Sunday, December 26, 2010

AstroGnostic: Apotheosis Comes Before the Fall

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You might think being a geek should prime you for the Transhumanism Revolution, but in reality it should also prime you against it. For every Six Million Dollar Man there's a race of Cybermen or Borg or take your pick. William Gibson's Sprawl novels presented Transhuman modification as a ubiquitous consumer product, but what part of "dystopian" do you not understand? Warnings about Transhumanism are nothing new in sci-fi, as we can see in yet another must-see episode of The Outer Limits.

The more I watch the original Outer Limits series, the less I see it as sci-fi and the more I see it as subversion. Children of powerful men often take pleasure in undoing their father's work, and I can't help but think Leslie Stevens was taking pleasure in collating all of the loose talk and dark whispers he gathered from dinner parties and golf tournaments that his Admiral father threw into a stick that could poke the eye of the paranoid National Security State. You know, the same exact people that made his life so comfortable.

Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens

The story goes that Stevens was disengaged and Stefano was gone by the shortened second season of the show, but first year showrunners are usually responsible for picking scripts for the second season as part of their first season duties. Which explains the weird, disjointed flavor of season two; dark and heavy scripts, filled with thorny subject matter that's much deeper and much, much weirder than the usual sci-fi of the time, often foiled by low-rent production values and corny-ass direction (the second season also lacks that weird Stockhausen-on-mushrooms sound design that made the first so magical).

But the script of "The Brain of Colonel Barham" still very much has that telling tales out of school flavor that we've seen so much of in the first season of Outer Limits. Given the wacked-out pipe dream mentality we regularly see in DARPA press releases, it's not hard to imagine that Pentagon dreamweavers were trying to figure a way to implant human consciousness into computers, even into the glorified abacuses of the early 60s.

After all, these are the same geniuses that thought you could use LSD to create an army of mind-controlled zombies. Given that Ken Kesey and Ted Kaczynski are the two most well-known guinea pigs for that operation, it's a lead-pipe cinch that "blowback" wasn't in the MIC lexicon at the time.

That same kind of Space Age hubris is very much in evidence in "Colonel Barham." As are the well-publicized anxieties about the Van Allen Belt, which Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wove into the Fantastic Four's origin. There's a much deeper archetypal stream running through the story- it's kind of a fable about the rise and fall of modern America, a powerful, nearly godlike entity that decided that the "rules didn't apply" and that its allies were no more than its puppets.

There's a hell of a lot of subtext going on here, warranting repeating viewings. Of course that's par for the course for The Outer Limits. In this case it's political, and not sexual as we see so much of in the first season. But there's some of that as well, given the discussions of infidelity which are pretty frank for 60s prime time TV.

Other researchers have commented on the interesting behind the scenes connections between The Outer Limits and Star Trek, which in the overall exegesis we're exploring here might go a lot deeper than sharing props and actors.

Colonel Barham gets a cosmic makeover in the second Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" as crewman-turned-space god Gary Mitchell. Here we see mind and machine melding, with apotheosis-as-apocalypse arising from psychic powers run amok (the link between psi and eschatology is something we saw in the Ten Thirteen Universe, vis a vis remote viewing). After all there's no place to hide from a psychic, right? Psi would make politics obsolete, since the art of politics is so dependent on the art of lying.

We also see the inevitable result of apotheosis in both 'Colonel Barham' and 'Where No Man'- a casual disregard for the un-ascended. This isn't a sci-fi revelation, it's basic human nature, backed up by thousands of years of raw experience. The first thing the guy at the top of the hill always seems to do is take a long and hearty piss on everyone beneath him. It doesn't take a psychic to predict that's exactly what we've got in store for us on the other side of the Transhuman Revolution.


• "Gary Mitchell" is played by Gary Lockwood, who ran into a kind of Colonel Barham in reverse in
2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL thought that he was more qualified to complete the Jupiter Mission, just as Barham was more qualified than General Barton, the astronaut played by William Shatner in The Outer Limits episode, "Cold Hands, Warm Heart."

• "Cold Hands" also featured Malachi Throne, who guest-starred in the
Star Trek episodes, "The Menagerie, Parts One and Two." That in turn was based on the original pilot which combines alien abduction and pure AstroGnosis. Given Roddenberry's own connections, you can't help but wonder if something was being put across that could only be written between the lines. All the more so since he was obviously writing scripts drawing on ancient Gnostic texts that hadn't even been released to the general public yet.

• Sally Kellerman appears in "Where No Man" as Mitchell's chosen mate. Well, chosen post-apotheosis, that is. In an earlier scene her character resists Mitchell's flirting and is then dismissed as a "walking freezer unit." For anyone unfamiliar with the arcane codes of Old Hollywood, we're being told here that she's a lesbian. The more daring
Outer Limits also cast Kellerman as a lesbian in a marriage of convenience with Martin Landau in its MacBeth rewrite "The Bellero Shield." Her father-in-law is played by Neil Hamilton, better known as Commissioner Gordon from the old Batman series. Hamilton had his own marriage of convenience in the Outer Limits episode "The Invisibles," a sci-fi allegory of the Cambridge Spy Ring. Joseph Stefano's scripts are filled with that kind of embedded double entendre.


  1. I've come to the conclusion that this rollercoaster is real and we are embarked on a mobius strip "to infinity and beyond".

  2. The transhumanistic idea of machines possessing consciousness is completely dependent on the scientistic belief that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain. On the other hand, if there is in fact a consciousness field in where our bodies are simply vessels chosen for the journey, then transhumanism has severe limitations. Even if we were able to create a highly advanced machine capable of everything our current bodies do and more, it still wouldn't be a conscious entity as we know it unless a conscious entity first chooses to occupy it. Without this occurring, it's still just a toy, albeit an expensive and likely destructive one.

    Does that make any sense? What do you think?

  3. Btw... near the end of that OL episode, the scientist guy sums up the dangers of scientism pretty well when he says "You can't destroy it! For the sake of science we must find a way to deal with it"

  4. Regarding culture and conspiracy, my tentative thesis is this.

    America, and much of the larger world, is artificially divided between "red" and "blue", both politically and culturally. Although it would be controversial to the small-l liberal audience which dominates at Secret Sun, I think the some of the Christian and Muslim conspiracy theorists have successfully demonstrated a copious, highly sophisticated satanic-Gnostic presence in modern movies and music.

    Unfortunately for the "red team", I suggest that their religious subcultures have been just as co-opted by negative forces, in the form of dogmatic, Demiurge-worshipping fundamentalism.

    I don't know whether humanity has one or many controlling elite organizations. I don't know whether God, or Lucifer or aliens actually exist. But I do discern a spiritual and intellectual corruption which is hard to define and yet very deep.

  5. Off the current topic, but I was wondering, have you caught the new Nick' series coming to the US for the youngens? "House of Anubis."

  6. and I can't help but think Leslie Stevens was taking pleasure in collating all of the loose talk and dark whispers he gathered from dinner parties and golf tournaments that his Admiral father threw into a stick that could poke the eye of the paranoid National Security State. You know, the same exact people that made his life so comfortable.

    Chris, I loved that comment, and find it seems to be so true, it's human nature, it seems, to spit in the eye of the authority figures who "know what is best of us" while they make our lives comfortable.

    I have to add, but those eye contacts that Gary Lockwood wore, circa '66, must of been very uncomfortable.

    At this point, I've concluded, regarding the blending between machine and biological, I'd rather remain completely organic. Although I still hope in my lifetime, I will be able to take a commercial flight from Earth to a base on the Moon, just for the experience of it.

  7. Eric- That's a fascinating metaphor. Thank you.

    JimA- I'm not certain that consciousness can exist outside of an organic host. It may well be the byproduct of organic life. We have clever machines but no way to gauge whether they are sentient or conscious. Since in fact we don't even understand the mechanics of consciousness- a necessary precondition for replicating it- I don't see a true AI anywhere on the road ahead.

    Maria- I think Christian and Muslim conspiracy theorists have as much credibility in complaining about conspiracies as a janitor at a cigarette factory does in the war against cancer. I stopped reading all that crap- it gets you nowhere and every single one of those idiots would sell their souls if anyone was buying.

    1043- I have- I'm waiting to watch it before commenting on it. I know Corporate Charlatan did his usual song and dance on it, but I have some thoughts on it that I'm waiting to see if the actual show speaks to. Watch this space!

    Matt- Cheers- I appreciate it. As to space I'd just as soon watch a good IMAX movie about it then go up there. It's weird, I used to enjoy flying now I really don't. Weird subconscious forces at work.....

  8. Some fun off-topic Youtube links for Trekkies and other geeks...

  9. Hey Chris,

    A very canny and insightful bit of analysis there, dude. You're saying the stuff that most people are either unaware of or afraid to say. While I have experienced much of the magic of consciousness first-hand, I'm still very suspicious of this growing apotheosis mythology.

    Your points are salient and will become increasingly so as we approach Dec 21st 2012, and this apotheosis meme starts to grow in people's thinking.

    It reminds me of discussions me and my girlfriend have had many times regarding the shadow aspect of the human psyche. While I believe consciousness is much more than just an epiphenomenon of the brain, perhaps this ascension/apotheosis motif is an epiphenomenon of a society on the brink of collapse.

    It'd make sense in a way. The corruption is now so deep and the gulf between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' is now so vast that the idea of a big magical consciousness thingy to sort out everything would be extremely alluring.

    Now, I'm not suggesting there isn't some truth to these ideas - indeed, I suspect the human entity in its natural state is infinitely powerful - but I'm talking about keeping our own house in order. Our house is subsiding and we're sharing it with idiot savant predators and sociopaths.

    I've got to the point where I now believe all of my communications with the 'other side' are just propogandas and heavily edited nonsense by the prison guards in the mail room. I used to think such an intuitive ability would liberate me.

    But now I realise that the only thing that will liberate me is to constantly highlight how un-liberated we are as a race and offer thoughts/insights/actions as to how we might change this situation. Commenting on this amazing blog is a little part of that, I hope.


  10. I'm not certain that consciousness can exist outside of an organic host. It may well be the byproduct of organic life.

    Ahh, but where does one draw the line in a future time such as bio-chips replacing damaged brain areas in a person with Parkinson's Disease?

    Is he/she less conscious for lack of those brain tissues? Are they more conscious because they are cybernetic?

    Food for thought...

  11. There seem to be some amazing breakthroughs in understanding human consciousness which will hopefully revolutionise the medical industry. I can't see how it's a very good way forward, I'd rather see medical conditions such as parkinson's eradicated. I feel take up of things like bio-chips should be down to an individual, not everyone would want to be cybernetic, in part or whole. The cost involved would probably make it inaccessible to everyone anyway. I would imagine treaties have been drawn up regarding the usage of such things, you know that protect human rights. Well I'd hope so anyway.

  12. I don't know who was in charge of costumes, but I noticed halfway through that the military uniforms only have a patch on the sleeve showing apparently North and South America. Although it is clearly supposed to be American there is really no explicit indication. No American flags, no 'We have to tell the President!', etc. Is that a hint too?

  13. There is no evidence that Kaczynski/Lawful was ever dosed with LSD -- nothing in his statements about his service to Murray indicated that he felt or suspected he was being drugged.

  14. I haven't been here in a while! But Gene Roddenberry opposed the type of nuts/bolts/circuitry type of Transhumanism your writing on here. He told us though of a philosopic revolution coming, of a rise of Philosophic Transhumanism that will dash the ships of organized religion on the rocks! Gene had his own brand of Transhumanism more seated in the mind and heart than in technology. He told us we would not create The Borg, but encounter them in space. He also told us we would create Data and give him human rights! He also said that he believed that humans could infinately perfect themselves without need of a higher power. Star Trek, and/or our traverse into the Universe was our liberation from the Iron Prison of our Demurge! If we go technical in relation to Transhumanism, we sink ever more into the Boa like suffocation of the Demurge! We need to watch for shortness of our universal breaths!