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Sinister Forces-The Manson Secret: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft

Sinister Forces-The Manson Secret: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft

by Peter Levenda, Paul Krassner (Foreword by)

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The roots of coincidence and conspiracy in American politics, crime, and culture are investigated in this examination of the connections between religion, political conspiracy, and occultism. Readers are presented with detailed insight into how Charlie Manson became a national bogeyman as well as startling connections between Nobel Prize–winning physicist


The roots of coincidence and conspiracy in American politics, crime, and culture are investigated in this examination of the connections between religion, political conspiracy, and occultism. Readers are presented with detailed insight into how Charlie Manson became a national bogeyman as well as startling connections between Nobel Prize–winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli, Carl Jung, and synchronicity; serial killers, multiple personality disorder, and demonic possession; and magic, surrealism, and mind control. Not a work of speculative history, this third volume of a three-part set is founded on primary source material and historical documents. Fascinating secrets are divulged involving Hollywood icons such as Marilyn Monroe, David Lynch, and Jane Fonda as well as links between the Cotton Club murders, the Bluegrass conspiracy, and the Son of Sam cult.

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"Conspiratorialists will drown in new floods of old forgotten material, rationalists will throw this book across the room, then get around to picking it up and reading a little further . . . a thesis that is by turns compelling, cautious, maddening, and intriguing."  —Norman Mailer on Sinister Forces—The Nine

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Sinister Forces Book Three: The Manson Secret

A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft

By Peter Levenda

Trine Day LLC

Copyright © 2006 Peter Levenda
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-9841858-3-2



I was going to show you how a soul with a weak hold on its tenant could be expelled by another; how, indeed, half-a-dozen personalities could take turns to live in one body. That they are real, independent souls is shown by the fact that not only do the contents of the mind differ — which might conceivably be a fake — but their handwritings, their voices, and that in ways which are quite beyond anything we know in the way of conscious simulation, or even possible simulation.

These personalities are constant quantities; they depart and return unchanged. It is then sure that they do not exist merely by manifestation; they need no body for existence.

— Aleister Crowley

Osiris married his sister Isis and succeeded Ra as king of the earth. However, his brother Set hated him. Set killed Osiris, cut him into many pieces, and scattered the fragments over a wide area.

Isis gathered up the fragments, embalmed them, and resurrected Osiris as king of the nether world, king of the land of the dead. ... Isis and Osiris had a son, Horus, who defeated Set in battle and became king of the earth. Thus in this myth we see the fragmentation, death, healing, and resurrection of the self in a new form. This is the cycle through which the successfully treated DID (dissociative identity disorder) patient must pass.

— Colin A. Ross

To me, black and white films from the early days of cinema have always seemed somewhat ... existential. Something to do with film noir, I suppose. One is forced to concentrate more on the story being told, the characterizations, camera angles, etc., as if searching for a hidden meaning. Since there is no color, the shadings are all done with light and darkness, with strips of shadow and sharp, cutting edges: like some kind of Zoroastrian struggle taking place, frame by frame.

This is especially true, I think, of Fritz Lang's masterpiece, M.

This is Lang's first sound film, and it is also the first film ever made about a serial killer. Though released in 1931, its issues are strikingly modern and relevant. The film could have been made yesterday, and it humbles us to realize that people agonized over the same moral and legal issues in Weimar Berlin as they do in twenty-first century New York. Briefly, the story is this:

A series of child abductions and murders is taking place in a city in Germany. Little girls are being seduced by gifts of candy and balloons, their bodies sometimes found, sometimes not, a little while later. Details of the crimes are not given, but we are meant to understand that they are hideous. The killer is sending letters to the police and the newspapers, taunting them. The letters are being analyzed by police graphologists in what is perhaps the first instance on film of "profiling."

We know the identity of the killer from the beginning. It is a man named Beckert who is played to perfection by a young Peter Lorre, a Hungarian actor who at the time was also working on a Brecht piece (and similarities between the Lang film and Brecht's work have been noted before). Lorre would rise to prominence in American films later in his career — notably Casablanca, Passage to Marseilles, etc. — and his pop eyes and strange, lisping voice would become the mainstay of cartoon villains for decades to come.

Beckert has a nervous habit of whistling a melody from Grieg's Peer Gynt, and that is how he is eventually identified, by a group of street criminals who want to stop the intense pressure being put on their illegal businesses by the police who are turning the city — and the underworld — inside out in their search for the murderer. Thus, we have both the police and the criminal organizations looking for the killer, the criminals somewhat more successful in that they do not have to rely on the niceties of search and seizure laws to conduct their sweep of the city. That Beckert is eventually captured is a foregone conclusion; what is fascinating is how the killer describes the uncontrollable compulsion that leads him to murder, the fact that he cannot remember the murders themselves, and the struggle of society over what to do with a man who is an "involuntary" killer, a man who cannot be held responsible for his actions. The discussion of how the murderer — if brought to the police — would probably get off with a "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea and be free to walk the streets and kill more little girls is so contemporary that we are shocked into a realization that this conundrum has been going on, continuously and unresolved, since at least that time.

The term "serial killer" is not used, as that phrase was developed in America fifty years after the release of the film; yet the pattern of murders, amnesia, the killer's taunting letters to the police, etc. are identical to those with which we are now familiar from both real-life instances of serial murder as well as the more fanciful treatments by Hollywood.

Is the serial killer a metaphor for something deeper? The Fritz Lang film stops well short of the type of mythologizing of, say, The Silence of the Lambs. The 1931 film treats the murderer as a human being suffering from a serious sickness — perhaps mental, perhaps spiritual — that renders him unfit for human society and which puts both the police and the criminal organizations into counterpoint against a case of "real" criminality: we are forced to admit that perhaps the common criminal is simply the mirror image of a policeman, whereas the serial killer is beyond all comparison with normal human activity, legal or illegal.

Modern writers like Thomas Harris (who created the unforgettable Hannibal Lecter) have taken this idea one step further: if the serial killer is indeed outside the normal realm of human behavior, then — on an existential level — what does he represent? By comparing the bizarre actions and beliefs of a serial killer to those of cannibals, primitive shamans, etc., we are drawn to the conclusion that these extreme cases of human behavior — eating human flesh, becoming possessed by spiritual forces — point the way to a different view of society, and of reality itself. Thomas Harris' killers are seeking transformation: either spiritual or psychological transformation or actual physical change. They use murder, torture, and pain as means to this end. In this they are no different from organized killing societies such as the SS, for Hitler himself believed he was using the Nazi Party to create a "new man."

This almost visceral urge to evolve into something different, something other, may indeed be the manifestation of a genetic impulse. Transformation is a theme of many ancient spiritual practices, from the Siberian shaman changing himself into an animal to the dead Egyptian Pharoah becoming a god, to the transformative rites of the Catholic Mass, to the intense ecstatic rituals of Haitian voudon in which the devotee is temporarily possessed by a god and behaves accordingly. Ancient religion and primitive religion are obsessed by the idea of personal transformation; it is only in the richer and more developed countries that this concept is forgotten as people desperately try to hold on to the status quo. They suddenly have a lot to lose if they become something ... other.

Thus, the mythology of the serial killer is a warning, perhaps, that this urge is not to be ignored because otherwise it will manifest in very dangerous, very unhealthy ways. And should the reader believe that this "mythology" is a fabrication of novelists and Hollywood scriptwriters, let us examine the myths of some of America's most famous serial murderers to see how deeply religious concepts and iconography adorned their chambers of horrors.


Before we delve directly into the shamanistic and initiatory aspects of some celebrated serial murderers, let us define our terms. We will discuss the religio-occult terms as we come across them, but for now we should focus on what mainstream psychiatry thinks about such things as multiple personality disorder (MPD), dissociative identity disorder (DID), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the whole field of acute mental illness in general. In order to do this, we must consult that bible of the psychiatric profession, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: Mental Disorders, more commonly referred to as DSM.

The first edition of the DSM was not published until 1951, following a period of confusion and disorganization in the profession that began in the 1920s, when efforts were undertaken to create an international "Standard Nomenclature of Disease." Various attempts at codifying mental illness by adopting a specific vocabulary were attempted — with varying degrees of success — throughout the 1930s. All of this changed with the onset of World War II. Many readers may be surprised to learn that the celebrated DSM is actually the result of an American military mission to provide a comprehensive classification system of mental disease. As the war broke out, psychiatrists realized, "There was a need to account accurately for all causes of morbidity, hence the need for a suitable diagnosis for every case seen by the psychiatrist, a situation not faced in civilian life. Only about 10% of the total cases seen fell into any of the categories ordinarily seen in public mental hospitals. Military psychiatrists, induction station psychiatrists, and Veterans Administration psychiatrists, found themselves operating within the limits of a nomenclature specifically not designed for 90% of the cases handled." In other words, ninety percent of the mental illness cases encountered by the military fell outside the normal run of what was experienced in a civilian setting. As an example:

Relatively minor personality disturbances, which became of importance only in the military setting, had to be classified as, "Psychopathic Personality."

(We may be forgiven if we suggest, therefore, that perhaps some of what we have come to know as mental illnesses are in actuality mental states or conditions not conducive to following orders, marching in lockstep, and blowing someone's brains out.)

The Navy then began to develop its own classification system in 1944, and the Army came up with its own version in 1945, a version that eventually became the one used by the Veterans Administration in 1946. However, by 1948 there were "at least three nomenclatures (Standard, Armed Forces, and Veterans Administration)" in general use, none of which agreed completely with the new International Statistical Classification. What happened next seems dull and unexceptional, except perhaps to a Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) or maybe a Blatty (Twinkle, Twinkle Killer Kane). To quote once again from the very first edition of the DSM:

Following the adoption of new nomenclatures by the Army and Veterans Administration, the Committee on Nomenclature and Statistics of the American Psychiatric Association postponed change in its recommended official nomenclature pending some evidence as to the usability of the new systems. In 1948, the Committee undertook to learn from the Army and Veterans Administration how successful the changes had been ...

In other words, the American military was guiding the American Psychiatric Association in the creation of what would become the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: Mental Disorders. Many Americans know — or are dimly aware — that the excellent interstate highway system in the United States is the result of a Defense Department initiative, designed to enable motorized armor to move swiftly from one area of the country to another in the event of an attack or evacuation. What many Americans do not know is the extent to which the Army and the Navy contributed to other aspects of American life that we take for granted, such as for example the classification of mental disease.

There were many other details to arrange; the consideration of a proper place for the operation gave rise to much mental labour. It is, generally speaking, desirable to choose the locality of a recent battle; and the greater the number of slain the better. (There should be some very desirable spots in the vicinity of Verdun for black magicians who happen to flourish after the vulgar year 1917).

— Aleister Crowley, Moonchild

"Shell shock" was a common concept among the medical profession during World War I. Some of our more famous psychiatrists — such as William Sargant, mentioned in Books I and II in the context of his relationship to Dr. Frank Olson — cut their eye teeth on treating shell shock in World War I veterans. They used everything from drugs to hypnosis to analysis in an effort to ease the suffering of these mentally-wounded soldiers. In fact, Andre Breton — the celebrated eminence gris of the Surrealist movement — worked in the same capacity, treating shell shock victims with such occult techniques as automatic writing. (We will examine the Surrealists in more detail in a later chapter.)

Another celebrated therapist of the First War was one W.H.R. Rivers, who exerted considerable influence over the lives and thought of such important individuals of the time as the poet Siegfried Sassoon and the poet, novelist and mythologian Robert Graves (who was also a confidant of Sargant, another therapist who specialized in shell shock and the application of psychotherapy in a military setting). Rivers had spent some time studying the enigmatic Toda tribe of India, a strange ethnic group that seems to trace their origins to the ancient Middle East, including — according to some observers — ancient Sumeria. Rivers treated Sassoon at a military hospital for shell shock (or, as it seemed to some critics, malingering) and began to derive a philosophy of the mind from the experience as well as from his background in ethnology and the study of primitive cultures.

In a lecture given after the War, he had this to say about the relationship between mental illness and combat:

Perhaps the most striking feature of the war from the medical point of view has been the enormous scale upon which its conditions have produced functional nervous disorders, a scale far surpassing any previous war, although the Russo-Japanese campaign gave indications of the mental and nervous havoc which the conditions of modern warfare are able to produce.

— W. H. R. Rivers to the John Rylands Library, April 9, 1919

This idea that modern warfare contributes to a serious rise in mental disorders is one that would influence William Sargant and others following in the footsteps of the great therapists of the first decades of the twentieth century. Rivers would devote a great deal of his time towards an understanding of the relationship between "Medicine, Magic and Religion" (as a collection of his essays is entitled), looking for a solution to the problem of the mind-body dichotomy. This, of course, is the bedrock of what would become the mindcontrol programs of the Americans, the Soviets, the Chinese and others, although Rivers — a humanitarian and idealist — would presumably have been horrified to see his insights result in such experimentation.

As World War I became World War II — and "shell shock" became "battle fatigue" — military authorities were under pressure to counter the growing incidence of soldiers unfit for combat due to mental disturbances. This situation became quite severe during the Korean War, when a new wrinkle — "brainwashing" — was added to the mix. In November 1951 — the height of the Korean conflict — the very first edition of the DSM was finalized.


Excerpted from Sinister Forces Book Three: The Manson Secret by Peter Levenda. Copyright © 2006 Peter Levenda. Excerpted by permission of Trine Day LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Peter Levenda has researched the material for this book over the course of 25 years, visiting more than 40 countries and gaining access to temples, prisons, military installations, and government documents. He is the author of The Secret Temple, Sinister Forces—The Nine, Stairway to Heaven, and Unholy Alliance. He lives in Miami. Paul Krassner blogs for Huffington Post and writes for High Times and Adult Video News. He is the former publisher and editor of Realist. He lives in Los Angeles.

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