What Is Real? The Lure and Perils of Hidden Wisdom

ICSA Today, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2022, 10-17

What Is Real? The Lure and Perils of Hidden Wisdom

Joe Szimhart

1980 was a significant year for me: I began my defection from a large, Theosophical sect after their Easter conference in April. That would be my third and last attendance over the course of a year with thousands of other devotees to hear Elizabeth Clare Prophet in person channel teachings from Ascended Masters. The goal of the cult was to enhance the possibility for ascension into heaven during or after this lifetime. The guidance came from ascended beings that included St. Germain,1 El Morya,2 Buddha, Jesus, Hercules, Mother Mary,3 K-17,4 and dozens of others in the heavenly state. Urgency ruled the moment as this opportunity might not appear again for us for many lifetimes. Powerful suggestions in the Ascended Master Teachings required 100 percent dedication to achieve ascension.

Despite the inexplicable spiritual experiences, I sensed a dark deception and control taking over my soul within a year of effort to comply with the Teachings. My formal break occurred another 6 months later, after I experienced excruciating psychospiritual battles and confusions in my mind and soul—my psyche. At times I felt psychotic. I awoke with panic attacks in the dead of night, just as the cult teachings had suggested would occur if I defected from the Path: that without spiritual protection from the Masters, I would be attacked by dark forces and Black Magicians.

One question I explore in this essay is whether there are extrasensory (occult) forces and entities acting. Language fails us when we dare to describe the inexplicable experience of being alive as human, or the animating principle of what we call a self; but I can tell you from personal experience that playing with spiritual fire is no joke. We can frame this experience within psychology and self-delusion or blame it on autonomous spiritual agents, or we can do both. Warnings from famous mystics of all great religions about mystical pursuits is legend. Deception and self-deception accompany the unwary seeker. Without reasonable grounding, a sane core, and proper guidance, mysticism with its apparent magical effects can make a fool out of the most ardent seeker by driving that seeker to submit to unscrupulous gurus or to go insane. The line between religious devotion and self-delusion may be very fuzzy.

James Webb

1980 was also a significant year for James Webb, a brilliant Scotsman whose three books on the history of occultism and the behavior of occultists remain a skeptical standard in the history-of-occultism genre. In May of 1980, James put his shotgun to his temple and pulled the trigger. He died at age 34 after having suffered for 2 years from existential anxiety, depression, and psychotic breakdowns. Whether or not he had a precondition is debatable—his father committed suicide when James was an infant. But by all accounts, he was not a depressive type before his breakdown. If anything, he was gregarious and deeply involved in his research. During one hospitalization, he was given an antipsychotic that brought him to his senses for a time. I believe what led to his demise was an obsessive deep dive for more than a decade into what he called “rejected knowledge”5 that led to three impressive books, the first being the topic of this essay, The Flight From Reason, finished in 1970 when he was 24. That book was later released as The Occult Underground, followed by The Occult Establishment, and finally his magnum opus, The Harmonious Circle, about G. I. Gurdjieff and P. D. Ouspensky6 and their influence on dozens of movements, celebrities, and persons in power. The Harmonious Circle was published in 1980, months before James took his life.7

James was raised with two stepsisters by wealthy parents in Edinburgh, Scotland. Previously noted and noteworthy in retrospect is that his biological father also had committed suicide while stationed with the military in Germany weeks after James was born in 1946. James grew tall, well over 6 feet, and sported a thick shock of bright auburn hair. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied history. Early on, he was employed as a ghostwriter, television production assistant, and schoolmaster. He met scholars Kathleen Raine, Francis King, and Ellic Howe,8 who guided him in the history of the occult. He became a full-time writer and contributed to the Encyclopedia of the Unexplained: Magic, Occultism, and Parapsychology (1974) and to Man, Myth, and Magic: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown (1983). In 1974, James married a woman that his mother and stepfather disapproved of; they noted that Jamie (as he was known to friends) married under his level of breeding. In fact, though supportive and loving in her own way, his wife, Mary (Thomas) Webb, who worked as an assistant journalist, viewed the esoteric topics of his studies with disdain. The couple had no children.

During James’s final year, while he was struggling with mental health, his wife convinced him to take a boring job as a copywriter to get his mind off what she called the “rubbish,” but the job may have exacerbated his distress. His one contact in the occulture9 that he trusted implicitly was Joyce Collin-Smith, whose memoir, Call No Man Master, I also review here.

Joyce Collin-Smith

James met Joyce Collin10 around 1971 in England at one of her lectures about her deceased brother-in-law Rodney Collin and his esoteric teachings.11 Joyce, who had been one of Ouspensky’s most devoted followers, cast James’s horoscope in 1972 and wrote about it for the Autumn 1980 Astrological Journal. At the time, James was early into his research on the Fourth Way cults that formed around Ouspensky and Gurdjieff teachings.

Joyce also was tall, at 6 feet, and she had blue eyes. She was old enough to be James’s mother at the time, but she and James became great friends, meeting often and exchanging letters, primarily about Joyce’s intimate knowledge of the Gurdjieff circle and whether there was any healthy reality to occult pursuits. Joyce was married to Drew Collin-Smith, who did not share his brother’s or wife’s devotion to spirituality and the occult.

Joyce Collin-Smith and James Webb: Mirror Images

Joyce was the perfect contact for James when he met her. Although she retained her interest in the occult by practicing astrology, making friends with Theosophists, and forging her own path in mysticism, Joyce was wary of “masters” by then. The pair were like two sides of a mirror, she in the occult world and he the observer-skeptic in a romance of two worlds. They delighted in one another’s company for several years, visiting over wine and gourmet meals, until James met and married Mary Thomas in 1974. His relationship with Joyce would resume years later, after he fell into depressive psychosis and reached out to her, seeing her as the only person he knew who could understand his psychospiritual insights at the time. However, even she could see that his obsessive preoccupation with religion and philosophy was unhealthy, and she cautioned him to back off.

Both agreed on an important insight—that elite seekers of enlightenment had no more claim to glory in heaven than common folks who pay no attention to that “rubbish.” Mary Webb told Joyce, “He couldn’t talk to me about things like that.”12 James wrote to Joyce, “Perhaps there are various ‘modes of God.’ Yet I agree with you that there is no reason to think that the pilgrims of the pit have knowledge which is in essence any different from the ecstasies and riders in the chariots of the spirit….”13

Joyce’s memoir reveals more about James the man than we can glean from his books. In his profusion of letters to her at the end, many unsent, we have evidence that he was keenly exploring the mysteries of life. Commentators, including Joyce, recognized in James’s writing similarities to reports of shamanic flight or spiritual journeys and the attendant falling apart of the self that are called initiations in the ancient mystery schools and in modern secret societies.

Mental and physical breakdowns are often catalysts that launch a spiritual career or great psychological insights. As examples, William James wrote of his own years-long depression which, once resolved, he believed enhanced his insights that led to his becoming a major figure in the history of psychology and pragmatism.14 Milton Erickson famously survived a long paralysis from polio in his youth that influenced his ability to revolutionize hypnotherapy.15 Historically, cult leaders have superimposed esoteric initiations or mass trainings onto seekers for this very purpose—to force self-realization or enlightenment.

Rodney Collin

After his master Ouspensky died in 1947, Rodney Collin,16 Drew’s brother and consequently Joyce’s brother-in-law, had established a small commune in Mexico dedicated to esoteric teachings that deviated from Ouspensky in combining Catholicism with astrology and mediumship. Rodney was a tall, lean, brilliant, and kind man who forged his own spiritual path after Ouspensky’s death. (Shortly thereafter, Joyce went to Mexico City to study with Rodney at his commune.)

After years of spiritual experimentation, Rodney ended his life by intentionally falling from a tall, cathedral bell tower in Cusco, Peru in 1956. He had been struggling mightily with existential truth and it got the best of him. Like his master Ouspensky before him, Rodney apparently sought a conscious death. (Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Ouspensky had remained alert, eschewed medications, and was pacing among followers when he collapsed and died.)

As she later viewed James, Joyce regarded Rodney as a soul mate, not merely a brother-in-law. In her memoir, she reported childhood visions of extraordinary men who later matched the descriptions of both Rodney and James.17 She believed in reincarnation and the reunion of soul mates.18

James Webb’s Path Into Occulture

James wrote to Joyce that he had his first insight in his mid-teens that the world was not as it appeared:

I accepted the world completely until I was about sixteen, then a series of pre-cognitive dreams and an isolated religious experience began waking me up. At Cambridge I wrote poems replete with esoteric symbolism. I knew nothing of esotericism and didn’t know what the poems meant until recently—they were just a nice noise. One’s unconscious is often a good guide.19

This experience helped launch James into studying a field largely neglected by academia but one he recognized as not only pervasive but also socially and politically influential. Scholars later coined occulture as a label for nonestablishment religion, esoteric spirituality, and superstitions. Other labels apply, such as ancient wisdom, Hermeticism, Tradition, perennial wisdom, and shamanism. James called all this human activity a “flight from reason.”20 His thesis was that religion and spirituality had not faded during the so-called Age of Reason after 1700; rather, it was thriving underground in occultism that emerged as the occult establishment in new religious movements. History has proven James correct, as I see it.

His books read like a dispassionate critique and history of the occult. In fact, I have often used his final chapter of The Harmonious Circle, titled “Of Masters and Men,” as a valuable reference for my clients who were harmed by devotion to esoteric groups and gurus. What makes James’s accounts so valuable was his ability to grasp why and how cult leaders such as Gurdjieff could grip the minds of otherwise well-educated and worldly followers. Webb believed, and I agree, that Gurdjieff was a master of exploring the mysteries of a spiritual life and the human mind, but he was also a master of ruthlessly manipulating human behavior. For Gurdjieff, telling lies was a means to ultimate truth. His memoir, Meetings with Remarkable Men, which first appeared in Russian in 1927 and was revised many times, represents a mixing of fact with fiction to get to his idea of truth. In other words, James admired many of Gurdjieff’s insights while condemning his pathological teaching methods.

James retained his sense of humor throughout his psychological struggles. He wrote to Joyce on January 31, 1980, that he was “hoist with my own petard,” quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet.18 The petard, an explosive device, goes off unexpectedly and hoists the bomb maker off the ground. James knew of Joyce’s struggles with gurus and cults, and of her own nervous breakdown after years of devotion to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who founded Transcendental Meditation (TM). Joyce was the Maharishi’s personal assistant for years early in his career in London when the guru incorporated his fledgling business as the Spiritual Regeneration Movement. Joyce broke with TM around the time Mick Jagger, Mia Farrow, and The Beatles discovered the Maharishi. Joyce saw the guru’s dark side up close—his craving for money and power, and that he had locked-door sessions with young, white women in his quarters. Prior to her devotion to TM, Joyce was attracted to Buchmanism, the Oxford Group’s Moral Re-Armament (MRA) movement, founded by Frank Buchman,21 which was a form of charismatic Christianity. Joyce later tried Subud,22 which was founded by the Indonesian Sufi Pak Subuh, who taught that sensuous movements called Latihan would arouse the spiritual forces. Indeed, devotees of Subud, Joyce wrote, experienced ecstasies and sexual arousal when doing Latihan. Subud was formed around 1925 but emerged in England around 1957. Joyce wrote that it took her nearly 10 years to regain her creative energies after having practiced TM. Before that, she had been a successful writer of fiction. (As she would learn later, there is evidence to support the view that, over time, meditation such as TM’s might rearrange the brain’s synapses, creating a potential for mental dysfunction.)23

Additional Perspectives

Others have taken up this story of James Webb and his value to the history of the occult. Besides Joyce Collin-Smith, three of the more significant are John Robert Colombo, Gary Lachman, and Colin Wilson. Colombo’s self-published monograph titled The Occult Webb is a compilation of writings about James that features Gary Lachman, Colin Wilson, and Joyce. The monograph was first issued in 1999, then reissued with Lachman’s opinion added in 2015.

Lachman published a series of popular books on occultists and occult influence on modern music, including biographies on Rudolf Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, and a history of the Sixties consciousness revolution called Turn Off Your Mind (2001). I have reviewed several of Lachman’s books and read Colin Wilson (1931–2013), especially The Outsider (1956), which launched Wilson as an important social commentator and interpreter of occultism.

Although Lachman’s research is, like Wilson’s, mostly reliable, I find that both writers overvalue occult knowledge and experience. Martin Gardner, a well-known science writer, viewed Wilson as “an intelligent writer but duped by paranormal claims.”24 Likewise, Benjamin Radford, a skeptic, accused Wilson of “mystery mongering” and described Wilson’s The Mammoth Encyclopedia of the Unsolved as “riddled with errors and obfuscating omissions, betraying a bizarre disregard for accuracy.”25

And simultaneously, with both Lachman and Wilson (as with Joyce Collin-Smith), there is a level of credulity that I find excessive. For example, Lachman mentions that Joyce had a vision after getting all those desperate letters from James and then learning that he had died. “During her first wave of grief, Joyce found herself crying out loud, ‘Why didn’t you help him?’” She heard a voice that said, “I did,” while she noted an apparition of a face, “dark haired and dark-eyed,” who she thought was the occultist, Rudolf Steiner.26

Further, Lachman notes that, at the time of his death, James had been commissioned to write a biography about Steiner. Lachman went on to write his own book about Steiner (2007), which, as I mentioned previously, tends toward appreciation about a man whom James described as schizophrenic in his book The Occult Establishment.27 Steiner’s writings deeply impacted Joyce when she was 16, so her vision of the dark-eyed man after James died is not so mysterious. “Steiner’s Knowledge of the Higher Worlds was the first esoteric book I ever saw,” she wrote.28

Subsequently, however, the job of writing about Steiner went to Colin Wilson, who wrote that James’s account would have been skeptical. Lachman speculates that, considering James’s state of mind before his suicide, he may have not been as skeptical.

What Is Real?

So, what is real? Is the occult worldview a “flight from reason,” as James called it, or is it a necessary pursuit if human beings are ever to discover self-realization as a mirror of the source of being? Writers such as Lachman and Wilson lean toward the latter view, while Joyce settles into a comfortable niche, in effect avoiding a decision, quoting and summarizing Krishnamurti as saying that the “Truth is a pathless land,”29 that truth lies within the seeker, and in truth, the Way is your own.30 Joyce and Krishnamurti remain, in my view, hopelessly myopic because both shared a flight from reason with certain groups and masters despite their individualistic claims: In the end, Joyce depended on a long history of astrological arts, while Krishnamurti famously continued to accept the support of Theosophical followers who viewed him as a master, shower of the way, and source of a pathless path after he abdicated from his role as “World Teacher” among Theosophists.31

In his final letters to Joyce, James speculated that the Gnostics may have been right—that, as Deists believe, we are, after all, abandoned here on earth by a deity to fend for ourselves; and that only a few will know the truth or find enlightenment to reunite with the deity the Gnostics called the “alien God.”32 James’s personal myth or vision in those letters was that

the crew of a splendid spaceship … crash-landed on an alien planet. Immediately they were enslaved by local inhabitants, and now have forgotten who they were and whence they came. But occasionally something jogs their memories and they remember the times when they flew through the galaxy on high adventures…33

One might recognize the similarity here to the neo-Gnostic revelations of L. Ron Hubbard and his tales of Xenu that pass for truth in Scientology. (James viewed his fable as metaphor; Hubbard sold his fantasy as concrete truth.)

In his spiritual madness, James collapsed into a desperate reach for escape. If only he could find the keys to truth, he would be healed. He wrote, “Over the past four or five months I have been changing positions so rapidly that I haven’t known whether I was on my head or my heels.”34 In one episode, he waded a river and scrambled 12 miles to Dunblane Cathedral, banging futilely on its locked door. Most of human cultic behavior in new and ancient religion stems from this same impulse to overcome the anxiety of not knowing, of the “terror of the situation,” as Gurdjieff expressed it. In one of his most desperate moments, James was found in treatment, lying on a floor in a fetal position, and “repeating the Lord’s Prayer again and again, muttering: ‘What is it all about?’”35 Indeed, the way to the answer to that question has proven to be potent bait used by the most unscrupulous gurus through the ages to hook anxious seekers.

Final Notes

To summarize this wide-ranging territory covered by James Webb and Joyce Collin-Smith, I can only wonder what drives anyone (including me) not only to ask the ultimate questions, but also to attempt to experience the answers through the kind of knowledge called gnosis. Seekers believe that Moses and Elijah had gnosis, Krishna had it, Buddha had it, Pythagoras had it, Jesus had it, and St. Paul had it. Those ancient seers or realizers have spawned thousands of mimics with their cults and new religions, everyone trying to capture or trap the perennial that followers of René Guénon call Tradition36 within their own language and behavioral games. Whether that Tradition, as God-wisdom, gnosis, or theosophy, exists, we can only try to guess; but what we do know is that the language games and the behavior games (the traps) are observable and lend themselves to social and scientific evaluation.

James as a young scholar was all about the latter: about observing, as a historian of ideas, the language and behavior games of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Steiner, and the like. His one distinction was that he was never a devotee as was Joyce; thus, his attraction to her insights as an ex-member of many significant groups and gurus. Joyce lived until age 91, passing away in 2010, relatively happy with her lot as a clairvoyant astrologer.

Joyce was a survivor after playing with spiritual fire as a believer for decades. Webb was not a survivor after playing with spiritual fire as a skeptic. My opinion may not matter, but skeptic or not, spiritual fire can burn you. Another way to put this is that religious or spiritual preoccupation often attends a psychotic break (I work in a psych hospital and have observed these breaks many times). Joyce had a psychotic break after her stint with TM and service to the Maharishi. Whether anxiety over death and the meaning of life is the cause of the human propensity to pursue the occult and invent religions to reduce that anxiety, or some ominous, divine force in nature, Tradition, drives or attracts us to gnosis is a question we must each answer for ourselves, according to Joyce. Sometimes any answer, whether religious, philosophical, or political, is better than none after we enter the labyrinth of hidden wisdom.


The Flight from Reason: The age of the irrational, by James Webb, 1971. Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd, London, Great Britain. SBN 356 03634 0. Hardbound, 305 pages.


Call No Man Master: Fifty years of spiritual adventures in praise of teachers but wary of gurus. 1988. By Joyce Collin-Smith, Introduction by Colin Wilson. Gateway Books: Bath, Great Britain, ISBN 0 946551 46 4, Paperback, 231 pages.


[1]. The Comte de Saint Germain (c. 1691 or 1712 –27 February 1784) was a European adventurer, with an interest in science, alchemy, and the arts. He achieved prominence in European high society of the mid 1700s (as summarized on Google).

[2]. El Morya was one of the "Masters of the Ancient Wisdom" within modern Theosophical beliefs. He was one of the Mahatmas who inspired the founding of the Theosophical Society (as summarized on Google).

[3]. Mary, mother of Jesus.

[4]. To my knowledge, K-17 refers to an ascended master spy introduced by the “I AM” Activity sect in the mid-1930s and later invoked by Church Universal and Triumphant. 400 Years of Imaginary Friends by Kenneth Paolini and Talita Paolini (2000) lists more than 200 Ascended Masters with “K-17 and the Legions of the Cosmic Secret Service” (p. 389). “K-17” is also listed among a dozen Masters worshiped in Church Universal and Triumphant CUT; p.127). The Paolinis were CUT members for 10 years.

[5] See Call No Man Master (1988, first printing), Collin-Smith, J., pp. 5, 78, 198.

[6]. See https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Ivanovitch-Gurdjieff for a brief overview of G. I. Gurdjieff. For an introduction to P. D. Ouspensky, see https://www.gurdjieff.org/ouspensky.htm

[7]. The Flight from Reason in its original edition is out of print. I managed to secure a copy in 2021 from a bookseller in Germany for around $50 to complement my Occult Underground version. The changes are not radical, though the same topics will appear in different sections.

[8] The Occult Webb: An Appreciation of the Life and Work of James Webb, compiled by John R. Colombo (2015 edition), which includes “The Strange Death of James Webb” by Gary Lachman, p. 92–101.

[9]. According to the website nghialagi.net, occulture is a “blend of ‘occult’ and ‘culture,’ coined by Professor Christopher Partridge. Hidden culture. A subculture within Western modern culture. The appropriation by a subculture of occult themes (New Age, etc.) in opposition to the dominant culture. A culture influenced by modern and post-modern literature and art, originating from the occult sciences—as understood by pre-Christian and subsequent unorthodox interpretations of the gospels, esoteric writings, and Eastern sources. An area of music, writing, visual art and para-religious practices stemming from the occult. Heavily influenced by occultists such as Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardner, Dion Fortune, Anton LaVey, Robert Anton Wilson, Austin Osman Spare, and Brion Gysin.” (See also The Flight From Reason, Preface, p. vii.)

[10]. For clarity and brevity in this essay, initial references to Joyce Collin-Smith and Drew Collin-Smith are spelled out in full. Thereafter, unless their full names are required to distinguish between them, references are generally to Joyce and Drew, respectively. We have used the same standard in references to Rodney Collin.

[11]. The details of the friendship between James Webb and Joyce Collin-Smith are discussed in more detail on the following pages of this essay. Additional details are included in John Robert Columbo’s The Occult Webb.

[12]. Walker, T., The Occult Webb (1987), p. 70 (See online copy at http://colombo.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/The-Occult-Webb.pdf)

[13]. Ibid., p. 75.

[14]. See https://www.verywellmind.com/william-james-biography-1842-1910-2795545  “I was, body and soul, in a more indescribably hopeless, homeless, and friendless state than I ever want to be in again," James later wrote.

[15]. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/suffer-the-children/201112/reflections-milton-erickson

[16] See Collin-Smith, J., The Astrological Journal (Autumn 1980), “An Appreciation of James Webb,” p. 33.

[17] Joyce’s early premonition of James Webb is mentioned her book Call No Man Master (2004), p. 198. She mentions her 8-year-old daughter’s childhood premonition of Rodney Collin on page 33.

[18]. See Collin-Smith, J., The Astrological Journal (Autumn 1980), “An Appreciation of James Webb.” The quote is from a personal letter from Webb to Joyce Collin-Smith.

[19]. See The Flight from Reason: The Age of the Irrational, by James Webb, 1971.

[20]. Shakespeare, W. Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4.

[21]. See https://www.britannica.com/event/Moral-Re-Armament

[22]. Subud is the “acronym of Susila Budhi Dharma, “an international, interfaith spiritual movement founded in Indonesia in the 1920s by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo (1901–1987).” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subud for additional background information.

[23] See trancenet.net: Clinical Research on the Transcendental Meditation Technique and related programs associated with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (online at http://minet.org/www.trancenet.net/research/toc.shtml): “...A drastic alteration in the field of social intercourse becomes clear to the onlooker, as well as such changes occurring in school and career performance. Also documented are changes in the mental and physical health of the meditator.”

[24]. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Wilson

[25]. See https://centerforinquiry.org/blog/colin_wilson_a_case_study_in_mystery_mongering/

[26]. The Occult Webb, p 101.

[27]. The Occult Establishment, p. 493.

[28]. Collin-Smith, J., Call No Man Master, p. 15.

[29]. As cited in Call No Man Master, p. 231. See also https://jkrishnamurti.org/about-dissolution-speech

[30]. Call No Man Master, p. 231.

[31]. Webb, J., The Flight From Reason (1971), pp. 60–64.

[32]. The Occult Webb, p. 77.

[33]. Ibid. Also mentioned in Call No Man Master, p. 211.

[34]. The Occult Webb, p. 78.

[35]. See Bennett Books (https://bennettbooks.org/terror-situation/), The Terror-of-the-Situation thread. Compare with Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, Chapter XXVI, “The Terror-of-the-Situation” (https://bennettbooks.org/?product=beelzebubs-tales-to-his-grandson-original-editioncloth). Gurdjieff wrote Beelzebub’s Tales… between 1924 and 1927 as a teaching tool for his Fourth Way system or cult.

[36] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditionalist_School_(perennialism)

Additional Sources

Collin-Smith, J. (1980). An appreciation of James Webb. The Astrological Journal (Autumn).

Gurdjieff, G. I. (1963/1969). Meetings with remarkable men. Routledge & Kegan Paul (First American Edition, 1963; E. P. Dutton, 1969).

Wilson, C. (1956). The outsider. Houghton Mifflin (first edition).

Webb, J. (1976). The occult establishment. Atticus Books.

Webb, J. (1987). The harmonious circle. Shambala (originally published in 1980 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons).

The Astrological Journal. (1980, Autumn).

Lachman, G. (2007). Rudolf Steiner: An introduction to his life and work.

Jonas, H. (1958, 2015). The Gnostic religion: The message of the Alien God and the beginnings of Christianity.

Wilson, C., Collin-Smith, J., Lachman, G. et al.  (1999, 2015). The occult Webb: An appreciation of the life and work of James Webb. Compiled by John Robert Colombo.


About the Author

Joseph Szimhart began research into cultic influence in 1980, after ending his 2-year devotion to a New Age sect. He worked professionally as an intervention specialist from 1986 through 1998. He continues to assist people with cult-related problems including consultations via phone and Internet. In 2016 he received an ICSA Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas. Since 1998, he has worked for an emergency psychiatric hospital as a crisis caseworker. He maintains an art studio and exhibits professionally. His novel, Mushroom Satori: The cult diary, was published in 2013.