One day, when he was 13 years old and growing up in Bayonne, N.J. — “the backside of the Statue of Liberty,” he now calls it — Gary Lachman decided that he had had enough of Catholicism.
“I remember upping and walking out of church one Sunday,” says Mr. Lachman, who later achieved fame as the bassist for the New Wave band Blondie. “I just didn’t believe in this anymore. Since then I haven’t practiced anything like that at all. I wonder if I’d still even be considered a lapsed Catholic.”
But that was less the end of spirituality for Mr. Lachman than the beginning. Like so many Americans who came of age since the 1960s, Mr. Lachman found that his metaphysical search took place not in houses of worship, but in books. He became a voracious reader of esoteric, occult and spiritual literature.
And today Mr. Lachman, 55, who lives in London, is a popular religion writer. His latest book, “Swedenborg: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas” (Tarcher/Penguin), published this month, is about Emanuel Swedenborg, who lived from 1688 to 1772. Mr. Lachman joins a long line of philosophers and writers, including Kant and Baudelaire, intrigued by Swedenborg’s difficult, voluminous corpus, which includes bizarre interpretations of the Bible as well as claims to have traveled among the angels in heaven.
After high school, Mr. Lachman moved to New York City, where he led an urchinlike downtown existence, “writing some very bad poetry and working as a messenger and starving.” Soon, some jam sessions led to a job with Blondie, and suddenly he was at the heart of the punk and New Wave scenes, making records and playing at CBGB.
Almost immediately, an interest in the occult filled the void Roman Catholicism had left behind.
“I started reading books about this sort of thing around the same time I started playing with Blondie in New York,” Mr. Lachman says. “I was living with Chris Stein and Debbie Harry” — members of the band — “and Chris had some books on the subject, sort of a kitschy interest in it. That was about 1975. During the time I was a musician I was always reading tons of stuff, carrying books around with me…
[continues in the New York Times]