Tag Archives: theosophy

The Cottingley Fairies

The 1st Photo

The 1st Photo

As we wait excitedly for the release of Fairy Tale For Homeless Fairies, due out tomorrow, let’s visit one of the most famous Fairy photograph cases, The Cottingley Fairies, which was enormoualy controversial in its day and championed by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

In 1917 two cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, were playing by the stream on a lovely estate in Bradford, England. Their mothers didn’t like them playing by the stream, but they did anyway. When Frances returned that day with wet feet, her mother asked her why on earth she just had to play there. Frances told her mother she went to see the fairies.

Her mother and aunt greeted this statement with disbelief. Frances’s cousin Elsie added that she had seen the fairies too, and suggested to Frances that they borrow Mr. Wright’s camera and take some photographs of them. Within a half hour of taking the camera, they were back begging Elsie’s father to develop the film plates for them. After tea, Mr. Wright (with Elsie at this side) developed the film in his darkroom. The picture did indeed show Frances looking straight at the camera while a group of five fairies danced before her on an earthen bank.

However, Mr. Wright dismissed the fairies as cardboard cutouts and didn’t for a second believe the photograph was real. He knew his daughter was a talented artist who enjoyed drawing fairy figures. Eventually Mr. Wright stopped loaning his camera to his daughter and niece when two months later they took another photo with Elsie posed next to what appeared to be a gnome.

The Cottingley Fairies

The 2nd Photo

The story should have ended there, but two years later in 1919, the girls’ mothers,  Polly Wright and Annie Griffiths attended a Theosophy meeting. We’ve written about Theosophy in great length in other blogs, but in the early 1900s theosophy was the rage, encompassing all things esoteric.

After the meeting the women showed the speake the pictures. This brought the photographs to the attention of Edward Gardner, a well-known leader in the Theosophical movement. He wrote to Polly Wright telling her that the photographs were “the best of its kind I should think anywhere.” Gardner obtained from the Wrights the original negative glass plates and sent them to photographic expert Harold Snelling. It was said of Snelling, “What Snelling doesn’t know about faked photography isn’t worth knowing.”

After examing them Snelling concluded, “This plate is a single exposure. These dancing figures are not made of paper nor any fabric; they are not painted on a photographic background-but what gets me most is that all these figures have moved during the exposure.” What Snelling meant by his last sentence was that the camera’s shutter speed must have been set very low and that the fairies appeared to be blurred as if the exposure had caught them moving in their dance.

Snelling made better prints of the photos and they appeared in the Spiritualist magazine Light. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle not only saw the photos, but had been commissioned by The Strand Magazine to write an article on fairies for their Christmas issue, an article he hadn’t come up with an angle for yet. Thus Sir Doyle sent Edward Gardner to the Wrights to inquire about the photo, get a feel for whether the girls and family were genuine and look into the possibility of more.

It should mentioned that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a well known Spiritualist and enormously interested in all things arcane and esoteric. Despite his most well known character Sherlock Holmes’ obsession with skepticism and evidence, Doyle had a predisposition towards belief in the supernatural. He did try to verify his beliefs in the way Victorian Theosophists were always trying to be “scientific” about the supernatural, but like Theosophists, was quick to accept a smaller amount of hard evidence then others.

So Gardner went to visit the two girls. He gave them two cameras and asked them to take more pictures if circumstances should arise. Frances stayed with Elise during the summer holiday and naturally, opportunity did present itself and three more pictures were taken.

The 3rd photo

The 3rd photo

The plates were packed in cotton wool and returned to Gardner in London, who sent an “ecstatic” telegram to Conan Doyle who was in Australia. Conan Doyle wrote back:

“My heart was gladdened when out here in far Australia I had your note and the three wonderful pictures which are confirmatory of our published results. When our fairies are admitted other psychic phenomena will find a more ready acceptance … We have had continued messages at seances for some time that a visible sign was coming through”

Doyle’s article appeared in the Dec.1920 issue of The Strand, and the article was an utter sensation. Everybody had an opinion. Many argued the photos were fake, many argued they was genuine. It was an uproar and Doyle ended up publishing another article with photos in 1921 and a book in 1922,  The Coming of the Fairies.

Flash forward 60 years. Frances and Elise are in their 60s and 70s. In 1981 and 1982 Joe Cooper interviewed Frances and Elsie for an article in The Unexplained. Elsie admitted that all five of the photographs had been faked. Frances claimed that the first four had been faked, but the fifth was real. Both ladies contended they had indeed seen real fairies near the beck on other occasions.

The 4th photo

The 4th photo

The hoax had been carried out by using the cutout and hatpin method as many people had suspected. Elsie had some art training and drew the characters based on drawings by Arthur Shepperson in Princess Mary’s Gift Book of which Frances owned a copy. Using a sharp pair of scissors owned by Frances’s mother, they cut them out and secured them to a bank of earth with hat pins. After the photographs were taken, they dropped the evidence into the stream and brought the camera back to Elsie’s father so that he could develop the pictures.

 Elsie said that she and Frances were too embarrassed to admit the truth after fooling Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes: “Two village kids and a brilliant man like Conan Doyle – well, we could only keep quiet.” In the same interview Frances said: “I never even thought of it as being a fraud – it was just Elsie and I having a bit of fun and I can’t understand to this day why they were taken in – they wanted to be taken in.”

Frances however, went to her grave maintaining that the 5th photograph was in fact genuine.

The 5th photo

The 5th photo, which, real or not, is definitely the most awesome.

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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


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The Art Of Esoteric Symbolism: Jean Delville

Jean Delville was a Belgian painter (1867-1953) who painted heavily symbolic scenes with a occult oriented spiritual perspective.

He grew up in the Belgian town of Louvain, but when his outstanding talent became apparent went to Brussel to study at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts where he stood out and won some awards. He started exhibiting at 20, but it was a few years later that the focus of his work became cemented.

After Academy he traveled to Paris where he met  Sâr Joséphin Péladan, an eccentric mystic and occultist, who defined himself as a modern Rosicrucian. Delville became enamored with Peladan’s ideas and mysticism and from then on Delville dedicated his craft to esoteric themes. In the mid 1890s, shortly before turning 30, Deliville joined the Theosophy movement, whose ideas and interests would inform much of his inspiration.

The basic summation of his views was Neoplatonism, Delville believed that visible reality was only a symbol, and that humans exist in three planes: the physical (the realm of facts), the astral (or spiritual world, the realm of laws), and the divine (the realm of causes). These higher planes of existence were the only significant ones. Materialism was a trap, and the soul had to guard against being trapped by its snares. The human body he considered to a potential prison for the soul.

Let’s look at some of his work, shall we?


“Jean Delville’s drawing of Parsifal was done around 1885 at the height of the Occult Revival in Europe. In this stylized image, he depicts the secret of the dog-headed clairaudience: the eustacian tubes, columns of air that work like antennae to mediate frequencies beyond the range of normal hearing.

He shows the columns shooting down from Parsifal’s ears, and around the head, the horns of clairvoyance, another set of antennae but receptive to light rather than sound, particularly the soft, lunar Organic Light. Delville wanted to depict Parsifal as the example of the trained initiate able to send and receive clairvoyantly and clairaudiently.”





Begun in 1904–5 and finally completed in 1907, Delville made great efforts to find theosophical significance in the theme of Prometheus. For example, the star taken by Prometheus is also the symbol of the White Order of Brussels. In 1907 the work suddenly took on increased importance with the publication in French of the fourth volume of The Secret Doctrine, in which Helena Blavatski had dedicated an entire chapter to Prometheus. No longer the thief of fire of ancient mythology, Prometheus was from this point on assimilated into theosophy as a prophet, a light bearer, revealing with his theosophical flame the suffering of humanity.





After being torn apart and decapitated by bacchanals (female followers of Bacchus), Orpheus’ head and lyre were thrown into the river where they eventually washed up on the shore of Lesbos. The head awoke and became an Oracle. The lyre was placed in the night sky as a constellation. For Delville this would be a perfect subject matter. After suffering in the material world, the initiate finally transcends to a state of otherworldly knowledge.




The Love Of Souls

While lovely and romantic on one hand, this work also portrays the coming together of the female and male aspects of humanity, which only when combined can create the perfect being. This new being is the point of the painting, as the man and woman are actually only the tail, beneath the tail even, of the phoenix which is manifesting above them.

The Love Of Souls

The Love Of Souls


Satan’s Treasures

Delville’s vast undersea world, ruled by Satan, is almost certainly an image of the material abyss. Satan, lord of the physical realm, presides over its sleeping inhabitants. Wrapped in delusion, the dreaming men and women are mesmerized by Satan’s spell, and trapped by their own desires. Satan’s “treasures” include not only their sensuality, but also their attraction to worldly riches, represented by the pearls, coins, and corals that surround them. Above all, the entranced people themselves are the treasures of Satan.

Satan's Treasures

Satan’s Treasures


The Age Of Splendor

Delville’s 1894 painting can be seen as an illustration of this next phase of human development, transcending the entrapment of matter.The realm of matter is represented by serpents and tangled thorny roses at the bottom right of the canvas. A male figure, with raised arms and upturned eyes similar to those of Mrs. Stuart Merrill, sits half in and half out of the material realm. On his left, a luminous and almost bodiless female angel rises upward, with the fluid and transparent folds of her dress surrounding the man in a circle of light. A vast landscape spreads out, far below the figures. It is filled with jagged hills similar to those in Satan’s Treasures. Here, however, they are painted in luminous purples and golds and rise out of a bright blue sea.

This scene can be viewed in two ways. If it is inspired by the episode from Schuré’s Initiation of Isis, the man would be the disciple’s discarded earthly self, falling back, and swallowed up by matter. In this case, the angel would be what Schuré describes as “another, purer, more ethereal self,” which has just been born. Alternatively, if the story is not taken directly from Schuré, the angel can be seen as a separate being (perhaps the man’s higher self), guiding him up from the abyss.

The Age Of Splendor Jean Delville

The Age Of Splendor Jean Delville


The Women of Eleusis

Eleusis is an actual town in Greece, where the Eleusinian Mysteries were centered. So, you all know Elysium? Those of you who have listened to the Steampunk Opera will be more than familiar (and just WAIT til we get to the Atompunk Opera). Elysium is the final resting place of the virtuous. However, it was also specifically  a netherworld realm, located in the depths of Hades beyond the river Lethe. Its fields were promised to initiates of the Mysteries who had lived a virtuous life. In Delville’s worldview this would of course be a transcendent place where the purified initiate might arrive at their destination.

The Women of Eleusis, Jean Delville

The Women of Eleusis


The Wheel Of Fortune

This painting is AWEsome and it stand pretty self evidently. Thus we bid you adieu on this fine day.

The Wheel Of The World

The Wheel Of The World


Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Ariosophy and Nazi Mysticism

rune clock

The World-Rune-Clock, illustrating the correspondences between List’s Armanen runes, the signs of the zodiac and the gods of the months. A whole lot of well thought out bullshit.

There are lots of books, movies and even video games which like to play with the pairing of Nazis and the occult. And let’s be honest, who can resist Nazi zombie lichs? While more wild theories about this get into just plain ridiculousness, the fact remains there is some basis of truth to the connection.

Here is a brief summation:

Germany leading up to the Nazi takeoever was an incredibly wild and explosively creative hotbed of culture and ideas. We’ve talked about the famed Weimar Era in length. While all the artistic achievements were going on however, the far right was a strange nest of underground occult and political societies centering around a racist esoteric system called Ariosophy.

Ariosophy was a system of pseudo science and mythology disguised as religious history pioneered by Austrians Guido von List and later Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels between 1890 and 1930.

List was indeed influenced a great deal by Blavatksy and Theosophy, although it should be mentioned Theosophy was not racist in any of the ways List developed. Theosophy talks about root races of Man which evolve from bestial to angelic. List of course placed the Aryo-Germanic race as the higher evolution of Man.

“List called his doctrine Armanism after the Armanen, supposedly a body of priest-kings in the ancient Ario-Germanic nation. He claimed that this German name had been Latinized into the tribal name Herminones mentioned in Tacitus and that it actually meant the heirs of the sun-king: an estate of intellectuals who were organised into a priesthood called the Armanenschaft.

So the orginal Aryans as we can see are pretty twink-ish and really gay.

His conception of the original religion of the Germanic tribes was a form of sun worship, with its priest-kings as legendary rulers of ancient Germany. Religious instruction was imparted on two levels. The esoteric doctrine (Armanism) was concerned with the secret mysteries of thegnosis, reserved for the initiated elite, while the exoteric doctrine (Wotanism) took the form of popular myths intended for the lower social classes.

List believed that the transition from Wotanism to Christianity had proceeded smoothly under the direction of the skalds, so that native customs, festivals and names were preserved under a Christian veneer and only needed to be ‘decoded’ back into their heathen forms. This peaceful merging of the two religions had been disrupted by the forcible conversions under “bloody Charlemagne – the Slaughterer of the Saxons”. List claimed that the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria-Hungary constituted a continuing occupation of the Germanic tribes by the Roman empire, albeit now in a religious form, and a continuing persecution of the ancient religion of the Germanic peoples and Celts.

Guido von List the douchebag fucktard

He also believed in the magical powers of the old runes. From 1891 onwards he claimed that heraldry was based on a system of encoded runes, so that heraldic devices conveyed a secret heritage in cryptic form. In April 1903, he submitted an article concerning the alleged Aryan proto-language to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Its highlight was a mystical and occult interpretation of the runic alphabet, which became the cornerstone of his ideology. Although the article was rejected by the academy, it would later be expanded by List and grew into his final masterpiece, a comprehensive treatment of his linguistic and historical theories published in 1914 as Die Ursprache der Ario-Germanen und ihre Mysteriensprache (The Proto-Language of the Aryo-Germans and their Mystery Language).”

In 1903 century an ex monk and Bible scholar named Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels published an articel where he used fossils, iconography and literature to argue that mankind was divided into two groups, one who had interbred with lower evolutionary forms, apes, and one who hadn’t (Aryan, surprise surprise).


“He claimed that “Aryan” peoples originated from interstellar deities (termed Theozoa) who bred by electricity, while “lower” races were a result of interbreeding between humans and ape-men (or Anthropozoa). The effects of racial crossing caused the atrophy of paranormal powers inherited from the gods, but these could be restored by the selective breeding of pure Aryan lineages. The book relied on somewhat lurid sexual imagery, decrying the abuse of white women by ethnically inferior but sexually active men. Thus, Lanz advocated mass castration of racially “apelike” or otherwise “inferior” males”

List and Lanz became friendly colleagues, influencing each other’s work and using each other as sources.

In 1908 the Guido Von List Society formed, to study, publish and further List and Lanz’s Ariosophy ideas. The Society was founded by the prominent Wannieck family, and catered to and attracted a more high class membership which also included many leading figures in Austrian and German politics, publishing, and occultism. It also included two Jews.

By 1911 an inner circle was set up, the High Armanen Order, a magical order exploring Ariosophical ideas using occult rituals and techniques.

In 1912 some members of the High Armanen Order formed the notorious and highly influential Freemason-like occult group the Germanenordan. They teamed up with a man called Herman Pohl who belonged to a far right group called Reichshammerbund. Herman Pohl brought to the table Reichshammerbund’s virulent anti-semitism.  Reichshammerbund blamed the Jews for controlling capitalism and controlling Germany, and wanted to fight for racial purity, anti capitalism and a renewal of the German way of life.

So Reichshammerbund met Ariosophy, fell in love and the hell baby their love spawned was the new Germanenordan group.


The Germanenordan’s version of The Watchtower. Philosophically maybe even dumber.

And, these damn 5 syllable names are driving me nuts too. Typing them is a serious bitch, but let’s not digress. This repellant lesson is almost over.

The Germanenordan hummed along nicely until 1916 when it split into two factions, one who wanted to focus on a widespread Ariosophical religious revival, and one who wanted to become more politically active. The occult faction became rather popular and by 1917 numbered 1500 members. The politically active offshoot became the Thule Society.

In 1918, in a hotel in Munich,  Anton Drexler of the Thule Society begat the German Worker’s Party at the behest of another Thule Society member.  Initial membership was 40 people. The Thule Society oversaw the German Worker’s Party or Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP.

In September of 1919 a corporal in the German army was ordered to go to a DAP meeting and spy on what was going on. This corporal was of course Adolph Hitler, and the violent argument he got in that night impressed the hell out of DAP founder Anton Drexler. Drexler asked Hitler to join and as we all know Hitler did. Hitler became a  superstar within DAP and eventually Drexler grew to loath him and quit.

It is important to remember that all these far right secret societies and their racist occultism which hatched many of the ideas that would become the foundation of the Nazis were all disbanded in 1933. In 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor he disbanded all societies in Germany except Nazi ones. Thule: gone. Germanenordan: gone. All others: gone. It was expected all members would become Nazis.

However, the occult practices around Ariosophy did continue. In 1929 a young Heinrich Himmler ended up in charge of Hitler’s little bodygaurd squad. Himmler asked to make this protection force (known as SS) into a volunteer elite. Given the go ahead he transformed the SS into the immense, fearsome monster we all remember it as today. Himmler made it into a Nazi freemason group, which was rife with Ariosophical occultism and secret society like rituals and structures. The SS staff department contained three departments dedicated to research into Occult, pagan and Ariosophical subjects.

The most serious occult rituals were performed at a medieval castle in Westaphalia called Wewelsburg. It is from this that wild speculation and fanciful theories arise. While i personally believe in a healthy dose of skepticism, there is no doubt that there was an occult arm of Nazism, led by Himmler which was the child of the groups we’ve just taken a stroll through.

This picture is found in the dictionary illustrating the word Douchebaggery

And there you go. I’ve been waiting for some time to write this post, but dedicating myself to discussing Nazis and their dumb ass ideas is not something i really relish, so it’s taken awhile to get around to it.


Posted by on April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


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The I AM Activity (Dieselpunk Era Spirituality)

As we have mentioned, the 1920s and 30s were an explosion of alternative spirituality, centered in California, proliferated by endless mail order correspondent courses, many encapsulating ideas derived from the now dying Theosophical Society. Over these two decades what was left over from Theosophy was slowly mutating into what would soon be the New Age movement and our featured movement today was key in bringing about that transition.

The I AM Activity was a major player during the 30s. They were enormously huge in their heyday. By 1938 they had a million followers, hundreds of centers and made millions of dollars off their incredibly successful merchandising operation, which would be a template for many later movements. Indeed, The I AM Activity, like another alternative spirituality organization called Psychiana, an hysterically popular mail order correspondence course, showed that during the height of the great depression, enormous success in the alternate spirituality was indeed possible.

We have covered the Compte St. Germain previously, our prolific Ascender of the Higher Planes returns to center stage once again in the I AM Movement.

The Compte St. Germain was a tall tale telling socialite of the 1700s who was later dug up and giving a fresh coat of spiritual spackle by Helena Blavatsky, the leader of the enormously influential Theosophy movement. St. Germain was made into a purified and dazzlingly holy Ascended Master. The Ascended Masters were a group of great, holy teachers which included Jesus who had become spiritually perfect, and were working together to secretly guide the rest of mankind to become enlightened.

Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophy Society, died in 1891 and over the next 30 years the Theosophical Society ebbed and splintered due to the craziness of Blavatsky’s successor Annie Besant. Thus it is we come to the early 1930s when a gentleman by the name of Guy Ballard is hiking Mt Shasta in California when lo and behold St. Germaine appears to him.

Guy Ballard was an avid reader of Theosophy and he started a movement which focused on the Ascended Masters which Blavatsky had invented some decades before. St. Germain became on par with Jesus (who was also an Ascended Master and thus why The I AM Activity considered themselves a Christian organization). Saint Germain supposedly assigned Ballard the task of initiating the Seventh Golden age, the permanent “I AM” age of eternal perfection on earth. The saint designated Ballard, his wife, and their son Donald as the only accredited messengers of the masters.

Guy and Edna Ballard

In 1934 and 35 Ballard published two books Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence, which describe Ballard’s experiences with the masters. Unveiled Mysteries is of course reminiscent of Blavatsky’s famous Isis Unveiled, a seminal Theosophical work. Ballard set up shop in Los Angeles and used the profits from the books to advertise heavily on radio. He began holding public classes in which he would channel St. Germain and deliver expositions on morality and the state of the upper worlds.

“Through Ballard the masters taught of the “I AM,” the basic divine reality of the universe, God in action. Individualized, the “I AM” is the essence of each person, they said, and should be constantly invoked and activated. It is pictured as an entity residing above each person’s head and surrounded by golden light and a rainbow of color. It is connected to the person by a shaft of white light. The “I AM” presence is invoked by use of decrees, affirmative commands that the “I AM” presence initiate action in the self and the world. Basic in the daily activity of an “I AM” student is the violet flame decree, in which a violet flame is pictured surrounding the person and purifying him spiritually.”

Ballard was both a showman and had the right product at the right time. He channeled, he wrote, he held mass gatherings where he would exorcise any of the countless psychic entities plaguing the earth and humankind. He held services that were classic seances   He led audience in prayers and affirmations. He held classes and let the attendees hear directly from the great disembodied St. Germaine Himself (channeled through Ballard of course) and he sold a cascade of merchandise “including books, records, pins, rings, posters, and portraits of the Masters, including Saint-Germain and Guy Ballard himself. I AM rings sold for $12, photographs of Ballard for $2.50, a Chart of the Magic Presence for $12, and $1.25 bought a special binder in which to store the flood of continuing I AM edicts. New Age Cold Cream was also available.” He made millions.

By the late 30s The I AM Activity was unstoppable.

I AM Temple

I AM had its detractors. Cult critic Carey McWilliams described “Ballardism as “a witch’s cauldron of the inconceivable, the incredible and the fantastic… a hideous phantasm. The movement was attacked by occultists no less than skeptics, because of I AM’s bastardized version of esoteric teachings, and its vast appeal to New Age believers. Theosophical magazines rejected Ballardism as a perversion (and of course it tread upon and plagarized their own teachings), and in 1937, Rosicrucian H. Spencer Lewis denounced these “mystical racketeers:” he ruefully confessed that his own writings on Lemuria had provided Ballard with some of his sources.

The most powerful condemnations are found in the pamphlets produced from 1936 onwards by the former Ballard student, Gerald Brya who comprehensively attacked the dubious origins of the movement, its plagiarized scriptures, and the mercenary motives of the founders. He also charged that I AM devastated the lives of its members. Bryan argued that “probably in no other movement has there ever been such widespread interference with the personal lives of its members as in this cult of the Mighty I AM.” Members were told to sever all contact with anyone who rejected I AM teaching, even family members, and the strain on family life was enhanced by the Ballards preaching against sexual desire, which was an enemy to be suppressed. I AM prohibited sex except for procreation, and recommended against bringing children into a world so close to its end. “Husband, wife, mother, or some other relative living in a fanatical Mighty I AM family has actually been kept in another part of the house and denied former privileges because he or she would not embrace the Ballard doctrines.” Intolerance was demanded of “hundred percent students.” Also bizarre was the Ballard view that animal life was the creation of black magicians, and that spirits in animals should be freed, in other words, that members should “release” their animals by having them killed.

The I AM leaders instructed movement followers to buy and burn Bryan’s work, which they did “with all the fanaticism of a witch-burning rite, reminiscent of a former age of bigotry and superstition,”

Ballard taught that followers could become spiritually pure and Ascend straight to heaven, bypassing physical death just like Jesus and His buddy St. Germain had. But in 1939, at the absolute peak of his popularity Ballard did the dumbest thing he could possibly do for the movement. He died. He didn’t ascend, he just died and was cremated. This has been the downfall of many a spiritual leader claiming superhuman abilities. Few have come out unscathed, although Hubbard managed it, But Hubbard had learned an enormous amount from Ballard.

Ballard’s wife, Edna, quickly redefined Ascention to mean dying normally but ascending to the highest plane of the afterlife. Edna had been right there with her husband the entire time and could have carried business forward admirably, but in 1942, she and her son were charged with eighteen counts of mail fraud on the basis of claims made in books and pamphlets sent through the mail.

In the trial the prosecutor argued that Ballard had made up the religion and that he and other members did not believe it and operated the foundation purely as a fraudulent moneymaking scheme. Although the defendants were initially convicted, the convictions were eventually overturned in an important Supreme Court decision holding that one’s religious faith could not be put on trial. No matter how nutty sounding a belief system, a defendant’s faith in it cannot be put on the stand.

However, during the prosecution the movement was stripped of the right to use the postal service as well as their tax exempt religious status, neither of which was returned until 1957. Edna removed the group from public spotlight but quietly continued on and indeed The I AM Activity is still in existence today, although no knew messages from the Masters have been received since Edna’s death in 1971.

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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Los Angeles and the 1920s Occult Explosion

Los Angeles and the 1920s Occult Explosion

When folks think of explosions of wild spiritualities they usually think of the 1960s and 70s. But California in the 1920s was equally as crazy, and many would argue more.

The Victorian Era started the ball rolling with Spiritualism, Theosophy and The Golden Dawn. Between these, all the concepts that would grow and be experimented with through the 20th century emerged: mediuimship/channeling, clairovoyance, astral projection, astrology, mixtures of eastern and western religious concepts, past lives, ceremonial magick, cabalic esotericism for non Jews, the list is endless.

All of these interests and the children of the Victorian generation who begat this explosion converged in Los Angeles during the 20s to the 40s.

It was at first accidental then purposeful. In 1920 the population of Los Angeles was 576, 673. By 1930 the population had more than doubled to 1, 238, 048. Why? Hollywood, baby. Hollywood came on the scene and hopefuls from across the land gathered to be part of the film industry. They were a perfect audience for the new forms and creative mixtures of Spiritualist, Theosophical and post Golden Dawn ideas that were erupting in the young, loose, anything goes era of the roaring 20s.

occult los angeles

Before now, Lodges were the way this stuff was explored. Men had their Freesmasonry lodge, or their Rosicrucian group or hundreds of other types of lodges practicing everything from drinking to symbolic morality to the occult. During the 1800s Lodges were how it was done. But in the new 20th century things were changing. People with interesting systems of alternative spirituality were discovering a way to actually achieve stability was to form a little hub in LA and offer a correspondence course by mail across the country or even mail as far as Europe.

Correspondence courses quickly became the new Lodge. You would advertise whatever incredible new system or method of achieving amazing hidden knowledge of reality in magazines, and interested parties would contact you and pay you to send them a step by step educational course by mail. You would get your lessons mailed to you, mail back your “tests” and when finished with the system, which could take anywhere from 25 to 75 letters,, you’d graduate and be able to form local Lodges.

Over the decade as Los Angeles’ reputation grew, it attracted droves of occultists and those wanting to start their own systems of alternative spirituality as well as all the young Hollywood fodder.

occult los angeles

To be sure, there was also an explosion of charismatic Christian sects as well as numerous more sedate Protestant denominations. But we talk today about the wild and crazy stuff.

Examples include the Blackburn Cult, also known as the Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven, or the Great Eleven Club. It was started in 1922 on Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles,California and later formed a retreat in the Southern California Simi Valley. The group’s founder, May Otis Blackburn, is said to have received revelations directly from angels, and along with her daughter Ruth Wieland Rizzio believed she was charged by the archangel Gabriel to write books revealing the mysteries of heaven and earth and life and death.

In 1929 group leaders were indicted for grand theft and investigated in the disappearances of several members. These indictments created a media sensation when the background on the grand theft was revealed to the public. May Otis Blackburn was charged with twelve counts of grand theft, and articles at that time referred to Blackburn as a “cult leader.”  The cult later collapsed after May Otis Blackburn was imprisoned for stealing $40,000 from Clifford Dabney.

The following is a wonderful summation by a gentlemen who goes on the web by the moniker Deadhand who was going to write a book on the subject of Occult and cult activity in Los Angeles during the 20s to the 40s. I alas, do not know his real name, but would LOVE to be able to properly credit him. Here is his take:

“A great many “lost” souls hoped to abandon the ways of the old world and make a new one on the West Coast, where the motion picture industry seemed to teach that all things were possible.

Films stars of the 1920’s immersed themselves in the occult.   A society page reporter, not from Hollywood and so unfamiliar with its ways, once visited a major studio of the time was astounded to find that, “hundreds of performers are more than passingly interested in necromancy, superstition, and prognostication in general.”  He reported that seers – palmists, crystal gazers, and trance mediums – were everywhere.  “I am told that these do a truly amazing business among the players (actors).”  He learned that many actors paid annual fees to astrologers so that they would be informed of any momentous planetary changes that might affect their careers.


“This modern world is full of primitive minds,” stated the famed religious scholar, Dr. Lewis Browne in 1929, when explaining how it was that men and women of his age could be so easily drawn toward unorthodox, pagan, or primitive religious practices.   A resident of Santa Monica, Dr. Browne was said to have found Southern California a “fruitful field” for his studies of religious movements.   He estimated that there were, in the late 1920’s, approximately 400 cults active in Southern California alone, with memberships numbering in the hundreds of thousands.   The included such notable organizations as Zeralda and Omar’s “Love Cult,” also known as the “Sacred Schools Cult”, the Mazdaznan Cult, the “Perfect Christian Divine Way” cult, the “Christian Church of Psychosophy,” and the “Pisgah Work.”

There were numerous Devil-worshipping cults, too.  A man name Macario Timon was murdered in Oakland in 1926, and in the victim’s home police found books and manuals of the cult and prayers signed in blood, indicating the victim himself was part of such the cult.  They also found, behind a large red seal in a folder a sketch of a sun rising behind some hills, with a cross at the base of a tree, surrounded by bizarre symbols.   One of the prayers written in blood began, “Most powerful Lucifer…” and went on to beg for wisdom and knowledge that could be used to overcome enemies.


Purification by fire and “Garden of Eden orgies” were the hallmark of the Oroville-based House of Judah cult, in which members prayed and chanted together while a stitch away from being nude.  They sacrificed lambs, which were burned alive, according to horrified neighbors.

A certain self-proclaimed “Bishop,” Wilbur Leroy Cosper, was arrested in Oakland in 1926 and sentenced to six months for violations of the “medical practice act” for mixing levity, religion, and medicine.  His minions, who gathered to wait for him outside the jailhouse were “lightly clad dancers, major and minor deities, a scattering of archangels, and scores of (uncostumed) followers – mostly women.” They promised passersby a “resurrection day” to celebrate their leader’s eventual release.  The “Bish,” as he was called, told reporters through the bars of his jail cell that they should attend the promised gala, which he hinted would include “graceful maidens in aesthetic dances.”  It is likely that many of them accepted the invitation.

Margaret Rowen founded the Reformed Seventh Day Adventist Mission, not to be confused with the Seventh Day Adventist church.  Mrs. Rowen, who will play a peripheral but important role in another cult’s future, was based in Los Angeles and was adamant that the end of the world would occur on February 6th, 1925.  She is estimated to have had a thousand followers and was the subject of much publicity at the time, to include mention in national magazines, yet she was rather more successful as a self-promoter than as a prophetess, as most LA residents would attest on the seventh day of February 1925.

A Mrs. Nelson was investigated in Oakland for her fitness as a mother after she admitted abandoning her children and husband.  At the time of the interview, the abandoned husband was a resident of a state asylum.  She claimed that one child, whom she had found and reclaimed, was born as a result of “delvings in the occult, mysterious experiments in mind control, and spiritual investigations” while she and her husband were members of an unnamed cult.

occult los angeles

One woman under police protection in 1930 was so terrified of the cult she had joined and abandoned that she refused to state its name for fear of deadly retribution.  Eventually it would be known as the cult of “Hickory Hall.”  The woman said that the priestess who ran the cult, a Mrs. Leech, also called the “Most High Interpretess,” “dominated the household mentally and physically…We could have no wills of our own, no thoughts except hers.”  When the former member objected to children in the cult being spanked with sticks, she was bent over a chair and spanked by five other cult members instead,  “just like a child”.  She fled that same night.  Later she would receive a telegram from her former cult brothers and sisters that contained only four telling words: “We won’t hurt you.”

In 1929 the Fresno Bee reported that the leader of the “Brother Isaiah” cult was traveling around Southern California in his “tri-motored airplane” inspecting property upon which he might open a new branch of his own cult.  Area realtors were on the plane with him, pointing out properties that were available and haggling prices.  Indicative of just how accustomed Californians had become to cult activity is the fact that this story did not appear on the front page of the newspaper.  It was not reported as news at all.  It was conveyed as a minor happening on the Women’s Daily Feature Page, alongside “Fall Formal Fashion,” “Rector’s Recipes,” and a notice that a party was to be held at Mr. and Mrs. E.W. French’s home the coming Saturday.

There were so many cults that the District Attorney had an undercover man whose job it was to infiltrate and monitor them.  His name was Detective Eddie Kane and he achieved a flash of fame for befriending and then exposing the fraudulent activities of a popular spiritualist of the time, Elsie Reynolds.

An editorial in a Van Nuys newspaper in 1930 complained that, “Los Angeles…extends a welcome asylum to every cult of every kind that seeks a place to hide temporarily its ugly head until it can build sufficient strength to begin the spreading of its poisonous propaganda.  The number of cults in Los Angeles are a standing joke the country over.”  Dan Thomas, a Los Angeles reporter echoed these sentiments when he wrote, “Detroit has its auto factories, Pittsburgh has its steel mills and New York has its night clubs; and Los Angeles, not to be outdone, has its own peculiar and unrivaled specialty, too – Los Angeles probably has more fake “religious leaders” – and more suckers to follow them – than any other city in the country.”

werewolf ceremony

It wasn’t just Californians joining cults, though.  In Michigan there was the infamous “House of David” and the Evangalista cult – the leader of the latter was found beheaded, with all his family members murdered in their sleep, allegedly by disgruntled followers.  Chicago had the “Magi Cult”.  Pennsylvania had the “Hex murders.”   Iowa had the “Flock of Holiness.”  Kansas had the “Brotherly” cult, led by a blind pastor who required married women to kiss men other than their husbands or else suffer eternal damnation.   And a New York writer complained in 1922 that, “We have the most variegated menagerie of cults anywhere to be found,” lamenting that “freak religions” were infesting the city, being supported by “women of a certain age suffering from suppressed religion.”

Not surprisingly, cult activity was not contained within the borders of the United States.   In 1927, a reporter posed the question to his readers, “How do Americans and English residents of the Riviera amuse themselves?”  According to Italian police, he wrote, “They join cults.”  He went on to say the local police stations had to employ a secretary to track all the cults and sects.  There were, one policeman reported, nude cults, vegetarian cults, Spartan cults, the Simple Life cult, and of course numerous “Occult” cults, which, he said, caused the most trouble.”


Posted by on April 4, 2013 in Uncategorized


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What is Aghartha? (Other than an awesome live Miles Davis dark funk album)

Aghartha is a mythical hidden city somewhere under the Earth, usually somewhere in Asia. It’s often confused or even merged with Shambhala, another hidden city in Buddist lore. It’s quite the fixture in a great deal of New Agey and far out conspiracy thought, and like most staples in alternative spirituality has its roots in the Victorian Age.

Aghartha began as a rip of Shambhala, but instead of being centered around Asiatic mythology was instead constructed along Western Nordic mythology of which Wagner’s The Ring Cycle was a huge influence.

During the 1860s and 70s a writer named Louis Jacolliot, a French official living in Chandernagore, India wrote and published a number of books in which he combined his endless fascination in Western Occultism with bits and pieces of Hindu and Buddist myths. His claims were wild and imaginative but not accurate in any way towards Hindu, Buddist or Eastern thought. In fact his main activity was to use tidbits of whatever he picked up in the East to weave into a pastiche of ideas mostly dominated by western esotericism. He is quoted by Blavatsy and both his ideas on Aghartha as well as the Ascended Masters were brought into the Theosophical fold. Like everything else in Theosophy they wound up in New Age thought.

So, in 1871 Jacolliot published The Son of God in which he goes through the 15,000 year history of India as told to him by a wise Brahman. Except this “history” has nothing whatsoever to do with actual Indian or Hindu history or myths and everything to do with the Nordic myths that were all the rage in Europe thanks to Wagner and his epic Ring Cycle. “Agartta” is merely Asgard, with an ‘a’ added at the end to make it sound like a Sanskrit word.

A few years later, in 1886 Aghartha was picked up again and expanded upon by French occultist Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre who we will call Saint-Yves. He had been exposed to Jacolliot’s book through an Indian parrot shop owner who taught him some Sanskrit and stuff from Jacolliot’s book.

Saint-Yves d’Alveydre

Saint-Yves published The Mission of India in Europe in which he recounts his many adventures visiting the hidden city of Agartta by astral travel. Deep underground the Himalayas Agartta teams with life, populated by millions of humans more technologically and spiritually advanced than their above earth counterparts. They are ruled by a Sovereign Pontiff, posses lots of incredible mystical powers and are waiting to share their knowledge with us once we advance and “Christianity lives up to the commandments which were once drafted by Moses and Jesus.”  “When the Anarchy which exists in our world is replaced by the Synarchy.”

Saint-Yves’ pet political philosophy was Synarchy,  that is: “social differentiation and hierarchy with collaboration between social classes, transcending conflict between social and economic groups: synarchy, as opposed to anarchy. Specifically, Saint-Yves envisioned a Federal Europe (as well as all the states it has integrated) with a corporatist government composed of three councils, one for academia, one for the judiciary, and one for commerce. Just in case you were wondering.

Hidden City by Patricia Allingham

Still with me? Good. We now say goodbye to Saint-Yves as he bows off the world stage and say hello to Polish adventurer Ferdinand Ossendowski. Ferdinand Ossendowski is an absolutely fascinating man and it is unfortunate that we do not have time to delve into him too deeply today, but suffice to say he was in and out of Russia during the Russian Revolution, engaged in various anti-Revolutionary activities despite the fact that had a rocky history with the Imperialist government.

Regardless, when the Communists finally won Ossendowski and a group of Poles and White Russians escaped through SIberia into Mongola, Tibet and finally into Chinese controlled Mongolia where they were finally halted by Chinese Mongolia’s takeover by a mystic named Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg (aka The Bloody Baron) who considered himself to be a reincarnation of the god of war. Ossendowski joined the baron’s army as a commanding officer of one of the self-defense troops and also briefly became The Baron’s political advisor and chief of intelligence.

Ferdinand Ossendowski, all in all kind of a badass.

What on earth does this have to do with anything? Well AFTER all this he returned to Poland and in 1922 wrote a book called Beasts, Gods and Men. In it he talks about all of his many adventures wandering the Asiatic landscape. In the first three chapters however, he lifts almost verbatum portions of Saint Yves’ ramblings on Agartta. He called it Agarti and with his book an international bestseller it stamped Aghartha onto the popular landscape indelibly.

In the 1940s editor Raymand Palmer at Amazing Stories published a myriad of fantastic tales involving Aghartha and when the New Age movement came around in the 70s and 80s, they went hog wild with it and have never let go. An example for instance would be this.

And there you have it. A wondrous hidden city, a fantastic, age old meme, borrowed from the Tibetans and reworked by some creative minds to embody the fanciful imaginations if not occasionally credulous belief systems of a century of westerners.


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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The Compte Saint Germain

In examining the more colorful forms of spirituality that appeared during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, there are some interesting  figures who movements like Theosophy drew upon and reimagined  into a mythological status. The Compte Saint Germaine is perhaps one of the most notable.

In the 1700s a socialite adventurer possessing wit and intirgue could live their lives travelling the courts of Europe, entertaining and seducing their way through high society. Ask Casanova. Be delightful and interesting and the courts of Europe will open for you. You could indeed make a living thourgh sheer personality.

A figure such as Saint Germaine was perfect for such a role. He was a raconteur bar none (Raconteur: one who excels in telling stories and anecdotes) in an age where “conversation very nearly counted as one of the fine arts”. He was undeniably bright, colorful and highly intelligent. He knew six languages and was skilled musician, composer, painter and chemist as well as a bit of a physician. He loved to drop hints that he had been alive for centuries and had known some of the great figures of history with just enough detail to titillate. He was beloved even by those he defrauded.

As with many others of the day who made their way into high society through personality, his origins were very intentionally shrouded in mystery. He first showed up in Holland in 1735 and soon after made a splash in  London. Those were early days of Freemasonry and Jacobite vs. Stuart conspiracies and Saint Germain soon found himself implicated in a Jacobite conspiracy. He was eventually cleared of all charges but none the less left the country quickly afterwards.

For the next 12 years he dashed around from Vienna to India before coming to France in 1757and becoming a sensation at Versailles. Saint Germaine was an extraordinary storyteller, the most charming and interesting person in any given room and a sublime boaster. The key was that he boasted of utterly incredible things not the least of which was being numerous centuries old, but was sharp and talented enough to pull off just enough doozies so that he remained impressive amongst those who didn’t buy the far fetched tales and inspired the less cynical into, if not belief, then the suspension of disbelief. King Louis XV thought highly enough of Saint Germain to entrust him with a secret diplomatic mission, however the mission went atrociously wrong and Saint Germain had to flee France in order to avoid a stay in the Bastille as punishment.

Versailles, 1700s

In 1762 he was in Holland, involved in a shady deal where a Dutch industrialist got taken for 100,000 gulden. He then lived in Italy and Germany. He won an honorary commision as a Russian general for providing the Russian navy with a healing tea (made with Senna) and eventually spent the last years of his life in the homes of various wealthy German noblemen who found his company worth the upkeep. He died in 1784.

All well and fine. He cut a dashing figure, inspired much talk and left a fairy amusing legend after his death. However, he has since become a strangely popular, larger than life, Master of Higher Worlds and all godlike knowledge figure within the the New Age movement.

How did this happen?

Well, for one thing, although Saint Germain was only a rather lukewarm Freemason, after his death some Lodges needed fodder for their  ever increasing, newly uncovered hidden knowledge from which new and fun degrees and initiations could be invented. Actually, most Lodges were coming up with new degrees and “new uncovered knowledge” because going through new theatrical initiations is an enormous part of the fun of Freemasonry. So, Saint Germain, having left a bit of a legend, got used in some of these. This kept his name alive.

In 1836 a set of memoirs was published by a lady in waiting to Queen Marie Antoinette about the eve of the French Revolution. In them, they described how Saint Germain appeared to the Queen to warn her of the coming revolution. Naturally, these memoirs were eventually utterly discredited, but the legend was stoked.

Finally, Compte Saint Germain was picked up by Helena Blavatsky who pretty much wrote the entire blueprint for the eventual beliefs of the New Age movement. By the time she and her successor Annie Besant were done with him, Saint Germain had become one of the members of the Great White Lodge, the secret body of enlightened Masters who were guiding the world to its new age. The White Lodge eventually became the Ascended Masters, and Saint Germain, who had not been particularly interested in the occult or talked of it in any legnth, none the less became a central figure in the pantheon of those great Illuminated Ones communicating occult teachings from the Ascended Spheres to receptive New Agers down here in the muck. Seriously, in some circles, he is on par with Jesus, if not surpassing.

Before Blavatsky and Besant

After. Extreme Makeover has got NOTHING on Theosophy.

Fascinating, huh? And thus, in a way, Saint Germain did achieve a mark of immortality.

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Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


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