Thursday, May 31, 2012

Babies, Bathwater and the New Age

The New Age movement is one of the great enigmas of our time. You won't find hardly anyone willing to defend it or define themselves as a "New Ager," and yet the movement has slowly and quietly (some would say insidiously) changed the culture at large, for better and worse.

I didn't know there even was such a thing until Shirley McLaine brought it into the mainstream with the 1986 TV movie of her autohagiography, Out on a Limb. Of course, I'd been heavily immersed in the movement prior to that but what I thought I was involved with was an underground and vaguely outlaw occult movement that itinerant Deadheads were introducing lost and bored punk rockers to in the mid-80s.

It seemed to be a rich and loamy mission field-- the first wave of hardcore punk had fallen apart, giving rise to Nazi punk, thrash metal and nihilist grunge. None of the energy or optimism of the early 80s was left in the movement, as a great darkness had descended over the scene. A lot of punks were gagging for an antidote.

There were certain precedents in Post-Punk, particularly the British bands (Killing Joke, Comsat Angels, Coil, Current 93, etc) who toyed with the kind of post-hippie occultism that would have such a decisive impact on Alan Moore and Grant Morrison and the rest of 80s British Invasion, but I would definitely credit the 80s renaissance of The Grateful Dead for the clandestine spread of the "New Age" ideas in the counterculture at large.

None of us had any idea that there was a "New Age" movement already at work, particularly in the American West, and very few would want anything to do with such a touchy-feelie, post-hippie kind of thing if we did. The 70s occult underground-- centered around hotspots like Manhattan's Magickal Childe-- was a better fit.

It must be said that the 1984 film Repo Man does an amazing-- almost prophetic --job in capturing this weird conjunction between disaffected punks and aging hippie mystics, especially considering that such a thing was completely unrecognized at the time.

The admixture of themes like late-period Cold War paranoia, Fundamentalist brainwashing, working class collapse, UFOlogy and Synchronicity are thick and gooey layers of radioactive icing on this dense, thorny layer cake.

There were other streams feeding into this as well, also tangentially related to The Dead; the personal computer and hacker scene, the nascent Cyberpunk scene (William Gibson's Sprawl books are as much about alt.spirituality as they are about tech), the vogue for outlaw physics championed by people like Jack Sarfatti and Saul Paul Sirag and then-fashionable deep ecology movement signaled that the New Age wasn't hostile to science (especially weird science), it embraced it.

Old counterculture icons like Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson enjoyed new interest in their work. The Burning Man movement arose during this time and caught on like, um, wildfire, capturing the unconscious impulses of a new generational counterculture.

Of course, then Shirley MacLaine put a stop to all of that- or most of that-- almost immediately and the New Age became the almost-exclusive province of declawed neo-hippies and a certain breed of middle-aged housewife who became the New Age equivalent of Dana Carvey's Church Lady.

Whitley Streiber's Communion steered what was left of the counterculture New Age into the New Ufology and Grunge- the dreariest and most negative microculture vying for dominance in the late 80s rode to victory on the back of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and left nothing but teenage rubble in its wake.

The Tech boom of the early 90s leeched away the Cyberpunk crowd with the promise of Silicon Valley riches. Cyberpunk bible Mondo 2000 tried to create the "New Edge"-- essentially gathering up the same elements of the New Age counterculture-- but that effort was bled dry by the new Gold Rush and the increasing power and prominence of the Neo-Theosophist faction that had taken control of the New Age movement in the wake of the unparalleled popularity of Shirley MacLaine's and JZ Knight's books, as well as The Celestine Prophecy and later, The Secret.

The mighty Religious Industrial Complex didn't sit by idly and watch of this go down with bemused befuddlement- it saw this new counterculture as a serious challenge to its power, influence and financial security.

The Christian Right went into a full-blown meltdown over the New Age, with writers tearing themselves away en masse from their airport men's room perches, peepshow stalls and favorite rest stop clearings to man the typewriters and word processors in defense of the Faith of their Fathers. They were goaded on by an obsessive harpie from Michigan who saw the New Age as nothing less than the work of Beelzebub himself, and who'd been shrieking about the movement to anyone who'd listen since the 70s. Nobody much listens anymore, but she's still shrieking.

The importance of the anti-New Age agenda was impressed upon the shills in the Conspiracy underground as well. Soon, intel dupes like Bill Cooper and Serge Monast were warning of the "New Age One World Religion," an self-contradicting impossibility given that the movement was by definition fractured, decentralized and creedless; the old cat-herding bit, in other words. At the same time Cooper and Monast were tapping out their screeds with aching forefingers, their handlers were creating the real one world religions; Fundamentalism, both Christian and Islamic.

Which is not to say that the New Age movement itself is blameless, and was not infiltrated and used for nefarious purposes, one of which was the testing ground for MK techniques that were subsequently exported to the Megachurches. At every turn ideas that took root in the New Age movement were appropriated and mainstreamed, an inevitability in a movement that lacked any kind of structure to guarantee simple quality control, never mind control of intellectual property.

Elizabeth Clare Prophet

At every turn, bad actors appeared to peddle crypto-authoritarianism and create dangerous cults which sucked away people's self-will almost as quickly as it drained their savings accounts.

Again, the fingerprints of secret gov't creepie-crawlies can be found everywhere you look. The looming shadow of Theosophy darkened the movement, or at least the unsavory legates of Blavatsky like Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Alice Bailey (the former was infinitely more dangerous and powerful than the latter, but served the ultra-right agenda, so the conspiratainers were told to leave her alone).

Indeed, for many people the movement was known more for the hucksters and charlatans that used the open source aspect of the New Age-- which the old hippie idealists saw as a strength and necessity-- as a license to loot and plunder. I don't have to name names here; I'm sure you all have your favorite examples.

And there were/are a lot of foundational ideals in the movement that drove people away: misguided, "we are the world" Globalist cheerleading, knee-jerk ecumenism ("all paths lead to the Source"), contentless spirituality ("It's all energy"), a kid-in-a-candy-store approach to ancient symbol systems, the aforementioned neo-Theosophical authoritarianism, and a troubling insensitivity to human suffering ("You have cancer because that's the path you chose.")

But with the New Age you almost have to see it as an impulse (or a loose confederation, at best) than an actual movement. The various subsects usually had little in common and only interacted at expos and conventions, if at all. Adherents usually didn't describe themselves as "New Agers," that was a pejorative thrust upon them by the media.

And indeed, the New Age as a concept soon gave way to endlessly subdividing factions: the self-improvement movement (which grew out of the human potential movement), neopagans, Goddess-worshipping feminist separatists, Chaos magicians, neo-traditionalists, and on and on. For all intents and purposes, the New Age is simply a marketing catchphrase, the section at Barnes and Noble where I find the books I want to read (very few of which have anything to do with Oprah or Shirley MacLaine, of course).

And several important and meaningful ideas were brought into the mainstream via the New Age movement. Which is not to say there isn't fraud and abuse and irritation galore to bemoan, but that's the cost of living in an open society.

Health Awareness: "Health food" and organic food was once cloistered away in dingy hippie co-ops, now it can be found in supermarkets. Junk food profiteers are still in business but under pressures they didn't have to face before the rise of the New Age movement.

Vegetarians and vegans were once seen as the equivalent of devil-worshippers; now they are simply part of a menu of lifestyle choices. Exercise is now seen as desirable activity and not just a chore. Smoking is no longer socially acceptable. It hasn't always been pretty or painless, but this is in large part the legacy of the New Age movement.

Alternative History: Books like The Da Vinci Code and The Last Templar mainstreamed alt.history in a fictional context (often to the extreme annoyance of some alt.historians), but the New Age market helped make bestsellers of books like Fingerprints of the Gods. Orthodox historians still laugh it off but are finding themselves with a smaller amen corner every year.

For all its faults, the success of Ancient Aliens has gotten people talking about a subject that was quashed by the Religious Right.

Détente between Science and Spirit: The Establishment-- particularly their little media toadies-- seems heavily invested in driving a wedge between science and religion these days, despite the fact that the Vatican has totally changed its tune on science (including on evolution) and that many of the scientists and engineers doing the heavy lifting these days were raised in conservative Asian religions and have no trouble reconciling their faith with their work.

What is being put forth by the media is fundamentalist scientism and fundamentalist religion. It's a false dichotomy that is being deliberately whipped up to cause trouble and sow dissension.

At its best, the New Age movement had no time for any of that. No less a luminary than JZ "Ramtha" Knight unleashed the What the Bleep do We Know quantum physics primers, for whatever they're worth (I haven't seen them in their entirety). Call it "woo" if you must, but don't say they're anti-science just because you disagree.

Alt-UFOlogy: I'm always stunned by how simple-minded the debunker set are when it comes to UFOs. To them, they have to be spacecraft from another solar system or some joker is igniting cow farts. This shouldn't be a surprise-- none of the debunkers I've come across seem terribly bright (even if some are indeed booksmart) and they spend most of their time talking to each other, reinforcing the feedback loops.

Regular readers of this blog know I'm not big on the ETH (extraterrestrial hypothesis) and that I believe a careful study of the UFO phenomenon through history (and prehistory) reveals something that acts more like an espionage program than the work of curious, labcoat-wearing alien Margaret Meads.

Nick Redfern's new book suggests that a lot of UFOs are in fact beings, which makes me want to go back and rewatch all those "sentient orb" episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

There's no shortage of messianic UFoology in New Age circles, but the blurring of the boundaries that the New Age once chased after also gave voice to Alt.Ufology, particularly the work of people like John Keel and Jacques Vallee (indeed, the old East West bookstore had a big UFO section, where I first saw Passport to Magonia). And of course, ancient astronauts are a given in the alt.research community that grew out of the old New Age movement.

Psi Research:
As with UFOlogy, I don't much go for the clairvoyance-on-demand myth peddled by professional "psychics", all too common in New Age circles. And it's a good thing, too; you think surveillance is out of control now, just imagine if there was an army of mind readers keeping tabs on everyone. It would be intolerable. I know we're constantly hearing how mind-reading machines are right around the corner, but I think it's a pretty big corner we're talking about- they've been "right around the corner" as long as I can remember.

I do think there is interesting work to be done in psi research, the kind of stuff folks like Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake have done. I'm not entirely sure how useful laboratory experiments are, since I think this potential taps into a non-reptilian aspect of the brain and tends to be inhibited by the hostile conditions you'd find in a lab.

There are any number of useful and important tasks the human mind performs that can't be summoned on-demand, so any laboratory experiment that doesn't confirm psi is merely proving that psi doesn't flourish in such a contrived and artificial environment.

But making the leap that psi doesn't exist based on laboratory experiments (we'll leave aside what dens of fraud and deceit labs-- especially corporate labs-- often are) is kind of like showing a gay male naked pictures of James Randi, PZ Myers, and Penn Jillette and declaring homosexuality doesn't exist when they inevitably fail to achieve an erection.

Positive Thinking: This one gets a bad rap these days, but was a central tenet of human potential. We are bombarded with negativity-- now more than ever before-- and there's no question it has a deleterious effect on our psyches, our health and our souls. The adolescent quest for "Cool" that grips our society (as well as the adrenaline rush you get from fearporn) makes positive thinking anathema; it's far more fashionable to be grim, defeatist and miserable. It's much easier, too.

However, positive and negative thinking are self-fulfilling and a society that embraces negativity is a society destined for failure, just as a society that embraces nihilism (which is what the Skeptics and nu atheists are really offering). Certainly the corporate embrace of people like Tony Robbins and before him Norman Vincent Peale has understandably soured people on positive thinking, but I'm not really sure how much longer we can sustain ourselves with the negative thinking monkey on our backs.

I've never believed in "Cool"; "Cool" is cowardly and shallow, in my estimation. A human being is cool when they are dead. I believe in being hot-blooded, passionate and lusty.

There are other positive effects the New Age has had: a new appreciation for the Sacred Feminine, a more relaxed approach to office environments, a new engagement for men in child rearing and the household, a more holistic to environmentalism.

There are also any number of undesirable effects as well; the nanny state approach to health, a tendency to religious hysteria regarding environmental issues, institutionalized political correctness. But the movement has been remarkably effective in changing society in its own image, for better or worse.

I don't believe in the "New Age"- it's one of those linear approaches to human events that assumes that everything is progressing in a straight line to a utopian future. And the movement itself was co-opted before some of you were even born, giving rise to what is often an insufferable and denatured new kind of Puritanism. I think it tends to a kind of reflexive androphobia that robs it of dynamism and balance.

But it did open things up and create a space where new ideas weren't seen as inherently threatening and in that regard it's had a positive effect on society. Plus, there's that handy section at Barnes and Noble to take into account...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Astronaut Theology: Mysteries Within Mysteries

I've been rather busy this week trying to stay out of the poorhouse, but I've had two main themes that I've been mulling over, both of which stemmed from my reading.

After my weird experience on Sunday night, I felt compelled to re-read the chapter on Jacques Vallee in Jeff Kripal's must-have Authors of the Impossible. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but there was something I had unconsciously remembered from my previous reading (which was a while back now) that I felt needed to be explored. The quote itself?
"UFOlogy is not a science but a process of initiation.
One starts with field investigations and ends up studying Arab mystics."

Aime Michel, in a letter to Jacques Vallee.
Michel was a bit optimistic here, if you ask me-- he's speaking of a small cadre of heretics who always seem to find themselves excommunicated from UFOlogy-- but his basic thesis holds true. If you approach UFOlogy from our current reductionist, materialistic model of science, you'll inevitably end up driven half-mad with the endless puzzles it throws at you.

This is not a mystery that wants to be solved- it's the kind of capital M Mystery that your ancestors were given to building ecstatic cults around. If you approach the mystery the way they did, as an eternal enigma leading us along to a deeper understanding of the world around us-- a kind of Zen koan in the sky-- your attitude towards and your perception of the evidence completely changes. You're no longer frustrated or stymied by the refusal of this Mystery to stop being so damn mysterious.

Most importantly, you realize that Synchronicity plays a crucial, indispensible role in all of this and becomes a quite reliable navigational tool in unchartable waters.

And as if to punctuate this mini-revelation, the very next day a variation on Vallee's multiverse theory (see Kripal pp 182, 188) escaped from the faculty lounge (and Fringe's writer's room) and became front page news when Newsweek magazine ran a cover story on the multiple universe theories of physicist Brian Greene.

This is the kind of synchronicity you come to expect when treading in these waters (never mind that the previous night's event was capped by one sync after another itself). One of the best semioticians I ever met believed that Synchronicity wasn't simply some novelty, some cute app from the Reality Matrix store, but was being manufactured by mulitidimensional beings who existed outside of the flow of time and space. I'm sure he and Vallee would have had much to talk about.

The other book I've been reading is Nick Redfern's new book The Pyramids and the Pentagon, which details the US military's very deep and abiding interest in Ancient Astronaut Theory and other offerings from the high weirdness catalog they have no business dabbling in.
This isn't an entirely shocking revelation to me- I knew that the Air Force took a keen and rather inexplicable interest in the Stargate SG-1 series, for instance. But Nick painstakingly uncovers a much deeper engagement with AAT, most remarkably a belief that Noah's Ark was in fact of alien provenance and was built to store DNA, not mating pairs of animals.

It was reading the signs and symbols that the rich and powerful take as their own that put me back on the trail of the ancient astronauts after losing interest in the topic for several years, a process that unfolded in real time on this blog.
One of the puzzles I kept coming across was the constant pairing of NASA and Ancient Egypt exhibits at science museums, a pattern that seemed to repeat itself too often to be random.

Remember that NASA itself is a military (or paramilitary, rather) outfit whose bread and butter is the vast orbital satellite infrastructure, not growing tomatoes in space. In that context, their own rather promiscuous dabbling in ancient Mystery symbolism seems less a quirk and more a statement of intent.

And it's not limited to NASA: SpaceX planned its Horus-Isis rendezvous (the Falcon9/Dragon mission to the International Space Station) for Walpurgisnacht and then for May 19th (surely not a reference to 19.5, just as the phony controversy about Obama and the May 19th Organization is no such thing either) before finally blasting off on the 22nd.

But it was the world famous statue of "Prometheus" (sic) at Rockefeller Center that drove me back to the forbidden zone of AAT. It was when I noticed a particular visual motif that I'd been puzzling over, the potent "Heavenly Beam" icon used in the poster art for highly resonant films like Stargate and Mission to Mars (which the USAF and NASA got involved with) encoded into the layout of Rockefeller Center itself (built six decades before those films were produced, mind you) that I began to realize that what the ridiculous shills in the universities and the sad, rapidly-aging debunkers in the media told us and what their paymasters actually believed about humankind's true history were two separate realities altogether.

It was while I was puzzling over all of this that the 2008 Clownshow Presidential election starting feeding high initiate symbolism into the Mediastream in such a way I'd never seen before. All of that culminated in the Stairway to Sirius series, which itself was inspired by the absolute orgy of Sirius symbolism thrown back and forth by the Obama and McCain campaigns (we're seeing the same thing this year as well).

Shortly after the Election we saw the Anunnaki invocation in Dubai, the wink and nod punchlines with Obama's dog, the Sirius Star drama, the coronation of the new Tut on the Giza Necropolis and much more besides. In the middle of all of that, I had to deal with some synch-laden high weirdness of my own which only served to sharpen my awareness of everything that was unfolding in the world outside my little green space capsule here.

It's amazing to think that just a couple years before all of this I'd written a (still-unpublished) manuscript on Mystery symbolism in sci-fi film that hardly dealt with UFOs or AAT at all. The only time I dealt with the topic was when I was detailing the plots to Stargate, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or what have you. In other words, talking about AAT pretty much the same way a writer at io9 or SF Signal would- as a mere trope.

Note Templar/Maltese cross in Winged Sundisk

But after wrestling with all of the symbolism thrown around during the election, I wrote this:
When you read the ancient texts - particularly the Sumerian and Egyptian- a picture becomes very clear- the gods descended from the heavens, created men and taught them the arts of civilization and then returned to the stars. Over time, scholars have seen all of this as metaphor. That's scholars for you. Everything is a metaphor.

But what if your business was power? Government, religion, the culture industry, the military- if you could somehow ingratiate yourself to these "gods" to the point that somehow they decide to align themselves with you, well, that would be the ultimate advantage. Wouldn't it? The question becomes how do you even contact these beings?

From Seqenenre Tao to the Mystery Cults to the Gnostics to the Cathars to the Templars to the Freemasons and beyond, we see a tradition sealed by blood oaths, a very ancient tradition of people willing to die to keep their sects' secrets. Why? Where does this come from? Was there once a secret so profound that to reveal it would cause such harm that only the penalty of torture and death could keep it hidden?

I've been studying this dilemma for several years and none of the secrets these groups supposedly kept were even all that interesting, never mind profound (Morals and Dogma will bore you to the point where you pray for the sweet release of death). I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in the last year or two I became convinced that there had to be something else. Perhaps something lost in time that we could only figure out by reading the symbols and metaphors these groups couched their secrets in. And that process began to pick up speed in the Imperial Age, with breakthroughs like the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.

I'm sure Nick didn't read that post; I get the feeling from his new book that he doesn't read this blog much at all, actually. But he asks to the same basic questions in his new book that I asked back in 2008.  I'm sure both of us are very latecomers to this particular party.

The military and the intelligence agencies pay attention to things we'd never imagine were important to them; Nick details the keen interest that the Navy took in the work of Morris Jessup, even if the usual pointy-headed suspects thought he was a crank. Men whose job it is to get things done under extreme duress don't worry much what academics think about anything. And certainly not the building of the pyramids and the rest of it. They talk to building engineers and other people in the field. Doers, not yakkers.

And as soon as people were understanding the mechanics of artificial flight, you can bet people in intel were going back and studying reports like this:

Even Christopher Columbus, it appears, saw a UFO. While patrolling the deck of the Santa Maria at about 10 PM on October 11, 1492, Columbus thought he saw "a light glimmering at a great distance." He hurriedly summoned Pedro Gutierrez, "a gentleman of the king's bedchamber," who also saw the light. After a short time it vanished, only to reappear several times during the night, each time dancing up and down "in sudden and passing gleams." The crew was near exhaustion and ready to mutiny. The light, first seen only four hours before land was sighted, was never explained, but may have saved the craft from turning back and the discovery of America."

Beyond Earth: Man's Contact with UFOs, by Ralph and Judy Blum, quoting The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1850)
And this:
This is a report of a monastery clerk in Northern Russia addressed to a high dignitary of the Russian Church who reports that on August 15, 1663, there was a visitation of the earth between 10 and 12 hours from the clear skies. A sphere appeared, about 40 meters in diameter; from the lower part two rays extended earthward and smoke poured from the sides of the vehicle...The phenomenon was observed by two groups of people. Some watched it from the church; others from a boat which happened to be in the middle of the lake.

In the Proceedings of an International Conference on Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Carl Sagan (ed.), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1973),

And most certainly this:
May. 15, 1879  Persian Gulf. Two very large "wheels" were seen spinning in the air and slowly coming to the surface of the sea. Estimated diameter: 40 m. Distance between the objects: 150 m. Speed: 80 km/h/ Duration: 35 min. 
So at some point in time, people in the employ of governments were undoubtedly going back and studying the kinds of cases that Vallee and Chris Aubeck document in the indispensible Wonders in the Sky. Even if the media shills lap it up when the scientific debunker shills and the religious debunker shills piss their pants and shriek and tear at their combovers when the topic is raised (doing so according to the recommendations of the Brookings Institute, mind you) I have every confidence that serious people doing serious jobs don't pay any attention to them at all.

So I had these two disparate streams at work in my head- the mystic Vallee and nuts 'n' bolts (ish) Redfern, speaking the language of the Mysteries on one hand and doing straight up investigative journalism on the US military's interest in ancient astronauts on the other. What could the connection be?

Specifically, I mean.

Here's where my mind started wandering back to Rockefeller Center and that icon of "Prometheus" (sic). As I explained in a previous article, I don't for a minute believe that's actually Prometheus. The  zodiac, the emergence from the rock, and the youthful, golden appearance belong not to the hoary old Titan but to the young warrior god Mithras. Indeed, the Rockefeller Plaza icon isn't the only crypto-Mithras out there; there's also Golden Boy, the alleged statue of "Mercury" atop the capital building in Winnipeg, Canada (a favorite of Synchromystic pioneer, Jake Kotze).

Aside from its height (a highly-resonant 17 feet), Golden Boy is rather conspicuously uncapped. Mercury's winged helmet isn't just a fashion accessory, it's an absolutely crucial part of his identity. Golden Boy is also carrying wheat, meaningless to Mercury, but an important aspect of the most important Mithraic icon, the Tauroctony (we see it referenced in the Mithraic drama, Michael Clayton).

Another major crypto-Mithras (and one of the most explicit homages to the ancient god himself) is the Genius of Electricity aka Spirit of Communication, the giant AT+T mascot which I used to see every day when I dropped my wife off at work. It's in Dallas now (a mere six blocks away from Dealey Plaza), but spent several years in my neck of the woods when it was removed from AT+T's headquarters in Manhattan.

Mithras was central to the life and work of Carl Jung, who not only deeply immersed himself in the mythos and ritual of the ancient sun god but credited the Mithraic Liturgy with helping to develop his theory of the Collective Unconscious
when a patient at an asylum reported dreams rife with Mithraic imagery.

A flying saucer and 17 dots
Revisionists have tried to chip away at Jung's claims (most prominent among them is Richard Noll, who works for the Catholic Church) but as we've seen the Mithraic Liturgy is a remarkable document on its own terms, detailing what sounds like a modern account of an alien abduction aboard a flying disk:
...It is impossible for me, born mortal, to rise with the golden brightnesses of the immortal brilliance ...Draw in breath from the rays, drawing up three times as much as you can, and you will see yourself being lifted up and ascending to the height, so that you seem to be in mid-air.

You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things.
For in that day and hour you will see the divine order of the skies: the presiding gods rising into heaven, and others setting.

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

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

You will see the outflow of this object toward the regions westward, boundless as an east wind, if it be assigned to the regions of the East--and the other similarly, toward its own regions.
Exactly what the nature of this disk is is made clear with is line:
"And when the disk is open, you will see the fireless circle, and the fiery doors shut tight."
A two-thousand year old text of a flying disk-- with fucking doors-- that takes the initiate up in outer space. Maybe the Skeptics can wish it all away, but be certain men in positions of power were paying close attention.

What's interesting in light of all of this is that Franz Cumont's groundbreaking studies on Mithraism were published at the same time UFOs were starting to reappear in the skies with events like the bizarre airship flap and the Aurora, TX crash. It should also be noted that although Jung's Flying Saucers is often cited by debunkers, the text itself isn't as confident in those conclusions. Jung was also not only a Mithras fan but also a dyed-in-the-wool "UFO nut" and obsessively collected photos and case studies.

It's my belief that Mithras as worshipped by the Romans was not the same figure known to the Zoroastrians, but was actually Horus trading under a more socially-acceptable guise. Remember that Isis reigned supreme throughout the Empire, as did her husband in the form of Serapis.

Horus the Child was well-known to the Romans, but a figure as central as the adult Horus was too important to the Heliopolitan priesthoods steering the Mysteries to stay in the shadows simply because the Romans thought gods with animal heads were abominations. The Tauroctony has puzzled scholars looking to Zoroastrianism for clues, but as we've seen the Pyramid Texts describe the tableau quite effectively:
Thou hast come that thou mayest command in the regions of Horus;
(thou hast come) that thou mayest command in the regions of Set;
that thou mayest speak in the regions of Osiris.
May the king make an offering: Thy son is upon thy throne...
thou goest in sandals; thou slaughterest an ox;

Pyramid Text, utterance 224

A servant (holy person) who belongs to the Ennead (pelican) is fallen in water.
Serpent, turn over that Rï‘ may see thee.
To say: The head of the great black bull was cut off.
Hpn.w-serpent, this is said to thee. ...-scorpion, this is said to thee

Pyramid Text, utterance 227
And as we discussed back in 2009 the flying disk we see in the Mithraic Liturgy is a central icon to the religion of Egypt (as well as other Middle Eastern and Asian cultures). Note what sounds like the use of advanced anti-personnel weaponry in Horus' "disk":
    When Ra reigned as king over Egypt he sailed up the Nile towards Nubia, because his enemies were plotting against him. At Edfu Horus entered the bark of the great god and hailed him as father. Ra greeted the hawk god and entreated him to slay the rebels of Nubia. Then Horus flew up to the sun as a great winged disk, and he was afterwards called "the great god, the lord of the sky." He perceived the enemies of Ra, and went against them as a winged disk.

Their eyes were blinded by his brightness, and their ears were made deaf, and in the confusion they slew one another. Not a single conspirator remained alive. Ra afterwards visited the battlefield, and, when he saw the dead bodies of his foes, he said: "Life is pleasant."
In fact, it is Horus in the form of a flying disk who is the object of worship in what historians call the world's first monotheistic religion:
"Aten" was the traditional name for the sun-disk itself and so the name of the god is often translated as "the Aten" (for example, in the coffin texts of the Middle Kingdom) the word "Aten" represents the sun disc, and in the 'Story of Sinuhe' (also from the Middle Kingdom) Amenemhat I is described as soaring into the sky and uniting with Aten, his creator. During the New Kingdom, the Aten was considered to be an aspect of the composite deity Ra-Amun-Horus. 

We discussed Zechariah Sitchin recently, who provides us with yet another link to the clandestine studies of the Rockefeller family, since they seemed to subsidize his work. The question then becomes did Sitchin share all of his research with the public or did he develop two separate exegeses, one for the masses and the other for his patrons?

I wouldn't be the first to point out that his post-12th Planet oeuvre is distinctly inferior to the original work and I shared my concerns that his later works were characterized by a demoralizing and disempowering view of the Sumerian texts (which, again, I believe to be contaminated by tribal history, myth, and political gossip).

Even so, his Nibiru theory has entered the popular lexicon, even if often wildly distorted by pantpissers (Sitchin was disgusted by the appropriation of Nibiru for 2012 fearporn). Planet X won't go away, no matter how loud Phil Plait shrieks or how hard he stamps his feet:
Earlier this month, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Timberline Lodge, Ore., Rodney Gomes, an astronomer from the National Observatory of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, announced the results of his simulation of a region beyond Pluto known as the "scattered disk," suggesting the presence of an as yet to be discovered massive world.

The scattered disk is a sparsely populated region that overlaps with the Kuiper belt at around 30 AU (Neptune's orbit), and some scattered disk objects (or SDOs) have extreme orbits that extend to 100 AU.

One such small world is Sedna, a dwarf planet with a highly elongated orbit. "Sedna's orbit is truly peculiar," said Caltech planetary scientist Mike Brown, who led the team that discovered Sedna in 2003.

These extreme orbits, argues Gomes, could be due to the presence of an unknown massive planet. By his reckoning, a planet four times the size of Earth may be out there beyond the orbit of Pluto. In his simulation, he placed the gravitational field of a large planet and watched the effect it had on the SDO's orbits.
Like a lot of people I have trouble with Sitchin's Nibiru theories given its ostensible distance from the Sun. But if in fact it had some source of light and heat (whatever it may be- some have theorized it's actually an unignited Brown Dwarf), I could see a truly advanced race choosing not to live on this incredibly dangerous planet, or in this very dangerous neighborhood.  I favor the Mars origin theory for the Anunnaki as much I favor anything but I could see a truly cybernetic race (which we're a long way from becoming, no matter what Ray Kurzweil would like us to believe) leaving the inner solar system for good, opting for the relative safety of the Oort Cloud.

What obviously matters though is what people of more power and influence than myself think, and Nick's book goes into some detail on catastrophism and the destruction of Mars. The OSIRIS-REX mission patch has it that the program will explore "our past" (hmm) and secure our future. Calling on the Holy of Holies for an asteroid program might well speak to a level of anxiety about the threat from this cosmic marauders that NASA might not otherwise be comfortable sharing with the world.

Case closed.

In the end, we're looking at the crumbs on the table and trying to determine what the powerful individuals who sat there had for dinner.
But I've seen enough to know that Nick's book is on the money in its basic thesis, though I have some issues with some of the details (his Kirby information is way off). You can toss the entire modern UFO phenomenon aside-- from Kenneth Arnold to the the present day-- and still have more puzzling evidence than you could ever hope to sift through.

As far as I'm concerned, the time for arguing with skeptics on this issue is long since past. There's enough evidence to deal with- both the primary evidence and the evidence of interest in this issue by the kinds of individuals and organizations Nick documents to safely ignore the all of the bought-and-paid-for clownshoes.

Yeah, that was moved with ropes. In your dreams.

I believe the issue is to use this information to develop a new understanding of who we are and why we are here.
The Ancient Aliens crowd wants to reduce it all to material and technology, but I think there's a message that our ancestors have been trying to convey that's much deeper and profound than all of that. There's more work to be done in the context of paleocontact and exogenesis and all of the rest of it that's about a deeper connection to each other as siblings in the human family and as children of the stars. I think there are deeper messages written in stone than just "(alien) Kilroy was here."

It's about exploring the practical wisdom traditions of the peoples who were trying to tell us these stories, not in a mushy, sentimental New Agey-kind of context, but in a way that acknowledges that spirituality and mysticism are part of our basic programming (which science now confirms).

I believe that isn't just a quirk of evolution but may have been put there deliberately to enrich our lives and (hopefully) save us from the kind of destruction that organized religion always seems to encourage,  especially that of the absolutist/authoritarian variety that one particularly odious AAT debunker shamelessly pimps for.

It's not about creating a new religion or shopping for new gods but discovering the truth behind what we've heretofore seen as esoteric or heretic traditions, just as Vallee and Michel mulled over all those years ago.
But it's a lot more than that to me and always has been.

We can't know where we are going until we know who we are
, and once we can transcend the sci-fi trappings of AAT and the linguistic traps of misnomers like "alien" we can figure out exactly why we are so alienated from this world, from each other and even from ourselves.

After all, what could be more important?
And everything we've tried so far has gotten us to where we are now.

It will be a struggle, since it's self evident that the military is only interested in weaponizing whatever truths they discover and the rest of the world is hellbent on atomizing into mutually hostile and ever subdividing tribes (a process deliberately accelerated by right wing talk radio, Cultural Marxism and other toxic think tank-spawned plagues).

These tests trace populations to earliest known sources-
Native Americans are now known to have emigrated from Siberia

I've recently discovered through the modern magic of DNA testing that I am literally not who I thought I was (FB group members know about his), that my ancestry is more complex and exotic than I ever believed. But I believed what I was told, and what I was told was self-aggrandizing mythology.

I've learned that my mother's grandfather was a full-blooded Navajo (an open family secret/mystery I had heard for the first time a few years back) and that I have recent Native ancestry on my father's side as well
("recent" meaning another possible Native great-grandparent on my father's side). That's just the tip of the iceberg (hint: my Norman middle and surnames aren't accidental) as I'll explain in the near future.

Finding out my family's history has explained a lot of mysteries, just as a rather dramatic revelation I had some years back did in a much different context. But I understand my own life now because myths I believed have been demythologized. It empowered me and helped remove a shit-ton of stumbling blocks. The Truth often does that.

I think the same process awaits us as a species once we discover who we really are. And that's what it's really all about for me. It's why I spend so much time exploring a "family secret" the rest of the world would rather pretend doesn't exist.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Avengers, or Jack Kirby Conquers the World

Now do you understand?

I've burned a lot of bandwidth on this blog --maybe too much, in some people's eyes-- obsessing on Jack Kirby, the visionary madman who unwittingly changed the face of popular culture. He did so by laboring in the ignoble comic book field, where he spent the last couple decades of his career bombarding his increasingly disaffected fanbase with his various obsessions, such as UFOs, ancient astronauts, the occult, psychic power and psychotronic warfare, conspiracies, secret societies and armies of alien gods.

Me, I soaked it all up- in fact, the weirder his stuff got the more passionately tuned into it I became. And sure enough, Kirby concepts that died on the newsstand in their first incarnation would be recycled by other Kirby diehards and become canon.

The ultraviolent rhythms and the sleek, techie fetishism of Kirby's work had an enormous impact on Hollywood (and video games), by way of comic book geeks turned movie moguls like George Lucas and James Cameron. Kirby's vision is deeply embedded into the DC Tooniverse via Executive Producer Bruce Timm and his coterie.

And now Jack Kirby's vision-- in a shockingly pure and undiluted form-- has conquered the entire world.


The big story in entertainment this year is the stunning success of The Avengers, which has topped a billion worldwide in receipts already and is storming up the list of all-time highest grossing movies. It built on the blockbuster success of the Iron Man movies and the more modest but still impressive success of Captain America and Thor, both of which raided Kirby's 70s weirdness canon for their plotlines (Thor is just as much an Eternals movie as anything else).

Ironically, The Avengers themselves-- while filled with characters Kirby created with Stan Lee-- are the kind of concept Kirby would have shied away from. The Avengers were Marvel's Justice League, and were almost certainly created on orders of Marvel founder, Martin Goodman.

Kirby only drew the first 10 issues of The Avengers (though he continued on as cover artist), choosing to concentrate on his passions; The Fantastic Four, Thor and Captain America, as well as the early Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD stories he and Stan whipped up a bit later.

Marvel Studios knew this film was going to be a pivotal feature, not only for the studio but for the future of superhero movies, which some wags still think are just a fad. They hired Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly) to write and direct, since he has experience in film, TV and the thorny continuities of superhero comics.

This too seemed a gamble; Whedon's sensibility is the total opposite of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Whedon's canon is feminist, fannish, talky, gay-friendly; how would he handle the macho archetypes of The Avengers: Nick Fury, Thor, Captain America (Kirby alter-egos all)?

Well, aside from his trademark fannish banter-- the kind of nervous, self-effacing chit-chat more suitable to an elevator at Dragon*Con than a military situation room-- Whedon went straight for the Lee-Kirby canon. 

Kirby's original design of the SHIELD helicarrier

The aliens, the ultra-violence, the tech, the vision-- that's all Jack. The self-sacrifice, the superteam as bickering family, the old New Deal liberal morality-- that's all Stan. This Whedon guy knows his stuff and knows it well enough to translate from the sunny, optimistic Sixties to the grim, dour Twenty-Teens. Not an easy task.

Some writers have claimed that The Avengers is about avenging 9/11, but all of that goes to show their terrible grasp of comics history.
9/11 was shocking to everybody, but maybe a bit less so to longtime comic book fans who had seen Manhattan blown up so many times it got to be a cliche. I think we're past all that now-- The Dark Knight was the last act in that psychodrama as far as I'm concerned.

Lee and Kirby's original Nick Fury

No, The Avengers was about comic books and their effect on the culture at large.
It was about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, sitting in a room filled with cigar smoke, dreaming up concepts that would change the world while they were simply trying to keep their jobs.

And it was about the lonely, isolated fans who soaked it all up, who joined in Stan's crusade and the imaginary clubhouse he created and went on to make movies, computers, video games, you name it.

Now that Kirbyvision has conquered the world, can it keep it? Will audiences grow numb to the kind of carnage we see in these films? Will superhero films have to learn to tell other stories besides apocalypse? Superheroes have outlasted any number of premature obituaries so I wouldn't bet against them. 

It's not like Hollywood has a lot of options at this point, either.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sync Log: Eyes in the Sky

Sometime around 8 PM I saw the most stunning cloud formation on my evening walk- it looked the sky was filled with eyes. I returned home and looked up "eye-shaped clouds" but no luck. So then I wrote this on the Secret Sun FB page:
Tonight's the night I picked to leave my phone at home on my walk. There was the weirdest cloud bank in the sky as the sun was setting- it looked like there were thousands of eyes in the sky, with pupils and everything. Then the closer I get to my house the more wiped away it all gets. Anyone ever seen anything like that? 
Sure enough, others had (including Missus Wibble).

At the same time I had posted about the clouds, a group member had independently posted a graphic of a raw photo of the same phenomenon and then an artistic interpretation on his wall.

I had never seen anything like it before, at least I don't recall such a thing. It did occur to me that there was an eclipse today and I thought that might have had some effect on the clouds.

What I didn't mention on the FB thread was that before I went for a walk I had been performing a hypnogogic meditation (which I discussed on the Mystery Hour with Mike Clelland). And I didn't want to end it until I could clearly summon an image or an icon (which is a lot harder than it sounds, since it's impossible to actually consciously do so in that state). The image that came to mind was the eye of a bird, perhaps an eagle or a hawk.

Speaking of Mike Clelland, I first noticed the cloud phenomenon around the corner from my strange 2010 encounter.

I have at least a passing familiarity with cloud formation and meteorology, so while I was absolutely stunned by the eyes in the sky I was thinking about low pressure fronts and wind patterns and convection at the same time. I couldn't help but wonder what the ancients would have thought of such a phenomenon.

PS: There must have been something in the air tonight- a discussion of the Transformers movies kicked loose the fact that Ted Torbich had his own version of the original Secret Sun dream: "You mention a dream of a giant robot stomping on your neighborhood when you were a kid. That smacked me upside the head! I remembered instantly a dream that I had that was precisely that, that I had completely forgotten about all these years!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Exegesis Addenda: Lessons Learned in a Modern Mystery Cult

When I wrote The Secret History of Rock ‘n’ Roll I spent a lot of time worrying that some might see it as a major detour from the work I was doing here on The Secret Sun.
I also had to contend with younger readers, who were justifiably cynical about the music industry, which took total control over the creative process for major label acts sometime in the mid-90s.*

How could I explain that once upon a time things were different and there was a scene that kids built from the ground up without realizing they were recreating the ancient Mithraic cults? Or that everything I needed to know I learned from punk rock?

There was also the evidence of Dave McGowan’s Laurel Canyon series to contend with, which a lot of people (including McGowan himself, it seems) misinterpreted as a condemnation of the counterculture as a whole, deliberately overlooking the fact that what actually emerged from the Laurel Canyon scene was the ersatz Soft Rock movement of the early 70s, a deliberate attempt to defang the power of rock ‘n’ roll by replacing it with a watered-down, depoliticized, corporate-concocted simulacrum.

In other words, the LA scene was designed to appropriate the already-existing counterculture, which was largely birthed in San Francisco and environs. The whole LaRouchian reaction McGowan’s series inspired was especially galling for me personally, since I grew up hating soft rock so intensely.

Jello Biafra, formerly of The Dead Kennedys

My hatred of soft rock (which was impossible to get away from in the 70s) was one of the reasons I embraced Punk so passionately. And not only Ramones-type Punk- I was especially keen on the Postpunk scene (a term I don’t remember hearing until several years later); bands like Wire, Joy Division, Killing Joke, Bauhaus and the like. Bands that took the energy and subversion of Punk and applied them to a larger canvas. This was the music I listened to when I wasn’t at a hardcore show.

But those bands were out of reach for the most part. I do remember sneaking in to see Killing Joke at The Channel (I never paid to see a show unless it was at a big venue) by creeping in during the soundcheck and hiding beneath the PA riser until the doors opened. I saw Motörhead by grabbing an amp and walking through the front door while the opening act was breaking down. But for the most part, it was all-ages shows or bust. But the all-ages shows were where the action was.

One of the pivotal moments of my youth:
Mission of Burma's all-ages show at the Hotel Bradford, 1983
Didn't pay to get into this one either and reconnected with my
high school girlfriend, who I met in the pit at a Clash concert

And when I say hardcore punk was a revival of the Mithraic Mysteries, I’m not trying to be cute. I mean it, literally. It was an unconscious revival and the connections were not explicit (aside from the straight edge X icon, that is), but it was all the more powerful and sincere for being so. The bands were no different than the Kouretes or the Cabieri, thrashing, aggressive, militaristic noise mean to alter the consciousness of the listener.

There was the same masculine, militaristic ambiance and similar puritanical morality - the Straight Edge ethos frowned on drinking, smoking and drugs and often promiscuity as well. (Straight Edge orthodoxy has been heavily mythologized in Boston hardcore history- I went to a lot of scene parties and there was plenty of drinking and drugging going around, believe me).

Like any good mystery cult it was all about experience, first and foremost. Going home and listening to hardcore records was kind of ludicrous- the music was made for movement, extreme and immediate. It never sounded right on your stereo.

We Are I Am the Road Crew

I had a different view of the scene than most, having been part of the inner circle of the Braintree bands, Jerry’s Kids and Gang Green. An aspiring guitarist, I ended up as a roadie- if you can call it that, since the only road was the one from Braintree to Boston- lugging amps and drum cases and setting up and breaking down. And it was a privileged view to a scene that was largely self-created. It taught some vitally important lessons...

I learned to distrust not only the authorities- the first show I attended (SS Decontrol and The Freeze at Gallery East) was shut down after SSD’s 15 minute set simply because the cops didn’t like punks- but also the media. I saw how the big local fanzine picked favorites and blatantly rewrote history simply based on the personal whims of its editors.

I saw how movements can grow, based almost solely on the conviction of their adherents. Hardcore shows went from being small affairs at offbeat venues to taking over venues like The Channel and The Paradise. I’d see regional hardcore bands who even college radio wouldn’t touch fill large venues while bands with hit singles struggled to fill small clubs.

I’d see how movements could go wrong, too.

Hardcore was a high school thing. My high school friends all got into it in our sophomore years and largely moved on when we graduated. Towards the end of my tenure, Nazi skins, street kids and jocks began showing up just to hurt people. The last big show I attended-- Jerry’s Kids and Gang Green at The Paradise during Christmas vacation, 1984-- was a nightmare.

SSD singer Springa got chased off the stage by giant skins who didn’t appreciate his drunken rant about the old days and the bouncers were so agitated by the violence they were threatening to beat up the musicians. After that show the original HC bands drifted into a kind of ersatz metal, but the bloom was off the bush.

But I also got a full blast of the phenomena that would ultimately lead to the work I do here- how spiritual consciousness can give art a visceral punch lacking in strictly materialist art.

The Bad Brains’ Boston debut was a powerful object lesson in this. I did the “I’m with the band” amp-lugging routine to get into that show (it amazes me how often I entertained myself back then without ever spending a dime) and got my teeth loosened for me during Negative FX’s set.

Even with a bloody mouth full of loose teeth the sheer electrifying power of the Bad Brains was impossible to deny. The story would get complicated thereafter, but when it mattered, they delivered.

My only regret is that more bands back then didn’t tap into that Source, that spiritual power.  New York’s Cro-Mags did so- they were/are involved in the Krishna Consciousness movement (which ingratiated itself to punks by offering free vegetarian meals on weekends) and were highly influential in their own right, but most bands shunned such things. Especially in Boston, where so many people on the scene were trapped in all-boy Catholic prep schools like Don Bosco and Xaverian Brothers.

Although Hardcore faded as a vital musical force rather quickly, the DIY spirit and rule-breaking that it inspired was a major influence on the developing alternative rock scene.
Many of the big stars of the 1992 grunge explosion got their start playing in Hardcore bands and Hardcore remained a yardstick with which the integrity of the various subgenres of alt.rock were measured.

So in many ways, Hardcore would take over the mainstream within ten years of its emergence as a major force, against all odds and expectations. Something to think about, when you think of the present state of esotericism and its various branches, which people regard with the same disdain they regarded Punk Rock with 30 years ago. And this is a tradition with thousands of years of history behind it, as well as some of the greatest minds in history in its ranks.

Something to think about very, very seriously, my friends. Very seriously indeed.

*And then of course there are those who ignorantly impugn and defame the ancient Mysteries, but they never tell you their true agenda, do they? Those sneaky little snakes in the grass are always out to scare you back into the EvangeliCIAl church, a true mind control agenda if ever there was one.

PS- Speaking of which, this will explain of all that very well.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Exegesis: Hardcore

 Showing off boot-loosened teeth at
the Bad Brains 1982 Boston debut

These are dangerous times for the unaffiliated, for the freelancers. For those who aren't willing to turn off their minds and join the parades of the Left or the the Right, the Nü Atheists or the EvangeliCIAls.

The problem is especially acute this election year, since both Obama and Romney are papering over their essential sameness on truly important issues like the economy, the jobs crisis, and the ongoing imperial project by ratcheting up the Culture War, focusing on gay marriage, contraception and the like.

If anyone is wondering why the skeptics and the atheists are out in force this year, this is exactly why.
The Obama team doesn't dare align themselves with the SkepAth neckbeards openly (even Neil De Grasse Tyson is keeping the NüAths at arm's length), not only because they don't want to alienate black and Latino voters (who tend to take their religion very seriously) but also because of the sizable- and sickening- dark underbelly of the movement (Atheist hotspot Reddit was recently exposed as a clearinghouse for kiddie porn and CFI/CSICOP has had militant pedophilia advocates like Vern Bullough in its upper echelon).

But it can count on billionaire allies like cosmetics heir Todd Stiefel (who made a king's ransom when he sold his family business to GlaxoSmithKline) to bankroll the atheist movement with the goal of harnessing the movement the way the Republicans have historically used the Religious Right.

The problem is that despite the headlines being tossed around- where agnostics, New Agers, Buddhists and Home Church Christians are magically transformed into atheists, the number of committed atheists remains extremely small. This fact was driven home when Stiefel's Reason Rally couldn't put more than an smallish megachurch's worth of atheists on the Mall for the big "coming out" party.

But the Nü Atheists have very powerful allies; in the media, in the Democratic Party, in academia, and a not-insignificant number of celebrities. Normally, I'd think this was all great- I've spent a lot of time railing against the Religious Right on this blog and it's long past time there was a counterweight to their power. 

But I'm not sure taking on the Religious Right is on their agenda. Part of it because they realize the SkepAths don't have the numbers and that the Right is almost completely immune to their lines of attack. And now I see the Nü Atheists gathering outside my gate.

Make no mistake, there's a definite alternate strategy being rolled out. The SkepAths are going after the moderates, after the agnostics, after the spiritual-but-not-religious. They see this as their mission field. They think they can systematically shame, bully and intimidate these people into walking away from their beliefs and join the SkepAth parade.

In many ways, this is a sound strategy since America has always worked to prevent any kind of infrastructure to emerge which would challenge the Religious Right and spiritual-but-not-religious types usually have no support system to defend them against such a concerted and well-coordinated campaign of intimidation.

So the SkepAths are taking on the role of hyenas, metaphorically. For all the huffing and puffing, they dare not engage the Religious Right directly, which has the manpower and the resources to make SkepAth lives miserable. And even though the mythology has it that 9/11 was the impetus behind the atheist revival (atheist movements date back millennia), the SkepAths are even more terrified of Radical Islam, which wouldn't hesitate to defy all convention to strike back at them (see Van Gogh, Theo).

So, too weak and cowardly to take on the leaders of the pack, the SkepAth jackals instead resort to picking off the stragglers in the moderate-to-liberal religious sphere.

This is why you're seeing a lot of weird and hyperbolic articles on religion in the press, pseudoscientific reports arguing that "critical thinking destroys religious belief" and that religious people don't perform acts of charity out of compassion. These are all designed to create sensationalistic headlines- the actual data in the body copy always fails to back up the shocking ledes. They're meant to shame and intimidate your average moderate churchgoer into believing she's missing the boat.

It's also why you're seeing a new wave of UFO debunking and hoaxing (the lion's share of UFO hoaxes are perpetrated by skeptics), and a film version of Pilkington's establishment-hyped Mirage Men, a book whose basic thesis was totally debunked by Jacques Valle two decades ago. It's also why you're seeing attacks on purported alien abductees in the media, via the media pimpings of the unscientific ravings of a lucid dreaming cult out of LA and the recent ridicule campaign spearheaded by the grotesquely distorted portraits taken of abductees by photographer Steven Hirsch, even though the abduction issue has been marginal at best in the UFO underground for more than a decade.

So why are we hearing about it now? Again, this is the Culture War agenda in action.

Elite Democrats like Bill Maher think all alien abductees are backwoods bumpkins named Cletus or Bubba, as they love to remind you with their tired, unfunny jokes whenever the subject is raised. And anyone named Cletus or Bubba is sure to be a GOP voter and so are fair game for dehumanization, as Hirsch's photos prove (all of which are of Middle American whites, the majority are middle aged). By contrast, Hirsch also has an exhibit of homes of sex offenders, all of which are placid, sunlit and idealized suburban dwellings.

The obvious takeaway is that these poor, tormented souls are folks just like you while these alien abductees are the real freaks and monsters.

At the same time I sense this strange wavering among some in the alt. research community, as the tidal forces are pulling people towards the Left and the Right.
Born-again skeptic conversions are nothing new, especially among those mercenary types who realize they can't make money off their books and such in the Internet Age. But the greater forces at work- the macro-cultural and macro-political forces that are Balkanizing America as we speak don't stop at the door of the alt.research cathedral, especially since there's no such thing.

It's always been the great downfall of esotericism that it has failed to plant its feet in the ground. It's allowed everyone to pursue their own interests under its umbrella but at what cost? At what point do researchers cut loose from their peers merely to distinguish themselves, even if means betraying people they spent their lives breaking bread with?

The ancient Gnostic cults were crushed by their refusal to deal with reality, to follow the lead of the Buddhist sects they took inspiration from and create an infrastructure and support system with which to sustain themselves. In the east, groups like Mandeans and the Druze would learn from their mistakes.  The Cathars and the Bogomils suffered greatly for defying Rome's monopoly, but the Mormons-- Gnostic to the core-- would find unparalleled success in the New World.

Esotericism has always had to contend with enemies on the Right- the Fundamentalists and the Vatican have traditionally used conspiracy theorists to defame and impugn its competition. Today an entire industry of shills is eagerly doing the dirty work of the religious establishment-- ultra-right wing Christians like Alex Jones, Vigilant Citizen, Mark Dice and so on-- and the Skeptics and Nü Atheists have now joined the fight from the left, on behalf of the Democratic Party establishment.

It reminds me a lot of another esoteric movement, albeit in a slightly different sphere.

Getting strongarmed in the pit,
SS Decontrol at Gallery East 1981

The smart money had it that Punk Rock was dead in 1980. The smart money had it that Punk was just another 70s fad. The arena rockers and superstars that it somewhat foolishly threatened to displace were still well-entrenched, and the Baby Boomers who had the music industry by the balls had no interest in Punk.

Its answer was a watered-down replacement it dubbed "New Wave," a toothless, unthreatening movement built around novelty acts like Devo and The B-52s. The Sex Pistols had split after a disastrous US tour and The Ramones were working with Phil Spector, of all people. The "angry young men" like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson were told in no uncertain terms that they'd only get played if they cut out the anger shit, and soon enough they were making records indistinguishable from the soft rock they were originally supposed to replace.

Even The Clash were made to toe the line. After releasing a string of classic punk albums and singles, they learned that American radio programmers weren't even breaking the shrinkwrap on their records. Some of the more enthusiastic critics at Creem and Trouser Press loved them, and they even scored a Time magazine feature, but zero airplay. And without airplay in the late 70s there was no way of getting heard.

Faced with overwhelming pressure from their record company and disinterest from the industry as a whole, they blinked. The result was London Calling, a classic Rolling Stones album in all but name. The critics loved it, radio would play it, but for young punk rockers like myself reactions ranged from disappointment to confusion to betrayal. "The Clash sold out," became a mantra in punk circles.

I saw The Clash on that tour and had a genuine out-of-body experience, which went a long way to allay my fears and doubts. The Clash were still very much The Clash on stage, more so than ever in fact. But it bothered me-- and a lot of other fans I knew-- that I couldn't go home and hear those songs the way they were played onstage (until I began my lifelong obsession with Clash bootlegs, that is).

And for punk rock Clash fans, it didn't get any easier; their records became increasingly un-Clash-like, heavily produced studio concoctions designed to get past the gatekeepers at US radio stations.  I knew a lot of people who took it all very personally. I mean, this is Boston we're talking about.

Unfortunately, other bands followed The Clash's lead. Stiff Little Fingers and The Undertones-- obvious heirs for The Clash's crown-- also watered down their sound soonafter. The Buzzcocks broke up. The Ramones seemed to drift into irrelevancy and The Plasmatics went metal. For my generation, it seemed that punk had evaporated as soon as it came to our attention. We all felt cheated.

Aside from the New Wave material which outside of Devo and The B-52s was regarded with deep suspicion by my set, the sounds we were hearing coming out of Boston, New York and London were not encouraging. No Wave, art-funk, synthpop and the rest might be all fine in theory but outside of a few key singles you're talking a tidal wave of terrible music.

Postpunk still hadn't filtered down, though I was hearing very promising signs on the Emerson College radio station in the summer of 1980- Bauhaus, Siouxsie, U2, Killing Joke, Psychedelic Furs. But again, with Punk having vanished, there was never any guarantee any of these bands would ever gain any traction.

At the same time, there was a lot of discouraging portents in the culture at large. Ronald Reagan was riding a conservative political and religious renaissance that would take him into the White House. Even though I lived less than 20 minutes from downtown Boston, my school was in the grip of a Southern Rock boom, and Confederate flags were everywhere. The general mood was extremely hostile to anything remotely Punk and I was the only kid in my grade who wore Punk t-shirts to school. Needless to say I learned to spend a lot of time alone. I spent a lot of time in the weight room too, which helped keep punk-bashers at bay.

The New Wave/Art scene in Boston that had emerged in the wake of Punk was in serious danger of collapsing-- not because of any lack of enthusiasm in the audience but because nightspots like Kenmore Square and Queensbury had been targets for roving gangs of Southie boys, who took great pleasure in ganging up on poor New Wavers as they left the clubs. The fact that the scene was heavily gay was a red flag for the wolfpacks. The violence became a major topic of concern in local magazines like Subway News and Boston Rock and the cops did absolutely nothing to stop it. By 1982, the entire scene had imploded.

The conservative backlash, the collapse of first wave punk and the atmosphere of violence and harassment were the tinderbox- the match was Black Flag, the LA hardcore band who set Boston aflame in the summer of 1981. Black Flag were a four-piece at the time, led by gravel-throater screamer Dez Cadena, who had recently replaced Ron Reyes.

Black Flag were absolutist, uncompromising, fundamentally anti-commercial. Their music was tuneless, coarse, dissonant and totally exhilarating. Pound for pound The Plasmatics were better and were doing hardcore first, but they were too cartoonish and accessible. Unserious. Not truly hardcore.

Having been double-promoted in elementary school I demanded that I be kept back in 9th grade, since I didn't want to graduate when I was 16. And it was the best decision of my life. It put me on the right side of a subgenerational divide and in the midst of a large group of kids who loved comics and punk rock as much as I did.

And it was with them that I entered the neo-Mithraic mysteries of Hardcore. It was a transformative experience for me, and it changed the way I saw myself and my relationship to the world. It informs everything I write on this blog.

Brothers in arms- singing along with Minor Threat, 1982

Hardcore rewrote the rule book. It changed the expectations. It loosened the deathgrip of the music industry, if only for a few years, and let more idiosyncratic and individualistic voices through. Mind you, these were the ones who came of age during Hardcore and then broke its rules; bands like Jane's Addiction, Beastie Boys,  the Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Faith No More and so on. But it was hardcore that gave them the strength and courage to rewrite rules people once thought were set in stone.

Hardcore was an enema, it was a flushing away of the detritus that killed first wave punk. Most of the essential hardcore records were made between 1980 and 1982 and were usually the various bands' first releases but it was a movement that needed to happen. It created an infrastructure for punk bands to exist and write their own rules. It created a network of labels, venues, organizations and individuals that informed everything that came after.

And in Boston, it sure as hell kept the wolfpacks at bay.

Yes, it was reductionist. Yes, it was violent and simplistic.  Yes, it created a whole new set of rules that were often worse than the ones they replaced. But that was only for the people who stayed trapped in what was a corrective. The ones who kept taking the antibiotics after the infection was gone. And the problem today is that its lessons-- the worthy ones-- have been forgotten.

Even The Clash acknowledged its power and their influence on it, both positive and negative. When The Clash were set to finally break America in 1982 with the toothless Combat Rock, Joe Strummer pulled a power play that resulted in their drummer-- who was a major influence on their increasing drift away from not only Punk but Rock-- getting sacked and being replaced with their original drummer, whose style was far more brutal.

He also cut his hair into a mohawk and significantly toughened up their live set, which had been drifting into Jazz Odyssey-type funk and dub jams on their previous tour. When they played Boston they made sure their set was jam-packed with their early punk material. Ironically, so hardcore-crazy was Boston at the time that hardcore fellow traveler Jim Sullivan headlined his review "Half-Speed Clash Go Through the Motions."

Needless to say, the show formed the backbone of the first Clash live album and the soundboard recording is a favorite with bootleg traders for its ferocious, uncompromising sound.

So, what's the point of all this, aside from a walk down memory lane? 

Maybe it's time for esotericism (for lack of a much better term) to go through its own hardcore phase. Maybe it needs to strip things down to the bare essentials for a while and concentrate on building an infrastructure that will nurture and protect its adherents the same way Hardcore did in the early 80s.

Maybe it's time to for esotericism to define what it is and what it wants to accomplish and why. Because these are dangerous times, and any sign of weakness, uncertainty or self-doubt is like blood in the water to all of the sharks on the Left and Right that are circling us as we speak, looking for their pound of flesh.

Maybe it's time to build a canon. Maybe its time to draw up a manifesto. Maybe its time to define who we are and what we want to contribute.

Maybe it's time to start drawing lines in the sand. Maybe its time to stop fighting amongst ourselves and start fighting with our enemies, who are legion.

Maybe it's time to look at the work of people like Mitch Horowitz and argue that it was esotericists who are in part responsible for the best of what America was and could be. And not just America, the whole world, because this is an international community.

And maybe it's time to come up with a better term than "esotericism."

Atheists like Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot have proven that they're willing to kill tens of millions for their beliefs, but I doubt hardly any of them today are willing to die for them. And that puts them at a distinct disadvantage if they're serious about "destroying religion." And once the adrenaline rush of conflict wears off they'll discover they have nothing. If you read PZ Myers carefully, that's exactly how he wants it.

They have no monopoly on science or technology- in fact, I very much want to explore those topics with more gusto here in the future, since I don't believe for a second they're incompatible with spirit. Scientism most definitely is, but that's a philosophy for people who don't see the leash around their necks.

But what the SkepAths can do is bully and harass us, unless we gather together and stand up against them. Like the wolkpacks in Kenmore Sq., the SkepAths are cowards and will only attack if they think they can get away with it unscathed.

One of the first orders of business of a hardcore esotericism would be to ensure that they cannot.

UPDATE: Right on schedule, the BBC is running a series ridiculing "conspiracy theorists." They've even enlisted PZ Myers for an episode on- wait for it- alien abductions. Jesus, why the sudden fascination with abductions among the SkepAth set?

I'm sure no one informed the Beeb that PZ Myers' daughter- a self-described "moral nihilist"-- wrote an impassioned plea for the legalization of bestiality.  

UPDATE: The Agenda is in full effect, people. AOL links to a Reddit page where a neckbeard reveals a blurb Jeffrey Dahmer wrote in his yearbook. The author then adds this egregious dig:
On a side note, Jeff's mom was on the nutty side. My dad remembered hearing some strange noise outside one night. He looked out the window, couldn't find the source of the noise, but saw some lady running out on the street chasing something. The next morning he heard that Dahmer's mom was supposedly chasing a UFO. The crazy part is that my dad remembers hearing the strange noise.
So a UFO that more than one person witnessed is somehow linked to Dahmer's psychopathy right? Well, guess what? We have Dahmer's own justification for his murders. And it sounds just like the life philosophy of your typical Redditor (or POS Myers and his moral nihilist spawn):
"If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…" [Jeffrey Dahmer: interview with Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC, Nov. 29, 1994].
UPDATE: Vanderbilt heir Anderson Cooper gets in on the Agenda with his recent UFO debunking. Cooper even dredged up human clownshoe Joe Nickell (aka "Cap'n Combover") for the exercise. Click the link for some hearty laughs.