New Age spirituality has never been my thing. If you're into it, hey, that's cool; it's just not for me. I don't really stay up nights worrying about it, and I certainly haven't given much thought to healing crystals. I've never considered what they do, or where they come from.
But someone has thought about this (besides the people profiting off of it). In May 2018, the New Republic published an article tracing the sources of these supposedly-powerful stones. And perhaps unsurprisingly, it's shadier than one might expect:
I tried to track down the sources of crystals sold on popular websites. I found that some were mined in countries with notoriously lax labor and environmental regulations, and some came from large-scale U.S. mines that have contaminated ecosystems and drinking water. The impacts of extracting crystals are admittedly low compared to those of industrial gold, copper, granite, or rare earth mining, but crystals have gone from a new-age fad to a multi-billion dollar industry. And given that crystals can be used to “make a promise to mama earth,” it would seem important to know how they were extracted from mama earth.
While healing crystals are still a ways away from Blood Diamond levels of volatility, it turns out that many of them do come from ethically questionable mines, often in places like Myanmar or the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even more fascinating is what author Emily Atkin finds about supply lines, distributor relationships, and regulatory standards (or a lack thereof) for those little gems of spirituality. Read the rest
Police in Los Angeles said on Tuesday they have recovered some $800,000 worth of stolen prints by the Scottish abstract expressionist and esotericist Benjamin Creme. Read the rest
In 1986, Canadian musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland recorded a stunning cycle of expansive, meditative, and uplifting synthesizer songs called Keyboard Fantasies. Self-released on cassette, that "New Age multilayered synthesizer music to relax, dance and sing with," as Glenn-Copeland described it, went mostly unheard even as he continued to compose soundtracks, musical theater for children, wrote for Sesame Street, and performed on the Canadian children's TV show Mr. Dressup. Now though, a beautiful reissue from the excellent Seance Centre label has brought Keyboard Fantasies into the sunlight where it belongs. Above, "The Lake Sutra," a brief documentary film following Glenn-Copeland, now in his 70s, to Huntsville, north of Toronto, where he recorded Keyboard Fantasies.
Beverly Glenn-Copeland's Keyboard Fantasies is available from Seance Center on vinyl and, of course, cassette.
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In 1969, Irv Teibel(1938-2010) released a record that would have a profound impact on ambient and New Age music that's continues to this day. "Environments 1: Psychologically Ultimate Seashore" was the first in a catalog of albums that melded pop psychology with environmental sound recording to sooth the mind. Over the years, Treibel's company Syntonic Ressearch Inc. produced 11 albums with 22 soundscapes ranging from "Optimum Aviary" to "Wood-Masted Sailboat" to "Ultimate Heartbeat."
"The music of the future isn't music," Teibel said.
Now, audio archaeologist Douglas Mcgowan, curator of the sublime I Am The Center New Age compilation that I raved about here, Syntonic Research Inc, and the fine folks at Numero Group have brought the Environments catalog to iOS. Environments is now a fantastic $2.99 app with all 22 remastered long-form soundscapes in easily swipeable form. It's intuitive, beautifully minimalist, and a perfect evolution of the original work. Turn on, tune in, chill out.
Environments for iOS (iTunes)
For the whole Environments story, read: Natural Selection (Pitchfork)
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When occult historian Mitch Horowitz's excellent 2009 book Occult America was published, he received a phone call from an admiring fan: Stephen K. Bannon. Over at Salon, Mitch writes about the right wing's weird connection to New Age mysticism:
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(Bannon) professed deep interest in the book’s themes, and encouraged me in my next work, “One Simple Idea,” an exploration of positive-mind metaphysics in American life....
Although the media have characterized Bannon as the Disraeli of the dark side following his rise to power in the Trump administration, I knew him, and still do, as a deeply read and erudite observer of the American religious scene, with a keen appetite for mystical thought.
Ronald Reagan, a hero of his, was not dissimilar. As I’ve written in the Washington Post and elsewhere, Reagan, from the start of his political career in the 1950s up through the first term of his presidency, adopted phrasing and ideas from the writings of a Los Angeles-based occult scholar named Manly P. Hall (1901-1990), whose 1928 encyclopedia arcana “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” is among the most influential underground books in American culture.
President Trump himself has admiringly recalled his lessons in the mystic art of “positive thinking” from the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the Trump family’s longtime pastor, who popularized metaphysical mind-power themes in his 1952 mega-seller “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
What in the cosmos is going on? New Age and alternative spirituality are supposed to be the domain of patchouli-scented aisles of health food stores and bookshops that sell candles and pendulums, right?
Dr. Linda Salvin is a "spiritual doctor, famous psychic, healer, medium" who sells Wicks of Wisdom, $90 candle sets alleged to have special powers. The Rebound Power candle "reverses negativity to the sender" and the Sweetening Judgment Power candle is "excellent for court cases, legal issues and brings them in your favor." (Martin Shkreli should hock his Wu-Tang Clan album and load up on that one.)
"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe in the power of Wicks of Wisdsom" says Salvin in her spectacularly avaricious infomercial. "I have testimony after testimony, and I would not be wasting my time, my energy, or my reputation on national TV. Wicks of Wisdom works, like a prescription for your soul."
The infomercial co-stars Kris Jenner (who she?) as product pitchman.
The YouTube comments on the video will have you weeping with shame for the human race.
Here comes JR "Bob" Dobbs to set things straight:
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Damanhur is a massive, elaborately system of underground temples near Turin Italy. They were built in 1975 by a new age guru, Oberto Airaudi, and his followers. Airaudi passed away, and today about 600 members still live in the community around the temples. The temples are appointed with cartoonishly elaborate murals and I would love to visit them, but if this website is to be believed, Damanhur is a typically creepy cult. Read the rest
BB contributor Mitch Horowitz, author of the excellent Occult America, has a new book due out shortly that traces the fascinating cultural history of the New Age and self-help movement, titled One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life. The roots and impact of "Positive Thinking," from its 19th century occult core all the way to Dale Carnegie's confidence building books and Nike's "Just Do It" campaign, will surprise you. In the video above, Mitch gives a concise summary of One Simple Idea. And over at Time, Mitch wrote a guide to the "The 10 Best Self-Help Books You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of." Mitch writes, "Critics generally view positive thinking as namby-pamby nonsense. But the philosophy has produced ideas that are deeply useful, even profound. You probably believe some of them already." Here are a couple of his selections: Read the rest