An Occult History of the Television Set

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The origin of the television set was heavily shrouded in both spiritualism and the occult, Stefan Andriopoulos writes in his new book Ghostly Apparitions. In fact, as its very name implies, the television was first conceived as a technical device for seeing at a distance: like the telephone (speaking at a distance) and telescope (viewing at a distance), the television was intended as an almost magical box through which we could watch distant events unfold, a kind of technological crystal ball.

Andriopoulos’s book puts the TV into a long line of other “optical media” that go back at least as far as popular Renaissance experiments involving technologically-induced illusions, such as concave mirrors, magic lanterns, disorienting walls of smoke, and other “ghostly apparitions” and “phantasmagoric projections” created by specialty devices. These were conjuring tricks, sure—mere public spectacles, so to speak—but successfully achieving them required sophisticated understandings of basic physical factors such as light, shadow, and acoustics, making an audience see—and, most importantly, believe in—the illusion.

A Magic Lantern for Watching Events at a Distance

What’s central to Andriopoulos’s argument is that these devices incorporated earlier experimental instruments devised specifically for pursuing supernatural research—for visualizing the invisible and showing the subtle forces at work in everyday life. In his words, these were “devices developed in occult research”—including explicitly “televisionlike devices”—that had been invented in the name of spiritualism toward the end of the 19th century and that, only a decade or two later, “played a constitutive role in the emergence of radio and television.”

via BLDGBLOG: An Occult History of the Television Set.

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  • erte4wt4etrg

    and its too bad its powers are used for EVIL

    • Echar Lailoken

      Entertainment can fuel progress. Any energy, dualistic or not, is a choice.

      • erte4wt4etrg

        Yes you sure can make the choice or not to inject media slime into your mind 24/7 like so many addicts do. I just think its sad & creepy I guess.

        • Echar Lailoken

          A person can choose what to watch. Surely you recognize that some but not all of what is on television can be informative.

          • erte4wt4etrg

            Yes, I’m just venting frustration as I have come to really resent the ubiquitous presence of flat-screens in public lately. My doctor has a giant one in his waiting room tuned to 24 hours news and the place is stuffed to the brim with already sick people, it makes me angry.

          • Echar Lailoken

            I understand. About ten years back I was aghast that flat screens were placed aboved urinals with advertisements on them. Visual pollution is now thing, sadly.

        • Oginikwe

          We got rid of television almost three years ago. We went with a ROKU and haven’t regretted it for one minute.

  • Oginikwe

    In the Hopi prophecies, before Europeans came to this continent, it was said that a “white brother” would come from the East with amazing devices. One of them was a thing that sat in a corner and showed what people were doing and saying at a distance. Another was a “screaming eagle” that shot out horrendous “arrows.” They’ve made their three trips to the House of Mica (United Nations) to warn of the coming “cleansing” after the blue star fell to earth (Skylab) and no one listened. They now wait for the “gourd of ashes” to be released here. They say that if the invaders come from the East, “good” people will be fine but if they come from the West, don’t sit on your stoop because everyone will be hurt. The point is, they “saw” the television before Europeans were even here. Edgar Cayce said that time is a river that we can travel up and down on. Maybe that is the source of “occult” connections.

  • fizmath

    There is also an occult history behind electricity and nuclear physics. I would like to see a future article on those topics.

  • Chaos_Dynamics

    There’s a plasma pool party with Birkeland, Alfvén, and Farnsworth.

    You are already here.

    Let’s swim!

  • BuzzCoastin

    the cathoid ray TV technology was stealthy occult
    it bombarded viewers with low level x-rays
    and required the viewer to contstuct mental images from raster lines
    hardly anyone noticed this and
    instead focused on the tv programing content
    which was essentially the content of the older radio & movies
    while completely oblivious to the effect of the crt technology
    which tatooed your body with x-rays
    and spawned the tatoo craze for those born between 75 & 90

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