Saturday, October 30, 2010

Therion Rising, Part II: Rocket Men and Magickal Battles

Aleister Crowley himself inspired other luminaries in the occult underground, some of which went on to become as famous/infamous as their mentor. There were also other pioneers in the esoteric arts contemporary with the Beast who took a more benign or enlightened path.

Paul Weston's new book Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus covers them all. He rounds up all of the myths and stories that have come to form a litany, or lore, of 20th Century occultism. Whether you agree with his worldview or not, the book is an invaluable contribution to the ongoing study of the persistence of the esoteric mindset. So just in time for the holiday, here's part two of my interview with Paul, and it's chock-full of his trademarked blend of erudition and die-hard contrarianism.

You and I agree that Jung and Crowley are conjoined in a way, particularly through Crowley's visionary experiences (the Aeon) and Jung's (the Aion). But somehow they took very different paths. How would you boil down their essential differences?

Temperament and function. Jung understood that he was the keeper of some Arcanum but was careful not to let the Seven Sermons to the Dead leak out very far. This had too much of the flavor of occultism. Crowley, perhaps imitating his lay preacher father, took on the prophet role and publicized his Book of the Law and the story of its reception to the max.

The magician is unlikely to be fully integrated into modern society in the way a therapist and thinker might be. Jung needed an aura of scientific respectability. He also seemed to be able to handle marriage and family life despite various affairs. His closest female companions including his wife did not tend to self destruct or be cast aside but to be strong figures that left their own body of work behind. All of this worked very well for him. It put him into a position for example where he could help the publication process of the Nag Hammadi stash and write a book on Flying Saucers right in the middle of the crank-heavy fifties that could be respected.

The Magical Battle of Britain is a fascinating chapter in history. How would you rate Dion Fortune as an occultist, a writer and as an historical figure?

Dion Fortune is probably the most well-loved, respected, and influential female occultist. A recent book by her biographer Alan Richardson that compares her with Crowley suggests that she could be considered as the Shakti of the Age alongside the Beast’s Logos of the Aeon. That’s high praise indeed and grants her global status. I’m not sure I can place her alongside some of the Hindu divine mother types such as Meera and Amma in terms of the voltage being pumped out, or even Blavatsky, but it’s a measure of the respect in which she’s held by her admirers.

Perhaps her most interesting and important idea was that it’s possible to work magic with archetypes that literally changes their potency in the collective unconscious. The best example is that of the figure of the Priestess. Numerous models have existed for the male magician. From the Middle Ages to Crowley, there was a certain way of being, a particular style that the would-be adept could take on board. For women it was different. The burning times had left unfavorable archetypes associated with witches. If the figure of the Priestess was to return, somehow she needed to be rehabilitated, restored to the fullness of her functions. People had to have an idea in their heads of what such a figure would be like and how she might feel and behave in the modern world.

Fortune was interested in finding Qabalistic attributions to Arthurian names and locations. This took on greater urgency in 1940. Acting on her own inspiration, she arranged for synchronized group visualizations focused on Glastonbury Tor and featuring Arthur and Merlin with the intention of somehow stirring up those forces to help protect Britain against the Nazis. In this, she really took on the function of Morgan in Avalon. Her belief was this work went beyond the war situation and was concerned with the regeneration of the national psyche after the war in the coming new age. I’ve made my own connections with it in modern times and I believe it remains switched on to this day.

I feel that the return of the Priestess witch figure and the revival of the Glastonbury Arthurian mythos owe major debts to her. Add to this the Magical Battle of Britain workings and you have quite a numinous legacy.

You confess you don't see L Ron Hubbard as the villain most others seem to. What do you see in him that others don't?

Firstly, the man’s ability to press people’s buttons is extraordinary. There are those who can discuss Hitler and serial killers quite calmly and then start shouting and foaming at the mouth the moment LRH is mentioned. This is very interesting. When it comes to his interaction with Jack Parsons and role in the Babalon Working he tends to be portrayed as a pantomime villain who we are encouraged to heartily boo and throw tomatoes at.

While our understanding and appreciation of Jack has steadily grown, the LRH scenario remains undeveloped. If the Babalon Working ripped a hole in the fabric of reality and helped usher in the UFO era and suchlike, it was due to the extraordinary alchemy of the cast of characters, not just Jack. You couldn’t have Enochian without Edward Kelley. The Parsons Hubbard interaction was crucial to the intensity of what occurred.

In my twenties I worked for a Hypnosis and Parapsychology institute. I recognized a lot of the training material and had a quiet word with the chief. He had been in Scientology for fifteen years during the East Grinstead phase and claimed to have been very close to Ron. During the turbulent sixties he had left under a cloud and had the full force of the controversial disconnection procedures used against him, being declared “fair game”. Despite this, he was now peddling LRH material, including a few OT drills, and I was getting it on the cheap. I was satisfied that it was potent stuff. What I was most interested in was what was Ron actually like? My boss told me he was an utterly astounding man, a massively charismatic total genius. I was hearing this during the same period that Ron Jr was sounding forth on dad as deranged drug crazed, wife beating, baby aborting, black magician megalomaniac.

This rather large diversity of opinion utterly fascinated me and gave me the sense that the whole story had yet to be told. Russell Miller’s Bare Faced Messiah still left me with that feeling. We have what appears to be a thorough demolition of Ron’s alleged war record and yet the controversial Fletcher Prouty, a man with an apparent deep background in military intelligence and author of books on CIA black ops and suchlike waded in with an extensive rebuttal, claiming that Ron was indeed a high-level operative.

We can’t effectively evaluate the source material but we can see something pretty clearly and I’m surprised people miss this point. LRH set up what was effectively an espionage dept within his church. He also created his own navy and ran an international organization from it, dodging and dealing with all kinds of problems with other governments and intelligence agencies. This got pretty heavy. His wife was jailed. He survived. Indeed he continued to play this game whilst in total seclusion during the last years of his life and left meticulous instructions behind enabling the continued growth and survival of his creation. Isn’t it pretty obvious that he had some talent for this? He played a game no other mystic, magus, guru type has ever engaged in to that level.

The man has been portrayed as a psychotic fantasist and his OT III material as preposterous. Gerald Suster said of Crowley that debauched degenerates don’t set world mountaineering records. Well, psychotic sci-fi fantasists don’t handle hassle from intelligence agencies, massive press vilification etc very well either.

The idea that maybe some of our past lives have been on other planets and that we have been involved in an aeons old space opera whereby our incredible capacities have been enslaved without our conscious knowledge is a powerful piece of modern Gnosticism. Even if it’s not true in the way that last weekends football results are true it gets you thinking in what Ouspensky used to call “other categories” It stirs for me that poignant idea of some huge mysterious secret life that we all have and are so often consciously unaware of. I am willing to cut LRH some slack. That at least gives me a chance of spotting some useful ideas amidst the controversies.

NOTE: Paul elucidates his opinions of LRH on his blog. Click here.

I would argue that Jack Parsons is a crucial figure in the evolution of genre entertainment because of his connections to the sci-fi and pulp stars of his day. How do you rate him otherwise?

I think Parsons is the second greatest figure in Thelema behind Crowley. I believe he was and is a profound magickal force. That’s a bit contentious as the Beast himself wrote Jack off as a failure. What’s so compelling about him is he is a recognisably modern figure. It’s possible to imaginatively enter into his world. He was clearly at the cutting edge and the cast of characters he interacted with was quite astonishing. Crowley, although a man demonstrating a twenty-first century Quantum Psychology, seems more distant as his prime was in the Edwardian era.

There are occultists who consider the Babalon Working to have been a failure. I feel it has sent major ripples out ever since and the real purpose of it may have been something that none of the participants were entirely consciously aware of. We now have the internet truism that it ripped a hole in the fabric of reality and ushered in the UFO era. It is true that Majorie Cameron did see a UFO before the 1947 eruption. I do feel that the Project Diana timescale you have uncovered is an important one. There’s no getting away from the sci-fi mentality of Jack and Ron.

It soon became clear that the sci-fi pulp thing is intimately connected with occultism. The UFO scene and the contactees of the fifties demonstrate that. Sci-fi was often the vehicle for a new Gnosticism. Sometimes the authors were conscious of this. Indeed, the UFO phenomenon itself was a vehicle for the re-emergence of all kinds of old ideas. To me it’s a wider spread of the Nag Hammadi plasmate thing. This includes Jack’s major passions for Gnosticism and witchcraft. I have tried in my book to bring together a whole bunch of stuff that was going down at the same time that I feel partakes of a greater unity. Parsons was stage center.

He seems like another one of those cases like Crowley of a perfectly prepared vehicle. His life likewise appears to make a mockery of the idea of random unfolding. The timing involved in a man of such sensibilities being available to act as the meeting point of so many potent influences is notable. I would certainly consider him to be a candidate for the title of coolest man of the twentieth century. What lingers more than anything for me, beyond the power and mystique of the Babalon Working and his explosive departure, are his passionate libertarian writings. Speaking on the cusp of the Cold War McCarthyite fifties, he issued a call to arms that was later heard clearly in the sixties. What’s intriguing is that those writings were not known during that time but what was expressed in them hung in the airwaves. It’s like the witchcraft and Gnostic interests as well. Parsons was plugged into the zeitgeist so much he was practically a living embodiment of it.

Parsons' favorite novel was
Darker Than You Think, a book that author Jack Williamson claimed emerged from dream therapy. But the book is packed with 'Thelemic' ideas and themes. How do you account for the parallels?

I read “Darker” during the writing of my Parsons material. I have often sought out a book on the basis of its influence on a person of interest to me. I have never had such a strong sense of reading over someone’s shoulder as I did there. Jack was brooding over every page. Crowley was a name known to many but the level of “exposure” is another thing altogether.

I think with Williamson we may be seeing a combination of archetypal stirrings informed by the cultural climate featured in books such as those by William Seabrook, movies like Curse of the Cat People, and general film noir sensibilities. I don’t think he necessarily had to be familiar with Crowley’s Babalon, have read The Vision and the Voice or seen the Thoth tarot.

Maybe some discovery might one day prove otherwise but I think the passion and talent of a writer stirring his own depths are enough to explain it. We need a great movie or mini-series of this book!

What is it in the AngloSaxon psyche that is drawn to these extremes of the occult or hyper-reductive Fundamentalism? And which would you say is the operating theme in England today?

The need for certainty sits uncomfortably against fear of the unknown and potentially destabilizing. This tension is a fundamental dynamic in societies everywhere. In nations where there has been a long established habit of power and influence that has been deemed to be a natural birthright, any signs of uncertainty, decline, and fall, can exaggerate those tensions and lead to big outbreaks of non-rationality. Such manifestations may produce creativity and freedom or Holy Wars and doomsday cultism.

On the streets of Britain you are likely to encounter varieties of the same bog-standard Kali Yuga nightmare visible in any western country. The operating theme is mediocre gratification through junk food, booze, reality TV, special effects movies, skunkweed, boy bands, slut pop, and the pornographication of the mass imagination. As the Sex Pistols said, “your future dream is a shopping scheme.” And this is worth protecting through a progressive erosion of our civil liberties.

Some sensitive souls are repelled and resist in accordance with whether they are frightened of change or inspired by it. We don’t have the equivalent of the Bible Belt but we are cultivating a Koran Belt that has already proved problematical and fertile ground for inspiring fledgling Nazis to preach their sermons in response. The best have lacked all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity.

Our rich heritage of ancient sites such as Stonehenge, Avebury, and Glastonbury, along with our deeply rooted national mythos of Arthur and Robin Hood cannot be suppressed however. The modern myth of 1940 and the Finest Hour still carry resonance. Like the US, we do have a very strong belief in the importance of freedom and will resist all obvious attempts at enslavement. There is a revulsion against Fundamentalism. The ancient archetypes come to the surface when help is needed.
One wonders if Crowley understood that the ones who truly heard the siren call of Aiwass were entrenched in power long before he was even born. The bankers and the boards of directors, the politicians and the preachers were already putting the commandments of the Liber Al into practice, and they've only become incalculably more 'wilful' since Crowley's death.

Their genius has been to mouth the pabulum and the platitudes of Western liberal democracy while taking a daily jackhammer to its foundations. They work literally around the clock to destroy nationhood, personhood and autonomy, while throwing us off the scent with the mewling drivel of their babbling witch doctors, their televised talking heads and their postmodern puppets in the Professoriate.

A lot of people think Crowley was evil incarnate- I'd say he didn't even know where to begin.

But the historical record will see Crowley and his contemporaries as important figures in the rediscovery of the ancient wisdom- and ancient history- that was stolen from us seventeen centuries ago. Crowley and Parsons were victims in a way, and accepted the role of villain that a cowardly and hypocritical post-Victorian society laid out for free thinkers, and succumbed to the excesses that they mistakenly believed led to the palace of wisdom.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Therion Rising: Paul Weston on the Aeon of Crowley

Nietzsche once said "all great things must first wear a terrifying and monstrous mask, in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity."* Surely he must have been prophesying the rise, fall and remarkable afterlife of one Edward Alexander Crowley, aka Greast Beast 666, aka Uncle Aleister. For a man who died alone and forgotten, the Great Beast's shadow in death has been nothing short of long. In fact, Crowley's restless ghost seems to haunt the dark corners of the Information Superhighway, a tabula rasa on which to project the fears, needs and lusts of an age of uncertainty and decay. He's become his own archetype.

Who he was depends on who you ask. For goths and metal heads, he's a bitchin' t-shirt design (man). For aspiring magi, he's a spectral mentor, there to guide them through the dark jungles of the black arts (albeit one given to occasionally kicking them into the quicksand for a laugh). For Fundamentalist drama queens, he's an all-purpose boogieman, ready-made for the apocalyptic hysteria required to shore up their ever-fragile faith. To some students of occult history, he was a showboat and a grifter, with barely-disguised sociopathic tendencies.

A man for all seasons, in other words.

But who was this man? What exactly did he do to earn his fearsome reputation? In a century filled with mass murderers, mad scientists and pompadoured witch doctors, Crowley seems like very weak tea indeed, with his cosplay and his rituals and his buggery and his drugs. But somehow he's struck a chord in the Collective Unconscious, like an eternal embodiment of the collective Id, struggling for slack in the tightening noose of the new world order. Why?

Well, I have no idea either, so to get to the bottom of all of this I contacted Paul Weston, author of Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus, an exhaustive study at the mischievous mage's life, work and influence. In addition to a detailed biography on the "Wickedest Man Alive," Paul tosses in the Babalon Working, the Sirius Mystery, the Stele of Revealing, Psychedelia, the Church of Satan, the Process Church of the Final Judgement, the Manson murders, the Mothman, the Illuminati, the Men in Black, the Loch Ness monster, and -of course- UFOs and the "Extra-Terrestrial Gnosis." And much more besides.

OK, enough preamble- let's get to the interview already...

CK: Your book takes a contrarian view on a whole host of controversial topics. In your view, who was Aleister Crowley as an individual and as man of history?

PW: As an individual, Crowley was an extraordinarily multi-faceted being. Thoroughly imbued with classical learning and a love of literature, experimental and prodigious in his sexuality, he was an extreme product of the Fin de Siecle zeitgeist. He had also been born into a fundamentalist Christian sect. This helped produce a life-long attitude of revolt against the old dispensation mixed with a religious and somewhat apocalyptic mindset.

A man of considerable physical vitality, by the time he was thirty he had climbed mountains in Mexico and the Himalayas, practiced yoga in India and Sufism in Egypt, been thoroughly trained in the Western Mystery Tradition through its most powerful vehicle of the time, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and experimented with a variety of drugs including some we would now describe as psychedelic. He was able to access states of consciousness that allowed a torrent of poetry and mystical magical literature to flow forth from him.

As a man of history, the least we can say is that this incredible blend and mix of experience probably rendered him sensitive to deeper currents at work in world affairs. His 1904 Book of the Law proclaimed that the old world had been destroyed by fire and a new epoch known as the "Aeon of Horus" characterised by an intense mix of ferocious warfare and wild bliss and abandonment had begun.

If he was simply a poet we would grant him some level of prescience and acknowledge the creation of some powerful metaphors to understand the modern world. The real difficulties come with trying to assess his more metaphysical claims. Can this Aeon of Horus be said to be a fundamental truth underlying the great world drama of the twentieth century? Was Crowley himself a prophet ordained by non-human intelligences that run the show to tell us all what it’s all about and how we should respond? I am willing to believe the answer is yes but that does not necessarily exclude other models of reality.

Your book left me with the impression that you see The Book of the Law as a work of prophecy, foretelling the horrors of the 20th Century. Does this work still hold its power today?

I believe it does. After the initial onset of the Aeon of Horus there were many extreme manifestations of its qualities ranging across the spectrum from the Nazi to psychedelic eras. From the time of its reception in 1904 we have seen a simultaneous acceleration of knowledge and the rate of change, together with dissolution of old forms. This tension, that is so problematical for human psychology, is a major issue right now. The knowledge of how to alter our consciousness and take control of our lives is more widely available than any other time in recorded history.

New paradigms are emerging at exponential rates. Our whole understanding of what has happened in history and how the world works is mutating. An ongoing critique of the governing establishment gathers ever greater density on the noosphere internet. Inevitably, the forces of reaction and conservatism twitch with Emotional Plague in response. The desert monotheisms throw up ever more intolerance and fear. It’s still not out of the question that a Middle Eastern Armageddon mega-death scenario may occur.

Where The Book of the Law differs from the old dispensation scriptures is its clear advocacy of Do what thou wilt as the way forward. And the religious practices proper to Nuit, the divine feminine, do not demand sacrifice but putting on the wings and arousing the coiled splendour within. This is in contrast to the ferocity of the times, of which we have already seen far too much with Auschwitz and Hiroshima.

Crowley’s reporting of the compassionless horror of the governing ethos in Chapter III, which he himself considered to be “gratuitously atrocious,” must not be mistaken for him endorsing such manifestations. They are an inescapable sign of the breakdown of old realities but rather than waiting on some particular external event to somehow save us we are urged to take responsibility ourselves. 

Crowleyites seem to take a pretty contemptuous view towards the neopagan/wicca subculture, but your book takes time to explore its roots in mid-century Britain. Could it be argued that Wicca is just Crowley Lite? Explain to us Crowley's influence on the development of Wicca.

There are two basic sides to this scenario that run together and leave an interesting mystery behind. Firstly, you could say it’s a kind of accident of history that when circumstances such as the repealing of an archaic witchcraft law in Britain and the cumulative effect of the inspiration provided writers such as Margaret Murray and Robert Graves combined to create the option of a witchcraft/pagan revival there happened to be a big template of material provided by Crowley in terms of poetic invocations to a number of deities and rituals such as the Gnostic Mass in place that could quickly be adapted to serve the purpose. The historical record is quite clear that Gerald Gardner used AC in his early Book of Shadows.

We know that Doreen Valiente was a bit uncomfortable with the Beast and also wrote some fine stuff of her own that rapidly replaced Crowley in the Wiccan canon. The traces remain though, in the Charge of the Goddess, where Nuit from the Book of the Law remains audible, and in the Third Degree ceremony. That all seems fairly straightforward but Gardner met Crowley before becoming the public advocate of witchcraft he’s now remembered as. It seems he was interested in the OTO and was initiated and given a charter.

There’s no evidence that Crowley and Gardner discussed witchcraft but as far back as 1914 the Beast had written to one of his followers that ‘The time is just ripe for a nature religion. People like rites and ceremonies, and they are tired of hypothetical gods. Insist on the real benefits of the Sun, the Mother-Force, the Father-Force and so on…In short be the founder of a new and greater Pagan cult.’

This indicates that he felt something beyond his existing magickal orders was required to spread the flavor of the Aeon that would appeal to a larger number of people. It’s entirely appropriate on a spiritual level that AC was somewhere in the vicinity around Gardner. I believe that witchcraft was hanging in the airwaves and ready to revive. If Dion Fortune was its magical mother then Crowley was the father.


* Or at least he's credited as such. I can't seem to find the source for it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Astronaut Theology: Zecharia Sitchin, Caprica Pass On

Zecharia Sitchin, the man that too many people incorrectly credit as the "creator" of Ancient Astronaut Theory, passed away after a rich and full ninety years of life on October 9, according to a brief statement from the family on his website. I hope this won't sound insensitive, but it's my hope that people will take the opportunity to put some of his theories to rest as well.

I read The Twelfth Planet many, many years ago and was very impressed with it, but wasn't too impressed with its sequels. Aside from the noticeable repetition of the information, Sitchin's writing style was often a hard slog and the definitive tone wasn't always matched by the evidence on hand. However, Sitchin's work eclipsed that of his more controversial predecessor Erich Von Daniken, particularly in the 90s (though I think the pendulum has begun to swing back).

Though it appeared towards the end of the 70s AAT boom, The Twelfth Planet was so compelling because Sitchin presented a kind of epic narrative of his (controversial) interpretations of the Sumerian tablets. It wasn't just data- it was a story. Strangely enough, it all reminded me a lot of Dune, with its labyrinthine political intrigues and apocalyptic desert battles (not to mention Dune's inferior sequel syndrome).

Sitchin's theorizing also tied into the neo-Gnosticism of the 90s conspiracy underground and had a huge influence on the works of theorists like William Bramley, Jim Marrs and David Icke. That eventually trickled down to the YouTards and the snakehandlers, who tossed in the usual Collins Elite "fallen angel" propaganda and the usual desperate stretching of Genesis 6:4 to explain any and all anomalous phenomena.

At the same time, Sitchin's overly literal interpretation of some of the myths (which are bound to be corrupted, given the passage of time), and the entire issue of Nibiru being a planet with a 3600-year orbit also opened up AAT to ridicule. The elderly, bookish Sitchin was often his own worst salesman, and could often be seen on documentaries like a deer caught in the headlights, stiffly reciting his interpretive theories as unassailable fact. To be frank, that turned a lot of people off.

All that being said, Sitchin's many contributions to alternative history are crucial, and he did produce a ton of breakthrough discoveries, particularly in the multiple visual references to the double helix. Some of the "debunking" of his theories was flat-out deceitful (I'm thinking of one snakehandling parasite in particular), but Sitchin's dogged refusal to revise and rethink some of his interpretations helped make a lot of that criticism stick.

Particularly with a topic as incendiary as AAT, it's very important to give the novice some room to question and explore. The best work done in the field does that. What's more, when you make definitive statements on controversial issues, the burden of proof is on you. When you question definitive statements made by the orthodoxy, the onus is on them. Important distinction.

All that being said, allow me to raise a toast to a freethinking brother, who lived his life kicking at the doors of orthodoxy, and put everything on the line to speak his truth, even if it may not be yours or mine.

Well, I'd like to say that Caprica's cancellation was a surprise but the show was just too demanding on an audience whose attention is being atomized. I enjoyed it because I recognized that the series was actually presenting us with an allegorical version of third century Rome. I was looking forward to seeing who the plutocrats secretly bankrolling the Soldiers of the One were (you figured that out, right?) and I was looking forward even more to seeing some brainpan-bursting payback for their terror campaign, but had a terrible feeling it wasn't necessarily forthcoming.

Now there's another Battlestar Galactica spinoff coming (BSG being one of the many AAT-centered sci-fi franchises, a fact that fandom doesn't quite know how to acknowledge) and I hope that the new showrunners- hell, all genre showrunners out there- realize that the serial format is ratings death.

Sure, the critics love it and the hardcore fans do as well but Joe Average Viewer doesn't have the patience for it. The next step will have to be working the almighty mytharc in standalone episodes that have a beginning, middle and end.

I know I have a lot of viewers out there in Hollywoodland, so a word to the wise.

And don't forget, the new season of Ancient Aliens premieres tonight, October 28 on The History Channel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Demand the Impossible, Part 2: Creating New Impossibilities

If you haven't already, please read part one of this discussion here.

CK: How do the authors you choose to focus on process this shifting reality? In other words how can they justify this seemingly imperceptible fluidity to themselves as rational beings?

Jeff Kripal: Reason does not exhaust who we are and how we know. We also know the world through intuition, instinct, dream, altered states, meaningful coincidences, precognitions, and so on. No author I treat would deny reason, nor would I. They would simply question reason's ability to exhaust the nature of the real.

So what are the nuts and bolts of the Impossible? Is this something that we will understand through quantum mechanics, or is this like a carrot at the end of a celestial stick that is ultimately driving our evolution?

I am suspicious of any future promise of the scientific method to "explain" paranormal experiences, although I can well see how better science might make room for such events in its modeling. Honestly, I think this is part of the problem, that is, I think one of the major reasons we have not properly appreciated and understood psychical phenomena is that we imagine that they can only be fitted into the scientific method, that there are no other ways of knowing the world other than science. The result, of course, is that whatever dimensions of that world that do not happen to fit into this kind of objectivism and materialism get "erased" as unreal, illusory, etc. We thus fail to understand them at all.

How would you respond to a typical skeptic, who'd charge that this is all imaginary; that cold, hard reality is a constant?

Reality is cold and hard only to those who approach it with the conviction that it is cold and hard. Scientific materialism is a worldview like any other. It is astonishingly useful to do all sorts of things with, so it is obviously partially true, but it itself cannot establish itself as an absolute and final truth. Most of our experiences, moreover, do not support it.

That is why scientific materialism always excludes first-person experience as "anecdotal" (a true cop-out) and denies the existence of the subject or psyche on its own terms. It cannot account for the nature of consciousness qua consciousness. So it denies that it exists at all. Which is absurd.

One of the side effects of looking into these matters can be a sense of hopelessness (Keel, especially), which is endemic in our society now anyway. What gives you hope and keeps you engaged in topics that many of your peers might simply dismiss?

Ultimately, I think the paranormal phenomena are immensely hopeful and expansive, as they suggest, to me anyway, a form of consciousness so great and so grand that we cannot imagine it other than in religious or "divine" terms. I am not suggesting that these things are signs of "God," but I am suggesting that they are signs of a kind of superconsciousness that would raise our estimation of human nature immeasurably.

Our egos, social selves, or religious identities, of course, are not always ready for this expansion, and so they experience this form of superconsciousness as threatening, terrifying, dark, and so on. Keel was a very honest observer here, but his books also contain an unmistakable "mystical" streak that is ultimately positive and at least potentially expansive and hopeful.

Are people like Vallee, Keel or Fort simply strange attractors? Meaning are they keyed into an aspect of reality - on more than just a theoretical basis - that many others can not experience? And what creates this kind of individual?

Very simply, what I think is that human beings are normally too well put together to experience such things, but that in those situations in life where the ego is temporarily compromised or even erased (car wrecks, serious trauma, psychopathology, yes, and psychedelics), the real comes "rushing in" because it CAN now. It is not being "blocked" or "filtered out" by the brain and a healthy ego. I am not suggesting that such experiences are pathological, but I am suggesting that pathology is one, of many, ways to catalyze them

When you read about ancient religious figures you see that 'intuition, instinct, dream, altered states, meaningful coincidences, precognitions, and so on' are the actual basis of their experience. Do you feel that fact is threatening to people- that there's this big need for the skies to literally open and the answer from on high to be handed down?

If you mean, do I think that the paranormal is threatening to religious systems because it implies that institution and mediation are not always necessary, yes, I think that. The paranormal is as demonized in religion as it is in science.

You're at the leading edge of a very strange and still unformed impulse that takes the Impossible seriously. Do you this developing into a movement, or is the Impossible too subjective to act as a unifying principle?

I certainly do not want to be part of yet another movement, much less another religion. We have quite enough of those, don't we? I would rather help catalyze a new way of thinking and being in the world, something more akin to an artistic movement or school of thought. I'm just trying to think about this stuff honestly. I'm just trying to describe what I see. I don't claim any omniscience here.

You've had a close relationship with Esalen- do you see that institution returning on a larger scale to dealing more directly with the Impossible? If not, do you see other institutions taking all of this more seriously?

I'm a huge fan of Esalen and any other institution that attempts to wander into these "third realms" beyond reason and beyond belief. My sense here is that such places fill incredibly crucial roles in our society, and that they are functioning as "signals from the future" of new ways of organizing our knowledge, our societies, and, perhaps most important of all, our relationship to the natural world.

The past ways and the present ways are certainly not working. Part of this future envisioning will certainly involve what I call the Impossible, that is, it will involve embracing more and more of reality into a fuller and fuller vision of human nature and its astonishing scope. That is all, in the end, I am really asking for: that we not underestimate ourselves; that we appreciate just how weird and wonderful the human being is as an expression of the immeasurably larger and weirder evolving cosmos; that we come to know our own supernature.

For more information of Jeff and his upcoming documentary, click here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Demand the Impossible

What do you get when you take a razor-sharp mind with a state-of-the-art bullshit detector and apply it all to a sphere of inquiry most academics run in terror for their careers from?

You get Jeff Kripal's Authors of the Impossible, a book that people in the future will look back on as a pivotal text in the development of a new consensus on topics that have for too long been consigned to the fringes. Jeff wrote the definitive text on the history of Esalen (which I included as one of my decade's best) and he's also the author of the upcoming Secret Life of a Superpower, a very deep and exhaustive look at the enduring resonance of the superhero meme. (Note: Read Jeff's bio here.)


Longtime Secret Sun readers will be stunned to see how many of the topics we've discussed here being covered in Authors of the Impossible (as well as in Secret Life). Stunned but not surprised- there is a new consensus unfolding that acknowledges the past but isn't beholden to it. That acknowledges the importance of the scientific method but recognizes its limitations in certain dilemmas. I hope that you read Authors of the Impossible and hope that it inspires you to apply a similar discipline to your own research. Discipline, rigor and most of all courage are desperately needed as the old weird becomes the New Normal.

Here's a description taken from Jeff's site. It refers to the upcoming film but covers the basic outline of the book as well:
The film profiles four extraordinary thinkers: the British psychical researcher F. W. H. Myers, the American anomalist writer and humorist Charles Fort, the astronomer, computer scientist, and ufologist Jacques Vallee, and the French philosopher Bertrand Méheust. Gradually, eerily, what Kripal dubs “the fantastic narrative of Western occulture” emerges before the reader from within that strange middle realm where fact mimics fiction, where fraud mimics fact, where everything is related and nothing is as it seems. The cultural histories of telepathy, teleportation, and UFO’s, a ghostly love story, the occult dimensions of science fiction, cold war psychic espionage, galactic colonialism, poltergeist girls, consciousness as the creator of culture, and culture as the crystallization of consciousness—it is all impossible, and it all happens here.
Ultimately, Authors of the Impossible is about us—you and me—waking up inside a dream, a novel, or a movie (call it culture, society, or religion) and realizing, with a start, that we are its authors. Even more stunning, we realize that none of it is real (to the extent that it pretends to be literal, stable, and absolute), and that all of it is real (to the extent that it reflects and expresses the Consciousness that projected it). Realization is the insight that we are being written, that we are caught in a story we did not write. Authorization is the decision to do something about it. If Realization involves the act of reading the paranormal writing us, Authorization involves the act of writing the paranormal writing us. What the film is finally about, then, is us becoming our own Authors of the Impossible.
All that being said, let's go to part one of an interview I did with Jeff:

Jeff, tell us about the basic premise of Authors of the Impossible.

The basic premise of the book is that paranormal experiences, as anomalous events that possess both objective and subjective dimensions, do not and cannot be fit into our normal dualistic way of looking at the world as either "material" or "mental." They can, however, be fruitfully approached as "living stories" or as "physical meanings" that are appearing in our world.

One of the thrulines in the book is the essential malleability of what we call reality. How would you explain that concept to a (relatively intelligent) novice?

Our experience of reality is always filtered through our psyches and its linguistic, cultural, social, and biological conditioning. Different such conditionings produce different experiences of reality, different possibilities, and so different impossibilities. Reality is thus not stable as we move from culture to culture or temporal period to temporal period. It shifts, morphs, and moves. And--and this is the cool part--we have some power of how it is shaped and appears to us through these various linguistic, cultural, and social filters.

How have your peers in Academia responded to the work?

It's too early for that. Reviews generally take a year, believe it or not. I've received some very positive feedback via correspondence and conversation, though. My sense is that intellectuals are fascinated by this stuff, like everyone else.

We've seen certain writers work in relative obscurity- or are even shunned by the mainstream- in their lifetimes- do you foresee a future in which Jacques Vallee or Bertrand Méheust are taken more seriously by people outside UFO/paranormal circles?

I certainly hope so. That's one big reason I wrote this book. To get serious readers to take these wonderful writers more seriously.

We've seen Philip K Dick become more highly regarded by the Intelligentsia- could something similar happen to Charles Fort, or is his work too weird?

I don't know why not? Though Fort did not really tell stories like Dick did. That's one big reason Dick has been embraced by Hollywood. His work lends itself to story-telling, because it IS storytelling.

So how does the normal person sense this? Or do they?

A normal person senses this precisely in those anomalous events we call "paranormal." Individuals who have traveled a great deal or lived in another culture also know this intuitively.

Why is the UFO topic so heated up these days?

Well, that's an easier one: because many, many UFO sightings violate our understanding of how reality works and our sense of place in the universe. If these things are really happening, and I really do think they are happening, then our science and our self-understanding are both seriously challenged. Any system, be it religious or scientific or political, will resist these kinds of profound challenges through a kind of immunological response. That is, the system will surround and eject the anomalous or problematic presence like an invading bacteria or disease. In the more poetic terms of Charles Fort, the Dominant will "damn" the offending datum.

Has the nonphysical reality of UFOs become a dogma unto itself?

Not mine.

The reason I ask is because in UFOlogy circles you'll have your self-appointed "Vallee fundamentalists" who shut out all opposing views as to the physicality of UFOs. Why do so we seldom hear the argument that stories of djinn and fairies were in fact close encounters that people simply pasted folklore and religious dogma over?

Vallee himself insists on the physical dimensions. He also insists on the folkloric dimensions. He insists on BOTH. That's what makes him Jacques Vallee. I too am a both/and thinker, not an either/or thinker. As for the founders, yes, they were most likely very porous to these sorts of experiences, but I would not say that the dogmas were "pasted over" their experiences. I would say that the doctrines emerged from these experiences and enabled other people later to have similar sorts of experiences. The problem, of course, always comes in when the religious tradition insists on only its doctrines, only its practices, etc. That's always a mistake. And it has produced untold violence and suffering in human history.

Of the most famous UFO abduction cases, which strike you as the most likely to be a report of a real, physical event?

This is a tough one for two reasons. First, I do not make the equation of "real" and "physical," as I think there are entire realms of reality that are not "physical" or even "material" in the sense we usually mean those terms, so I think that UFO encounters could be very real and not at all physical. Second, I find it difficult because I am not an expert on UFOs, that is, I do not have any experience in the field with such things. I would point the reader to the very recent Wonders in the Sky of Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck as a kind of model of best practice here.

Does the rise in visibility in the media on the UFO topic somehow translate into credible contacts, meaning not just hysteria or hoaxes?

These are not all hoaxes, and I'm not sure "hysteria" explains anything at all. In my mind, both "explanations" are just intellectual cop-outs, that is, refusals to think before the abyss.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The New Normal

Secret societies? UFOs? Numerology? Transhuman cyborgs?

Strange occult symbols showing up on cereal boxes and toy commercials? Rumors of arcane rituals lurking behind the headlines?

Pedophile priests and rabidly anti-gay preachers on the downlow? Vampire cults, suicide cults, polygamy cults, body modification cults...?

Welcome to the New Normal.

A jaded public, a ravenous media beast (that reaches into every corner of the globe every minute of every day), terminal disillusionment with the old certainties, and extreme economic anxiety have all conspired to unleash a host of memetic contagions (that were once safely ensconced in the underground) onto the mainstream.

Strange ideas once kept hidden from the public have reached into every home via a digital barrage of movies, TV comedies, radio shows, video games, bestselling books, magazines, podcasts, blogs and whatever up to the minute form of digital media I haven't been made aware of yet. It's all happening all at once and slowly but surely rewriting the rules of respectable public discourse.


Secret fraternities like the Masons and the Rosicrucians were once sworn to keep all of the weirdness they discussed in the safety of the lodge secret, under pain of death. The point was to prevent exactly what we're seeing now, a battalion of Djinn flying from their digital lamps, Pandora's box thrown open for all the world to see. Now we have morons who can barely read or write holding forth like unassailable experts on the "occult conspiracy." It's unbearable.

The weird irony in all of this is that although the Church kept a lid on all of this for 1500 years through a ruthlessly efficient program of torture, imprisonment, excommunication and the occasional mass genocide, it was militant paranoids within the Christian camp who've done more than any other group to disseminate and popularize all of these strange new memes.

Sure, you had your occassional prankster (say a Robert Anton Wilson or Church of the Subgenius) or occasional Masonic theme show up in a strange venue (like a TV detective show) but it was the tireless efforts of a hard core of Christian zealots who've truly unleashed the contagions, just as their forebears unleashed the Plague and Black Death on an unsuspecting Europe.


Cooper was a radical Fundamentalist, so where's the Christian symbolism?

Radical Christian Fundamentalists like James Shelby Downard, Milton William Cooper, Texe Marrs, Fritz Springmeier, Michael A. Hoffman and countless others predated all of the Da Vinci Code's and the Last Templar's and planted all of those seeds that are growing into magickal beanstalks as I write. (At the same time, the Nation of Islam and sects like the Nuwabians were disseminating some of the same information in the inner cities.)

Their goal was simple- they were out to find strawmen and scapegoats to blame modernism and secularism and liberalism on. It couldn't possibly be that their ideas were tried and found wanting - or that the white working class they sprung from was being systematically sold out by the global corporate interests they unwittingly acted as apologists for - it had to be some powerful cabal behind it all.

Old church lady rants against an obscure, extremist Masonic splinter group called the Illuminati were dusted off and brought up to date and the legend continues to grow. (Of course the most dastardly Illuminists are those who question this overheated exegesis, or point out the countless logical fallacies wielded like chainsaws in lieu of actual research.)

A lot of the energy to this culture came from the Cold War, especially the second wave of anti-Communism black budgeting that brought huge amounts of untraceable cash into the 80s militia/gun show subculture that popularized the work of people like Cooper.

The unconscious message: "The occult is sexy, virile and captivating"

Having closely watched the Fundamentalist Conspiracy underground for 20 years I've seen a strange process take shape- the arcane power of all of those strange occult symbols has obviously taken hold of many of the researchers who claim to be "exposing" it. In some ways it's the same process as the porn addict who poses as an antiporn crusader or the "antigay" activist who immerses himself in the deepest bowels of the gay S/M underground.

Having known more Fundamentalists on a personal basis than I wish were so, I can safely say the subculture has no shortage of hysterical drama queens. There's also a kind of approach/avoidance conflict behavior- where an individual is powerfully drawn towards a thing but simultaneously feels deep shame and guilt for that attraction so they have to attack what they are up to their necks in.

And it's everywhere these days.

The unconscious message: "Witches are rich and powerful and you are not."

So while you've always had occultists working on the far fringes, it's been these ostensible anti-occultists who've done more than a hundred thousand OTO lodges ever could to disseminate these memes among the public at large.


But surely, some might argue, aren't they doing God's work by "exposing" all of this alleged devilry? Well, here is where the extreme - and absolutely deliberate- impoverishment of American religious discourse comes in.

When I was a kid I had a lot of exposure to the Nazarenes. I don't know if they've been dumbed down now as well, but back in the 70s they were pretty hardcore. All of our youth pastors at my church were Nazarenes and my mother also got her degree at a Nazarene college, so I got a pretty good read on where they stood.

The Nazarenes were not allowed to watch TV, listen to secular radio, drink, smoke or dance. They didn't need to get out their super secret decoder rings to declare secular culture fallen and wicked, they knew it was. One of my youth pastors once bragged that she got a hiding from her grandfather because he found her with a deck of playing cards.

As to the work of the Makow's and the Marrs', the old school Nazarenes would scoff and tell them to turn away from all of it and preach nothing but the Gospel. They might cite the wife of Lot, who couldn't keep her eyes off of Sodom and was struck down for her curiosity. Never mind looking for the works of the Devil, they'd say to their backsliding co-religionists. They're everywhere, you idiots, and you'd best spend your time in prayer and Bible study if you know what's good for your soul.

And so it goes.


Is this for or against the "Illuminati?" That's the big question, isn't it?

And now we're at the point where you can get yourself a pretty decent education in the occult by reading nothing but Christian Conspiracy sites. In fact, I'd recommend it to aspiring occultists since a Tom Horn or a "Vigilant Citizen" is going to make it all so much more alluring and glamorous than sitting around with a bunch of dizzy old hens at the Lucis Trust, or a bunch of dabbling, Dew-gulping D&D gamers at the local occult "lodge."

In fact, I remember one OTO honcho (since expelled, as always happens with these groups) gushing that aspirants should read Craig Heimbichner's "exposé" Blood on the Altar since it made the OTO infinitely more dangerous and exotic than it really is.
The same holds true across the board.

Though a self-confessed Christian, the person or persons called "Vigilant Citizen" helpfully keep/keeps a separate site containing a sizable library of occult texts for the all of the budding Crowley wannabes out there (as well as an abundance of corporate advertising bursting with arcane symbology on his/their main site).

Don't forget that the Great Beast himself was raised in a strict Fundamentalist cult. Did he discover the dark arts through similar "exposés" kicking around the old Brethren meeting house? Don't bet against it.


Now, there are plenty of other factors in play- a preponderance of magic and supernatural memes in kids entertainment, for instance. Not that it's not always been the case, but it definitely feels different. And just in case the kiddies don't grasp the full effect of all the sorcerous memes floating around out there, they're just a Google click away from a well-appointed (and lavishly-sponsored) Conspiracy website who'll help them get the full effect of all of the symbolism....and make it all seem impossibly sexy and rebellious and empowering at the same time.

Twenty years on (a lot longer if you factor in the old Apocalypse scare literature from the 80s) I'm getting a bit sick of the hysteria. Maybe that's why I feel myself being drawn back more and more into the science fiction that filled my own childhood with magic and wonder. But we're faced with the New Normal and we can either engage it or watch it metastasize.

Luckily, there's a lot of good coming up through the floorboards- a rediscovery of powerful mythological memes, spiritual explorations in popular sci-fi shows and films, cosplay, conventions, the rediscovery of the power of festivals... I could go on, but just check the archives.

Other writers have noted how people like Crowley and Parsons were still psychically under the thumb of the millennia-long campaign to annihilate the indigenous beliefs and folkways of their ancestors (a campaign created as the hammer-fist of the original new world order), and so gravitated to the role of villain. Maybe all of this new pop occultism is part of that process as well. When you discover something that's been deliberately hidden from you, social conditioning instills a feel of naughtiness and transgression. That inevitably will pass.

Maybe this New Normal will be replaced by a new New Normal in which all of these things seeping back into the mainstream will be processed and refined, in the best sense of those words. Not maybe, actually- I'm certain of it.

PS: From a FB friend: "I was always under the impression that Marrs doesn't realize people like me (Occultist) enjoy his books more and learn more from his stuff then just about anyone. Love his books."
UPDATE: Somebody - say the Greeks, the Germans, the Japanese - must have a word for self-defeating propaganda, for making an argument that makes one's opponent's views seem not only reasonable, but self-evident. I'm not aware of such a term in English, so I'll offer my own suggestion- the "Tom Horn."


Now, I think Horn is a perfectly decent fellow, if not a bit excitable, a bit dramatic. But he has this odd knack for selling opposing viewpoints to his own. In his latest anti-Transhumanist essay (excerpted from his upcoming book), he makes the case for Transhumanism by painting a nightmarish Future Shock scenario for children whose parents have resisted having their children modified. Here Horn presents a young Christian girl whose life is a living hell because she can't even coexist with her transhuman classmates:

...starting in 2019, parents whose children went without basic modifications were charged with neglect and had their kids put in foster homes. She just wishes it wouldn’t come to that...(t)hat’s why she gave you the school report compiled by Prof. Joel Garreau describing the average high school pupil today, so you could understand how her classmates:

• Have amazing thinking abilities. They’re not only faster and more creative than anybody she’s ever met, but faster and more creative than anybody she’s ever imagined.

• They have photographic memories and total recall. They can devour books in minutes.

• They’re beautiful, physically. Although they don’t put much of a premium on exercise, their bodies are remarkably ripped.

• They talk casually about living a long time, perhaps being immortal. They’re always discussing their “next lives.”

• One of her new friends fell while jogging, opening up a nasty gash on her knee. Your daughter freaked, ready to rush her to the hospital. But her friend just stared at the gaping wound, focusing her mind on it. Within minutes, it simply stopped bleeding.

• This same friend has been vaccinated against pain. She never feels acute pain for long.

• These new friends are always connected to each other, sharing their thoughts no matter how far apart, with no apparent gear. They call it “silent messaging.” It seems like telepathy.

• They have this odd habit of cocking their head in a certain way whenever they want to access information they don’t yet have in their own skulls—as if waiting for a delivery to arrive wirelessly...which it does.

• For a week or more at a time, they don't sleep. They joke about getting rid of their beds, since they use them so rarely.
I know there are a lot of religiously-motivated parents who make their children's lives difficult by denying them some of the frills of secular life, but I can't for the life of me imagine any parent- any decent, self-respecting parent- who'd put their children through the pain and humiliation that Horn presents here. Sure, you have your bizarre cultists- Christian or otherwise- who seem to exist only to put children through hell, but most normal Christian parents are not going to sit back and watch their children be tossed in the evolutionary dumpster.

I have no doubt that most Christian families will do (if and when Transhumanism becomes an everyday reality) what they done for the past 50 years when faced with challenges from the secular world- find some obscure Biblical passage, stretch it to the absolute logical limit and use it as a banner to "christianize" Transhumanism. As Horn has pointed out, it's happening already.

Rather, it has happened. I'm old enough to remember a lot of nightmare scenarios relating to computers and now everyone-particularly Evangelicals- use them to put across their worldviews. In a way we are already Transhumans- many of us essentially exist in the digital world. Nearly everyone has some kind of electronic device that acts as an external neural hard drive.


But I'm also old enough to have seen several generations of technohype come and go. Horn wants us to believe that we're just a couple years away from becoming cybernetic superhumans, and certainly people like DARPA, the Singularity U folks and the various Transhumanist associations would like us to believe that as well, but it took 30 years for most people to adapt to personal computing, which is child's play compared to Transhumanism.

If we were 20 years away from a Borg reality we'd already be hearing about real cyborgs, and all of the elite class would look 50 years younger thanks to nanoplastic surgery and tissue regeneration and all the rest of it. We're just now starting to see ideas talked about in the 60s and 70s hit the market- private space travel, videophones, jet packs, exoskeletons- which is means we're looking at a 40 to 50 year lag time. And there are still a lot of sci prophecies that are still struggling (terraforming, hovercraft and flying cars, fusion energy) to get out of the prototype stage.

Horn should know better. He, more than anyone, should be aware of the messianic delusions of the scientific priesthood. Just because something exists on paper, doesn't mean it has an application, or even will reach that stage. We've been sold science as salvation in the secular media (and as sorcery in the so-called alt-media), but the truth is often as messy as the countless failed apocalypses of the religious fringe.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Alien Dreaming: In Excelsis, Part 10/13

By the time you read this, the headlines will be screaming about
mass UFO landings all across the globe or it will be just another ordinary day in October. I'm not a betting man, so I'll keep my own counsel as to which is the more likely scenario. But let me just say that I've seen a lot of mass landing prophecies come and go, along with a whole host of second coming prophecies.

The two expectations are closely related.

Here on The Secret Sun we've been looking at all kinds of more intimate contact narratives, including a whole host of plotlines from various fictional sources that bear a striking resemblance to divergent reports from shamanism to psychedelia to abduction literature. There's a host of narratives describing what some would dismiss as hallucination, but seem to have improbable thrulines. All the more improbable when you factor in the vast geographical, cultural and temporal differences among them.

One of the reasons that my X-Files obsession outlasted the series itself is the layer upon layer upon layer of hidden meaning woven through it. It was well-known that they dropped "easter eggs" throughout the series- names, dates, trivial nonsense like that. Less known is all of the heavy, heavy weirdness hiding beneath them. It just takes a lot of time and patience to pick it all out. Here's one of my discoveries, from an earlier Alien Dreaming post:
Through the series, episodes centered alien identity and AAT would be preceded by episodes dealing with either hallucinations and/or hallucinogens. The first explicit inclusion of AAT in the Mythology was The End, which was preceded by an episode about an insectoid vampire (nearly identical to the ancient Martians from Quatermass and the Pit) that disguised its appearance by psychically implanting a hallucination of itself as human in the observer.

The major revelations of Biogenesis/The Sixth Extinction (with "Dr. Sandoz" and his revelatory "alien tablets") was preceded by the giant magic mushroom in Field Trip, as we looked at previously. The episode in which we first saw Scully's baby (conceived following her exposure to ancient alien technology) was produced right after Via Negativa, an episode about a Iboga guru who kills his victims in their dreams. William's alien identity was explored in two separate arcs: in TrustNo1, aired after Lord of the Flies which had a Syd Barrett subplot, and in Providence/Provenance, preceded by Hellbound which dealt with hallucinations of murder victims.
The problem with all of this is that I was wrong- in the second season the Mythological blowout preceded the explicit entheogenic episode. But there was no shortage of mycological symbolism in the MythArc ep either.

The episode Excelsis Dei was a spin on the Ron Howard film Cocoon (which we recently looked at in the Atlantis Rising series) in which a group of elderly people are magically rejuvenated by an external force. As with Cocoon, there was the requisite water symbolism, but unlike Cocoon, the seniors were also endowed with frightening psychic powers....

...which summoned our old friends the Walk-Ins (though a more malevolent variety). And unlike Cocoon, the rejuvenation powers didn't come from alien intervention... came from the use of psychedelic mushrooms. Or maybe that's like Cocoon as well, if you're initiated into these strange Mysteries that lurk behind so much Hollywood sci-fi. As I said of Cocoon itself:
And as usual, the mothership strongly resembles a mushroom cap with the heavenly beam acting as the stem (a common icon well familiar to Secret Sun readers). Again, we're square in the middle of AstroGnostic territory - the alien gnosis offering escape from the fallen world that sickens and kills good people, and deliverance to the higher planes where the power of the Demiurge and his archons is broken and the knower is given eternal life.
As to those Mysteries, compare this shot from The X-Files (a show about extraterrestrials)...

...with this one from E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial. Is Spielberg telling us where he first encountered those xenomorphs he's seems to be so obsessed with? Terence McKenna wouldn't even blink.

He'd love this, though. Before Excelsis Dei came Red Museum, an episode that absolutely blew my mind when I first saw it, and retains its mule kick with repeated viewings. As I wrote about it in the I Want to Believe series:
(A)n earlier episode called Red Museum, which deals with hallucinogens, ancient aliens as gods and DNA manipulation, all of which is exposed by the actions of a sexual predator. Both stories hinge on the concept of "Walk-Ins," a type of spiritual intervention popularized by UFO cults in the 1970s.
The "Church of the Red Museum" are radical vegans who are purifying their bodies so that they can host the alien walk-ins when the Apocalypse strikes in 2012. They are led by a man who calls himself....

Some folks will recognize Odin* from shamanic lore identifying the god with you guessed it:
Mythology recorded in modern times contains some stories in which Wotan (Wodan or Odin), the shamanic god of ecstasy and knowledge, was associated with the fly agaric mushroom. According to legend, the fly agaric mushroom grows where Wotan rides on his horse through the clouds with his followers, the members of the wild hunt, in the dark nights around the time of the winter solstice.
That connection should be pretty clear from the distinctive outfits worn by the Red Museum themselves....

...don't you think?

Scholars tie this all the way back to the earliest peoples of the North, stretching a far east as Siberia, which itself has a rich shamanic tradition:
The characteristic red mushroom with its white dots is the Nordic shamanic drug par excellence. Most shamans of the Northern Hemisphere ate it ritually. Its shamanic use can be traced to the Lapps, the Siberian nomadic peoples (Samojeden, Ostjaken, Tungusen, and Jakuten), and the North American Indians.
Speaking of Siberia, guess where Mulder was first injected with alien DNA (which was activated by his exposure to the Godship, which brings us all the way back to the first part of this sprawling series)?

Damn strange coincidence, no?

* soon to be played by Anthony Hopkins, star of Silence of the Lambs- a huge influence on The X-Files. Ah, those full circles...