Monday, March 02, 2009

U2: Stranger in a Strange Land

On Friday we looked at the strange synchs between U2 and Harpocrates, in the form of the album covers for Boy and War (and in the incarnation of a young boy named Peter Rowan) and the lyrics of "The Three Sunrises."

Now, all of this could be the result of Bono's close relationship with Gavin Friday, the flamboyant leader of goth pioneers The Virgin Prunes, who toyed with occult imagery. The Harpocrates imagery could be the result of some kind of subconscious transference, since I really can't imagine that Bono was boning up on his Crowley (at least not at that point). But we also have to consider that these archetypes were expressing themselves in ways contrary to the intention of the band and their designers.

There is one more fascinating synch I'd like to touch on in this vein, and that's the U2 song, "Stranger in a Strange Land." Bono claimed the song was inspired by an encounter he had with a boy across the Berlin Wall. The title itself comes from a Robert Heinlein novel which had a cult following in the 60s. If Bono was a Heinlein fan in U2's early days, he wouldn't be alone. According to a retrospective in the LA Times:
...Heinlein’s following shows up in unexpected places: He’s the hero of numerous astronauts, Silicon Valley types and those seeking to privatize space travel. He isn’t just their favorite writer; he set them on their life’s course. He generated public enthusiasm for the space race, inspired the genre called “military science fiction.” Tom Clancy, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and countless libertarians are fans. A crater on Mars is named for him.
Strangely enough, many occultists see Stranger as being a thinly-disguised, Crowley-influenced narrative. Indeed, according to Jack Parsons biographer George Pendle, Heinlein was quite close with Jack Parsons, the black magician whom Werner Von Braun claimed was the true father of the American space program. Parsons and Heinlein were members of a group of sci-fi writers and other assorted weirdos called the Manana Society, which met a Heinlein's home in Laurel Canyon.

The free love/mystery cult in the novel "The Church of All Worlds" strongly recalls Parson's OTO scene in Pasadena and was probably influenced by it. Considering that the messiah of the novel, Valentine Michael Smith*, is linked to the space program and Mars (Parsons' favorite character as a boy was John Carter of Mars), and is martyred at the novel's end, it seems that the book may very well have been an homage to Parsons himself, and not to Crowley as many have claimed.

What's interesting as well as that Heinlein predicted the rise of the Religious Right (including a sort of pumped-up version of the Westboro Baptist Church) as well as world government (admittedly a staple of sci-fi from the early 20s on). Speaking of Crowley, British metal legends Iron Maiden (led by Thelemite Bruce Dickinson) also recorded a song called "Stranger in a Strange Land."

A more problematic synch may be how the new U2 video seems sympatico with Heinlein's Starship Troopers, with its vision of world peace through the militarization of society. Heinlein also saw the military as the ideal venue for feminist advancement as well, and the "Get On Your Boots" video is chock full of militarized and masculinized women.

But working all of the memes out in the fictional, archetypal realm is one thing. It's another thing when this kind of authoritarian fetishism leaves the geek hothouse and is put into practice in the physical sphere. Here's another fascinating quote from the LA Times article on Heinlein:
(Heinlein) won admiration from Ronald Reagan, who enlisted his ideas in his “Star Wars” missile shield, and Charles Manson, who was captured with the novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” in his backpack. He predicted the European Union and invented the water bed.
And what do you get when you cross Ronald Reagan and Charles Manson? You get The Family, an authoritarian cult whose present leader openly admires Hitler, Lenin and Mao. Some obscure sect, you may ask? No, it's one of the most powerful pressure groups in America and runs the annual National Prayer Breakfast, which Bono spoke before in 2006.

How interesting and coincidental then that we hear reports that U2 are now hiding their money in a offshore tax shelter. Maybe it's all just a big misunderstanding. Or perhaps it's groups like the Family where Crowley's authoritarian teachings go from being the province of brilliant yet ultimately marginal weirdos like Jack Parsons (who is controversial even within OTO circles) to become part of the State. Certainly we've seen the same control techniques used by 70s cults and 80s New Age groups being imported whole cloth into the megachurch movement of the 90s.

It all just keeps getting bigger and bigger, doesn't it? I think I should watch that new U2 video again. Incidentally, U2 will be performing at Fordham University on Monday morning to promote their new album.

*The more I see the name "Valentine" in these contexts, the more convinced I become it is a reference to the Gnostic sage Valentinus, not St. Valentine. Note that the Church recently remarked on Valentine's obscurity in relation to the holiday named for him.


  1. Synching pretty close to home here. The tax evasion theme seems to be running full on, with Obama's Secretary of the Treasury being an admitted tax evader, to the sum of... $17,000?

    When I saw Starship Troopers (between my fingers because it was so gory), I couldn't tell if it was Nazi vogue or inspired black comedy. Was Heinlein Sirius? Perhaps.

    I read Stranger in a Strange Land in two all consuming days while on a yacht in "Desolation Sound" back in 1998. I think I still don't quite Grok it.

    Cheers, Michael (Valentine).

  2. The link with info about Valentinus is really interesting. Excellent reading material, Valentinus seems to be someone I can relate to. I noticed (through someone else's mention, of course) that there is no longer a Saint before what used to be St. Valentine's Day. What could that mean?

    Funnily enough, the track after Iron Maiden's "Stranger in a Strange Land" is called "Deja Vu".

    To me, the "progression" of cult-new age-megachurch is just modern Kabalism changing its mask when the former "incarnation" has lost popularity. I'm thinking that Kabala is sort of an antithesis to true Gnosticism.

  3. A lot to chew on again Chris - I have watched Bono get down on the stage and reach out his hands sweeping the crowd so that the adoring masses might touch him. Feasting on that adulation seems a little off-balance to me.
    And I love that you're posting about Jack Parsons - - isn't Earth great?? - On what other planet would you ever have a man named Marvel and a man named LaFayette masturbating together thinking they were creating a Moon-Child....Who could ever believably make something like that up? And your the first to let me know that Heinlein was acquainted with Parsons -butt I shoulda guessed.
    When I read STRANGER as a kid it left me a bit divided - a lot of the philosophy did speak to me but the moment the rich guy and his bevy of Bond-type beauties wandered into the book - even at my age i felt it was weird intrusion of a Juvenile adolescent sex-fantasy. it didn't seem to be based on respect for women or for the philosophy the rest of the book was articulating. But i have since encountered the exact same thing trying to read Daniel Pinchbek - a grand cosmic vision on the one hand and then they think you want to hear their inner 16 year old boy rationalize his drive as some grand philosophy we need to share - haha - Yvonne Fern inadvertently communicated the same dichotomy in GENE RODDENBERRY A Final Conversation. about the Great White Bird.-
    At any rate I'm babbling off-topic - will just add that I have always believed that the growth of the Fundamentalist/Evangelical/ Pentecostal movements was not organic or natural - that it was a manipulated and artificial movement created to be taken advantage of. For supposed Protestant churches - its goals are just WAY too close to the goals of Middle Ages Catholic Church. Somehow I always imaginedg them achieving power and then deciding that the Pope could run everything after all.

  4. I too, feel that christian fundamentalism has been created for a purpose. Many christian fundamentalists see themselves as the last bastion of righteousness in opposition to the NWO / End Times, in a sinfull and wicked world.

    However I have the suspicion that far from preventing the rise of the NWO and subsequent apocalypse, they are actually being used to help bring it about. As they have been conditioned with a particular mind-set about the apocalypse.

    Also apparent, is their unshaking CONVICTION that their particular fundamentalist interpretation of christianity is SANCTIONED BY GOD and their RAGE towards and DEMONISATION of the incursion of other belief systems into society.

    In my opinion, christian fundamentalism if given the opportunity of unbridled political power would be TOTALITERIAN in nature and implementation.


  5. Totally off the subject

    I was watching Bad Boys last night and spotted this sync wink

    check @3:08

  6. Manson was way into that book. He named his son (that he had with Family member Mary Brunner) Valentine Michael.

  7. Hola from Spain,
    congratulations for your blog! Chris, what dou you think about this album?

    Spirit of Apollo

  8. Whoa Chris! Nice.
    Pulled that little rabbit right out the top hat and watched it scurry deep, deep down the hole in this one - right to the fundamental problem, didn't ya?!

    Way I see it is when you give yourself over, to anything outside of the divine within your own self, you're completely doomed, as it were.

    There are those masterful manipulators that lay in wait for anyone expressing a want or desire of anything - good or ill. The very minute that you do, you have become their target. They love nothing more than to corrupt the desire for real achievement, real freedom, real growth, real joy, real love, real spiritual evolution and so forth. They appear and make offers to be your shepherd and lead you to your desire with the claim that they have the sure-fire infallible plan to do it. To protect the sheep and keep them safe so they may eat and grow fat. It is simply the sheep come together and given over in the "Lumpen Herd" expressing the same overt desire as the shepherd.

    What time has taught us over and over again is, that they never seem to realize the ulterior motive of the shepherd - Leading them not to greener pastures but to their ultimate end. Along the way creating his own personal garment from their fleece. The lambs of successive generations following and nipping at the heels of the sheep, like their parents did before them, simply because that's the way it has always been done.

    There is no savior for the sheep and there is no good shepherd for the sheep that will ever manifest in the outward. The true shepherd for the sheep must come from within. From that part that the divine has granted each one so that they may live. Once the sheep no longer follow the shepherd blindly and examine every movement and decision for the motives behind it, they discover and connect to that part within themselves that was lent to them by God so that they may have life. They drink and are sustained from the mystical divine waters flowing within themselves, so to speak.

    On a rare occasion there is a ram that appears within the herd. A ram that says to the flock, 'I don't know where I'm going. I am not your leader. but I will not stay neutered and impotent here under command of this shepherd any longer'. That ram strikes out on his own, challenging the shepherd and his barking dogs and breaks free of the herd. Some of the sheep from the flock may go with the ram in his wanderings. One not leading the other but travelling and sharing in their experience together. Together they experience the true plan of the divine creator. They are sheep within the world being sheep as God intended for them to be.

    The only catch to their existence is that eventually another shepherd will appear from somewhere to round them all up again and lead them where he wants them to be. Weaving for himself, as did the former, a new tunic from their wool.

    The Stranger in a strange land indeed. What a marvellous world we have here. It really is too bad so far we are unable to truly find our solution and break free of our tail-chasing cycle.


  9. If comic book superheroes are the new gods of the western culture, and Barack Obama is the new King Tut, reinstating the Throne of Horus - then Pharoahs are Gods again. Presidents are Superheroes.

    Interesante! ha. Haven't read this post yet, but loved the previous alienmovie one - wow.


  10. It was only a matter of time before Jack Parsons made his appearance on Secret Sun.

    Robert Heinlein was not the only science-fiction writer Parsons befriended. An occult-aspirant and sci-fi writer named L. Ron Hubbard lived with him for a time, in a sponge-like way, and went on, many claim, to base Scientology largely on theories stolen from Parsons.

    In other words, Tom Cruise is not too far away from this picture.

  11. HI CK!

    Personally, I never like U2 because, to dry for my taste. To me it's just a modern marching band. did someone said "christian fundamentalism"?

    But since there are no coincidences, I really enjoy the:
    "sel Service" billboard behind them?

    Like you said in "The Solar Satellite" :
    "I don't have to tell any of you there is a chthonic darkness running loose out there in popcult land, But I don't think it's mysterious or alluring, I think it's dull, empty, and desperate"

    Service to Self?
    Disclosure won't be about Alien and UFO's only.
    Man! I cannot wait!


  12. Michael- I tried doing SIASL on audiobook, but I didn't like the narrator. I'll try it again. Heinlein seemed to skirt the edges of polymorphous perversity in his novels at the same time hewed to an authoritarian bent. Definitely warrants further research. Verhoeven is one of those death junkies whose work revels in the fascist memes he claims to oppose.

    Tommy- I never got Kabbalah myself. I know it had a vogue during the Enlightenment and thereafter, but I've never been impressed.

    David- Never underestimate the power of adolescent sexual fantasy in the convulsions of history and culture. And in many ways Fundamentalism is simply Medievalism without the beautiful art, music and architecture. But in more important ways it's a tribalist fertility cult.

    William- See above. And the connections of the various Fundamentalisms to the intelligence superstructure is established fact. I think it's fading quickly here, having failed so spectacularly over the past 8 years.

    Walt- I'll check that out. Thanks.

    Marquee- Yeah, it makes sense. It makes you wonder too, given Heinlein's military contacts.

    Dani- Hola! That looks pretty cool- thanks for the link.

    Strangey- you're getting to the core of the human dilemma. Huge swathes of the population need to be led, but the pretexts for doing so barring broad spectrum totalitarianism are quickly fading. We're about to jump into a very dangerous future where all the old comforts are gone. It's part of our growth process but that doesn't mean it's not going to be ugly and torturous.

    Samuel- None too subtle, eh? We always will need a cosmic big brother, I guess.

    William A- Oh, Parsons has been on the Sun plenty! Check out this post:

  13. Huge swathes of the population need to be led, but the pretexts for doing so barring broad spectrum totalitarianism are quickly fading.

    I disagree. Leading is simply the blind leading the blind in any and all cases but one. "YOU"(ewe) are your only leader. Travel and share and experience along or not but subject yourself to no leader as you will only be misled.

    And that line about "needing to be lead" (from something outside that part of God within you) is a thought from the darkness only. Re-think that.


  14. "Archaelogists find 3,500-year-old tomb in Egypt/Rediscovery" on Yahoo Frontpage 11x11 photos and an article

  15. Yes, I saw that, James. Very interesting- that ties into the 18th Dynasty and the Hyksos expulsion.

    Interesting timing.

  16. Hiya Christopher-great post and interesting comments as always! I enjoyed that book SIASL very much-altho it seems a geologic age has passed since I read it -I thought the comment about Kabbalah and Gnosticism was very interesting and others too-Bono really creeps me out for some reason -the other band members not so bad -best to you as always!

  17. Sorry for the multiple comment Christopher -with Pinchbeck I enjoyed Breaking open the head enormously -and waited impatiently for 2012 Return of Quetz -but I was a bit disappointed with second book to say the least!

  18. Christopher -I so apologize -I am not feeling well and running a bit of a fever-please feel free to not publish this third in a row comment-In regards to Michaels comments about Heinlein I just wanted to add that there seems to have been a very 'right-wing' slant in the early years especially in American Sci-Fi-whereas In UK sci-fi -it seems to me anyway -even now there is a decidedly leftward tilt -these thoughts could be just me-Both Heinlein and AC Clarke always kind of made me wonder (Heinlein especially) about their 'true' political message -again Christopher so sorry about the multiples-i wont do this again -best as always to you!

  19. The more I see the name "Valentine" in these contexts, the more convinced I become it is a reference to the Gnostic sage Valentinus, not St. Valentine.



  20. Chris- wow- so great. I've tried to interest you in this before. MUST check- Laurel Canyon and the birth of the hippies. Talk about rock and roll and the occult and fascism, plus, it was Charlie M's home base. Perhaps the best writer on the internet, besides you, even if he is a conspiracy theorist-

    Must read more about Valentinus. Why can't it be both at once? A fucked up world, but one of OUR making, (in part) and extraordinarily beautiful as well. Reminds me of the Seth Speaks material.

    all the best

  21. Robert, I know about that. It's an interesting story. The problem is that the entire country was militarized during WWII and anyone with half a brain was probably steered towards intelligence. So there may not be an automatic smoking gun there. But I think his thesis that a phony subculture was put into replace a real subculture is very credible. You'll see a lot of this in the 60s where a lot of the people who were involved in the hippie movement were disgusted with it by mid 67 or so.

  22. Bono calls Chris Martin a Wanker


  24. Maybe they are angling for an honorary doctorate from the Jesuits.

  25. NYC honors U2 by renaming street.

  26. A nice coincidence, as I just boxed off my piece for the next Darklore taking a long hard look at Heinlein and his influences and connections (especially Parsons and Hubbard). It is a topic I've prodded with a stick a few times but, after a bit of a prod, I pulled everything together for the piece and did further research. The picture that emerged was gobsmacking. He span off New Religious Movements, one some level rewrote reality (possibly more than once. "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" made flesh?) and may have saved the world. All that from what could only be a light skim over a broad and deep subject and there is potential for deeper analysis, especially of Stranger in a Strange Land (encoding occult teachings? Utilising the Sapir-Worf Hypothesis? Bringing about the changes that Parsons was aiming at?).

    He, and those close to him, have gone to some lengths to bury parts of his history and there are gaps in his biography but even the fragments that remain provide a glimpse into something truly strange.

    So this specific "tree" is well worth further shaking as I'm sure there are other oddities that could drop out.

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  28. Just thought I'd add that Bruce Dickinson is a Christian NOT a Thelemite. And QBL (qabbalah or however people prefer to spell it) is essentially gnostic in nature.

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