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The Freedom Forum

Now that the United States Senate is finished with impeachment, the Cult of Donald Trump is now armed with the knowledge that ‘The Dear Leader’ is innocent of all charges against him. Before long, things of this nature tend to get out of hand, however all cults are not necessarily a bad thing and many cultists are darn good people. Someone who knows a thing or two about cults, Steven Hassan, is an American mental health counselor who has written extensively on the subject of mind control and how to help people who have been harmed by cults. I suggest the US Congress create a new Committee on Political Cults, similar to the Parliamentary Commission on Cults in France following the so-called ‘Order of the Solar Temple’ mass suicides in the 1990s, with Mr. Hassan appointed as it’s first director. His personal experience being a former member of the Unification Church, or the so-called ‘Moonies’ of the 1970s gave him all the experience he needs for the job and Mr. Hassan has become one of the most respected authorities on the subject of cults and mind control in the world. Just last October he published his fourth book, The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control where he explains the problem we all face and what we can do about reversing the damage. Most of us think that we are totally above these sorts of shenanigans and know better than the experts, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to fall the victim of a cult leader.

Most cults are easy to spot and avoid, although airport manager ‘Steve McCroskey,’ played by Lloyd Bridges in 1980’s brilliantly stupid Airplane! may disagree by punching, karate-kicking and flipping all the flower-bearing Hare Krishnas at the airport that get in his way, was funny because it was true, cultists are annoying, yes, but easily dispatched. As a former member of a cult (lapsed Catholic), I understand the cult mentality better than most and I’m also a Boston sports fan, so I’m an annoying, red hat-wearing, flag-waving cultist when it comes to the Boston Red Sox, also the Bruins, Celtics and even the reprehensible New England Patriots. One would think I’d hate MAGA-loving Patriots owner (and savior) Robert Kraft and hope that the cheating Bill Belichick would get his just-desserts, but I don’t know what the hell I’m writing about here anyway, blah, blah, blah.  Blowjob in a strip mall, what? Who’s that cheated on his wife? Certainly not the greatest coach in NFL history, that’s for sure. Alex Cora was framed. Red Auerbach is God and Ted Williams was a war hero and the greatest hitter who ever lived.

Spring training is right around the corner and of course, I know that Alex Cora wasn’t framed and he broke the laws of the greatest game in the most juvenile and ridiculously-easy to decipher cheating scandal in baseball history. Apple Watches and garbage cans. After the Houston Astros were exposed in the scheme, I had a fleeting thought in my head, “Was Alex also a part of that nonsense in Houston before he came to Boston?” Nah. We beat the Dodgers fair and square in the World Series, hey, maybe even the Dodgers were cheating as well, just using more sophisticated methods and it just hasn’t been proven yet? Everybody does it! The Yankees are doing it, BELIEVE ME! This is how the mind of a cultist works, folks.

Last month I wrote a little about the neighborhood I grew up in Cambridge called Huron Village by real estate brokers, the area was anchored by a grocery store named the ‘Fresh Pond Market’ owned by Leo and Helen, second-generation Greek immigrants who made good in America, which was situated just across the street from the small ‘Huron Spa’ convenience store, owned by a another Greek guy who made good by the name of ‘Angie.’ I would often be sent to the ‘corner store’ by my mom to get stuff from Angie, however the store was oddly known to everyone in the neighborhood by the nickname ‘Archie’s.’ When I would go to the store, I passed two storefronts along the way to and fro, one called the ‘Bryn Mawr Book Sale’ (as it was called before being renamed) and the other store housed the local Hare Krishna movement in Cambridge called ‘ISKCON.’

The Bryn Mawr Bookstore, as it’s known today was opened in 1971 on Huron Avenue in Cambridge and remains one of the best used bookstores in the world, supporting the work of the excellent women’s college in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. This store served as my Universe as a boy, with shelf after shelf of textbooks and pamphlets and general interest books and magazines and journals to read at my leisure. Prior to the internet, it may be of interest to Millenials that if you wanted to access information you actually needed to get up and go to a place known as a newsstand or a bookstore or even a library, and this particular used bookstore was a one minute walk from my front door and I’d spend hours browsing the aisles for whatever interested me at the moment. I’ve called it my analog Wikipedia, where the funky store wasn’t really set up to make a profit as a bookstore in the traditional sense, it also serves as a linkage between two great institutions of higher learning — Harvard and Bryn Mawr.

Next door, ISKCON, (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) was founded by the charismatic A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada or ‘Srilla,’ the spiritual leader and founder of all the so-called Hare Krishna in America, the small store in Huron Village was opened by the guru, a former Bengali businessman and follower of the Hindu God Krishna since 1933, after Srilla established his first storefront in a small location in New York City in 1965 that would expand, franchise-like, in the hippie culture of the 60s, first to San Francisco (of course) and then to Boston, London, Europe, Australia, Russia and beyond.

Helped by early celebrity influencers such as poet Alan Ginsberg and Beatle George Harrison in 1977, twelve years after founding the Krishna movement in America, Srilla Prabhu was just hitting his stride when he up and died at the age of 83. At the time of his death, the CEO of Hare Krishna Intl. had over 100 temples, restaurants, stores and schools across the globe and after he disappeared, the local store on Huron Ave. closed and they had an ‘End of the World’ sale advertised in the plate glass window usually adorned with spiritual and healing products. I was eleven years old then and I remember I went into the store soon after and asked the guy behind the counter in the orange robes and nose paint if the world was really going to end. He looked me up and down and (thankfully) leveled with me, telling me straight that the world wasn’t ending, only that their world was ending. I had no idea his spiritual leader had died and he was getting shipped off to God knows where and I walked home totally confident that I had the inside dope that I would still have to keep going to school.

At school the next day, we didn’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance after some atheist group had gotten all the public schools to stop the daily pledge, so when we started up again I knew it well, when the teachers at the public John M. Tobin school were required by law to reintroduce the Pledge of Allegiance to our class, dutifully leading us in a daily, dull rendition of the civic mantra until we graduated. The pledge, which I know by heart as the ‘Our Father’ and ‘Hail Mary’ prayers as a Catholic, is a pledge to the flag of the United States of America. It’s also a pledge as cult-like and weird as the rest, except this one we all agree upon, kinda. In the grand tradition of not agreeing about anything in America, we all don’t completely agree on the pledge.

Written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist and former Baptist minister in 1892, it read “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Sounds good to me, but in 1923, when the cult-like Daughters of the American Revolution were erecting bronze monuments and historical plaques in every town square and battle site across the nation, the wording of the pledge was changed slightly by the National Flag Conference to read, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” instead of just any old flag. Anti-immigrant fervor in the 1920s fueled a xenophobia in America that left it’s mark in many places and those rusted relics are now being removed and replaced under the new Trump Cult. The pledge from 1954 then emphasized that we are one (capitalized) nation ‘under God’ and it went unsaid that the God-less Soviets weren’t: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Propaganda can be fun and informative when it’s done right, just like the simple yet effective Hare Krishna chant I know by heart from traveling around in airports: “Hare Kṛiṣṇa, Hare Kṛiṣṇa, Kṛiṣṇa Kṛiṣṇa, Hare Hare. Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.”

The store Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada (born Abhay Charan De in Calcutta, India) founded when he first landed in the United States in 1965 was called ‘Matchless Gifts’ on 2nd Avenue in New York City and it’s still in business today, where you might also visit their website and snap up a nifty T-shirt or grocery bag, or maybe even the book Swami in a Strange Land (2016) by Joshua Greene, which tells the amazing story of the charismatic guru, tracing the rise of Eastern spirituality in the West and the practice of yoga, vegetarianism and the overall concept of ‘karma’ (or literally, action) and reincarnation. The spread of the Bhagavad Gita (or literally, the ‘Song of God,’ or the Bible of the Hindu religion) and the life of Srilla Prabhu, in the furtherance of Hinduism across the planet, shows how one man with a dream can truly change the world for the better. His cult lives long after he disappeared into thin air, where Srilla had often said, “I am not this body.”

The hippies had their gurus and the geeky kids had theirs too, with L. Ron Hubbard one of the most extraordinary cult leaders in all of history, with his ability to build a huge following and religion (helped in recent times by actor Tom Cruise) where Hubbard amassed over $200 million in his life, which he bequeathed to his religion, thereby creating one of the most unvarnished examples of what happens when a charismatic person, in this case a goofy sci-fi writer just as weird looking as the Hare Krishna guru Pradhu, yet our own American-style guru was a chain-smoking, yacht-owning, free-sex and RV-living conspiracy theorist almost singlehandedly invented the image of the tin foil hat-wearing whack jobs I wrote about so endearingly in last month’s post.

His science fiction was passable at best and yet in 1952, Hubbard wrote the groundbreaking Dianetics, but then lost the rights to his best-selling ‘self-help’ book (referred to by Scientologists as Book One) in court bankruptcy proceedings, after which he founded the Church of Scientology, notable for it’s sheer audacity, based on debunked pseudoscience matched with the typical cultish behavior found in most, however here far less given to any traditional idea of a ‘God’ than, say, the Hare Krishnas or the Catholics. Hubbard would suffer the first of two heart attacks just around the time Prabhu died in 1977 and less than ten years later, while hiding out in a luxury Bluebird RV on his property in California after his yacht fleet, the nutty ‘Sea Org’ was banished from nearly every port in the world, Hubbard ‘left his body behind’ and traveled to another planet, a Thetan among Thetans at the (Earthly) age of 85 in ’86. John Travolta signed up for Scientology audits shortly after and then Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch after that and voilà, a celebrity-based religion was born (not a cult), most recently recognized by the State of New Jersey as an honest-to-God religion, recently led by Tom Cruise doppelganger David Miscavidge.

The Hubbard estate and the Church of Scientology should be paying huge royalties to the first guru of his kind in the modern West, the British occultist Aleister Crowley, (pronounced like the black bird), he was an MI5 spy, author and also known as the ‘Wickedest Man in the World’ of his time, the spiritual founder of the religion of Thelema, he  attracted a huge and devoted following in the early 20th Century that embraced his unorthodox and radical thoughts on religion and culture, where Crowley once denounced democracy as an “imbecile and nauseating cult of weakness,” he was also a Satanist heroin addict who fucked goats. Crowley typifies the camp culture that surrounds most cults, where the initial goal seems to simply get popular and possibly laid, one look at Crowley’s vampy photos in support of his ‘religion’ Thelema, based on ‘sex magick’ rituals and occultism was a big hit early in the 20th Century. Crowley wrote poetry, novels and occult literature, including these delicate chapters from Snowdrops from a Curate’s Garden: ‘The Cocksucker’s Crime; or, the Cunt of the Countess’ also ‘My Aunt’s Amusement; or, Aching for Arse-plugs’ and finally, “A Family Fuck.” The title says it all.

Aleister Crowley would go on influence the weird life of rocket scientist John Whiteside ‘Jack’ Parsons and his third wife, called simply ‘Cameron’ who best exemplify the true believer types you find in most cults, which only seemed to have a pause recently after the twisted life of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple debacle in 1978 and Marshal Applewhite’s Heaven’s Gate UFO cult, who wore their new Nike’s to jump on the Hale-Bopp comet in a mass suicide in 1997. The story started in October 1918, where Ouija board enthusiast and silent film star of over 100 movies, Jane Wolfe ordered her copy of Crowley’s new and outrageous journal The Equinox, shortly after beginning a correspondence with the British guru, Wolfe gave up her acting career in Hollywood to join Crowley at his so-called ‘Abbey of Thelema’ in Cefalù, Sicily, living with him there from 1920 until it closed in 1923, she studied Thelema and sex magick with Crowley (giving him all her money, it goes without saying). Wolfe tried to direct a Hollywood film about Thelema, but instead returned to the US in 1937 to help form the ‘Agape Lodge’ in Hollywood and around this time Jack Parsons, undoubtedly a genius but also quite insane, was living just next door to the weird lodge while also working as part of a team of Cal Tech scientists known as the ‘Suicide Squad,’ after working at an LA powder factory led him to meet like-minded characters based in and around Los Angeles, including graduate student Frank Malina, an engineer and PhD student at the California Institute of Technology (CIT), the first Director of the Joint Propulsion Lab, so-called ‘Martian‘ Theodore von Kármán formed the elite team that would go on to found Aerojet Corp. in 1937 with Parsons, Malina and two other scientists and an accountant. Aerojet still builds rockets and spaceships for NASA today, including Titan rockets, components for the Galileo Mars rover and also the propulsion systems for the Space Shuttle, as well as nuclear weapons. Known as Aerojet Rocketdyne, it was bought by one of the company’s first vendors in January 1945, when General Tire acquired half the stock for $75,000 and then Parsons was forced to sell his shares, also making him a rich man, he was later expelled from the JPL due to his ‘unorthodox and unsafe working methods,’ that were revealed following an FBI investigation into his involvement with the Thelema cult, drugs and alleged sexual promiscuity.

When visions of rockets and flying spaceships to the Moon were only seen in pulp mags like Amazing Stories, Jack Parsons and Frank Malina were also writing an amazing screenplay, only discovered in the past ten years by Parsons’ biographer George Pendle, depicting the men as heroes in a (Marxist-tinged) science fiction-based plot that features a third act where the Nazis try to buy American rocket technology four years before the introduction of Werner von Braun’s V-2 rocket to British shores. In fact, Parsons had long conversations with von Braun back into the ’20s about rockets, jet fuel and propulsion and by the time WWII broke out, Parsons was on his way to becoming a very wealthy man. A full-time adherent and true believer in Aleister Crowley’s wacky religion, he had an affair while his wife Helen was away on a trip in June 1941, encouraged by the permissive cult, he began an illicit sexual relationship with his wife’s 17 year-old sister, Sara. Upon his wife Helen’s return, Sara told her sister that she was Jack’s new wife and that Parsons had admitted that he found Sara more attractive than her. With these sorts of hijinks going on, it’s no wonder why the Agape Lodge became so popular in the Hedonistic Hollywood of the ’30s and ’40s, where actors such as David Carradine, Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell, along with the strangest filmmaker ever, Kenneth Anger were also alleged members, attending Gnostic Mass right next door to Jack and Helen Parsons’ home on Winona Boulevard near downtown Hollywood. Jack and Helen Parsons were initiated into the lodge, which was later renamed the Church of Thelema in 1944.

I wrote a little about the importance of Jews emigrating to America before WWII and one of these brilliant scientists was one of these so-called ‘Martians’ from Hungary, Theodore von Kármán, a mathematician and engineer who would form an elite group of rocket scientists at CIT’s Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory (called GALCIT) after anti-Semitic developments in Europe in 1930 caused Kármán to leave Germany for America when he accepted the director position at GALCIT which would go on to be renamed the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Kármán, Malina and Parsons helped manufacture the first JATO (jet assist) rocket engines for NASA in the ’40s and the early story is the subject of the CBS All Access series made in 2018 titled ‘Strange Angel‘ that was canceled too soon and it’s a shame the web series never really got around to the tale about him getting ripped off of all of his money to help buy L. Ron Hubbard’s first yacht, with ‘ol L. Ron also stealing Parsons’ wife along the way. Parsons would die soon after in a fireworks explosion at his lab in 1954 and nobody knows if it was an accident or a suicide.

Thelema and Scientology have ties to one of the oldest cults in history, the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, commonly known as the Rosicrucian Order, the largest Rosicrucian group today, with Grand Lodges worldwide, back in 1615 Lutheran theologian Johann Valentin Andreaea wrote the books Fama Fraternitatis of the Meritorious Order of the Rosy Cross and The Confession of the Rosicrucian Fraternity based on the life of the fictional ‘Christian Rosenkreuz’ where the name was borrowed from the order’s symbol, a rose on a cross, the same as Martin Luther’s family coat of arms. Rosicrucianism had many followers throughout the ages, including the noted English scientist Francis Bacon and although the order was nearly ended by the skepticism and rationalism that flourished during the Enlightenment, some of their ideas have survived to today in Freemasonry, college fraternal orders and sororities and also new age mysticism and cult religions.

At the time of Galileo Gallilei, when Heliocentrism was the hottest topic on Gutenberg Twitter, a Dominican friar named Giordano Bruno, an Italian mathematician, astronomer and poet was one of the first radical thinkers forced underground for his unconventional thoughts on the Universe. Put to death in 1600 for his views on aliens and alien planets, he was ultimately inspired by his belief in Heliocentrism. Just after that, the cult most associated with American history, the  Freemasons or simply Masons, were the direct descendants of the private guild clubs in Britain at the time such as the Oddfellows and Freemasonry has had many cult-like offshoots throughout history, most of them vehemently opposed by the Catholic Church since the early 1700s for many reasons, chief among them their famous secretiveness. John Quincy Adams wrote a popular essay against the Freemasons and the Anti-Freemason mark had been placed on the group long since Mason and President Andrew Jackson stirred the opposition to it’s greatest heights, leading to the Anti-Freemasonry movement of the 1850s.

Another interesting offshoot of Freemasonry is the mysterious ’Illuminati’ of Bavaria, one of the first cults to successfully steal Mason rites and rituals for their own use, on May 1, 1776 Adam Weishaupt founded the Illuminati to stand against the conservative Catholic Church and the monarchy, seeking to replace religion in favor of “illumination” through reason. Adam Weishaupt said of his aim, “Princes and nations shall disappear from the face of the earth peacefully, mankind shall become one family, and the world shall become a haven of reasonable people. Morality shall achieve this transformation, alone and imperceptibly.” Writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe later joined the Illuminati and the secret group gained more popularity in Europe and then especially France, before Bavarian Prince-Elector Karl Theodor ended all the secret handshake fun in 1787 by condemning all Illuminati adherents to death. The Illuminati, among innumerable cults throughout history are probably the most maligned yet, to me at least, along with Giordano Bruno and the ‘Pantheists‘ (the most famous of which may be Baruch Spinoza) are the most rational of any cult in history, however Illuminati founder Weishaupt would later conform to Church heterodoxy and go on to live a long and happy life. When compared with Galileo’s imprisonment (I wrote a bit about this in Kenneth, What is the Frequency?), the message was clear to the clergy from the Mother Church about what to think: don’t even think about thinking for yourself.

In this environment, those who thought for themselves were required to conform their (public) lives to Church dogma and truth mattered not. The Enlightenment was a wave of new thought, introduced by science with the work of Nicholas Copernicus and Isaac Newton in the West, the power and influence of the church waned significantly as a result of this spread of the truth, with Gutenberg’s press widening the truth-schism further after Martin Luther nailed his manifesto to the church wall creating Protestantism. With the associated ‘Dissenters‘ in England who would become the earliest settlers of the United States of America, there are so many Mason symbols used in official US communication that it’s easy to lose track, with the most well-known and widely distributed being the US dollar. Of course many Freemasons would go on to become American heroes, Founding Fathers and also fifteen US Presidents (the last was Gerry Ford) and 13 of the 39 men who signed the Constitution were Masons. Founding Fathers like George Washington, James Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere were Freemasons as well as legends Davy Crockett, Winston Churchill, FDR and Mozart. Also the Mormon Church founders Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow were all Freemasons. The idea of a second coming of Jesus in the Good ‘Ol USA (chant here) was inevitable and anyone who has had the pleasure of taking in the Book of Mormon on Broadway find that these folk are hilarious, if harmless people who tend to be overly kind, sort of like Canadians without the accent and they all owe a debt to Freemasonry.

Before I finish, I have to go after the Nazis, as is my want, where the cult behind Hitler has been well established with studies on esoteric Nazism, Nazi occultism, the influence of the Thule Society in Germany and finally, Nazi Flying Saucers in Antarctica (a real thing). Theosophy, founded in the US by the Russian Madame Blavatsky with it’s fantastical claims of seven races descended from aliens, the psychic and writer was a notorious con artist and ‘para’ figure of the 19th Century with enormous influence in what would usher in the campy, nutty sects that begat new age mysticism, Occultism and also Aryanism. Her weird theories were founded on the myth of an Aryan super race descended from aliens, buried under some mountain in Tibet and only until Steven Spielberg’s phenomenal Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was the story of Nazi occultism exploited for all it’s obvious campy laughs. Cults usually are campy and funny, such as the Cult of Trump, but if you let things get out of hand, the true believers start to believe the bullshit and things can get awfully dangerous and oftentimes they blow themselves up in the process.

This will be a so-called ‘rebuilding year’ for all of us and with the Presidential Election of 2020 in November, following the World Series in October, it’ll present a brand new set of challenges for us all to meet, so when my Red Sox were revealed as cheaters last year as part of the Houston Astros scandal, they immediately fired former Astro and Red Sox manager Alex Cora and shortly after that they traded their two best players — Mookie Betts and David Price — this past week for some measly draft picks to those same Dodgers that the Red Sox cheated against to win the World Series. That 2018 championship trophy will remain with Red Sox Nation forever, however everyone knows that this particular win wasn’t won fairly and squarely and it’ll be tainted forever. You can’t just give the championship back to the real winners, so perhaps businessman John Henry and Tom Werner, the former Hollywood producer, philanthropist and part of the ownership group of the Boston Red Sox, thought that the only honorable thing to do was to offer the Dodgers our two best players as compensation for the hideous crime committed against the Dodgers and their fans, not to mention the great game of baseball. If that’s what happened behind the scenes, then I’m cool with the Sox firing our young and successful manager and trading our best players away. I also recommend that the Red Sox hire cult expert Steven Hassan as their new hitting coach, after all, this team needs some serious professional help after falling prey to a cult of cheaters.

Play ball!

John Underhill
February 6, 2020

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