Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Alien Dreaming and the Widening Gyre

This is yet another post I've been working on for weeks. The connections kept multiplying and I finally had to bring it into focus. And to think it all started as Satellite news story on an upcoming low-budget film...

2009 is the Year of the Alien, innit?
Well, at least in the movies. X-Files producer/director Bob Goodwin goes old-school with his tribute to classic BEM sci-fi with Alien Trespass. Goodwin enlists John "Anubis" Doggett (aka T1000, aka Robert Patrick ) and Eric McCormack (Will of Will & Grace fame) for the invasion, as well as the delightful Jenni Baird, who added a bit of smolder to the last season of The 44oo. I'm sure it's not intentional, but the subject matter and the time period make this a nice companion piece to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

X-Files Lexicon has an amazing interview with Goodwin up now. In it Goodwin discusses his time producing the first five (and most essential) seasons of the show. Interviewer Matt Allair also lands an amazing scoop from Goodwin, who reveals that the primary inspiration for The X-Files distinctive look was the Italian wild man/artist Caravaggio:
My biggest role in the beginning was to get a concept based on what Chris had been talking about, and how we wanted to go forward, so we put together the people--the team that were able to do it--and to guide them as to what we wanted. I remember for the look of the show, which in those days was very unique for television, they didn't have shows that had so much dark and light.

One of my favorite artists, a guy named Caravaggio, who was probably one of the most innovative and creative artists ever. He came at a time in the late 16th Century, early 17th Century when most art was colorist or mannerist. He was the first to start using real dramatic source light...So I pulled a number of Caravaggio's, I got reproductions of them and mounted them all on a board, and that's kind of where we started. That was the reference of what we're going to go for, from there, the camera, the cinematographer John Bartley and other people were able to at least move forward with the concept.
Caravaggio was the Keith Moon of the Italian art world. He ran with some pretty interesting crowds, including the Velvet Mafia within the Vatican and the Knights of Malta. He also was accused of murder and had a knack for fisticuffs.

Derek Jarman, the late underground director, directed a kind of biopic on the artist in 1986 that introduced the one-woman Synchromystic factory Tilda Swinton (Orlando, Narnia, Benjamin Button, Michael Clayton) to the world. Amazingly it was also the debut of Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, National Treasure). The artist is portrayed by Nigel Terry, who portrayed King Arthur in the classic 1981 film Excalibur (which is one of Joltin' Joe Linsner's all-time favorite films).

Pan among the padres, from Caravaggio

Swinton became Jarman's muse and would later write an essay on Jarman's second feature film, Jubilee, which had John Dee magically transport Queen Elizabeth forward in time to 1977, just in time for QEII's silver jubilee and the Punk Rock Revolution. Incidentally, this was the first feature film soundtrack for U2 producer Brian Eno who would also write the score (with fellow U2 producer Daniel Lanois) for a film on the Apollo moon landing.

I always pay special attention to these "firsts." Jarman's first film work was in Ken Russell's religious phatasmagoria The Devils. Russell would later direct Altered States, based on Paddy Chayefsky's must-read book (even though Chayefsky was so upset with the finished product he asked to take his name off the credits). That film would be the first leading role for William Hurt (of Dark City fame) and Blair Brown, who plays a female version of the Smoking Man in Fringe. Speaking of film firsts, Altered States marked the first appearance of Drew Barrymore, who rose to fame in ET, The Extra-Terrestrial. Bob Balaban of Close Encounters fame is also a major player in the film.

The basic story is that a Harvard professor believes that genetic memory is stored in the DNA and with the use of powerful hallucinogens and isolation tanks he would be able to travel back in time. The subplot was that he was a religious visionary as a child and lost his faith when his father died, and was trying to reconnect to God ever since. These themes are not well-explored in the film as in the book, taking away the character's motivation.

Even if Chayefsky hated it, Altered States is still a must-see. It's fascinating to me that Chayefsky saw fit to write the book after Network, in which he laid bare the depressing reality of the new world order (which isn't really new, seeing that Network came out in 1976- note that it too drinks from Caravaggio's well). In fact, Altered States is the first and only novel Chayefsky ever wrote (which makes him the second most unlikely psychonaut, next to Jack Kirby). He spent two years researching DNA, psychedelics and schizophrenia in order to bring this book to life.

From my standpoint it was time well spent, since that book hit me like a freight train when I read it. I even tried an isolation tank, which was a disaster since I kept getting the damn salt water in my eyes. I still think about getting a tank- a good one- if I ever have a few thousand bucks burning a hole in my pocket. That's how hard that book hit me.

It's interesting to note that like some more recent apocalyptic fiction, Altered States took place in Boston and had a professor as its protagonist. You see echoes of this in the Revelations miniseries (which also starred Secret Sun siren Natacha McElhone), Knowing, and particularly, Fringe.

Fringe creator JJ Abrams (again, the man behind the new Star Trek) has cited States as an inspiration for Fringe, and the Walter Bishop character certainly seems like an older analog of Edward Jessup. And to bring it all full circle, all three of these Altered States analogs were also influenced by The X-Files, which itself was also deeply influenced by Altered States- and Network.

The X-Files delved into themes explored in Altered States in the apocalyptic "Sixth Extinction" storyline. In the first part, "Biogenesis," the alien virus in Mulder's bloodstream is activated by exposure to radiation embedding in the rubbing of an alien spacecraft (that incidentally is an encrypted magic square).

The rubbing was the property of a Dr. Sandoz (heh), highly appropriate since it ultimately activates the deepest recesses of Mulder's brain, making him psychic and immune to the coming viral apocalypse. The storyline also reintroduced the Navajo shaman Albert Hosteen, who had performed the Blessing Way ritual when Mulder was nearly killed in a boxcar filled with alien corpses (in an episode directed by Goodwin). Somewhere, Terence McKenna is smiling.

I've written on this storyline several times, since not only does it involve shamanism, psychedelic experience and ancient astronauts, it also began the Isis-Osiris symbology that I cut my Synchromystic teeth on. It's also going to be reintroduced to the movie-going public this spring when the next Transformers movie comes out, featuring Indiana Jones, Jr.

It's all too much sometimes. These strands of meaning weave in and out of seemingly-unconnected phenomena and create their own meta-narratives, which in turn reveal deeper levels of meaning to those who bother to pay attention. And the strongest connections always seem to coalesce around the same memes- gods, aliens, and shamanic experience.


  1. This post really made me smile. Caravaggio, the "Velvet Mafia", X-Files and my favorite: Altered States.

    I was too young when I saw that film, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. From wikipedia:

    "he finally begins to act like someone who values his humanity more than the vast, impersonal nothingness that underlies all of existence."

    Gnostic, anyone? I too have a fascination with those cosmic hot tubs.

    Cheers, Michael

  2. You know since I first started reading you I have to say that you are really outside of yourself(my opinion) in your interpretive skills at this moment in time. It's as if you are processing things with confidence that may at one time seemed fragmented to even you. People talk about time speeding up, synchro alignment and all of that but I look at this blog and I see people moving in a direction. So if I wrote this all wrong what I was intended to imply is that you are really connecting here for me as the reader. And I am outside of your scope or intent. I am just observing....


    thanks chris

    my last post here didnt go through so I am resending...

  3. Ah, the Michaels...thanks, guys. Let me get back on this as soon as I can come up for air.

  4. I don't know if you've read or heard about the game Assassin's Creed but it also deals with time travel through genetic memory. If you haven't read the plot, you should, it's a synchromystic extravaganza.

  5. Christopher-I will have to come back to this one-just going round webland and saying hi-also that your book is next on my list to get -can't wait -it woulda been today but there was one that I had to have ordered that is crucial for my history blog -best to you as always and thanks for your fantastic blog and hard work!!

  6. So, while were talking about tv shows...

    the end of bsg came and passed and had nothing less of a message than this.

    150 000 ys ago, "non terestrial" Humans (led by angels) landed on earth and mixed with the less evolved already existing hominids.

    i wouldnt wonder if thats the revelation we re about to experience and that deep in our heart everybody already knew.

  7. I'm sure you already know this, but altered states was also based on the work of Dr. John C. Lilly.

  8. Michael- Yes, Jessup is Gnostic to the core. I really recommend the novel since he goes much further into his personal motivations.

    MH- Things are speeding up and all of these things we look at are coming at us faster than we can process it. It's doing a number on me, I can tell you that.

    Caleb- Thanks for the tip- I will check that out for sure.

    Devin- Thanks as always for your support!

    Skinjob- I will see if that's up on Hulu. Thanks for the heads up. How funny they were at the UN (I almost wrote "they were at the Vatican.")

    Anony- I did. I was reading up on Lilly yesterday. Thanks for bringing that up.

  9. Thanks for the tip on Carvaggio. I've heard of the name, but I know next to nothing about his work.

    Ken Russell... interesting character. My interest in his work was piqued with a bizarre biopic, if it could be called that, about the composer Gustav Mahler. (Robert Powell, who is best known for playing Zeffirelli's Jesus, portrayed Russell's Mahler.) Russell has a unique take on other composers as well; not far-fetched, if you think about it, but still in stark contrast to the name-checking veneration of those who want to seem "cultured."

    And so, back to my old Strauss/Salome thing... Russell did a film (note the title) that caused an uproar among Strauss' heirs for its insinuations about Strauss and the Nazis. (The actual story is too complicated to outline here; sufficed to say that it mainly relates to Strauss' apolitical cluelessness, as well as his concern for his Jewish daughter-in-law's and half-Jewish grandchildrens' safety.) He also directed a film about Wilde watching a performance of Salome in a brothel.

    Any more connections? Just recently, Russell did a cameo as a mental hospital patient in Colour Me Kubrick. Based on a true story, John Malkovich plays a man who went around London and conned people by telling them that he was Stanley Kubrick. In the mental hospital scene, Russell (as well as some other people in nearby beds) starts shouting, "I am Stanley Kubrick!"

    Any synchromystic weirdness here?


  10. You managed to work some of my all-time favorites and influences all into one post!!!! The Devils, Jarman, and Eno, Network, Russell, Jubilee, Caravaggio...BRAVO

  11. Jarman worked a lot with Psychic TV...and Russell actually became a Catholic after some "Valisesque" experiences filming "The Devils" (perhaps my all time favorite film)!

  12. as Michael said above...with the advent of the coming 'Galactic Alignment" in 2012....we are all (at least those of us who are observing)tuning into events/syncs/people....with a clarity that is unprecedented.
    The syncs with 'Secret Sun' subject material is uncanny....from my own quantum entanglement anyways...
    I watched "Bloodline" (via Netflix-streamed)only to discover your post on Tracy Twyman the next day...
    Not having much time to read 'till today....after watching "Altered States" (again 'Netflix' instant download), last night, I find today's 'Alien Dreaming' post...

    ....I wouldn't classify this as being weird or unusual....this only skims the surface of an ongoing sync circus..(Being for the benefit of Mr Kite)...
    Fantastic work Chris...

  13. LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Scott Silver has been hired to rewrite "Battle: Los Angeles" for Columbia.

    Chris Bertolini's original screenplay is the story of an alien invasion pulverizing its way across Los Angeles.

    Aaron Eckhart will star as a Marine platoon commander in the action film, with Jonathan Liebesman ("The Killing Room") directing.

    Silver wrote "8 Mile," co-wrote and directed "The Mod Squad" and wrote and directed "Johns."

  14. Jason- Damn- you are a font of deep cultural infotainment, brother! I feel so lowbrow in comparision. And yeah, nothing bit Synchromystic weirdness there! Malkovich was another friend of boss from my old Empire State Building gig. A friend told me he showed up there a few months back. That's Garan of Garanimals fame.

    Todd- Right on! We're definitely on that same cult-o-tainment wavelength there. Actually you wrote on Jubille a bit ago- care to drop us a link on that?

    BTW- Links and plugs for blogs and whatnot are not only allowed here-- they are actively encouraged. I've been so damn busy I've been lapsing in my info-input- so all y'all are requested to keep me up to speed on what you're doing. Keep the info coming for myself and everyone else- we're really steaming towards that critical mass....

    Ralph- I gotta check out Bloodlines. I just ALtered States on DVD today so that will be playing soon. But I cannot possibly recommend the book highly enough to everyone out there.

  15. Holy crap, Michael- what are they up to out there? Is every movie going to be UFO oriented now?

  16. Of course, my misspelling of "Caravaggio" and near misspelling of Frengo's last name lowers me a peg or two on the highbrow/lowbrow spectrum. Or maybe I just need to brush up on my Italian spelling. In any case, I try to maintain a balance by looking for the best of both worlds.

    I have a few more relevant tidbits. For Mr. Malkovich, check out his birth date in my previous link. (I have discussed its potential synchromystic significance previously.) Michael Hunter's mentioning of Aaron Eckhart also brings me back to Liev Schreiber. He was under serious consideration for the role of Harvey Dent in Dark Knight as well. However, he did play Orson Welles in a film about the making of Citizen Kane. Mr. Malkovich also starred in the same film. This is only important in relation to the Wunderkind's War of the Worlds broadcast.


  17. you will like this one...iPhone commercial which shows Jules Verne and a program called Osirisx. But in the commerical it showed the eye.

    Cant find the commercial anywhere. Just saw it on the tube though..and this is all I got out of google.

  18. Those clips were sweet, thanks Chris.

    It's been a long time since I watched the x-files - kind of lost interest when David Duchovney left the show. Seeing that clip made me think that maybe I should buy the DVD's and get back into it. (It seems so much more relevant now for some reason).

    Caleb (above) mentioned Assassin's Creed - it revolves around DNA memories and the game plays out as you having the experience/playing the game via memories stored within your DNA - you work for the Christians taking out Knights Templar dudes. It's one of my favourites on the 360. I played it right thru and can't wait for part 2 (it's a trilogy I think). Definitely have a look - even if for the graphics and gameplay alone!

  19. Wow!

    Excellent post, Chris.

    I have been so busy, didn't see this post. It is highly unfortunate that the acceleration of new information forces deep and intellectually stimulating thoughts to fall below the fold.

    This is really the year of the alien. It is obvious with all of the new movies out now and the information coming out of the scientific field.

    Sometimes I do wonder at the craziness of it all. It seems we are all so connected. A journey linked into a force that we cannot truly explain. I just downloaded a copy of Altered States several days ago, a film that had a tremendous impact on me when it was first released and still does now. Altered States was a visual tour-de-force but it still managed to focus unerringly on the human condition, despite being science-fiction. It dealt with so many themes - hallucination, ritual sacrifice, religious memories, mushrooms, love, transformation, primordial regression, shamanism, primeval landscape, and dimensional travel. Russell's film direction of Chayefsky's book also resonated well with his other film Savage Messiah, illustrating perfectly a convergence of themes.

    Dr. Jessup's statement, "...truth is what's transient, it's human life that is real..." still rings aloud to this day.

    The scenes in Mexico with the alien/grey hieroglyphs on the wall was amazing, when Jessup participated in a fictionalized amanita muscaria ceremony and experiences bizarre, intense and paradigm-shifting imagery.

    Thanks for the X-Files video. Scully's ruby red lips made my night (smile).

    Now, according to the episode regarding the Magic Square, God passed his knowledge to Adam, and later to the saints and the wisemen, as a way of trapping and harnessing His power. The Magic Square dictates that whoever's name or "numerical correlative" matches the secrets in the Square will have heavenly wisdom. The artifact is related to the Square in a cosmic kinda way. Additionally, the Square may tap into the God Module ("The End," "The Beginning"). Those who fall into the correct regions of the magic square can have their God Module activated. Based on Mulder's migraines, it would seem that the Square is clearly spelling F-O-X.

    Magic squares, I think, are endlessly fascinating. They exist in forms that verge on the unbelievable. You can even construct large magic squares from smaller magic squares. Magic squares are grids of numbers which are arranged in rows and columns in a square in such a way that all columns and rows add to the same number. Traditionally, there is a magic square associated with each planet - a 3 x 3 square is associated with Saturn; a 4 x 4 square with Jupiter; 5 x 5 with Mars; 6 x 6 with the Sun; 7 x 7 with Venus; 8 x 8 with Mercury; and 9 x 9 with the Moon. Magic squares also relates to the Mayan calender and the I Ching. For example, you can converted 8-by-8 magic square by replacing the numbers with the I Ching hexagrams to create a timewave that works. Therefore, 8x8 magic Square = Mercury = Hermes = Thoth = Calendrical change = Game of draughts = 8x8 square = 260 = Tzolkin = Harmonic module = 20 x 13 = 260 - Katun cycle = Termination point 2012.

    Amazing, huh?

    This connection was discovered and published by Jose Arguelles in his "Earth Ascending" in 1984, before he knew that Terence McKenna had used the I Ching to arrive at 2012 as the year in which the "concrescence" (evolutionary omega point) of the universe would be achieved. McKenna arrived at his conclusion before knowing about the 2012-termination point of the 13-Baktun cycle.

    Magic squares are also used in the Gematria interpretation of the mysteries of the Bible, particularly of the books of Genesis and Revelations. This site on the Magic That is Jesus Christ divulges more on the relationships with the square and clearly shows that the designer of the square is Jesus Christ, and importantly is the Creator God. I advise all here to check it out, it has been a great source to me as I try to formulate a critical analysis of our current, past and future paradigm.

    Cheers my friend.

    The ALIEN Project

  20. Well, I forgot another couple of Richard Strauss connections to Altered States:

    Bob Balaban: Was in 2010 as HAL's teacher.

    Drew Barrymore: A little more convoluted, but her great-uncle Lionel was a Richard Strauss fan. In fact, in the late 1940s, he invited Strauss to move to California and live on his property. However, due to grossly exaggerated stories about Strauss' affiliations with the Nazis, this never happened. Plus, Strauss was already in his 80s, so the journey would have been difficult.

    Drew was also the first victim in the first Scream movie. I mentioned Scream III in relation to Liev Schreiber and Lance Henriksen (and Strauss) earlier.


  21. Since I couldn't find anything (immediately) online about Strauss and Barrymore, here's where I got the information:

    Kennedy, Michael. 1999. Richard Strauss: Man, musician, enigma. New York: Cambridge University Press (pp. 372-73).


  22. Christopher, in your second paragraph, you mentioned about Robert Patrick and Eric McCormack being in the movie. This is VERY, VERY interesting! You posted this blog Wednesday 25th of March.

    The next day, in fact, there was a primetime showing of Hell's Kitchen on FOX. Great show, though. However, two very important persons made guest appearances on the show. Guess who?

    Robert Patrick and Eric McCormack.

    Coincidence or you're just a fan of Hell's Kitchen and knew about their appearances, Christopher? ;)