The first appearance of Marvel Comics character Dr. Strange
The page above is the first appearance of the Marvel Comics character Dr. Strange. Not as famous as The Amazing Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk, or other creations of comics-master Stan Lee and crew, Dr. Strange is nevertheless known to most comic book collectors. I’ve been a comic book fan for a long time, though I spend more time buying and selling them than reading them. The cultural history of comic books is one of my studies, and I’m particularly interested in the censorship history with the McCarthy era and the development of the Comics Code Authority (if you don’t know the history of Mad Magazine, please bug me about if you’d like to see me cover it some day). For the record, I’m anti-censorship, and find that most attempts to ‘protect the children’ through censorship tend to backfire (if like me, you grew up reading Mad Magazine every time your mom went grocery shopping, that’s an example, as it became magazine size after issue #23 to escape the Comics Code, which resulted in it being more available to kids like me). There is no replacement for parental oversight and discussion. In fact, Dr. Strange is a great example of this. At some point parents need to help their kids learn the difference between fact and fiction. There is a fine line if the parent has mystical or religious beliefs and is trying to bring their child up to in the same belief system. Let’s look at Dr. Strange and see what issues we find through his Strange Tales…
Strange Tales #110, 1963 (this is the issue with the 1st Dr. Strange)
Dr. Strange wasn’t the cover feature of Strange Tales #110. The pictured copy is in my inventory (if you’re looking for a Good/Very Good copy, feel free to make me an offer or ask for more detailed pictures). I’m not in a rush to sell it, as it still makes me laugh and think. But eventually I’ll do an alchemical transformation on this issue and turn paper into gold.
Of course, what stands out as blog-worthy about the 1st panel introducing Dr. Strange is that he’s described as ‘Master of Black Magic.’ Black magic is still a loaded term, which many people are scared of and only mention in hushed tones. From witch burnings in the Middle Ages to the Salem Witch trials, from Aleister Crowley to Anton LaVey, from investigations of Satanic symbols in Freemasonry and the map of Washington D.C., the notion of Black Magic has persisted through the decades. I know there is a wide range of evil and criminal acts in this world, and am sure some of them have involved people wearing inverse pentagrams and muttering names from the Necronomicon, but I’m also certain that there are evil therapists who have implanted false memories of cult abuse to exploit their patients for money. In fact, here’s a case going on right now where the therapist apparently targeted patients with unlimited insurance coverage and implanted notions of multiple personalities and Satanic ritual abuse. Sick, isn’t it?
Personally, I’ve met some very nice witches, voodoo priests, Druids, and Christians. The most sensible of them have been pretty skeptical and don’t take their magic texts too seriously. I’ve certainly known people (including myself when I was much younger) who took some old books way too seriously and developed superstitions, neuroses, and prejudices this way. Fortunately, I was also introduced to logic and the scientific method, which I continue to apply to every corner of my mind and my profession of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
“Master of Black Magic” probably wasn’t so popular with parents, so later Stan Lee changed the moniker to “Master of the Mystic Arts” when Dr. Strange got his own comic book series.
Dr. Strange Master of the Mystic Arts #1
A crystal ball, a Palantir from the Lord of the Rings… I’ve got a magic slate that looks like polished obsidian. I can look into it and see anything I can imagine, and probe all the records of history and human knowledge. I use it as a focus point to help me reach my goals and communicate with the world via invisible energies. It has about a 10 hour battery life and I can’t wait to get the third version which should come out next month! Fortunately, no snake monsters have come out of it, or I’d have to shoot them with beams of Qi from my hands.
As a child of the 70′s, I was at a very impressionable age when I saw Star Wars, heard about Uri Geller bending spoons with his mind, and was told by some older kids that if we could line our atoms up right, we could walk through walls. I have no shame in admitting I tried to move things with my mind like Luke did with his lightsaber. I thought perhaps I just wasn’t desperate enough, and if I were hanging upside down in an ice cave about to be eaten by the Abominable Snowman I’d have a greater chance of success with telekinesis.
When I started studying Traditional Chinese Medicine seriously, I did my best to be a good student, which, like the rules for reading fiction, includes “willing suspension of disbelief.” Part of why I am writing more critically and skeptically now is that I just turned 40. I’ve been on a journey of one thousand miles, and I’ve walked in many types of shoes. In fact, one of the reasons I left USC Film School in 1990 was that I realized I didn’t have enough life experience to draw on for making truly insightful, informed movies. That and Los Angeles really sucked. So I went hiking in the woods, took up Yoga, studied nutrition, then herbs, then made the leap to be a full time student of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and all the related Taoist mystical arts. I studied and cast the I Ching, took Qi Gong (Chi Kung) and Tai Ji (T’ai Chi) classes from many different teachers, fasted, meditated an hour a day, etc. I went to a 10 day Vipassana retreat and meditated 8 hours a day until my Third Eye opened and poured out some crazy pineal tryptamines (Rick Strassman, MD hypothesizes that the pineal gland secretes DMT (dimethyltryptamine) which induces the near-death experience in his book _DMT: The Spirit Molecule_, though that hypothesis hasn’t been confirmed). Some of these have indeed been life-changing events for me. I seriously considered becoming a devout Buddhist after that experience, but was drawn more to philosophy, skepticism, and freedom than being a volunteer drone in a creepy cult. Whew!
I became very interested in Remote Viewing and read several books on about the US military and spy agencies researching ‘psychic spies.’ Apparently they were trying to keep up with the Joneskis in Russia, who they heard were using psychic powers against us in the Cold War.
This 1970 book inflamed the Psychic Cold War.
According to most accounts, the research was abandoned as useless. But according to the people selling books and courses in Remote Viewing, it works and is teachable. Hmmm… Let’s see what Dr. Strange tells us:
Dr. Strange can do astral travel and etheric travel.
According to the book I bought and studied in the attempt to learn how to do this, there is Astral Travel and Etheric Travel. Astral Travel is leaving your body and going to the mystical realms, full of otherworldly creatures, etc., all of which are powerful and meaningful and can help you understand the Universe and how to attract girls. Etheric Travel means you’ve left your body and can cruise around this world, spying on hot Russian spy chicks for the CIA. It’s good work if you can get it…
Oh, the things we learned from comic book ads...
Where else would Dr. Strange go in his metaphysical spirit form than to visit his teacher in Tibet?
Dr. Stephen Strange was a western M.D. until he went to Tibet and found his Master.
It struck me after selling a lot of vintage comics on eBay and looking at the old ads that many kids of the 60′s and 70′s literally learned about Kung Fu, Hypnosis, Dim Mak, Eastern Mysticism, etc. through comic books. Many kids other than me must have been confused about the line between fact and fiction, and many of them probably grew up to be devotees and practitioners of various types of New Age and Old Age mysticism. Others were just entertained and learned to be suspicious of any advertising or supernatural claims.
How would an 8-year-old know what is true and what is not without some parental guidance?
All of the ads are from Strange Tales #110, by the way. This poor condition issue goes for $100-$200 currently. The highest price on record was just over $22,000 for a Near Mint condition issue in May 2011. This is why if you have old comics you think may be worth something, it’s best to not even touch them or move them until you know exactly what you’re doing. Bumping a corner or bending the spine could easily turn a $22,000 comic into a $10,000 comic. Comic investors are very particular, and when I sell a valuable comic, it takes quite a bit of time to describe every wrinkle, bend, dimple, and other flaw. However, I sometimes prefer the look of a worn comic that I know many kids read and loved over decades.
Getting buff with no exercise is still a concept that would sell well.
The concept of Astral/Etheric travel is something I’ve spent a lot of time (and more money than I want to think about) investigating. I’ve got a strong imagination, and strengthened it further through creative visualization and memory-enhancement exercises. One ancient memory enhancement device is to mentally go around your house or a familiar area and ‘attach’ things you want to remember to items in your house. For example, if you want to remember to get carrots, milk, soap, garlic, and a Mad Magazine at the grocery store, you can mentally see yourself in a room you’re familiar with and pick 5 things in that room that you will always be able to remember. For this example, let’s say we go clockwise around the room and pick a pencil sharpener, a fish tank, a bookshelf, and a pillow. To ‘attach’ the items, you’d make funny pictures in your head, of sharpening a carrot in the pencil sharpener, of the fish tank full of milk, of the bookshelf full of bars of soap instead of books, and perhaps the corner of a Mad poking out from under the pillow (many kids had to hide their comics this way). Then when you’re at the store, you remember that room and go around to the 5 objects remembering the funny associations you made. Harry Lorayne and later Kevin Trudeau taught various memory systems like this. I happened to learn them from Kevin Trudeau’s MegaMemory tapes when I was in Acupuncture school, and used them to memorize all of the acupuncture points and herbs. Eventually, you just remember things without having to refer to the funny associations you made. And then you slowly forget them as you age…
As with many psychic claims, if it were proven that one could leave the body and travel in spirit-form to spy on others or travel to other planets, it would revolutionize science. Can you imagine what an important and useful discovery it would be? No more need for spaceships, no more need for most travel… If someone has developed this ability, they should certainly share it and verify it. But if they are only claiming this ability to make money or get followers, I think you know what that would be called. Who would do that, though?
Oh, the Hairy Krishnas...
Yup, the Krishnas who provided Steve Jobs with most of his warm meals in Portland, Oregon after he dropped out of Reed College. I danced around with them once, the vegetarian food wasn’t bad. One of the devotees told me that I could certainly walk up the mountain of enlightenment, or I could join them and get on the elevator!
Of this there is no doubt... If you're successfully brainwashed.
The Krishna cultists are one of the groups who promote the idea that Neil Armstrong and friends faked the moon landing, as their texts say it’s impossible to go to the moon, and their texts are (of course) right. One thing I do admire about the Krishna books is they have some cool art.
Someone forgot their protein pills and helmet...
Well, that’s the Krishna people, we know they’re kind of weird. Certainly no western Ph.D. would publish unproven claims like that…
Books like this are one reason I have no desire to get a Ph.D.
Courtney is a professor at Emory University and got his Ph.D. in Political Science. Wikipedia reports he refuses to undergo testing to prove his claims. He’s from the Transcendental Meditation cult and has also levitated and talked to Jesus. Emory University won’t let him mention where he works when he talks about remote viewing. I guess it’s OK to use the word “scientific” when describing remote viewing even if you refuse to undergo scientific verification of your claims. Perhaps it’s not OK in an ethical sense, but I suppose it worked because I bought the book. Hey, Courtney, I think you’re an azzhole, and want my $6.99 back and a public retraction of your claims unless you undergo actual scientific verification of your ‘Scientific Remote Viewing’ abilities. You can get $1,000,000 from James Randi for doing it, so it’s probably worth your time. Then again, you can probably easily win the lottery or find lost treasures with your ‘scientific’ skills.
Who else teaches the pathway to space travel in a body of light? Mantak Chia, in the tradition of the ancient Taoists (who thought there were herbs that would make you literally grow wings and feathers so you could fly).
What your immortal spirit body needs is a mobile home!
If you have the time and money to get to course 11, as described in the back of The Fusion of the Five Elements I book, you can look forward to:
- Gradually doing away with food, and depending on self-sufficiency and universal energy;
- Giving birth to the spirit, transferring good virtues and Chi energy channels into the spiritual body;
- Practicing to overcome death; [better get this right the first time!]
- Opening the crown;
- Space travelling.
Course 15, the highest course, teaches:
The main goal of Taoists:
1. This level–overcoming reincarnation, and the fear of death through enlightenment;
2. Higher level–the immortal spirit and life after death;
3. Highest level–the immortal spirit in an immortal body. This body functions like a mobile home to the spirit and soul as it moves through the subtle planes, allowing greater power of manifestation.
This wasn’t Mantak Chia’s original idea. Not much was–he’s an unrepentant plagiarizer, as I describe in my post about my experiences studying with him at the Tao Gardens Health Resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Sex, Lies, and QiGong). I’ve noticed people finding my blog when searching for “Can I go crazy practicing Qi Gong/Chi Kung?” I’ll write more eventually, but the answer is “Yes, if you choose to believe crazy things, you’ll by definition be on the path to going crazy.” If you keep it to breathing exercises and gentle stretches, you’ll probably be fine. Just stay away from Qi Gong masters, that’s my advice. Qi Gong and other spiritual masters will tell you that you must have a master or guru to safely learn Qi Gong or meditation. Then when you nod in agreement and look to them with wide eyes, they’ll ask you to mop the floor.
A fascinating collection of essays on esoteric Taoism
In _The Taoist Experience: An Anthology_ Livia Kohn edits together a series of scholarly essays and translations on the Taoist esoteric tradition. Page 257 has this section:
Trips Through the Stars
In Highest Clarity Taoism, the ecstatic journey serves to newly integrate self and Tao, body and cosmos on a higher level. From an ordinary human, with the travel to the otherworld, a fully cosmicized being emerges. Practitioners increasingly make the heavens their true home, wander freely through the far ends of the universe, and gain control not only over their own life and death but over the transformations of the cosmos at large.
The practice is highly formalized and begins with purifications and prayers. It includes incantations to the various gods, mostly those of the Dipper, the ruling constellation of the center, asking them to convey the adept to the heavenly regions, delete his name from the registers of death and make him a full resident among the celestials.
How cool is that? The secret to immortality is to hack into the ‘registers of death’ and delete your name! If you’re really good, you may be able to drain the Bank Account of the Dipper Gods. That’d be a great LOL. I wonder what their password is?
It would be boring being immortal in space… unless you get to have endless sex with hot Space Goddesses! Page 267 of The Taoist Experience covers Divine Lovers:
The complementary form to ecstatic excursions in the heavens and palaces of the otherworld is the ecstatic, frequently sexual, encounter with gods descending to this level of existence.
Going back far in Chinese history, intimate meetings with gods and goddesses were sought after fervently by the shamans of old, as several songs in the Chuci (Songs of Chu) document.
This is where mercury poisoning from eating Cinnabar comes in handy, as it causes hallucinations. Oh, the fun you can have with traditional Taoist alchemy! At least you can’t get STDs from sleeping with deities… Though perhaps we should ask Dr. Courtney Brown, Ph.D. for his scientific opinion before transcending without a condom on.
Bringing this post to a close is an introduction to one of my favorite rare books in the magic vs. magick debate. I use these terms to describe the two main paths your mind can take when investigating claims of supernatural abilities, paranormal powers, etc. Magic is as in “stage magic” or sleight-of-hand (prestidigitation is the fancy word). Magick is as in ritual magick, ceremonial magick, dialing up gods to do your bidding, goddesses for hot astral dates, demons to get back at that skeptical blogger who criticized your guru, etc. Among the brilliant inventions of the ancient Chinese were many stage magic tricks and devices. Among the uses of them were to deceive people to gain power, fame, or wealth. There are only a couple books out there about the specific tricks Chinese mystics and martial artists have used, and _Skills of the Vagabonds_ is one of the best. While it’s tempting to keep some of these tricks secret for my own devious devices, I’ll probably go on to spill the beans in the hopes of entertaining and enlightening my reading audience. That is, if I have a reading audience who encourages me through comments, Facebook ‘likes,’ signing up to follow my blog for free via e-mail (at the top right of any blog page, I never do spamming or sell e-mail lists, etc.), or otherwise letting me know you read this, liked it, and would like to learn more. So I’ll leave you today with an introduction to these topics and the teaser of this awesome book.
The author is a noted Wing Tsun (Wing Chun) martial arts expert from Hong Kong
While you’re eagerly waiting for my next blog post (I can hope!), I encourage you to check out a new movie in production about James Randi, called _An Honest Liar_ I just learned about it and watched the trailer last night, it’s available here:
The back of the sequel to Skills of the Vagabonds, Behind the Incredibles