Discover the secret history of cults, witches, magicians, conspiracies and the supernatural with occultism scholar Rob C. Thompson. His crew of Alchemical Actors explore life’s mysteries with a blend of research, ritual, and old-fashioned radio drama.
18.3: Falun Gong
On April 25, 1999 between ten and sixteen thousand Falun Gong believers, clutching the little blue book of Li Hongzing, gathered outside the Chinese Communist Party's headquarters in Beijing. They stayed from dawn until well after sunset for what was the largest public protest in China since the 1989 democracy movement that resulted in the Tiananmen Square Massacre. For Chinese authorities, Falun Gong or Law Wheel Cultivation was a dangerous “devil cult” worthy of persecution decreed from the very top of the government and party structure. But what was it about this seemingly harmless belief system that the CCP found so threatening?
18.2: Aum Shinrikyo
Panic struck the Tokyo subway on 20 March 1995. Men boarded subway cars with plastic bags and umbrellas, removed the newspaper covering the bags, and punctured them with the sharp tips of the umbrellas releasing sarin gas, a biogological weapon first developed by the Nazis during World War Two, into the underground. Eight of eleven bags were broken open and leaked 159 ounces of liquid sarin onto the cars as they hurtled through the subway system. Twelve people were killed, 1,039 were injured, and 4,460 went the hospital reporting symptoms of exposure. The men were members of Aum Shinkrikyo, a religious organization founded by Shoko Asahara in 1987, and were hoping to spark an armageddon—namely war between Japan and the United States—according to their guru's designs.
18.1: Cult Brainwashing
Brainwashing has long been used to account for why otherwise reasonable people join religious groups deemed strange or aberrant from the standpoint of mainstream society. In the nineteenth century, Mormons were accused of mesmerizing people into joining them. In the 1970s, parents in the anti-cult movement abducted their own adult children and subjected them to forced “de-programming.” Today, the narrative of an individual or group being “brainwashed” by a charismatic leader persists. But is it possible to fundamentally alter a person’s beliefs despite their own better judgment?
17.7: Pagan Saints of Mexico
For centuries, there was one primary saint Mexicans turned to for protection: the Virgin of Guadalupe. Then, beginning in the 1990s, the popularity of a new saint began to take hold: the skeletal Santa Muerte or Saint Death. The Catholic Virgin of Guadalupe overlapped with an ancient Aztec goddess in ways that blurred the boundary between Christianity and paganism. Similarly, Santa Muerte emerged as a liminal and uncertain figure on the edges of Mexican spirituality.
17.6: Tituba in Salem
In January 1692, Village minister Samuel Parris's Indian slave, Tituba, reported seeing his nine-year-old daughter, Betty, and eleven-year-old niece, Abigail, acting strangely. Parris was fully invested in the notion of a satanic conspiracy and beat Tituba to get her to confess to witchcraft. It's likely that much of what the magistrates drew out of Tituba in court can be traced back to Parris. Although Salem hung many for witches in the witch trials, Tituba managed to save herself by cleverly talking around her judges’ expectations.
17.5: The Tainos and Columbus
The celebration of Columbus day had started among Italian Americans in San Francisco and became a national holiday in 1937. Recently, indigenous people and their allies have requested changing the celebration of Columbus Day to the celebration of Indigenous Peoples' Day. While this is, in part, an effort to recognize the place of Native people in America's history and culture, it is also a reaction against Columbus who, detractors say, does not deserve his own holiday. For them, Columbus is a villain. Certainly, Columbus played a central role in the Christianization of the Americas, specifically the Caribbean. His example inspired countless European explorers to cross the Atlantic and initiate ambitious programs of colonization which ultimately decimated native populations. But is the villainization of Columbus based on the fact that he set an example for explorers to follow or crimes committed by the man himself against the Caribbean's indigenous people?
Having a healthy interest in the occult, the Alchemical Actors do a wonderful job of telling you “history of the occult, as far as they know it”. In a light and organized format. It’s interesting, and enjoy listening to them when I can. The Supreme hierophant and students have a great project and I hope that they keep it up for years to come.
10/10 would recommend lol
Dr. Rob all day!
I could listen to Dr. Rob ALL day! Olivia is so annoying with all her, “likes”, “do you know what I mean?”, “did that make sense?”. Argh! It takes away and distracts from the interesting content that I want to hear about.