Tag Archives: madame blavatsky

191 – Gary Lachman: Use Your Imagination To Change The World

Gary Lachman is a man after our own heart. Not only does he write amazing books on occult figures like Aleister Crowley, Madame Helena Blavatsky, and Colin Wilson, but he started as a musician in the New York New Wave scene in the 1970s (the most exciting time to be a musician ever, in my opinion!) As the bass player of Blondie, he wrote songs like “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear” which talks about the strange ESP and synchronicities that he shared with his girlfriend at the time and it even namechecks theosophy (which might be the only time that’s happened in a Top Ten UK hit!) Later on, he played with Iggy Pop after forming his own band, The Know, a name that was directly inspired by the early Christian Gnostics (a mystery religion that believed that you could interact with God directly instead of through the institution of the Church.)

So, Gary used to write  pop-rock songs based on paranormal themes, which makes him awesome. But since leaving the music business in the 80s, Lachman subsequently moved to London and has been writing books and articles on occult figures and paranormal themes since.

Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts gave me his book A Secret History of Consciousness for Christmas in 2003 and it was the first time I’d heard of Nineteenth Century New Age philosophers like Madame Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner. It was the first book that I read as an adult that shook my materialist worldview to the core and made me see mystery in the world anew. That’s why we had to have him on the show!

gary lachman
Gary Lachman from his feature in the New York Times

So, it’s perfect that Allison and I talk to Gary about his New York rocker youth, some of the occult imagery they appropriated for the New Wave aesthetic, and how he was ejected from David Bowie’s party over a disagreement about an occult author(!)

But then we get into the meat of his research and writing about the Western Esoteric Tradition – that is the philosophical idea that one can achieve Enlightenment through direct interaction with the Divine or the Spirit World instead of a mediated route through a traditional religious institution. Influenced  by everyone from Carl Jung to the guy who wrote Space Vampires, Gary Lachman also gives Allison and I a workshop in integrating the spiritual side of yourself with the materialist parts. Gary covers that in his latest book, The Lost Knowledge of the Imagination.

gary Blachman
President Donald Trump and Pepe The Frog with a Trumpian Combover

But things get really interesting as we preview Gary’s upcoming book on President Trump. Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump is the kind of work that you have to see to believe. We discuss the real power of symbols, the external group consciousness that is the World Wide Web, and much like our conversation with Nick Redfern about The Slenderman, we delve into how social media and the Internet might be affecting reality (just wait until you hear about Meme Magic!)

Make sure to visit Gary’s website and read some of his articles and check out his books. He sets the standard for thoughtful discussion of occult philosophy and detailed research. This interview is a great starting off point because we cover the  basics of the subjects that he goes much more deeply into in his books.

Speaking of deep, since Gary Lachman was the one who introduced me to Madame Blavatsky, the ultra-dramatic Spiritualist who founded the Modern Theosophical Society as well as being one of the key philosophers who ushered East Indian spiritualism into Western society, we thought she’d be the perfect inspiration for this week’s song.

In her most famous book, The Secret Doctrine, the opening stanza discusses “The Night of The Universe”, which is a time in the cycle of creation and destruction where everything is gone back to its original form, the clay of all creation has been crushed and balled back up ready to begin again. It’s a time of no pain or want or trouble  and to us, the perfect inspiration for a lullaby.

Good night universe good night
For everything will sleep
until the morning’s light
The wheel has come to rest
The clock has stopped again
You won’t need to dream
Where there is no pain
open up your perfect eye
It will a brand new day
I say good night universe good night

Good night universe good night
The sun has faded but
The hidden comes to light
A blissful empty
freedom from our brain
Sparks inside the fire
And all links in the chain
Until the great breath
Brings us to life again
I say good night universe good night

145 – Twin Peaks: The Paranormal Influence Underneath TV’s Weirdest Show

In April of 1990, I was 13 years old. I remember very well watching the debut of the pilot of Twin Peaks on that Sunday night (along with 35 million other people) and I didn’t miss an episode after that. I loved the quirky characters, the murder mystery, and the weird dreams, but most of all, I enjoyed spending time in a place where magic was real, ancient demons stalked the Earth, logs could send psychic messages, and we could visit other dimensions in our dreams. My father and I were diehards who watched until the bitter end, upset about the cliffhangers that it left dangling at the second season’s conclusion.


I went into Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me thinking that we’d get a resolution, excited to find out what happened the fate of Audrey from the bank explosion and Cooper in the Black Lodge. I didn’t really care what happened to James, because well, James’ weird love triangle shenanigans were boring by the end of the second season. The movie was all the weirdness of the TV show with little of the comedy and the sex and violence amped up. While I didn’t get the answers I craved, I loved going back into that world.

After the movie failed at the box office and David Lynch seemed to be bitter, I figured that was it. The bad guys won, Laura Palmer’s soul was trapped in the Red Room, and no one would ever know why David Bowie showed up as a ghost or what Jacques Renault meant when he called himself “The Great Went”. I figured it would just be a wonderful bit of nostalgia when I think about junior high. It was my favorite show at the time we were starting our rock band, when I was growing my hair long for the first time, and when I was hitting adolescence head on.

So, I was surprised as everyone else when the revival was announced. I couldn’t wait to go back. I thought that the closest thing we ever were going to get toa  reunion was when Big Ed and Nadine runiting as the bad guys in The People Under The Stairs.


I’m the kind of fan who falls in love the mythology of a fictional universe. My favorite X-Files episodes weren’t the funny standalones, I wanted to know about the alien invasion conspiracy. I cared about the Dharma Initiative in LOST and cared about the answers they promised us. I want to know the history of the conflict between the Klingons and the Federation, I want to lose myself in the universe.

I knew that David Lynch was weird and I was down with that, but it took me until Lost Highway to appreciate his dream logic and to no longer care about coherence in the narrative (and trust me, if you’ve seen any of the Twin Peaks revival, you’ll quickly understand that coherence is the first thing out the window.) But in Twin Peaks, the story isn’t as important as the feeling you get when you hang out there. Sure, the quirky characters are fun and their obssession with coffee, apple pie, and smoking (really, that was probably the last major network series where half the characters unapologetically smoke cigarettes), but it was the world they lived in where you just wanted to spend more time.

The show was artistically fearless years before our current Golden Age of TV, it could be hilarious when it wanted to be, tedious and awkward when it wanted, the camera shots alone could evoke fear and dread, but also intense beauty and high strangeness. There’s a scene in Fire Walk With Me that is easily the top three most terrifying things I’ve ever seen in a visual work. Twin Peaks made me feel things like nothing else I’d ever seen on TV.  And that’s why I love going back.

While nominally a murder mystery and a soap opera parody and a meditation on how Small Town America is often hiding a seedy dark and corrupt underbelly, Twin Peaks is also a cornucopia of otherworldly influences. In this discussion, we try to hit as many as we can and how the real-life paranormal tales  impacted the story of TV’s weirdest show.

While we finish the episode with a little musical homage to Angelo Badlamenti’s incredible Twin Peaks soundtrack, we kicked off the show with discussing the untimely death of Chris Cornell who was certainly a huge influence on our generation. I had first heard Soundgarden’s “Loud Love” in 1990 around the same time I was watching Twin Peaks and of course became a huge fan with Badmotorfinger (in fact, I can’t say how often I’ve thought on a particularly rough hangover day that “I’m looking California and feeling Minnesota”.) We talk a bit about Cornell’s amazing voice, but also how eerie it was that Soundgarden covered Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time Of Dying” (which itself was Zep’s attempt at updating an old Gospel song) at their last show before the singer tragically took his own life.