Not As Sharp As Occam’s Razor

As previously documented here, The Black Alchemist was Andrew Collins’ self-published sleeper hit which kicked off a flurry of interest in psychic questing. His followup would actually get issued via Arrow, a mainstream publisher, and would be his magnum opus: whilst he had written accounts of psychic quests before and after, none would be as massive, wide-ranging, or take in such a broad picture of his questing career from its inception in 1979 to the book’s emergence in 1991. That book would be The Seventh Sword, perhaps the deepest dive you could take into psychic questing without getting up and actually dabbling in it yourself.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part constitutes Collins’ definitive account of the finding of the Green Stone and the associated Meonia Sword – as he’d previously recounted in his self-published pamphlet The Sword and the Stone, and as Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman detailed in The Green Stone. Far from redundant, this involves Collins going into the subject in substantially greater depth than any previous recounting of the story, and delving into subjects that Phillips and Keatman had only glancingly addressed.

The second part picks up a few years later and takes in a span of some six years; after Collins learns that the Meonia Sword was not a unique artifact, but part of a set of seven, bit by bit the other swords are uncovered. It turns out that the occultists who’d hidden them in past centuries had intended that they be used in a ritual known as the Form of the Lamb, to unfold at a location known as the Heart of the Rose, in order to herald the coming of the Messiah and other such high spiritual and utopian goals. Eventually six swords are discovered, leaving only the titular Seventh Sword – which, due to its association with the powers of darkness, was known as the Black Sword. The book concludes with Collins still searching for it and encouraging readers to help out in the quest.

Over both parts, Collins and his allies must tangle not only with the difficulties of searching out the artifacts but also believe that they are opposed by a grand occult conspiracy – one which the Black Alchemist and his Friends of Hecate were only a local franchise of. With an Illuminati-esque level of power (and the appropriate tangled Masonic heritage), this conspiracy is never too far away. Can Collins and his questers avoid being ground down by… the Wheel???

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Pickin’ Up Truth Vibrations, Part 1: In the Light of (Turquoise) Experience

There is today an active Gnostic sect. Few people can be said to be consciously enthusiastic members, but it is nonetheless a sect. It teaches a worldview which has evolved somewhat over the sect’s existence, but was from the beginning rooted in Gnosticism and has become increasingly reminiscent of Gnosticism with the passage of time, and in recent years has openly switched to some specifically Gnostic terminology to explain its ideas.

Its adherents wouldn’t necessarily think of it as a religious movement, and many of them actively follow other spiritual traditions in parallel to it – but if they have taken the teachings of this sect seriously, then that will inevitably affect their relationship with those other traditions and how they view them. Different levels of involvement exist, ranging from people who just read a few books or watch a few DVDs to more enthusiastic members who discuss the leader’s teachings enthusiastically on his website forums, or who attend massive, day-long lectures which the sect’s leader holds in major venues like Wembley Arena in order to endlessly restate, reiterate, and reinforce his essential points.

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Gull’s From Hell and John’s From Glasgow

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

It’s the late 1880s, and royal party boy Prince Albert “Eddy” Victor – grandson of Queen Victoria and second in line to the throne – has been having all manner of fun. Encountering Annie Clark, a Catholic woman who works behind the till at a sweet shop just across the road from Eddy’s favourite rent boy brothel, he begins an affair with her which culminates in an ill-advised secret marriage and the birth of a child – one who, strictly speaking, would then be in line for the throne.

Queen Victoria will not stand for this, and she uses all the covert influence available to her to make sure that Eddy and Annie are forcibly separated. Among the resources available to her is the power structure of British Freemasonry. With members riddled throughout the British aristocracy and respectable professions, the Masons were a microcosm of the establishment of the time, and a large cross-section of Victoria’s male family members were Masons. Between that and a perennial desire for Royal patronage, it was no surprise that the Brotherhood was willing to do favours for Victoria. In this case, this included enlisting Dr William Henry Gull – Freemason, physician, and mystic – to the task of performing an operation on Annie to profoundly damage her mental capabilities. Even if she could get someone to listen to her story and she were able to coherently tell it through the cognitive fog imposed on her, nobody would give it any credence.

However, Annie’s fate wasn’t unknown to all. Marie Kelly, an East End prostitute and friend of Annie’s, is aware of what happened, and also knows that painter Walter Sickert – who had accompanied Eddy on his visits to the seedier side of town – is aware of what’s happened. When she and a group of her fellow prostitutes are shaken down for protection money they don’t have by a local gang, they hit on a plan of blackmailing Sickert for cash. Alas, they get greedy, ask for more money than Sickert has available, and when he turns to his Royal connections for help word of the matter gets back to Victoria, who dispatches Gull to silence the women, permanent-style.

Alas, Gull’s work is no clean, surgical strike this time around. Having suffered a stroke, Gull has become prone to mystic visions and occult obsessions, and he regards the work to be done in averting Royal embarrassment as a mere pretext for his true goal. The 20th Century is looming, and Gull believes that by conducting the murders in a particular manner and pattern, aligned with the occult geometry of London, he can turn them into a ritual act which will shape the very nature of the coming century. His intention is to make it safe from the rising tide of feminist and other progressive challenges to the status quo, winning the day for what he sees as the inherently masculine force of Apollonian rationality. The actual outcome is, well, the history we got…

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Bernard the Storyteller

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Andrew Collins, a key figure in the development of “psychic questing” and a participant in the events of The Green Stone and The Eye of Fire, didn’t just restrict himself to helping out his buddies Graham and Martin in their quests; a practised ceremonial magician in his own right and benefiting from a wide network of friends and contacts in the community, he was more than able to conduct his own investigations, usually with a suitable psychic colleague guiding him.

One such colleague was “Bernard” – his true identity not disclosed by Collins out of respect to his wishes. In the mid-1980s, Andy and Bernard discovered something disturbing: their questing efforts kept crossing the path of a mysterious figure, an individual that they never met in person but who Bernard was able to sense psychically. Time and time again, they’d arrive at some sacred site or other to discover that the individual they’d dubbed the Black Alchemist had been there first, often leaving behind strange tokens and other remnants of his sinister rituals.

As time went by, it became dreadfully apparent that the Black Alchemist was aware of them – and indeed part of his plans involved harming sacred sites which both Andy and Bernard had adopted a sort of spiritual guardianship of. Eventually, they found that the Black Alchemist had gained a cult of devotees – including his fearsome second-in-command, the Black Sorceress of Arundel – and that their plans involved nothing less than creating a sort of immaterial Antichrist – a superhuman entity existing only in the spiritual realm and unhampered by gross matter, able to act to spread evil on a global scale. And the side effects of this working included such events as the hurricane which unexpectedly wreaked havoc in Britain in 1987…

…or maybe Bernard was making all of this shit up, but Collins never suspects this for a second.

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Phillips & Keatman, Questers Extraordinaire

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

“Psychic questing” was a short-lived fad, primarily originating in British New Age and paranormal circles. It largely ran its course in the 1980s and 1990s before largely dying down, largely as a result of the prime instigators behind the concept – Andrew Collins and Graham Phillips – largely moving on from it. Both of them shifted gear into pseudo-academic “alternative history”-type books in a Graham Hancock sort of vein; though apparently they occasionally refer to using psychic sources in their material (and Collins himself has made at least one return to the genre – Twenty-First Century Grail – even after primarily shifting into fringe archaeology), they no longer put it front and centre, and tend to play it down when dealing with audiences they know it won’t fly with.

The idea is simple: rather than just deploying psychic talents in a mediumistic manner, sat around a table interviewing any spirits who happen to float by, psychic questing involves going out and about – seeing where your intuition takes you, psychically attuning to the lay of the land (or the ley of the lines), and discovering what there is to discover out there. Psychic questing expeditions tended to involve a lot in the way of uncovering lost artifacts, unravelling the hidden histories of sacred sites, befriending benign spiritual presences and getting spooked by malign ones – in short, all the ingredients of a fun story.

Maybe the participants in the fad were all making shit up, but if they were, everyone seemed to be willing to be mutually taken in. The objective reality of what they were getting up to has, of course, severe question marks over it. (For one thing, as much as participants in the scene were convinced that they had moments of genuine spiritual and psychic danger, I’m not aware of any instance where a quest went wrong to an extent that this danger actually came to its full fruition.) Nonetheless, it’s a field of paranormal research where, even if it’s all nonsense, at least the participants are telling an interesting story that’s a bit different from the usual table-rapping seances or channellings of New Agey platitudes.

To my knowledge, the first authors whose psychic questing chronicles became published via a major publisher (as opposed to releasing their results in self-published pamphlets) were Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman, who collaborated on two books that got published through Spearman and Grafton and paved the way for later offerings in the same microgenre.

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Save vs. Libel, Pt. 2: The Rumour Dies, the Scars Remain

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

(Content warning for this series: over these two articles I’m going to touch on sexual abuse, mental health issues, suicide, and Gamergate. If you aren’t up for such subjects, maybe skip these.)

As outlined in the first part of this article, the popular rumours smearing Dungeons & Dragons were largely driven by the James Dallas Egbert III case, but soon took on a life of their own. It would take other hands, however, to really bring them to the absurd pitch that they’d reach during the Satanic Panic – and the primary driver of that process was Patricia Pulling.

You can see Pulling as the David Icke of Dungeons & Dragons conspiracy theories: many of her ideas were parroted from others, her credentials and competence as a researcher and investigator were wildly overstated, and she’s mostly notable for weaving all of the different theories she picked up from others into a dizzyingly paranoid collage, a fear-riddled look at the world in which almost anything she didn’t approve of was part of a grand conspiracy to destroy America’s children.

The major difference between Pulling and Icke is this: in Britain we laugh at our extreme conspiracy theorists, in America they get elected President. Whilst Pulling never attained quite that level of power she did end up with an undue level of influence – particularly within police forces which turned to her as a consultant on “occult crime” – which resulted in her being treated as an expert in criminal cases when in fact her credentials were not up to snuff. (If you want an illustration of how dangerous it is to have unqualified amateurs posing as experts and hyping their personal conspiracy theories to the police, you could do a lot worse than doing some Googling on the subject of the West Memphis Three.)

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All My Friends Know the Pale Rider…

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Milton William Cooper basically told the same story ever since he made his first big public splash in 1988. The story went like this: as part of an accomplished military career which saw him serving in Vietnam, Cooper eventually found his way into the Office of Naval Intelligence, in a post under Admiral Clarey. Bored out of his skull and frustrated with the massive discrepancies between the stories he saw Nixon and Kissinger telling the American people on the news and the activities he knew to be going on in Southeast Asia as part of the overspill of Vietnam into Cambodia and Laos, he eventually started peeking at top secret documents which, whilst not strictly intended for his eyes, happened to be in the filing cabinets in his office. These documents revealed a hidden story of astonishing conspiracy against the American Republic and the wholesale subversion of its Constitution.

The problem was that what Cooper claimed was actually in those documents kept changing. When he first started making his claims, they were generally in support of the Majestic-12 conspiracy theory and the documents received by UFO researchers Jamie Shandera, William Moore and Stanton Friedman. Then, when the credibility of those documents started looking shaky, Cooper claimed that the documents he’d seen in the Navy substantiated this – that the leaked documents were part of a damage limitation plan by the real Majestic-12 to send potential investigators down blind alleys should they get too close – but he stuck with his claims of UFO conspiracies and secret pacts with hostile alien races, claiming that he’d seen in the filing cabinets copies of the legendary O.H. Krill papers (named after the alleged alien ambassador to Earth).

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