James Shelby Downard (March 13, 1913 – March 16, 1998) was an American conspiracy theorist whose works, most of which have been published in various anthologies from Feral House, examined perceived occult symbolism, twilight language and synchronicity behind historical events in the 20th century. Shelby is known for his addition to Masonic conspiracy theories with his belief that the Freemasons were responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy through a ritual known as “Killing of the King”. ~ Wikipedia entry
I first read the essay mentioned above in the book Apocalypse Culture in the early 90s. I had discovered Feral House and Re/Search both published books to my taste, so I picked up quite a few from both houses back then. I even still have some of them.
Downard was an absolute kook, like all true conspiracy theorists. At first glance, I found his viewpoint amusing. His beliefs were so far-fetched and the relationships he drew so tenuous, it was simply unbelievable on any level.
Yet reading what he had to say became somewhat fascinating to me, not for reasons of agreeing or disagreeing with him, but for coming to the understanding some folks have a perspective so incredibly different, so diametrically opposed to the rest of us, they can (and do) go completely off the deep end. Even our cliches “outside the box” or “out of left field” are insufficient to describe how their neurons fire. By the end of the essay, I had taken the man as a warning: If I started considering the world around me the way he did his own, I could just as easily slip out of my reality tunnel, too. Scary thought, that.
He may have been a prime example of how insane a person can go when they stop seeing coincidences and start seeing synchronicities, but I did receive a grand gift: A perspective on perspective. I didn’t share his, but only because I have a firm grip on this specific reality tunnel. Loosen that grip and who knows? It could happen to any of us. Just click on the category It’s a Conspiracy! here for but a smattering of stories like Downard’s, or go read Robert Anton Wilson’s Everything is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-Ups.
Just don’t get sucked in too far. Therein lies madness.
Madness, I say!