Chapter 9: The Best of All Possible Worlds
When several of the women decide to visit a mainstream metaphysical church
in Anaheim, the metaphysical minister, Rev. Debbee, tells them how God
talks to her and what she teaches. Bertha and the cat become so annoyed
by her that they destroy the psychic fair held at the church by making
the furniture, candles, tarot cards, books, and other metaphysical tchotchkes
come to life and sing and dance and do tricks. Margaretta, Cairo, Brooke,
Maude, and Wendell chant the Goddess Chant, which at least slows things
down, and then the Black Mother appears and tells them to behave themselves
and be kind to one another. The whole episode leads to a ferocious argument
among members of the circle.
The chapter title comes from
Candide, ou l’Optimisme (
The Optimist), a satirical novella written in 1759 by Voltaire and
adapted (several times) into an
operetta by Leonard Bernstein and his multitudinous collaborators.
The optimist is Dr. Pangloss, Candide’s teacher. His optimistic philosophy
is based on that of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who wrote that because God
is benevolent, everything that happens, no matter how catastrophic, always
happens for the best. Is this true? Voltaire thought not. Europe had just
gone through the awful Seven Years War and the Lisbon earthquake of 1755,
both of which are referenced in the novella.
Every reader who has ever been to a mainstream metaphysical church or
a psychic fair will recognize Rev. Debbee (egotistical and judgmental),
Rev. Donnathea (over-jewelried but smarter than she looks), Gwennie (the
credulous but enthusiastic pupil), and the psychic readers in their quaint
and curious costumes. Rev. Debbee and her church were suggested by two
or three teachers I have known and two or three actual churches. The class
titles are also based on real classes.
Donnathea looks just like a woman I once saw at a famous major metaphysical
center. To this day, I have no idea who she was.
While it is often accurate, numerology can be used in silly ways. Ditto
the other psychic sciences. Yes, I named Cairo so her numbers would be
“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” I'm not sure why a metaphysical minister
like Rev. Debbee would be quoting a Randy Bachman song title from 1974.
This expression is often attributed to Al Jolson (1886-1950, an entertainer
the crones would have known and loved), but what he really says in
The Jazz Singer (1927, the first talkie) is "You ain't heard
nothin' yet." Then he launches into "Toot-Toot-Tootsie" with pelvic action
that Elvis might have envied..
“What does woman really want?” Dr. Sigmund Freud famously asked, but did
not answer, this question.
Melchizedek was a biblical king (Genesis 14:18) who was neither born nor
Maude sees that Rev. Debbee’s boy friend (consort?), Rev. Les, is ill.
The idea of consorts is important in the stories of Emma Clare’s family
and Brooke’s love affair.
Everything and everyone at the fair (at least before the magic begins)
is based on numerous fairs I’ve been to.
Bertha’s T-shirt. Bertha is a lot more hostile toward mainstream metaphysics
than I am. But I do object to some things the New Age teachers say. For
example, I was once told by a New Age psychic that I could cure my asthma
by being nicer to my mother. I should “call home.” My mother had been dead
for 30-odd years when the psychic said that.
“Thoughts are things.” I’ve recently learned that an author named
Prentice Mulford wrote a book by this title in 1889. Stewart Edward
White (1873–1946) deals with this topic in chapter 9 (“The Substance of
The Betty Book, published in 1937 and recounting occult work
done from 1919 to 1936. (Betty was Stewart's wife.) I have a used copy
of this book with pencil annotations by someone who received the book in
February, 1944. White, whose writing is in the flow of the Perennial Tradition,
is often called a New Thought author.
This metaphysical principle—what you think is what you attract into your
life—is of course also a basic principle of magic. You have to imagine
what can happen, visualize your outcome. How did Bertha and the cat pull
coup de théâtre? They must have been doing some powerful thinking,
but they haven’t told me their secrets.
Do I really need to identify all the stuff that happens at the psychic
fair? All those authors of occult books, all those songs and movies?
Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931), Lebanese-American poet and author of
The Prophet. Edgar Cayce (1877–1945), the American “sleeping prophet”
who helped make Atlantis famous. Alice Bailey, (1880–1949, Theosophist
and author, amanuensis to Djwal Khul, “The Tibetan.” Seth, discarnate entity
channeled by Jane Roberts, author of
The Seth Material. Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant, 1810–1875),
French occultist and magician, leader of the occult revival. Count of St.
Germain, 18th-century French occultist, scientist, musician, courtier,
and charlatan, said to be the Wandering Jew. Hermes Trismegistus, “Thrice-Great
Hermes,” Hellenistic synthesis of the Egyptian Thoth and the Greek Hermes;
Hermetic magick is named after him. Jesus the Christ, Jewish teacher, second
person of the Christian trinity. Christian Rosenkreutz 17th-century alchemist
and founder of the Order of the Rose Cross. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931–1990),
aka Osho, Indian professor of philosophy, mystic; founder of an ashram
in Oregon; deported from the U.S. Rudolph Steiner (1861–1925), Austrian
philosopher and founder of Anthroposophy. Jonathan Livingston Seagull,
avian hero of a novella by Richard Bach (b. 1936, an alumnus of Long Beach
State College) that was hugely popular in the 1970s and 80s. Neil Diamond
recorded the soundtrack for the movie based on the novella in 1973.
Busby Berkeley (1895–1976) was the most famous movie choreographer
of the 1930s. Except his dancers didn’t dance; they posed, and he moved
the camera to create kaleidoscopic patterns. If you want to see the best
(or the worst) of Berkeley’s routines, rent
Dames (1933) or
Footlight Parade (1934). They’re unbelievable. And fun.
The exorcisms Rev. Debbee tries are real and are taken from real books
on metaphysics and ceremonial magic. They don’t work because Rev. Debbee
pretty much deserves what she gets.
The image of Margaretta and Donnathea standing before Rev. Debbee reminds
us of the dark and light pillars of Card II of the Rider-Waite Tarot, but
Debbee is an unlikely High Priestess. She has a great deal of knowledge,
but very little wisdom.
In the circle’s dealing with Bertha in this chapter and the next, as well
as in earlier stories where they created the dragon and dealt with Padre
Innocente, the women are (though they don’t know it) flexing their magical
muscles to build up the strength for the weather war.
Who do you know who is like Rev. Debbee? Like Gwennie? Like Donnathea?
Do you work with numerology or any of the other psychic sciences? How
do they work for you? Do you recognize the authors named in this chapter?
What happened that was interesting at the last psychic fair you went to?
Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Permission
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