The Sorcerer's Apprentices. James Shelby Downard and the Mysteries of Americana

Another FREE chapter from 
70 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time
By Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen
A Citadel Press Book
Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved

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 synchronicities.

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 sleep.

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 explains.

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 include:

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 sorcery rites."

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.