Lao-Tzu was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star. Pythagoras bit the deadly snake that bit him first; the snake died and he lived. Zeno of Citium survived a shipwreck. Pharnavaz discovered a cave of treasure while hunting deer. Judah ha-Nasi’s kidney stones were dissolved by Heaven after he prevented a servant from hurting the offspring of a mongoose. Phineas Quimby found that galloping on his horse reduced the pain of his rotting teeth. Joseph Smith composed the Book of Mormon by gazing into a seer stone set inside a stovepipe hat. Hong Xiuquan was robbed by bandits of his demon-slaying sword, the creation of which had been inspired by a dream in which a Heavenly Father, sporting a golden beard and wearing a black dragon robe and high-brimmed hat, had complained that men were worshipping demons instead of him. James White believed that the man who disappeared after aiding him—after having given a sermon during which White was beset upon by a mob that hurled snowballs through the open windows of the church where he preached—might have been an angel. According to Calvin Frye, who served as a personal secretary to Mary Bakker Eddy, the woman was a “slave to morphine.” Helena Blavatsky believed that all religions evolved from one ancient sect and that everything in the universe was an emanation of the divine. Guido Von List, a German nationalist, worshipped Wotan, a Norse god who rode an eight-legged horse, carried a spear, and was often accompanied by two wolves and two ravens. A young Charles Taze Russell, who feared for the eternal punishment that awaited unbelievers, used chalk to write Bible verses on sidewalks. Wovoka, aka Jack Wilson, a member of the Paiute tribe, had a prophetic vision during a solar eclipse, and was said to possess weather-controlling abilities; for instance, he could summon a block of ice to fall from the sky and used the sun to light his pipe. As a young boy, Rudolf Steiner was visited by the spirit of one of his aunts—before his family had learned of her death. Swami Vivekananda had a prodigious memory and was a prodigious speed-reader. Aleister Crowley and his wife Rose spent their honeymoon in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid; Crowley also once entered into a magickal battle with W. B. Yeats. As a young boy, Edgar Cayce, who would later be known as “the Sleeping Prophet,” fell asleep on a spelling book and woke knowing the answers to all the problems inside. Ruth Norman prophesied that a benevolent band of extraterrestrials called the Space Brothers would visit Earth, and that she had visited the angel Michael in a temple on another planet, where she had been crowned Queen of Archangels; she was often photographed wearing a crown and gown, while holding a scepter. Anton LaVey, who often received mail addressed only to “Satan,” and claimed to have more respect for vegetables than humans, was born with a prehensile tail. The prophet Mani, who died in prison after a 26-day trial, was later said to have had his skin flayed off and his body stuffed with straw and crucified. Ellen G. White, who suffered a head injury after being struck by a rock thrown at her head while walking home from school with her twin sister, once felt impressed to decline to board a train that later derailed. A judge once ordered George Fox to take off his hat in the courtroom, and Fox asked where in the Bible might he find such a rule. Gerald Gardner, the founder of the Wiccan movement, lacked charisma. And of course you remember Jesus, who blew air into clay birds that came to life, and later cursed a child and caused him to die; when townspeople complained to Joseph, and Joseph asked Jesus to knock it off, the boy caused the entire town to go blind.