Feeding My Little Archive to Bigger Ones

Brilliant idea of the day: clean my desk. No, I don’t mean just shove things to the edges and sweep up the crumbs, I mean uncover some mahogany!

I spent the last two weeks of August crashing to meet a deadline for a special issue of the Journal of Religion and Violence devoted to violence and new religious movements. Wicca is, of course, a new religious movement, but it is an outlier in many ways, as I discuss (no charismatic leader, no millennarian prophecy, etc.)

Two years ago, in a post titled “Kicked Back in Time,” I wrote about receiving cartons of material relating to the murder trial of a Texas Wiccan leader: witnesses’ depositions, correspondence, legal paperwork, psychic impressions of what really happened and where, dozens of yellowed newspaper clippings, not to mention a tape cassette of one witness’s statements after he had been hypnotized by the sheriff of Deaf Smith County.1)The incident occurred in a neighboring county. The sheriff had a reputation as a hypnotist, apparently, and the 17-year-old witness’s parents requested the session.

Then Massimo Introvigne2)Founder of CESNUR [Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni] announced that he was guest-editing this issue of the journal, and I submitted a proposal, which was accepted — and then I procrastinated until, oh no, it’s due at the end of the month. And I wrote it. Chores went un-done, the dog got minimal walks, but I generated my 8,000 words. And damn, that felt good.

The journal is published three times a year, online only, and apparently costs $45/year with access to the archives. I do not know when this special issue will appear.

So let’s not lose the momentum. Let’s get back to Project X.

Problem: There is a low, two-drawer file cabinet next to my desk whose top is stacked with books I need. And there was a substantial pile of files, printouts, partial rough drafts of book sections, and who-knows-what on the desk itself. Plus more in a desk drawer.

In the filing cabinet were . . . files, organized by subject (“New Wiccan Church,” “polytheism,” “sacred prostitution,” “Victor Anderson”) that had built up over the last thirty years. Some was material used when writing Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America or various articles; some I never got around to using — and I probably never will.

Solution: it goes into one or more cartons and goes to the New Age Movements, Occultism, and Spiritualism Research Library at Valdosta State University in Georgia. (The source materials for the murder-trial article belong in Texas, however.)

Many of the Pagan magazines I used for book research already went to the American Religions Collection at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It even has its own name! (Scroll down at the link.) Got to spread the wealth.

Now if I can get all the material from the desk top and drawer sorted into a fresh set of file folders, I might actually be ready to make use of it. (Never fear, there is plenty of digital material too!)

For today, the writing life is the filing life.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The incident occurred in a neighboring county. The sheriff had a reputation as a hypnotist, apparently, and the 17-year-old witness’s parents requested the session.
2. Founder of CESNUR [Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni]

Gentrifying the Mansion of Decrees

First & Broadmoor

Photo: Colorado Springs Gazette

Back in the 1980s, heyday of The Menance of Cults, the Church Universal and Triumphant (formerly Summit Lighthouse, grandchild of the “I Am” movement, great-great grandchild of Theosophy—one of many), was in the second tier, behind the Moonies, Scientology, and the Hare Krishnas (ISKCON).

Its leader, Elizabeth Clare Prophet (1939–2009) took control after the death of her husband, Mark Prophet (1918–1973). To the church, he did not die but became an Ascended Master. It always amused me that they claimed a previous incarnation for him as Sir Launcelot, whom I had thought was a fictional character. For the full list, see link.

Around the time of Mark’s . . . passing . . . Summit Lighthouse, as it was then known, acquired this 1930s mansion in a ritzy part of Colorado Springs near the Broadmoor Hotel.1)British readers are permitted a brief titter at that name, but in Colorado Springs it has been a luxury resort since the 1880s.

I remember stopping by in about 1975 with a New-Agey friend from college who had heard about Summit Lighthouse—we chatted with some members, looked at some of the public rooms, picked up some brochures.

Not long after our visit, the group changed its name and moved to property north of Yellowstone National Park,2)They bought 12,000 acres and named it the Royal Teton Ranch. where they started stockpiling weapons and supplies and preparing for the apocalypse. Yeah, that again.

They spent hours chanting magical affirmations — “decrees” in CUT-speak — with a strong flavor of American nationalism.3)If Dion Fortune could organized magical workings against Nazi Germany, why couldn’t CUT support the Reagan Administration? Who says occultists cannot be political? They probably took credit for President Reagan surviving John Hinckley’s attempt to kill him — or maybe they gave all credit to the Ascended Master St. Germain, who was Their Guy.

In about 1981, when I was a young newspaper reporter, I was contacted by a woman who had been Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s personal secretary until she quit and/or was forced out. She unburdened herself, and I built a news feature around that. I found writing about “cults” to be quite absorbing — there were some others also — and eventually I made the decision to go to graduate school and study new religious movements.

Meanwhile, the big house at First and Broadmoor apparently went downhill. It backs onto the hotel’s tennis courts, near its carriage-and-vintage car museum, and now the hotel wants to buy it and turn it into guest suites.

Planning a big wedding? For only a projected $8,500 a night, you can put the whole family there.

(The other weird thing was that in some photos, ECP looked a bit like my mother. If my mother had been an alternative-religion leader, she definitely would have been working positive magic for President Reagan. But in her cosmos, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer already covered that, with its standard prayer for “The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and all others in authority.)

Notes   [ + ]

1. British readers are permitted a brief titter at that name, but in Colorado Springs it has been a luxury resort since the 1880s.
2. They bought 12,000 acres and named it the Royal Teton Ranch.
3. If Dion Fortune could organized magical workings against Nazi Germany, why couldn’t CUT support the Reagan Administration? Who says occultists cannot be political?