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Posts Tagged ‘Scientology’

Wizards of the Coast

May 29, 2014 | by

John Dee and the occult in California.

Figure1

Antonio de Pareda, The Knight’s Dream, 1655, Real Academia de San Fernando, Madrid.

Working summers at a Northern California health food co-op brings you into a constellation of eccentrics. The one that stands out in my memory, at a remove of more than a decade, is the old man who dressed as a wizard. His was not some flimsy Halloween affectation—it was a lifestyle, with accessories to match: thick robes of purple velvet stitched with golden stars, a silvery beard, and a hefty wand topped with a crescent moon. In our sole interaction that summer, he entered the co-op around closing and cornered me as I struggled to replace a roll of receipt paper. Peering out from under his pointed hat, he hit me with an intense stare and asked, “You ever done DMT, kid?”

Dimethyltryptamine, you might recall, is a highly potent, short-acting psychedelic alkaloid. It’s the stuff in the bitter Amazonian brew known as ayahuasca, and it’s the reason people lick the backs of Mexican toads to get high. The question surprised me at the time, but it shouldn’t have. Wizards have been asking questions like this for about four hundred years now.

Merlin has long occupied point position in pop culture as our archetypal sorcerer. But John Dee of England, born in 1527, the astrologer to Queen Elizabeth and advisor to Sir Walter Raleigh, was the true founder of the wizardly iconography and mythos. A skilled mathematician, geographer, and inventor, Dee also delved into grimoires, kabbalah, alchemy, and Biblical prophecy. He believed he’d been chosen by God to receive a new divine revelation—angels were sending him a new set of Biblical texts from heaven. And he had a sidekick: Dee believed the ultimate conduit was not himself but his servant, a mysterious ex-con named Edward Kelley, who spoke with the angels through a glass orb that the two called a “shew-stone,” or crystal ball. Read More »

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Self-Help

February 4, 2014 | by

dark street

Photo: Iain Cuthbertson, via Flickr

For several years, I lived in a neighborhood that worried my parents. But I liked my neighbors, I could afford the rent, and, in the grand tradition of fools, I lived a blissfully oblivious existence. I never once felt unsafe.

Well, that’s not strictly true. My boyfriend and I had been living in the apartment for about two years when I acquired a job that necessitated my commuting to an office, and oftentimes returning after dark.

“I don’t like it,” he said grimly of the fifteen-minute walk from the subway. There had been a recent spate of rapes in the area, he pointed out. “Call me when you get on, and I’ll meet you and walk you home.”

Naturally, I did no such thing. Instead, I walked home every day like a normal person and felt completely safe.

Until, one especially late night, I noticed footsteps behind me. I tried to shrug it off and picked up my pace. The person behind me started walking more quickly, too. I crossed the street; the steps followed me. I made a turn; he was right behind me. Now I felt real fear. I walked as quickly as I could without breaking into a panicked run, and fished my keys out of my pocket, holding the sharp point between my fingers for use as a weapon, as we had been taught in freshman orientation. The steps behind me never faltered. My heart was hammering by the time I made it into our building and threw the deadbolt. Read More »

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Dogs, Scientologists, and Ipanema

July 24, 2012 | by

Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, Ipanema

  • “The Girl from Ipanema” is fifty! (Not the real one—she’s sixty-seven—but the bossa nova classic.) It is the second-most-covered song, after “Yesterday.”
  • A graduate student at King’s College London has discovered a previously unknown 1909 short story by Katherine Mansfield in the university library. Read an excerpt from “A Little Episode” here.
  • What these writers think about when they think about running.
  • What Maira Kalman thinks about herself.
  • The most beloved dogs in literature? We think Nana Darling was robbed.
  • Portrait of the artist as a young Scientologist: a 1969 BBC interview with a teenage Neil Gaiman, then a believer.
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