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Mackay, Dr. Charles
(1814-1889) Author of the remarkable book Extraordinary Popular Delusions (1841) and its successor, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1843), Mackay was alarmed at the widespread belief in the wild speculations, the lack of common sense and the acceptance of supernatural subjects that he found in his society, and expressed his concern very well. He was an astute observer of conditions that he might well be dismayed — but not surprised — to discover are still very much with us today.
His book, reprinted by Crown Publishers, is highly recommended.
An attempt to supplant natural processes and events by means of incantations, spells and/or offerings. Approximated by conjuring and often attempted by prayer. Magic and science are exact opposites in every way.
Magic can be divided into three very general categories: divinatory (determining hidden information), sympathetic (affecting some aspect of nature by performing upon a similar object/person/symbol), and ritual (reciting a prayer, incantation, charm, or carrying out an accepted formality).
See also sympathetic magic.
According to the Bible (Numbers 19:1), the ashes of a red, unblemished, sacrificed heifer are to be used for magical purification purposes. Not widely used nowadays.
The inscribed circle within which the magus stands while invoking demons. He is protected while within that circle. The figure must be set up according to carefully formulated rules.
The circle is drawn on the ground with the point of a new sword, proper symbols are inscribed along the circumference, and appropriate words are whispered.
In ancient Assyria, a sick person was protected from the effects of demons by having a circle of flour drawn about his bed. In India, it is a circle of black pebbles.
Magician, Mage, Magi
Usually, by tradition, a baton made of hazel or ash wood. The magic wand is the equivalent of a specialized talisman used to facilitate the invocation of the magician's spell. Conjurors today have largely abandoned the affectation of carrying and wielding such a prop, though it was almost universal and expected throughout the nineteenth century. To the conjuror, it has served as a mode of misdirection.
A sensory illusion in which a road or path appears to have a slight upgrade but is actually minimally downhill.
This can be brought about by false optical indicators. One such occurs when nearby trees, road signs, or fence posts in the area are inclined somewhat away from the vertical, a condition which may have come about from a long-forgotten geological shift. The tendency for the senses is to automatically assume that trees and other such objects are positioned at right angles to the horizontal, and with some persons the sense of sight overcomes that of the balance organ (located in the ear) which normally gives us our conception of the position of the horizontal.
Stories abound of cars that run uphill at these locations with the ignition turned off, when actually they are coasting downhill. If it is possible to stand far enough back from the site so that the greater surroundings are also seen, it will be noticed that the illusion then fails.
A strong example of this deceptive effect is found at the “Oregon Vortex,” a site on Interstate I-5 near Gold Hill, Oregon, near the California-Oregon border. The thousands of visitors who visit the area annually go away convinced that they have witnessed a genuine unexplainable miracle.
(plural, magi) Originally, a Zoroastrian priest, but now used to denote a magician, a person who seeks to control nature by means of spells and incantations. Or, loosely used, it designates a conjuror, which see.
(1957?- ) Leader of the Divine Light Mission, a cult that was brought with great success in 1971 to the United States. At one point, the mission boasted forty-five ashrams in the United States alone, peopled with disciples who worked long hours and unquestioningly gave all their earnings to the Maharaj Ji.
The overweight teenage guru, addressed as “Lord of the Universe” by his devotees, was driven about in a Rolls-Royce whenever he was not roaring down the street on one of his collection of high-powered motorcycles. He promised followers that they would “receive the knowledge” after a period of study and work, during which they donated all their income to him.
The mission had as its membership mostly middle-class young people, who were taught that rational thought is the supreme enemy and were urged to immediately commence meditation whenever the thinking process threatened to return.
The Maharaj Ji announced that the “most significant event in the history of humanity” would take place, “Millennium '73,” at the Houston Astrodome. The arena was rented at a frightening price and admission was free, but only twenty thousand of the expected sixty thousand persons showed up. It was a bust, especially financially.
The Mission published a slick color magazine titled And It is Divine, and one issue featured psychic Uri Geller on the cover, during a time when the two superstars, it was rumored, were planning to join forces. It never happened.
Plans for a Divine City peopled only by mission members came and went. “Receiving the knowledge” turned out to be a process of seeing “heavenly lights” when pressing on the eyeballs, hearing “blissful music” when the ears were stopped up, tasting “divine nectar” when the head was thrown back with the tongue turned inward, and receiving a mantra nonsense word. The sensory illusions were quite natural and easily understood physiological phenomena, the “nectar” being simply nasal secretions dripping into the throat. Only the very naive were convinced that they had been let in on some sort of celestial secret. The big promise fizzled.
In 1974 Maharaj Ji married his secretary Marolyn Lois Johnson, who he had discovered was the reincarnation of the ten-armed, tiger riding goddess Durga. His mother revolted against this alliance and tried to regain her former position as female leader of the sect by announcing that her other son, Bal Bhagwan Ji, was thenceforth the divine head of the cult. Disillusionment set in, and in 1975 Maharaj Ji's mother and brother sued him for their share of the wealth that had been accumulated. Then everyone sued everyone else, and the Divine vanished when the Light went out.
In 1981, Maharaj Ji showed up uninvited at a rock concert at Glastonbury, England, driven in a white Rolls-Royce. He preached a few moments for an uninterested audience, and motored away when someone switched off the microphone. The god business is often not as enthusiastically supported as a god might wish.
Maharaj Ji has been variously reported as now living in Denver, Colorado, and in Australia. There has not been a concerted effort to locate him.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
See Transcendental Meditation.
Malicious Animal Magnetism
Also known to followers of Christian Science as “M.A.M.,” this was first postulated by Mary Baker Eddy in her system for divine healing. It was an idea borrowed from Mesmer, who at first thought that he had discovered a form of biological magnetism, but it turned out to be a form of suggestion that affected susceptible persons.
At the age of fifty-six (she gave her age as forty), the founder of Christian Science married Gilbert Asa Eddy, a sewing machine salesman. It was her third marriage. In a stirring court trial, Mrs. Eddy accused her husband of trying to send arsenic, via M.A.M., into her body. The charges, including witchcraft, were dismissed as groundless.
No evidence for any such sort of force has ever been produced, but it remains an article of faith with Christian Science.
See also Mary Baker Eddy.
(“Hammer of Witches”) Two Dominican monks, Heinrich Kramer (1430-1505) and Jacob Sprenger (1436-1495), earned their unenviable place in history by writing this book. It was published, in Latin, in 1486, and became the virtual handbook for witch-hunters. It contains a complex, convoluted discussion of the world of demons and how these infernal beings related to and interacted with humans. The book appeared in three dozen editions and in English, French, German, and Italian.
The Malleus also gave explicit instructions on how suspected witches were to be discovered, tortured, forced into confession, tried, and executed. It directed, by the procedures outlined, that the accused would eventually be found guilty, regardless of the evidence.
The book served as a guide to the Holy Inquisition for more than a century.
See malicious animal magnetism.
From the Sanskrit word for “circle.” A symbol of the cosmos, usually circular, with a god-symbol or name at the center, inscribed on charms or used in rituals. The four cardinal points are also often represented. Large versions are often sold as decorative wall-pieces to tourists who are unaware of its true function.
(also, mandragore or mandragora) A plant, Mandragora officinarum, related to the potato. The root is a tuber, and it often grows in the shape of a human body. The more it resembles a body, the more valuable the root is believed to be for magical purposes. Mandrake is sold whole in oriental pharmacies and in powdered form and pills as well. The German mystics keep foot-high figures of old sorceresses, richly dressed and comfortably housed, some of which are mandrake roots in drag. In Norway the figures are consulted for advice. Really.
A certain problem exists with harvesting the root. When the plant is drawn from the ground, it is supposed to emit a horrendous humanlike shriek that will drive a human insane. A solution is arrived at by tying the plant to a dog's tail and encouraging the dog to pull it up. By that means the prize is obtained, since dogs are luckily immune to the dreadful sound.
It is mentioned in the Bible, Genesis 30:14, as a substance that assured fecundity. This account involves trading some mandrake roots for a night with another's wife, or some such deal. In any case, the assignation reportedly produced a male child, even though the mandrake roots were not consumed. Truly magical.
(1955- ) A U.K. imitator of Uri Geller. He also performs spoon-bending and other claimed paranormal effects. In recent years, Manning has taken on the role of healer, lecturing on the subject internationally.
See also faith healing.
(from the Sanskrit; also, mantram) A secret talisman word assigned to devotees of various mystical movements. It is determined not by divine inspiration, as often claimed, but from information such as birth date and the date on which the student first began affiliation with the movement. In some usages, the mantra is supposed to be used by the owner to attain spiritual contact by repeating it endlessly, or to summon up a source of spiritual power.
The best-known mantra is “Om mani padme hum,” used by Tibetan Buddhists. The simplest is just the word “Om,” attributed to the guru Trimurti. It is recognized in psychology that the constant repetition of a word or phrase (known as echolalia when performed by autistic persons) can be comforting and soothing to the disturbed mind.
This is a peculiar skill claimed by a few dowsers. It consists of swinging a pendulum (or just the hand or any other preferred device) over any piece of paper that represents a map of an area of land, and thereby finding anything from lost children to buried treasure. The map, most practitioners claim, can even have all coordinates removed, can be of any unspecified scale, in color or not, or be of an unknown part of the globe. A review of a book on the subject in Nature magazine in 1940 said:
The fact that such a thing [dowsing over maps with a pendulum] is seriously mentioned [in the book] is calculated to undermine the reader's faith in the author's critical faculty.
In England, Dr. Julian Huxley, F.R.S., said in 1942 that he had been present at a test of this claim at Oxford and that the diviner failed both with water and with minerals. He added that, in his opinion, the alleged finding of water by means of dowsing over a map was a belief that “belongs in the Middle Ages” and was “certainly not worthy of credence.”
An obviously powerful god in Assyrian mythology, who split Tiamat, mother of the gods, into two parts, thus creating heaven and Earth. Not presently a generally popular belief.
See Crandon, Margery.
In spiritualism, the production of any substance or item, particularly of a human figure or part of one, at a séance. The materialization can be an apport or can use ectoplasm in its formation. Materializations are often accompanied by strange (pleasant or unpleasant) odors and/or sounds. This is congruent, to the skeptical mind, with the possibility that the phenomena may be accomplished by trickery. And trickery has very often been the solution to the puzzle. It's true!
(1663-1728) A minister of Boston who was notorious for his merciless persecution of accused witches in Salem, New England. He presided at the trials and executions.
Cotton Mather, the clergyman/zealot who sent witches to their deaths in Salem.
See also Increase Mather and Salem witch trials.
(1638-1723) Father of Cotton Mather, and no more pleasant nor intelligent than his son.
See also Salem witch trials.
When used by the spiritualists in the sense of agent, instrument, or vehicle, this word refers to the person who is said to be able to bridge the gap between the living and the dead or to produce voices, artifacts (apports), writing, or other evidence of survival-after-death.
See also séance.
A person who performs a theatrical act which appears to use psychic forces but is actually done by ordinary conjuring means. The psychic often uses these methods, but is differentiated from the mentalist in that he or she claims that they are genuine powers.
See also Joseph Dunninger and Kreskin.
In acupuncture and in qi gong, there are twelve major meridians in the body, mythical channels through which flows the qi, a gas/fluid/plasma/essence which is the basis for traditional Chinese medicine. Because of their spiritual nature, the meridians cannot be found by pathological examination of the body, nor are they visible or discoverable by any other means.
See also parsimony.
A mythical magician who is said to have managed the birth of Britain's King Arthur and to have practically ruled early England through his powers and his influence on Arthur. Said by some to have been the son of Satan.
In the traditional story, Merlin does not die, but is spirited away to the Isle of Avillion, wherever that may be.
Mesmer, Dr. Franz Anton
(1734-1815) This Viennese medical doctor, who had written his dissertation on the effects of the planets on the health of the human body, after seeing a healing demonstration by a priest named Hell, formed the belief that a magnet could induce healing powers in those who held them. He displayed the procedure, which he called animal magnetism, during popular sessions that he held for French society, beginning in 1778. The phenomenon soon was dubbed Mesmerism.
Anton Mesmer, the man who started all the fuss about “hypnotism” and “trances.”
His soirées were theatrical rather than therapeutic, and the crème of French aristocracy elbowed one another aside for the privilege of seeing customers sitting around a huge vat of acid (called a baquet), holding on to iron devices immersed in the solution, while the master, dressed in a trailing lilac-colored robe of gold-flowered silk, gestured with his ivory wand at entranced socialites who gurgled, sighed, and moaned when they weren't screaming in ecstasy at their latest expensive diversion.
An investigation of Mesmer in 1784 by the French Academy of Sciences, in the company of U.S. ambassador Benjamin Franklin, brought the conclusion that Mesmer was merely using suggestion and that the clients were the usual silly segment of the populace who endorse and support such fads.
A system of statistically analyzing very large numbers of already-published experiments each of which may not, in itself, be significant, and extracting from them information to be looked at with a view to obtaining validation of the sought-after effect. Only if an overall application of faulty procedures has been applied, or experimental results have been generally misreported, could properly applied meta-analytic procedures falsely indicate positive results. This procedure is gaining popularity among parapsychologists, who seem to always have miserable luck with simple, directly applied scientific methods and analysis of results.
(micro-psychokinesis) A term developed by the parapsychologists to describe very tiny effects not necessarily observable to the eye when, for example, spoons are bent by ostensibly psychic means and scanning-electron microscopes are needed to notice any change. Also the term describes seeming psychic influences on electronic random-number generators and other such sensitive equipment that may require very minute inputs of energy to affect them.
Parapsychologist Helmut Schmidt performed such experiments at the Mind Science Foundation years ago, and the results were reported as phenomenal. However, for some reason, they were never followed up on and the excitement died down.
First on April 3 and July 7, 1843, and then again on March 21 and October 22, 1844, preacher William Miller (1782-1849) told his followers to expect the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The event did not occur. His group, the Millerites, broke up shortly after that and the basic philosophy was adopted by Ellen G. White (1827-1915), who founded the Seventh-Day Adventists. Another spin-off religion was the Jehovah's Witnesses.
White had been experiencing prophetic/divine dreams since age fifteen, so that she naturally felt she had to start a religion. Wisely, the Adventists did not set a date for the Second Coming, thus avoiding a certain inescapable and troublesome problem of reconciling fact with expectation. They only said “Soon.” They are still saying “Soon.”
In her book, pretentiously titled Health: Or, How to Live, White declared herself against: corsets, drinking, meat, smoking, spicy food, sex (in particular, masturbation), wigs, and just about everything else except air and small rocks. She was against any sort of medication and preached against seeing a physician for any medical problems.
However, the present Seventh-Day Adventist church operates seventy-three hospitals, plus hundreds of clinics and fifty-four hundred colleges and secondary and elementary schools in the United States. Its School of Medicine at Loma Linda, California, a prestigious facility famous for radical medical innovations, is a strange contradiction for a religious movement that began as vehemently anti-doctor and anti-medication.
See Bacon, Roger.
Mirandola, Count Giovanni Pico da
(1463-1494) An Italian philosopher, astrologer, and mystic who specialized in studies of the kabala. He was a brilliant scholar from an early age, and ran afoul of the church very soon, being accused of heresy. His powerful family connections saved him. Despite his being mired in the superstitions of his day, he nonetheless contributed some original and bold ideas in his writings.
Mitchell, Edgar D.
(1930- ) Dr. Mitchell was the sixth man to walk on the Moon, as part of the Apollo XIV project, in 1971. After he retired from the space program in 1972, he founded the Institute for Noetic Sciences, devoted to the study of parapsychology, and particularly the relationship of humans to purported psi forces.
While engaged in his visit to the Moon, Mitchell performed an unauthorized experiment in ESP. He used a self-made deck of the 25 Zener cards and attempted to transmit these images to his recipients on Earth at predetermined times. The results of his experiment were reported in an enthusiastic New York Times article as “far exceeding anything expected.” The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research says, however, that
the results of the test were ambiguous, success or failure rating depending upon the evaluation techniques used.
Neither of these versions of the Mitchell experiment are correct, for the following reasons. There were actually fourintended recipients on Earth; only the results of one were reported as exciting. The predetermined times for mental transmission were changed, but the recipients were not informed, so that they may have been “receiving” before or after the images were being “sent”; one recipient received more images than were sent. After careful mathematical analysis with the assistance of parapsychologist Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine, the Mitchell results were declared to be three-thousand-to-one against pure chance. They were, but negatively; the results were so negative that the chances of missing to that degree were three-thousand-to-one.
Dr. Mitchell believes in plant perception — that plants can feel and understand the thoughts of humans — as described by Cleve Backster, though the two gentlemen are almost alone in that belief. Mitchell also was involved in testing the claims of Uri Geller and believes that Mr. Geller has genuine psychic powers.
Moons of Mars
British satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), in his four-volume work Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World,better known now as Gulliver's Travels, described a mythical advanced kingdom where the astronomers had discovered that the planet Mars had two small moons in orbit very close to the surface. That fact was unknown — and unknowable — at that time (1726) and was not determined until 151 years later in 1877 when astronomer Asaph Hall, at the U.S. Naval Observatory, observed the planet and its moons during a favorable opposition. This provided a mystery, which was amplified by modern UFO fans into a theory that Swift had been visited by extraterrestrials who had informed him of this fact.
The eminent Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1540-1601) had supported a numerological argument that, since Mercury and Venus (the planets nearest to the Sun) had no moons, the Earth had one, and Jupiter (the second planet out from the Earth) had four (known) moons, that in order to preserve the harmony of the universe, Mars (between Earth and Jupiter) must have two satellites (see table following). Since these moons had not been detected, Tycho reasoned sensibly that they must be very small and close to the planet. This satellite-progression idea was accepted in Swift's time, and it appears that he reflected this fact and incorporated it into his writings.
Moses, Rev. William Stainton
(1839-1892) A spirit medium who first began operating as such at the age of thirty-three, after a distinguished career as a clergyman. Moses was inspired by the success of Daniel Dunglas Home, who he saw performing.
He became famous in England for his production of apports of every sort of object, including perfumes and scented oils which often ran down his face. He claimed that his control, or spirit guide, was named Imperator. He also did automatic writing and produced “spirit lights” as part of his performance.
He was one of the founders of the British National Association of Spiritualism, and later of the Society for Psychical Research.
In the 1920s, a mystic named James Churchward invented an attractive scenario involving a lost Pacific continent named Mu, which he said was first written about by the ancient Maya. Churchward based his stories of Mu on an imaginary translation of Mayan documents by Abbé Basseur, another mystic of the previous century. In actuality, these documents have never been translated.
A series of books on Mu appeared, but when the evidence Churchward had offered, artifacts and documents from Mu, proved spurious, interest waned. Mu, the Atlantis of the Pacific, sank out of sight and out of mind. However the books are still published. No facts are allowed to interfere with profit.
(1798-1864)? The fictitious character created by Mrs. (Hugh) Virginia Tighe of Denver, Colorado, at the suggestion of investment broker/amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein in 1952. In trance, Mrs. Tighe relived a colorful nineteenth-century life, speaking in a heavy brogue, using typically quaint Irish expressions (some, unfortunately for the theory, not in use in the nineteenth century), and giving details of her former life in Cork. It was all believed to be a sterling case of either reincarnation or possession. The possibility of imagination never came up.
Then, investigations by the Denver Post and the Chicago American, later followed up by writer Melvin Harris, showed that as a child Mrs. Tighe had lived across the street from an Irishwoman whose maiden name was Bridie [sic] Murphy. This woman had entertained Virginia with tales of her early life in Ireland. Also, as a teenager, Virginia had been featured in school theatricals playing Irish parts and using an Irish brogue. The kindest interpretation that one can put on this matter is that Mrs. Tighe had undergone classic cryptomnesia.
This highly publicized playlet resulted in a hit popular song by Nat King Cole, a motion picture, several best-selling books, and an LP recording of the trance session.
The art, highly developed by the conjurors, by which an operator can perform apparent ESP demonstrations by “reading” the involuntary movements and reactions of a spectator. Commonly, the demonstration involves locating a hidden object or performing a simple task, the nature of which is unknown to the operator. The spectator, who must know the withheld information, is asked to concentrate on making the demonstration a success.
In most cases, the operator is in contact with the spectator, either by grasping his wrist, holding a handkerchief also held by the spectator, or having the spectator hold him by the arm. This is known as “contact” muscle reading.
“Noncontact” muscle reading is more difficult. It consists of having the spectator follow the performer about and reading his hesitation patterns. Much experience is required for either system, and the results are very startling. The art is often referred to as “Hellströmism,” after one Alex Hellström (1893-1933), who made it popular early in the twentieth century. Another prominent performer was the Hungarian Franz Polgar, and today Russia's Lev Schneider is the leading artist in the field.
Yet another name for the art is “Cumberlandism,” after the English performer Stuart Cumberland.X