The Sorcerer's Apprentices. James
Shelby Downard and the Mysteries of Americana
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Some conspiracy theorists question not "the facts" so much as reason itself.
James Shelby Downard is one of those mad geniuses with a talent for making the
most improbable, impossible, ludicrous and laughable speculations appear almost
plausible. A self-described student of the "science of symbolism," Downard peels
away the rational veneer of history and exposes an abyss of logic-defying
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Downard dwells upon a confluence of the familiar and the esoteric that, to
him, forms a portrait of political conspiracy the purpose of which is not power
or money, but alchemy, the mystical science of transformation. By breaking apart
and rejoining elements, it was long ago supposed, alchemy could effect most any
miracle (for example, changing base metal into gold). From ancient times through
the Enlightenment, science and magic were one and the same. As far as Downard's
concerned, the era when science was indistinguishable from sorcery never ended.
The Age of Reason and its industrial, post-modern antecedents are facades
obscuring the seething dream world of primeval urges that surfaces only in
Per Downard, the plotters are Freemasonic alchemists scheming for sovereignty
over the realm of uncontrollable impulse. The relatively tame domains of
politics, economics and ideology are mere means to that end.
"Do not be lulled into believing," warns Downard, "that just because the
deadening American city of dreadful night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so
thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory
gloss of baseball-hot dogs-apple-pie-and-Chevrolet, that it exists outside the
psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these
modern conditions precisely because sorcery is not what '20th Century man' can
accept as real."
Drawing up a brief primer of Downardism seems an impossible task, though not
quite as daunting as reading Downard's own essays which have been set forth for
public consumption largely through the good offices of publisher Adam Parfrey
whose small, outre firm, Feral House, has anthologized Downard's essays in a few
anthologies of conspiratorial material. We can do no more than scratch the
surface in this forum.
"The United States which has long been called a melting pot, should more
descriptively be called a witches' cauldron wherein the 'Hierarchy of the Grand
Architect of the Universe' arranges for ritualistic crimes and psychopolitical
psychodramas to be performed in accordance with a Master plan," Downard
That Master plan necessitates execution of three alchemical rites: the
creation and destruction of primordial matter; the Killing of the King; and the
"making manifest of all that is hidden." Shakespeare's MacBeth is a "Killing of
the King" drama. MacBeth, who killed his king in accordance with a witches'
(alchemists') plot and was himself later killed as part of the same schemata.
The latter day reenactment of the MacBeth ritual, says Downard, was the
assassination of JFK in Dealey Plaza, site of the first Masonic temple in Dallas
and a spot loaded with "trinity" symbolism. "Three" is, for those not versed in
such matters, the most magic of all magic numbers. Downard's observations
- Dallas is located just south of the 33 degree of latitude. The 33rd
degree is Freemasonry's highest rank
- Kennedy's motorcade was rolling toward the "Triple Underpass" when he
was slain by, according to some analysts, three gunmen. Three tramps were
arrested right after the murder. Hiram Abiff, architect of Solomon's Temple
and mythic progenitor of Freemasonry was murdered according to Masonic
legend by three "unworthy craftsmen."
- The MacBeth clan of Scotland had many variations of the family name. One
was "MacBaine" or "Baines." Kennedy's successor was Lyndon Baines Johnson, a
- "Dea" in Latin means goddess. "Ley" in Spanish can refer to law or rule.
"Dealey Plaza" was "goddess-rule" plaza.
- Blamed for the assassination was a man named "Oz," explained by Downard
as "a Hebrew term denoting strength." Divine strength is integral to the
- "Oz" was killed by "Ruby," just as the ruby slippers freed Dorothy from
the land of Oz in The Wizard of Oz, "which one may deride as a fairy tale
but which nevertheless symbolizes the immense power of 'ruby light'
otherwise known as the laser."
- Dealey Plaza is near the Trinity River, which before the introduction of
flood control measures submerged the place regularly. Dealey Plaza therefore
symbolizes both the trident and its bearer, the water-god Neptune.
- "To this trident-Neptune site," writes Downard, "came the 'Queen of Love
and Beauty' and her spouse, the scapegoat, in the Killing of the King rite,
the 'Ceannaideach' (Gaelic word for Ugly Head or Wounded Head). In Scotland,
the Kennedy coat of arms and iconography is full of folklore. Their Plant
Badge is an oak and their Crest has a dolphin on it. Now what could be more
coincidental than for JFK to get shot in the head near the oak tree at
Dealey Plaza. Do you call that a coincidence?"
- For those in our audience still too puzzled by the whole "Wizard of Oz"
thing to get that last bit: the "Queen" is Jackie and "Ceannaideach" is the
Gaelic form of Kennedy.
- An earlier "Trinity Site," in New Mexico, was the location of the first
atomic bomb explosion. Chaos and synergy, breaking apart and joining
together are the first principles of alchemy. The atomic bomb broke apart
the positive and negative (male and female) elements that compose primordial
matter. Physicists refer to this fiendish trickery as "nuclear fission."
- The New Mexico "Trinity" sits on the 33rd degree latitude line.
- The Kennedy assassination's true significance was concealed by the
Warren Commission headed by Freemason Earl Warren with Freemason Gerald Ford
as its public spokesman. The Commission drew its information from the FBI
headed by Freemason J. Edgar Hoover and the CIA, which transmitted
information through former director Freemason Allen Dulles who sat on the
- A decade later Ford, when president himself, was the target of an
attempted assassination in front of the St. Francis Hotel, located opposite
Mason Street in the City of St. Francis, San Francisco. Members of the
Freemasonic "Hell Fire Club," site of many a sex orgy involving such
luminaries as Freemason Benjamin Franklin, called themselves "Friars of St.
- The St. Francis Hotel was also the site of sex orgies. On its premises
occurred the rape- murder of Virginia Rappe by silent film comic Roscoe
"Fatty" Arbuckle. Virginia Rappe's name is a variation on "virgin rape." The
rape of a virgin is an important alchemical sex-magic rite.
- The serpent is a Masonic symbol of King-Killing. The Symbionese
Liberation Army, who kidnapped San Francisco newspaper heiress Patricia
Hearst, pictured a serpent on their emblem.
- The word "Symbionese" means "joined together."
- Patricia Hearst's grandfather, newspaper magnate William Randolph
Hearst, built a vast estate called San Simeon (St. Simon) on La Cuest
Encandata, The Enchanted Hill. On the estate is a "pool of Neptune" with a
statue of Venus, the "Queen of Love and Beauty." The Hearst family joined
together the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner.
As mentioned previously, we are able only to touch the most superficial
aspects of the alchemical conspiracy made manifest in the message of James
Shelby Downard. We have ignored his hint that Marilyn Monroe's death was
Freemasonically inspired, a conclusion Downard reaches in part because "when she
was mortal she was subjected to sexual debauchery, as the innocent are in
Nor have we covered Downard's argument that the advertising war "between Avis
and Hertz Rent-a-Car corporations involves fertility symbolism."
For God's sake, let us hope he's misguided.
This article is based upon the following essays by James Shelby Downard.
"The Call to Chaos." in Parfrey, Adam, ed. Apocalypse Culture: Expanded and
Revised. Los Angeles: Feral House, 1990.
"King Kill 33 degrees." in Parfrey, Adam, ed. Apocalypse Culture. New York:
Amok Press, 1987.
"Sorcery, Sex, Assassination." in Keith, Jim ed. Secret and Suppressed.
Portland, Or.: Feral House, 1993.
"Witches' Plot." photocopied manuscript.