Welcome to Gary Lachman’s pages, where consciousness and culture meet, or at least get as close together as possible.

Hi, I’m Gary Lachman (also known as Gary Valentine), the writer, journalist, and musician who, at least according to one critic, is “an increasingly prolific engine of literate, well-written, and clearheaded books about esoteric history and ‘occulture’.” (Erik Davis at Techgnosis.com, bless him) Here you can find out about my books and music, discover links to some of my writings, and read comments people have made about my work. You can also find notices for my forthcoming books, and updates on my talks, lectures, interviews, and broadcasts. You can also leave your own comments, ask questions, provide answers, or simply say hello. As the cultural historian Jacques Barzun – currently defying entropy at 102 – remarked “The finest achievement of human society and its rarest pleasure is Conversation.” Who are we to contradict him? So please, join in.

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26 Responses to “Welcome to Gary Lachman’s pages, where consciousness and culture meet, or at least get as close together as possible.”

  1. Jayne Stuart Says:

    I have just finished reading blank generation and to be honest I could not put the book down. I am now looking forward to reading your other work, I like the honestly in your writting.
    Kind regards Jayne

  2. currently reading ‘new york rocker’ and felt compelled to let you know how much i’m enjoying it. i thought i’d read enough about those people and that scene to know all i needed to know but your book feels so personal and true … a completely different angle on those times … just really enjoying it so much.

  3. Hello Gary
    I just finished your “In Search of P. D. Ouspensky.” I read it in two days – an excellent book! Your book helped me piece together a few more pieces in my big Fourth Way puzzle. I’ve studied and tried my best to follow this teaching for about 20 years. The school, or perhaps cult, where I got to know this teaching was the Linbu Society in Sweden, a very unknown off-shoot of the American Fellowship of Friends. It’s very interesting for me to see how people who studied this teaching long ago, including Ouspensky himself, struggled with so much of the hardship and lunacy that I and my fellow students in Linbu struggled with. To me there isn’t really any Fourth Way though. Just truth. And I mean I have found a lot of truth through studying and trying to apply the 4W teaching to myself and to my life.

    Hard-earned truth though. As there was so much lunacy we went through. Seems to be a human thing: Whenever someone sets themselves up as guru and people follow these gurus too blindly, a lot of bad things happen. I seem to have survived OK though.

    I’ve also always been interested in what went on inside both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and always find it interesting to get more insight into these two unusual and gifted individuals. And of course – the timeless problem of the search for truth, or the search for a *way*, is very interesting. My own sentiment today is that there is no *way* which is the right one, but with the help of, among other things, the knowledge released by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky we may develop a completely new way. We’ll see what the future will bring. :)

    Bjorn in Norway

    • Dear Bjorn,

      Many thanks for your message. I’m glad you enjoyed the book and got something out of it. I think there is much we can learn from Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and the other figures in the ‘work’, both in an esoteric and a human way. I know I did. But I believe we can learn from them without the need for gurus or groups. Sadly, these tend to repeat the same problems one finds in ‘ordinary’ life, mainly clashes of egos and the need to dominate others. If my book has helped you see your way through some difficulties, then it has served its purpose. Ouspensky was – is – a hero of mine, and it was a chastening experience to discover where he made mistakes (of course, to ‘true believers’, neither he nor Gurdjieff or any guru ever does that…)

      By the way, my book on Rudolf Steiner is translated into Norwegian, and is published by Flux. I was in Oslo in September, speaking at the Litteraturhusset about the similarities and differences between Steiner and Jung, and taking part in some other events to mark the 150th anniversary of Steiner’s birth.

      All the best and again, many thanks for your comments.
      Gary

  4. Hi Gary

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, one has got to love Ouspensky. If we can say that Gurdjieff is a kind of archetype of the guru, then Ouspensky is the archetype of the student and the seeker. Who do we feel the closest too? I think it’s natural for us to identify with Ouspensky as we recognize so much of ourselves in him. He’s a guy I know many of us really would want to give a good hug, drink vodka with, and have long and interesting conversations with. I hope he is prosperous and happy where he is now. :)

    I think that when studying these matters: the esoteric itself, the quest for truth, and how this quest plays out in the student-teacher relationship and in schools/groups(and so on) we definitely touch on something timeless: something which is above and beyond the daily hustle and bustle of society. And … it’s a wonderful thing, I’d say. :)

    Good luck with your endevours –

    Greetings,
    Bjorn

    • john urban Says:

      Hello Bjorn,

      I enjoyed your two recent letters. You sound like a decent fellow who has gone about his search for truth without becoming bitter about the disappointments he may have met on the way.

      I myself like material that is straight forward and sensible even if esoteric, occult, spiritual or mystical. Rudolf Steiner was always a proponent of trying to speak clearly about the most exalted of spiritual perceptions or esoteric matters and he found a good biographer in Gary.

      I was intensely involved as a student and follower of Steiner for 10 years, during which time I visited the Goetheanum in Basil and spent a year studying at the Anthroposophical college (Emerson College) in Forest Row, England, in 1977, but then I was introduced to an unknown order called The Universal Order which contained everything thing Anthro-phosophy offered me and more. Over a few years I gradually changed my allegiances. The Universal Order is a private Neo-Platonic/Christain/Hermetic system of spiritual guidance, instruction and training. I studied with them exclusively for 10 years and another 15 years while continuing to investigate other “Ways”.

      In 2006 I came into the possession of an archive (approximately four full filing cabinet drawers) of a hermetic (secret) brotherhood which had, at one time, influenced, unknown to me and the other members of TUO, The Universal Order itself! This archive is apparently the complete system of Teaching and Instruction of this Order, the most important parts of which did not find their way into The Universal Order. Fortunately, the last 30 years of my studies have prepared me to understand and to accept the responsibility for this body of Teaching.

      This teaching is for every human being, especially for those who want something beautiful and reliable, but unfortunately most people are not willing to recognize or accept it. If you are interested in a demonstrably true teaching and instruction I can post you the first of the public, introductory papers.

      Best wishes,

      John Urban

      • Hello John, Many thanks for this. I’ll post it but I’d like to make clear that in doing so I’m not endorsing this or any other particular ‘school’ or organization. My own approach to these things is individual and I think that is the most productive one. But I’m happy to pass this on to other readers. Cheers, Gary

      • Hi John

        By all means. You could email it to me: belzebob at fastmail dot fm. Or maybe post a link here if it’s OK with Gary. We have to respect that it’s Gary’s blog and not a regular bulletin board.

        Bjorn

  5. Dear Gary,

    Thanks for your comment. Absolutely, I understand you are not endorsing any particular school by accepting any particular post. My letter was mainly addressed to Bjorn since his temperment seem to connect with the character of the archive material I found. And I like to share things. I also didn’t know if I sent a post to you if it would go automaticaly to Bjorn or not. Anyway, my post seemed (now that I read it over) a bit partisan and dogmatic, but I have always had trouble like that with my enthusiasms. I think I can work on expressing myself in clear but more neutral terms or tones.

    Best wishes,

    John U.

  6. Dear Bjorn,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I posted a copy of the initial paper to your address. I was impressed by the clarity of the writing, and interested in the claims of demonstrability. In the last 30 years I have struggled through a
    number of organizations and schools, so I am pretty demanding in the standards and rigor I expect from an author or teacher while at the same time hoping for some “heart” or fervor. I have read the Neo-Platonists for years and was educated in Physics and Mathematics; Epistemology was my Philosophical area of interest.

    I have copied the original exactly except for a Post Office box address that was given at the end. The papers were inexpensive mimeographs mostly in purple ink and spaced as you see it. I gather from the papers themselves that they were probably compiled and written somewhere between 1900 and 1920.

    I hope you enjoy the paper. Please let me know what you think of it.

    John U.

  7. john urban Says:

    Hello Bjorn,

    Thank you for your quick reply. Regarding your comment that “there’s nothing concrete/practical in this short paper”. But in the paper itself those who wrote it make the definite (concrete) claim to: (1) be “in possession of the outlines of. . . a system. . . approaching to universal knowledge”, and (2) make a definite (concrete) offer to “actually” (concretely) impart the knowledge of the system to the interested reader, and (3) definitely claim to be able to “show/ demonstrate” (logically-concretely prove) its truth to the reader.

    These three items seem definite (concrete) or actual (concrete) or logically demonstrable (concrete) to me. Perhaps you have other definitions or uses in mind when you use the words “concrete” and “practical”? But this is a short paper merely to announce the existence and the availability of the system. It is an entire system of knowledge to be both presented and proven which would take numerous papers and time and effort.

    Best,

    John U.

  8. Sandy Coyne (Smith) Says:

    Hi Gary,

    I am checking you out! I have registered for your class Evolution of Consciousness in the fall at CIIS and am very much looking forward to interacting with you. From perusing your page, you are eclectic, literate, intellectual, and damn interesting! The topics here are fascinating and ones to which I have only recently been introduced. Hope to meet you at the August intensive.

    Sandy Coyne-Smith

    • Dear Sandy, I’m glad you’ve signed up for the course and many thanks for the warm words. I look forward to teaching it. By the way, do you know if the course is posted yet on the CIIS site? I’d like to post it here and also on my FB page. All the best and here’s hoping for an interesting class, Gary

      • Sandy Coyne (Smith) Says:

        Hi Gary,

        Yes, your course is in the catalog and is available on the registration site. So I would advertise away!

        Sandy

  9. Hi Gary, I’ve wanted to be in touch for a while, especially given that our writing projects overlap to some degree. First, however, warm congrats on your impressive productivity. I always mention you, when the opportunity arises,as one of my more memorable students. I’m doiing a piece on Steiner and Nietzsche and will order your Setiner book. I’m also trying to finish a book on Hegel, India and the Dark Face Of Modernity dealing among other topics with German Romanticism.

    So I would say there’s good reason to be in contact after a long while. If you care to write drop a line to my email below

    All good wishes, Joseph

    • Sandy Coyne Says:

      Hi Gary,

      Sandy Coyne-Smith. I apologize, but I am just not able to handle 3 classes right now. I had to drop yours. I have changed my area of inquiry and so have a lot of catch up to do. I will be taking two electives next summer so if you are teaching any then, please let me know as I am sorry to have missed this opportunity.

      Thanks very much,

      Sandy

  10. Hi Gary,
    I just wanted to say thanks – your books are a godsend to those of us looking for an accessible way in to the studies of Hermeticism and the Western Esoteric Tradition. It was your work on Hermes that won me over and I am now in the process of picking up your other works.
    If I may ask, in relation to your forthcoming book on Crowley, from what angle are you approaching him ? Kaczynski’s Perdurabo and also Tobias Churton’s recent bio leave hardly a stone unturned, so I was just curious as to how you thought you would look at Crowley in the hope of a fresh perspective ?
    Anyway Gary, thanks again and I look forward to following your work in the years to come. Take care, Steve.

    • Dear Steve, Many thanks for your warm words and I’m glad anything I’ve written has helped you find a way into the Hermetic tradition. Regarding Crowley, I’m taking a more critical approach than his recent biographers – Tobias Churton’s book is practically a second hagiography (Crowley’s Confessions is the first). I acknowledge that much of what has been said about Crowley is tabloid material; nevertheless, all said and done, he was often a nasty piece of work. Yet, because he was brilliant and did have insights, we can’t simply ignore him or chalk him up as a charlatan. Also, I’m using him as the most extreme and obvious example of what I call the “liberationist” philosophy, much of which informs the rock and roll ethos. This is the idea that if we only get rid of repressions, hang ups, and constraints, everything will be fantastic and we will all be able to follow our true will. A look at Crowley’s life as well as that of many rock icons tells us this isn’t so. I also want to write a story, as biographies used to be, not a work of social science or history, as many, academically oriented biographies are today. That’s why, for all its limitations, I still consider John Symonds The Great Beast one of the best books written about Crowley. It is a work of literature, not a chronicle of facts. There won’t be much new about Crowley’s life in my book, no new revelations. But the perspective, the angle of thought, will be. And lastly, it will have some autobiographical material, about my own involvement with a Crowley group way back in the late 70s in LA and my first introduction to him in NYC while playing in Blondie. Why did Crowley become a rock icon while other mystical characters taken up in the 60s – like Madame Blavatsky and Jung – did not? All the best.

      • Hi Gary, That does sound like an interesting way to approach him and it’s really needed I think as more and more these days it’s the Crowley fanboys who seem to be having the final say. As I read Perdurabo, I wondered if Kaczynski (who appears to be a practising Thelemite), ever questioned devoting his life to this belief system, as he chronicled where it was leading it’s chief creator ? Admittedly not everyone would live it to the extent that Crowley did. What I think is necessary though is a clear summation defining the important contributions Crowley made to occult systems of thought, where he broke new ground. It’s too bad that his breakthroughs with occult applications seem so intertwined with the darker sides of his character. We can’t have one without the other it seems. Anyway Gary, thanks for reading and best of luck with the new books, Steve.

  11. John Battaglia Says:

    Hello Gary, Recently discovered your Pages website which is impressive & enlightening. I’m a Freemason doing research on theosophical & hermetic organizations that may have had lodges with teachings/publications in England and America in the late 19th and early twentieth century. Noticed John Urban had alluded to a hermetic brotherhood in an earlier post. Would you please be so kind to forward my email to him for further communication.
    Thank you,
    John

    • Hello John. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the site. I passed your message on to John Urban so I imagine he will be in touch soon. Glad to be of help. All the best, Gary

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