This is the post that I meant to have up Saturday. Tomorrow’s will be today’s. You know what I mean. Sorry.
Early on during my time at Marvel, at a convention in New York City, I met a comics fan who was a part-time astrologer. He had a regular day job, some bookkeeping or accounting-type thing, but on the side, he did horoscopes. He liked what I had to say at some panel I was on, thought I seemed like an interesting subject and volunteered to do my chart. Free. Okay. I gave him my date and time of birth and the city where I was born.
A couple of weeks later, he stopped by the Marvel offices to deliver his work, a hand-drawn astrological chart and his analysis of same.
The chart was beautiful. Framable. I still have it, packed away somewhere in the storage space.
What he came up with was startling. His analysis detailed things about me that nobody knew but people very close to me, and a few things that only I knew. Things that, I assure you, would have been nigh impossible to find out.
Like what? Well, he knew that I almost died shortly after being born. Something to do with blood, he supposed. Yes, because of Rh factor problems, I needed seven complete transfusions in the first three days of my life. One of my parents’ neighbors, one Adam Corcoran, donated the blood that saved my life.
The astrologer knew many other things about my family and childhood that spooked me out.
Did he fly to Pittsburgh and check the records at Mercy Hospital? Did he call and interview my mother and my sister?
Mother and sister said no, he didn’t. I didn’t enquire of the hospital.
I showed the chart and analysis to my girlfriend, JP. (Has anyone noticed that there are an awful lot of “J’s” in my life—right, JayJay Jackson?) JP loved horoscopes and such. So I asked the guy do her chart. Paid him. Not cheap. The first one’s free…then, you’re hooked. : )
The guy did her chart and our chart together.
The analysis of her chart, like mine, was spooky-accurate. He correctly said she was divorced, two kids, a boy and a girl, and he got their ages right. He described her perfectly. He nailed things about her personality and a few personal things that only she could have clued him in on. She didn’t.
I met JP in another city, where she lived, a couple of hundred miles away. We had a long-distance relationship. I kept my personal life private. No one I knew in New York had ever met her. Not one person among my New York friends and acquaintances so much as knew her name, much less knew her personally.
And remember, this was long before the World Wide Web.
The analysis of our chart together was troubling. It said that our relationship wouldn’t last. It said that she would have two affairs “…with men who earned their livings using sticks or weapons.”
We laughed about that.
Because of the distance between us, which meant that we couldn’t see each other as often as we wished, we had agreed that we’d keep things casual. No commitment. No strings. Que será, será.
But, the fact was, we were both into it big time. When we were together it was…you know. When we weren’t, it was difficult.
As my job became more and more consuming, we got together less and less.
I was lonely. Once in a while, I went out with other girls.
She was lonely. She met, and had a brief fling with a professional hockey player for the Buffalo Sabres. No, I won’t give you his name.
Then she met and dated a ranked pro tennis player.
Sticks or weapons….
That second fling developed into a relationship that ended ours.
If she had tried to fulfill the prophecy, I think it would have been difficult.
The chilling accuracy of the astrologer’s work still haunts me.
Telling Tarot Readings
At a party at someone’s house shortly before I was promoted to Editor in Chief, Chris Claremont’s new bride, Bonnie, a New Age type (my characterization, probably not what she would say), did a Tarot card reading for me. I had never heard of Tarot. It was a lark.
The reading proved to be eerily accurate, foretelling of success, but great difficulties and great strife. Okay, that all was a reasonable guess, considering the stressful times.
Many years later, post-VALIANT, a friend, the Fulbright Scholar “hedge witch” mentioned in a previous post, wanted to read my Tarot and I acquiesced. She knew me, and so some of the things she said weren’t shocking, but she didn’t know me that well, so a few things about me that she brought up, things that even her husband who knew me better didn’t know, surprised me.
Yeah, yeah, whatever.
Years later, at a time when I was unemployed and struggling, the hedge witch called me and asked, no, insisted that I have an “ifa divination” done by a Dutch South African man named Jaap Verduijn, who, she said, was remarkable. Ifa divination would take too long to explain here, but if you’re interested, here’s the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ifa_divination
It cost $55. I told Hedgy I really wasn’t interested and didn’t want to waste the money. She volunteered to pay for it. She thought it was that important.
To please her, I agreed to do it, and no, I did not let her pay.
The drill was the same as with the horoscope—date, time and place of birth. September 27, 1951, at the stroke of noon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, if anyone was wondering.
The divination, more of an analysis of one’s life and specific instructions for how to improve it, actually, was interesting overall and amazing in places.
One thing he said, right off the bat, was that I wore too much black. I should put more color into my life. I did wear black a lot. Still do. I got in the habit when I was travelling a lot on business. Black is very forgiving. Get a spot on a white shirt with no time to get back to the hotel and change and you look like a slob all day….
Here are a few passages from the very long document. The underscores are mine:
Story of my life.
I’ll keep this one short. I had my tonsils removed when I was 22 years old. On the way to the hospital (on my Yamaha TX750, by the way) I had the near-irresistible urge to turn around, call it off. No reason at all.
I was prepped for surgery. Lying on a gurney amid a horde of five or six year olds, also on gurnies, also there for tonsillectomies, all staring at me, wondering what the giant was doing there, that feeling came back. If I hadn’t been on pre-op tranks that made me woozy, I would have gotten up and left.
In the operating room, the anesthesiologist began administering the sodium pentothal or whatever. He told me to count backwards from 100. I got as far as 99…
…then I felt my heart stop! I stopped breathing!
I had the sensation of falling down a well into blackness. I could hear chaos, shouting, but it seemed father and farther away every second.
Then suddenly I was wide awake. I sat bolt upright. They’d shot me full of epinephrine to counter the anesthetic.
I felt like playing football! Or running a marathon!
The doctor loudly growled at the anesthesiologist, “SHALL WE TAKE IT FROM THE TOP?!”
They did. The tonsils came out. I lived.
It’s actually a science fiction story. A scientist finds a way to make a fundamental change in the universe which effectively makes him godlike. The change he engineers unintentionally causes one man, John Michael, to become chaos-empowered, leading to apparent psychic phenomena happening to and around him, though at first he doesn’t understand or believe what’s happening.
The cast of characters closely parallels certain Major Arcana of the Waite deck. In this scene, after John has had an inexplicable premonition that enabled him to save his mother’s life, his New Age-type secretary reads his Tarot.
INT. AD AGENCY – CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY
John is working. Ruthie enters carrying a pack of cards.
<style=”text-align: center;”> RUTHIE
Can I throw your Tarot, Mr. Psychic Hero, sir?
<style=”text-align: center;”> JOHN
Sorry. Not interested. The famous Nannet King herself told me that fortune-tellers are bullshit.
I’m not a fortune-teller. With Tarot, you influence the cards and I only tell you what they say. And I can’t wait to see what they say about you!
All right. What the Hell.
Ruthie has John shuffle. She’s using the Waite deck.
Contemplate whatever you want to know about.
She lays out a Celtic Cross. As she turns up the cards (which have the names on them) we see them clearly.
(Turning up the Hanged Man)
The first card represents you. You’re firmly attached to your beliefs, but they’re being challenged. Love and desire have led you to suffering. You’re at the end of your rope…
John gives Ruthie a suspicious look.
That’s what it means. Really.
(Turning up the Fool)
This represents someone trying to help you. The Fool puts himself and his pleasure first, but he can be a brave, if foolhardy ally.
(Turning up Death)
This means, well, death, or maybe a big change.
(Turning up the High Priestess)
Ah. She represents your roots, your support, or whatever makes you who you are. She’s spiritual power, inner strength and the source of luck.
(Turning up the Hermit)
This guy’s a hidden but important factor. A problem-solver, but someone you wouldn’t expect.
(Turning up the Magus)
This card represents what used to be. The Magus is the energy, the power in everything, everywhere.
(Turning up the Devil)
This card represents what’s ahead. The Devil means bad times,or a revolutionary new situation.
(Turning up the Tower)
The Tower stands for a struggle between extreme opposites.
(Turning up the Lovers)
This one stands for your dreams or fantasies. Um, moving right along…
(Turning up the Empress)
She represents an outside influence. She’s beauty, sensuality, eroticism, willfulness and material power.
(Turning up the Hierophant)
The Hierophant, or High Priest. He’s an opener of doors, an enabler.
(Turning up the Universe)
The twelfth card, which represents the key element, is the Universe.
(Turning up the Judgment)
The thirteenth card, signifies an impending decision or outcome. Amazing. Every single card is one of the Major Arcana. I’ve never seen that happen before.
So what’s it mean?
I think it means that you’re going to agonize over making a career change and you’re going to meet a really pretty but stuck-up girl.
(Trying to sound sincere)
Thanks for the reading, Ruthie.
In the end, John overcomes the enemy and the universe is restored, as it was—with no one but John left aware of what transpired. He is not yet sure who survived the reversal and who didn’t.
His secretary again wants to do a reading. Three cards are missing—those that represent the three major antagonists.
INT. JOHN’S OFFICE – DAYRuthie enters with a wrapped deck of cards.
John, look what I got. A brand new Tarot deck. Let me do you a reading.
Do I have a choice?She opens the pack and sorts through the cards.
Heyy! The Devil…the High Priest… and the Empress are missing!
Hmh. Bliss, Luse and Monica…
I got a defective pack!
Maybe not. Maybe that’s my reading.
John flips through the deck. He comes to the Fool.
I guess he’s still with us.
Vinnie walks in.
NEXT: Byrne’s Superman Plot and More
NEXT WEEKEND: My Final, and Most Intense October Tale
It is refreshing to see an intelligent discussion here which doesn't resort to name-calling, most often directed at those who have faith of some sort…as so I.
Like many who've posted here, I don't hold a lot of stock in Tarot readings, astrology and the sort. I DO think, as several have suggested, some of this is, in fact, demons mentioned by an early poster (sorry, I'd give you name credit, but I'd have to keep scrolling back and forth). That said, I do think things occur that we can't explain. My gut reaction would be to agree that the acts are perpetuated by demons, but I don't know that we can prove it. Many Christians (I are one) are quick to accept the good and reject the bad (like demons). I am ready to accept the bad things, too…I just don't have the explanations.
Again, how exciting it is to see such banter here. Reminds me why this is the only blog I read…dare I say it?…religiously.
That must be why W.C. Fields believes he'll have another beer.
Of course there is a God.
You need proof?
He created beer to prove that he loves us.
(to paraphrase the late, great Ben Franklin)
Re: Off topic
Good good. I used to run a pretty large forum. IIRC it was the 2nd largest paintball forum at the time (yes, I totally geeked out at JJ's Marvel squad pics). We tried to avoid 'hot' topics like religion and politics for the most part. But our mean age of user was probably early 20s and the maturity level was a big factor in that policy.
But I LOVE to debate and argue. I work from home with my 5 yr old and use the internet for my 'adult' conversation time.
We don't have any lines to cross re: "too far off topic" yet, and we probably won't, unless it becomes an issue that a lot of people who visit here feel strongly about. I, for one, am enjoying all the back and forth about pretty much everything so far. I learn a lot reading the comments.
Two things – and I hope this isn't bad form to go too far off topic. Different forums/blogs have ideas on what is toooo far off topic. So if I or others cross that line, let us know :o)
1) I believe the Biblical warning is two fold. First off there is the chance these people are aligned with genuine dark forces. But even more likely, and relevant today, is these people are liars, false prophets, flim flam artists. If one takes their word as truth they could steer you wrong in a number of ways.
You are correct that there is a part of our brain that is linked to the concept of God. We are unique in our ability to be able to comprehend the concept of a higher power. Anthropologists think our 'need' for religion was one of the things that brought about early civilization http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text
I am glad you came to the conclusion that being religious or believing in God doesn't mean you are stupid or have brain damage ;o) I have found that many of those who are ready to call others idiots, they themselves believe in some rather illogical ideas, with little more than 'faith' backing them up.
I do like Penn Gillette. He is one of my favorite atheists. Unlike others, he isn't a huge dick about it all the time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhG-tkQ_Q2w
A few times Neal has explained various theories of his to me, including "expanding Earth." I think he came up with that and other theories on his own, extrapolating from certain facts and observations. I don't agree with most of his conclusions.
I will say that sometimes simple observations and "fantastic" theories based upon them prove true. When I was in grade school, every little kid who looked at a map noticed that Africa seemed to fit together with the Americas and wondered if they were stuck together once and somehow were pulled apart. When seafloor spreading became better understood in the late 50's/early 60's, it supported theories continental drift and plate tectonics (which had been around for a long time). Those theories, which said that continents moved, sounded pretty fantastic before then. But, as it turned out, us little kids were right.
At some point, some years back, I read that it had been found that, upon monitoring with electrodes, there was a "Christmas tree light" response in certain areas of some brains in response to religious messages/belief. In only one particular area, that didn't respond to other ideas. As if there were a programmed-in response center. Prewired, so to speak—in-born.
I don't know, of course, whether that is a "Calling Us All Back Home" response, or it's just a case of Superstition Mountain, something that the primitive brain is allowed to have to fill in with whatever the belief is that they were given culturally, but I recall—it may even have been in the Science section of the New York Times that I read this—it was found in a great many people tested, but not all. The upshot is that people who all "professed strong faith" in a higher power had it; the ones who didn't, didn't have the response. Which would mean that many of us may not have the programmed area to respond to such beliefs. Or it may mean that as humans evolve, that area of the brain is less and less present, a vestigial area, like the vermiform appendix. We need less mysticism; we need more empirical data, and many of us have evolved to handle this.
It could also mean something else entirely, of course; that it is an area that developed in response to a certain type of upbringing, or whatever. But it was intriguing, and those that conducted the study did not expect to find it. I remember it annoyed them because it reinforced the beliefs of people they thought of as crazy (which at one point, until a certain experience in my life, I thought too), and suggested another mechanism was at work.
This could mean that perhaps some of us (whether it's hokum or not) come prewired to believe in something, and others of us (such as, say, Penn Jillette) have no such wiring. And if you don't have it, you will never understand it, just as color-blind people won't understand certain colors. Your eyes may see it, but your brain can't parse it. You don't have the ability to process that info. (I can't process anything higher than the simplest mathematical info; I have what seems to be an inborn insufficiency in that area. But I'm off the charts in language comprehension.)
I find I must have that "faith response" wiring, and I must do something with it—but the only faith I find acceptable is that of the Quakers, which requires I speak to myself, to my higher self if you will, to find out what I am called upon to do. It's all up to me, but I can look for inspiration as I wish. I don't look to priests and evangelicals.
I don't know if we're divinely inspired beings for a fact. I know that many people don't feel that way, and I'm fine with that. I can understand why highly rational people think it's all bullcrap. (I've been there. I probably spent the first 38 years of my life believing that religious conviction of any kind was evidence of stupidity or brain damage.) But sometimes other things show up you can't explain, and the brain finds ways to cope.
You may end up with what you don't expect.
They will have that role. But it is not their assignment at this time.
The Bible says that angels will destroy the Earth, not men or demons (or Galactus) … see the Book of Revelation.
There are now more of us who disbelieve this stuff than believe.
I predict that three of the following four events will definitely occur within the next 12 months:
1. Bushfires in Australia
2. Earthquakes in the Middle-East
3. Major civil unrest in several African countries
4. Alien invaders destroy the Netherlands
Check back with me this time next year, don't say I didn't tell ya.
Just a few comments about the subject:
The Bible speaks of an invisible spiritual battle taking place on this earth. Jesus spoke of hell more than he spoke of heaven. The Bible tells us that Satan was cast out of heaven with 1/3 of the angels. They are now called demons.I also believe that many of the bad predicaments that we find ourselves in are a result of our own bad choices. But I don't use the Bible like a buffet and only believe the things that i like. Demons can cause a lot of harm on this plain. The Bible also speaks of Angels on this world. I've heard many accounts of people appearing out of nowhere in life threatening situations to offer aid that were never heard of again. If the bible says not to tamper with these evil forces ( tarot, etc)I stay away from them.
I am not sure why I am picking now to reply to this wonderful blog – but I guess some post would have to be my first:
I have to chuckle at some of the dire warnings against astrology, etc. As a Christian, I understand the warnings. I do believe things like possession are possibly 'real' in this world now. But I also think the 'real' case are very rare. Mystics/astrologers/fortune tellers are all scam artists. Some have a very methodical process. Some truly believe they have this sort of power (and who wouldn't after people telling you how eerily right you were).
I bought a tarot deck in college, mainly for the art. But I did dozens of readings, using only the generic meanings listed in the book. I had ONE that said my reading had no relevance to their life. EVERYONE else thought I was spot on, and a few of them had crazy coincidences crop up (such as me saying she recently had an "unwanted proposal", and her having a phone call the night before from an old BF who asked her to marry him.)
But as others pointed out – its all hooey. One can't measure God. One can't even measure the power of prayer. If the occult was 'real', and people could choose to tap into these powers, well, we would all be the servants of depressed outcasts who wear all black.
Readings etc can be entertaining – so can Harry Potter books. But others see them as gateways to evil, and we end up with things like Chick Tracts warning about Dungeons and Dragons and me defending Star Wars from someone calling them anti-christian.
ANYWAY. Mr Shooter, I haven't collected comics since the implosion in the 90s. I had to stop mainly because I went to college and couldn't spend all of my income on comics and Magic the Gathering. Unlucky me, so much of what I collected wasn't that great – and worse yet – was over published so I can't even get rid of it and buy something new. But I really did (and do) love comics. I am still like an alcoholic at the Jack Daniels plant every time I walk into a comic/game shop. It would be soooooo easy to fall off the wagon.
I knew of you from your EIC status at Marvel, mainly from Star Wars back issues. I knew you started Valiant, though I never got into those books. I was an idiot "completeist" and judged the back issues too pricy to try to get into them. I do remember picking up Plasm and liking it. I am sure I have other books you have written.
I am enjoying your blog immensely. I have learned a lot about history, and your interesting part in it. Please keep it up.
One last question – you said you aren't into astrology, UFOs and other hoobajoo. I was wondering if you knew about the Expanding Earth theory and how Neal Adams is one of the most vocal proponents. I am a huge science geek and Adams is still one of my top 5 favorite artists, but the science in his writings is straight out of fantasy, with 'logical' sounding ideas until you take any other evidence to the contrary into account. Do you have any insight on where he got these ideas etc, or is it news to you as well.
Thank you again for stealing hours and hours of my time away with interesting writing (and comments to boot!)
Jim i always wondered wither somebody had maybe put a curse on you while you were at Marvel cause i think that could only be the explanation for how much bad luck you have had since then.
Maybe we can blame John Byrne 😉
There is an irony here. Last night I was on a date and my beloved pulled up a Tarot Card app on her iPhone. I haven't seen a Tarot card in 5 years. For the most part they are generic cards. We want to tie them to fate. I was tying every single card that popped up to a physical injury that had occurred to me earlier in the night. It worked much better for laughs than it did as an actual reading.
Many of the comments underlined in your reading above are true for everyone at some point in a their life. We connect the dots because we want there to be a connection. Is it really there, or are we hungry for a connection we don't have?
For me, the evidence needs to be far more specific. It needs to statistically defy all probability even to the point that it's more unlikely than a broken clock showing the correct time.
I've have had events occur in my life that simply cannot be explained. As an example, I spent ten years trying to pay off $10,000 in debt because I felt "God wanted me to do it". As I signed the check to pay the last bill on the last ounce of debt I owed, I thought to myself "God, I did what I feel you wanted me to do". I sealed the envelope and at that moment someone called me. The person did not know what was on my mind or what I was doing. He did not know I was accomplishing a task that had taken me over 10 years to complete. Regardless, he wanted to give me an envelope. In the envelope was a gift of $10,000. The odds of the gift being given to me at the moment I honored a vow I made to God… it seemed too astronomical.
I don't mind astrology charts and tarot cards as rhetorical entertainment. I do not place faith in a deck of cards that I can just keep dealing until I get a set of cards I like.
Now for something really ironic. Let's say that the existence of a monotheistic God was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Let's say God came down, wowed the world with incredible miracles, and even decided to set up a permanent outpost here on Earth where we could visit Him. I postulate that, sooner or later, whatever religious faiths had professed belief in such a God would dissolve. The former members of those faiths would either join competing faiths or form new ones based on all-new, all-different unknowable entities and phenomena.
I believe that the desire of the human mind to have faith in things beyond what our senses can perceive is such that if God became an easily observable part of this world, people would decide they needed to find a new god. Proving the tenets of a religion would be like cutting open a drum to see what makes it work. Once you saw for yourself what it actually was, it would no longer work. With its mystery removed, a religion couldn't last.
Have there been any serious science-fiction stories that attempted to explore what would really happen if the traditional monotheistic God came to Earth in modern times, in human form or otherwise?
Anonymous of the humorously ironic,
Yes, it is ironic, but so is trying to deal with the strangeness of existence without granting oneself the ability to believe in anything strange. Some of us find it useful to believe in things you may not understand.
I find the world absurd and have granted myself license to work with it by whatever means I find morally necessary. It has, for me, admitted the possibility of God. I think he has a very strange sense of humor, but then I've listened to a lot of Depeche Mode, and I also think that, within the next 20 years if not sooner, cats and dogs will be talking to us, courtesy of implanted chips and translator devices. So you see I have my own interesting problems to work out. Just believing in God cuts through a lot of clutter for me.
My Bible doesn't command me not to.believe in magic… Just not to use such a damnable thing if/when attempting miracles and feats.
But thank you for the view of your straw religion.
I find it humorously ironic that religion says to not believe in magic–when religion itself requires that very belief.
s a Christian, I must admit that the 32-page horoscope I got in 1978 is erriely accurate, FWIW.
Even if the so-called soothsaying is all BS, the creative mind enjoys getting a tingle of possibility. Don't we all dream that somewhere, somebody really understands us and knows what the plan really is? And don't we all walk around looking for messages that seem intended for us alone? This kind of "reading" taps into that need. It's as true as we want to make it.
And creative minds look for inspiration wherever they can find it. If you know not to take yourself and your fancies too entirely seriously, you won't be in danger. It's just another possible path you may take or may have taken, and it's fun to think about. It's as if someone else somewhere has been writing down the story of your life all along while you were too busy just living it.
It's the life of the imagination given a structure by a few, sometimes gifted people. It can focus you, wake you up.
I'm a Christian, but I don't think it's evil unless you believe in these "readings" more than you believe in your own good sense. It can't lead you where you don't want to follow.
Today's post reminds me of being in the school auditorium in 4th grade during a presentation by a 'psychic'. I had filled out a card with various names and numbers that the psychic would use to tell us about ourselves. He had picked my card which appeared to have an easy name of a pet. I was told to stand up while the psychic tried to use his mental powers to envision what sort of pet 'Cappy' was. He guessed the usual suspects like cat and dog etc. After about ten failed guesses I told him Cappy was my pony. He didn't even guess a horse that would have at least have been close… he got flummoxed and was guessing a frog and a snake before he gave up.
There used to be a Psychic set up in a storefront down the street from where I lived. A few months later her storefront was all boarded up. I wondered, if she really was a psychic, shouldn't she have known that was a bad location?
Jim, if you've never seen the Derren Brown programme entitled 'Messiah', I can guarantee you'll be amazed. Check it out if you can.
[MikeAnon:] Once upon a time, when I was interested in psychic readers like John Edward, I bought a book on the essentials of cold reading written by a mentalist who liked to expose psychic frauds.
So I'm reading this book, and in it the guy writes, "Sometimes I just pull random numbers and characteristics out of the air and see if anything sticks with somebody in the crowd. For example, I'll say something like, 'I'm getting the image of a man with brown hair, who has something to do with the month of August, and I'm also sensing the number 26.'"
Reading this, I was stunned: My father had brown hair and had died on August 26! I was amazed! I thought to myself, "Wow! It's like it was written for me! My dad had brown hair, wore glasses, and died on August 26! Could it be…?"
And then I stopped. This guy had *just told me* that he was pulling stuff out of his butt, and I was assigning mystical credibility to his randomness nonetheless.
It gets worse: Later on he wrote, "Sometimes when people are asked how accurate my predictions were, they will add things to my predictions that I didn't even predict, which just makes me seem even more amazing."
My spider-sense tingled. I remembered how I had said to myself, "My dad had brown hair, wore glasses, and died on August 26!" I went back to check against what the author actually said. *He had never mentioned glasses.* That part came from me.
Other psychic point of note: Once I attended a talk by a supposed psychic who started talking nonsense like she'd been communicating with people on Jupiter and Saturn and felt like she was so full of energy she could pass through solid matter if she tried (but didn't demonstrate). I called BS on the Jupiter and Saturn nonsense — "those are gas giants, there's no life there" — and she made some excuse about seeing a different plane of existence. Then a few minutes later, she said she had a message for Mike. (No nametags, nobody else named Mike in the room, apparently.) She asked if I knew someone named Robert, and said she saw that name associated with me and a dollar sign, and said there would be something relevant happening within 36 months. And, in fact, a friend of mine named Robert and I played the stock market some months after that and lost some money. But the point I'd like to make is *look how vague that supposed prediction was*. 36 months = 3 years — you think that in 3 years I might meet or know someone named Robert with whom I'd have some interaction involving money? There's no way to verify or falsify something like that.
Horoscopes are the same way. One time back when I was in high school, TV Guide published horoscopes for the year, and mine said, "Something will happen in June of this year which should have happened in February." And, sure enough, I had my very first date in June — another girl had cancelled on me in February. So it looked like the horoscope came true for me…but then I thought, *how many other Pisces people* had read that same horoscope, and for how many of them did it not come true at all? The law of averages says that any horoscope you write is going to apply to somebody — I saw a mentalist demonstrate this by writing horoscopes for a whole classroom full of people, about 80% of whom thought their horoscopes were "very accurate", and it turned out the whole class had been given the *same* horoscope! [–MikeAnon]
"bmcmolo, I will grant that my Scrabble set causes me to lose more often than is statistically probable, but my wife would probably have a different explanation."
I think our sets must be possessed by the same spirit.
Interesting discussion from all around, as I've come to expect in these comments. Tho' I wish someone combined today's with yesterday's and told a ghost story involving Vinnie and Jack and the Haunted Hairline or something. I suppose there's still time.
Fortune Teller: For 20 dollars I can tell you a lot of things. For 30 I can tell you more. And for 50 I can tell you EVERYTHING.
Pee-Wee Herman: Tell me why I'm here first!
Fortune Teller: You're here…because you…want something.
-Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
I'm with Philip Beadham on this one. In fact, soon after I started to read the "ifa divination" I decided to pretend that it had been written for me. I was able to match most of it up to something going on in my life. I would definitely not have felt I got my $55 worth from what appears to me to be a lot of vague statements and generalities…and something else involving a sheep. I also wouldn't be surprised if someone WAS looking up birth records after asking for not just the date, but the time and place of birth.
But then, my bias is to not believe in supernatural or superstitious stuff. I don't think it's actually terribly biased to demand scientific proof before believing in something. But I'm a hard case and I'd need absolute proof before I even entertained the thought that any of the standard supernatural tropes were true. I kind of lost that ability when I asked myself why should I believe in the religion the people around me are teaching me when they can't offer me any explanation of what makes theirs right and all the other ones wrong? I'm very interested in seeking the truth. Just assuming something is true without proving it first is counterproductive to that end. If I just assume the world is flat then what's ever going to motivate me to sail to the end and find out for sure?
At the same time, I don't think it's unnatural, unhealthy nor dangerous for human beings to believe in the supernatural if they want to. In fact, it seems to be something that's hard-wired into human nature. I assume that's a result of our higher intelligence making it possible for us be acutely aware of our own mortality and various other dark, depressing aspects of our existence. In order to help us cope with that knowledge, we evolved the capacity to have faith in the unknown. When reality gets too bleak, uncertain or stressful, we can use our powerful imagination to conjure up answers we desire or dreams of a better future. Most likely we wouldn't be able to do that if it didn't aid in our survival. If nothing else, it's a tool to help us survive through bad times and live to see a better day. Like virtually any other human ability, it can be abused and misused, but is far more likely to be either beneficial or benign.
Regarding the screenplay, I don't know if Ruthie's last line in the first segment of the script was intended to be funny or not, but it made me laugh out loud. I imagined her reading the descriptions of the cards thoughtfully and deliberately, then just blurting out that final, practical explanation of them. It made me nostalgic for Ghostbusters, with its detailed descriptions of arcane mystical lore that get interrupted by the disinterested remarks of jaded New Yorkers who are more interested in trying to hold down a job and get laid.
Like Marc, I also noticed the similarity in the premise between this screenplay and the Dark Horse Solar storyline. I've seen people mention before that writing characters that sort of become "gods who walk amongst us" is one of the things Jim does very well. I'd have to agree.
"Because to deny the "unusual" explanation, as you call it, is to invite blindness, and blindness leads to self-deception, opens us to the deception of others, and leads to harm."
I don't really follow this. It's not at all clear to me why privileging ordinary explanation over extraordinary explanation "invite[s] blindness", certainly not any more than doing the reverse would. I mean, if I have no other explanation, sure, but that's so very rarely the case.
Look, it's one thing if I think, say, John Edward is a fraud: maybe he gets investigated, maybe sued, or thrown in jail if something illegal can be proven. But if he's in the thrall of dark forces, then either he's possessed by something supernatural, which conveniently (and in my view, unfortunately) absolves him of any responsibility, or he's a willing agent, in which case–what? stoning? exorcism? Fortunately, we don't really don't stone people anymore, at least not in the West –we do still have exorcisms, though they don't always go so well.
Denying things that can't be proven true isn't a form of blindness, it's just having an ordinary standard of evidence. I certainly don't think that it's more likely to lead to harm.
bmcmolo, I will grant that my Scrabble set causes me to lose more often than is statistically probable, but my wife would probably have a different explanation.
CORRIGENDUM: The quotation marks around "ally" aren't supposed to be ironic; they're a remnant of what was originally going to be a quotation: "a brave […] ally." Sorry about that.
It's fitting that the The Omega Point was written for Plan Z Productions. Do the letters Å, Ö, and Я — the last letters of the Danish/Norwegian, Swedish, and Cyrillic alphabets — have similar cool connotations to their users?
Я isn't just the last letter of the Russian alphabet (after Soviet spelling reforms removed the letters that followed it); it also happens to spell the Russian word for "I." Putting the self last under Communism? Hmmm. I assume the symbolism is coincidental, not intentional.
I wasn't aware that your life began with a miracle: "seven complete transfusions in the first three days of [your] life." I wonder how new that procedure was by 1951. Plastic bags began to be used for blood collection the previous year. The term Rh factor was coined in 1940.
Ifa divination reminds me of the hexagrams of the I Ching. Man is a classifying species and all these attempts at fortunetelling exemplify his instinct to categorize things. The whole of human experience is symbolized by a small, finite number of possibilities: 4 blood types in modern Japanese culture, 12 signs in Western astrology, 64 hexagram combinations, the 78-card tarot deck, the 256 chapters of Ifa, etc. These numbers may have interesting properties: e.g., 256 is 4 to the 4th power. But I can't think of anything interesting about 78 (or 22 [Major Arcana] and 56 [Minor Arcana]).
Ah, now I know why Ghost Rider rode a TX750 in your layout!
I've been waiting for years to learn about The Omega Point. It sounds as if it touches on territory that you've been covering more recently in Solar.
The name of John's "ally" reminds me of a certain inker you were close to.
As I've said a few times, I don't believe in ghosts, horoscopes, ESP, flying saucers, witchcraft or anything that has not been proven credibly to my satisfaction. But, some strange things have happened to me, and to many other people if my non-statistically-valid bar and party poll is any indication. I don't have the answers and explanations (but I like yours!). I'm just sayin' what happened, and that it seemed weird. You'll notice that I didn't sacrifice a sheep. : )
I know of and thoroughly enjoy Derren Brown's clever manipulations. I like the one where he gets the New York street vendor to accept blank paper as if it were cash, and the one where the accurately predicts the logo the ad guys to design for him.
"They are not, any more than my Scrabble set is."
I think you're shortchanging your Scrabble board. 🙂
"Because to deny the "unusual" explanation, as you call it, is to invite blindness, and blindness leads to self-deception, opens us to the deception of others, and leads to harm. "
Dear Jim – fun read, as always. Thanks for the look at your unpublished screenplay.
I enjoy hearing the supernatural experiences of others, or tales of the mysterious in general. As much as I enjoy, alternatively, seeing mysteries solved or the unexplainable explained. I don't claim to have any answers, but I'm open-minded.
"And why go with the unusual explanation, however interesting, when there is a prosaic, if banal, one at hand?"
Because to deny the "unusual" explanation, as you call it, is to invite blindness, and blindness leads to self-deception, opens us to the deception of others, and leads to harm.
For me there is enough harm done in the world that is demonstrably the dull, everyday work of ordinary humans that searching for supernatural causes is, at best, a waste of resources, and at worst, has its own unhappy consequences (e.g., witch-hunting, diminution of responsibility, fantasy/reality conflation).
If people are entertained on some level by tarot cards, ouija boards, or whatever, great, they should knock themselves out. But these things are not to be taken seriously, either as genuine insight, or as imbued with dark occult powers. They are not, any more than my Scrabble set is.
This sounds unbending, I'm sure, and it is, but it's because a) I think there actually are ordinary, earth-bound negative consequences to taking seriously, really seriously, the existence of Magic, and b) these anecdotes (again: fun! entertaining! not dispositive!) never amount to data or testable evidence of "supernatural" forces at work. And why go with the unusual explanation, however interesting, when there is a prosaic, if banal, one at hand?
Yes, I think most readings are a con, or a performance that let's the subject's mind fill in the blanks.
But I would not discount the possibility of the unexplainable/supernatural using one of these "performers" or their subjects to promote their own agenda.
Eh, cold reading may be a bit of a con, but Evil? Nah.
I have a couple of Tarot decks laying around somewhere. I never put enough time into them to get good at it. The letter from the guy I can make totally relevant to my current situation so I don't put a lot of stock in it.
The only diviners that get my attention these days are ones that pull names out of the air. Not common names but full names or uncommon ones. I've only been to Tarot reading for myself and the person pulled of all things, the name to my main protagonist in my comic story that I was writing. She missed it by one letter – 'Who's Molly?' when it was Holly. Considering virtually nobody knew this, I was impressed. She also mentioned I would buy a house, then changed it to 'property', when at the time I was making $10.00 an hour. A few months later I bought my brother's house having scored a better paying job.
I'm getting addicted to this blog. Thanks.
– James Roberts
Mr. Novick, you rock. I'm a Christian as well and I've been told to never tamper with those forces. It can open a gateway to your life for Evil.
I am with Mr Novick on this one.
Bob, I would love to know which of Jim's stories you've incorporated into your sermons.
The English mentalist/debunker, Derren Brown, gave a room full of people a detailed 3 page description of their personalities, which he pretended he'd gained as a result of his psychic powers. All the subjects oo-ed and ah-ed, at how accurate Derren Brown's descriptions of them were, and how they contained information only they themselves could know.
Derren Brown then got them to swap their descriptions with each other, whereupon each person was astonished to find that all the descriptions were IDENTICAL! People cherish their individuality, but we actually have a lot more in common than we think. Derren Brown then explained the trick.
In 1951, infant mortality might have been more common than people think. Lots of people work with implements that might look like sticks. As regards the girlfriend's reading, being divorced is a fairly safe bet, whilst having 2 offspring is also quite likely. The Dutch guy's reading was all generalities. We all have potential enemies. All cities – and most towns – are situated near rivers. Any city that wasn't would be the exception.
We've all had times in our lives when we feel we've given everything we've got, only to have it disrespected; so we get really low, and look for something to make sense of things. We've all done it. Jim, I'm sure I could tell within five minutes of talking to you, that you're very loyal to your friends, and that you're a stickler for facts/details.
Jim, you're the guy who wrote the Korvac Saga! You don't need to consult a horoscope guy – they should be consulting you!
I suppose some people will read today's post and poo-poo it as junk mysticism.
Others will be very supportive and give their stories as examples as well. Some will sound convincing, some will sound like junk mysticism.
I'm going to take a different road and say that while I do think the "daily" horoscopes are written in such a generalized way that we then let our own mind and desires fill in the blanks (and that most Tarot readings are the same), that there are indeed some people who can tap into external, supernatural forces and reveal truths they themselves have no way of ascertaining.
The few people here who know me outside of this blog will say "Jerry, you're a Christian. Are you out of your gourd?"
Nope, these sort of things are actually very biblical. In the Bible, God talks very plainly about people who can tap into these sort of forces. And he warns that they are dark sources of power, not to be trifled with, and never to be given real root in our lives.
With the seeming validity of the readings you have here, Jim, I'd say you may have encountered people who can indeed tap into those forces. But I will assure you, those forces only have your worst interests – and the worst interests of the people they speak through – at heart. The truest horoscope or tarot reading has no other real motive than to manipulate; to draw people away from seeking God.
I would urge caution.
Forgot the link:
I've been enjoying your blog immensely, and have used your basis for a story many times on Sunday morning. I'm a pastor of a small rural church in upstate NY, and have given you full credit. So now there's a church that might not know much about comics, but they know something about Jim Shooter. What they know is he made my sermons better.
I read this today, and was struck that the importance of the story was not made. Plus the waffling on the target audience. Plus the comments on Red Hood/Outlaws. sheesh.