Monday, December 30, 2013

‘Viewing Joe’

One more movie in the news, and that’s it—I think.

Two years ago, I told you about “Finding Joe,” the documentary about the teachings of Professor Joseph Campbell. Well, it recently was announced that this film (which received a four-Magpie rating), now is available via the web. Buy it as a digital download. Rent it streaming. Netflix, iTunes. Whatever you crazy kids do today.

Check it out here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

‘A great night at Centerpoint’


A great night at the Anthroposophical Society Saturday. As advertised, it truly was a celebration of the Holy Nights in Music and Verse. The music of Debussy and many others in voice, piano, harp, and recorder; verse from Robert Frost, Robert Graves, Pasternak, and Steiner, to name a few.

The meeting place of the New York City branch is a welcoming little space. Artwork, oil on canvas and mostly abstract, by Rayén Millahual Vargas, is exhibited throughout. The meeting room itself is a great little performing arts space, with a small elevated stage and comfortable seating for probably around forty (and not so comfortable for maybe fifty). A third of the ceiling is open with a gabled skylight. It just strikes me as the perfect spot for lectures and other programs for small to medium-size audiences, in case you want to take note of that. It’s worth inquiring if it is available for hire.

And then there’s the bookstore: packed wall to wall, top to bottom with hundreds of titles on the meaning of Anthroposophy and its practical applications, by Steiner and others; biographies about Steiner; books on other philosophies for all levels of learning; and more.

I think I’m going back on New Year’s Day for Cliff Venho’s presentation “Where Darkness Is Light: The Hymns & Songs of Novalis.”


Courtesy Fox 2000 Pictures

The event was over by about nine o’clock, and with nothing much else going on, I headed over to Second Avenue to catch a movie. “The Book Thief” takes place during the Second World War in Germany, and its title refers to the main character, a young girl who nicks The Gravedigger’s Handbook from the man who buries her little brother, who salvages another book from a local nazi bonfire, and eventually helps herself to the contents of the personal library in the home of the local head nazi. Anyway, it’s the only schoolmate who befriends her who embodies nearly all the virtue in the story unaided by any encourgement from others. A star track athlete who idolizes Jesse Owens, keeps inviolate the secret of a Jewish man in hiding, does what he can to protect the girl from the school’s most enthusiastic Hitler Youth—doing all this and more while his father, a party member, goes along to get along—and, in the end, perishes in an Allied bombing raid, is named Rudy Steiner.

Friday, December 27, 2013

‘Saving Mr. Banks’

And speaking of films, from Parabola magazine:

A remarkable film opened on Christmas Day called “Saving Mr. Banks,” about P.L. Travers, a founding editor of Parabola. Have a look at the trailer for the film here:

In honor of the occasion, Parabola will publish [on Facebook and the Parabola blog] material written by Pamela Travers that has appeared in Parabola over the years. Here is an excerpt from her essay “Remembering,” a lifelong pursuit of Something Else, from Summer 1991.

A Hebrew Myth, a potent element in the annals of the bees, tells us that when a child is born an angel takes it under his wing and recites the Torah to it. Having done that he puts his forefinger on the infant lip and says one word, “Forget!”

Clearly, every tradition has a similar angel, for where is the human creature who lacks indentation of the upper lip, that little valley of flesh where the same word has been so ineffaceably expressed? And, indeed, of necessity. For how, without forgetting, can remembering arise? And remembering leads to search.

Detail of painting ‘Tobias and the Angel’
by Raphael. National Gallery, London.
Maybe it needs another angel, though this time leaving no manifest mark, to set us on our way. Angels, anyway, thread through our lives, invisible presences, energies, messengers, bringers of dreams–not the hodge-podge of daily events–but those rare dreams of portent and revelation that can change the course of our lives. There are angels who walk beside us as Raphael walked with Tobias, pilgrim angels who carry bowls, not for begging at doors but to hold to our lips from time to time to refresh us with a taste of that emptiness which in their land is fullness. Such a draught–even the brush of an angel wing–can bring one to oneself, and thus to remembering; for without remembering we dream our life away and arrive at the end of it to find that there has been nobody there, the initiatory touch truly forgotten and never woken from. The way has been in us but we have not been on the way.

I cannot recall the time when I was not searching for a nameless unknown. Something Else, I called it as a child, and as that it is still known to me. The longing for it affected me most strongly at sundown, and I would weep, not allowing the grownups to comfort me, tenderly or testily, with assurances that the sun would surely rise in the morning. I knew that. But this unknown was clearly connected with it and seemed to depart with the sun.

As I grew, I learned to contain my sorrow, indeed–except at moments when an angel passed–entirely to forget it. Daily life needs its full share of the human creature’s two natures–the mind its inventions and imaginings, the heart its orchestra of feelings (oh, the drumbeats, the clarinets, the trombones!), flesh and blood their various feastings, in order to have the material to question and to know. Was it not this share that the Prodigal Son–and most of us are Prodigal Sons–set out with his portion to seek? And after, again like most of us, spending it–the revelings and the subsequent sufferings–he came at last to himself. Having forgotten, he had to remember, reminded, perhaps, by a passing angel, and knew he had to turn home.

The parable does not tell us much more. But can we suppose that he spent the rest of his life making merry and feeding on fatted calves? Would he not, after such an awakening, such a realization of his own unworth and at length such a welcome home, feel the need to search within for his essential self? Prodigal in all things, would he not submit himself to the fire of self-question, pursue the reparation of the past through the process of metanoia, and with this new energy stirring in him, apply himself to working in the patriarchal fields along with his elder brother who, significantly, never left him?

There is much to be said for that elder brother who is so often maligned. Clearly, having been told to forget he had very soon remembered that what he was searching for was to be found nowhere but at the father’s side.

Most of us have to go far before we find what is nearer than the neck vein, but the very distance draws one closer. For myself, Something Else no longer sets with the sun. Rather, the sun goes down in myself and I am lost in the twilight. O Forgetting, sustain my Remembering! Stay my feet, angels, upon the way, so that the seeker becomes the sought, and I, too, may be spied from afar as someone comes running to meet me.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

‘The Holy Nights at Anthroposophy’

The Anthroposophical Society’s New York City Branch begins its Holy Nights season this evening. Runs through January 4, except New Year’s Eve, every night at seven o’clock. No fees, but donations are welcome.

From the publicity:

Tonight: Walter Alexander on “In the Spirit of Truth.”

Friday: Albert Spekman on Rudolf Steiner’s The Fifth Gospel.

Saturday: Dorothy Emmerson and Joyce Monges—“Experiencing the Holy Nights through Music & Verse.”

Sunday: Joyce Reilly and Doug Safranek on “Madonna & Child: Images from Byzantium to the Present.”

Monday, December 30: Gisela Wielki on “The Holy Family is You and I.”

Tuesday, December 31: Rachel Maldonado on “The Gift of Seven Trees.”

New Year’s Day: Cliff Venho on “Where Darkness is Light: The Hymns & Songs of Novalis.”

Thursday, January 2: Dan Mackenzie and Eva Ingolf—“Singing in the New Year.”

Friday, January 3: Linda Larson on “The Dream Song of Olaf Asteson,” with selections from Rudolf Steiner’s Eurythmy forms for all to move together.

Saturday, Jan 4: Ted McGlone on “Magi and Shepherds Streams as Heart—Thinking Social Forms.”

Sunday, January 5 (from 4 to 7 p.m.): Epiphany/Three Kings Festival & Potluck. Presentation by Joyce Reilly;
music by Dorothy Emerson, Joyce Monges, Natasha Guruleva, David Anderson, and Dan Mackenzie.

The New York City Branch is located at 138 West 15th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, in Manhattan.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

‘Get into the mystic movie business!’

Erik Paulsson
There’s an interesting project in the works, and “we’re all very excited about it.” Mr. Erik Paulsson, a film-maker with Red Storm in British Columbia, endeavors to produce a 13-part documentary on the history of mysticism. Titled “The Mystics: A Journey into the Mysteries,” the series is in the hands of Alchemergy Films, the California-based production company that creates content, in a variety of media, on the arts and sciences of personal and social transformation. They are seeking donors to contribute toward the costs of producing what promises to be a beautiful piece of work.

From the publicity:

The mystics are shamans, druids, and philosopher sages of ancient China and Greece. They are the gurus and vedic philosphers of India, and the oracles of ancient Egypt. They are the prophets and magi of the Middle East. They are alchemists, hermeticists, and theosophists. They are the Buddhists, Gnostic Christians, Jewish Kabbalists, Sikh Masters and Muslim Sufis.

The mystics all believe that there is more to reality than we can perceive with our limited five senses, and that through training, all human beings can transform their minds in order to experience higher states of consciousness. To mystics, the ultimate goal of life is enlightenment or gnosis, Greek for “knowing.” They believe that attaining these states leads to a profound understanding of the mysteries of the Universe, and thus their methods are known as the mystery teachings.

As this gripping story unfolds, we will journey through 5,000 years of history, from the Shamanic traditions of hunting gathering societies, through the emergence of Eastern and Western mystical philosophy, to the modern spiritual integration movement, which seeks the parallels that connect all mystery teachings, and their correlation with modern scientific theory.

Here’s a trailer:

Gifts can be made incrementally, from $10 to $25,000—and there are recognition considerations for each level of giving, including a thank you credit in the film, and Executive Producer credit for the most generous of benefactors.

To get involved, click here.

The Magpie Mind averages a few hundred visitors daily, and if each of us kicked in $25; and encouraged family and friends to give, maybe, $10 each; and then prevailed upon our respective esoteric orders to kick in, hopefully, $100 apiece, then the producers will come very near to their $50,000 goal. At this point, they have not reached the $10,000 mark.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

‘Schiffman lecture on Wednesday’

Professor Lawrence Schiffman, certainly the pre-eminent scholar in America on the subject of the Dead Sea Scrolls, will speak Wednesday morning on “Judaism and Christianity: How They Differ and Where They Parted.”

Wednesday, December 25
Morning Prayer at 8:30
Lecture/Breakfast at 9:15

Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center
85 West Mt. Pleasant Avenue
Livingston, New Jersey

No matter what your concentration(s) in the Western Mystery Traditions may be, I think it is urgent to understand the history of the relationship of Judaism and Christianity. It’s not just a matter of knowing there would be no Christianity without Judaism; it really is crucial to have a working knowledge of the who, what, when, where, and why of how the two faiths connect and disconnect.

Click here to read a bit about Dr. Lawrence Schiffman.

I have no idea of what Professor Schiffman will sayand I do not expect a word on Western Hidden Wisdom and initiatic societiesbut I imagine he will provide the factual background to explain away the ideas of what is called Christian Hebraism, that Renaissance period movement wherein Judaism was explored by Christian theologians for the purpose of better understanding Christianity. The findings of Christian Hebraism mostly were wrong and have been left behind, but it is to Christian Hebraism that I attribute the use today of Jewish thought (e.g. the mysticism of Kabbalah) in certain Christ-centered esoteric societies.

I had the pleasure of meeting Schiffman during my university days, interviewing him for a newspaper story on his role in Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship at New York University when the DSS finally were shared with scholars outside Israel nearly a quarter-century ago. Brilliant doesn’t satisfactorily describe him, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing him speak.

85 West Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Livingston.
Obviously the lecture lands on Christmas morning, but if you are available and desire to learn fundamental facts at the root of what would give form to the esoteric movements we hold dear today, do yourself a favor and visit this synagogue. (No offense, but if you think the Essenes have something to do with your secret society, I would think it essential that you hear this talk.) Call (973) 994-2620 to be added to the guest-list. Livingston is reached easily from routes 10, 24, and 280; and is near many other major highways.

Monday, December 9, 2013

‘Every problem has a spiritual resolution’

The Rosicrucian Order will present Dr. Lonnie C. Edwards, author of Spiritual Laws that Govern Humanity and the Universe, this week at the Rosicrucian Cultural Center in New York City. The program is described below, but here is a video shared on Facebook yesterday by Mark at the Institute for Hermetic Studies. One of those weird “coincidences.”

Lonnie C. Edwards, MD
Rosicrucian Cultural Center
2303 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.
New York City
December 9 through 13
3 to 7:30 p.m.

It is important for students of mysticism to become acquainted with the tremendous resources that are available to make our lives more harmonious. These resources are necessary for us to cope with the many and varied experiences that come to us. Once we learn to tap these inner resources, living will be more of an invigorating affair. We need to keep foremost in our consciousness certain principles, conditions, and laws in order to gain access to spiritual and permanent solutions. We have the ultimate choice to align with and attract the higher Energies or to align with and attract the lower short-lived manifestations. The higher choices, those of the spiritual self, reveal to us that all problems and challenges are illusions and are nothing more than mistakes in our thinking, and like every human error they dissolve when we but seek the higher frequencies–the truth. Evolution demands us to work through these. They are “normal” happenings, whose purpose is to urge us to endure and move toward transformation and on to regeneration and reintegration. Through lectures, meditation, and visualization exercises, we will be given an opportunity to uncover the composite self, and learn how to approach the future.

Participants also will have the opportunity to experience discussions and exercises designed to give a stronger recognition to the inner intelligence and how to utilize it in everyday experiences. These Rosicrucian methods show how every problem has a spiritual resolution.

Considerable attention will be given to how to view the world of appearances, and how you create your world of realities. Cosmic will and its role and influence will be explained.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

‘Enter the Secret World of the Freemasons’

Another exciting crosspost with American Creation:

It’s an exciting day for Freemasons in the United States, thanks to a long-awaited Mo Rocca package broadcast on the CBS News program Sunday Morning several hours ago. The point of the segment is to dispel the untruths, malicious and benign, with the simple, calming facts that make the fraternity much easier to comprehend.

It is fun seeing a number of friends on television, but I bring this to American Creation because it is quickly, but clearly, stated by UCLA history professor Margaret Jacob, an author of several books on Freemasonry and a favorite on the fraternity’s lecture circuit, that Masonry was not the engine driving the American Revolution. Yes, plenty of individually famous Freemasons were involved—from Continental Congress to conflict to Constitution—but the Masonic Order as an organized body of men was not where policy was debated nor pamphlets printed nor battle plans formulated.

The segment, which takes us inside the Grand Lodge of New York and Saint John’s Lodge No. 1 in New York City; and the House of the Temple and Colonial Lodge in Washington, DC; and sites elsewhere, runs eight minutes, is here:

The text of the segment can be read here, and “9 Things You Didn’t Know About Freemasonry,” also from Sunday Morning, can be read here. (And for Rocca’s humorous self-promotion of the piece, see his Twitter feed here.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

‘You’ll Find Mathematics in the Darnedest Places’

First, an observation: Can you imagine Hollywood trying to teach Sacred Geometry to children today?

And closing the cartoon with Galileos quotation: “Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe.” Impossible.

Donald in Mathmagic Land was produced by Walt Disney Productions in 1959. It would become Disney’s first cartoon ever televised in color, in 1961, in “The Wonderful World of Color” series on NBC. It can be bought today on DVD for less than $10.

Three errors in this short, as pointed out by IMDB:

Despite this being a mathematical education film, a character incorrectly recites the value of the mathematical constant pi. The character states, “Pi is equal to 3.141,592,653,589,747, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” The correct value of pi (to the same number of digits) is actually 3.141,592,653,589,793. (The last two digits are different.)

During the “imagination” segment toward the end, the Spirit says to put a triangle in a perfect circle, and then turn the triangle. The image that results is a straight line that reaches both the top and bottom of the circle. There is no possible orientation that the original triangle could have to reproduce this visual effect in real life.

During the “slice the cone” scene, the Spirit says, “A slice like this, and you have a searchlight. A slice like this, the mirror of a giant telescope.” The actual cut made in the cone is a hyperbola, meanwhile both a searchlight and a telescope’s mirror are both parabolas. (The difference is that a parabola is made by making an exactly vertical slice in the cone, not an angled slice as depicted.)

But don’t let these detract from the fun.

(Trivia: Uncle Walt was born on this date in 1901.)


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

‘Solstice Ritual at Observatory’

I was so impressed by the Fall Equinox evening that I want to spread the word about this event also. From the publicity:

Winter Solstice Ritual Workshop
with Pam Grossman
Presented by Phantasmaphile

Friday, December 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Admission: $20
543 Union Street, #1E

You must RSVP to phantasmaphile [at] if you’d like to attend, as space is limited.

December is full of holy days that honor the cycle of birth, death, and resurrection. They all culminate in Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and the beginning of the sun’s return. This evening, we will focus on welcoming light back into our lives.

We’ll do spellcraft for peace and cleansing for the new year. There will be a special focus on tree magick, and herbs that invite warmth into our bodies on cold, dark days. And we’ll give gifts, of course!

Please bring:

  • Any altar objects you like. These can be decorative (Yule or winter decorations of any kind are welcome), and/or personal objects which you’d like to have charged;
  • A candle and holder;
  • A wrapped gift that will be given to someone in circle (no more than $5-10 in value, or free/homemade is fine, too!); and
  • A cushion, pillow, or fabric, as we will be sitting on the floor (chairs will be available for those who need).

Note-taking is welcome. This workshop is open to men and women, novices and advanced practitioners alike.

Pam Grossman is a writer, independent curator, and teacher of magical practice and history. An initiate in the wise woman tradition, she is a graduate apprentice of the green witch, Robin Rose Bennett. She is the creator of Phantasmaphile, a blog which specializes in art and culture with an esoteric or fantastical bent, and Associate Editor of Abraxas Journal. She lectures on such topics as “The Occult in Modern Art 101,” teaches classes on herbalism and ritual, and is the co-organizer of the Occult Humanities Conference at NYU.

Her writing has appeared in numerous mediums, including the Huffington Post,, the Etsy blog, Sciences Occultes magazine, and various Fulgur press publications. As a featured guest on The Midnight Archive web series, Expanding Mind radio, and the C-Realm, Psychonautica, and Labyrinth podcasts, she has discussed the role of magic in contemporary life. Her group art shows and projects have been featured by such outlets as Artforum, Newsweek, New York magazine, Art & Antiques magazine, Boing Boing, CREATIVE TIME, Time Out New York, Reality Sandwich, Juxtapoz, Arthur, 20×200,, and Neil Gaiman’s Twitter. She is a co-founder of Observatory, where her programming aims to explore mysticism via a scholarly yet accessible approach.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

‘The Story of the Snake’

If your schedule permits you a weekday lunchtime lecture, try to get to the C.G. Jung Foundation today for “The Story of the Snake in Jung’s Red Book,” presented by Ami Ronnberg. From the publicity:

The snake appears in the very first illustration in Jung’s Red Book and becomes a familiar image in many of the paintings that follow. Sometimes Jung comments on the snake—or snakes—and sometimes they are simply present. All the while, as we follow Jung’s story, the image of the snake keeps changing.

In this talk, we will look at the snake as an evocative underground companion in our own creative efforts and personal transformation. Fascinating and feared, the snake guides us into the unavoidable depths and deaths of our own snakeskin-shedding times, from which we will (hopefully) return, reborn with our own glimpse of the eternal.

Tuesday, December 3 at 12:30 p.m.
C.G. Jung Foundation
Eleanor Bertine Auditorium
28 East 39th Street
(between Park and Madison avenues)

Bring a brown bag lunch - coffee, tea, and cookies will be provided. No reservations required. All are welcome. For further information, call the C.G. Jung Foundation offices at (212) 697-6430.

Ami Ronnberg, M.A., is Curator of the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, and is Editor-in-Chief of The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, published by Taschen in 2010 as the third volume of the ARAS publication project. She teaches widely on art and symbols.

Monday, December 2, 2013

‘One Simple Idea’

In addition to Mitch Horowitz’s appearance at the Theosophical Society next month (see post below), he will speak at The Corner Bookstore on Thursday, January 9, just two days after the release of his new book One Simple Idea.

The Corner Bookstore
1313 Madison Avenue (on the corner of 93rd Street)

Will start at 6 p.m.

From the publicity:

From the millions-strong audiences of Oprah and The Secret to the mass-media ministries of evangelical figures like Joel Osteen and T. D. Jakes, to the motivational bestsellers and New Age seminars to the twelve-step programs and support groups of the recovery movement and to the rise of positive psychology and stress-reduction therapies, this idea–to think positively–is metaphysics morphed into mass belief. This is the biography of that belief.

No one has yet written a serious and broad-ranging treatment and history of the positive-thinking movement. Until now. For all its influence across popular culture, religion, politics, and medicine, this psycho-spiritual movement remains a maligned and misunderstood force in modern life. Its roots are unseen and its long-range impact is unacknowledged. It is often considered a cotton-candy theology for New Agers and self-help junkies. In response, One Simple Idea corrects several historical misconceptions about the positive-thinking movement and introduces us to a number of colorful and dramatic personalities, including Napoleon Hill and Norman Vincent Peale, whose books and influence have touched the lives of tens of millions across the world.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

‘Theosophical Society to host Mitch Horowitz’

I still haven’t gotten around to reading Horowitz’s book Occult America, but I do have this lecture on my calendar. His new book, which will be released January 7, appears to be another take on Kabbalist thinking. I’ll report back after the lecture.

From the publicity:

The Secret History of Positive Thinking
A Presentation by Mitch Horowitz

Sunday, January 26
2 p.m.

New York Theosophical Society
240 East 53rd Street

Can the power of our thoughts shape our lives? From the essays of Emerson to the mega-sensation of The Secret, Americans have long wondered about the hidden potentials of the mind – particularly whether “the power of positive thinking” can bring us wealth, health, and happiness.

Mitch Horowitz
Most serious people view positive thinking as an immature or unrealistic response to life. But award-winning author and lecturer Mitch Horowitz asks us to look again. In this lively and intellectually substantive presentation, Mitch explores themes from his new book, One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life (“brilliant” – Deepak Chopra), to seriously consider the remarkable history, astonishing impact, and compelling possibilities of positive thinking.

Rather than being a soft-headed philosophy based in bromides and page-a-day calendars, positive thinking, which began with mental-healing experiments of the mid-nineteenth century, has shown remarkable foresight in contemporary advances in neuroscience, addiction and OCD treatment, stress and recovery programs, and in today’s most intensely debated findings within quantum physics.

Surveying the history and growth of positive thinking, and the myriad forms it has taken, Mitch squarely considers the all-important question: Does it work? As he shows, a thoughtful consideration of the background, methods, and results of positive thinking make a blanket dismissal virtually impossible. He also looks critically at the internal contradictions and ethical dilemmas of positive-thinking philosophy – and considers how these shortcomings can be fixed or reformed to remake positive thinking into a persuasive and mature approach to life.

This journey through the positive-thinking revolution also highlights:

  • How the now-familiar injunction to “think positive” bubbled up from occult and mystical subcultures of the mid-nineteenth century before becoming the closest thing America has to a national creed.
  • How this once-outsider philosophy has revolutionized mainline faith – including today’s evangelical culture.
  • The remarkable personas that shaped positive-thinking, such as philosopher William James, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, and French therapist Emile Coué (who coined the world-famous but misunderstood mantra: “Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.”)
  • The iconic figures whose lives were impacted by positive-thinking philosophy, including suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Black Nationalist pioneer Marcus Garvey, and President Ronald Reagan.

This unforgettable presentation will give you a wholly new outlook on the history – and possibilities – of a belief system you only thought you knew.

Mitch Horowitz is the author of One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life (Crown, Jan. 2014). His previous book, Occult America (Bantam), received the 2010 PEN Oakland/ Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence. Mitch is vice-president and editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin, the division of Penguin books dedicated to metaphysical literature. He frequently writes about and discusses alternative spirituality in the national media, including CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, All Things Considered, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BoingBoing,, and He appears in recent mini-documentaries on the history of positive thinking; Ouija Boards; and occult New York.

Visit him at; on Twitter @MitchHorowitz; and on Facebook at Mitch Horowitz. He and his wife raise two sons in New York City.