Los Angeles and the 1920s Occult Explosion

HollywoodMasonicTemple-1922For Angeleno disinfonauts, here’s some interesting occult history on the City of Angels that you may not have known about, found at the Steampunk Opera blog:

When folks think of explosions of wild spiritualities they usually think of the 1960s and 70s. But California in the 1920s was equally as crazy, and many would argue more.

The Victorian Era started the ball rolling with Spiritualism, Theosophy and The Golden Dawn. Between these, all the concepts that would grow and be experimented with through the 20th century emerged: mediuimship/channeling, clairovoyance, astral projection, astrology, mixtures of eastern and western religious concepts, past lives, ceremonial magick, cabalic esotericism for non Jews, the list is endless.

Of of these interests and the children of the Victorian generation who begat this explosion converged in Los Angeles during the 20s to the 40s.

It was at first accidental then purposeful. In 1920 the population of Los Angeles was 576, 673. By 1930 the population had more than doubled to 1, 238, 048. Why? Hollywood, baby. Hollywood came on the scene and hopefuls from across the land gathered to be part of the film industry. They were a perfect audience for the new forms and creative mixtures of Spiritualist, Theosophical and post Golden Dawn ideas that were erupting in the young, loose, anything goes era of the roaring 20s.

Before now, Lodges were the way this stuff was explored. Men had their Freesmasonry, or their Rosicrucian group or hundreds of other lodges practicing everything from drinking to symbolic morality to the occult. During the 1800s Lodges were how it was done. But in the new 20th century things were changing. People with interesting systems of alternative spirituality were discovering a way to actually achieve stability was to from a little hub in LA and offer a correspondence course by mail across the country or even to Europe.

Correspondence courses quickly became the new Lodge. You would advertise whatever incredible new system or method of achieving amazing hidden knowledge of reality in magazines, and interested parties would contact you and pay you to send them a gradual educational course by mail. They would get their lessons mailed to them, mail back their “tests” when when finished with the system which could take anywhere from 25 to 75 letters, they’d graduate and be able to form and head up local Lodges.

Over the decade as Los Angeles’ reputation grew, it attracted droves of occultists and those wanting to start their own systems or alternative spirituality as well as all the young Hollywood fodder…

[continues at the Steampunk Opera blog]

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  • The Well Dressed Man

    Cool. This looks like a good read! I used to really worry about how bizarre my world seemed. Realizing that I’m the product of several generations of California weird puts it in perspective.

    • Calypso_1

      When you look at the number of yogis, swamis, sufis, etc that visited america during this period it makes developments in the 50/60’s seem far less abrupt.

      • The Well Dressed Man

        Also, Masons, Masons everywhere. I’ve inherited the strangest books…

  • The Well Dressed Man

    Closer reading reveals:

    1) Various personal syncronicities to the level of high creepery.

    2)Edit- Found citation in text. Much of this blog entry seems to be pasted directly from a 2010 HPL fan forum post :

    http://hppodcraft.com/forums/index.php?topic=228.0;wap2

  • Zack Arriah

    You cannot mention this era without evoking Manly P. Hall’s image. He was of course in the thick of things at this conjuncture in history in L.A., but many forget that the warmth and down-to-earth sensibility he brought from his rural Canadian/American West upbringing was not always projected on those around him. The burgeoning growth of the Hollywood occult scene at this time semeed to be a mix of more experimental esotericism frought with the charlatans and kooks,ubiquitous to any occult revival. However a misguided wackiness lacking real wisdom seems to be in disproportionate abundance here. It was ,afterall, Hollywood .

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