Thursday, May 28, 2009

Twilight of the (Teen) Idols

When I look for the number 17, I'm usually doing so in a particular context. I'm looking for the number to tie into an overarching narrative, linking to themes of restoration. Osiris died on the 17th, and Horus represented the restoration of his father's rightful throne. Horus himself was the last god to rule Egypt, so in my eyes he represents the restoration of that order of things.

However, the more you study all of the these things, the deeper and more complex the narrative becomes. I've not seen any compelling evidence that this number is being used deliberately- in fact, its resonance seems almost entirely unconscious. But it keeps popping up, particularly in popcult contexts. The first Harry Potter and Narnia novels- themselves both restoration narratives- had 17 chapters. And the latest literary sensation among the tween set- Stephanie Meyer's Twilight novels- opens with a quote from the Bible, namely Gene-Isis 2:17:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.*
Whatever the intent, the quote certainly charges this whole series with a transgressive buzz.

But the 17 meme certainly doesn't end there. The movie starts off on the 33rd parallel in Phoenix, which sits right at the bottom of Interstate 17...

The main character, Isabella ("Isis the Beautiful") moves to rainy Forks, WA because her mother and her baseball player stepfather are going to Jacksonville, FL. What highway runs through that burg?

US 17.

Edward the Friendly Vampire introduces himself to Sophie at 00:17:07, reminding us that 17 is the 7th prime number...

Given that its author is a practicing Mormon who cooked up this whole cashcow from a dream, Twilight seems especially ripe for Synchromystic picking. But it was Victoria Nelson's lecture on modern vampire literature that brought this series to my attention. This is a classic case of the evolution of the concept of the Other, from object of fear to object of desire, both sexual and aspirational. Watch this trailer- this isn't your grandmother's vampire story...

No, these aren't even like Anne Rice's revisionist frou-frou vampires, these are superheroes, flat-out and straight-up. They're superheroes who are every bit as exotic and threatening as The X-Men. There are good vampires (the "vegetarians," who don't drink human blood) and the bad ones, who are almost identical to The Hand in the Elektra movie or The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in the X-Men films. Bella even thinks Edward is a superhero at first.

As in the similarly-memed Underworld films, these vampires co-exist with werewolves. Here we see the polarity in the New Other- the refined and cultured contrasting with the earthy and earnest (the werewolves are all Native Americans, just to sweeten the pot). Both are feminine fantasy visions of idealized men, and vampire mythology seems to be resonating more powerfully with girls these days, which may explain why the excellent Blade: The Series flopped on Spike, that sweaty jockstrap of a cable network.

A lot of wags have noted the Mormon abstinence subtext in Twilight, but the stories are also 100% wish-fulfillment in other ways. The vampire fantasy addresses the top anxieties of modern women - aging, abandonment and bad relationships. Edward is handsome, powerful and brilliant and his family is cultured and close-knit. He offers Bella eternal life and companionship, and will wait until they are married to consumate this vampire love. It's the ultimate one-sided tradeoff, the kind most women would give their souls for. Which, of course, is what Bella does.

Twilight goes to extreme lengths to rewrite vampire mythology. The vampires can operate in daytime, but avoid the Sun not because it will fry them- they avoid it because it makes their buff, hard bodies glow like diamonds. So here we see a nice Solar signifier, characteristic of superheroes.

Tying into the alien identity and future human memes, the vampires have psychic abilities. Edward can read minds, and one of the girls is a remote viewer. The depiction of her powers is straight out of the Ingo Swann playbook.

Whether through intent or osmosis, Meyer is drawing from sources that run pretty far afield of anything the Mormon high council might approve. I can't speak for the novels, but this film is highly sexually charged, easily earning its PG-13 rating. It was this scene concerning Edward's eyes (always a giveaway of Otherness) that reminded me of David Bowie's feature film debut in Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth, a transgressive pedigree if ever there was one.

Bowie's real-world Otherness has not gone unnoticed by his associates and intimates. The man operated at a level of sheer activity in the 1970s that was unimaginable on the face of it, never mind his incredible batting average, quality-wise. But it was a role from the 80s- not his peak years in anyone's estimation- that ties straight into the Twilight universe...

Bowie played a Goth vampire in Tony Scott's feature debut The Hunger, itself influenced by Jess Franco's 70s camp classic Vampyros Lesbos. But, given its outwardly transgressive text, The Hunger is probably less erotically charged than Twilight (yes, even with that scene).

For all its verve and style, The Hunger still subscribes to the view of Other drawn from monotheism, where transgressing traditional moral boundaries or human potential must be punished with a painful death. It's arguable whether Mormonism is in fact monotheistic, but if nothing else its history lends a more sympathetic view of Other as an existential concept (see Battlestar Galatica for further elucidation).

But of course, The Hunger brings us right back to the ultimate concept of Other- the extraterrestrial. The original novel was written by Whitley Strieber, multiple abductee/contactee. In a sequel, Strieber explains that his vampires are in fact alien astronauts stranded on earth, who parasitically feed on humans while helping also steer their evolution.

Since 17 ultimately links us to Egypt, it's no surprise that Bella's initiation to the vampire universe begins there. It shouldn't be asurprise for another reason- Mormonism itself is riddled with a kind of Egyptophilia.

We see the Egyptian link in The Hunger film, in a flashback scene showing Miriam sucking on some poor slave's jugular. And not really having much fun of it, either, I might add. So aside from all the hot g/g play, The Hunger offers up the double whammy of the Bible's libel against Egypt, as well as the metaphorical condemnation of transgressive sexual practices (of which the vampirism is simply a metaphor).

Tony Scott later developed an anthology series based on The Hunger, which was first hosted by Terence Stamp (speaking of Elektra) and then by Bowie himself. Scott repeatedly refers to Bowie as alien and other-worldly in his commentary track for the The Hunger film, an image Bowie cultivated throughout the 70s (and even well into the 80s). Bowie was also no stranger to Egyptian-derived occultism or transgressive sexual practices himself, so his association with The Hunger franchise- and vampirism- was something of a fait accompli.

Strangely enough the first season of the series had an episode titled "Room 17." The 17th episode of the second seaon of The Hunger was called "Sacred Fire," and touched upon the alien vampire memes that Strieber later elaborated on. From the DVD episode description:

Luann is a kind and generous woman who volunteers to help the homeless find food and shelter but when she meets Nick, who lives on the street, he warns her that there are street people who are aliens in disguise, intent on killing humans.
So as conservative as Stephanie Meyer's faith may be, her novels are anything but. In text, subtext and pedigree, Twilight is very much part of the new continuum, in which Evolution is the New Revolution, in which Otherness is something to be deeply desired, not shunned. No surprise that the 17 memes lurk beneath the surface. Because that Otherness is the restoration. It's this present mess that is actually the deviation.

There's a sub-program in our neural software that seems to have been activated, and is leading the next generations to a very different reality-consensus than the audiences of Bela Lugosi's- or even Gary Oldman's- Dracula would be familiar with. That- in the end- may be what Synchromysticism is really all about.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

McKenna 'n' Me

You know you're not in Kansas anymore when you find yourself nodding in agreement- or at least a deep understanding - with a Terence McKenna talk on UFOs. Maybe it was the psychological effect of standing in the same room at Esalen where McKenna unleashed many of his theories and finding myself arriving at the same destination from a completely different origin point, but I feel as if some aspect of McKenna's lingering essence has decided to park itself in my consciousness.

McKenna's work has always puzzled me. Maybe it's because I was such a Timothy Leary acolyte when McKenna burst onto the scene, and I immediately tagged him as a whiny wannabe (my, how times have changed). Maybe because I much preferred Casteneda's immersive novelizing to McKenna's breathless intellectualizations, or was so immersed in the Cyberpunk thing that Psychedelia seemed old hat. And certainly part of it is that I've always been so unimpressed with McKenna's own wannabes.

But despite my middle-aged preference for objective data (such as it is) over subjective intuition, Terry and I seem to be operating in the same conceptual frequency these days. I got a kick out of hearing the shout-outs to Jacques Vallee, given that I was chilling with the master (well, chewing his ears off with my endless babble) not a week ago.

This vid has numerous shout-outs to Jung, as well as the kind of goddess archetypes I've been exploring in my ongoing X-Files X-Egesis. And oddly enough, what all of this leaves me with is a burning desire to return not to psychedelic exploration necessarily, but to my dreamwork, which I've definitely let slide while navigating the endless tributaries of the Memestream (there's also been a cherubim with a flaming sword parked at the gates of my subconscious for the past several years but that's a whole other story).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back From The Edge of the World, 2009 edition

Front row: Christopher Partridge, Jeff Kripal and Michael Murphy
Second row: George Stephanopolous, Ed May, Dulce Murphy,
Dean Radin, Victoria Nelson, Mason Gamble, Erik Davis.

Third row: Doug Moench, Paul Selig, Mitch Horowitz, Larry Sutin,
CK, Collin Eyre and Scott Jones.

Well, Time flies and Time crawls. But sometimes you enter a state in which Time flows in such a manner that it seems to expand and contract in an entirely different and yet totally satisfactory fashion. That happens when your mind is so completely engaged morning, noon and night that each moment seems to be pregnant with significance, and therefore worth experiencing.

This has been my obsession for several years now, when I first began to notice the days and weeks beginning to whiz by. I realized that the best way to moderate that flow was through interesting work, an increasing rarity in this day and age.

And so it was for the second annual conference on the Supernatural, Supernormal and Popular Culture at the Esalen Center for Theory and Research, created and moderated by the brilliant Jeff Kripal of Rice University. I wrote about last year's conference here and here but that was simply a dry run for this year's blowout. This year's conference was also a lot more stressful for me in some ways since I not only presented a revised version of "The Synchromysticism of Jack Kirby" for the group, but also a public talk called "Saucers, Psychics and Psilocybin: The Mythologies of The X-Files" and finally a filmed interview for Jeff's upcoming documentary dealing with all of these topics.

So, as you can see from the class photo, this was a focused, high-powered collection of brains sorting through all of these issues. Jeff outdid himself in assembling thinkers who are directly engaged with the whole process of extraordinary knowledge and extraordinary experience playing itself out through ordinary popular culture.

I'm hoping we see at least some transcripts of this conference go up on the CTR site, because if you're reading this blog, I guarantee that you would have been fascinated by every single presentation. And throughout the week were more fascinating conversations than you could possibly keep up with. Just on the ride from the airport, even: I rode down with Larry Sutin, Philip K Dick's biographer and his wife Mab, Chris Partridge, who teaches religion at the University of Lancaster, and Collin Eyre, a Bodhisattva-in-training who's working towards his degree at the Center for Integral Studies (and really made the entire experience run like clockwork).

I was more than a bit nervous about the event, to be honest- last year there was a very strange energy over Big Sur (and I'm not using that terminology lightly), which I wasn't the only one who noticed. Combine that with a kind of cognitive dissonance arising from hearing serious, credentialed people discussing paranormal phenomena as a matter of fact, and it quite frankly freaked me out when the wildfires started.

Was this all a premonition? I don't know, but processing all of this - along with some other strange syncs that relate to Esalen - forced me into a rethink of what I'm trying to do here last summer (for instance, I decided to kick an almost 20-year addiction to Conspiratainment, which I realized was distorting my perceptions and weakening my ability to see past all of the intentional disinformation presented as hidden truths out there).

But I think that all resulted in a more focused blog, which I feel paid off when the Memestream got pummeled with all of the alien/Sirius memes that Barackobamun pulled in his wake during the election. Revelation is not always an ecstatic process. In fact, I'd argue it usually isn't- and did so in my Kirby presentation (note: I covered a lot of material in my Kirby presentation that I haven't covered here, so keep an eye on that in the weeks to come). So, despite that very high weirdness- and those dreadful Route 1 hairpin twists and turns (that even Dramamine couldn't conquer) I was resolved to make this symposium a transformative one.


So on Sunday, it was all wine and cheese and conversation and orientation by Jeff and Michael Murphy. Jacques Vallee was only there for a couple of days, so I went out of my way to corner him and pick his brains about the purpose of fake flaps (like the recent one in NJ) and chew his ears off about the Mithraic Liturgy, which he hadn't heard about. Poor Jacques.

Anyhow, there were way too many fascinating conversations about religion, politics, media, conspiracy, occultism, Psi, superheroes, supersoliders, psychedelics and all the rest of it to possibly recount here, so let me just run through the schedule and touch on some of the main topics covered.

OK, so Sunday night Jeff and Michael covered the basic goals of the meeting. Michael has 50 years of experience of moderating some of the brightest minds of our time, so I think everyone realized that they had to bring their A game. After that, the gabbing went on in several different circles, with this ongoing financial apocalypse never far from everyone's mind.

Mitch Horowitz- editor-in-chief of Tarcher Penquin- kicked it all over discussing his upcoming book Occult America, in which he traces the roots of Rosicrucian-inspired groups in Europe, how they arose during the Reformation and how many of them traveled (fled, more accurately) to America. Mitch also discussed Freemasonry as being an Establishment appropriation of these free-thinker/occult philosophies.

Christopher Partridge is the author of a two-volume set entitled The Re-Enchantment of the West, in which he did a lot of field study with new religious movements in the UK like chaos magick, Druidry, neopaganism, UFO cults and Rastafarianism. He had some fascinating insights on the process of spiritual evolution using pop culture as a medium, which he analyzes from several viewpoints- his academic work, his history in the punk and post-punk scenes in Manchester and his Quaker faith.

Jacques Vallee did two presentations: one covering his history in and methodology of serious UFO research. He discussed his field experience, most remarkably a wave of nasty close encounters in Brazil (commonly known as the Colares flap) that the government did a thorough job of covering up. After dinner, Jacques changed gears and presented on the symbolism and history of stained glass, delving into his experience with the master craftsmen repairing the windows at Chartres. As with Doug Rushkoff, Jacques exploded commonly held myths about the Middle Ages and showed that there was a period of Enlightenment in the 11th and 12th Centuries that produced these masterpieces along with mystic visionaries like Hildegarde and Meister Eckhart.

Tuesday morning Jeff Kripal presented on the mystical experiences of comics legend Barry Windsor Smith. These included some very powerful precognitive visions that were discussed at length in Smith's Opus volumes. Interestingly enough, Smith did not talk about his UFO encounter in those books. I guess there some taboos are still too touchy to break- most especially in comics fandom, which prefers its paranormal experiences to stay trapped on the page, thank you.

After Jeff, Larry Sutin talked about his PKD books (all of which every regular reader of this blog should own) and his experience transcribing Dick's massive Exegesis. Larry went into great detail talking Dick's troubled life prior to the 2/3/74 revelation and how that experience transformed his life. Larry also wrote the definitive biography on Aleister Crowley, which is another must-read.

Well, last year we had Russell Targ and Jacques Vallee talking about Grill Flame, this year we had Ed May talking about Project Star Gate. This was a fascinating presentation (in all seriousness, all of the presentations were fascinating) since Ed came loaded for bear with all of the stats on the results of the project in a very crisp PowerPoint presentation. He was also candid about the limitations of remote viewing as an intelligence tool. The week was filled with synchronicities - my own presentation on Kirby was Stargate-oriented in a different context. Ed showed that the data for RV was rock-solid and that he himself was approaching the work from a specifically reductionist POV.

The evening's presentation was from Paul Selig, an Ivy League graduate and playwright who approaches psychic phenomena from a diametrically different approach- Paul works as a "clairaudiant" and did a channeling for the group. We we asked to close our eyes during the reading, and I had some pretty intense imagery floating in my mind's eye- geometric patterns and images of the surrounding landscape sort of meshing into a very consistent kind of interior slideshow, nothing like the chaos that usually floats around behind my eyelids. More on that later.

So Wednesday had comics legend Doug Moench talking about synchronicities surrounding his writing- some of which were pretty harrowing (Synchronicity was very much the subtext of the week). Doug is one of my childhood heroes, having written Master of Kung Fu, Planet of the Apes and Moon Knight, as well as the modern classics Big Book of Conspiracies and Big Book of the Unexplained (both very much worth tracking down). Doug also wrote some issies of the recent X-Files comic, so all sorts of connections going on there. Doug is also the unholy lovechild of Ben Grimm and Robert Anton Wilson and brought a wonderful curmudgeonly air to the proceedings.

Then some bloated, sweaty idiot named Chris Knowles got up and started ranting about Jack Kirby and UFOs and Stargates and ancient astronauts and clairvoyance. Luckily the paramedics came and brought him straight to the nuthouse before he hurt himself or others.*

Dean Radin followed with an amazing presentation on the quantum mechanics of Time. Having a "for-rent" sign where my left brain should be I didn't really follow the specific details, but was completely riveted nonetheless. Dean is an absolute master of public speaking (and PowerPoint) and you can't help but be drawn into his world even if you don't have a scientific bone in your body. Contrary to what the Randiites might wish, there is serious science being done on the frontiers of the powers of the mind, and Dean is at the forefront of this. Consensus opinion on Psi can be confronted, but only if you're prepared with the data.

And boy, it's a really good thing that I spend so much time preparing for all of this. It's one thing to write about these topics, it's another to do a podcast on them and it's a whole different universe when presenting your crazy ideas to a roomful of professionals with credentials up the wazoo. You'd better make sure you've done the math.

It's then another reality paradigm entirely to do so in a roomful of those same professionals and a bunch of other people who have no concept of what we've been discussing the past week. Especially when that room is a legendary venue where many of your personal heroes have presented their own ideas to the world. And, oh yeah, it's being videotaped for posterity. So that was my Wednesday night. How was yours?

Needless to say, I nearly choked worse than the '86 Sox. But I'd spent so much time going over all of this material that some obscure module of my brain kicked in and presented a reasonably cogent version of the material that many of you are familiar with from this blog. I guess this is the same principle you get in sports or military training- your first time out, you're going to choke. So you need to drill yourself in order that muscle memory gets through your baptism of fire.

The funny thing is that I thought I was dying out there, but everyone told me it was really interesting, so there you go. I wasn't entirely happy with my presentation- I was offering too many answers and not enough questions. Which is really a function of trying not to wilt in front of forty people.

I was thrown off my stride (such as it was) at one point- Paul's chair inexplicably exploded when he leaned back. Those of you skeptical about mediumship (and I usually count myself in that group) will be interested to know that the episode I was discussing at that moment was one I had had a precognitive dream about, that then unleashed a chain of synchronicities that I wrote about in detail on this very site.

Surely not a pleasant experience for Paul, but in my own reality these kinds of meaningful, message-laded moments usually aren't. Usually the most meaningful turning points in my life have been extremely unpleasant.

Happily, Erik Davis nailed my amorphous thoughts the next day in his presentation on Aleister Crowley and their ultimate influence on Led Zeppelin. The sheer mystique of Led Zeppelin- particularly in the 70s- arose from their refusal to answer any of the questions about the enigmatic symbols and messages in their records (even that retarded "backwards-masking" controversy). Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz are the same way- they will never make a definitive answer about the mysteries of The X-Files (and certainly not about all the fascinating mythic parallels). The genius of that is that it keeps the conversation going, and allows the viewer to create her own reality with their framework. Erik also gets extra-cool bonus points for kicking it off with some righteous Ditko Doctor Strange panels and for clips from the 1926 Crowley-inspired film, The Magician (anyone have a copy of it out there?).

Victoria Nelson rounded out the presentations with her amazing dissection of the growing body of juvenile vampire fiction. Point by point, she graphed the history of vampire lore, it's entry into the pop culture realm, it's collision with gothic romance leading to the early Dracula films and then all the way up to the polymorphous vampires of the Anne Rice novels to this strange mutation of vampire mythology into a weird subset of superhero lore. Like so much else, Victoria's talk opened me up to a whole new sphere of memes to explore. Juvenile fiction is increasingly female-oriented, and I think it's important to understand these ideas that fly under male-oriented media.

The schedule then finished up with a panel discussion of filming the paranormal. Jeff's project was discussed by he and Scott, and a film adaptation of Michael's classic novel Golf in the Kingdom was discussed with George Stephanopolous (no, but actually he's his cousin), Michael and actor Mason Gamble (who made his debut as Dennis the Menace and has also appeared in films like Gattaca and Rushmore). Pretty amazing cast in that film: Malcolm McDowell, Joanne Whalley, Julian Sands and Frances Fisher, among others.

Then after that we all sat down for an amazing seafood dinner, whipped up by wunderkind chef Tony and his small crew (the food at Esalen is insanely delicious). Cool experience to sit with that surreal view of the Pacific (which for some reason I don't quite understand seems to rise above the horizon line).

The next day my stomach and I were again harrassed by Route 1 and I stayed overnight in SF, which was bitterly cold, believe it or not. I met up with an old friend and we briefly walked the Haight, which was a grimly appropriate statement on the present condition of the counterculture. Half of the stores were closed (on a Friday night), and an icy Pacific wind menaced all of the homeless hippies huddling in doorways. I saw the Haight as the significantly downscale, un-hip cousin to Phila(e)delphia's South Street. Quite a comedown for the birthplace of the 60s counterculture. Which, in an oblique way, brings me to my next point.

Since its inception Esalen has acted as a sort of clearinghouse for various countercultural movements and ideas. There's a meme going on out there that countercultures are all artificial creations of various agencies. This is classic disinformation, probably meant to discourage countercultural growth, given the sources for this trope (or the fact that we never hear these accusations thrown at the corporate Evangelical movement). Countercultures - real ones, at least- are almost always the result of a small circle of misfits who coalesce around certain memes. It's only once they've established themselves that corporations - or even less savory interests - will often infiltrate or sometimes co-opt these movements.

As a type of open forum for all comers, Esalen had attracted some controversy for various ideas or systems that have been discussed there in the past (which Jeff details quite nicely in his book on Esalen) as well as some attention by certain interests not otherwise given to psychonautics. That's not what is going on now, though. I'd recommend anyone with questions- or even suspicions- about Esalen check it out for yourself. It's probably one of the Top 5 most beautiful places on the planet, the food is great and you can get yourself a nice massage or chat with some amiable hippies in the baths. The programs are almost entirely oriented to somatic modalities- meditation, massage, drumming circles and the like. In fact, the only scary thing about Esalen is the drive there.

What I left there thinking about were new spaces, based primarily - if not entirely- on Western traditions and contemporary culture. I was very much into Buddhist traditions (particularly Zen, specifically Alan Watts' work) when I was younger, but I find myself more and more fixated on more cerebral and more culture-appropriate modalities. Where my New Age and Eastern investigations ultimately led me was straight to Jung, who also dabbled in oriental systems but was primarily centered in the West.

And in my mind, West does not exclusively mean European, either. In fact, it even includes Japanese cultural memes, particularly the Gnostic memes we see in manga, anime and other pop culture which is in fact the result of a kind of exchange between Japan and the West. Same goes for Hong Kong cinema, or Senegalese hip-hop and any number of other cultural adaptations. In fact what I am talking about is very much based around this internationalizing of Western culture and what that means to esotericism itself.

The Secret Sun is a bit of a mixed bag to be sure, but the source code is Jungian. Which is to say that this blog is ultimately (and paradoxically) about a shared kind of individuation.

I know that Alex Grey is opening a new space in upstate New York, and I certainly hope that not only does he succeed, but that he inspires other spaces as well. I truly believe the locus of spirituality and esotericism is moving back to the West, and I think it's our responsibility to help that process along. Eastern modalities can be powerful and profoundly meaningful, but they can often degenerate to either a touchy-feely vacuousness or a kind of authoritarian submission to gurus who almost invariably abuse that power.

We've been taught that the West has no mystical tradition of any real value, and that - as Jeff pointed out - the revelation is always "outside." I suggest that the exact opposite is in fact true, and that it's time for a distinctly Western tradition to assert itself. This was what I found so electrifying about magazines like Gnosis and Dagobert's Revenge. I think what might have been revelatory to past generations has become routinized and more than a little arid, and that the danger of Western visionaries can ignite a worldwide awakening. But in order for it to happen there needs not only to be vision and discipline, but an over-arching infrastructure to help it flower.

I think that Synchromysticism is a wonderful tool towards a new kind of Reality Hacking, but it can't be left at that. However, it will be through these collective dreamworlds of pop culture that new dialectics will result. Which is why it's also important to keep a critical eye on those dreams, and provide people with the tools to separate the transcendent memes from the cultural conditioning techniques, but without throwing the baby out with the bathwater as we see too much of these days.

I hope some of you will think about all of this.

Anyhow, that's where it stands Memorial Day weekend 2009. Infinite gratitude to Michael Murphy, Jeff Kripal and Collin Eyre.

*Well, that probably did happen in an alternate reality, but in this one the Kirby rant went off without incident. I'll be reposting my Mindbomb series on the Seminar this week, to bring everyone up to speed before continuing with fresh research on Jack's odd abilities.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Classic Sun: Stuart Gordon's Dagon

Note: I'm out of town this week and can't get a lot of computer time in so I thought I'd repost some articles from the very early days of the blog (we all know that "classic" is a polite term for "rerun"). This is one of my favorites- a review of the 2002 film adaptation of "Shadow Over Innsmouth" titled Dagon. Lovecraft was an OG Astrognostic, so this piece ties into some of the streams we've been looking at and will continue to explore in the future.

Stuart Gordon, a veteran of 60's experimental theater, first burst onto the screen with his extremely loose adaptation of HP Lovecraft's short story, "Herbert West, Re-Animator". Re-Animator, as the film was called, was a salacious and bloody black comedy that proved to be a surprise hit in the gore-hungry 80's movie scene. Gordon followed Re-Animator up with an even more unfaithful Lovecraft adaptation, From Beyond. As the mid-80's horror craze waned, Gordon seemed to fade with it. He stayed busy, but little he produced seemed to garner much attention (outside of his work on Honey I Shrunk the Kids, that is).

So to his more casual fans it was a shock when Gordon re-emerged with a new Lovecraft film in 2003 called Dagon. Based primarily on the short story "Shadow Over Innsmouth" (although it incorporates a few elements from the tale it takes it name from), Dagon follows the path of Paul Marsh, a yuppie internet millionaire vacationing with friends on a sailboat off of the coast of Spain. A sudden storm whips up smashing the boat against a reef, forcing Paul and his girlfriend Barbara to seek help in the fishing village they were anchored near. Paul and Barbara discover that the townspeople of Imboca ( a pun on Innsmouth) are not your usual Spaniards but an taciturn and fish-belly colored lot who loath having strangers in their midst. Perhaps the boat had drifted to the coast of England in the night.

Inevitably, Paul and Barbara are separated and Paul discovers to his horror that the denizens of Imboca are barely human. Returning to the sinking boat he finds that his two English pals have been taken by the sea and he returns to Imboca to find Barbara missing as well. Then he checks into the dodgiest hotel in filmic history. Almost immediately he is set upon by the monstrous townspeople (in this case they are various sea-creature/human hybrids) and pursued through the rain-besotted and generally water-logged town. He encounters an old drunk (played by the incomprehensible Francisco Ribal) who tells the story (blessfully accompanied by reenactments) of how Imboca had faced financial ruin when the fish catches began to thin. Then a young firebrand stormed into a local church and told the residents that if they changed allegiance from their impotent Christian god to the almighty god of the sea Dagon, they would be blessed with not only all the fish their boats could carry, but huge bounties of gold from the ocean floor as well. Desperate, the townspeople agree and slit the throats of the dissenters (the local priest, the drunk's father) and soon Imboca was flush with fishes and riches. The only catch is that soon everyone was sprouting gills, tentacles, fins, unblinking eyes...

In the extended chase through the vile village (did you know that according to psychologists, the most common nightmare is about being chased? ), Paul runs into the gorgeous Uxia, a mysterious bed-ridden girl who has haunted his dreams. It's love at first unblinking sight, only problem being that Uxia is bed ridden on account of the 8 foot tentacles attached to her hips. Then its back to the chase until Paul and the old drunk find themselves strung up for some fileting. Then in a lovely bit of cinematic poetry the old drunk's face is torn from his head as he gurgles in protest. Paul escapes and guts the gutters and descends to an underground lair where he is once again reunited with Barbara, who unfortunately is hanging over an open pit awaiting some hot interspecies sex between her and the town's redoubtable squid god, Dagon. And oh yeah, the lovely Uxia- the apparent mistress of ceremonies- is carving our Barbara's skin with a golden ceremonial blade. Paul makes a vain attempt to rescue Barbara, but she's fish-food. Paul then finds out that he and Uxia are not only siblings, but are each other's fiance. Then she takes him to meet her parents, well her father and he comes to meet him, not the other way around. Anyhow, Uxia shows Paul the handy new gills he's spouting on his torso and Paul reacts by dousing himself with kerosene and lighting himself up. Uxia grabs the big dummy, tosses him down the well and hops in after him. Underwater, Paul discovers that not only can he breathe, but his charred flesh is melting away and revealing his new look. He and Uxia then swim off to live happily ever after and the final line of Innsmouth fades into view- "and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever. "

An uncommon type of happy ending, to be sure, but Dagon is not your usual horror movie. It is a symbolic parable of personal transformation. Water, which permeates every single frame of the film, symbolizes the Unconscious Mind, the emotions, and sexual desire. In one regard, Dagon can be seen as a parable of male adolescence. In the opening scene, Paul is on a boat with his girlfriend, who is not seen unclothed here and with whom he resists making love. Up on deck he is in the company of the older, English couple who own the boat. Paul later wears a Miskatonic University sweatshirt, that being the mythological college based in New England. This collision of symbols (old and new England) identifies the older couple as Paul's parents and the chaste nature of Paul and Barbara's bed-sharing identifies them as siblings.

Paul's entry into Imboca symbolizes an adolescent leaving his family and experience the challenges of the world on his own. Uxia represents the transformative power of romantic love and the sacrifice ceremony with the vaginal well in the catacomb symbolizes sexual love taking the young man away from his role in the family. Barbara's loss represents the family being torn away from sexual awakened young man. Paul meeting his squid-faced true father and his spouting of gills symbolizes the final ascension into manhood with all its terrors and responsiblities. Paul and Uxia's final descent into the well and into the ocean represents the idealized view of marriage when two adolescents are transformed into adults and share the riches of sex, the emotions and the unconscious.

There is an occult level of symbology at play here as well. The ocean represents the deep and abiding ancient Mysteries and the fish people represent those who are transformed and alienated forever from the mass of humanity. At first, Paul sees them as monsters coming to destroy him, when in reality they are initiates coming to take him to his true destiny. When, in an early scene, Barbara throws Paul's laptop into the ocean she is showing him that his true business is in the world of Mystery and not in the ordinary world of numbers and sums. Barbara too is transformed by her experience in the mysteries but cannot tolerate the experience. She represents the exoteric world of everyday life and she cannot follow Paul to his new life. Uxia, as his occult bridesmaid, is his sister because all those who pursue the mysteries are underneath it all, the same.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Egypt, Egypt Everywhere: Night @ Museum II

David D brought up this film in a recent comment, which I had been studiously avoiding. It's still a rental- at best, and a RedBox rental at that- but check out this synopsis:

When the Museum of Natural History is closed for upgrades and renovations, the museum pieces are moved into federal storage at the famous Washington Museums... With a forwarded resume, Larry (Ben Stiller) becomes another caretaker at the Smithsonian, where Kahmunrah, an evil Pharaoh will come to life with the reestablishing of a tablet as a magical force in the museum bringing the old exhibits (Such as Theodore Roosevelt and Dexter) and new exhibits (like General Custer and Al Capone) back to life, and in conflict with each other. Larry enlists the help of Amelia Earhart, who he develops a romantic interest in, and together they try to put everything back in order.

Falls in love with Amelia Earhart, eh? Interesting. By the way, Amy Adams plays the androgynous aviator.

Some of you might recognize the plot to this film borrows from the basic premise of the old Mummies Alive cartoon, which ran briefly on kiddie TV from somewhere in the mid 90s or so. That in turn borrowed heavily from the Golden Age Hawkman, which in turn borrows from Bram Stoker's Jewel of the Seven Stars.

Speaking of all these reincarnated spirits, loved the bit on Sacagaewa in the trailer. Reminded me of the early days of this blog, when I looked at the interesting similarities between the golden dollar and Aleister Crowley's novel, which inspired Jack Parsons to perform the Babalon Working.

And hey- when did the Smithsonian change their logo to this? Looks like they too are hopping on the Solar Logos logo bandwagon. I hear all the kids are doing it...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fringewatch: Alien Dreaming edition

Did you watch the season finale of Fringe? If not, you can do so here. The show took its time getting its act together, but seems to have constructed a fairly compelling mythology. It's always good to see smart sci-fi on network TV, but there's still something a bit distancing about it to me. Which is a bit ironic since it all centers on my old stomping grounds 42º 71º, and takes scads of bits from my all-time favorite TV show and one of my favorite novels (my grandfather and uncle were Harvard men, to boot).

But it could be that the writers are putting all of the pieces in place this season and will start to deliver in the next. If so, that's a pretty bold strategy considering that viewers- and network execs - seem to have the attention span of a 14 year-old Mountain Dew junkie these days.

I'm especially interested in Bosto-centric sync winks. I got a kick out of seeing homeboy Nimoy in the house, since his mother and my grandmother were friends. I'm hoping they'll set an ep in my old hometown next season, especially since it's the former home to the General Dynamics shipyard. I mean, how a show like this could resist using a town called "Braintree" as a setting is beyond me. As you can see above, it obviously hasn't escaped their notice...

Cheers to Soundless Steve for the heads-up.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Alien Dreaming, pt. V: The Mithraic Liturgy

The first four posts in this series can be read here

In this post, we will look at excerpts from the Mithraic Liturgy of the Paris Codex. This liturgy was part of a body of ancient Egyptian Hermetic writings compiled in the early 300s CE. The liturgy is filled with tons of uppercase glossolalia, which I've omitted. I also have included only the section of the liturgy believed to be the genuine Mithraic component- apparently there are some additional verses and spells tacked on follow the invocation.

There is some controversy as to whether the liturgy represents "orthodox" Mithraism, or some Hermetic variant thereof. But it certainly does present a pretty powerful personal experience typical of the Mystery tradition. Experience is the unique component that separates the Mysteries from other cults. And for some time, modern scholars have speculated that entheogenic compounds were the actual sacraments of these cults.

This is just a shot across the bow with this topic, but it might shed new light on the ancient Mysteries for some of you. As with the Gnostics, there is so much ridiculous nonsense floating around out there about the Mysteries, most of it written by biased individuals who have never read the actual history of these movements, never mind their texts.

If you read the text of the liturgy carefully, some very interesting themes might catch your eye. I've been agonzing over this post for some weeks now, but I thought the best way to present it was to let the ancient Mithraists speak for themselves. We can get into interpretation later.

I've also added some images from our modern mysteries to break up the monotony.

Be gracious to me, O Providence and Psyche, as I write these mysteries handed down for gain but for instruction; and for an only child I request immortality, O initiates of this our power...
...furthermore, it is necessary for you, O daughter, to take the juices of herbs and spices, which will to you at the end of my holy treatise which the great god Helios Mithras ordered to be revealed to me by his archangel, so that I alone may ascend into heaven as an inquirer and behold the universe.
"First - origin of my origin, first beginning of my beginning, spirit of spirit, the first of the spirit in me, fire given by god to my mixture of the mixtures in me, the first of the fire in me, water of water, the first of the water in me, earthy substance, the first of the earthy substance in me..."
I, sanctified through holy consecrations!-- while there subsists within me, holy, for a short time, my human soul-might, which I will again receive after the present bitter and relentless necessity which is pressing down upon me...
...It is impossible for me, born mortal, to rise with the golden brightnesses of the immortal brilliance ...Draw in breath from the rays, drawing up three times as much as you can, and you will see yourself being lifted up and ascending to the height, so that you seem to be in mid-air.

You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things.

For in that day and hour you will see the divine order of the skies: the presiding gods rising into heaven, and others setting.

Now the course of the visible gods will appear through the disk of god, my father...

...and in similar fashion the so-called "pipe," the origin of the ministering wind. For you will see it hanging from the sun's disk like a pipe.

You will see the outflow of this object toward the regions westward, boundless as an east wind, if it be assigned to the regions of the East--and the other similarly, toward its own regions.
And you will see the gods staring intently at you and rushing at you. So at once put your right finger on your mouth and say: "Silence! Silence! Silence! Symbol of the living, incorruptible god!

Then you will see the gods looking graciously upon you and no longer rushing at you, but rather going about in their own order of affairs.

So when you see that the world above is clear and circling, and that none of the gods or angels is threatening you, expect to hear a great crash of thunder, so as to shock you. Then say again: "Silence! Silence! (the prayer) I am a star, wandering about with you, and shining forth out of the deep...

Immediately after you have said these things the sun's disk will be expanded. And after you have said the second prayer, where there is "Silence! Silence!" and the accompanying words, make a hissing sound twice and a popping sound twice, and immediately you will see many five- pronged stars coming forth from the disk and filling all the air. Then say again: "Silence! Silence!"

"And when the disk is open, you will see the fireless circle, and the fiery doors shut tight."
Say all these things with fire and spirit, until completing the first utterance; then, similarly, begin the second, until you complete the seven immortal gods of the world. When you have said these things, you will hear thundering and shaking in the surrounding realm; and you will likewise feel yourself being agitated. Then say again: "Silence!"
Then open your eyes and you will see the doors open and the world of the gods which is within the doors, so that from the pleasure and joy of the sight your spirit runs ahead and ascends. So stand still and at once draw breath from the divine into yourself, while you look intently.

When you have said this, the rays will turn toward you; look at the center of them. For when you have done this, you will see a youthful god, beautiful in appearance, with fiery hair, and in a white tunic and a scarlet cloak, and wearing a fiery crown. At once greet him with the fire-greeting:

"Hail, O Lord, Great Power, Great Might, King, Greatest of gods, Helios, the Lord of heaven and earth, God of gods: mighty is your breath; mighty is your strength, O Lord. If it be your will, announce me to the supreme god, the one who has begotten and made you.

He will come to the celestial pole, and you will see him walking as if on a road. Look intently and make a long bellowing sound, like a horn, releasing all your breath and straining your sides; and kiss the amulets and say, first toward the right: "Protect me, PROSYMERI!"

After saying this, you will see the doors thrown open, and seven virgins coming from deep within, dressed in linen garments, and with the faces of asps. They are called the Fates of heaven, and wield golden wands. When you see them, greet them in this manner:
"Hail, O seven Fates of heaven, O noble and good virgins, O sacred ones and companions of MINIMIRROPHOR, O most holy guardians of the four pillars!

There also come forth another seven gods, who have the faces of black bulls, in linen loin-cloths, and in possession of seven golden diadems. They are the so-called Pole-Lords of heaven, whom you must greet in the same manner, each of them with his own name:
"Hail, O guardians of the pivot, O sacred and brave youths, who turn at one command the revolving axis of the vault of heaven, who send out thunder and lightning and jolts of earthquakes and thunderbolts against the nations of impious people, but to me, who am pious and god-fearing, you send health and soundness of body, and acuteness of hearing and seeing, and calmness in the present good hours of this day, O my Lords and powerfully ruling Gods!"

Now when they take their place, here and there, in order, look in the air and you will see lightning-bolts going down, and lights flashing , and the earth shaking...

...and a god descending, a god immensely great, having a bright appearance youthful, golden-haired, with a white tunic and a golden crown and trousers, and holding in his right hand a golden shoulder of a young bull: this is the Bear which moves and turns heaven around, moving upward and downward in accordance with the hour.

Then you will see lightning-bolts leaping from his eyes and stars from his body.

And at once produce a long bellowing sound, straining your belly, that you may excite the five senses: bellow long until the conclusion, and again kiss the amulets... And gaze upon the god while bellowing long; and greet him in this manner:
"Hail, O Lord, O Master of the water!
Hail, O Founder of the earth!
Hail, O Ruler of the wind!
O Bright Lightener...

So, here we have a two thousand year-old prayer from one of the ancient world's most powerful cults, which talks about a flying disk with doors that open and close, and is filled with "gods" who take people up into the heavens.

I think it's safe to say they didn't get these ideas from Buck Rogers or 50's sci-fi movies.

Mysteries within Mysteries, to be sure...

Friday, May 08, 2009

AstroGnostic: The Quatermass Conclusion

This is episode 1 of the 1979 series The Quatermass Conclusion (released full-length as simply Quatermass), and I can't seem to find the other parts online quite yet. But there's enough to chew on as Quatermass discovers a UFO cult in the British countryside that's being manipulated for sinister purposes.

I'm stunned- again- by Kneale's meticulous attention to detail, keen understanding of human behavior, and most of all- his prescience. This episode alone not only prefigures The X-Files, but 80s sci-fi films like Streets of Fire, The Road Warrior and Conan the Barbarian as well.

In many ways, this film also prefigures the Heaven's Gate cult: the end of this episode will give you chills. I bought the full-length DVD and will definitely review it in full detail here.

From imdb:
After the mysterious destruction of the new space station, young people find themselves drawn to a stone circle in England, and other locations around Earth. They believe they'll be taken to a better place by a higher power. Only Professor Quatermass realizes that the young people are being tricked by an alien power, who wants to "harvest" humanity. It's up to Quatermass to find a way to stop the deadly plans of the aliens.

Civilisation is crumbling. Through the decay, Professor Quatermass searches for his missing granddaughter. Meanwhile an awesomely powerful beam of light is striking from space, each time apparantly transporting crowds of young people to another planet. But Quatermass and a young astromoner, Kapp, suspect a much more grisly purpose.
From the Google link:
Predictably rejected by an increasingly patronising BBC, this was one of the last thought-provoking dramas to be broadcast in Britain before Thatcher and her friends' clampdown on creative thought. John Mills stars as the eponymous Professor in 1979's Quatermass, the fourth, final and best of the celebrated television science fiction serials.
I might add that this series came out right around the same time as Jacques Vallee's Messengers of Deception...

Tying in Heaven's Gate to the alien/entheogen links we've been looking at, I recommend you take a look at Timothy Leary's 1973 tract Starseed, in which he waxes poetic about the Comet Kahoutek in ways not entirely dissimilar to Marshall Applewhite's prophecies of Hale-Bopp.

And- wait for it- The X-Files combined the cult suicide and drug guru memes in "Via Negativa," which centered on the Third Eye and psychic psychedelia. That episode co-starred Grant Heslov, director of the upcoming Men Who Stare at Goats, a sure-to-be instant Secret Sun classic about the Army's psychic war program, starring George Clooney and Robert "Oannes Anubis" Patrick.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stairway to Sirius: Djoser, Tut and surfing the wake

OK, so you go to the Step Pyramid of Djoser to learn more about King Tut? Huh? The two were separated by 13 centuries. What do the two have to do with one another, other than that they were both Egyptian? Well, maybe not much on the exoteric level, but perhaps a bit more on the esoteric, symbolic level. Remember we had that "photo op" with the AF1BU buzzing around lower Manhattan?

Well, I wonder if maybe there is a deeper connection between the WFC and Djoser's necropolis after all, aside from the step pyramids at both sites, that is. There's certainly a connection between our new president and the Amun-lovin' pharaoh from days gone by.

Things have been relatively quiet on the Sirius front lately, maybe while all of the pieces are put into place to split up the country and sell it off to China and Europe, but I wouldn't bet that we've heard the last of the kinds of extremely high weirdness we looked at during the election.

I love how Zahi keeps saying that Djoser "was the first one on this earth" to do this or that. As opposed to his predecessors not on this earth? We're also reminded that Zahi went to college in Phila(e)delphia, which shouldn't surprise us. Though I don't remember; was that on the Edgar Cayce Foundation's dime or was that someone else?

The question must be raised: Does any of it have anything to do with any of us, really? Well, probably not intentionally. But with all of this symbolic and psychic energy being stirred up it's bound to have unseen after-effects. All of you psyche-surfers out there might find the wake from their space/ships makes one hell of a curl for your own journeys to alien shores...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Alien Dreaming and the Widening Gyre, pt. IV

In that Kirby 2001/mushroom/star travel story, the astronauts are transformed into light for the journey through the furthest reaches of space. Which is fascinating to me, since that concept is at the core of the X-Files Mythology's cosmology- the transformation of souls into energy:

From Sein Und Zeit:

Kathy Lee Tencate:
"She was trying to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
Kathy Lee Tencate:
"She'd seen them."
Kathy Lee Tencate:
"The walk-ins. Old souls looking for new homes. Your sister's among them."
"You can see them?"
Kathy Lee Tencate:
"Yes. But sometimes it's very difficult because they live in the starlight."

Tencate- I love that. With Mulder playing the role of Demeter and Samantha his Persephone, who might Ten-Cate be?

From Closure:

Mulder: "These walk-ins — you say they come and take the children. Why?"

Harold Piller:
"In almost every case the parents had a precognitive image of their child, dead. Horrible visions. I believe what this is, is the work of good spirits. Foretelling their fates. The fate the child was about to meet. A particularly violent fate that wasn't meant to be... which is why the spirits intervene transforming matter into pure energy. Starlight. But it's not what happened here."

see Robert Bauval's site for further elaboration

Which is triply fascinating, since this concept of soul travel comes straight outta Egypt- the Akhu of the Pharaoh which becomes starlight and travels the heavens with Isis and Osiris:

Conceived of sky, born of dusk.
Sky conceived you and Orion,
Dusk gave birth to you and Orion.
Who lives lives by the gods' command,
You shall live!
You shall rise with Orion in the eastern sky,
You shall set with Orion in the western sky,
Your third is Sothis, pure of thrones,
She is your guide on sky's good paths,
In the Field of Rushes.

This concept is also passed down to us in the tradition of the Astral Body, which was taught by people as diverse as Gurdjieff, Rudolph Steiner, Jung and Casteneda, though in a different context.

And in that great AAT propaganda film that no one will recognize as such, Dave Bowman's last words before taking his own cross-cosmos journey (ending with his reincarnation as the Star Child) was "My God, it's full of stars."