The Rich Cultural History of AlternaBlasts seems to have struck at least a small nerve, a few comments either finding joy in the blasts or dismissing them outright. I was happy to hear from everyone, but there was one that really stood out. It was from a reader who posts around here fairly often and goes by the name of K. K explored my personal blog a bit and made a statement expressing the idea that Frank Luntz & Rush Limbaugh were kindred spirits to a popular occult organization. Mindzappers! That train of thought pushed me towards other famous occultists, at least ones that admit to it.
Sure, traditionally you have your Jimmy Pages, Kenneth Angers and Jack Parsons (founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory!) William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin both used the tech of their time to cast spells. Gustav Jung had esoteric interests and tendencies. In the present day we have NPR's Margot Adler, a witch; comic book superstars Alan Moore and Grant Morrison are both practicing wizards. Daryl Hall had interest in Aleister Crowley and recorded a song with Fripp based on his teachings. Oo-ee-oo. Fairuza Balk, famous for her starring role in the movie The Craft was once owner of Panpipes Magickal Marketplace, the United States' oldest occult store. Even hip hoppers are into it! Jay Z, Kanye West & Beyonce have all been linked to the satanic illuminati conspiracy! Or not!
So yeah, these people are all in plain view, but the very word occult means hidden so there must be others that aren't that open about their interests... Some think it is such a vast conspiracy you could just pull a name out of the air. What about, say, Walt Disney?
Years ago I was an active member of the online community Barbelith, a gathering place for geeks cut to a certain cloth to discuss weird stuff in general. Lots of members were Philip K. Dick freaks and in an discussion of the movie inside the book Valis an interesting post appeared:
I was a member of a secretive international magical society for five years, and on my initiation to (what I then believed to be) the highest and scariest of its grades, it was revealed to me by my order-superiors that Dumbo – yes, that Dumbo – is in fact an esoteric text on magic, drugs, initiation, and the future of human life on the planet Earth and beyond, Tim Leary/ RAWilson style.
I don’t believe that it would be a significant violation of my magical oaths to drop a hint or two concerning the “initiated” reading of this movie. (I bloody well hope it’s not a violation of my oaths – they were pretty darned specific about what the painful and bizarre consequences would be.)
In the story, Dumbo’s mutation is considered to be a useless, freakish handicap. The potential power that Dumbo possesses goes unseen, by him and by everyone else, in the social reality-tunnel of the world he’s born into (the “circus"). He ends up fulfilling the lowest of the roles available to him in that reality-tunnel: the clown; the “butt”, in fact, of the other clowns’ pratfall routines, good only for being on the receiving end of a custard pie (“Shit-Dumbo! Ass-elephant!").
Dumbo then happens to accidentally ingest a hallucinogenic drug. A psychedelic vision ensues…his reality-tunnel breaks down…and joining him for the ride is his “familiar”, a set of eyes that doesn’t belong to the circus, a small voice that tells Dumbo a different “story” about who he is…
A gap in memory. And the next thing Dumbo remembers is waking up at the top of a very tall tree. How did he end up here? His “familiar” guesses the truth: He flew. Dumbo has the power of flight. That’s what his big ears are for.
At first Dumbo finds it difficult to change his perception of who he is; of the extent of his powers. His familiar introduces him to the world of “ceremonial magick”, and with the assistance of a magickal prop, Dumbo manages – without the use of drugs – to fly.
Eventually, Dumbo manages to manifest his powers even without the use of the paraphernalia of ceremonial magick.
And the heaviest of animals takes to the sky.
The nightmarish “pink elephants” are just those parts of ourselves – the scary, powerful parts – that we forgot to include when we were drawing the map of who we are.
Ganesha breaks the gravity-chains, smashes through the cages of the circus, soars above the train.
Our starry destiny.
A vision of our Mercury-nature so compassionate, so gently teasing, so *loving*, that it makes me break down crying.
(...On a more sinister note, there are hints in the movie about the involvement of the military in Dumbo's evolution.)
PKD wasn't referencing Dumbo in Valis but it was the same idea, people in the know sending coded messages to acolytes. Hidden truths are plain as day when pointed out! Or you can also argue that our histories of myth and symbols are so thick and varied that you can decode ancient hyperborean truths in Dear Abby columns or Wiki Answers.
Since this post was inspired by a commenter I am very curious about what you think, and also would love to hear about other fairly hidden secret doctrines of popular culture.
Because we are hanging out on the WFMU blog I present Sun Ra's version of Pink Elephants synched to the scene from the film -
Sun Ra - Pink Elephants