Kathryn Kuhlman: Pagan Priestess for Jesus
The charismatic preacher channeled her overamped libido into a lifelong crusade as a bride of Christ. And brought evangelical TV to the masses.
“Sex combined with religion always works at the box office.” —Cecil B. DeMille
Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in magic? What about sex magic? Let’s consider an unlikely candidate for all three.
I’ll nominate the twentieth century’s most popular charismatic Christian, Kathryn Kuhlman (1907-1976)—as a hardcore personification of sex magic. Stay with me on this as I’ll use Kuhlman’s natal horoscope to support my assertion.
The administration of magic and miracles is depicted in the Tarot’s Magician card. The Magician as a conduit. She actively participates in the dissemination of supernatural powers. Hand raised like a lightning rod to pull down Father Sky into Mother Earth. Primordial sex at its purest.
Earth magic, verdant and effulgent. Very much the essence of Kuhlman’s Taurus Sun sign. A sign that’s jacked straight into the Earth’s motherboard—nature itself—the source of all primordial power.
Touched by An Angel
Kathryn Kuhlman was born in a tiny Missouri town in 1907 and died in 1976 at 68. She commenced her faith career at age fourteen, just as transiting Saturn opposed its natal position in her horoscope.
Kuhlman's famous motto: “I believe in miracles,” became a clarion call for the hopeful and the broken. A sort of hypnotic trigger when uttered before a live audience and always as a lure at the opening of her wildly popular TV talk show that ran a full decade, from 1966 to 1976.
I'll recreate the mood for you, as I recall it:
An empty, pastel-lit studio. A solitary chair sitting center stage situated before a humongous photo backdrop of a sequoia forest or cascading waterfall. Cue a quivering organ playing in the background and then a crossfade to an extreme closeup of an exploding bouquet of roses.
And finally, Kuhlman’s voice dominated the space as she announced: “I bee-leeve-ah in miracles.” For dramatic effect, her Missourian twang would add an extra vowel here and there when the spirit moved her.
Who was this woman? Grandmotherly—but oddly not, in the same eerie way that Twin Peaks actress Grace Zabriskie—Laura Palmer’s mom—is motherly but also located between worlds. Unclassifiable—so you can’t turn away.
Kuhlman’s rust-colored hair (trapped in a 1940s timewarp) and chiffon gowns—part Persian high priestess, part Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie dream—made for an eye-popping figure.
While other kids romped their way into Sesame Street or Fred Rogers’ neighborhood, I would tune into Kuhlman and her chatty talk show.
Why? The witchcraft, I suppose. Linked up to my always throbbing fascination with sex and the occult.
To this day Kuhlman remains a magnificent mystery. Here was a woman who completely revolutionized media-driven Christianity but remains an afterthought amidst the patriarchal hegemony of big-time blowhards like Oral Roberts (the name says it all), Jimmy Swaggart, and Billy Graham.
Why? She wasn't interested in legacy. As she once explained to a reporter, she fully intended to be alive for Christ’s second coming. So why bother establishing a church?
As an adult, I came to see Kuhlman through other personae that captured my attention in the arts. As a hybrid conflation of Kathryn Hepburn and Sara Bernhardt, with a dash of Martha Graham’s famous “contraction and release” stage presence too.
Kabuki for Christ
In a field dominated by blustering males, Kuhlman’s televised sermons from the 60s and 70s were calm expositions in comparison. Still, they could flip suddenly into electrifying possessions—should the Holy Ghost’s presence crash through the ceiling.
These were carefully orchestrated testimonials, more stagecraft than proselytizing. A testament to Kuhlman’s detail-oriented Virgo ascendant. Each appearance was designed to quell any uncertainty that god existed. But more specifically that god existed as a holy trinity. Sort of like The Three Faces of Steve.
Where Kuhlman’s female frontrunner, the strident Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), pushed fire and brimstone through her Aries ascendant, Kuhlman was calmer, and slower and brought the Mercurial timing of a comedian into her sermons.
The ‘stick’ to her schtick, was her way of introducing the Holy Ghost as an entity you’d want to have a beer with. As she told a throng of worshipers at one of her Texas prayer meets: “If we could see the Holy Ghost right here, I’m sure he’d be dressed in cowboy boots with spurs and a cowboy hat.”
Kuhlman capitalized on the two gifts inherent to most Taurus individuals:
• The power of her voice (think Streisand, Cher, Adele, etc.). An oration that was a captivating mix of metered incantations—sometimes whispered, sometimes charged with volume and critical revelations.
• And secondly, the well-honed command of her body, with its eerie, Kabuki-like stagecraft.