In 2019, a freelance day trader named Keith Gill decided to launch a campaign to save GameStop, which was being targeted for demise by Wall Street short-sellers. He bought a large position of the stock when it was $4 and began talking up his campaign on Reddit as “deepfuckingvalue” and on Youtube as “Roaring Kitty.” Gill believed if enough gamers joined this crusade, they might push value, possibly as high as $50. In August, 2020, he began promoting the idea of squeezing the hedge fund short sellers who had highly-leveraged positions and shorted over 100% of the stock. He urged his fans to “hold the line, because we set the price.”
Millennial gamers (as well as many GenX and Boomers) joined this campaign en mass (and suddenly Gill’s shares were worth millions), but it was not until Elon Musk tweeted “Gamestonk,” that value jumped from $70 to $400. Gill’s shares were now worth around $50 million. That’s when Robinhood (run by Vladimir Tenev) suspended sales because so many were buying the stock, crashing value to $150. The reason they gave was concern over meeting SEC requirements, not any liquidity issues, but two days later they got a billion dollar infusion. There seems to be a link between the major shareholders on Robinhood and the hedge funds short selling GameStop. Gill, meanwhile, nonchalantly posted a screen shot of his position, indicating he had sold zero stock and made no attempt to take profits from the surge. His gamer army quit Robinhood, migrated to Vanguard or Fidelity or some other brokerage, and kept buying the stock until it rebounded over $300.
This is not some normal situation. The gamers are refusing to sell their shares, what they call “diamond hands.” The short sellers won’t back down either. They have lost $19 billion so far and stand to lose a whole lot more. They can’t understand why these kids won’t take 5,000 percent profits (what the gamers call “tendies”) and go home.
Wall Street will likely never be quite the same as this group has grown into the millions and they now represent one of the most powerful hedge funds in the world, only they are decentralized and democratic.
Well, not quite since Gill is the leader, and is now to the gamers like Jerry Garcia was to the Deadheads.
The most amazing thing is how they refuse to take the money and have drawn a line in the sand to reign in the predatory practices of Wall Street, which is a fixed game favoring the already rich. But there’s suddenly a new game in town. The gamers have developed their own hilariously nihilistic zeitgeist with an ever-expanding slang that has become almost impenetrable to outsiders. They call each other “autistic retards” as a badge of honor. The best I can correlate is this is similar to black use of the “n” word. They call stocks “stonks.” They talk of somebody’s wife’s boyfriend, which has become an endlessly running gag. The last week, however, the community got an amazing jolt as millions upon millions flowed into their coffers. Then Robinhood cut the wind from their sails.
While a few boomers, like me, immediately sold all shares, I was so shamed afterwards by my millennial son, that I bought back in with diamond hands after spending a few hours at r/wallstreetbets. I sent a tip to Keith immediately, not realizing it was a faux pax. He doesn’t want tips and prefers you buy stock instead.
You really have to go to r/wallstreetbets to get a sense of how passionate these crusaders are.
Study the Scythians to help navigate the missing history of religion. Their religion was documented by Herodotus, the father of Western history.
Scythians believed god sent them three golden objects: a golden cup, a golden plough, and a golden battle ax.
The cup was too hot too touch, but one day a boy was able to pick it up. His offspring became the royal Scythians, in charge of appointing the Enares, who ran the ceremonies. The family with the plough was put in charge of planting hemp and other crops in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. During the summer, they moved their herds up the mountain fields to graze, and returned to the banks of the Black Sea during the winter. I could write a long time about their customs, even though they had no written language and everything we know comes from Persia or from Greece, in other words, their enemies. The Scythians built and controlled the Silk Road, which meant they were also involved in the slave, drug and spice trades. Silk didn’t appear until millennia later.
When the straits of Bosphorus were first breached, possibly due to a meteor strike, sea water flooded into the Black Sea burying all the towns and villages on the shore, as well as several islands. The survivors move away, some to Turkey, some to Persia, some to Afghanistan. They develop flood myths.
Meanwhile, in Bactria a new avatar emerges, Zoroaster, who is using the Scythian sacraments, and popularizes drinking hot milk mixed with cannabis, which turns out to be the most effective delivery system, both for medicinal and inspirational purposes. Zoroaster is a barefoot holy man, not a warrior like Heracles, the previous avatar. He carries a magic stick instead of a magic sword. He saves the tribe through feats of magic, not through feats of strength.
The first Zoroastrian king of Persia (Cyrus the Great) defeats the corrupt Babylonian empire and replaces it with a more enlightened form of government. He frees the Jews enslaved by Babylon and says, “Take this money and go back to Jerusalem and rebuild your temple and write down the history of your tribe.”
Naturally, they create a new avatar to update Abraham, named Moses, who is based off Zoroaster. They both go to the top of “smokey” mountain and come back with god’s rules after conversing with a burning bush.
Alexander the Great’s father becomes the first to defeat the Scythians in battle, opening the way for his son to march across the Silk Road and conquer Bactria. Meanwhile a new avatar emerged in India and became popular in Bactria. His name was Buddha. The great pantheons of Indian, Greek, Egyptian and Persian gods had been rejected by Zoroaster, who created the first monotheistic religion, but Buddha creates the first “no gods” religion in which your fate is ruled by karma, not by whims of some god.
Alexander embraces Buddhism before he dies and for centuries afterwards the entire Middle East becomes Buddhist with a Greek flavor. Judea borders the Greco-Buddhist empire, and soon the most advanced Jews are working on a new avatar, inspired by Buddha. Stories and scrolls are written to celebrate this new movement, which is vegetarian and seeks to stop the slaughter of birds and animals inside the temple.
This is a small, tiny movement, but one that troubles Rome, so they send one of their citizens to persecute these new Christians causing trouble in the temple, interfering with the slaughter of animals and birds, which makes a lot of profit (and Rome gets a cut).
The persecutor is unable to wipe out the movement, so he joins it and becomes its biggest influencer after the movement’s leader, James, is thrown off a tower and murdered. Thus ends any talk of vegetarianism.
Two hundred years later, a boy is born of a Christian father and Zoroastrian mother in Persia, and develops unique theories on religion at a young age, amazing the Magi while only 12. He successfully merges all religion to end war, and becomes a hunted man in return. He is such a vegetarian he won’t eat roots, only freely fallen fruits, nuts and vegetables. Lured out of safe haven in India he is skinned alive and decapitated for the crime of trying to end war. His murder makes him famous worldwide and the mercenary army of Rome begins flocking to his religion in droves, reading the bible he wrote by himself in his own unique calligraphy. He was the greatest portrait painter of his time. His temples spread over the world, until it got so big, Rome got worried again.
That’s when Constantine embraces a small cult designed to give comfort to the poor, and transforms it into an imperial juggernaut to take over the world. Many elements of Mani’s life are incorporated into the story of Jesus.
Not a single temple, bible, nor painting of Mani’s survives the great Inquisition, although pockets survive in modified form, like the Cathars in France. Eventually the Pope will order them all slaughtered to stop the spread of Mani’s dualism.
Mani had been healing the blind and lame, not with magic, but with the original oil of Moses, a mixture of cannabis resin suspended in olive oil with some spices, and a tad of opium and ephedra if available.
Rome disappears Mani and disappears cannabis at the same time. The Scythian holy grail, which was about the substance inside the cup, is transformed into the Christian Eucharist.
Johanna Harcourt-Smith was 26-years-old when she met Timothy Leary. After Leary turned informant, she was branded a CIA-honeypot by Allen Ginsberg and shunned by just about everyone. For a time, most of the counterculture turned on Leary and his acid queen.
The primary person Leary ratted out was a lawyer named Michael Kennedy who’d engineered Leary’s prison escape through the terrorist Weather Underground. Leary was only told they “were political people,” not that they were terrorist bombers responsible for the death of a San Francisco policeman. The Weather Underground sought to use Leary as a publicity tool by sending him to Algeria to live with Eldridge Cleaver. They wanted to replay the film Algeria, which documented the success of a terrorist Islamic-Marxist revolution led by downtrodden Muslims, who had no rights in French Algeria. Hundreds of thousands died in their fight for independence, and the Weather Underground was envisioning a similar scenario in the USA, except led by middle-class teenagers. The real mission, however, was driving the left violent in order to marginalize and isolate it from the mainstream.
In 1969, Leary successfully legalized cannabis for a brief moment when he appealed a pot conviction all the way to the Supreme Court and won, so the antiquated 1937 Marijuana Tax Act had to be swiftly replaced by the Controlled Substances Act, which broadened the reign of terror on medicinal plants.
In 1987, when I arrived at High Times the entire editorial staff had recently been fired over the Christmas holidays. The magazine was teetering on insolvency and circulation had cratered. The advertising base consisted of two companies selling lookalike pills obviously intended to be sold as real on the blackmarket. Caffeine was likely the primary ingredient. The magazine had recently relocated to save money on rent, and the files that survived were in a shambles. There were no photo files, and no manuscript log for unsolicited articles. All unsolicited material disappeared into a black hole. The publisher was an accountant who kept the magazine running by cutting expenses. But the publisher turned out to be a puppet for lawyer Kennedy.
Tom Forcade had created a trust to gift the company to loyal employees in the event of his demise, but when Kennedy learned of this, he immediately engineered a trip to the bank vault where the document was stored, and wrote his name on the list of trustees, while promising to serve as “protecter” of the agreement.
Soon Tom was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and Kennedy conspiring with Tom’s widow and family, including Tom’s lawyer uncle, the author of the trust. He was a former tank commander in WWII who’d been recruited into military intelligence. Employees began exiting en mass, mostly through sudden firings, but some because the thrill was gone. High Times became a treacherous environment run like an intelligence operation, where information was on a need-to-know basis.
Since the counterculture media had died or been co-opted by the 1980s, being put in charge of a nationally-distributed magazine represented a huge opportunity and I had no problem turning the financial situation around instantly just by upgrading the magazine’s content and focusing on celebrating the remaining counterculture, which included the Grateful Dead followers and Rainbow Family. One day A. Craig Copetus, one of the original High Times employees, visited the office. He seemed surprised to hear Kennedy had taken control. “Right before he died, Tom held a meeting and told us not to let Kennedy get control,” said Copetus. Obviously, Tom had second thoughts about that trip to the bank vault.
I sent a letter to Kennedy outlining my plans for creating universal, non-violent ceremonies that would focus on ending the drug war. I was already doing these cannabis-infused ceremonies in Amsterdam as part of the Cannabis Cup, as well as filming them, and felt a class-action lawsuit could be successfully mounted to protect hippies from persecution by claiming pot was a legitimate sacrament. To bolster these claims, I’d been accumulating evidence Zoroastrianism, the foundation for Judaism and Christianity, had originated as a cannabis cult, and the smoking bush of Moses was a reference to the inspirational power of cannabis. Despite offering a splendid opportunity for Kennedy to double-pay himself and get tremendous publicity for himself (and for the magazine), and increase sales, and especially because it would save countless thousands from jail and financial ruin, Kennedy never responded to the letter.
What Kennedy did instead is launch a series of campaigns to have me fired. A series of publishers were installed, all instructed to “start looking for a new editor.” Attempts were made to kill the Cannabis Cup, but I managed to offload that to Michael Esterson for a licensing fee. The agreement also kept videotaping alive as Esterson agreed to cover that cost. But as soon as the WHEE! festival became profitable, and Mountain Girl agreed to move the festival to her estate, Kennedy summoned me to his office, where he unexpectedly declared WHEE was dead. Kennedy informed me it was a huge waste of time and resources. Bolstering this lie required support from the publisher, who was Mike Edison at the time, who would soon be fired, and who later write a revenge memoir branding me as incompetent. Apparently, among my many crimes was believing the assassinations of the 1960s deserved further investigation, and that a group of teens from Marin had invented 420.
The next year, the trust dissolved and Trans High Corporation gifted to the employees. I was given some token shares along with a handful of other real employees, but Kennedy and Tom’s family held the majority. Kennedy moved into the High Times office and began running the operation into the ground. Meanwhile, I could never comprehend why Kennedy was so angry with me all the time since I’d been making him millions and sales sank without me at the helm. He was living on billionaires row on Central Park South, his summer residence was an ocean-front property in the Yale enclave in the Hamptons, and he also had a winter home in Palm Beach, as well as an estate in Ireland. I was a single dad living hand-to-mouth with two kids with a disabled wife to support at a different location, and just eking by thanks to the debates I was doing on college campuses against the former head of the New York DEA.
One day, I was summoned to Kennedy’s office where he introduced me to Buffalo Mailer, Norman Mailer’s son. Kennedy wanted Buffalo to provide some young energy to the aging editorial staff, so he was being installed as Executive Editor and I needed to introduce him to staff as if it was my idea.
The following day, I was again summoned to Kennedy’s office upon arrival in the morning, where a shame-faced Mailer held a copy of a just-released New York magazine, which contained an interview with Richard Stratton where he announced his next project: running High Times. Kennedy had made a secret deal with Stratton and Mailer was Stratton’s stalking horse. I felt sorry for Mailer, for allowing himself to be dragged into participating in a slimy hoodwink. At the editorial meeting later that morning where Mailer announced the real situation to the staff, only Natasha shed tears for me. The others were already angling for elevation on the masthead.
I was moved out of the office so as not to interfere with the transition. I could never understand why nobody wanted my participation as I’d always thought of magazines as a team effort, and the goal was assembling the best possible staff. My investigative journalism had been a significant part of the magazine’s success, so why wouldn’t that continue? Instead, my contribution was limited to a 500-word monthly column, for which I was paid a steadily dwindling salary.
One day I got an email from Johanna saying she wanted to talk. I’d believed the stories about her being a CIA agent, but I was having second thoughts about that, as well as the truth concerning Kennedy’s participation in the Weather Underground. I knew Bill Ayers remained a close friend since I’d recently edited Kennedy’s adopted daughter’s wedding video.
I soon began formulating my alternative history of the 1960s, in which Tim Leary and Charlie Manson are manipulated pawns deployed to de-tooth the counterculture. Knowing I was on treacherous ground, I sent an email to Kennedy requesting permission to interview Johanna. Strangely, I got a response right away, and it contained an emotional plea not to because the memories remained an open wound. That email was nothing like any other email I ever received from Kennedy. It wasn’t like him to show weakness.
Johanna died recently from breast cancer, but she was able to finally get her story out. She’d watched Wormwood on Netflix and felt compelled to contact the filmmaker, who’d instantly agreed to interview her. During the film, it becomes apparent Johanna felt she was being manipulated into Leary’s orbit and it was through surveillance on her that the CIA was keeping tabs on Leary. But she’d never been a knowing participant. And I believe this is the way a lot of intel operations work. Few have any clue to the unseen strings or who the puppet masters might be.
Johanna had become promiscuous at age 15, and a parade of powerful people connected to arms trafficking and illegal drugs soon became her friends and lovers. She became part of the Rolling Stones jet-setting entourage. At 26, she was likely nearing the end of a glamorous career as swinging super hottie, when Aleister Crowley devotee Anita Pallenberg (who’d inspired the Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” phase), told her to look up Leary because he was available and hiding out in Switzerland.
At their first meeting Leary pulled out Crowley Tarot deck.
I was disappointed the film never delved into whether Johanna could have been sold by her mother to the CIA as an MK/Ultra sex slave. She’d had a raging libido from the age of 15, and typically held at least eight males under her command at all times. The reason Wormwood resonated so deeply could have been because her role as an acid queen was ordained.
The sad truth about Leary is he was half-visionary and half-huckster. His first book on the psychedelic experience was based around the Tibetan Book of the Dead, magic incantations intended to lead the dying to nirvana, basically the same hoodwink MI6 operative Somerset Maugham deployed in the Razor’s Edge, in which the secrets of the universe are located in Eastern philosophies. Imagine leading people from India or China to adopt Catholicism as the true faith. Enlightenment is not like climbing a mountain. You don’t reach the top and become released from temporal bondage. There is no nirvana, no heaven, no hell, no eternal soul. You’re just replacing one Santa Claus story with another. The real secret to magic and religion is it only works on believers.
Strangely, the Weather Underground celebrated the Manson murders, and held Charlie up as a counterculture hero for “killing pigs.” They also celebrated Sirhan Sirhan for the same reason. Both Leary and Manson were held in isolation at the same prison, but their cells strangely located next door, allowing them to communicate.
“They took you off the streets so I could continue your work,” said Manson.
After JFK was assassinated a cottage industry appeared to spread outlandish theories about what really happened. Real researchers like Penn Jones, Silvia Meagher, Harold Weisberg were suddenly snowed under by crank leads and rabbit holes leading nowhere. These efforts were only magnified when Jim Garrison began investigating the case in New Orleans. Probably the most effective stream of this gunk was manufactured by Discordians some of whom had been obviously unwittingly captured into participating in a clever counterintelligence operation designed to neutralize the real researchers. Apparently, the Discordians believed the Garrison investigation was a fraud, which justified their attempts at conspiracy theory monkey wrenching.
A lot of the gunk involved various theories regarding MK/Ultra mind control experiments, something few had any clue to in the mid-sixties. Mind control eventually became a subject pervaded with disinfo, starting with the first books on the subject, Were We Controlled by Lincoln Lawrence, followed swiftly by Operation Mind Control by Walter Bowart.
Lincoln Lawrence turned out to be a regular on the emerging UFO circuit (real name: Art Ford), who claimed to have discovered a ray-gun at the North Pole that was over 100,000 years old. Most people thought this artifact looked like a toy pistol. Ford’s book claimed Oswald was a KGB sleeper agent and had been set-up as a patsy. He claimed the real story was published by a Chicago publisher, who turned out to be Novel Books, which was Kerry Thornley’s publisher as well, which should tell you all you need to know about this rabbit hole. Thornley’s editor at Novel was Louise Lacey, who would later be “ordained” as a Discordian Pope. Surely this is the most dubious distinction any JFK researcher can hold. Who would fund the rise of a fake religion dedicated to spreading fake news about the JFK assassination? The answer is James Angleton.
Bowart is an even more interesting character. An orphan from Omaha, Nebraska (which means he likely could have resided at Boy’s Town, the most famous Catholic orphanage in the world), Bowart moved to New York City in the early sixties and in 1965 became a founder of the East Village Other. He married Mellon heiress Peggy Hitchcock, whose brother Billy funded the spread of Orange Sunshine across the globe, while his uncle Richard Scaife invented the Radical Right. While the Astor, Vanderbilt, Morgan and Carnegie dynasties have disappeared, the Mellon clan remains richer than ever.
Bowart and Hitchcock bore two children but the marriage didn’t last, although Bowart got a few thousand a month in alimony for several months after the divorce was finalized. He moved to Arizona and created a publishing company for exploring metaphysical topics. Decades later, it would be determined Boy’s Town was a center for recruiting child sex slaves, similar to what Jeffrey Epstein ended up doing. Apparently, managing sex slaves can be very profitable and most of the profit comes through either selling the tapes or using them as blackmail.
Like many others in the alternative media, I originally mistook Bowart as an honest researcher, but later in life I happened to pick up his book and went through a painful reevaluation, starting with the list of influencers given credit in the opening pages for shaping his zeitgeist. I was startled to see this list begin with Chip Berlet, an obvious intel propagandist who was head of the Friends of Albania in Chicago while also serving as an FBI informant. Berlet would go on to lead pushback against those claiming the the CIA killed JFK, who were suffering from a fake mental disorder he labeled “conspiracism.”
Berlet had a mirror operation on the right that was much bigger and better funded being run through Lyndon LaRouche. These two centers of propaganda staged a dogma war for a few decades, LaRouche asserting a Jewish cabal was running run the world while Berlet batted down those theories as far-right antisemitism.
Also on Bowart’s list was British intelligence super spook William Stephenson (misspelled “Stevenson”), the man who ran the world’s largest propaganda campaign in history from free offices on the 35 and 36th floor of Rockefeller Center.
Also on the list was Fletcher Prouty, the primary whistleblower on the JFK assassination from inside the Pentagon, who in hindsight appears to have been a backstop and not a real whistleblower as none of his information ever led to an official investigation of anyone.
To unravel counterintelligence operations, one only need identify the major designated influencer on a subject and before long more will reveal themselves as part of the team because these operations involve budgets and can always outlast and outwit any independent investigative researchers. Today, we have the phony Q-Anon community as the modern update on Discordianism, but the impact is the same, which is to muddy the waters on real deep state information, the people who ran the MK/Ultra assassins.
Mind control was a deep CIA secret for decades, part of the family jewels, which is why a cottage industry appeared to plant rabbit holes on the subject as soon as the public became aware of the situation. Oswald likely went through behavior modifications through hypnotism, and was probably told these experiments were designed to help him maintain his cover while in Russia. We know Oswald was hypnotized by David Ferrie while serving as a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol because Ferrie hypnotized all his cadets. One thing that stands out: orphans and those without strong father figures seem to make the best subjects.
There are numerous candidates for the list of CIA-programmed assassin: Mark David Chapman, Sirhan Sirhan, and John Hinckley. But one of the best documented cases is also among the least well-known.
Luis Angel Castillo was imprisoned for robbery in Bordentown Reformatory in New Jersey, another site documented as conducting MK/Ultra experiments. Raised in Puerto Rico by Cuban nationals, he left Puerto Rico to attend school in Cuba in 1960. This may have been part of a JM/Wave penetration project. He was trained for several years as a Cuban intelligence agent. In late 1966, he changed identities with a Filipino living in Chicago named Antonio Reyes Eloriaga, at the direction of the Cuban Intelligence Service, for the purpose of using Eloriaga’s Philippine passport to go to the Philippines.
Castillo departed Chicago for the Philippines, traveling under a Philippine passport taken from a Philippine national illegally in the USA. Apparently his mission was to assassinate Ferdinand Marcos, who was dipping his fingers excessively into the stolen gold stashed by the Japanese after WWII and recovered by Yale Bonesmen working with Opus Dei. Marcos was getting kickbacks for contributing soldiers to aid the war in Vietnam.
Once in the Philippines Castillo was arrested by security services and claimed to be a Castro secret agent and offered his services in assassinating Huk guerrillas. But then they decided to submit Castillo to drugs and hypnosis and an entirely different story popped out. He quickly confessed to being among 14 Cuban intelligence agents who had been deployed in Dallas for Kennedy’s assassination after which he flew to Chicago in a plane piloted by a Russian-looking women named Jean Dole of Madison, Wisconsin.
It appears Castillo could have been a shooter, or back-up patsy linked to Castro if anything went south with the Oswald-as-lone-assassin scenario. One of the assassins, John Roselli, would float the theory that a CIA team sent into Cuba to kill Castro had been turned by Castro and sent back to kill JFK. In a sense, this is what happened, only the team was not “turned” by Castro. Castillo claimed to have been positioned on the second floor of the Dal-Tex Building with a rifle in his lap that he had no memory of firing (a detail that could easily have been hypnotically erased). Also of note, Castillo claimed the rifle was produced out of a bag in two parts, which corresponds to Ed Hoffman’s testimony of the grassy knoll gunman, as well as Joseph Milteer’s description of the weapon.
Apparently, Castillo never had a clear idea of who he really worked for. The CIA put immense effort into locating people who were easy to hypnotize and used them for a variety of ops and Castillo pioneered a list that now includes Sirhan Sirhan, Mark Chapman, John Hinckley and Donald DeFreeze. The problem was Castillo had so many multiple personalities it became exceedingly difficult to determine which statements might be true, as opposed to those hypnotically planted.
“Castillo was visited by a World Health Organization-based doctor,” claims Victor Arcega, “who tried and failed to re-hypnotize him.” Life, Time and Post correspondents interviewed him, while warning him to “shut up. In 1968, Castillo returned to the US on charges of mischief and vagrancy and entered an Illinois federal jail, but his wife (and soon-to-be ex), swore he never spent a day in jail. Within a month, the Illinois governor pardoned Castillo. “The last time he was seen, his mother was told Luis was shopping for clothes and travel stuff, preparing for a ‘missionary’ trip. To Angola.”
The ancient Persians considered Balkh the “mother of all cities,” which may be why something heavy went down 5,000 years ago. Balkh was the largest, richest and most important oasis on the road connecting China and India to Europe. In fact, the trail split not far from the city’s immense walls, the southern route tailing off towards the Khyber Pass, while the northern led into the Hindu Kush to Kashgar.
Just as in Sumer, Turkey and Egypt, irrigation methods soon created immense gardens and orchards to support a growing population, and most crops were planted safely inside the city walls. Priests were placed in charge of water and seed distribution, as well as prayers and divinations for a good harvest.
One day there appeared a prophet in the city who instigated a major shift in cosmology. Up until his arrival, it had been assumed the universe was dominated by a vast multitude of greater and lesser spiritual energies, and each community had been free to make up their own pantheons.
When he first appeared on the scene, Zoroaster was a very controversial figure. He apparently accused some of the priests of practicing the dark arts and claimed their magic was fraudulent. It’s strange how today Zoroaster is known as “the first magician,” when, in fact, he seems to have gotten his start by exposing fake magic. During this time, an evil eye accusation could result in an execution. So if a priest accused you of giving someone the evil eye to explain why disaster had befallen them, you were pretty much a lost cause. I’m speculating here, but I believe Zoroaster may have put an end to such superstition.
One thing for sure, Zoroaster obliterated the ancient pantheons that had stood for millennia, replacing them with two forces, one good, and the other evil. It’s gone down in history as the origin of monotheism, even though in practice there were many lesser spirits in play. The other important contribution was the creation of a epic hero involved in seeking enlightenment, which supplemented the prior epic hero involved in feats of heroic strength. It was the first time a philosopher/scientist/astrologer emerged to replace the warrior avatars.
A number of epic hymns were written to celebrate Zoroaster’s quest for enlightenment. Some even attribute the first half dozen to Zoroaster himself. In a nutshell, he went to the top of smokey mountain, communicated with a magic plant, and came back down with the good god’s official rule book.
One day, a new young king of Balkh decided this new prophet Zoroaster was onto something heavy. And that’s when fire temples began sprouting all along the Silk Road serving a mixture of cannabis and milk with spices. This was Zoroaster’s Eucharist for healing the blind and lame, as well as curing depression, a magic staircase to the mind of the good god.
Known as soma in India, haoma in Persia, and shuma in China, the medicine helped transform Zoroaster into becoming the most famous prophet of his time. And, of course, after his death, magical stories about him increased and rapidly erased any human figure. This is the natural trajectory any mythic figure must undergo simply because people want to take their religion with a heavy dose of enchantment. So the debunker of fake magic became the world’s greatest magician.
There’s also been a lot of hoodwinking going on about when he really lived. Lately, there’s even been an attempt to date Zoroaster after Moses, when, in fact, Moses was obviously based on Zoroaster because it was the first Zoroastrian king of Persia (Cyrus the Great) who defeated the corrupt Babylonian empire and freed the Jews. Not only did Cyrus free the Jews, he gave them funds and instructions to rebuild Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. This all happened before the Jews had a written language, and in gratitude, Moses was fashioned as the Jewish Zoroaster, and most of the cosmology lifted right out of the Avesta.
And, of course, in short order, something heavy went down in Jerusalem.
Strange how High Times kept bringing me back. The final go-round was the most excruciating of all, but I always had a sense the powers-that-be were playing defense against me when they should have been on my team.
While I’d been away this time for two years, video operations entirely ceased, and this happened during the same time frame that Youtube took off and minted a generation of video stars outside the establishment pipelines. The magazine had bizarrely gone no-pot for a disastrous year followed by a nothing-but-pot policy.
I knew nobody was really on my team, but I dove into rebuilding my video operations, but this time on a professional scale. I turned my office into a video studio and shot and edited video every day. Making this foray into film and television was my biggest priority, although I also brought back real investigative journalism, something the magazine was in dire need of, and penned two of my greatest features, one on the CIA’s LSD attack on a French town after WWII, and the other was on an unknown Canadian named Rick Simpson. Both articles attracted attention, something High Times hadn’t seen much of since I’d departed.
But my pride and joy was my High Times Reality TV pilot that I was working up for Comedy Central. I’d already had a couple meetings with the head of the network and they were watching the show’s progress with great interest. I was working on creating the cannabis alternative to Sasha Baron Cohen. Unfortunately, much of the staff were somewhat devastated upon my return as no doubt they’d been expecting the promotion themselves, and some had zero intention of working with me on anything. It certainly helped this attitude along that the owners were ringleaders of the vibes against me.
The first half of the show got screened at the free Woodstock Film Festival. The second half was shot but the footage was hijacked and used to make a generic “welcome to the Cup promo” film that ignored the Borat-style film I’d shot, and replaced it with an endless parade of bud shots.
Hopefully, some day, I will finish the project. But in the meantime, you can check out part one here:
When CBS announced a former British commando had moved to Hollywood and was launching a survival elimination game show called “Survivor,” I instantly knew the concept was going to be a big hit, mostly because it was mining tribal traditions, something I’d been doing for over a decade through my events and organizations.
Of course, I didn’t want some cutthroat competition, just a group of cinematic stoners checking out all the strains of the annual Cannabis Cup. Maybe that sounds easy, but it’s actually quite a daunting task unless you’re an experienced bud-tender or distributor who knows his strains.
We had a talented young comedian, a hip hop music producer (and grower), an aspiring performance artist, a medical user, a noted activist, and a super hottie from England. They were all thrown into a one bedroom houseboat in Amsterdam and told they had to stay onboard until they had tried all the strains, which were released slowly in increments of a half dozen or so at a time.
After 36 hours or so, the young comedian requested to get off the boat and soon announced he was off pot for good. He had entered the contest not really being very experienced with cannabis, but only wanting to win the contest and get some notoriety for his comedy. As a joke, he rolled a dozen strains into a giant joint and began toking on it. Within a few minutes, you could see a pronounced change in his body language.
The Castaways picked the Cannabis Cup winner that year, and I was planning on another season, and keeping some of the Castaways as characters in my tv universe I was building, but when they returned to the States, the hip hop producer’s estranged wife initiated a custody battle to bar access to their daughter based on his participation in the show. When he called me hysterically after the judgment, I asked for a copy of the transcript.
I’d just won a similar custody battle based on my being editor of High Times initiated by a bipolar member of my wife’s family, so I had experience with the terror this dude was going through, and you don’t know real mental terror until someone swoops in and seizes your only child.
But, at the same time, I had to admit the transcript read like a Cheech and Chong script. The producer had denied being involved in the show from the get-go and the lawyer led him down a garden path until he produced a copy of High Times with him on the cover, holding his distinctive cane, a cane he now held firmly in his grasp in the witness stand. The producer went down in flames.
I contacted the comedian because I wondered if he wanted to work on an animated film about our project. A lot of the comedy we’d worked on together during the event had been successful. We’d produced a sitcom every night for four nights running and showed the results to open the shows at the Melkweg. This mini series was treated with waves of applause and belly laughter and was obviously the most entertaining thing we’d produced content-wise from all my improvisational explorations.
But the comedian freaked again, and sent a letter to all the Castaways saying I was planing on mining their personal tragedies for profit and advised them all never to speak with me again. He certainly never did.
But we did get a live web show so popular it kept crashing our website while it was on, and the highlights were immortalized in a DVD you can watch here:
It’s unfortunate how little video footage got captured during the first Whee! festival outside Eugene, Oregon. The entire adventure had begun as my plot to establish a Weed Woodstock. (Although, in truth, the original was funded almost entirely by weed money, and the event helped cement Woodstock as a weed distribution center.)
I remember taking the trustees to lunch at some five-star restaurant and saying, “You have to be committed to a new event for five years, because that’s how long it may take to break even.” But I assured them after five years, my Whee! fest would be as big if not bigger than Woodstock. And I believed this because the event was promoted as a prayer for world peace, a serious non-denominational ceremony recognizing cannabis as the sacrament of peace culture.
Of course, Whee! exploded immediately, drawing 20,000 to the event, most of whom got in for free and were fed free by a non-stop crew kitchen, and anyone could volunteer to be crew.
After the OM circle, someone handed a bottle of whiskey to Felipe and said he was done with this. Felipe and I did a bunch of powerful ceremonies together, and that was certainly one of the best.
But the day after the event ended, we invited the Pranksters to our motel room to celebrate and eat pizza. Only Ken Babbs showed up, and this is what transpired. The next day, we went to see Kesey, and he introduced me to non-linear video editing, just going prosumer. I had been a devoted follower of improvisational ritual theater as practiced by the Pranksters, and took this direction very seriously, devoting the rest of my life to capturing video of the ceremonies I was staging. Sure glad I kept these memories, and if you want to know what Hager ceremonies look and feel like, this will clue you in.
As soon as I got back to New York, the trustees informed me that Whee! had been a financial failure. Although I knew that was a lie. Through immense efforts I manage to resurrect one more Whee! at the same site the next year before my precious Whee! ceremony was cast to the winds, and thus ended my longstanding campaign for the recognition of spiritual rights for cannabis users.
Tom Forcade had multiple film projects in the works when he committed suicide. He’d recently bought controlling interest of a smuggling project, and went to show a rough cut to Robert Evans in Hollywood. Forcade had just paid an editor to whip the chaotic footage into a story. He put a lot of effort into trying to make sense of that footage, some of which involved footage of a real smuggling operation, but Evans sadly told him the edit still wasn’t working.
Apparently, Forcade’s moves into Hollywood contributed to two things: cocaine and guns. According to Gabrielle Schang, Forcade didn’t carry a pistol until after being introduced around Hollywood. He’d been a dealer and distributor and magazine publisher, but was also branching into smuggling and film at the same time. His most precious documentary project involved filming the Sex Pistols historic tour of America. Forcade bought a plane and sent Jack Combs on a mission. He never recovered from Jack’s fatal crash at the end of that ill-fated mission. And that also ended any High Times forays into the film world until I arrived.
Before coming to High Times, I’d launched a moderately successful film project called Beat Street, and never lost sight of expanding my efforts into the world of film and video. When prosumer equipment finally reached the realms of the masses, I began documenting everything, quickly evolving into the most video-centric magazine editor on the national stage. I shot thousands of hours of footage, and often assembled 7-person crews to do four-camera edits with live switching of my major events. All this was working towards the creation of a counterculture television network.
The first project I pitched to the trustees was a Chef Ra travel guide to Jamaica. I was creating an entire galaxy of High Times stars and Ra was intended to be one of the brightest.
Imagine my surprise when the trustees tell me they are putting up thousands of dollars to make the Chef Ra film. That was the good news. The bad news was the project was being given to the aspiring filmmaker son of the head trustee. I didn’t get to play any role in the film until the end. They spent a week in Jamaica and shot a lot of random footage and needed Ra to help work it into a story.
That’s not the best way to make a great documentary and it showed in the final product. But it remains the best portrait of Jim Wilson we have, and since Jim co-wrote the script used to stitch the scenes together, it carries his creativity and compassion.
Modern life is evolving so fast it’s hard to imagine the vibes going down 30 years ago. Which is why it’s so entertaining to check out a documentary I produced early in the 1990s titled Let Freedom Ring: the Origins of the Hemp Movement. It came out just after my discovery of 420, but three years after I’d created the Freedom Fighters with the help of Rodger Belknap of West Virginia, who quickly became our organization’s chief funder and spiritual advisor.
The Freedom Fighters went from a handful of High Times staffers to the biggest cannabis legalization group in the world in two years, while the Ann Arbor Hash Bash went from a dozen hardcore devotees to many thousands cramming the diag at the University of Michigan. Marching into rallies in our Freedom Fighter outfits was the ritual that helped galvanize a national movement.
Shortly after the film was released, however, Rodger was railroaded into jail, while High Times forced me to disband the group, allegedly because NORML was unhappy about the competition, which seemed weird since our newsletter had been recognizing and supporting NORML chapters from inception, and many Freedom Fighter state groups were also affiliated with NORML, including the chapter in Boston that created the Boston Freedom Rally.
Our big campaign was bringing activists together for major rallies. We organized free campgrounds with free food and a free bus ride to the rally. When Rodger asked me what was needed for the organization, I told him we needed a school bus and council tipi. Within a few weeks we had both and took off for the Rainbow Gathering in Ocala, Florida, where I flew a High Times flag and nobody cared.