I’ve been reading Colin Wilson’s book The Occult recently, having never read it or anything else by Wilson before. I’m reading the Kindle version, too, so I can be very sure that I haven’t casually flipped through it and subconsciously registered any of its contents in advance of actually reading it. I’m about halfway through it at the moment, and so far have noticed three times when random thoughts occurred to me which turned out to anticipate what I was about to read.
In addition to reading The Occult, I have also been working on a very long post about the World card of the Tarot (to be posted soon, perhaps, if it ever stops growing). One day, while I was meditating on the meaning of the four living creatures featured on that card — the man, eagle, lion, and bull, a foursome of astrological origins — it suddenly occurred to me out of the blue that all four are associated with Nebuchadnezzar as described in the biblical Book of Daniel. (A vision of Daniel’s portrays him as a winged lion with a human heart; and in his madness he is described as having hair like eagle’s feathers and eating grass like an ox.) Immediately after checking the Bible to confirm that, I opened up The Occult and read: “The Chaldeans were traditionally the founders of astronomy and astrology; Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar were Chaldean kings.”
A day or two later, still thinking about the World card, I suddenly remembered that years ago I had seen advertised a Tarot deck with a Casanova theme, all of the cards being illustrations from the life of Giacomo Casanova, and I tried unsuccessfully to find on the Internet an image of the World card from that deck. This was utterly uncharacteristic; I have no interest in novelty decks of that kind, and I can’t imagine that any light would have been shed on the meaning of the World card by some vaguely related picture of Casanova doing his thing! At any rate, a few hours later I opened up The Occult and found that Wilson had rather unaccountably devoted a section to the life of Casanova, hardly a key figure in the history of magic.
After Casanova, the next “magician” Wilson deals with is Cagliostro. Here is how he describes Cagliostro’s entry into Strasbourg, where his reputation had preceded him.
He was already a rich man, and he entered Strasbourg on September 19, 1780, preceded by six liveried servants on black horses, and driving in his black japanned coach covered with magic symbols. Crowds lines the route; they had been waiting all day.
Reading this, I began to imagine what it would be like to have such a reputation. People would undoubtedly try to “test” you all the time, expecting specific occult phenomena on demand — which presumably even a genuine magician would not always be able to produce. How would one deal with that? By saying, I thought, “We do not gratify men’s curiosity in this manner” — this being a misremembered line from a now-obsolete Mormon temple ceremony. After looking it up, I see that the actual line is, “We do not satisfy men’s curiosity in that manner.” (I quoted it correctly in a 2013 post; the uncharacteristic error turned out to be precognitive.)
After thinking this, I turned to the next “page” (Kindle is designed to simulate a codex rather than a scroll) and found this:
Perhaps because he was so often snubbed by the aristocracy as a charlatan, he was inclined to refuse to treat them, or even to meet them if they came to his door. This is understandable. He felt he was working for the regeneration of mankind; he was an idealist; why should he gratify the idle curiosity of self-opinionated aristocrats?
The reference to “regeneration” also ties in with my misremembered temple line, which in the ceremony is spoken in reply to a request that an apostle “cut off an arm or some other member of the body and then restore it” as proof of his power.
As Wilson himself mentions, reading and thinking about strange phenomena seems to cause them to occur more frequently. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more of the same as I read the second half of the book.
UPDATE: Further synchronicities have indeed occurred in connection with my reading of this book, as documented in the comments to this post.