month Projections – Trends for the Year…

If we didn’t know this was a 1974 ad for an astrology service it could just as well be the description of forecasting and personality profile tools that have been developed using data sets drawn from social media usage. Today’s transcranial electric stimulation for performance enhancement in sports and the arts is yesterday’s “God Helmet” experiments searching for the source of apparitional encounters and ways to enhance or induce anomalous or spiritual experiences. (18, 19)

Corporate, commercial and military intelligence interest in psychic functioning frame UNESCO’s Impact journal issue focused on parascience. In the ensuing years research in these areas produced results that were able to be reframed (and monetized) within more acceptable contexts, as well as being reframed to avoid complications related to a portion of the research that occurred between 1974 and 1995 under classified programs.

Along with this is the proprietary nature of the corporate interest – and yes, there was indeed quite a bit of corporate interest, including companies such as Boeing, Xerox, Sony and others. As just one example, Gene Semel, a former senior sound design manager at Sony, went in search of Sony’s ESP research and discovered that “finding ways to measure anomalous energy transference – and to uncover a commercial application for it – was something to Sony took seriously. In the company’s labs, it was objectively and empirically researched for over a decade under the oversight of Sony Senior Researcher Yoichiro Sako.” (20) News reports from the time show that Sako’s research was met with controversy in the media despite the support of Sony’s executives. (21)

“There might be a new type of communication system out there, a system that transmits data through mediums we’ve never before considered. We don’t know, but we’re trying to find out.” – Sony executive Mika Ishida (22)

According to Sako,  “We found out experimentally that yes, ESP exists, but that any practical application of this knowledge is not likely in the foreseeable future.” (21)  Based on media reports this research initiative began in 1991, four years before the Pentagon began declassifying the Remote Viewing research that has become so well known. That’s 16 years after the parascience issue of Impact –  no matter what the skeptical sub-culture wants you to believe, psychic functioning has staying power in terms of research and commercial interest.

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PRECOG ECONOMIES

 

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Advertisement from FATE Magazine for The Mind and Time and Space by Dan Tassi, Dorrance Co., (1962) (23)

While Sako is sanguine about the possibilities of applied psi – the psychic services industry in the U.S. alone had an estimated worth of $2 Billion, with the prospect of a steady increase of 2% per year according to IBIS World. (12) The disconnect here is in the fact that Sony’s research was focused on developing technology from psychic functioning – any research into the existence of said functioning was a mere antecedent to creating products that could tap into it. Recent research into psychokinesis and mind/machine interfacing may prove him wrong – but in the meantime, outside of product development, we already see that there is a massive financial incentive to develop viable psychic services.

“It’s worth noting that those who do buy into the precog economy don’t like to publicise the fact.” – Amelia Tait, Psychic Future – What Next for the Precog Economy? (24)

51dWpiXb7hL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg$2 Billion is big, but Dr. Julia Mossbridge, a visiting scholar at Northwestern University and co-author of The Precognition Code – The Science of Precognition, How Sensing the Future Can Change Your Life (Watkins Media, 2019), says that “once precognition hits the higher-end markets – governments, investment banking – the estimates will go up by an order of magnitude,” as quoted by Amelia Tait in a Guardian article published as I was wrangling this post into coherence.

Mossbridge clarifies for Tait that the industry is mixed in terms of what clients can expect, with providers offering services that range from serious applications of psi research to frauds making money manipulating their clientele. The concept of a precog economy highlights the need for service providers that have followed the impetus of the 1974 Impact journal and are utilizing technical-physical methodologies in their work, such as Associate and Controlled Remote Viewing protocols or the protocols outlined by Mossbridge’s book, to increase accuracy and regularity in their results.

As the wider publication of  research modalities occurs we see adaptations in the public service offerings that reflect their adoption even within the sphere of popular psychic and spiritual services. In other areas of the culture there is the possibility to develop refined service offerings that take advantage of the research to integrate psychic functioning within corporate, government and medical environments as the scientific investigation of these potentials develops a better framework for understanding what has existed in our culture under the labels of the anomalous and occult. (25)

The lack of consistent regulation in the industry, the taboo on psychic functioning in professional cultures and the fear of psi (26) that occurs for many when they weigh the meaning of psi and all of its implications each contribute to fueling the shadow economies surrounding psychic and spiritual service industries. As we see with the parascience revolution forecasted in the 1974 issue of Impact, it may be that as these services become successful they blend seamlessly into the existing cultures and technologies around them. Perhaps the precog economy’s future exists within the world we already see every day expanded a bit with our understanding of human potential – a synthesis that leaves only a hazy outline of its prior taboo in back page Classifieds of tomorrow’s vintage edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Footnotes:
(1) https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000010749
(2) https://twitter.com/DrPatHistorian/status/1138551696391573504?s=20
(3) https://www.psychotronics.org/about/
(4) https://www.nature.com/articles/251602a0
(5) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/for-our-readers-that-shop-by-mail-fast-cash-money-oil-and-the-old-farmers-almanac/
(6) https://altered-statuses.tumblr.com/post/184400802667/the-universe-book-club-invites-you-to-join-the
(7) https://archive.org/details/farmersalmanacfo00phil/page/n7
(8) http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920614&slug=1497100
(9) Lisa Chen, The Old Farmer’s Almanac: An Investigation. Seneca Review, v. 47, n. 2, p. 38–43, (2017)
(10)https://www.facebook.com/WorldRecordHolderPawn/photos/a.590333837714882/2255544111193838/
(11) https://g.page/PsychicNC?share
(12) https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/specialized-market-research-reports/consumer-goods-services/personal/psychic-services.html and https://finance.yahoo.com/news/psychic-industry-fortune-tellers-ibisworld-221118482.html
(13) https://newspaperarchive.com/kingston-gleaner-aug-24-2006-p-23/
(14)https://news.terry.uga.edu/articles/Rising_tide_lifts_all_boats_Americas_economic_growth_benefits_minority_markets/
(15) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/02/03/cyborgs-psychics-and-intelligent-plasmas-speculative-approaches-to-human-space-travel-with-jose-canseco/
(16) https://www.americancosmic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Preface-A-Tour-of-Silicon-Valley-with-Jaques-Vallee.pdf
(17) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/09/24/hidden-pathways-to-everyday-magic-supernatural-living-in-the-american-marketplace/
(18) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-red-light-district/201710/enhancing-athletic-performance-brain-stimulation
(19) https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3287/d07f47a54f746aa2444465b2268fdeb11d1e.pdf
(20) http://www.mindpowernews.com/SonyESP.htm
(21) https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-11-12-mn-2130-story.html
(22) https://www.wired.com/1996/09/esp-extra-sony-perception/
(23) https://wearethemutants.com/2019/03/05/i-shall-teach-thee-terrible-things-the-ads-and-articles-of-fate-magazine-1963/dan-tassi/
(24) https://www.theguardian.com/global/2019/sep/29/psychic-future-what-next-for-the-precognition-economy
(25) https://youtu.be/8l2cmV8JvxE
(26) https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_psycho20.htm

Hidden Pathways to Everyday Magic – Supernatural Living in the American Marketplace

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on September 24, 2019

‘It is the glory of the God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.’ – Proverbs 25:2

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Entrance to the office at a tire shop just outside of Athens, Georgia

A flat on a rural highway and a closed tire shop in town had me wandering around northeast Georgia this week looking for an affordable solution to getting back on the road. Great reminder that when the regular patterns of our daily life are disrupted we get a chance to discover some of the hidden pathways of magic that exist all around us.

Frustration turned to fascination when I finally found a used tire shop a few towns over and walked in to discover that the owners had protective wards put up over every doorway in the place. The entrance to the office had a Gideon’s pocket New Testament, horse shoe and a pamphlet titled Conditions de Entrada al Cielo (Conditions for the Entrance into Heaven) secured to the frame. It was an immediate reminder of what I’ve been writing about lately in regard to the commonality of magico-religious practices.

The mediated image of folk magic presents an exotic appeal and mystery that is almost entirely missing when you dig in to its actual practice – for many people magico-religious beliefs and spiritual work are integrated fully into their every day lives in a way that is foreign to those who come to these practices from Neo-paganism, popular occultism, and other spiritual sub-cultures that are tied strongly to marketing, commercialism and identity politics rather than a continuation of traditional forms through contemporary means. (1)

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Grocery Store Grimoires

For the past few years I’ve been fascinating with the distribution of occult books in the seemingly mundane environment of the U.S. marketplace. (2)

If you poke around the magazine aisle – most grocery stores have books that give the basics for developing advanced intuition, out of body experiences, precognition, and similar human potentials. You may have missed them though, because they are almost always aimed at the Christian market – the most prevalent material is under the guise of  ‘spiritual warfare’ and ‘supernatural living’.

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One person’s Holy Ghost baptism is another person’s Kundalini awakening – some have prophetic dreams of Jesus and others call that precognition. The publication and mass distribution of Eben Alexander III’s book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, is a secularized example of the grocery store grimoire phenomenon. The book was widely available as a bestseller and gave a very public presence to the current state of the debate around Near Death Experiences. However, Secular examples like Alexander’s book don’t have the same staying power or continuous market presence as the spiritual warfare and supernatural living material.

303dce7d6701e82232198d08b25105b8.jpgThe books included in photos above, which I took at a local grocery stores over the years, may be framed within a Christian worldview but this does nothing to lessen their mystique. Remember that ritual magic in large part comes from exorcism traditions and it’s merely a flip of intention to change an exorcism into a conjuration or invocation.

Folk magic and Charismatic and ecstatic forms of Christianity have long been intimately tied. What we seen today in the grocery store aisle might not have the same patina of age worn respectability that an occult classic like the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses has, but when seriously applied a surprising amount of the practical use value remains intact.(0

As I was pondering these potentials I started to wonder how much of my speculation was a thought experiment, and how much was actually likely to occur. Were there really folks out there back engineering this spiritual warfare material and using it for more unorthodox purposes?

Apt to the research it was a ‘grocery store grimoire’ that gave me the answer:

“In the 1970’s a group of ministers who had experience dealing with demons began to hold lengthy conversations with them, seeking to obtain special understanding about things in the spirit realm. In the end this proved disastrous. The group went into serious doctrinal error and some of them died prematurely.”

– Derek Prince, end note in They Shall Expel Demons: What You Need to Know About Demons – Your Invisible Enemies (Chosen Books, 1998)

Ministers using allegedly possessed members of their congregation as mediums to channel discarnate spirits in order to gain forbidden knowledge – you’d be hard pressed to find a better example of unorthodox purposes.

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Santa Muerte at Walmart

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Grim Reaper T-Shirt at Walmart (Athens, GA)

In the course of my research into grocery store grimoires I was disappointed when the closest Walmart expanded their romance novel selection and nixed the Inspirational Books section. A set back more than made up for by the Men’s Clothing area – where la Santa Muerte still sits secure in the rotational display of discount t-shirts.

“But that’s just a cheap grim reaper shirt!”

Oh no my friend, it’s a gateway into supernatural living if you know anything about the popularization of Saint Death’s iconography in the black and grey market.

If you are a savvy entrepreneur in the Mexican market, looking to quickly capitalize on the growth of a popular tradition, or if you are an intent devotee looking to represent La Nina Bonita through your clothing, where would you start?

A few companies make Santa Muerte specific shirts, but these are not always easily acquired – so you grab the first thing that fits the bill within your environment. In Santa Muerte’s case this just happened to be shirts with illustrations of the Grim Reaper. Those outside the devotion see nothing more than a shirt from Walmart – those within know that here in the midst of the mundane la Madre Poderosa stands hidden in plain sight. (3)

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A Study in End-Times Biblical Prophecy

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Bible study invitation in the foyer of a local post office.

A trip to the post office can turn into an adventure in apocalyptic fervor when you encounter a delightful invitation to an End Times Bible Study.  In the hyper-textual landscape of popular religion you’re never far from the edge of the eschaton.

Flyers like this provide ephemeral strands stretching between the grocery store grimoires and the folks who read and practice them. The same cultural streams which focus on end-times biblical prophecy are very likely to be attentive to the import of spiritual warfare and exorcism.

Subtle markers on the boundaries of a secret landscape – these examples all hint at a interconnected, intwined and integral aspect within the daily lives of people who would balk at the idea that they are involved in some form of esoteric or occult practice. Secured by the othering of academic categories which ignore these living streams of mystery – they go about their normal days unseen.

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The House on Devil’s Pond Road

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The house on Devil’s Pond Road

I can’t tell you how many times I drove past this abandoned house thinking it was merely another one of the curious and crumbling memories that populate the landscape of rural Georgia. That is until a casual conversation with a local antique dealer about the efficacy of charms lead to a surprising revelation:

“Back in the 1930’s there was a woman practiced conjure a couple towns over. They say she held court from a throne formed by the twisted roots of an old oak tree down on Devil’s Pond Rd.”

The oak tree that the antique dealer mentioned is that sort of black vegetative splotch in front of the structure – it’s now broken and overgrown with vines – a striking symbol of how fragile these intimate traditions are. When the line of transmission is broken unless one is skilled in interpreting residual traces they drift away into rumors and forgetfulness.

After learning more about the site’s history I developed a series of sound pieces (available to stream above) to honor the conjure that once lived here – they are best enjoyed with ear phones while gazing at the photo to imbibe the residual transmissions of the house on Devil’s Pond Rd.

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Facts and Predictions for the Entire Year

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Lottery Dream Books at a convenient store just outside of Athens, GA

These simple manuals systematize a symbol set which can be slowly memorized and tied to intuitive responses. Once the supernatural cover story is dropped, what you essentially have is a folk version of the art of memory with the intention of accessing dream states and day to day synchronicities to heighten intuitive functioning. (4)

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Craigslist Conjurations

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Mother Powers advertisement from The Lucky Red Devil Combination Dream Book and Numerology Guide (Eagle Book Supply Inc, 2013)

Generalized psychic and metaphysical services are a mainstay in the Craigslist classified ads. Presenting an image reminiscent of the psychic hotlines that were promoted in commercials and infomercials during the 1980’s and 90’s the bulk of these advertisements offer standard super natural options for those seeking assistance from beyond the pale confines of everyday life.

With a bit of digging it’s occasionally possible to discover another class of advertisement, more rarefied offerings from a few unique individuals who have stepped outside of the common psycho-spiritual SEO. Ads like the ones I gathered back in 2014 from Miss Mary, who runs a number of advertisements in different cities.

To the uncritical eye they might seem to be repetitious – however, the true connoisseur of traditional spiritual work will recognize the poetic touches that make each ad unique. She uses a time honored formula that is reminiscent of older advertisements for such services. Miss Mary’s ad copy is similar to the Mother Powers advertisements in Lottery Dream Books, or the associated advertisements online for Sister Mary, here you can see the tradition carrying on into the digital world of Craigslist classifieds:

SPIRITUAL ROOTWORKER (BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA)

MISS MARY CAN HELP YOU ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD IN HOURS. ARE YOU IN HARD LUCK? DO YOU HAVE PROBLEMS THAT ARE WORRYING YOU? ARE YOU SUFFERING IN PAIN AND MISERY? DO YOU WANT TO GET LUCKY AND STAY LUCKY? IS YOUR HUSBAND OR WIFE SPENDING THE MONEY ON SOMEONE ELSE? HAS HE OR SHE LEFT YOU FOR ANOTHER? CALL MISS MARY NOW FOR HELP. ARE YOU HAVING TROUBLE WITH YOUR LEGS, BACK, STOMACH, HEAD, OR ARMS? IS YOUR HAIR FALLING OUT? MISS MARY WILL REMOVE BAD LUCK, EVIL, SICKNESS, PAINS AND NERVOUS CONDITIONS FROM YOU NOW. MISS MARY WILL TELL YOU HOW TO BE LUCKY AT HORSES, CARDS, BINGO, LOTTERY, DOGS, SLOT MACHINES, AND NUMBERS. CALL NOW FOR HELP. YOU WILL BLESS THE DAY YOU DID. MY WORK IS 100% GUARANTEED. CALL MISS MARY TODAY AND BE RID OF YOUR TROUBLES BY TOMMOROW.

MISS MARY POWERFUL ROOT WORKER (BRUNSWICK, GA.) 

MY POWERS ARE GUARANTEED. DO YOU HAVE BAD LUCK? NEED HELP? MISS MARY SOLVES ALL PROBLEMS. MONEY, LUCK, BUSINESS, HEALTH, NATURE, MARRIAGE, LOVE PROBLEMS, DRUG PROBLEMS, ALCOHOLISM. MISS MARY CAN REMOVE EVIL SPELLS OF ALL KINDS. VOODOO, ROOTS, HEXES. 100% SURE FAST RESULTS. CALL MISS MARY TODAY AND BLESS THE DAY YOU DID. MY MAGICAL POWERS ARE BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION. CALL NOW FOR IMMEDIATE RESULTS.

POWERFUL ROOT WORKER (BRUNSWICK, GA.)

MISS MARY WILL READ YOUR ENTIRE LIFE WITHOUT ASKING YOU A SINGLE QUESTION. SHE HAS THE ABILITY TO HEAL BY PRAYER. ARE YOU SUFFERING? ARE YOU SICK IN ANY PART OF YOUR BODY? ARE YOU LOSING YOUR HAIR? HAVE YOU EVER STAYED AWAKE AT NIGHT THINKING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE? WELL THINK NO MORE MISS MARY IS HERE TO HELP YOU WITH ANY PROBLEM YOU MAY HAVE. MISS MARY WILL HELP YOU IN LOVE, MARRIAGE, ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE, LAWSUITS, EVIL, DIVORCES, ANY PROBLEM IS NOT TO BIG OR SMALL. I WILL GIVE YOU LUCKY NUMBERS TO PLAY LOTTO, BINGO, HORSES, DOGS, SLOTS. CALL MISS MARY TODAY AND BE RID OF YOUR PROBLEMS TOMORROW. MISS MARY SOLEMLY SWEARS TO HELP YOU. CALL MISS MARY  TODAY AND BLESS THE DAY YOU DID.

0RDAINED PSYCHIC READER AND ADVISOR (BRUNSWICK, GA)

HAVE YOU BEEN HOODOOED? ARE YOU SICK IN ANY PART OF YOUR BODY? MISS MARY HAS GOD GIVEN POWER TO HELP YOU OVERCOME YOUR PROBLEMS NO MATTER HOW BIG OR SMALL. I WILL TELL YOU JUST WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT FRIENDS ENEMIES OR RIVALS, WHETHER HUSBAND, WIFE OR SWEETHEART IS TRUE OR FALSE, HOW TO GAIN THE LOVE YOU MOST DESIRE, CONTROL OR INFLUENCE THE ACTION OF ANYONE EVEN THOUGH MILES AWAY. WILL GIVE YOU LUCKY NUMBERS, I HAVE HELPED THOUSANDS THROUGH ALL WALKS OF LIFE. I WILL ADVISE YOU ON LOVE, MARRIAGE, BUSINESS, HEALTH, DIVORCES, LAWSUITS, LUCK, ALCOHOLICS, DRUG ADDICTIONS, HAPPINESS,SPELLS, SUCCESS AND EVIL INFLUENCES OF ALL KINDS. I WILL TELL YOU WHO YOUR FRIENDS AND ENEMIES ARE. GUARANTEES TO REMOVE ALL EVIL AND BAD LUCK!!! WHY SUFFER WHEN YOU CAN BE HELPED AND FREED FROM ALL YOUR TROUBLES!!! DON’T FAIL TO CALL MISS MARY TODAY YOU WILL BLESS THE DAY YOU DID!!! CALL MISS MARY AND SEE FOR YOURSELF WHAT MY POWERS CAN DO FOR YOU!!! DO NOT COMPARE ME WITH CHEAP, COMMON, ORDINARY INPERSONATORS MY WORK IS WITH GOD!!! CALL MISS MARY TODAY

SPIRITUAL READER AND ADVISOR (BRUNSWICK,GEORGIA) 

MISS MARY WILL READ YOUR ENTIRE LIFE WITHOUT ASKING YOU A SINGLE QUESTION. MISS MARY HAS THE ABILITY TO HEAL BY PRAYER. ARE YOU SUFFERING? ARE YOU SICK IN ANY PART OF YOUR BODY? HAVE YOU EVER STAYED AWAKE AT NIGHT THINKING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE? WELL, NOW YOU DON”T HAVE TO! THIS SPIRITUAL WOMAN WILL GUIDE YOU TO OVERCOME YOUR PROBLEMS NO MATTER WHAT YOUR PROBLEMS MIGHT BE. I CAN HELP YOU WITH LOVE PROBLEMS, MARRIAGE, OR BUSINESS PROBLEMS. I CAN GIVE YOU SURE HIT LUCKY NUMBERS. I WILL CURE ANY PROBLEMS THAT YOU HAVE. DON’T BE DISCOURAGED IF OTHERS FAILED YOU. MY WORK IS WITH GOD AND MY POWERS ARE GUARANTEED TO WORK. CALL ME AND FIND OUT FOR YOUR SELF HOW GREAT MY POWERS ARE. CALL MISS MARY AND BLESS THE DAY YOU DID.

MISS MARY ROOTWORKER (BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA)

LET MISS MARY REMOVE ALL EVIL SHADOWS AND SPELLS FROM YOU AND YOUR HOME. I USE LOVE POTIONS, SPELLS, DOLLS, HERBS, OILS AND CANDLES IN MY WORK TO REMOVE OR PLACE A VOODOO. DO YOU WISH TO CONTROL THE ACTIONS OF ANYONE YOU DESIRE MISS MARY WILL ADVISE YOU IN LOVE, MARRIAGE, BUSINESS, LUCK, HAPPINESS, AND MONEY. CALL MISS MARY TODAY AND BE HELPED AS THOUSANDS HAVE ALREADY DID. CALL MISS MARY AND BLESS THE DAY YOU DID.

Psychic Palm and Tarot Card Reader

I AM A LOCAL PALM READER HERE IN BRUNSWICK, GA. I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR OVER 30 YEARS I HAVE ALOT OF REPEAT CLIENTS THAT ARE VERY SATISFIED WITH MY READINGS I AM AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE PARTYS IF YOU ARE HAVING A PRIVATE PARTY AND ARE INTERESTED IN HAVING A REAL LIFE PALM READER AT YOUR PARTY CALL ME FOR RATES MISS MARY

In ads like these we find spiritual workers who retain connections to long running traditions of folk magic and healing – reminding us again how common traditions of folk spirituality continue on despite the tendency to relegate these areas of human experience and expression to dead images of a curious past. (5)

For the full 53 page PDF – Craigslist Conjurations – Preliminary notes on Spiritual Services, Folk Magic and Digital Advertising – CLICK HERE

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Distributed by Keystone Laboratories

Gas stations and Craigslist ads aren’t the only place you can find these residual traces of conjure culture. Walking down the cosmetics aisle at a local Dollar General I ran into Ebony Glow, a soap from Keystone Laboratories that might look just like any other beauty product – however it turns out to be yet another gateway into supernatural living in the American marketplace.

The third picture shows a vintage Keystone Laboratories catalog from Tony Kail’s West Tennessee Museum of Southern Hoodoo History collection. As you can see the catalog features products familiar to anyone versed in American folk traditions such as our aforementioned Lottery Dream Books, votive candles, and conjure classics like the 6th and 7th Book of Moses. (6)

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Kali at the Gas Station

15844469_10154913417596670_8282549110676948160_oA quick stop a few years ago at the gas station in this photo lead to the discovery of a concealed Durga altar with representations of her maternal and wrathful aspects tucked away behind the counter and hidden from view by a box of blunt wraps and a display of energy supplements.

“Kali is often depicted in the posture called pratyalidha, with Her left knee advanced and her right leg drawn back. In this position Her left foot can prod Her Shiva into wakefulness. Pratyalidha and its opposite, the alidha stance (right knee advanced, left drawn back) both come from a Sanskrit root which means “lapped up, licked, tongue applied to, eaten.”

What She eats, with Her tongue, Her eyes, and Her very pose, is your Ahamkara Shakti, your energy of self. Since the chief expression of shakti in the physical body isprana, the life force, the power which keeps body, mind and spirit functioning together as a living unit, what Kali eats as you worship Her is your prana. Physical life, health and longevity require that ahamkara self-identify strongly with your organism to permit prana to enliven your body. Spiritual health requires ahamkara to relinquish most of this attachment, and Kali is happy to help you actively relinquish it.

The chief carrier of prana in the body is blood, so when you see blood dripping from Kali’s tongue you should see that blood as the prana of Her devotees, offered to Her to transmute. What She craves is your blood (your prana) that She may truly bring you to life. (7)

Unmediated and stripped of exotic framing this simple altar speaks to the powerful integration of applied spirituality in the every day lives around us.

The pure streams of magico-religious practice aren’t found in flashy packaging and artisanal facade – they’re found in hearts consumed by practices that reveal the presence of mystery in the midst of the everyday.

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View from the side of the road where a flat tire initiated today’s reflections on super natural living.

“The supernatural and occult imagination becomes the locus where the tension between the material world and the world of the spirit is realized and then dissolved.” – Peter Bebergal, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural

All of the examples presented here represent a direct line of influence straight from folk traditions that have come to be popularized and mediated in the various occult revivals over the years.

Here in this varied selection of products and media we see ‘the supernatural and occult imagination’ become enlivened through empowered, contemporary and active traditions of belief that, despite their skeptical detractors, speak to the efficacy of supernatural living and demonstrate this efficacy with their subtle power and presence in the American marketplace.

Footnotes:

(1) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/for-our-readers-that-shop-by-mail-fast-cash-money-oil-and-the-old-farmers-almanac/
(2) https://modernmythology.net/satans-target-your-mind-supernatural-living-in-the-american-marketplace-c6c38c616778
(3) https://skeletonsaint.com/2013/05/01/selling-holy-death-from-grim-reaper-to-skeletal-virgin-a-brief-look-at-commercializing-an-emerging-iconography/
(4) https://medium.com/@DBMetcalfe/gambling-with-psi-lottery-dream-books-and-other-money-making-mind-tricks-96622bcec051
(5) https://medium.com/@DBMetcalfe/craigslist-conjurations-an-exploration-into-the-interstices-of-spiritual-services-folk-magic-and-bd210e3f22e6 – and – https://www.academia.edu/13615817/Craigslist_Conjurations_-_Preliminary_notes_on_Spiritual_Services_Folk_Magic_and_Digital_Advertising
(6) https://memphishoodoo.wixsite.com/museum
(7) https://archive.org/details/DeviMahatmyamEnglishTransiteration/page/n33

 

For Our Readers That Shop By Mail – Fast Cash Money Oil and the Old Farmer’s Almanac

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on September 15, 2019

“Since 1792, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has spoken to all walks of life: planting charts for those who grow their own food; recipes for those who live in the kitchen; Moon and sunrise times for those who watch the skies; and forecasts for those who don’t like the question of weather left up in the air.” (1)

Image from iOS-99

Old Farmer’s Almanac display in the magazine aisle of a local Kroger supermarket (Athens, GA, 2019)

In most grocery stores across the United States you can pick up the latest copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “North America’s most popular reference guide and oldest continuously published periodical“(2) – a staple of life in the U.S. for over two hundred years.

These nondescript little books discretely resonate with the luxurious possibilities of supernatural living in the American marketplace and they always catch my eye – so, when a good friend texted a photo from the 2020 edition with an advertisement for the Luck Shop, the next chance I had to take a look I did.

Your Master Spiritual Goods Supplier

Luck Shop advertisements are a familiar sight in the back pages of the Lottery Dream Books I pick up at local gas stations (3) – however it was a bit of a surprise to find “your master spiritual goods supplier…the largest and most comprehensive Mojo Store in the Midwest- Specializing in selling Spiritual Supplies and Cultural Heritage products through…retail store and mail order catalog, for over 90 years,”(4) in a booklet sold at Kroger.

It shouldn’t have been surprising – but I’d come to expect that such a direct connection to conjure culture had been pushed to the margins of the marketplace and was now only available in places like independently owned gas stations and other liminal haunts – not right in the magazine aisle of the local grocery store next to the greeting cards and Sudoku booklets.

Flip to Page 247, and there it is:

Image from iOS-101

LuckShop.com display ad in the 2020 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac

One of the things that captivates me when I find these portals into the world of supernatural living is the business dynamics that go into an advertisement or product like this making it into the mainstream grocery market.

Our Products are Your Platform

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Media Kit website advises that:

“Our products are your platform.

As one of the most trusted brands literally in the world, the OFA brings instant credibility to, and interest in, its partners. When you work with us, we connect you to our community using the tools that suit your company, your product, and your message best.” (5)

When you apply this corporate copy to a mojo supply shop advertisement magic happens.

How many people pass by these booklets everyday without realizing Fast Cash Money Oil is just a phone call away?

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“The Old Root Man’s Formula for Fast Money Drawing gets evil off of you or out of your body. Kills all jinx and bad luck around you. Uncrosses your home and everyone in it. Returns all evil back to the sender who put it on you, no matter the situation!” (6)

How many readers of The Old Farmer’s Almanac are looking for Rev. Moses Triple Strength  ‘Old Root Man’s Formula’ Liquid Evil and Jinx Killer?

The Media Kit states that the publication is aimed at “a cross-section of North America itself. From the small farmer in the Midwest to the suburban family focused on sustainability and connection to the environment, our community members have one thing in common: They seek to lead informed  lives honestly, valuing innovation, durability, reliability and trustworthiness.” It’s incredibly intriguing to figure out where The Old Root Man’s Formula fits into that mix. 

Has the LuckShop.com misjudged their ad spend?

Has the Old Farmer’s Almanac misjudged their market?

Or is the question of occult spirituality in the contemporary United States a bit more complex than the picture we see framed by the popular media and sub-cultures that have emerged around these topics?

A Trip to Miller’s Rexall in 2018 disabused me of any remaining assumptions I had over what place spiritual work has in contemporary culture.

Run Devil Run

lsDespite its well known status as one of the long standing landmarks of folk magic in the southern United States, stepping past the threshold of Miller’s Rexall Drugs new customers were greeted with  a standard pharmacy located in downtown Atlanta (7).  The store itself and its general set up was similar to any other urban pharmacy, it even had the same discount bin of random items at the front – the only difference is that the ills and maladies Miller’s provides curatives for don’t stop at indigestion and the common cold.

This surface normalcy is one of the things you don’t get a real sense for unless you visit a shop like this in person – and as Jack Montgomery, author of American Shamans: Journeys with Traditional Healer (Busca Inc., 2008), pointed out in a Facebook post when he and Memphis hoodoo scholar Tony Kail visited Atlanta a few years ago – Miller’s is one of the last of the original spiritual supply stores left in the U.S. – making opportunities to visit few and far between for most folks.

The mediated image of folk magic presents an exotic appeal and mystery that is almost entirely missing when you dig in to its actual practice – for many people magico-religious beliefs and spiritual work are integrated fully into their every day lives in a way that is foreign to those who come to these practices from Neo-paganism, popular occultism, and other spiritual sub-cultures that are tied strongly to marketing, commercialism and identity politics rather than a continuation of traditional forms through contemporary means.

Just a Few Blocks from the Courthouse

These practices are often not learned first from books, but from family members and neighbors – they are drawn from the needs of the community and a cosmological and metaphysical understanding that is woven into the very identity of the social structure itself.

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When I visited Atlanta, Miller’s Rexall and neighboring spiritual supply shop Rondo Distributing were both just a few blocks northeast from the imposing Fulton County Courthouse – and fitting the proximity to the county court house and Atlanta’s municipal buildings many of the products offered for sale focus on resolving court cases, getting out of jail and of course the much lauded items intended to make the law stay away. All of the items were on ready display along with innumerable other spiritual supplies – packed onto shelves organized for use rather than marketing.

Democratizing Access to the Numinous

Clients come in with a need and are directed towards products by a helpful sales staff, including, at the time, Doc Miller himself – just as they would be if they needed advice on how to cure a urinary tract infection from their local pharmacist. It just happens that their requests might also include jinx removal, protection from the evil eye, curse breaking, and so on. 

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These aren’t walk-in tourist kind of places – even today they are an active part of the community, serving a specific set of cultural needs that aren’t addressed anywhere else. Whether it’s fast-luck or keeping cops away, the needs addressed highlight the day to day concerns of the marginal communities served by the shop.

Places like Miller’s Rexall also provide a functional role in giving these communities the tools necessary to formulate their independence from the strong currents of control which issue from the dominant cultural institutions – a function similar to what Hugh R. Page, Jr. ascribes to the works of Henri Gamache, which just so happen to also be for sale in these stores:

“One of the distinguishing traits of these works is that they democratize access to the numinous through the abrogation of power typically vested in institutional hierocracies. By making readily available biblical texts, Judeo-Christian hermeneutical traditions, and selected data on indigenous religious rituals from around the world, these books provide non-specialists with the practical knowledge and expertise to create personal liturgies for healing and canons for appropriating the Bible that resist hegemony and promote individual and communal self-empowerment. Interestingly, all appear to be, in fact, pseudonymous works. “(8)

The stores act to centralize communities outside of the mainstream and official domains, as well as provide them with tools to shape and rewrite the narratives of disempowerment that are maintained by the dominant social institutions – and their waning status in the culture is a sign of transition. Miller’s and Rondo are in a city district set for rehabilitation, which will likely challenge the organic culture that keeps them alive, potentially leaving them little room outside of becoming museum shops or tourist attractions to survive.

Magic always lives on the margins – and as those margins shift, so do the occult outlets that serve them. Thankfully, for our readers that shop by mail in these trying times, seems that you can always pick up some Fast Luck Money Oil from the back pages of an Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Notes:

(1) https://www.almanac.com/content/about-us
(2) https://www.almanac.com/content/history-old-farmers-almanac
(3) https://medium.com/@DBMetcalfe/gambling-with-psi-lottery-dream-books-and-other-money-making-mind-tricks-96622bcec051
(4) https://www.luckshop.com
(5) https://www.almanac.com/sites/default/files/mediakit/20_21_almanac_media_kit.pdf
(6) https://www.luckshop.com/evil-and-jinx-killer
(7) Now under new ownership Miller’s Rexall has moved to a location in nearby Decatur.  See https://www.millersrexall.com
(8) Hugh R. Page Jr., Post-Imperial Appropriation of Text, Tradition, and Ritual in the Pseudonymous Writings of Henri Gamache –  from Esotericism in African American Religious Experience : “There Is a Mystery”, Eds. Stephen C. Finley, Margarita Guillory and Hugh Page Jr. (Brill, 2014)

For more insight into stores like Miller’s Rexall and the communities that they serve – the Shattered Reality podcast hosted an in depth conversation with Jason Mizrahi, manager of Original Products, a long running spiritual supply company located in the Bronx:

https://www.originalbotanica.com/

 

Seeds Sprout in Darkness – Mail Order Magick, Death Row and the Initiation of Damien Echols

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on November 20, 2018

“The shattering of expectation that accompanies trauma doesn’t just cause transference, it opens a door.”

– Whitley Strieber, Solving the Communion Enigma – What is to Come (Tarcher/Penguin, 2011)

 

MYSTERIES AD (1)Always eager for a good mail-order magic anecdote it was great to read in a recent Rolling Stone article from Ilana Kaplan that Damien Echols’ first experience with magic(k) was of the tabloid advertisement variety:

“Damien Echols’ interest in magick can be traced back to when he was seven years old. While reading one of his grandmother’s tabloids in his family’s Mississippi trailer, he saw an ad for a book: ‘Wanna learn magick? Send $5.95 to this address, and we’ll send you this book,’ he remembers. This ad didn’t focus on the idea of magic, as in entertainers performing illusions like David Blaine or Criss Angel, but rather ‘magick,’ a path of evolution or transformation stemming from its own set of practices. Echols thought nothing else would matter if he could practice magick, but growing up in poverty, he couldn’t afford the book. But magick would become an integral part of his life.”(1)

Echols is an extreme example of just how powerful these mediated encounters can be – crediting his personal practice of magick, whose seed was laid by a tabloid ad, with focusing him during an experience on death row that few could fathom enduring:

“It wasn’t until he was put on death row that he began practicing high magick. ‘When I was in prison, I had nothing but time, so that’s when I dedicated every single minute of every single day to learning everything I could from classic sources,’ “

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Although Echols is careful to state that he is drawing on ‘classic sources’ for the practices he outlines in his new book, High Magic – A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row (Sounds True, 2018), he needn’t be a purist to find everything he would need for occult realization. If he’d had that $5.95 as a kid he might have gotten material that brought him every bit as close to true practice as the classic sources he references. His summation of the goal of the Art can even be found in L.W. De Laurence’s notorious mail-order magic manual, The Great Book of Magical Art, Hindu Magic and East Indian Occultism, which begins with a preface that states:

” Wishing thee every success imaginable in thy studies and experiments, hoping that thou wilt use the benefits that thou mayest receive to the honor of thy Creator and my Brother Adepts both in Spirit and Earth Life who have so ably assisted me in placing this knowledge before thee my friend and for the benefit of thy neighbor, in which exercise thou shalt ever experience the satisfaction of doing thy duty…”

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The Book of Sacred Magic of Abra Melin the Mage – de Laurence Company, 1948.

Beyond common metaphysical goals and altruistic advice, Echols book also includes the kind of psycho-physiological development material that is a mainstay of mail-order magic manuals and popular practical occultism. As Kaplan points out in the article, “the practice, which Echols focuses on in his book, refers to energetic practices, spiritual growth, ceremonies and rituals.” Why is it then that so many would see a tabloid ad and pass it up – while some see it and seek deeper initiations into their innate potential? Potential, that in Echols case, allowed him to carry a light through hell during his imprisonment.

When we look at mass market material or mail-order magic manuals it can be easy to dismiss them off hand, but the importance is in their application in a person’s life – and when a person pursues the application of the basic steps that many of them outline they find an entrance into a very deep world of experience that goes beyond expectations.

In this instance the basic step started by a mail-order magic ad was simply the question of magic itself which primed Echols to develop his practice more fully during his excruciating time on Death Row:

“This is something that I put to use in the darkest, hardest, most brutal times, more so than most people in modern-day America will go through. So, if it works during that, then surely it will help other people who may be dealing with other situations that are difficult to get through.”

9780143109501Like so many seekers, Echols found that the seeds of his potential awakening lay in darkness. This is something that religious scholar Jeffrey Kripal, J. Newton Razor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University, has been exploring in his work on exceptional human experiences. By looking at the very personal and traumatic experiences of novelist Whitley Strieber, among other experiencers, Kripal has developed a contemporary framework through which to study traumatic initiation patterns.

This framework sheds light on one of the key reasons why Echols may have found success where others find merely idle occult speculation. Speaking of Whitley Strieber’s experiences in their collaborative book, The Super Natural, Kripal says:

“Out of existential necessity and the transcendent traumas of his own immediate experience, he was implicitly and intuitively practicing the comparative study of religion.”(3)

De Laurence continues to be apt for comparison here in that his outwardly absurd mail-order catalog played a strong role in developing counter-traditions within the Americas and in west Africa at a time of existential crisis, when nationalist interests were working feverishly to destroy indigenous, folk and popular traditions and solidify mainline belief systems that integrated safely with the governing culture. In these situations the hyped up rhetoric of mail-order mysticism becomes a powerful alternative for self development and an aid in keeping transmissions intact from more developed lines of practice. It also helped that De Laurence was selling some of the same source materials based on the Golden Dawn system that Echols would draw on during his time in prison.*

Encountering the advertisement in his grandmother’s tabloid magazine, in an environment of poverty and need paralleling those who found occult truths in the De Laurence Catalog, the desire for more helped to sink the anchor deep in Echols mind and, regardless of any lack of legitimacy in the ad, that desire was enough to form the core of his practice when the need for that hope was more dire.

Republishing the work of some of the best popular occultists from his time period, the material that the De Laurence Catalog provided formed a correspondence course focusing on the kind of applied comparative religion that Kripal discusses – including the esoteric domains of physical practices and energy work – encouraging experimentation with his ad-hoc inclusion of folk magic, spiritualism, Theosophy, ceremonial magic, yoga, mesmerism, hypnotism, self-help and everything in-between and on the side.

With its wide distribution and integration into pre-existing magico-religious and cultural traditions his catalog had a hand in fomenting the development of folk magic in the southern United States, urban folk magic across the U.S., popular Theosophy, New Age metaphysics, Pan-African mysticism, Black Nationalism, Afro-Caribbean traditions and changing the way traditional practices were performed in Nigeria and Ghana.(2) In the same way, Echols personal study framed as it was by false accusations from religious fundamentalists was open ended and allowed him to access whatever worked as opposed to what was dogmatically correct.

This is similar to what we see with the growth of Santa Muerte’s popular devotional tradition in the Americas, where those who have found faith in the Beautiful Girl are often at odds with mainstream religious organizations and have sought solace in alternative spiritual focal points. When their search for spiritual empowerment intermixes with a crisis moment they often begin a new life as an ardent devotee.(4)

For those who would scoff at contemporary mass market occultism, Damien Echols offers another reminder that these ideas can lay seeds that have a widespread and often unnoticed effect on our contemporary culture and individual lives. Encountered in the most mundane, everyday situations – when their potentials are realized in the right set and setting – when one walks through the gate of trauma – the outcomes can go well beyond cultural curiosity.

They can even become the blossoming root of High Magick.

(1) https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/damein-echols-west-memphis-three-high-magick-758311/
(2) https://www.dailygrail.com/2012/12/the-mysterious-influence-of-one-human-mind/
(3) http://cosmologicsmagazine.com/jeffrey-j-kripal-the-super-natural/
(4) https://skeletonsaint.com

*Special thanks to Michael M. Hughes for pointing out that Echols work was larger based within the Golden Dawn system! 

Strategic Spiritual Warfare and the Feast of All Souls – Comparing Cultural Technologies for Processing Collective Trauma

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on November 2, 2018

14206181_10154497505756670_610393306113448089_oThis year, while writing about the growth of Dia de los Muertos celebrations across the United States with Dr. Andrew Chesnut, it struck me that this famous Mexican holiday provides an alternative spiritual solution for  one of the main drivers of politicized exorcism and spiritual warfare culture – a society or culture’s sense of inescapable corporate guilt/sin and generational trauma.

C. Peter Wagner, a pioneering figure in the 3rd Wave charismatic movement, developed complex theories of ‘strategic spiritual warfare’ to combat collective guilt. He saw this ‘stronghold’ of demonic control as a key component in the late 20th century/early 21st century culture of crisis.

“As the Body of Christ agrees to pull down strongholds of corporate sin, the way will be opened for revival of churches and a harvest of souls greater than anything previously imagined. Identificational repentance gives us the power to heal the past.” (1)

The specific tool that Wagner presents to deal with these corporate sins is what he calls ‘identificational repentance’.  As he explains:

“We Americans are not ignorant of the fact that our nation has gained high international visibility for many things, some good, but some very bad.  Now by God’s grace many American Christian leaders want our nation also to be known for our deep remorse over the national sins and atrocities we have committed.  We want to be among the first to corporately humble ourselves before God and before the people we have offended, to confess our sins, and to seek remission of those sins in order to heal our deep national wounds.  With no desire to be arrogant, we hope that if we provide a good example which pleases God, some other nations may see fit to follow our lead.

This corporate or group humbling often takes the form of dramatic public performances of faith – what Wagner in other contexts refers to as a ‘power encounter’ between the Christian and the sinister forces that stand between the present world society and the Kingdom of God. Public prayer performance, theatrical displays, and visible ‘prophetic’ actions that draw on Biblical examples such as the clay pot, plumb line and other physical symbols found in the Book of Ezekiel.(2)

In Latin America and throughout the Carribean festivals associated with the dead and a cultural openness to a metaphysics in which the dead remain an active presence in the world of the living both play a part in altering this cultural relationship to corporate guilt.

On the level of spiritual practice and applied religion – this vitalized relationship with the past allows for a conversation and an intimacy to the process of collective grief that is completely absent from the forced and academic applications of behavioral technologies and social engineering techniques recommended by 3rd Wave and New Apostolic Reformation ‘prophets.’

The commercial growth of traditions such as Dia de los Muertos provides an important area of cultural integration and communication between the United States and Latin America – but as Sarah Chavez, director at The Order of the Good Death, points out – this is not enough:

“While the images and rituals of Dia de Muertos are beautiful, and praised and commercialized for their aesthetic value, keep in mind the reality of every day life for many in the Latinx community whose experiences are too often filled with violence, and policies that dehumanize, hurt and can lead to death.”(3)

And this is one of the key problems with politicized spiritual warfare. While collective rituals such as Dia de los Muertos provide an opportunity for community growth, personal reflection and a deepening of family bonds – in many ways the psychic warfare techniques of the 3rd Wave charismatic movement  serve only to deepen collective wounds stemming in large part from centuries of the same strategic spiritual warfare techniques being applied to indigenous spiritualities and socially marginalized individuals and groups.

Seen as technologies the responsibility for care when implementing, cultivating and developing these cultural tools becomes much clearer – and the unconscionable damage to the human organism’s collective psyche from their misapplication is an area where the popular prayer warriors have yet to repent.

For more on Dia de los Muertos and the culture of death in Latin America see:

Exorcising Mictecacihuatl – The Origins of Day of the Dead in Mexico (The Global Catholic Review) 

Meet Mexico’s Trinity of Death – Day of the Dead, Santa Muerte, and Catrina Calavera (Folklore Thursday)


Footnotes:

(1) https://renewaljournal.blog/2011/07/18/the-power-to-heal-the-past-by-c-peter-wagner/
(2) Wagner, C. Peter, Spiritual Warfare Strategy – Confronting Spiritual Powers (Destiny Image, 2011) 
(3) https://twitter.com/sarah_calavera/status/1058041548154134528

Conjuring Evil – The Political Dangers of Mixing PR and Possession

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on October 23, 2018

‘…for the myth to have real weight, it must rest on popular belief. To put it differently: once cannot simply project a myth to the outside even by the powerful modern material means; such an image will have no force unless it is already believed. The myth is contagious because beliefs are contagious.”

– Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, p. 247 (Vintage Books ed., 1973)

 

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Ritual Romanum (Photo: Anthony Burgess Foundation)

Exorcism is in the news again with Father Gary Thomas, an exorcist assigned to the Archidocese of San Jose, bringing the 1st Amendment right to free speech to bear on the realm of spiritual warfare during a PR campaign highlighting the Archdiocese support of newly elected U.S. Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  Addressing this in a recent piece for The Global Catholic Review I outline some of the difficulties that arise when PR overshadows the delicate personal and spiritual vocation of the exorcist – as well as some of the difficulties that emerge due to the close relationship between exorcism and conjuration. These may seem like minor points – but the use of ‘spiritual warfare’ by political elements within the faith traditions cannot be overlooked – especially in the networked media environment of today’s world.

Read More: The Exorcist vs. Witches – Battling for the Soul of Justic Brett Kavanaugh (The Global Catholic Review)

Careless skepticism in the popular media obscures the raw power encapsulated within the mytho-poetic imagination of the human organism.  The ability to harness this power drives the missionary expansion of certain politicized sects within the larger faith traditions – it also empowers the demagogues of our contemporary age as they hijack popular mythology to the bitter ends of subversive statecraft.

1-i4bt7VGYEYIxcEEYhUxgNgOver the past few decades exorcism and spiritual warfare have become surprising additions to the global political scene with charismatic practices being adopted as a means of myth building within the ecumenical body of politicized Christianity.

Figures like the late C. Peter Wagner, whose focus on world missions at the Fuller Theological Seminar lead to the growth of the ‘New Apostolic Reformation‘ movement, have developed a strange and starkly effective theoretical structure for ‘strategic spiritual warfare,‘ mixing insights from warfighting doctrine, intelligence tradecraft, obscure, often heretical writings from various historical sects of Christianity, and a vision of the world as a cosmic battle ground for unseen forces.

Seeing no difference in effective military technique and effective spiritual warfare – since they are all actions on the continuum of the divine plan – these groups have taken what was a quiet tool of the ‘Church Militant‘ and blended it with the kind of weaponized cultural systems that Marshall Mcluhan warned of in the 1970’s when he said:

“World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” *

This now entrenched brand of Christian occultism exists across the ecumenical spectrum, and has drifted far afield from whatever roots it might have in traditional practice. While contemporary examples of publicized ‘exorcism’ bear a cursory resemblance to folk practices, they are more deeply informed by high level university studies in behavior and psychophysiological indicators such as those conducted by the Center for Biopsychosocial Research at Fuller Theological Seminary.

This understanding also includes how the reception of these practices and anecdotal accounts of their efficacy will play out within the increasingly networked global media environment. In order to cast out demons one has to have demons to cast out, or at least have a group of people who believe that there are demons to cast out. This is where the neutrality of the marketplace provides one of the more interesting tools for social engineering.

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 11.27.59 AM.pngPerhaps the most ironic detail in all of this is that for years conservative Christians have leveled charges at competing ideological groups for initiating the same practices in the marketplace.

Evangelical author Tim Lahaye, best known for his rapture ready Left Behind series, seems to be looking in a mirror when he writes in his book, The Battle for the Mind (coincidentally the same title as the psychologist William Sargant’s book on induced trauma and behavioral change):

Many years ago, my mother, along with others of her generation, used to lament the rapid decline of morality in America. She considered the natural descent of fallen, secular man an irreversible trend. No doubt she echoed the feeling of most active Christians of her time.

What her generation did not realize was that the majority of Americans were not really that immoral by nature, but were being led down the path of moral degeneracy by the humanist social planners who dominated our society. *

While these Christian writers are fond of telling you that Satan’s target is your mind, they are not so open about the fact that they have the same goal in mind. Utilizing a potent mix of applied psychology, behavioral economics, technological proficiency and a bit of archetypal mythology, they’ve been able to create and enchanted imaginal landscape in which to pursue their goal of bringing heaven down to earth.

Today the ubiquity of advanced communication technology, centralized distribution throughout a distributed international market, and the growing interdependence of the global economy make such influence important to understand more clearly. While we shouldn’t fall into a lazy paranoia over the potential of choice architecture to irrationalize society when misapplied by eager exorcists and overreaching evangelists, it is necessary to see that these dominion minded ministers are working hard to bring their politically virulent concept of supernatural living into consumer’s living rooms and lives, and with their religious ideology at the fore, they may not be too careful with the consequences.

For more on the strange culture of ‘strategic spiritual warfare’ see:

Satan’s Target: You Mind – Supernatural Living in the American Marketplace

Or head over to The Global Catholic Review for: 

The Exorcist vs. Witches – Battling for the Soul of Justic Brett Kavanaugh (The Global Catholic Review)

* Mcluhan, Marshall, Culture is Our Business, p. 60 (McGraw-Hill, 1970)

   LaHaye, Tim, The Battle for the Mind, Power Books (1980)

Special thanks to Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, for the invitation to continue my exploration of global exorcism culture with a contribution to The Global Catholic Review! 

 

Occult Science, Civil Rights & the Sears Roebuck Catalog – Is Consumer Capitalism a Master Key to Diversity?

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on October 17, 2018

“In the era of Jim Crow, race was everything. And for black Americans, most of whom were rural farmers, access to goods on an equal basis as whites in faraway cities at reasonable prices was a godsend. And that’s what the catalog was.”

– Louis Hyman, Director, Institute for Workplace Studies, Cornell University

Sears recent bankruptcy announcement has lead to some nostalgic media on the company’s influence over the years – including an opportunity for historian Louis Hyman to present his fascinating research on the role of consumer capitalism in providing an atmosphere conducive to empowering the civil rights movement.
delaurence-catalog-1938-1939-occult_1_ec3f260fa7c110a830a8148578811378

In an NPR interview that aired on October 17th, 2018 Hyman details how the Sears Catalog provided a way for minority groups to circumvent the white power structure and access the global economy via mail order. What struck me most was how familiar this process is – having seen the exact same dynamic at play with mail order pioneer, L.W. de Laurence and the famed De Laurence’s Catalogue of Books for Mystics: Together with a Complete “cabinet” of Materials Accessory to the Pursuit of Mystic Study!

Talking with NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, Hyman detailed how local authorities and business interests went to great lengths in their attempts to stop individuals from accessing the freedoms offered by Sears mail order service. Public bonfires of the catalog, as well as more direct harassment when folks came in to post their orders, were used to dissuade buyers from skirting past the social strictures put in place by the power structure.

For the de Laurence Catalogue, which, in addition to it’s psychic and occult supplies, offered what today would be called personal success training and professional development to marginalized individuals and groups, authorities in the Caribbean went to far as to ban the catalog entirely:

De Laurence: sb dial, also attrib; <De Laurence, a Chicago publisher of books on occult subjects, banned from Jamaica. Witch-craft; loosely, obeah.

– from the Dictionary of Jamaican English, by Frederic Gomes Cassidy, R. B. Le Page (University of West Indies Press, 2002)

As I’ve examined in a previous article – historian Owen Davies, in his work Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, points out that the ban has long been seen as “a cynical attempt by the British to limit the influence of unionism and the American black empowerment movement.” Even after Jamaica declared independence in 1962, and in light of subsequent socialist governments, the ban remains in place.

delaurence-catalog-1938-1939-occult_1_ec3f260fa7c110a830a8148578811378_3Speculation on the political importance of “High Science” becomes solidified when we realize that one of Jamaica’s most powerful examples of radical politics, Marcus Garvey, was himself heavily influenced by the New Thought and Mind Science ideas that were promoted in some of the more popular publications in the De Laurence Catalog. Garvey’s Pan-Africanism was touched by a mystical strain and mythological importance garnered from tapping into the cultural movements initiated, supported and propagandized by publishing company’s such as the Yogi Publication Society and De Laurence, Scott and Company.

According to Hyman, just as de Laurence did with his own catalog, R.W. Sears “published instructions in the catalog – how to simply give the requirements to the postman so you didn’t have to go through the store. And in a lot of places, the post office was also the general store, so it was pretty complicated to even get your order submitted to the catalog. But they found lots of ways to do this for rural African-Americans as well as immigrants, people who didn’t even speak English. They had all kinds of clerks available to take your order in nearly any tongue.” Even the focus on native language marketing that Hyman points on regarding Sears can be found in de Laurence’s practice of hiring immigrants from Africa to help facilitate his sales on the continent.

delaurence-catalog-1938-1939-occult_1_ec3f260fa7c110a830a8148578811378_2Based on his analysis, Hyman points to the neutral, market building mechanisms of consumer capitalism as one of the driving forces behind the similarities we see between these two very different pioneers of the mail order format – and also a driving force in the cultural changes that their catalogs subtly supported during one of America’s most troubling periods of social history. This same process is at play in the emergence and growth of Saint Death’s devotional tradition around the globe – as Santa Muerte continues to fill out her role as one of the fastest growing spiritual practices in the world.

What many see as crass commercialization of Santa Muerte’s tradition can also be analyzed as a surprising and subtle tool for cultural integration and communication. The semi-independent economies developed through more informal structures such as the Sears Catalog are now trillion dollar opportunities. According to the most recent Multi-Cultural Economy Report put out by the University of Georgia Selig Center for Economic Growth, “African American buying power in the United States will rise to $1.54 trillion by 2022,” and the numbers for Latin American and Hispanic buying power are not far behind.

One of the phrases popularized by Santa Muerte’s devotees is that in death, all are equal – and it seems that for a true consumer capitalist, if the money’s green it’s good to spend no matter who you get it from. While the errors of unchecked capitalism can be easily debated by experts, it may be that in some small way and in certain situations – consumer capitalism is a master key to diversity.

Another subject for future study!

Until then:

For Louis Hyman’s appearance on NPR’s All Things Considered check out – How The Sears Catalog Was Revolutionary In The Jim Crow Era

For more on the surprising cultural life of the de Laurence Catalogue check out – L.W. de Laurence and the Mysterious Influence of One Human Mind – originally published at The Daily Grail in 2012.

For more on the role of consumer capitalism in the growth of Santa Muerte’s devotional tradition, check out – Selling Holy Death – From Grim Reaper to Skeletal Virgin, A Brief Look at Commercializing an Emerging Iconography

Also Note – the De Laurence Company brand is still in business if you’re looking for any ‘Materials Accessory to the Pursuit of Mystic Study’: http://www.delaurencecompany.com/

*UGA Selig Center numbers are found in the Forbes Magazine article  – Amazon Poaching Diverse Sellers from Ebay

Images of the de Laurence Catalog are courtesy of a completed Ebay auction.

 

 

 

 

 

Lottery Dream Books and Other Money Making Mind Tricks

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on January 3, 2017

Selection of Lottery Dream Books at a gas station on the east side of Athens, Georgia

Scared money don’t make none — a fantastic meditational mantra that comes from the evocative mysteries of street level gambling and investment advice. When I lived in Monroe, Georgia I was overjoyed to find that a run down local gas station near by carried a wide selection of lottery dream books.

For those unfamiliar with them, these are small pulp print books that provide lists of common thematic elements appearing in dreams. Regarded as superstitious novelties by many, these books are a cornerstone of gambling culture with the promise of offering insight into what numbers to pick on your next bet, as well as more general interpretations for symbols found in dreams and synchronistic events.

What interests me about these simple manuals is their ability to systematize a symbol set which can be slowly memorized and tied to intuitive responses. Once the supernatural cover story is dropped, what you essentially have is a folk version of the art of memory with the intention of accessing dream states and day to day synchronicities to heighten intuitive functioning. Take Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey Kripal’s advice and re-write the ‘super natural’ cover story and you can access even greater potentials.

At the Society for Psychical Research’s 40th Annual International Conference held at the University of Leeds in September, 2016 researcher Keith Hearne presented a provocative paper titled The Alpha-Numeric Dream Code — A New Way of Obtaining Seemingly Significant Direct Messages from the Unconscious in Dreams. As you might imagine this ‘new way’ is remarkably similar to what regular folks have been doing for over a hundred years with these Lottery Dream Books.

The abstract for Hearne’s paper is available on the SPR’s website and provides insight into how these Dream Books function:

The ‘alphabet dream code’ was originally devised by a colleague, David Melbourne, who died in 2011. In this presentation I shall describe that method (which we found to be highly useful for participants), together with my later addition of the ‘numeric’ dream code.

David’s idea (which appropriately came to him in a dream) was that if you program your mind by reading a carefully constructed list of permanent pre-set keywords, based on the letters of the alphabet (with some positive and some negative aspects), and before sleep ask your unconscious for a meaningful message, what is likely to happen is that your knowledgeable and wise unconscious will select a relevant message from that fixed array and reveal it to you by showing several items beginning with the same initial letter — and then your unconscious will deliberately wake you so that you become aware of the message. You simply refer to the list of words. The particular aspect of the keyword ‘jumps out’ at you. It is an astonishingly simple and effective form of communication directly from the unconscious, which can for instance: warn you of something; encourage you; guide you; and help you make important decisions. It does not require any kind of interpretation procedure — the message is presented clearly and concisely.

If you look at the inside one of these Dream Books you have a very similar set up to what Hearne describes in his paper. The difference being that you’re not working with letters appearing in dreams — your working with images. Another difference is that the word lists in these Dream Books are usually rather extensive — which indicates that there may be an element of presentiment going on if the dream content truly does provide useful information when related to the numbers in the book (and yes I do know that this complicates things by adding another layer of supposedly unproven ideas with presentiment, but we’re already talking about folk magic infused gas station pamphlets so just go with it!)

Page 33 from the All New 2016 Red Devil Combination Dream Book (Double Red Publishing, 2016)

Awhile back some ladies visited the property I’m staying at to research their family history. The property is over 200 years old — with the original house, barn and sheds still standing — so it was a wonderful experience for them to be able to sit at the very dining table, in the very kitchen, that their ancestors had sat at. One of the nights while they were staying at the main house the younger sister had a dream in which a name was given to her — the next day while doing archival research on her family she discovered that the name (which was a rather unique name) was associated with one of her relatives that had lived on the property.

Discussing this over dinner lead to stories of how she and her sister were familiar with the lottery dream books — and used them frequently. When the dream ‘felt right’ they often won — her sister’s husband had won over $10,000 on a dream with the right feel. But they insisted that the only way to succeed was to follow with faith, because scared money doesn’t make money — you can’t hesitate when you’re on the right track or you might loose out.

Early Keystone Laboratories catalog listing various dream books for sale (The West Tennessee Museum of Southern Hoodoo History)

One of the keys that came out in conversation is a concept of resonance that goes beyond ‘fact’ — I showed them my collection of lottery dream books and lamented that they were a few years old. The older sister smiled and said “That doesn’t matter — they’re all the same anyway” and then pointed to a dream book from the early 20th century and said “now THAT one is particularly powerful!” It became apparent that their use of the Dream Books was talismanic — their favorite one was held with reverence and became a focal point of their dream practices. Magic isn’t about facts and causality — it’s about resonance and correlation.

In a pertinent blog post the author Malcolm Smith addresses the skeptical standard that comes up when topics like this are broached: if psychic functioning exists, why don’t psychics use their predictive abilities to win the lottery? Smith points out that some of the researchers involved in the United States government’s Remote Viewing program actually did proceed along these lines with a measure of success:

“After leaving the unit, two of the members, Targ and Harary formed a company called Delphi Associates to play the silver futures market. On a Sunday, Targ would pick two targets in the San Francisco area, and decide that, if the market went up on Monday, he would take his associate to (say) the Transamerica skyscraper. If it went down, he would take him to (say) Fisherman’s Wharf. Harary would not be told of these choices; he would just be asked to visualise where he would be on Monday. If, for example, he sensed salt air and seagulls, Targ would conclude it was Fisherman’s Wharf, and advise the client to bet on the market going down. Some clients made real money this way, but pulled out after a couple of false predictions. Just the same, Putoff and his wife tried the same scheme when they needed $25,000 to set up a private school. They trained a number of board members in remote viewing (see, anyone can do it!) and made the $25,000 in a month.”

He also briefly illustrates some of the insights they gained during their research:

“By and large, they were just ordinary (G.I.) Joes cultivating a potential probably inherent in all of us. An analogy is musical skill; some of us are woeful, a few are naturally gifted, but most people can at least hold a tune. Also, despite what experimental psychic research would lead you to believe, their powers did not wane with time. And, no, the U.S. spymasters were not so stupid as to rely on ESP as such. They treated it as merely another source of data for the big jigsaw puzzle, to confirm or be confirmed by other information, and to suggest leads.

They did have some remarkable successes, and in the process, made a lot of observations — unsystematic, to be true, and therefore not strictly speaking scientific — on the scope and limitations of the phenomenon. Although they did not say so, I would suggest the observations provide an illuminating glimpse at what an advanced technology may be capable of doing, and what, I strongly suspect, otherwordly technologies are already using.

“Once you discover that space doesn’t matter [one of them told a reporter], or that time can be traveled through at will so that time doesn’t matter, and that matter can be moved by consciousness so that matter doesn’t matter . . . well, you can’t go home again.”

The first constraint was the weakness of the “signal” or, more likely, the weakness of our senses to detect it. It was like attempting to piece together a picture from sudden pin-prick glimpses. The signal appeared to be largely subliminal, that is, it came in below the level of the conscious mind to detect. They learned to get around this by seeking to defer interpretation until the latter parts of the observation. Initially, they would concentrate on raw data, such as incoherent drawings of the image accessed, along with general impressions such as “dry”, “steep”, or “sharp”. Only towards the end, when several members of the team had pooled their impressions, would analysis begin.”

Having personally spent time with Russell Targ, Ed May, and Joseph McMoneagle, who worked with Stanford Research Institute during the government Remote Viewing project, as well as having spent time with the late Carol de la Harran, who held the position of President at the Monroe Institute, another organization that was central to the Remote Viewing project, I would have to disagree with Smith’s assessment that these programs were ‘unsystematic.’ The applied research into psychical function began with establishment interest in the work of J.B. Rhine during the 1930’s, continuing on through Andrija Puharich’s work with the Round Table Foundation in the 1950’s, Dr. Stanley Krippner’s work with dream telepathy at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn during the 1960’s, and into the work of multiple laboratories across the United States during the 1970’s and 80’s. Along with this were independent studies of applied psychical research from major corporations such as Boeing, Sony, and a number of others.

One of the psycho-kinetic studies conducted by Boeing’s Plasma Physics Labs in 1967 — New Correlation Between a Human Subject and a Quantum Mechanical Random Number Generator (Click Here for the abstract) — concluded:

“From the results, it is tentatively concluded that there exists a weak but significant correlation between the statistical processes operative in these experiments and the experimenter who initiates the processes.”

Due to the nature of this type of research, which touches on taboo subjects that many in the scientific community feel superstitious about studying, as well as the fact that much of the systematic research was conducted under the blinds of corporate proprietary restrictions and top secret clearance, it’s not surprising that many today look at the scattered evidence as representative of discoordination. However, a deeper look shows that this is most certainly not the case at all, and evidence exists for a very systematic and long term accumulation of evidence to support the potential for sustained psychic functioning.

What Targ and Harary did with setting up future signals to trigger Remote Viewing hits, is similar to what the Dream Books can potentially due to provide a simple code of every day symbols available through the unconsciously activated insights of the dream state. In his blog post Smith points out that, “the (psychic) signal appeared to be largely subliminal, that is, it came in below the level of the conscious mind to detect.” Which is one of the things that makes dream work one of the most potentially powerful pieces in the intuitive’s tool box.

llustration from the Kansas City Kitty Dream Book (Eagle Supply Company, Inc.)

The availability of much of the declassified and now public proprietary research from the 20th century, as well as the access to the rich history of folk practice that things like Google Books and various internet archives provide, makes these areas ripe for more rigorous amateur experimentation. Savvy researchers can easily create experiments that take advantage of over a century’s worth of material, and if the lottery finds its way into the experiment — if you already like to play, you won’t loose anymore than you already do laying down your dollars for a ticket. If you don’t already play it’s a cheap way to turn potentially positive experimental results into a profitable transaction.

Does it work? Why not try it and find out.

Rather than believing that psychism is just a superstition, follow Dr. Charles Tart’s advice:

“It’s not a matter of belief, it’s a matter of evidence…”

Scared money don’t make none —you’ve got to play to win and in order to find out about something as taboo as psychic functioning you’ve got to get your hands dirty and experiment with it!


Resources for further study:

Special thanks to Tony Kail and the West Tennessee Museum of Southern Hoodoo for the image of the vintage Keystone Laboratories catalog. Visit the museums website for more information on the cultural history of hoodoo and folk practices in the Memphis and Mississippi Delta region. https://memphishoodoo.wixsite.com/museum

Click Here to read more on Dr. Charles Tart’s thoughts on the ‘experimental counter-culture

Click Here to read more from Malcolm Smith’s thoughts on ‘Why Psychics Don’t Win the Lotteries…”

Click Here to read more about some of the corporate research into psychic functioning with Gene Semel’s article — “E.S.P. Exists: Inside Sony’s Corporate Research

For more info on the history of Lottery Dream Books Catherine Yronwodehas a nice piece up on the Lucky Mojo Curio Co. curio company site: http://www.luckymojo.com/auntsallys.html