The words ‘Renaissance Man’ are so often applied to those who fail to live up to its true meaning. The popular image of a well-rounded hero tends to be personified in the form of the scientist who can compose sonnets, or the bloated plutocrat who races yachts. If a scientist dares take up the tarot, he is branded with the ‘kook’ label, and anything he may say about his field is automatically suspect. Contrary to mass opinion and the high priests of the scientific citadel, the intuitive arts are intimately connected with advances in many fields, whether they are publicly acknowledged or not. The person who can truly appreciate and use all the intellectual and emotional tools that are available to us can often transcend common knowledge and evolve the race.
Psychologist Mario Pazzaglini was well aware of the resonance between the arts and sciences, and used it in ways that helped everyone who crossed his path. He used his doctorate as a secret pass, drawing on a mixture of disciplines and interests that not only helped the patients in his practice, but helped him to develop his own personal system of esoteric ‘magick’. This allowed him and his intimates and colleagues to gain more understanding of deeper and higher realities than most of us are even aware.
This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 3, which is available for sale from Amazon US and Amazon UK. The Darklore anthology series features the best writing and research on paranormal, Fortean and hidden history topics, by the most respected names in the field. You can read more sample articles from the Darklore series at the Darklore website.
Magick works in strange but usually predictable ways. The always quotable Aliester Crowley said that magick is the art of getting reality to conform to will. In the course of my interviewing and writing on the subjects of esotericism, conspiracy, weird phenomena, psychedelics, and flying saucers, the only person who knew enough about all of these things to really syncretize them was Mario. I thought that he would be a perfect fit for my magazine, and after seeing his short interview in the fortean journal The Anomalist, I resolved to track him down. In what was a leitmotif of Mario’s life, he sensed that we should talk, and sent me a copy of one of his books while I was still sleuthing about for him. In his introductory letter, he said that I “needed to see” it. This began a friendship that lasted for about five years until his death in 1998.
Mario talked to the spirits of the ether (or somewhere, or somewhen) and often times wrote down what they were saying. For all I know, they told him to contact me.
Springing from Fertile Ground
Mario was born on March 9, 1940, and grew up in upstate New York, in the lands where Joseph Smith claimed to have found golden tablets inscribed with an inscrutable script which became the basis for Mormonism, and where in 1848 the Fox sisters heard ghostly knocks on the walls of their house and gave birth to Spiritualism. Perhaps the doors to other realities opened wide for Mario because of the geography.
His mother Dina and namesake father immigrated from Italy and brought their children up as Roman Catholics. Dina also taught her two daughters and two sons what the Italian community called the ‘Old Religion’. Post-WWII brought an influx of immigrants to the small town of Endicott, New York and the Pazzaglini family found themselves in a landscape which resembled the Lake Districts of their native northern Italy. It was natural in this semi-rural setting to invoke the spirits of their home country. As Dr. Pazzaglini put it…
What this is, is a whole system of communication with otherworldly beings, but in the most deadpan, ordinary way you could imagine… So for instance, if you were doing something in the garden, and you disturbed a piece of earth, you would always ask the elemental [who inhabited the spot] ‘Is it OK if I do this? And if it isn’t I don’t care, but I’ll build this little house off to the side, and that’s where you can stay for the summer.’ There was an ongoing dialogue.
Younger brother Peter recalls that as soon as he could walk, Mario was exploring, studying nature, and asking questions. “You name it, he was interested in it,” recalls Peter. Sometime in the late 1940s, Mario was privileged to sight at least one old-fashioned flying saucer hovering within sight of his backyard. His mother saw it too. Maybe this was one of the events that shaped his desire to look at more than rocks and frogs. Peter also recalls that their parents were often in the strange position of asking their young child for advice. Mario also offered help and comfort wherever it was needed amongst his siblings and friends throughout his youth. He always seemed to know what needed to be said or done in any situation to make those around him feel more empowered to help themselves.
When it was time to leave home, Mario had decided that he would major in mathematics and physics. “He would have made a great physicist,” says Peter. However, by the time he arrived in Washington D.C. in the late 1960s, he had changed his mind and entered the graduate program in psychology. He earned his doctorate from the University of Delaware in 1969. He lived in the small town of Newark, just a couple of miles from the University for the rest of his life.
He later became an expert on the problems and cures of drug abuse, serving on several committees and panels for the state of Delaware, and in his psychiatric practice, specialized in treating the most severe of the mentally ill. Like everything else in the late ’60s, the field of psychology was undergoing an upheaval as newly-minted doctors began to explore anything that would make the job of healing faster and more rewarding for the patient. “Western culture tries to keep everything fragmented and separate, and one of the things all of us were trying to do was introduce connectedness back into the process,” recalled Pazzaglini’s longtime friend and psychiatric practice partner Dr. Paul Poplosky. “I think that’s where some of his other interests came into play.”
Those “other interests” included a cornucopia of esoterica; alchemy, cabbala, tarot, and a heaping dose of numerology. By the end of his short life at the age of 58, Pazzaglini had compiled conversation with his Holy Guardian Angel to allegedly perform such feats as an incantation to change the course of a tornado that at was heading towards his home. He also made enough of a splash through well-concealed government back channels that black helicopters occasionally shadowed him, according to friends and witnesses. He compiled a magickal symbol system of his own devising which may never be cracked. In short, he may very well have been a modern-day Magus in the guise of a mild-mannered psychologist from Delaware.
In conversations with those who knew him best, it seems like Mario heavily compartmentalized his interests. His associates in the scientific world had no idea that he was interested in UFOs, aliens, and eastern and western occultism. He attended a conference on UFO abduction at M.I.T. in 1992 and presented his research to the leaders in the field, but few of his friends ever knew about it. Almost no one knew he had notebooks filled with examples of strange symbols. Hundreds of his paintings and drawings filled his home. “I believe in his next life, he’ll be an artist,” says his brother.
Talking to the Alien
Mario wrote at least two self-published books: one on ‘received’ writing (symbols and scripts reportedly seen or channeled from aliens or other sources), and another about his own system of numerology. Mario distributed them privately to those he felt could appreciate his work, or help to push it further. His life was a deliberate enigma.
In most esoteric traditions, the chosen are able not only to talk to the gods, sylphs, or demons, but to receive messages from them as well. Channelers, priests or necromancers will usually dictate the messages to a secretary or, as Crowley did in 1904, write them down himself after hearing what he said was “an audible voice” dictate The Book Of The Law. Not surprisingly, these directions are usually delivered in the language of the percipient. This doesn’t necessarily mean (as skeptics would quickly point out) that the words are coming from inside our own heads however, and Pazzaglini set out to explore the subject in more depth. From the early 1980s until his death in 1998, he used the techniques of the scientist and blended them with the insight of a magician to understand what ‘alien writing’ was, and maybe where it came from.
In 1991, Pazzaglini published a short examination of the received script phenomena under the title Symbolic Messages, in which he reported and explained what he had found. In this book, he described the experience of a child who had received “angelic music” notations at the age of four or five years: “Words and music that the angels used to write down their songs… They gave it to me; it just came into my head” was how this mystery child described his experiences. In our 1995 interview, Mario said that he later found the letters were an example of an early Renaissance ritualistic symbol system called the ‘Celestial Alphabet’. After about a year, he finally admitted that this child was in fact himself; he had a huge collection of his childhood notebooks from the mid-to-late 1940s, which were filled with all sorts of strange symbols. The gods had been buzzing in his ear almost since birth. Most practitioners of the Great Work (occult training) seem to get the calling from some inner need, but Mario was literally called upon to pay attention, and like all good adepts, he kept silent about most of it, unless there was a need to ask around for information.
But how do we know that this stuff actually came from somewhere else besides the inside Mario’s head, or the heads of the channelers, UFO abductees, and patients he was talking to? Was it a case of too much identification with the patient, or with the phenomenon? Maybe, but here’s how he explained it:
If you look at the brain, it’s clearly “hardware” and “software.” Except it’s different than a computer, because in the brain the software changes the hardware. It’s constantly doing that. What that system does I think, is it either generates or connects with what’s loosely called the “soul.” We could think of consciousness as a quasi-material that is organized by whatever this neural system is doing, and that the nervous system begins to act as both a container and a vehicle and organizer of something. And the point here is that “something” is not bound by space-time as we understand it, and it’s just in contact with everything, just as your radio is in contact with “everything” but you have to have it on and tune it. Something like that is happening, and that’s as simple as I can put it into words. This is not a new idea, but that’s what it looks like is happening. The information exists, and I’m quite sure that the contact exists, but I’m not quite sure that the material is always or even mostly “worth” anything. I talk in the book about how things are distorted as they pass through the nervous system. I think that’s a huge source of distortion as that information comes through, and it has to get wrapped around our metaphors.
If this sounds like something straight out of a modernized (quantum-physicized?) Golden Dawn or Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) text, it’s no coincidence. Mario was plumbing the depths (or scaling the heights) of something like evocational magick, and using it to try and understand what was passing through him, and how to travel the symbolic realm that surrounds and penetrates our space-time. He wasn’t simply using rituals anyone can look up in a dusty old book, he was cutting his own stairway up to the hermit’s roost.
Robert Chartowich, a close friend of Mario since 1970, confirmed this. “He was also interested in how archetypes worked and how people got entangled with them, identified with them, or were at odds with them,” recalls Chartowich. “He also developed numerical templates that he used to interpret and deconstruct complex systems to find out how they worked.” Chartowich remembers that Mario’s self-published paper on this system caused a sensation in the local occult/wiccan community at the time. (Chartowich was the one who related the story of the rebuked tornado – which he only knew from Mario’s account, but was actually in the house with him when a huge black helicopter hovered outside, almost at ground level, while shadowy figures inside stared at them.)
Entering the Magickal Matrix
The few pages of Mario’s numerology treatise bear a close resemblance in basic structure to many western esoteric ideas of number symbology. The foundation is based on the numbers 0 through 9, and described by the author:
0. Location with no substance. Zero, the groundwork.
1. One…unity, the present, indivisible presence.
2. Two…duality, the basis of this and that, the mirror of two sides
3. Three…trinity, movement, flux, change, primal fire as seen.
4. Four…quaturnity, the foundation of tangibility.
5. Five…pentad, conscious singularity in itself.
6. Six…hexad, the union of above and below.
7. Seven…heptad, singularity risen above; mystery.
8. Eight…ogdoad, double foundation, the path.
9. Nine…ennead, the great nine, the great square, the ever returner.
The text goes on to construct and deconstruct ways of looking at reality in fundamental ways through numbers. Starting with the basics of ‘mainstream’ numerology, Mario strives in this paper to adapt and extrapolate number systems and formulae to look into the intricacies of reality and perception. Many of the theories and illustrations come to life as metaphysical devices of divination and contemplation. As a model of reality becoming and evolving, Mario created a mandala-like diagram he called “The Reticulum.” There has been much written and said about the “imaginal” realm or “symbolic world” that surrounds us, penetrates our awareness, and exists without benefit of the bonds of space-time. Magick is one attempt to become conversant with this reality and perhaps use it to our advantage here in this existence. The Reticulum is part of Mario’s take on this: “[It is]…the network and fabric of creation. It is the matrix both seen and unseen, the cables of descent and emergence. ‘Cling to the strands.’” At the bottom of the page, he sums up his own ideas on alchemy and magick, and indeed any creative endeavor with, “Take morning dew on the web, and turn it to gold.”
After his death, I learned that Mario felt a large part of his hidden inspiration came from the 20th century Czechoslovakian/German occultist Franz Bardon. Unlike Crowley, who was brash and egotistical, and seemed to go through students faster than a box of chocolates, Bardon (at least in his esoteric pursuits) was focused and solitary. His writings, particularly his first book Initiation Into Hermetics, proclaim that the student need not be a member of any group or have a teacher to follow his instructions. This do-it-yourself magician’s training probably appealed to Mario’s sense of independence and his compartmentalized life. Bardon put the greatest emphasis on the alchemical and symbolic roots of his system, which was tailor-made for Mario’s prime interest—the use of archetypes and evocation of inner states through visualization.
A significant aspect of Bardon’s system is the use of the ‘magick mirror’. This device was used for divination, or ‘scrying’, in the same manner as a crystal ball is used to focus the attention on a reflective surface until images begin to form. A modified version of this device is inexplicably included as one of the illustrations in Symbolic Messages, even though it has no obvious connection to the text or with the study of received writing, except possibly for the use of focusing the mind to give the researcher a path to an altered state, where communication with the archetypal world and its denizens may be possible.
Mario was starting to get me interested in divination, and suggested I buy a smooth-bottomed metal bowl, fill it halfway with water, and stare at the surface until something happened. I only got as far as seeing swirling, cloudlike formations for a few minutes. The chaos is supposed to eventually coalesce into something recognizable for the real work to begin, although he didn’t mention this, probably to keep from front-loading me into influencing anything that might appear. This method operates on roughly the same principle as John Lilly’s sensory deprivation chamber (which Mario had experienced under the guidance of Lilly), so it could be surmised that the forms are either coming out of the symbolic non-time and form-binded realm, or the mind is simply making up pictures for itself. The practitioner must decide where the gold lies.
Perhaps the deepest connection Mario felt for Bardon’s work is contained in the magician’s second book, The Practice of Magical Evocation. As the title suggests, the work is a compendium of theories about and the practice of calling up and communicating with various spirits or entities. Some of the effects and psychic attributes of the energies thus evoked compare favorably with accounts of UFO abductees and witnesses. Perhaps some of the theories of Dr. Michael Persinger and Paul Devereux, and their separate work on ‘Earth energies’ which may affect the human brain and cause “UFO experiences”, could also explain cases of inadvertent spirit evocation. It remains for someone conversant with evocational magic and UFO research to provide a treatise on this subject. Mario Pazzaglini’s contacts in the etheric were most certainly intentional.
The Companion and His Tricks
The frontispiece of Symbolic Messages bears an almost innocuous inscription: “To the Companion and his tricks.” This is never referred to in the text. In the course of developing his disciplines, Mario was receiving messages from someone, or something, he called “The Companion.” He seems far too analytical to have let himself be knowingly fooled for long by either himself or this etheric contact, and the fact that this channel referred to verifiable realities of which Mario knew nothing, but were later confirmed, served to cement his trust in this ‘being’, despite the long historical record of ‘contacts’ from the other side spreading disinformation. He never mentioned seeing, meeting or visualizing this entity, but as we have seen, Mario didn’t talk much about personal matters unless you had a “need to know.” Chartowich recalls that “Mario was convinced that aliens were real and existed, and I didn’t. We had lots of discussions over that.” Perhaps this extra-dimensional entity was real in a psychological or psychic sense, readily visible in the imaginal realm.
If the Companion ever did materialize into our four-dimensional frame of perception, perhaps it looked something like the famed entity known to occultists as ‘Lam’. Crowley said he encountered and sustained communication with this being for a few months in 1917, when he was living in New York with Roddie Minor, a sex-magic practitioner and occult student. As Crowley sat by, scribbling furiously, Minor – under the effects of hashish and opium – described contacts with a king, a small boy, and a wizard who introduced himself as ‘Amalantrah’. Crowley continued the ‘Amalantrah Working’ on his own, extrapolating from Minor’s descriptions and eventually establishing a rapport with Lam. He later felt moved to draw a charcoal portrait of the thing, which bears a startling resemblance to the big-headed, pointy-chinned ‘alien’ baddies which have become so popular in comics, science fiction, and abductee experiences, minus the buggy eyes.
Crowley’s heir apparent Kenneth Grant got possession of the drawing and decided to make it a focus of an inner order of the OTO. The secret group was called the New Isis Lodge, and members were encouraged to “regular[ize] the mode of rapport and construct a magical formula for establishing communication with Lam.” If they did achieve contact with the being, they were encouraged to “look out through the entity’s eyes on what appears…to the votary an alien world.” To close the contact, the magician was supposed to “close the eyes of Lam and await further developments.”
Readers of Whitley Strieber, Budd Hopkins, and John Mack will notice that although the eyes of Lam are small, all meaning and experience for the magician supposedly flows through them, and that this is exactly what is described by many UFO abductees when recalling the eyes of their captors. What Crowley and Grant were asking is that you use the time spent with your alien to learn something. Perhaps the fortitude needed for taking control of the situation is beyond most, and indeed Grant warned that “Lam Meditation” was “extremely dangerous” and only the members working the at highest grades should attempt it. Ask your local UFO abductee about this. Maybe Strieber is playing with spiritual fire and keeps it up even though he’s covered with scars. By strange coincidence, the rural cabin where he had many of his alien encounters was in New York’s Hudson Valley, some 100 miles from the Pazzaglini family home.
In this light, perhaps Mario’s belief in erstwhile ‘aliens’ makes a bit more sense. Tucked away in his Newark, Delaware home is a pastoral self-portrait depicting a pleasant mountain scene, in which he is surrounded by the standard diminutive aliens. He is looking down at them and smiling, almost as though he is leading a group of schoolchildren on a field trip. Like most good teachers though, Mario also learned a lot from these little ones. The oeuvre of Steven Spielberg makes one wonder why he seems to have an obsession with the ‘wise child’ phenomenon, and this may be an outgrowth of his conversation with subjects extraterrestrial. The ‘Hybrid children’ described by abductees may be well be a part of this. This is of course if we assume that ‘aliens’ are extraterrestrial.
Seeing the Writing on the Wall (of a UFO)
It appears that Mario made no assumptions as to the origin of his contacts, and it remained an open subject to him. He cared more about what they were saying than where they came from. Many have had UFO encounters, but few have seen the writing on the flying saucer walls. Pazzaglini’s alien writing doesn’t resemble anything else that other UFO witnesses have reported, with one exception. There seems to be a spiritual, if not graphic kinship with the scribblings of Betty Andreasson and her family, and this may explain the fascination he had with this particular case.
Andreasson, whose abduction experiences were chronicled in The Andreasson Affair books by Raymond Fowler, has produced hundreds of pages of a cursive script that defies analysis. After comparing Andreasson’s drawings to various medieval alchemical symbols, Pazzaglini was able to translate one possible sentence out of hundreds. It was not really possible to decode all alien symbols the same way, but Mario once described how he dealt with the material when he interviewed Betty Andreasson, who was the main focus of the contacts:
I…sort of made a mental “machine.” I asked her connect to her alien, and she did. Then, with my “machine”, I connected into that too, and asked them what to do. They said, “make a few assumptions” as a first piece of advice. That’s exactly what you need to do if you were translating Etruscan for example. So they said, what does it [the alien writing] look like to you?” and I said “Gregg shorthand and alchemical symbols.” And the reply was “Where do you think the gold lies?” So I said, “With the Alchemical symbols, I would guess. Thank you.”…I have a dictionary of alchemical symbols, and there’s hundreds of symbols in it. I could weed out one factor, and that was that these [Andreasson’s script] are not archetypal symbols–circles/ diamonds/ etc. These are complex. I just picked a sentence that I thought was a sentence, and made the assumption that this was some whacked combination of alchemical symbols strung together.
The relevant part of the message read: “If you want to make light solid, show it to the moon.” While this does make for a beautiful sort of poetry, Mario (and anyone else he shared it with) was never able to make any quantum leap in decoding its significance.
One of the difficulties in verifying the authenticity of an alien script is that if it resembles an earthly language or known terrestrial symbols, is it still necessarily a ‘true’ one? Perhaps one explanation might be that all input into a human consciousness is filtered through that individual’s learning, experience, culture, and prejudice, and the messages must necessarily be rendered in a form that is understandable to the receiver as well as those that need or want to hear it.
The idea has been put forward that the UFO subject is a colossal riddle, that is being used to lead humanity into a sort of philosophical and scientific evolution. If this is the case, perhaps ‘alien writing’ is an integral part of this program – something on a human scale to allow us to interact with the phenomenon and whatever is behind it.
One of the earliest concrete examples of what was purported to be an extra-human communication was received by medium Edward Kelley and his boss, Elizabethan Court astrologer and all-around magician John Dee. From 1582 to 1589, Dee said that an “angel” had dictated to him (through Kelley) a system of symbols to be used in a ceremonial context, which would provide the user with a higher understanding of magical and alchemical concepts than human-based writing would allow. The system was called ‘Enochian’, and is still in use by occult practitioners today. In about 1870, MacGregor Mathers and Wynn Wescott revived and included it in the basis for the Golden Dawn magical system. It communicates concepts through the juxtaposition of symbols and their relationships to each other, and does not appear to be derived from any written language. Enochian is claimed among its adherents to affect the reader/ user on important subconscious levels as well.
This aspect was also mentioned by UFO contactees and abductees who Mario interviewed, who had encountered and remembered alien symbols. He also owned a facsimile copy of Dee’s A True And Faithful Relation Of What Passed For Many Years Between Dr. John Dee And Some Spirits, and referred to it often in our conversations on alien writing. Like any truly great art, Mario’s paintings and drawings operated on this level as well. Like Tibetan mandalas, they affect the viewer on a subconscious level, working on our pysches in ways that we can feel, but often cannot put into words.
Our conversations (and free psychological counseling disguised as friendly advice) ended in mid-November of 1998, when Mario’s remission from prostate cancer took a turn for the worse. He spent his last few days with a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, who guided him through the conscious bardo states until his final hour. “He left us far too early,” said Bob Chartowich. “It really was a great loss.” Brother Peter thought that Mario was “here for some purpose, and he had finished it. In the last two weeks of his life, he seemed to shun anything that would pull him back to this existence. He knew it was time to go.”
For myself, and those who were privileged to know him, Mario Pazzaglini transcended the artificial walls between science and magick, and represented a place where we might be in the future when it is realized that the two disciplines are not too different, and have much to impart to each other.
This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 3, which is available for sale from Amazon US and Amazon UK. The Darklore anthology series features the best writing and research on paranormal, Fortean and hidden history topics, by the most respected names in the field.You can read more sample articles from the Darklore series at the Darklore website.