Sunday, July 03, 2011

Nightmares in Camelot, Part 3: Aliens and Alchemists

The pilot episode of The Outer Limits "The Galaxy Being" (originally titled "Please Stand By") stands along side Star Trek's pilot "The Cage" and the pilot for The X-Files as a definitive statement of intent as well as an indelible blueprint for what was to come.

All three are self-contained works in and of themselves that stand alone as art; short feature films that stand alongside the best sci-fi cinema. Their relative short length is no handicap, no stain on their perfection.

 Unlike Chris Carter, Leslie Stevens and Gene Roddenberry both stood back from their creations, and let others take the reins- Joseph Stefano and Gene Coon, respectively. But their pilots were so complete, so perfect (and self-replicating, in a sense) that the new producers needed only to be faithful to the original vision. 

Even when Ben Brady took the reins in The Outer Limits' second season, the reverberations of "The Galaxy Being" continued, with episodes like "Keeper of the Purple Twilight" and "The Inheritors." What was so powerful about Stevens' script that it laid the foundations for generations of TV sci-fi to come? For those of you who haven't seen it, here's a brief synopsis:
Allan Maxwell, a cottage-industry scientist and tinkerer, constructs a high-powered transceiving device as an adjunct to his commercial radio broadcasting station. He makes accidental contact with an alien who is doing essentially the same thing, billions of miles away. 
"We're both breaking the rules," Allan observes. A power surge causes the unintended teleportation of the alien to Earth, where its nitrogen-based, super-radioactive form causes the usual monster movie havoc as it searches for Allan. The National Guard rolls in to obliterate it and Allan's wife is wounded by a trigger-happy soldier. Holed up in the radio shack with Allan, the creature cauterizes the wound with radiation and saves her life. 
Using Allan's translating computer, the alien denounces the soldiers and populace for reacting in fear and panic to its unintended visit, then uses its powers to disintegrate the radio tower in a show of superior force. Aware that it will be destroyed by its own race, the alien "tunes" itself out of existence by damping Allan's transmitter power. 
It does not die; rather, it leaves Allan with the sure knowledge of an existence transcending mere physical death: "No death in my dimension," the alien has told him. "Electromagnetic waves go on to infinity - Matter, infinity, space, time - all the same."
What "The Galaxy Being" is is simply a Space Age retelling of the old Alchemist and the Angel trope. Allen (read: Alien) is using high technology to reach into Heaven and bring back an angel. As Jacques Vallee puts it in Passport to Magonia:
Throughout medieval times, a major current of thought distinct from official religion existed, culminating in the works of the alchemists and hermetics. Among such groups were to be found some of the early modern scientists and men remarkable for the strength of their independent thinking and for their adventurous life, such as Paracelsus. 
The nature of the beings who mysteriously appeared, dressed in shiny garments or covered with dark hair, and with whom communication was so hard to establish intrigued these men intensely.
The Enochian Keys are nicely updated in The Outer Limits when Maxwell uses his computer to translate the alien's language. Maxwell isn't interested in silly Plait-like nonsense about space rocks or the behaviors of gas clouds in vacuums, he wants the big answers about the nature of existence. 

He's also seeking to use this knowledge to make his name in the world of science. What the alien imparts to him is entirely spiritual in nature- or would be regarded as such by the Nobel Committee. Joseph Stefano would explore similar themes in his landmark episode "The Bellero Shield," and add in some appropriate Shakespearean themes via MacBeth, as well as themes taken from Nordic mythology (and some Sapphic undertones thrown in for resonance/seasoning).

The late Robert Anton Wilson explores these kinds of contacts in depth in the first volume of Cosmic Trigger, quoting Timothy Leary:
Interstellar ESP may have been going on for all our history, Tim (Leary) went on, but we just haven't understood. Our nervous systems have translated their messages into terms we could understand. 
The "angels" who spoke to Dr. Dee, the Elizabethan scientist-magician, were extraterrestrials, but Dee couldn't comprehend them in those terms and considered them "messengers from God." The same is true of many other shamans and mystics.
Indeed, these contacts-- whether actual or aspirational --lie at the heart of Alchemical enterprise. All of the great masters were primarily concerned with contact with --and harnessing the power of-- angels. Wilson explores this motif in the context of the work of Carlos Casteneda and explains that these experiences didn't end at the dawn of the Enlightenment, but were in fact common among the great scientific visionaries of the 19th and early 20th Century:
However, might we dare consider that Mescalito may be just what the shamans (who know him best) always say he is— one of the "spirits" of the vegetation? Too silly an idea for sophisticates like ourselves? 
Paracelsus, the founder of modern medicine, believed in such spirits and claimed frequent commerce with them. So did the German poet Goethe and the pioneer of organic agriculture, Rudolph Steiner...
Or consider Gustav Fechner, the creator of scientific psychology and psychological measurement. Fechner lost his sight and then regained it, after which he asserted that with his new vision he saw many things normal people do not see- including auras around humans and other living creatures, and vegetation spirits just like Mescalito.... Thomas Edison became so convinced of their literal existence that he spent many years trying to develop a photographic process that would render them visible.
Tesla's greatest discovery was the mechanism by which alternating current can be electrically generated and used. This illumination came to Tesla in a series of quasi-mystical visions during his adolescence. The key events were: 1. The visions themselves, in some of which Tesla literally went into trance and talked to entities nobody else could see...
In his essay "John Dee and Edward Kelley: Sex, Lies, and Angels," P.T. Mistlberger explores the specifics of the Enochian workings of the two legendary intellectual outlaws, revealing traces of the ancient astronauts (make that further traces, since The Book of Enoch is one of the most lucid accounts of alien contact in all of history):
Dee’s esoteric work with Kelley—in specific, the ‘angelic’ séances—lasted just over five years, from March of 1582, to May of 1587. Their usual manner of operating together was to begin with a prayer, followed by uncovering a ‘shewstone’, a viewing device in which Kelley would see visions, report them to Dee, who dutifully recorded them and later worked to make sense of them. 
The object used by Kelley in which to see the visions was either a rock crystal globe, or a black obsidian ‘magic mirror’, both items of which have survived and can still be seen in the British Museum. The obsidian, also known as volcanic glass, is the black circular disc seen below (the small rock crystal, or crystal ball, lies in front of it). 
The black obsidian was originally an Aztec device (used by Aztec shamans for divination), plundered from Mexico in the 1520s by Cortes' people. How it came into Dee's possession is unknown.
I can't help but think of Elizabeth Fraser as well as Allan Maxwell's translation computer when Mistlberger explains the nature of these communications:
The visions seen by Kelley were exclusively concerned with angels, and their transmission of a language that they claimed to be the primordial language of humanity. 
Much of the work of these ‘spiritual conferences’ was enormously tedious and difficult, often not producing much of substance more than the angels making something like angelic small-talk, peculiar religious references that at times sound like gibberish, or correcting errors in transmission.
Mistlberger then explores the enigmatic nature of these comminiques in language that any Synchromystic would be proud to call their own:
Indeed, one might reasonably question the entire body of material brought forth by Kelley, and why ‘angels’ would need to communicate through such a strangely indirect method. Why not just speak simply and directly to the two men? 
This all addresses a broader theme, an idea found in many wisdom traditions—perhaps spelled out most clearly in Gnosticism—which is that the world we humans inhabit is remote, degraded, and ‘far away’ from higher, more refined dimensions of existence.
This too is a common theme throughout The Outer Limits as well, especially but not exclusively in "The Galaxy Being". And Allan Maxwell- among many other AstroGnostic visionaries throughout the original OL series would take the teachings of Cornelius Agrippa to heart:
In his book Occult Philosophy, Agrippa explained that magic was not connected with demons or sorcery but with the personal gift of psychic powers, and that the secret of using such powers was to successfully blend philosophy with physics and mathematics. 
He also maintained that in order to produce the desired effects, or achieve communion with the divine, the magician had to use his will power and be well aware of the natural harmonies. 
He was deeply interested in medieval magic but wanted to free it from the dangerous rituals of witches and sorcerers, while tying to merge occult knowledge from northern Europe with Italian occultism.
And again, Agrippa's teachings on the nature and purpose of symbolic communication should strike a note with any serious Synchroid:
In the three books of his masterpiece, The Occult Philosophy, Agrippa divides the world in three sections: the elementary, the celestial and the intellectual, and believes that every inferior world is governed by its superior. 
His first book deals with the elementary or material world, whose main elements are: earth, water fire and air. In his second book, he deals with the celestial world, the magic properties of science and mathematics, and how the material world is influenced by celestial bodies and astrology. 
In his third book, he describes the spiritual world of angels, other heavenly beings and spirits, and the way one can communicate with them and with God, by using secret symbols and special talismans.
And so we see in The Outer Limits, as driven outsiders seek to transcend the mandated limitations of corporate science by appealing to angelic forces. But there is also a darker current in these narratives as well, one that traces back to the shamanic era. And that is contact with lesser angels or daemons which was passed down to the vulgar masses as "deals with the Devil." 

These lower daemons offered the alchemist/shaman/whatever wealth and power on the material plain, which everyone from the Gnostics to Alchemists like Agrippa taught was the lowest of all forms of existence. 

Even the modern Alchemist Terence McKenna taught that this plane was the lowest- the deadest- of all possible options. Sci-Fi variations of these deals with devils are sprinkled throughout the original Outer Limits (see The Sixth Finger, OBIT, It Crawled Out of the Woodwork, Don't Open Till Doomsday, The Invisibles, etc., etc.) but the best example of this trope is "Keeper of the Purple Twilight" in which a hot-headed scientist trades his emotions (read: his soul) to a hostile alien in exchange for the formulae needed to build his doomsday weapon.

Of course the archetypal narrative of the Alchemist and the Fallen Angel is Faust. As written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust tells the story of the scholar who seeks to know everything there is to know, from the scientific to the magical. 

This opens him up to temptation which comes in the form of Mephistopheles (who first appears in the form of a dog) who offers ultimate knowledge in exchange for his soul. Whatever Goethe's original inspiration for Faust was, the book exists today as a startling work of prophecy, accurately depicting the entirety of the scientific establishment which serves absolutely no one but the Military-Industrial-Globalist oligarchy. 

Any benefit to the rest of us is an accidental by-product. Strangely enough, Goethe had his own close encounter which he described in exacting detail. His experience sounds like any number of alien encounters from modern literature or sci-fi. In fact, it would have fit in quite nicely in any old episode of The Outer Limits:
All at once, in a ravine on the right-hand side of the way, I saw a sort of amphitheatre, wonderfully illuminated. In a funnel-shaped space there were innumerable little lights gleaming, ranged step-fashion over one another; and they shone so brilliantly that the eye was dazzled. 
But what still more confused the sight was that they did not keep still, but jumped about here and there, as well downwards from above as vice versa, and in every direction. The greater part of them, however, remained stationary, and beamed on.
Goethe, quoted by Jacques Vallee
From a Scientistic point of view all of these narratives are delusion at worst, fantasy at best. They're hardly more defensible in light of the extraterrestrial hypothesis of nonhuman contact, given how relatively frequent and far-reaching they are. Looked at in the context of the Elusive Companion Hypothesis, they're almost inevitable.