by Paul R. Spitzzeri
In the first three decades of the 20th century, booming Los Angeles was home to a wide array of religious and spiritual practitioners, with a great many outside the so-called mainstream. This included clairvoyants, psychics, mediums and others working on the fringes of the spiritual realm.
Tonight’s highlighted artifact from the Homestead’s collection is a rare and fascinating letter from a “Madam Endor” to client William P. Brockermann, Jr., dated this day in 1920. The medium’s address was a post office box in Los Angeles and she wrote to Brockermann, who lived in Philadelphia.
It is not known how Brockermann got into contact with the Madam, though he may have answered an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine or perhaps knew her through a mutual friend of acquaintance. In any case, when she addressed him as “Dear Sir and Brother,” the latter was evidently meant in a very broad sense of a sibling in the human family.
She immediately launched into her detailed reading of Brockermann’s horoscope, noting that “I find that as you were born on a Thursday, under the planet Jupiter, you have imbibed some of that planet’s characteristics,” including “ponderance,” defined by a dictionary as “weight” or “gravity.” She added that “you have the ability to plan, and execute success fully, where you put your mind squarely on the proposition.”
Continuing that he was born under a sign controlled by Jupiter, she observed that this “endows you mentally with an ‘easygoing’ personality” so that he didn’t worry much nor exhibit excitable traits. Still, “you will warm up if occasion require[s]” in the face of danger or an argument so that “the ‘other fellow’ had better skip.”
The Madam stated that Brockermann was “never thoroughly understood by your immediate circle” meaning that “your ‘motives’ have at times been mis-construde [sic], and because of your sensitiveness, you have for short periods really suffered mentally.” Observing that he did not grow up “well fixed” in monetary terms “you will progress in this world’s goods, more and more as the years roll by—not always by your own efforts either.”
She claimed that he had more than average illnesses and accidents and that “you have been called on to carry your burden of trials and griefs,” though this was mitigated by his “versatile and more or less philosophical temperament.” Noting that he was in his 37th year, Madam Endor prophesied that Brockermann “will make rapid strides mentally and intellectually” and that “it is up to you to make 1920 a really prosperous year, and all indications, and ‘vibrations’ are that you will.”
If her client was to make investments or engage in business deals, these “should prove remunerative,” particularly in the fields of electricity, heating or lighting or where these were used in the course of business operations. But, when it came to 1921, “you will be called upon to experience some real disappointments, and unless a cool, calm, judgment is used, you are threatened with actual loss,” though this was attributed to others “in whom you will have placed your trust.”
There was, however, a silver lining, in that “a woman (one of your immediate friends) will save the day, for you—because her intuitiveness, will ‘put you next‘ to the party, who will be at the bottom of your troubles.” Alas, the Madam informed Brockermann that “also during 1921, you will experience a real sorrow, and some humiliation, through the treachery of one of your best friends,” and though this person would not take as much as hoped, this person “will mulct you for a small amount.”
Alas, “your 41st year, will be the Best year of your life, so far as Actual progress, mentally and financially, is concerned.” This will involve achieving “Knowledge of the higher sort” and business and home life were to “vastly improve” in 1924.
To conclude Madam Endor answered three questions posed to her by her client, the first of which response was that she could but “sense” that he would be successful in one business endeavor in 1920, but the other would be “slow” and Brockermann would, or should, “let go.”
For the second question, she said that “Foreign Exchange and Credits, as relates to Austria Italy and France, will after a short period, slowly improve,” with the latter better than the others. After the 1st of May, Germany would “commence to improve” concerning exchanges and then grow significantly in credits by 1921 and “be very close to her old standard” as her bonds would “be at a premium” by mid-summer of that year.
Finally, on the last one, she predicted “your Out-look for 1920 is really good, a little caution on your part and watch-fulness, will make you a ‘gainer.” She then asked Brockermann to see her “reading for further information as to 1920.”
Astrology has been utilized for thousands of years, though its popularity waxes and wanes periodically, with the 1960s being a particularly fruitful time for its practitioners. An interesting article by Julie Beck in The Atlantic just over a year ago looks at the phenomenon as it has enjoyed a resurgence among millennials who are attracted to it in a stressful age full of data overload.
Bertram Malle, a social cognitive scientist at Brown University, sees astrology as a social or psychological matter, certainly not a scientific one, but adds that it
provides a very powerful vocabulary to not only capture personality and temperament but also life’s challenges and opportunities. To the extent that one simply learns this vocabulary, it may be appealing as a rich way of representing (not explaining or predicting) human experiences and life events, and identifying some possible paths of coping.
The article also observes that it is during stressful periods that people are more likely to consult an astrologer to find out what the planets have in store for us, particularly because of anxieties over social roles and relationships. The American Psychological Association reports that millennials are the most stressed-out generation and that levels of stress have risen in the last decade or so with increases especially “because of the political tumult since the 2016 presidential election.”
The Association’s survey the next year reported that nearly two-thirds of Americans professed to have significant levels of stress about the future of the country, with reading headlines being one of the major triggers. Turning to astrology is one way to cope with the emotional crises generated by current events that, for the millennial group, generates more stress than for other age levels.
Was William P. Brockermann, Jr. feeling stress partially or largely because of the turmoil engendered politically and socially by the First World War and the tremendous suffering and shocks that international conflict engendered? Or were there more personal reasons, such as the financial matters Madam Endor discussed at length, that were at the forefront for his search for answers in the heavens?
As Beck succinctly expressed it: “Astrology offers those in crisis the comfort of imagining a better future, a tangible reminder of the clichéd truism that is nonetheless hard to remember when you’re in the thick of it: this too shall pass.” Beck added that people are narrative driven, “constantly explaining their lives and selves by weaving together the past, present and future (in the form of goals and expectations.)” A developmental psychologist, Monisha Pasupathi who puts no stock in astrology, observed that it “provides a very clear frame for that explanation.”
Interestingly, many of those who consult astrologers today look at it as being more about the metaphorical rather than the literal, so that a science-based debunking is far beyond the point. In other words, as Beck notes, “it doesn’t matter if astrology is real; it matters if it’s useful” in providing some comfort and inspiration in an often-dispiriting world as “a tool for self-reflection,” in the words of an astrologer. Another way of putting this is that “people feel powerless here on Earth,” so they turn to the stars in what alternately is an escape from a frequently crushing reality and a desired source of order and organization.
As Beck concludes
To understand astrology’s appeal is to get comfortable with paradoxes . . . it can be freeing, in a time that values black and white, ones and zeros, to look for answers in the gray. It can be meaningful to draw lines in the space between moments of time, or the space between pinpricks of light in the night sky, even if you know deep-down that they’re really light years apart, and have no connection at all.