When the CIA Studied Psychic Techniques to Alter Human Consciousness & Unlock Time Travel: Discover “The Gateway Process”

By now, it’s wide­ly known that the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency ran a decades-long pro­gram of exper­i­ments involv­ing LSD and oth­er psy­choac­tive drugs called MKUl­tra from the nine­teen-fifties to the sev­en­ties. As one might sus­pect, that was­n’t the only research project into the manip­u­la­tion of human con­scious­ness the CIA had going on in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Anoth­er, a study of some­thing called the Gate­way Process, has more recent­ly come to wide atten­tion through an unlike­ly chan­nel. The rel­e­vant doc­u­ments “had been declas­si­fied for decades — but a new, younger audi­ence was intro­duced to the Gate­way when Tik­Tok caught on in 2021.”

So writes Elle’s Han­nah Sum­mer­hill, a self-described “long­time seek­er” recep­tive to the Gate­way Process’ con­cept of har­ness­ing not drugs but sound to “the art of becom­ing more con­scious of one’s par­tic­u­lar inner resources, inner abil­i­ties, and, most of all, one’s inner guid­ance.” The doc­u­men­ta­tion breaks down the lev­els of focus thus the­o­ret­i­cal­ly achiev­able into a series of lev­els: Focus 10 is “a med­i­ta­tive state con­ducive to heal­ing, psy­chic abil­i­ties, and remote view­ing (the abil­i­ty to ‘see’ objects in real time from a dis­tance). In the deep­er Focus 12 state, par­tic­i­pants report meet­ing their high­er selves; in Focus 15, they can manip­u­late time and chan­nel a ‘strong and guid­ing’ God-like fig­ure.”

All this was orig­i­nal­ly con­ceived by for­mer radio exec­u­tive Robert Mon­roe, whose self-exper­i­men­ta­tion with the effect of sound on human con­scious­ness — the same phe­nom­e­na exploit­ed by study-and med­i­ta­tion-assist­ing “bin­au­r­al beats” — led to his found­ing the Mon­roe Insti­tute. “In the late stages of the Cold War, con­vinced that the Sovi­ets were research­ing psy­chic abil­i­ties for espi­onage, the CIA tapped the Mon­roe Insti­tute to explore these meth­ods for them­selves,” writes Sum­mer­hill. You can read Lieu­tenant Colonel Wayne McDon­nel­l’s declas­si­fied July 1983 report on Mon­roe’s tech­niques here, as well as Thobey Cam­pi­on’s break­down of its main points at VICE here.

“A project like Gate­way that mar­ries sci­ence with the human yearn­ing for mean­ing seemed awful­ly promis­ing,” writes Pop­u­lar Mechan­ics’ Susan Lahey. “But, as it turned out, the process was not a gate­way between mate­ri­al­is­tic sci­ence and expe­ri­en­tial con­scious­ness; it was more like an effort to write a tech­ni­cal man­u­al for the inef­fa­ble.” Even if it sounds plau­si­ble to you that a bin­au­r­al beat-like sound record­ing “syncs the hemi­spheres of the brain into a sin­gle, pow­er­ful stream of ener­gy, like a laser,” you may feel less con­fi­dent when the report posits “a giant cos­mic egg with a nucle­us in the mid­dle where the Absolute spews mat­ter from a white hole into one side of the ovoid-shaped uni­verse.” It seems that the CIA nev­er did fig­ure out a way to reli­ably engage in time trav­el, remote view­ing or com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the divine, but maybe the Tik­Tok­ers will fig­ure it out.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Inside MK-Ultra, the CIA’s Secret Pro­gram That Used LSD to Achieve Mind Con­trol (1953–1973)

How the CIA Secret­ly Used Jack­son Pol­lock & Oth­er Abstract Expres­sion­ists to Fight the Cold War

How the CIA Fund­ed & Sup­port­ed Lit­er­ary Mag­a­zines World­wide While Wag­ing Cul­tur­al War Against Com­mu­nism

Read the CIA’s Sim­ple Sab­o­tage Field Man­u­al: A Time­less Guide to Sub­vert­ing Any Orga­ni­za­tion with “Pur­pose­ful Stu­pid­i­ty” (1944)

12 Mil­lion Declas­si­fied CIA Doc­u­ments Now Free Online: Secret Tun­nels, UFOs, Psy­chic Exper­i­ments & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

This 392-Year-Old Bonsai Tree Survived the Hiroshima Atomic Blast & Still Flourishes Today: The Power of Resilience

Image by Sage Ross, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

The beau­ti­ful bon­sai tree pic­tured above–let’s call it the Yama­ki Pine Bonsai–began its jour­ney through the world back in 1625. That’s when the Yama­ki fam­i­ly first began to train the tree, work­ing patient­ly, gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion, to prune the tree into the majes­tic thing it is today.

No doubt, over the cen­turies, the ancient bon­sai wit­nessed many good and bad days in Japan–some highs and some lows. But noth­ing as low as what hap­pened on August 6, 1945, when the Unit­ed States dropped an atom­ic bomb on Hiroshi­ma, dev­as­tat­ing the city and leav­ing 140,000 civil­ians dead. The bomb explod­ed less than two miles from the Yamak­i’s home. But defy­ing the odds, the Yama­ki Pine sur­vived the blast. (It was pro­tect­ed by a wall sur­round­ing the Yamak­i’s bon­sai nurs­ery.) The fam­i­ly sur­vived the blast too, suf­fer­ing only minor cuts from fly­ing glass.

Three decades lat­er, in a rather remark­able act of for­give­ness, the Yama­ki fam­i­ly gift­ed the pine (along with 52 oth­er cher­ished trees) to the Unit­ed States, dur­ing the bicen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tion of 1976. Nev­er did they say any­thing, how­ev­er, about the trau­mas the tree sur­vived. Only in 2001, when a younger gen­er­a­tion of Yamakis vis­it­ed Wash­ing­ton, did the care­tak­ers at the Unit­ed States Nation­al Arbore­tum learn the full sto­ry about the tree’s resilience. The tree sur­vived the worst mankind could throw at it. And kept its beau­ty intact. Sure­ly you can do the same when life sends less­er chal­lenges your way.

You can get a clos­er look at the Yama­ki pine in the video below.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The “Shad­ow” of a Hiroshi­ma Vic­tim, Etched into Stone, Is All That Remains After 1945 Atom­ic Blast

Watch Chill­ing Footage of the Hiroshi­ma & Nagasa­ki Bomb­ings in Restored Col­or

The Art of Cre­at­ing a Bon­sai: One Year Con­densed Con­densed Into 22 Mes­mer­iz­ing Min­utes

The Art & Phi­los­o­phy of Bon­sai

 

Ancient Greek Armor Gets Tested in an 11-Hour Battle Simulation Inspired by the Iliad


By Greek law, every male cit­i­zen over the age of eigh­teen must spend from nine months to a year in the Hel­lenic Armed Forces. As in every coun­try with such a pol­i­cy of manda­to­ry con­scrip­tion, this is sure­ly not a prospect rel­ished by most con­scripts-to-be. But then, it can’t be all bad, at least for those enthu­si­asts of Mediter­ranean mil­i­tary his­to­ry who hap­pened to be serv­ing when researchers from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Thes­saly came by offer­ing the chance to don a suit of armor from the fif­teenth cen­tu­ry BC and have a very — and faith­ful­ly — old-fash­ioned bat­tle.

The repli­ca was mod­eled on an exam­ple from the late-Bronze-age Myce­naean civ­i­liza­tion “dis­cov­ered in the south­ern Greek vil­lage of Den­dra in 1960,” writes Smithsonian.com’s Son­ja Ander­son, describ­ing it as “one of the old­est com­plete suits of Euro­pean armor in exis­tence.”

Com­posed of fif­teen “cop­per-alloy sheets held togeth­er with leather, which cov­ered the wear­er from neck to knees,” the suit is “com­plete with arm and leg guards and a hel­met dec­o­rat­ed with pieces of boar tusk.” Clunky though it may look, it stands as evi­dence that, as the researchers put it in their paper, the “Myce­naeans had such a pow­er­ful impact in East­ern Mediter­ranean at least part­ly as a result of their armor tech­nol­o­gy.”

But first, they had to put the armor itself to the test. “They gath­ered vol­un­teers from the 32nd Marines Brigade of the Hel­lenic Army,” Ander­son writes, “fed them the pre-bat­tle meal of a Myce­naean sol­dier: bread, beef, goat cheese, green olives, onions and red wine. The marines were out­fit­ted in repli­cas of the Myce­naean suit, giv­en repli­cas of Myce­naean cru­ci­form swords, and placed in a tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled room set to a geo­graph­i­cal­ly accu­rate 64 to 68 degrees Fahren­heit.” There com­menced eleven hours of sim­u­lat­ed bat­tle, all “chore­o­graphed based on descrip­tions of the Tro­jan War from Homer’s Ili­ad, which was fought a few cen­turies after the Den­dra armor was made.”

“We now under­stand, despite its cum­ber­some appear­ance at first sight, that it is not only flex­i­ble enough to per­mit almost every move­ment of a war­rior on foot but also resilient enough to pro­tect the wear­er from most blows,” the researchers write in their con­clu­sion. And though their research sub­jects “showed a high lev­el of fatigue, sore upper body due to the weight of the armor, and foot pain due to walk­ing, run­ning, rid­ing a char­i­ot, and fight­ing bare­foot,” it must have been a more stim­u­lat­ing expe­ri­ence than the aver­age day in the Hel­lenic Armed Forces — espe­cial­ly if there was any post-bat­tle goat cheese and wine avail­able.

via Smith­son­ian Mag­a­zine

Relat­ed con­tent:

What It’s Like to Actu­al­ly Fight in Medieval Armor

How to Make and Wear Medieval Armor: An In-Depth Primer

How Well Can You Move in Medieval Armor?: Medieval­ist Daniel Jaquet Gives It a Try in Real Life

Bronze Age Britons Turned Bones of Dead Rel­a­tives into Musi­cal Instru­ments & Orna­ments

Why Civ­i­liza­tion Col­lapsed in 1177 BC: Watch Clas­si­cist Eric Cline’s Lec­ture That Has Already Gar­nered 5.5 Mil­lion Views

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Watch Philosophy Lectures That Became a Hit During COVID by Professor Michael Sugrue (RIP): From Plato and Marcus Aurelius to Critical Theory

If we ask which phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor has made the great­est impact in this decade, there’s a sol­id case to be made for the late Michael Sug­rue. Yet in the near­ly four-decade-long career that fol­lowed his stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go under Allan Bloom (author of The Clos­ing of the Amer­i­can Mind, lat­er immor­tal­ized in Saul Bel­low’s Rav­el­stein), he nev­er pub­lished a book, nor took a tenured posi­tion. His last place of employ­ment as a lec­tur­er was Ave Maria Uni­ver­si­ty, a small Catholic insti­tu­tion found­ed by the man behind Domi­no’s Piz­za. After his death ear­li­er this year, his work might have lived on only in the mem­o­ries of the stu­dents with whom he shared class­rooms.

That would have been the case, at least, if Sug­rue’s daugh­ter had­n’t uploaded his lec­tures to Youtube dur­ing the COVID pan­dem­ic, when view­ers the world over were more than ready for a dose of philo­soph­i­cal wis­dom. “The lec­tures were record­ed as part of the Great Minds of the West­ern Intel­lec­tu­al Tra­di­tion series,” writes John Hirschauer in a 2021 Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive pro­file, “a col­lec­tion of talks on the West’s great­est authors and thinkers” pub­lished by The Teach­ing Com­pa­ny in 1992. “Sugrue’s first lec­ture in the series is on Pla­to, the last on crit­i­cal the­o­ry. His remark­able ora­to­ry skill is on dis­play through­out.” What’s more, “he does not car­ry a note card or read from a prompter. There is hard­ly a stut­ter in 37 hours of footage.”

Sug­rue was diag­nosed with can­cer in the ear­ly twen­ty-tens, and “doc­tors at the time gave him five years to live. He said the thought of Mar­cus Aure­lius had tak­en on new mean­ing since his diag­no­sis.” Indeed, Sug­rue’s lec­ture on the Roman emper­or and Sto­ic icon is the most pop­u­lar of his videos, with over one and a half mil­lion views at the time of this writ­ing. Over the years, we’ve fea­tured dif­fer­ent intro­duc­tions to Sto­icism here on Open Cul­ture, as well as the work of oth­er Sto­ics like the states­man-drama­tist Seneca the Younger. But Sug­rue’s 42-minute exe­ge­sis on Mar­cus Aure­lius — not just “the most inter­est­ing of the Sto­ics,” but also “the one exam­ple of an absolute ruler who behaves him­self in such a way as not to dis­grace him­self” — has res­onat­ed unusu­al­ly far and wide.

Then, as now, Mar­cus Aure­lius serves as “a stand­ing reproach to our self-indul­gence, a stand­ing reproach to the idea that we are unable to deal with the cir­cum­stances of human life.” He ful­ly inter­nal­ized the cen­tral Sto­ic insight that there are “only two kinds of things: there are the things you can con­trol and the things you can’t.” Every­thing falls into the lat­ter group except “your inten­tions, your behav­ior, your actions.” And indeed, just as Sug­rue kept look­ing to the exam­ple of Mar­cus Aure­lius — return­ing to his text Med­i­ta­tions as recent­ly as a webi­nar he gave two years ago — stu­dents of phi­los­o­phy yet unborn will no doubt find their way to the philo­soph­i­cal guid­ance that he him­self has left behind.

Below, you can watch a playlist of Sug­rue’s lec­ture series, Great Minds of the West­ern Intel­lec­tu­al Tra­di­tion.

via NYTimes

Relat­ed con­tent:

What Is Sto­icism? A Short Intro­duc­tion to the Ancient Phi­los­o­phy That Can Help You Cope with Our Hard Mod­ern Times

How to Be a Sto­ic in Your Every­day Life: Phi­los­o­phy Pro­fes­sor Mas­si­mo Pigli­uc­ci Explains

Three Huge Vol­umes of Sto­ic Writ­ings by Seneca Now Free Online, Thanks to Tim Fer­riss

The Sto­ic Wis­dom of Roman Emper­or Mar­cus Aure­lius: An Intro­duc­tion in Six Short Videos

Oxford’s Free Intro­duc­tion to Phi­los­o­phy: Stream 41 Lec­tures

A His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy in 81 Video Lec­tures: A Free Course That Explores Phi­los­o­phy from Ancient Greece to Mod­ern Times

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Monty Python’s Michael Palin Presents His Favorite Painting, J. M. W. Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed

Of all the Eng­lish come­di­ans to have attained world­wide fame over the past half-cen­tu­ry, Sir Michael Palin may be the most Eng­lish of them all. It thus comes as no sur­prise that the Nation­al Gallery would ring him up and invite him to make a video about his favorite paint­ing, nor that his favorite paint­ing would be by Joseph Mal­lord William Turn­er. “Most peo­ple aren’t inter­est­ed in rail­ways and the his­to­ry of rail­ways,” he explains, but Turn­er’s Rain, Steam and Speed has great sig­nif­i­cance to a train-lover such as him­self pre­cise­ly “because it is about the birth of the rail­way.”

Rain, Steam and Speed was paint­ed in 1844, when train trans­port “was still a new thing, and a thing that fright­ened so many peo­ple. They thought it was going to destroy the coun­try­side.” (Bear in mind that this was the time of Dick­ens, who did­n’t set so many of his nov­els before the arrival of the rail­way by acci­dent.) For all of Turn­er’s Roman­ti­cism, “he must’ve been excit­ed by it. Maybe a bit alarmed.” His paint­ing declares that “this is a new world that’s been opened up by the rail­ways, and it’s got enor­mous pos­si­bil­i­ties, and peo­ple are going to have to adapt to it.”

In this video, Palin intro­duces him­self as “a trav­el­er, an actor, and a gen­er­al hack.” His many and var­ied post-Mon­ty Python projects have also includ­ed sev­er­al tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­taries on artists like Anne Red­path, Artemisia, the Scot­tish Colourists, Hen­ri Matisse, Vil­helm Ham­mer­shøi, and Andrew Wyeth. In the video below, he appears at the Nation­al Gallery in 2017 to share a selec­tion of his favorite paint­ings, from Duc­cio’s The Annun­ci­a­tion and Geert­gen tot Sint Jans’ The Nativ­i­ty at Night to Bronzi­no’s An Alle­go­ry with Venus and Cupid (the source of Mon­ty Python’s sig­na­ture ani­mat­ed foot) and Turn­er’s The Fight­ing Temeraire, a repro­duc­tion of which hung in his child­hood home.

“It’s just about that peri­od where steam is begin­ning to come in, and the old sail­ing ship is no longer need­ed,” Palin says of The Fight­ing Temeraire. “On the hori­zon, there is a ship in full sail” — a “pow­er­ful, strong image” in itself — and in the front, the “noisy, belch­ing fumes of the mod­ern steam tug.” Thus Turn­er cap­tures “the changeover from sail to steam,” much as he would cap­ture the changeover from horse to train a few years lat­er. Like any good paint­ing, Palin explains, these images “make you feel dif­fer­ent­ly about the world from the way you did before you saw it” — and make you con­sid­er what eras are end­ing and begin­ning around you even now.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Mon­ty Python’s Michael Palin Is Also an Art Crit­ic: Watch Him Explore His Favorite Paint­ings by Andrew Wyeth & Oth­er Artists

Trains and the Brits Who Love Them: Mon­ty Python’s Michael Palin on Great Rail­way Jour­neys

Free: Read 9 Trav­el Books Online by Mon­ty Python’s Michael Palin

Down­load 35,000 Works of Art from the Nation­al Gallery, Includ­ing Mas­ter­pieces by Van Gogh, Gau­guin, Rem­brandt & More

Mark Twain Skew­ers Great Works of Art: The Mona Lisa (“a Smoked Had­dock!”), The Last Sup­per (“a Mourn­ful Wreck”) & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Medieval Cats Behaving Badly: Kitties That Left Paw Prints … and Peed … on 15th Century Manuscripts

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

–Jean-Bap­tiste Alphonse Karr (1808–90)

When Emir O. Fil­ipovic, a medieval­ist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sara­je­vo, Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina, vis­it­ed the State Archives of Dubrovnik, he stum­bled upon some­thing that will hard­ly sur­prise any­one who lives with cats today: a 15th-cen­tu­ry man­u­script with inky paw prints casu­al­ly tracked across it.

And here’s anoth­er purrpetra­tor. The His­torisches Archiv in Cologne, Ger­many hous­es a man­u­script with an inter­est­ing his­to­ry. Accord­ing to the blog Medieval­Frag­ments, “a Deven­ter scribe, writ­ing around 1420, found his man­u­script ruined by a urine stain left there by a cat the night before. He was forced to leave the rest of the page emp­ty, drew a pic­ture of a cat, and cursed the crea­ture with the fol­low­ing words:”

Hic non defec­tus est, sed cat­tus minx­it desu­per nocte quadam. Con­fun­datur pes­simus cat­tus qui minx­it super librum istum in nocte Dav­en­trie, et con­similiter omnes alii propter illum. Et caven­dum valde ne per­mit­tan­tur lib­ri aper­ti per noctem ubi cat­tie venire pos­sunt.

Here is noth­ing miss­ing, but a cat uri­nat­ed on this dur­ing a cer­tain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that uri­nat­ed over this book dur­ing the night in Deven­ter and because of it many oth­ers [oth­er cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.

What I would sin­cere­ly love to know is whether, almost 600 years lat­er, the urine smell has left the page. Cat own­ers, you’ll know what I mean.

via Medieval­Frag­ments

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Cats in Medieval Man­u­scripts & Paint­ings

Cats Migrat­ed to Europe 7,000 Years Ear­li­er Than Once Thought

Cats in Japan­ese Wood­block Prints: How Japan’s Favorite Ani­mals Came to Star in Its Pop­u­lar Art

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Why Medieval Bologna Was Full of Tall Towers, and What Happened to Them

Image by Toni Pec­o­raro, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Go to prac­ti­cal­ly any major city today, and you’ll notice that the build­ings in cer­tain areas are much taller than in oth­ers. That may sound triv­ial­ly true, but what’s less obvi­ous is that the height of those build­ings tends to cor­re­spond to the val­ue of the land on which they stand, which itself reflects the poten­tial eco­nom­ic pro­duc­tiv­i­ty to be real­ized by using as much ver­ti­cal space as pos­si­ble. To put it crude­ly, the taller the build­ings in a part of town, the greater the wealth being gen­er­at­ed (or, at times, destroyed). This is a mod­ern phe­nom­e­non, but it also held true, in a dif­fer­ent way, in the Bologna of 800 years ago.

There exists a work of art, much cir­cu­lat­ed online, that depicts what looks like the cap­i­tal of Emil­ia-Romagna in the twelfth or thir­teenth cen­tu­ry. But the city bris­tles with what look like sky­scrap­ers, cre­at­ing an incon­gru­ous but enchant­i­ng medieval Blade Run­ner effect. Bologna real­ly does have tow­ers like that, but only about 22 of them still stand today. Whether it ever had the near­ly 180 depict­ed in this par­tic­u­lar image, and what hap­pened to them if it did, is the ques­tion Jochem Boodt inves­ti­gates in the Present Past video below.

In the era these tow­ers were built, Bologna had become “one of the largest cities in Europe. It’s a time of huge, ambi­tious projects. Cities built cathe­drals, town halls, and pub­lic squares — and some peo­ple built tow­ers.” Those peo­ple includ­ed noble fam­i­lies who held to aris­to­crat­ic tra­di­tions, not least vio­lent feud­ing. Giv­en that “the city is no place to build cas­tles,” they instead inhab­it­ed urban com­plex­es whose town­hous­es sur­round­ed tow­ers, which were “more like pan­ic rooms” than actu­al liv­ing spaces. Ref­er­ences to these promi­nent struc­tures appear in sub­se­quent works of art and lit­er­a­ture: Dante, for instance, wrote of a lean­ing “tow­er called Garisen­da.”

The etch­ing that set Boodt on this jour­ney to Bologna in the first place turns out to be the rel­a­tive­ly recent work of an Ital­ian artist called Toni Pec­o­raro, who height­ened — in every sense — images of a 1917 mod­el of the city by the shoe­mak­er and “strange self-taught artist-sci­en­tist” Ange­lo Finel­li. Finel­li, in turn, drew his inspi­ra­tion from a study by the nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry archae­ol­o­gist Gio­van­ni Goz­za­di­ni, him­self a scion of one of those very fam­i­lies who com­pet­ed to have the tallest tow­er, then got bored and pur­sued oth­er sta­tus sym­bols instead. Per­haps Bologna is no longer the cen­ter of aris­to­crat­ic and mer­can­tile intrigue it used to be, judg­ing by the sparse­ness of its cur­rent sky­line, but then, there’s some­thing to be said for not need­ing a for­ti­fied tow­er in which to hide at a momen­t’s notice.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Why Europe Has So Few Sky­scrap­ers

Why the Lean­ing Tow­er of Pisa Still Hasn’t Fall­en Over, Even After 650 Years

Venice Explained: Its Archi­tec­ture, Its Streets, Its Canals, and How Best to Expe­ri­ence Them All

A Guid­ed Tour of the Largest Hand­made Mod­el of Impe­r­i­al Rome: Dis­cov­er the 20x20 Meter Mod­el Cre­at­ed Dur­ing the 1930s

How the World’s Biggest Dome Was Built: The Sto­ry of Fil­ip­po Brunelleschi and the Duo­mo in Flo­rence

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

“The Virtues of Coffee” Explained in 1690 Ad: The Cure for Lethargy, Scurvy, Dropsy, Gout & More

Accord­ing to many his­to­ri­ans, the Eng­lish Enlight­en­ment may nev­er have hap­pened were it not for cof­fee­hous­es, the pub­lic sphere where poets, crit­ics, philoso­phers, legal minds, and oth­er intel­lec­tu­al gad­flies reg­u­lar­ly met to chat­ter about the press­ing con­cerns of the day. And yet, writes schol­ar Bon­nie Cal­houn, “it was not for the taste of cof­fee that peo­ple flocked to these estab­lish­ments.”

Indeed, one irate pam­phle­teer defined cof­fee, which was at this time with­out cream or sug­ar and usu­al­ly watered down, as “pud­dle-water, and so ugly in colour and taste [sic].”

No syrupy, high-dol­lar Mac­chi­atos or smooth, creamy lattes kept them com­ing back. Rather than the bev­er­age, “it was the nature of the insti­tu­tion that caused its pop­u­lar­i­ty to sky­rock­et dur­ing the sev­en­teenth and eigh­teenth cen­turies.”

How, then, were pro­pri­etors to achieve eco­nom­ic growth? Like the own­er of the first Eng­lish cof­fee-shop did in 1652, Lon­don mer­chant Samuel Price deployed the time-hon­ored tac­tics of the moun­te­bank, using adver­tis­ing to make all sorts of claims for coffee’s many “virtues” in order to con­vince con­sumers to drink the stuff at home. In the 1690 broad­side above, writes Rebec­ca Onion at Slate, Price made a “litany of claims for coffee’s health ben­e­fits,” some of which “we’d rec­og­nize today and oth­ers that seem far-fetched.” In the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry are asser­tions that “cof­fee-drink­ing pop­u­la­tions didn’t get com­mon dis­eases” like kid­ney stones or “Scur­vey, Gout, Drop­sie.” Cof­fee could also, Price claimed, improve hear­ing and “swoon­ing” and was “exper­i­men­tal­ly good to pre­vent Mis­car­riage.”

Among these spu­ri­ous med­ical ben­e­fits is list­ed a gen­uine effect of coffee—its relief of “lethar­gy.” Price’s oth­er beverages—“Chocolette, and Thee or Tea”—receive much less empha­sis since they didn’t require a hard sell. No one needs to be con­vinced of the ben­e­fits of cof­fee these days—indeed many of us can’t func­tion with­out it. But as we sit in cor­po­rate chain cafes, glued to smart­phones and lap­top screens and most­ly ignor­ing each oth­er, our cof­fee­hous­es have become some­what pale imi­ta­tions of those vibrant Enlight­en­ment-era estab­lish­ments where, writes Cal­houn, “men [though rarely women] were encour­aged to engage in both ver­bal and writ­ten dis­course with regard for wit over rank.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“The Vertue of the COFFEE Drink”: An Ad for London’s First Cafe Print­ed Cir­ca 1652

How Caf­feine Fueled the Enlight­en­ment, Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion & the Mod­ern World: An Intro­duc­tion by Michael Pol­lan

Philoso­phers Drink­ing Cof­fee: The Exces­sive Habits of Kant, Voltaire & Kierkegaard

How Human­i­ty Got Hooked on Cof­fee: An Ani­mat­ed His­to­ry

The Birth of Espres­so: The Sto­ry Behind the Cof­fee Shots That Fuel Mod­ern Life

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.“The Virtues of Cof­fee” Explained in 1690 Ad: The Cure for Lethar­gy, Scurvy, Drop­sy, Gout & More

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