Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another History of the Knights Templar, Part 2

History tells us some ragtag Scandinavian tribe came out of nowhere in the 10th Century and within a few decades conquered northern France, England, Sicily and Syria. Quite a feat. What history doesn't usually tell us is that four most powerful secret societies in the world would emerge from these Norman kingdoms. France produced the Knights Templar (originally composed largely of Normans), England produced the Freemasons, Sicily produced the Mafia and Syria produced the Assassins.


Quite a coincidence, don't you think?
The Templar's luck in the Holy Land was short lived. In 1187, they would pay the price for an ill-advised alliance with the deeply unpopular King Guy of Jersualem. On the orders of Guy, the Templar army set off on July 3, 1187 for so-called Horns of Hattin, near the Sea of Galilee. They were to once again meet the army of Saladin, which now included 12,000 knights. A thousand Templars accompanied by 20,000 infantrymen would be set against this fearsome Muslim army.

Another of the great military orders, the Knights Hospitaller, chose to sit this battle out, out of disgust with King Guy. For this occasion, The Templars carried with them their holiest of relics, known as ‘the True Cross’. Legend had it that this was an actual piece of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. It seemed to charm the Templars in all their previous battles. and they had no reason to believe their good fortune would run out that day.

But run out it did, along with their water. For the Templars found themselves at Hattin without anything to drink since the Saracens has dammed off the only available stream. To add insult to injury, the Muslims set the surrounding dry grass lands ablaze. By the morning of July 4th, the Templars were half mad from heat and dehydration and found themselves surrounded by the Saracen army.

Outnumbered 10 to 1, the Templars valiantly fought, but fell to the superior numbers. They were cut down like stalks of wheat. Only a small cohort remained, and these were guarding the tent of King Guy. Guy clutched on to the True Cross, alas to no avail. He and his bodyguard were taken prisoner ad brought to Saladin's camp. The captured Templars were beheaded and the foot soldiers sold into slavery.

King Guy was imprisoned but later released. But his ill-advised and poorly planned campaign against the Saracens robbed the Templars of their aura of invincibility forever. Jerusalem soon fell and the Templars and all of the other crusaders returned to Europe, broken and humbled. Several more crusades followed and several more battles, but with the rise of the powerful Mamluks in Egypt the crusader dream would be crushed and the Templars- who ended up on the losing end of so many battles- lost their original reason to exist.

The Templars continued to be wealthy and powerful. But their reputation was tarnished by the fall of the Holy Land, and they came to be seen as another bunch of rich and arrogant noblemen. Where they were once warrior monks, now they were banker monks, who controlled the most powerful central bank in all of Christendom. And it was this fact that led to their fall.

THE FALL

A Capetian prince named Phillip Le Bel ascended to the throne of France in 1285. Phillip was a tall and good looking man, who had great plans for France. He would succeed where Charlemagne had failed and create an unified Christian empire with France at its head.

To do so, Philip needed money. Lots of money. He went about raising it by rounding up the nation's Jews and seizing their assets. He then taxed the French churches. When the Church protested, he installed a French archbishop named Betrand De Goth and named him Clement V. He then had the papal seat moved to Avignon in order to consolidate his power. Philip was no genius though, and his foreign campaigns went badly and put a strain on the French treasury.

Philip then looked around for the next source of plunder. He fixed his eyes on the banks of the Knights Templar. Legend has it that he first became aware of the Templar's vast wealth when he sought refuge in a Templar vault after being chased by angry mob who were angered by his devaluation of the French currency. At first, Philip attempted to join the order.

Rebuffed in this, he then set his puppet pope Clement to work on an Inquisition against the Templars. This would give him the excuse needed to close down the order and siphon off their wealth into his faltering war machine. Charges were drawn up including heresy, blasphemy, sodomy, and usury. It was known that the Templars held their rituals in secret and at night. It was claimed that there they worshipped the severed head of a man which they called Baphomet, trampled upon the cross, denied the divinity of Jesus Christ and practiced weird homosexual rites.

On October 13th, 1307, a papal bull was sent out to arrest all the Knights Templar in Europe. Many knights were tortured and forced to sign confessions. Many chose to die rather than defame the order. Some confessed and then recanted. But the arrest order was ignored in many lands, particularly the British Isles. In some countries the Templars were allowed to change their names and/or the names of the Order. Some simply were allowed to leave the Order and join other orders like the Hospitalers or the Teutonic Knights.

It is widely believed that the last Templar grand master, Jacques De Molay, anticipated Philip's betrayal and ordered the bulk of the Templar's treasure shipped out to Scotland, where the Scottish king Robert the Bruce had offered the Templars sanctuary. Robert had already been excommunicated by the church, so he had little to fear from Clement's condemnation.

It has long been speculated on that Clement went along with this inquisition reluctantly, and that he had written a letter of absolution on behalf of Jacques De Molay in 1308. This did DeMolay little good. He and his henchman Geoffroy de Charnay both recanted their confessions while on trial in 1314, and were sentenced to be burned at the stake. On March 18, 1314, they were put to death. DeMolay’s last words were a curse on the life of both King Philip and Pope Clement.

The next month lightning struck the church where Clement lay sleeping and completely consumed the building and the body of Clement. He would not be remembered well by history. In fact, Dante assigned Clement to the Eight Circle of Hell in his Divine Comedy. Philip would fare little better. He would pass into his own hellish circle on November 29th of the same year. The Capetian dynasty soon earned the name ‘the Cursed Kings’ and his line collapsed in 1328.

Almost immediately after DeMolay's execution a rich and varied mythology grew up around the Templars. They were soon seen as ‘the Murdered Magicians' whose wealth and supernatural powers were beyond all imagining. Speculations aroused by the spurious charges filed against them by the Inquisition granted the Templars a mystique that focused on their forbidden rites and practices.

Baphomet came to be seen as everything from the head of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, to the head of a goat, to the head of a two-faced man, to the head of John the Baptist himself. One recent theory has it that Baphomet is a conjunction of the great words baph and metis, meaning ‘baptism’ and ‘wisdom’ respectively. It was later said that rather than being mere military escorts, the Templars were actually charged to excavate Jerusalem in search of the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant. It was said that the Templars housed the Ark in their church in Ethiopia.

Some said the Templars rode in at the very last moment to save the army of Robert the Bruce from defeat at the hands of the English at Bannockburn. It was said that they brought the Holy Grail to Scotland and built Rosslyn Chapel to house it.

It's been said that the Templars discovered the true origins of Christianity when they encountered Gnostics and other heretical groups in Jersualem and Egypt. It was said that the Templars learned the Dark Arts from the Assassins and the devil-worshipping Yazidis.Some even say they reemerged in the guise of a secret society in the 17th Century that would have a powerful impact on the world in the coming years. Some have even said that this secret society eventually would shake the very foundations of the city-state that housed the Templars' former enemies.

TO BE CONTINUED

Friday, July 29, 2011

Another History of the Knights Templar, Part 1


The Templars have burst back into the Memestream, mostly due to the senseless Norway massacre. The Templars have been the topic of endless conjecture and speculation over the years and there's no shortage of groups claiming to be the true remnant of the old order. Umberto Eco went so far as to write a novel on European Templar mania, Foucault's Pendulum.

An undercurrent of darkness has followed Templar revivalism even before the recent events in Norway and the emergence of another Templar order (in the form of a drug cartel) in Mexico. The cult known as The Order of the Solar Temple inspired a series of mass suicides/murders in the 90s. Death and tragedy seem to be inextricably linked to this powerful meme.


In light of all of this, I wanted to pull this piece out of my archives. In it I trace the prehistory of the Templars, their links to the mysterious Normans and the survival of Templar memes in Freemasonry and into popular culture today. Modern mass media controls our understanding of complex historical issues by divorcing them from history and excising any truths seen to be inconvenient to the manufactured consensus. I hope this work will put it all back in perspective.


The idea of the Knights Templar is a very powerful meme and has a nearly tidal pull over some very powerful-- and dangerous-- people. Hopefully, this series will shine some light on the subject for you...


The Cult of Constantine did not save the West.
The New Jerusalem never came from the clouds and saved Europe from the disease, death and ignorance left in the wake of the Fall of Rome. Those Romans who believed that the sack of Rome was divine retribution for the Empire’s abandonment of the old gods would find much evidence to corroborate their suspicions in the centuries following the disastrous reign of Theodosius. Roman art, science, medicine, architecture and education were all set back hundreds, if not thousands, of years with the rise of this new faith. A entity that men called ‘Rome’ would continue in the East, but it was a merely an Imperial vestige whose fall was long and gradual, rather than sudden and catastrophic like that in the West.

The Byzantine Empire, as this remnant of Rome has come to be known, soon became nothing but a relentlessly shrinking Christian island in the middle of a new religious tide rushing forth from the Arabian peninsula called Islam. Founded in the Seventh century by an Arabian merchant turned warlord named Mohammed, Islam lived up to its name (Islam means "submission") and soon brought most of the Middle East under its boot. The Islamic campaign would then spread like wildfire and conquer most of North Africa by the middle of the Eighth Century. Islam’s swordsmen were relentless in seeking to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Roman Empire. Its colonizers would spread so far as southern Spain, which became a major Islamic center in the Dark Ages.

As wielded by the mighty nation of the Turks, the sword of Islam would reach deep into Central Europe, until the tide turned in the early 15th Century. A key figure in the repulsion of the advancing Turks was a particularly horrific sadist named Vlad Tepes of Wallachia. This Romanian warlord delighted in impaling his enemies, often by the tens of thousands. And his list of enemies was not limited to Turks and Muslims. It also included thousands of his own subjects, many of whom were ethnically German Christians. Vlad the Impaler is known to us today through his ceremonial name, Dracula.



A GOD-DAMNED BLOODY MESS

In the Eighth Century, a petty Frankish warlord named Charlemagne labored to reunify Europe. The resulting conglomeration- made of mainly Germanic central European kingdoms- became known as the ‘Holy Roman Empire’. Historians today delight in pointing out that Charlemagne's ‘Reich’ was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. It soon began to fall apart, but Europe remained more or less reunited under the banner of the Roman Church. The wheels of Charlemagne’s Empire were greased with the blood of tens of thousands of Saxons, who resisted the State Cult in favor of their native gods.

They would not be the only martyrs of the old Northern faiths. For it would be the sword-- not the Word-- that would bring the peoples of the North to their knees before the cross. The Eighth Century also saw the rise of the Reconquista in Spain, where the Islamic colonists were eventually expelled by a confederation of Gothic and Frankish kings. Norman armies were also busy expelling Islamic occupations from traditionally Roman territories like Sicily and Sardinia.

In 1074, Pope Gregory issued a call for Christians to go to Byzantium to the Eastern Empire in their struggles against the Turks. Gregory was unsuccessful, but Pope Urban II had better luck in his call for a crusade against the Islamic occupation of Jerusalem. His motivations were not purely spiritual. Europe was plagued by infighting, as recently converted warrior tribes in the hinterlands had little to do except fight one another. Urban sweetened the pot by informing his subjects that unlike dirty, crowded, miserable Europe, the Holy Land was one of endless riches and sunshine. Needless to say, his words had a singular effect on the oppressed peasants of Europe.


ANKLE DEEP IN THE BLOOD OF CHILDREN


Thus began the First Crusade. And it was a disaster. A monk named Peter the Hermit raised his own army of peasants to aid the Byzantines at Constantinople, which came to number 100,000. This army bumbled their way through southeastern Europe, and spent most of their time either starving half to death or engaging other Christian armies in battle. The Byzantines were nothing but bemused by this ragtag army and sent them off to Asia Minor. There the would-be Crusaders were mowed down en masse by the fierce Turkish army.

Next to take up the Cross and the Sword were a band of more experienced warriors from the German territories. However, this band of thugs could not have been too experienced because they went north towards the Rhine instead of south towards Jerusalem. The so-called 'German Crusaders' then decided it would be easier and more fun to slaughter thousands of unarmed Jews in leafy green German cities than fight seasoned Muslim warriors in the burning sun of Canaan. Urban's glorious war wasn't getting off to a great start. Perhaps the Church's burning all of those pagan libraries and its policy of mandating illiteracy and superstition among the peasantry was ill-advised.

Another wave of crusaders was soon launched, led by a band of French-speaking Norman princes. They dragged an army of peasants in their wake, some of whom were veterans from Peter's ‘People's Crusade’. This pack of Crusaders made it to Constantinople, but Byzantine King Alexius wasn't too thrilled to deal with a bunch of Norman warlords, since the Normans had spent the past few hundred years harassing the Byzantines. However, Alexius was successful in wresting a loyalty oath from the Normans and lent them a Byzantine army escort. This conglomeration made it to the Turkish stronghold of Dorylaeum, where the Crusaders would eventually defeat the Muslim army of Kilij Arslan. Then they marched to Antioch. The Crusaders laid siege to the Islamic city-state, but were eventually laid low by infighting, an outbreak of Typhus and a lack of supplies.

Their numbers greatly diminished, the ‘Prince’s Crusade’ finally made it to Jerusalem. On July 15, 1099, the Crusaders then began a massacre were they proceeded to annihilate every man, woman, and child within the city walls. Jews, Muslims and Christians all fell beneath the sword, until the blood ran in the streets up to the Crusader's ankles. A Norman government was then instituted with Godfrey of Boullion at its head, and the Holy Land was officially open for business.


THERE’S EVIDENCE...


The late Eleventh Century was a great time to be a Norman. Thirty three years prior to the conquest of Jerusalem, the Normans had conquered Anglo-Saxon Britain as well. The Norman shadow also looms large over the formation of an order of Crusaders officially known as ‘the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.’ This group was founded in 1119 by Hughes De Payens and a group of nine knights. Their original commission called on them to safeguard the passage of European pilgrims to the holy city of Jerusalem. But under the patronage of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, their reputations, ranks and treasuries grew. This once-obscure band of military escorts soon came under no one's authority but the Pope himself.

As the order grew, the Templars graduated from their duties as escorts to becoming a full-fledged military order. Yet these knights were also monks, and were required to take the usual oath of poverty, chastity and obedience required of monastic orders by the Church of Rome. Templar knights made their headquarters on the Temple Mount in the so-called Stables of Solomon. They were known by their distinctive uniforms which featured the so-called ‘Cross of St. George’, the red on white cross known today in the flags of both England and the International Red Cross relief agency.

However, the Templar cross was not the same type as the more-familiar ‘Latin Cross’. It’s form is known as the Cross Patee - an equilateral cross with wings at the ends of each point and if often depicted in a circular form. In truth, the Templar cross is an ancient Assyrian Sun Cross. Another pre-Christian symbol was seen in the Templar seal. The famous two knights on horseback image associated with the Templars dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, birthplace of the Shemsu Hor. The Hittites associated this image with Astarte, whose Egyptian equivalent is Hathor.

The Templars soon became renowned for the ferocity on the field of battle. One of the oaths required of Templars was that they never surrender on the field of battle. It was promised that if they died in battle against an unbeliever, their place in Heaven would be instantly assured. How familiar that sounds to us today. Indeed, Templar knights were pivotal in the victory of the Christian King Baldwin IV over the Saracen army of the legendary Muslim warlord, Saladin. The military prowess of the Templars was such that only 80 Templars along with 500 knights and a few thousand foot soldiers were able to decimate Saladin's 30,000 strong army. The Muslim generals fearsome bodyguard of Mamluks were annihilated entirely.

If all that weren't enough, the Templars soon became entrusted with the treasuries of the pilgrims. This added to the already unimaginable wealth donated to the Templars by nobleman and initiates. Indeed, the entire concept of branch banking began with the Templars, as well as did a sort of credit system. A pilgrim was able to deposit his money in a Templar bank in Europe and then withdraw an equivalent sum at the end of his voyage. This system was instituted to safeguard the wealth of those traveling to the Holy Land, since they were subject to the predations of pirates, thieves and enemy soldiers. The Templars then used their wealth to institute a massive building program, consisting of fortresses, churches and public buildings. In addition, they founded a massive naval fleet which policed the Mediterranean on behalf of the Church.


TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Elusive Companions: The Secret Commonwealth

We see the world through an extremely limited band of the electromagnetic spectrum. The same goes for our hearing. We consciously process a remarkably tiny proportion of the limited sensory input we receive. We are only able to measure that which can perceive. And we still don't understand exactly how or why we process anything, other than to facilitate our survival on a purely reptilian level.

There are millions of square miles of land we've never stepped foot in. There are many millions more we have only the faintest experience in. The same goes for our oceans- we're still struggling to explore the endless depths- 71% of the surface of the world is water- and are physically limited in our ability to do so. And we've barely touched the unimaginably vast network of caverns beneath the Earth.

Earthquakes, floods and tsunamis make mockery of our technological pretenses. The same great scientific minds who claim dominion over the planet would wilt in panic like frail flowers in a half-decent thunderstorm, never mind a typhoon. Though we try to ignore them, the nuclear flames of Fukushima are nothing less than a slap in the face of our Technocracy.

And yet we claim to have fully mastered and cataloged our environment and everything in it.

Since the dawn of time, humans have recorded encounters with strange beings with weird powers and even stranger means of transportation. They've been identified in various cultural trappings. Our tech-minded age chooses to see them as extraterrestrial technocrats, coming to Earth to conduct their experiments.

Those who seem to know them best didn't rely on charts and graphs but another kind of knowing. A more elusive kind of knowledge, if you will, for our elusive companions. Legendary UFOlogist Jacques Vallee wrote a book about these historical perceptions called Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds.

I'm quoting his citation of a landmark work on Celtic mythology. Since it's not illustrated I added in some examples of our modern folklore, which as we've seen on this site is often brought to us by individuals who often seem to know things they shouldn't know...

EXCERPT FROM PASSPORT TO MAGONIA
BY JACQUES VALLEE

In the last half of the seventeenth century, a Scottish scholar gathered all the accounts he could find about the Sleagh Maith and, in 1691, wrote a manuscript bearing the title: The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies.

The Secret Commonwealth
was the first systematic attempt to describe the methods and organization of the strange creatures that plagued the farmers of Scotland.

The author, Reverend Kirk, of Aberfoyle, studied theology at St. Andrews and took his degree of professor at Edinburgh. Later he served as minister for the parishes of Balquedder and Abcrfoyle and died in 1692. It is impossible to quote the entire text of Kirk's treatise on the Secret Commonwealth, but we can summarize his findings about elves and other aerial creatures in the following way:

1. They have a nature that is intermediate between man and the angels.

2. Physically, they have very light and "fluid" bodies, which are comparable to a condensed cloud. They are particularly visible at dusk. They can appear and vanish at will.

3. Intellectually, they are intelligent and curious.

4. They have the power to carry away anything they like.


In modern fairy-lore this divine branch or wand is the magic wand of fairies; or where messengers like old men guide mortals to an underworld it is a staff or cane with which they strike the rock hiding the secret entrance.- The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries
5. They live inside the earth in caves, which they can reach through any crevice or opening where air passes.

6. When men did not inhabit most of the world, they used to live there and had their own agriculture. Their civilization has left traces on the high mountains; it was flourishing at a time when the whole countryside was nothing but woods and forests.

7. At the beginning of each three-month period, they change quarters because they are unable to stay in one place. Besides, they like to travel. It is then that men have terrible encounters with them, even on the great highways.

8. Their chameleon-like bodies allow them to swim through the air with all their household.

9. They are divided into tribes. Like us, they have children, nurses, marriages, burials, etc., unless they just do this to mock our own customs, or to predict terrestrial events.

10. Their houses are said to be wonderfully large and beautiful, but under most circumstances they are invisible to human eyes. Kirk compares them to enchanted islands. The houses are equipped with lamps that burn forever and fires that need no fuel.



11. They speak very little. When they do so, when they talk among themselves, their language is a kind of whistling sound.



12. Their habits and their language when they talk to humans are similar to those of local people.

13. Their philosophical system is based on the following ideas: nothing dies; all things evolve cyclically in such a way that at every cycle they are renewed and improved. Motion is the universal law.

14. They are said to have a hierarchy of leaders, but they have no visible devotion to God, no religion.

15. They have many pleasant and light books, but also serious and complex books, rather in the Rosicrucian style, dealing with abstract matters.



16. They can be made to appear at will before us through magic.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Nightmares in Camelot, Part 1: The Outer Limits


In my previous post I'd mentioned how the prospect of doing The Outer Limits justice was too much for me at the moment, given my current responsibilities. However, I also realize that some of you might not be familiar with the series or the esoteric topics I was going to examine it in the light of. This all demands a book-length treatment, but an ongoing series of blogposts would do nicely as well.

There are several major issues that I would like to tackle with this series. The show has always been an enigma to me, and becomes more so as I continue to explore the issues the show itself explored. I watched reruns of it when I was very young, which was probably a mistake on my parents' behalf, given how mind-scarringly kid-unfriendly the series was. It left a very strong impression but I had no exposure to it until much later, sometime in the late 80s. Which, not coincidentally, was the same time I was beginning to explore UFOlogy more seriously.

Having spent the intervening years soaking up The Twilight Zone (TZ), I didn't quite get The Outer Limits (TOL) then. I was so used to the quick, jazzy rhythms of the Zone that TOL just seemed like that dreary TZ season when the network ordered Serling to do it as an hour-long. But there was something that nagged at me, something that told me I wasn't quite ready to understand TOL yet.

There's a fair bit of Outer Limits fan material on the web and some "critical" analysis of the show that isn't much to write home about. John Kenneth Muir has served up some worthy posts on TOL on his blog but too much of the rest of what's out there on the series is typical babyman fanstuff.

Much more interesting is Bruce Rux's analysis in Hollywood vs The Aliens. Rux posits that the show was part of a UFO educational program undertaken by more enlightened toilers in the MIC. Rux's thesis is that there's a struggle taking place in the corridors of power between those who want to quash the UFO issue and those who believe the public deserves to know the "truth," whatever that might be.

Rux has a pretty good smoking gun in the person of Outer Limits creator, Leslie Stevens. Born in the belly of the Beast (aka Washington, DC) into a powerful military family (his father was an admiral), Stevens of all show biz types would have access to classified or suppressed material about UFOs. He also had a strong rebellious streak, leaving DC at a young age to work for Orson Welles at Mercury and plying his connections to build a career on Broadway, where he met future TOL producer/head writer Joseph Stefano.

After Outer Limits was quashed (foll0wing his 17th second-season episode), Stevens took William Shatner and a film crew to Big Sur, where he shot his cult horror classic, Incubus (much, much more on that cursed production later).

Stevens seemed to spend some time with the locals in Big Sur and developed some very radical ideas -- anti-globalism and anti-corporatism wed to a Leary-esque futurism and proto-Alex Jones constitutional purism --which he spelled out in est: The Steersman Handbook. The acronym was later swiped by Werner Erhard, but Stevens' "est" stood for electronic social transformation. Quite the futurist.



Part of the enigma surrounding The Outer Limits is its repeated use of abduction tropes, which are de rigeur now but almost invisible then. Skepdicks cite TOL ep "The Bellero Shield" as the model for the Greys (via the Hills), overlooking the fact that the most distinctive feature of the Greys- the enormous, disc-like eyes- are MIA in the story's visitor.

Even so, there is still the fact that many of the show's legendary aliens are Grey-types. But the skepdicks deliberately obscure the immutable fact that the Grey archetype has been seen all over the world for thousands of years and that Stevens' connections might point to a leak (or muddying the waters on the part of Stevens' feeders).

From what I gather, there wasn't much going on in UFOlogy at the time following the successful quashing program of the 50s and many of the now-classic abduction reports (many of which took place in Europe in the late 50s) were either unpublished here or not widely circulated. Abduction reports were not necessarily unknown in 1963 , but nuts-n-bolts types were dominant at that point, and they still tend to steer away from abduction phenomena, as it's usually subjective and untestable. We saw hints of abduction in Invaders from Mars and Earth Vs. Flying Saucers, though not exactly the kind we came to know with the Hill situation, ie., the tests, the prophecies, the safe returns.



Of course, abduction lore is rife in fairy stories and it's in that spirit (if not context) that we see these accounts in TOL. Likewise, we see contact narratives in TOL in a similar traditional spirit-- gods, angels, devils, Djinn, Fay-- coming to grant wishes and otherworldly knowledge to solitary seekers such as Alchemists.

Most importantly, the show is almost oppressively intimate- we don't see any War of the Worlds mass invasions, but quiet, deliberate insinuations that are all the more terrifying in that they deprive the contactee of fellowship (not to mention certainty).



So, here are the main talking points I wish to explore in this series...

Telling Tales Out of School: Was classified material about UFOs and alien contact (whether factual or not) being disseminated in The Outer Limits? Was the point to educate or to mislead (ie., allow skepdicks to cite the series as the source of abduction reports, as was done in the Hill situation), or both?

The Elusive Companion Hypothesis: Leslie Stevens seemed to be well-versed in the supernatural. Did he see UFOlogy as a new mythology or as the reason/explanation for the old? The contact scenarios seem to suggest a more familiar relationship between the "aliens" and ourselves. They walk among us more often than they touch down in their chariots.

Nightmares in Camelot: The Outer Limits premiered just a couple months before the Kennedy Assassination. The episode aired following the events featured JFK mega-resonator Martin Sheen as a POW subjected to mind control experiments. More so than The Twilight Zone, the show seemed to presage the unraveling of America's Camelot and its descent into nightmare.



America's military and technical prowess was merely papering over the deep schisms in the culture, despite the air of confidence the Kennedy Administration wished to project. Prescription drug abuse, racial and religious ruptures and an unspoken suspicion that America was sacrificing its children to some dark, unknowable god on the killing fields of southeast Asia would tear down the castle walls as sure as any war machine. The Atomic and Space Ages would be more like The Munsters than The Jetsons.

An alien tries to decode the Great Seal in Stevens' Controlled Experiment

The Occult Limits: Jack Parsons' restless ghost seems to hover like a storm cloud throughout the entire series, especially in Stevens' own screenplays (it's a good bet Stevens at least knew of the Rocket Man) The mixture of high-tech and high magick may not always be textual but was most certainly subtextual. The very first episode posited a modern alchemist scanning the heavens for Enochian angels and forbidden knowledge. Stevens' other scripts likewise presented scenarios of dimension-crashing coupled with occult trappings.

The Inner Limits: Joseph Stefano -best known for his screenplay for Hitchcock's Psycho- wasn't much interested in sci-fi, which of course resulted in him writing some of the greatest science fiction ever made. What interested Stefano was the psychology of alien contact and the psychology of those on the outer limits. The oft-cited film noir look of the show was meant to act as a externalization of the inner conflicts the characters experience (a move picked up by The X-Files).

Stefano's experience on Broadway also gave him insight into the outer limits of New York's demimonde, especially the then-underground gay scene. Sexual boundary-crossing seems to be a thruline in Stefano's scripts. There's been a fair amount of comment on the relationship between the Sally Kellerman and Chita Rivera characters in "The Bellero Shield," but similar themes repeat throughout the first season (esp. "The Forms of Things Unknown"). There's also the velvet mafia subtext of "The Invisibles" and the sexually predatory tutor in "The Special One." The symbolism is pretty wild once decoded.

The Not-So Outer Limits: Stevens and Stefano handed the showrunning over to lesser hands for the second season, and the show became considerably less weird and resonant. Which is not to say there weren't some great stories (Harlan Ellison pitched in with two well-regarded scripts), but the direction and production were a lot less effective.

Even so, the second season boasted some high weirdness and effective strangeness. "Expanding Human" is essentially a dry-run for Altered States, in which testing of psychedelic drugs causes one scientist to evolve/devolve into a primitive/superior being. "The Inheritors" (with a star-making turn from Robert Duvall) has dying soldiers in Vietnam possessed by alien walk-ins from a dying planet who need children to replenish their population. The script doesn't shy away from the creepy undertones you'd expect from such a situation.

"Keeper of the Purple Twilight" is a space-age update of the Faust legend (written by Goethe, who meticulously recorded his own close encounter in the 18th Century) and "Counterweight" is an exercise in psychological horror in which a disembodied alien entity infiltrates a simulation of a commercial flight to Mars.

I also want to explore how The Outer Limits revival-- which was more successful than the original, running an impressive seven seasons-- almost completely missed the point of the Stevens/Stefano episodes, yet still managed to put some quality Vancouverian sci-fi on the idiot box.

More will come as the series evolves, but that's a basic sketch of what I want to explore. But before I do that I want to explore the long and storied history of otherworldly contacts, particularly those recorded by the Alchemists and their fellow travelers. Once you're familiar with some of these narratives, you'll look at The Outer Limits with brand new eyes, I guarantee it.


NEXT: Encounters with the Elusive Companions

SECRET SUN READING LIST