Gareth J. Medway
Magonia 94, January 2007.
In 1733 Jacob Ilve, a type-founder and printer, made an oration at a meeting in London, at which he asserted that there is a plurality of worlds, and that this earth is hell. Though this hardly seems to be biblical concept, he justified it by quoting Psalm 19.2: “The Heavens declare the Glory of God. He calls them Heavens, because they are above the earth, for so are the Mansions, they are to us Heavens, i.e. Places out of human Reach.”
And again, John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions”: “it may justly be concluded, that they are inhabited by Beings who are far superior to us in Goodness. Hence some have affirmed, that our Earth is the only Rebellious World, the lowest of the Creation, and the Region of Darkness … It is also manifest that these glorious Places are inhabited b} Beings who have attained greater Perfection than we of this Globe. Hence naturally arises this Maxim, That the Souls or angelic Beings of those who have attained the greatest Perfection in this Life are admitted into those celestial Orbs, into the Company of those for whom they are prepared, according to their several various Attainments in Goodness.” (1)
This seems to have been the first sentiment of its kind in English. That there may be other solar systems with planets like ours had been suggested by scientists since the sixteenth century; in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, there had been for millenia the religious concept of other worlds – - not other planets in the modern sense, but worlds that we would now say to be in other dimensions. Now the two ideas could be knitted together.
Later, Ilve published the Book of Jasher, a retelling of the first six books of the Bible, which, he said, had been found in the Holy Land by an eighth century traveller and translated into English, though, since the text was in eighteenth century English – a different language, in effect – the forgery was not very convincing. The work, which had a sufficient vogue to provoke a printed attack, presents a liberalised view of religion, but unfortunately does not go into any more detail about other worlds.(2)
On the other hand, he was not liberal with regard to sexual matters. Having been imprisoned for debt in Clerkenwell, he wrote a tract about the appalling conditions in the jail where both men and women were interned and in many cases found that there was only one way to pass the time. This seemed to distress hive more than prisoners dying. (3)
The term “New Age” is derived from Emanuel Swedenborg (1038-1772), a Swedish scientist who in his fifties started having mystical visions, resigned his technical post and wrote a huge number of books on his experiences. “When discoursing with (departed) spirits he generally stood upon his feet looking up, at an angle of 45 degrees; his assent to and dissent from their arguments was generally expressed by a `yea’, `yea’, or ‘nay’, ‘nay’, spoke very quick, waiting and paying great attention to their responses which he generally wrote down in a book, and then rose up again immediately to resume his conversations.” (4)
As well as talking to the spirits. Swedenborg was given a guided tour of the kingdoms of heaven, and taught the doctrines of the spirits: he denied that angels were created as such, but that, rather. “there are no Spirits and Angels, but what were of the Human Race”; spirits and angels were formerly human, but have evolved into higher beings.
Orthodox Christians. tend to reject the possibility of life on other planets, on some such grounds as that it is not mentioned in the Bible. By contrast, Swedenborg, like Ilve, could take life on many worlds in his stride:
“That there are several Earths [i.e. planets), and Men upon them, and thence Spirits and Angels, is a thing most perfectly well known in another Life, for it is there granted to every one who desires it from a Love of Truth and consequent Use, to discourse with the Spirits of other Earths, and thereby to be confirmed concerning a Plurality of Worlds, and to be informed, that the human Race is not confined to one Earth only, but extends to Earths unnumerable..."
"He who believes, as every one ought to believe, that the Deity created the Universe for no other End, than that Mankind, and thereby Heaven, might have Existence, (for Mankind is the Seminary of Heaven) must needs believe also, that wheresoever there is any Earth, there likewise are Men-Inhabitants."
"The End of the Creation of the Universe Is Man, in Order that an Angelic Heaven might be formed of Men; but what would Mankind and an Angelic Heaven from one single Earth avail to answer the Purposes of an infinite Creator, for which a Thousand, yea Ten Thousand Earths would not suffice?" (5)Swedenborg was himself able to make psychic journeys to some of these other planets, those of this solar system and a couple outside it. What he saw on these worlds was at odds with the subsequent findings of astronomers, for example: "In the Planet Venus there are two Kinds of Men, of Tempers and Dispositions opposite to each other: the first mild and humane, the second savage and almost brutal: they who are mild and humane appear on the further Side of the Earth, They who are savage and almost brutal appear on the Side looking this Way," (6)
Though the actual term New Age has only been regularly used since the 1950s, there has been a recognisable movement ever since. The most important development in the nineteenth century was the advent of the Theosophical Society, whose founder, Madame Blavatsky, presented a syncretistic system combining elements of many religions as being her picture of the "whole truth". Now, such a belief system can keep on growing, since in a religion filled with strange beings and way out worlds, there is always room for more.
Much of Blavatsky's key work Secret Doctrine was taken up with the theory (derived in some obscure way from Hindu scripture) of the seven "root races" of humanity, of which we are the fifth. The fourth race had lived on Atlantis, and the Third on Lemuria, these two being lost continents of the Atlantic and Pacific respectively. Atlantis, whose legend goes back at least as far as the time of Plato, had recently been publicised in a book by Ignatius Donnelly; Lemuria had been postulated as a former Pacific continent, originally to explain the distribution of lemurs; later, Haeckel suggested it had been the cradle of the human race; so that her theory appeared to harmonise new and old, science and religion.
Blavatsky's disciples Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater added to her account, expanding it to include evolutionary cycles on other planets, and "Helpers from outside". Blavatsky, in the Book of Dzyan (a set of cryptic utterances which form the basis for The Secret Doctrine), had referred to the Lords of the Flame: "Males-Females will they be. Lords of the Flame also ... They went each on his allotted Land; Seven of them, each on his Lot. The Lords of the Flame remain behind. They would not go, they would not create ... The Third remained mind-less. Their Jivas were not ready. These were set apart among the Seven. They became narrow-headed. The Third were ready. "In these shall we dwell," said the Lords of the Flame and of the Dark Wisdom."(7) They were now given an extraterrestrial origin: These included "the Lords of the Flame, who arrived from Venus ... in the middle of the third Root-Race, to quicken mental evolution, to found the Occult Hierarchy of the Earth, and to take over the government of the globe". Their arrival was described thus:
"The great Lemurian Polar Star was still perfect, and, the huge crescent still stretched along the quator, including Madagascar. The sea which occupied what is now the Gobi Desert still broke against the rocky barriers of the northern Himalayan slopes, and all was being prepared for the most dramatic moment in the history of the Earth - the coming of the LORDS OF THE FLAME ... it was about six and a half million years ago ... Then with the mighty roar of swift descent from incalculable heights, surrounded, by blazing masses of fire which filled the sky with shooting tongues of flame, the vessel of the Lords of the Flame flashed through the aerial spaces. It halted over the White Island which lay in the Gobi Sea. Green it was, and radiant with the fairest blossoms as Earth offered her fairest and best to welcome her King." (8)Similar ideas were promoted by others not specifically aligned to Theosophy. In his Fourteen Lectures on Yogi Philosophy, 1903, a book which discusses auras, telepathy, clairvoyance, occult therapeutics, the astral world, and so on, the Yogi Ramacharaka (otherwise an American barrister name William Walker Atkinson) stated: "The earth is one of a chain of planets, belonging to our solar system, all of which are intimately connected with the others in this great law of Spiritual Evolution. Great waves of life sweep over the chain, carrying race after race along the chain, from one planet to another. Each race stays on each planet for a certain period, and then having developed, passes on to the planet next highest in the scale of evolution, finding there conditions best suited for its development ... For instance, occultists know that the ancient Egyptians - the Atlanteans - the ancient Persians, etc., etc., are now living on this earth, - that is the souls which formerly incarnated in these races are now incarnated in some f the modern races. But there are other races - prehistoric races - which have passed away from the earth's attraction entirely, and have gone on to higher planes of action in the higher planets." (9)
Venusians also found their way into ritual. In the initiation ceremony to Dion Fortune's Fraternity of the Inner Light in London, founded in the 1930s ... the candidate was informed that "asbestos and honey-bee were brought to Earth from Venus by a 'Master of the Wisdom', this information being "derived from Don Fortune's mediumship)" (10)
The nineteenth century craze for spiritualism had led to a much larger number of scriptures and inspired writing becoming available. In about 1880 a New York dentist named John Henry Newborough purchased a typewriter on the instruction of angels who had materialised in his bedroom. Each morning he would sit for an hour with his fingers on the keys, and by automatic typing produced Oahspe, which purported to be a true version of the Bible. (11) The book describes special ships called airavagnas, that 'fly through the heavens. They are not material, but are used to transport the Gods and angels between the heavenly worlds: "As mortals sail corporeal ships across the corporeal ocean, so sailed the ship of God in the atmospherean ocean." (12) Nevertheless this was a step towards the idea of spacecraft.
In Britain occultists were not well regarded by society at large and often felt it advisable to keep their interests secret. But there was one part of the world where new religions, and mystical movements of all kinds, were a growth industry, and that was California. In 1900 Kathleen Tingley, a breakaway Theosophist known as "The Purple Mother" chose to establish a community in "a White City in a land of Gold beside a Sunset Sea" that is at Point Lama in San Diego. It is true that they did not win immediate respectability, and a certain General Harrison Gray Otis wrote a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times accusing the Community of "gross immoralities", but Tingley sued for libel and eventually won. (13)
Typically, the Self-Realization Fellowship, established in the state from 1925 by the Indian guru Paramhansa Yogananda, regarded all religions as valid, though it mainly taught Yoga. The Self Realization Church of All Religions was built at Hollywood in 1942, which contained statues of Lahiri Mahasay and Sri Yukteswar (Yogananda's own teachers), along with Krishna. Buddha, Confucius, Moses, Christ at the Last Supper, St. Francis, and, since Moslems do not make statues of Mohammed, a picture of the Kaaba at Mecca. (14) Thus, the typical Californian cult combined elements from many religions.
Other groups of a Theosophical type soon arose in the state. A Rosicrucian society was founded by Max Heindel (1865-1919, left). (This is one of at least twenty-three American societies termed "Rosicrucian", which have little or nothing in common with each other except that all claim, without any documentary evidence, to be a continuation of the original sixteenth century German Rosicrucian Order). Heindel said that his teaching were based on his understanding of what he had learnt from the elder brothers of a secret temple of the Rosy Cross in Europe, but they could well have been derived from Katherine Tingley's Universal Brotherhood, to which he had previously belonged, and the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (another occultist who had split off from the Theosophical Society), whose lectures he had heard in Germany. His Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception presents a highly complex scheme of human evolution, in which space entities had a hand:
"The immediate Leaders of humanity ... were Beings much further advanced than man along the path of evolution. They came on this errand of love from the two planets which are located between the Earth and the Sun - Venus and Mercury" (15)Around 1930 there arrived in the state a Polish immigrant whose business card described him as: "Prof. G. Adamski, Speaker and Teacher of Universal Laws and the Founder of Universal Progressive Christianity, Royal Order of Tibet and the monastery at Laguna Beach, Headquarters, Hotel Castle Green, 99 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, California."
From what is known of his teachings they bore no resemblance to either Christianity or Tibetan religion, e.g. "Universe means not just our solar system but space without circumference in which dwell billions of our solar systems. The Royal Order of Tibet is interested only in revealing what is thought to be mysteries so that they may be used practically in the present field of life where man may understand his fellowman by understanding the laws which rule all creatures, thereby awakening from the dream-life to the reality which leads to Mastery. It is an Order based on the highest and the simplest teachings in the field of Mastery ..." It is evident that, even if he himself had not quite Mastered English grammar, he had Mastery of the art of using many grand words without thereby conveying any meaning. (16)
In 1883-6 Frederick S. Oliver, then a teenager living with his parents near Mount Shasta in northern California, penned a lengthy manuscript entitled A Dweller on Two Planets. Oliver stated in the "Amanuensis' Preface": "I do not believe myself its Author, but that one of those mysterious persons, if my readers choose to so consider him, an adept of the arcane and occult in the universe, better understood from reading this book, is the Author". Rather, an entity called Phylos the Tibetan had dictated it to him at sporadic intervals, in nighttime sessions of up to a few hours.
Whoever the author may have been, what he wrote tended to confirm the beliefs of the Theosophists and New Agers. More than half the narrative concerned the author's past life as Zailm, an Atlantean, with many details of that civilisation. They had developed "vailxi", aerial ships of torpedo shape which could travel at hundreds of miles an hour (an incredible speed in the 1880s). A more recent incarnation was Walter Pierson, a modern American who had fought at Missionary Ridge in the Civil War. He then went to California where he met a Chinese named Quong who had strange powers.
People do not know, the author says, that the face of Mount Shasta (in the sight of which the book was written) "conceals a doorway. We do not suspect this, nor that a long tunnel stretches far away, far into the interior of majestic Shasta. Wholly unthought is it that there lie at the tunnel's far end vast apartments - the home of a mystic brotherhood, whose occult arts hollowed that tunnel and mysterious dwelling..."
Pierson's Chinese friend gave him access to the hideaway of this "Lothinian Brotherhood", and initiated him into its secrets. He was taught that the human race evolved through seven planets (with seven races on each planet), of which this is the fourth. The first two are invisible to us, the third was Mars, the next will be Venus, and the last two are likewise invisible. Already "the more advanced, occult souls do inhabit Venus". (17) Pierson, or Phylos (his future name, he was told) was allowed to visit Venus in his spirit body.
At this time the Pacific Electric Railway operated the "Mount Lowe Observatory", actually a tourist attraction with just one small telescope. (18) The resident astronomer, Edgar L. Larkin, once trained his telescope on Mount Shasta, and "was surprised to see a glimmering curved surface that was truly unusual ... As the sun shone upon this glittering object among the trees he was impressed with the thought that he was looking at a gold-tinted dome of some Oriental building ... as the sun moved in its course he was impressed that there were two domes rising above the tree tops near Shasta and that the part of a third one could be seen several hundred feet distant ... he left his telescope fixed to see what these things would look like in the setting sun and in darkness. He was surprised to find later in the might that around this dome were great lights, apparently white, which partially illuminatcd and made them visible even though there was no moon to cast any light at the time." (19)
Larkin died in 1924, but his claims were repeated by journalist Edward Lanser, in an article in the Los Angeles Sunday Times on 22 May 1932. He alleged that, when on a train to Portland, Oregon he went to the observation platform of the express to watch the sunrise, and was captivated by Mt. Shasta:
"I suddenly perceived that the whole southern side of the mountain was ablaze with a strange reddish green light ... My first conjecture was a forest fire,. but the total absence of smoke discounted that theory. The light resembled the glow of Roman candles." (20)Though nowadays sightings of domes associated with strange lights would be taken as evidence for flying saucers, rumour then had it that they were the work of people living inside Mount Shasta, who were Lemurians, survivors of the sunken Pacific continent of Lemuria. Lanser also repeated stories that the Lemurians sometimes appeared in neighbouring towns, dressed in long white robes, to buy supplies, which they paid for with gold nuggets.
In 1929 the American Magazine published an article, 'Seven Minutes in Eternity' by William Dudley Pelley, who described how while residing in the Sierra Madre Mountains near Pasadena, one night he suddenly left his physical body and soared away into the spirit realm, returning with messages for humanity from the 'Masters', this being the usual Theosophical term for spirit teachers. The journal was 'swamped' with letters, enabling Pelley to begin his own movement. However, it soon took a political turn, spawning the "Foundation for Christian Economics" in 1932 and the "Silver Legion" in 1933. The latter, better known as the Silver Shirts, more or less openly admired Adolf Hitler. (21)
The biggest difficulty with research in this field is locating the primary sources. I confess that I have not seen the original American Magazine article, nor the channeled messages which were published under the title Star Guests; my local library did have one of Pelley's political works, but it is now missing presumed withdrawn. But Star Guests is said to contain messages from 'Invisible Intellects' who can cross intergalactic distances in a twinkling, who stated that "Souls from Sirius migrated to Earth millions of years ago", showing that communications from other worlds were now commonplace. (22)
In August 1934, by which time Pelley was having problems with the law, two disciples, Guy and Edna Ballard of Chicago, began to publish their own messages from beyond, ascribed to one 'Saint Germain'. Historically, the Comte de Saint Germain was an eighteenth century French adventurer who claimed to have discovered the elixir of immortality and to be thousands of years old, but this Saint Germain was an 'Ascended Master', that is, in his last life he overcame the flesh and bodily rose to the next world rather than dying. They were quickly able to attract followers from the Silver Shirts, Pelley's treasurer becoming the Ballards' Associate Director, a post that he held until, despite being under the personal protection of the Ascended Masters, he was seriously injured in a car accident.
The couple were soon touring the country, propounding their spiritual creed - similar to that of Pelley - and a "Save America" programme. Their reception varied, for instance on one occasion Mr. Ballard had to admit that "The Love Gifts were less in West Palm Beach than usual". a misfortune he attributed to evil forces opposed to their work. But these influences did not pervade everywhere, so that "these two people and their son Donald arrived in Los Angeles in a none-too-prosperous condition in an unpretention car, but when they left, they zoomed away in a couple of flashy cream-colored Chryslers." (23)
Under the name Godfré Ray King, Ballard issued Unveiled Mysteries, an account of some of his meetings with the Ascended Master, the first of which occurred on Mount Shasta. Saint Germain allowed him to revisit scenes of his past lives; in Egypt, Atlantis, Lemuria and other places. He was also shown the inside of the mountain. His account of all this appears to owe something to Phylos the Tibetan:
"The ledge was broken and twisted as if by some rending convulsion. All about the base lay huge fragments broken off the face of the wall. Against the cliff rested a giant block many tons in weight ... he touched the enormous quadrangular block. Immediately it tipped on edge and leaned outward ... I followed, the door was replaced, and I found that the passage led into the mountain ... After going about two hundred feet we came to a door made apparently of bronze ... This door gave entrance to a large circular chamber ..."(24)
"Going to a point where huge masses of stone lay in confusion, as, if giants had hurled them in a war upon each other, Saint Germain touched a great boulder. Instantly, the enormous mass tipped out ... We entered and, to my astonishment, stood before a large bronze door ... He stepped forward and pressed certain points on the door. The great mass of bronze weighing many tons swung slowly open, and admitted us into a spacious chamber from which a stairway, cut in the solid rock, led downward. We descended some two hundred feet, and entered another space, circular in shape." (25)
Gerald Bryan, author of the highly critical study Psychic Dictatorship in America, pinpointed several other plagiarisms from occult novels, including Will Carver's The Brother of the Third Degree, 1894, which featured the Comte de St. German, Lillian Elizabeth Roy's The Prince of Atlantis, 1929, and Maude Lesseuer Howard's Myriam and the Mystic Brotherhood, circa 1920. In short, the book was basically a stew of ideas which had already been circulating for years.
Unveiled Mysteries was followed by a series of progressively more tedious sequels, in the first of which, Magic Presence, repeatedly spoke of the: "Mighty I AM", and the Ballard movement came to be known as "I AM". The phrase appears to derive from the King James Bible, where God says to Moses: "This shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you" (Ex.3:14) but it may also come from Phylos's term for the true self, as distinguished from the shells it may inhabit: "Though the astral shell shall come into spiritualistic circles and manifest through mediums, yet the I AM comes not into any earthly condition until it returns for reincarnation". (25) According to Bryan it was also commonly used in Baird Spalding's Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East.
On New Year's Eve 1930 Saint Germain told Ballard: "Tonight an experiment is to be tried which has not been accomplished for over seventy thousand years." This involved a Cosmic Mirror which was apparently a sort of teleportation device, for after those present had meditated on the 'Oneness' of Venus, with Earth; a tremendous blaze of light flashed forth upon it, revealing a group of people in the far distance, who drew nearer. "Presently, twelve Guests from Venus stood in our midst, robed in white scintillating garments, surpassing all power of description. There were seven gentlemen and five ladies, all extremely handsome." (27) They spent the evening exchanging information and playing musical instruments.
Venusians proved to be helpful in the struggle against the 'entities' who opposed the work of the Mighty I AM, for instance the Tall Master From Venus stated "that if the Christian Scientists did not stop opposing this work they would empty their churches". Students were encouraged to pray against these energies by calling upon the "Lords of the Flame" from Venus to defeat then. (One of these, the `Mighty Astrea' was referred to as `he'; which is curious since Astrea is the Roman Goddess of Justice. (28)
Guy Ballard left this world on 29 December 1939. His wife declared that he had ascended to join Saint Germain, but his death certificate more prosaically attributed his demise to heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver. After that the I AM movement declined, but did not expire: Edna Ballard continued to run it until her own death or ascension in 1971, and last time I was in Watkin's occult bookshop there was a complete set of the I AM discourses prominently displayed on one shelf.
Continue to Part Two
- 1. Jacob Ilive. The Oration Spoke at Joyners hall in Thamesstreet, London, 1733, pp. 1. 8.
- 2. Thomas Hartwell Horne, Bibliographical Notes on the Book of Jasher, London, 1833.
- 3. Jacob Ilive, Reasons Offered for the Reformation of the House of Correction in Clerkenwell, London, 1757.
- 4. Account “taken from Mr. Shearsmith, by Robt. Armitstead. London, Dec. 20th, 1810″, quoted in William E. A. Axon, Was Swedenborg a Vegetarian? (pamphlet, text of paper read at the Vegetarian Society, Manchester. 18 October 1909).
- 5. Emanuel Swedenborg. Concerning the Earths in our Solar System, London. 1787, pp.3, 4, 144.
- 6. Swedenborg, Concerning the Earths in our Solar System, p.125.
- 7. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine. Theosophical Publishing House, London, 1921, Volume 2, pp.18-21.
- 8. Annie Besant & Charles Leadbeater, Man: Whence, How and Whither, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar & Madras, 1913, pp.79, 101-3.
- 9. Yogi Ramacharaka, Fourteen Lectures on Yogi Philosophy, Oak Park, Illinois. 1903, pp.237, 239.
- 10. Francis King, Ritual Magic, New English Library, 1972, p.125.
- 11. John Keel, UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, Abacus, 1973, pp.246-47.
- 12. Oahspe, Kosmon Press, Lancing, Sussex, 1960, p.25 (Book of Sethantes 7:1.)
- 13. David Hanna, Cults in America, Tower Publications, New York, 1979, pp. 133-5.
- 14. Parahamsa Yogananda. Autobiography of a Yogi, Rider, London. 1949, pp.389-90.
- 15. Max Heindel, The Rosicrucian Cosma-Conception, Oceanside, California, no date, p.190.
- 16. Lou Zinstagg & Timothy Good, George Adamski: The Untold Story, Ceti Publications, Beckenham, 1983, plates 4, 49.
- 17. “Phylos the Tibetan”, A Dweller on Two Planets, reprint by Steiner Books, pp.14, 248, 310.
- 18. L. Sprague De Camp, Lost Continents, Dover Publications, New York. 1970, pp.71-2.
- 19. W. S. Cervé, Lemuria: The Lost Continent of the Pacific, Rosicrucian Library Volume XII, Rosicrucian Press, AMORC College, San Jose, California, 2nd edition 1935, pp.254-5.
- 20. Quoted in Lewis Spence, The Problem of Lemuria, Rider, London, 1932, p.104. 21. Gerald B. Bryan. Psychic Dictatorship in America, Truth Research Publications, Los Angeles, 1940; pp.26-27.
- 22. Martin S. Kottmeyer, ‘Jelly Pelley’. Magonia Supplement 39, 1 July 2002.
- 23. Bryan, Psychic Dictatorship in America, pp.41, 47.
- 24. “Phylos the Tibetan”. A Dweller on Two Planets, pp.270-3.
- 25. `Godfré Ray King’ (Guy Ballard), Unveiled Mysteries, Saint Germain Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1935, p.75.
- 26. “Phylos the Tibetan”, A Dweller on Two Planets, p.292.
- 27. Ballard, Unveiled Mysteries, pp.243, 247
- 28. Bryan, Psychic Dictatorship, pp.54-55, 59-61.