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Heinlein's 'Stranger...', Thelema and Mormonism

To: alt.magick
From: John Michael Greer (
Subj: Heinlein's 'Stranger...', Thelema and Mormonism (0000.hnlnthl.jmg)
Date: unknown

Quoting: | (Bob Anzlovar) 

|In the last two issues of _Green Egg_, there're a couple articles which
|put forth the thesis that _Stranger in a Strange Land_ is really about
|Thelema, but doing so without pushing the hot-buttons that most folks
|have about Crowley. (Altho Crowley *is* mentioned once in the book.)

True enough.  There's also another connection to things magical in that
particular book of Heinlein's, though -- a sideways and distinctly odd
one, which I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere...

A few years back I picked up a copy of _No Man Knows My History_, Fawn
Brodie's first-rate bio of Mormon founder/prophet Joseph Smith.  I think 
I was halfway through before I realized why so much of the book seemed
so familiar:  a good chunk of _Stranger_ was apparently drawn directly
from it.  There's a good chunk of Joseph Smith's career in that of
Valentine Michael Smith, and there's also a lot of Mormonism in general
-- including the sexual unconventionalness -- in the Church of the New
Revelation and its founder.

The thing that makes this interesting, and appropriate for this forum,
is that one of the points Brodie made (and one of the things that most
drove the Mormon hierarchy into apopleptic fits over her book) is that
Joseph Smith was a ceremonial magician of the grand old medieval type,
complete with a shewstone in which he claimed to see spirits pointing
the way to buried treasure.  In several other sources, it's said that 
when Smith (J., not V. M.) was lynched, a standard talisman of Jupiter
was found on his body -- the kind you'll find in, say, Barrett's _Magus_,
with the Kamea, seals, and so on.  Just the thing for an aspiring 
religious leader!

No question but that all this Mormon material was reworked by Heinlein's
not inconsiderable creative powers, and mixed with a good dollop of 
Thelema to boot.  Still, it's of interest (at least to me) that there's
more magic in _Stranger_ than meets the eye...

-- John Michael Greer

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